In Case You Were Wondering…

Did I mention I belong to a network of Zero Waste Bloggers? So proud to be part of this group! We’re teaming up to answer “ten questions you always wanted to ask a zero waster” on our blogs. Here are my answers…

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1. How and why did you switch to a zero waste (near-o waste) lifestyle?

I was flipping through a National Geographic long after my boys (husband included) had fallen asleep. There was an article about the human footprint with a picture of a family standing in front of their own personal mountain of garbage. That got me thinking: Let’s save our packaging for a year and see how much trash we make. Wouldn’t that be a meaningful visual for our kids? The next day I proposed the idea at breakfast and they seemed to be on board, but later that day I heard a story on NPR that changed my idea to: Better yet, let’s try not to make any trash in the first place! Once the idea got into my head, there was no stopping me, but as soon as I began the zero waste adventure I thought, this should be called “near-o waste” because *zero* is pretty much impossible. 

2. Since when are you pursuing a zero waste (near-o waste) lifestyle?

Officially, since January 1, 2015. It’s been my most life-changing New Year’s resolution yet. Some people think resolutions are empty promises, setting yourself up for failure, but I’ve always been known to stick to mine.

3. What are some of your favorite ways to avoid making trash?

I buy most of our groceries from the bulk bins (flour, pasta, spices, snacks), in a recyclable glass container (milk, cream for making butter, jam, mustard), or loose (produce, fresh bread from bakeries). When I have to buy a packaged item, I choose paper/cardboard over plastic if possible.

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When I go out: I carry a cloth napkin in my purse so I never have to use paper towels. I bring my own utensils to parties and picnics. I carry a 2-gallon water dispenser and glass water bottle in my car so I never have to buy bottled. I don’t go out for coffee very often, but when I do, I bring my own mug. I’ve even been know to get carry out pizza in a cake pan. I’ve also recently started taking pictures of business cards that people offer me, and politely handing back the originals.

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4. How do you have so much time to make all that stuff from scratch?

The main “from scratch” items I’ve taken on since starting Near-O Waste are tortillas, yogurt, and biscuits (in place of buns). I have an organized meal plan that incorporates yogurt twice a month, biscuits once every six weeks, tortillas once every three months, and butter as needed. I’ve made other changes like soaking dry beans instead of buying them in a can, which obviously takes more time, but it’s not difficult. You just have to plan ahead. I only cook every other night, making enough leftovers for the alternating nights. Knowing what to expect, what to buy, and what I’ll be preparing from scratch makes meals (and life) a little less daunting.

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5. How much garbage do you/ does your family produce per week?

It still varies, but it’s so much less than it used to be. Before Near-O Waste, I’d heard my husband say, “It feels like I take the trash out every day.” Well, I put him out of a job! We have two “garbage” cans in our kitchen; one for compost and one for recycling. We use biodegradable bags and reuse them as many times as we can tolerate. Our compost bin is bare bones, but it works! Actual trash goes in a small can in the bathroom. In a week, I’d say we fill 20% of the can.

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6. Must be expensive to cook from scratch. Are you rich?

Far from it. Since we stopped buying packaged food, we’ve actually been spending less per month. It’s been a little hard for me to believe… a little too good to be true, if you will. It seems unlikely that shopping at health food stores instead of Costco can actually save you money, but I’ve been comparing budgets with some of my friends, and our family spends roughly the same (or even less) per month on groceries and household items.

We’ve definitely cut our overall spending by eliminating the following from our lives: Ziplock bags, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, paper towels, baby wipes, contact lenses, hair products, disposable razors, makeup, and traditional deodorant, toothpaste, and cleaners. Pictured below: soap (used for shampoo, shave cream, and body wash), compostable silk dental floss, a razor with long-lasting disposable heads (mush less to toss, and much less often), homemade deodorant, toothpaste, lotion bar, and conditioner (a mix of apple cider vinegar and water), and a little coconut oil in case of emergencies. We had several toothbrushes on hand at the start of the year, so we’ll look for greener replacements when the time comes.

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7. What was the hardest thing to give up?

Hair gel! I have curly, unruly hair that has always been hard to tame, even with product. At first I was using homemade gel (made with actual gelatin), but that didn’t work out so well. I considered “natural” gel, but then there’s still the package. Since February, I’ve been going without, and experimenting with every technique I can read about! Here I am on my first day with no makeup and no hair gel:

The next pictures were taken a few days ago, after sleeping with my hair in little buns… As for the natural hair, I’m still adjusting. One thing is the same though: I never know what to expect!

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8. What are your compromise items (not zero waste but you still buy them)?

We still go to Costco every few months to stock up on cheese. You know… the kind wrapped in plastic.  We also have a “packaged item compromise”, which allows one packaged snack per month. We usually get them at Costco, for the price and the size. I buy BBQ kettle chips every 6 weeks for sandwich night (and every now and then when my husband seems like he might lose it if I don’t come home with a “regular snack”). We get marshmallows and graham crackers for camping trips and I even bought a package of Peeps for Easter (in addition to some “Near-O” jelly beans from the bulk bins).

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9. What are your favorite Zero Waste blogs?

My Plastic Free LifeThe Zero Waste ChefGruenishWhistle Pig HollowMy Zero Waste, and Treading My Own Path, which gave me some minimalist inspiration. A post on that transformation is in the works!

10. What’s one random fun fact about you?

I was voted “biggest hair” in my high school yearbook.

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8 thoughts on “In Case You Were Wondering…

  1. Inge April 30, 2015 / 5:59 am

    I like your monthly food plan! I’ve got a weekly one and I’m not that well organized. Especially the idea to cook every other day only, is inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachelle Strauss April 30, 2015 / 9:52 am

    I love the story of how all this started for you and how wonderful you have access to bulk bins (we have nothing like that around here). LOVE the idea of collecting pizza in a cake tin and I do exactly the same with business cards 😉

    And just for the record; I think your ‘big’ curly hair is beautiful…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Near-O Waste April 30, 2015 / 12:14 pm

    Thank you Inge and Rachelle 🙂

    Like

  4. Erin / The Rogue Ginger May 1, 2015 / 12:25 am

    I read recently that epsom salts are a effective and low cost way to create beach curls. Something to try 🙂

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    • Near-O Waste May 1, 2015 / 12:39 am

      Awesome! Beach curls are the best 🙂 Will have to try this- thanks for the tip.

      Like

  5. stargirlmkp May 19, 2015 / 2:32 am

    My mom has curly hair like you, so I can (kind of) understand the gel issue. Your hair seems to be responding well to being up at night. I can see a difference in the second set of hair pictures!

    Like

    • Near-O Waste May 19, 2015 / 3:34 am

      Thank you, “star girl” 🙂 I think I’m finally- maybe- getting a handle on things!

      Like

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