June 16, 2012

Conscious Waste Project: Week Four

In an effort to reduce my families waste, I'm starting Marvelous Adventures' very first series. The theme of the series is quite simple: Zero Waste. We're focusing right now on what goes in our garbage can - the recycling can will be dealt with another time. Feel free to learn from our mistakes

Week Four
Week Three Results
The Bathroom
I must confess, I nearly gave up on the project this last week. Several times, in fact. Why, you might ask? Because we had some really major setbacks this week and it was depressing. Our trash toll is the highest yet this month and I literally broke into tears when I counted it up. We switched back to disposable diapers because my little brother is allergic to the cloth ones (wtf?!), and we succumbed to several frozen-junk-food binges. However, I know nothing that is worth it is easy, so I'm pushing through. This project is too important to give up on. Let this be a testament that zero-waste isn't always easy, but it's worth it in the end, and eventually it will work out. It'll just take time. Lots, and lots, and lots of time

As for the bathroom project in and of itself, we minimized our bathroom and filled almost an entire garbage can with all the chemical-ridden crap molding under our sink. We're working through the last bottle of toothpaste, mouthwash and individual flossers. After that, I'll be making my own. Stay tuned for a homemade, all-natural whitening mouthwash recipe later this month (there will be no man-made chemicals!) And while we didn't switch to a composting toilet (my mom wouldn't budge on this one), our bathroom trash can is unneeded now (I'm very happy to get rid of it! Yay!!).

Project 4

One of the major obstacles I've ran into the last couple weeks is my lack of a backbone. I haven't had the strength to tell the kids "no, no over-packaged cheese sticks". I haven't had the courage to refuse receipts. I haven't had the courage to tell myself "no, I don't need cocoa puffs". I haven't had the courage to ask "2 Italian loaves, no packaging please" at the bakery or "1 pound of cheese, in my jar please" at the cheese counter. And I need to get over it. So, here's what I'll be focusing on for our very last project:
  • Telling the kids no, and offering them zero-waste alternatives when no would be mean(like bulk chocolate-covered pretzels instead of potato chips)
  • Refuse receipts. Period.
  • Resist junk-food cravings.
  • Don't go grocery shopping hungry and stick to my list.
  • Ask for bread at the bakery at least once, packaging free.
  • Ask for cheese at the cheese counter in my jar, at least once.
Wish me luck.

Last Week's Trash
Total: 2 bags worth
  • Leftovers (spaghetti, potato chips, crab salad, yogurt, sandwich, cereal, etc.)
  • Food Packaging (raspberries, cream cheese, potato chips, yoplait individual yogurts, cheese sticks wrappers, lasagna, ice cream, milk caps, peanut butter, cornbread, cocoa puffs, cream cheese, popcorn, frozen juice, milk caps, cheese, oregano, tater tots, ice cream sandwich wrappers, bottled water caps, honey, etc.)
  • Disposable diapers (I'm not even going to bother to count these...)
  • Individual flossers (working through the last few, figured we'd use them instead of just tossing them unused)
  • Baby wipes
  • Tissues (3/4 the amount we used to go through, though, since I use hankies now)
  • Hair gel, toothpaste, air freshener spray, hair spray, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, lotion, cleaning solvents, etc. (this is from minimizing in our bathroom and cleaning closet, all the half-used chemical-ridden products under our sink that we had to dispose of) 
  • Ziplocs galore
  • Bandaids 
  • Fishing supplies packaging (hooks, weights, filet knife, line, and pole)
Improvements Made
On top of the weekly project, little changes are being made as problems are realized and research is done. Our budget for change is incredibly limited, so we tend to make the changes that are cheap and will save us money first.
  • Started potty training the toddler (far from fully trained, but hey, it's a start)
  • Bought bagels in bulk at Safeway - super yummy bagels, and package free!
  • Switched to a refillable sea salt grinder (It's made out of glass, stainless steel and rubber - so it's high quality too)
  • My mom switched to using hankies too. The kids are finishing our last box of tissues - now we just have to convert them.
  • Gathered and ate some wild-foods (trout, strawberries, dandelion greens)
  • Made our own scones using this recipe (instead of buying the buttermilk, you can just use regular milk and some lemon or lime juice - that way you don't have the buttermilk packaging).
  • Harvested some food from our organic garden (strawberries and salad greens).
  • Switched to digital coupons using Safeway's online system (it adds the coupons directly onto your safeway card) and this website (Saving Star provides coupons for Albertsons, Rite Aid, and several others).
Improvements to Make
These are improvements my family hopes to make in the near future. Go ahead and try a few if you want.
  • Switch to handkerchiefs instead of tissues
  • Use a reusable pepper corn grinder
  • Ask farmer that we get our meat from to have an alternative packaging method besides shrink-wrap
  • Toilet-train my little brother
  • Grind our own coffee beans
  • Get coffee in bulk
  • Tackle the junk mail
  • Finish the band-aids, switch to gauze and paper tape
  • Make our own almond/peanut butter (apparently there's fire retardant in the packaged stuff)
  • Make our own desserts/treats instead of the prepackaged stuff (candy bars, jell-o, cake, etc.)
  • Make our own pasta (not available in bulk here)
  • Switch to refillable pens (we're still working our way through the plastic dollar store ones)
  • Find a replacement for freezer bags?
  • Get raw milk in glass jars from local dairy
  • Switched to a reusable sea salt grinder (we can get sea salt in bulk)
  • Switch to an electric razor
  • Buy toilet paper in the paper packaging instead of plastic
  • Make our own yogurt
  • Buy cheese and deli meat in jars at the counter
  • Buy floss in the little packs, instead of individual flossers - a lot less plastic. 
  • Buy bulk beans, rice and grains
  • Switch to loose-leaf tea
  • Can our own pickles (not available in bulk, but we cannot live without them)
  • Can/freeze our own spaghetti sauce (again, cannot live without. Spaghetti is a weekly staple that is not subject to change)
  • Make my own almond milk
  • Get honey in bulk (local health store carries it)
Previous Posts in the Series:
Week One: No Wasted Leftovers
Week Two: Less Packaging
Week Three: The Bathroom
What's your zero-waste journey like?

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