I named this blog *Near*-O Waste because absolute zero is unrealistic, but getting near zero is possible. I thought it was a great premise for a blog and a less intimidating goal for beginners to strive for. But for the first year, I wasn’t really Near-O. I was more like trying-to-be-so-close-to-zero-that-I-would-occassionally-upset-my-husband,-spend-a-lot-of-extra-time-on-zero-related-tasks,-and-unnecessarily-complicate-my-life.
After we adopted minimalism and began to simplify our life, I realized that some of my Near-O ways weren’t so simple. I still believe that achieving near zero waste is entirely possible. But because I want to sustain this low-trash lifestyle indefinitely, I’ve decided to make some compromises and actually strive for just *near* zero. In addition to the changes I made in the spring, the following amendments have further simplified my daily life, leaving me with more free time.
1. BUTTER: Although it’s fun to make, the entire process including clean up just takes time. (If the queen of Zero Waste buys it packaged, why can’t I?) And just when I thought the only downside was the waxed paper wrappers, I found pasture raised Organic Valley butter wrapped in (recyclable) foil!
2. PIZZA: Every month for a year and a half, I brought two large cake pans with me to pick up my pizza. I recently discovered a different pizzeria with organic options, but they won’t allow me to bring my own pans. So I decided to switch to their pizza (pan-free!) and compost the box.
3. TORTILLA CHIPS: I was buying these from the bulk bins but they’d always crumble when I tried to scoop them out, and they weren’t organic. I now buy bagged organic tortilla chips every other week and reuse the bags for trash pickup.
4. ICE: I rarely need ice at home. If I do, I can make some. But if we’re camping, you can bet I’m buying a plastic bag of it and avoiding the headache.
5. JARS: I saved yogurt, jam, and mustard jars for over a year. I used them for many purposes and also for bulk-snack gifts (an idea that I still love), but removing the labels was a total pain, and I’m over it. Our recycling bin will fill up faster, but it’s for my own sanity. (I still avoid buying anything in a plastic container.)
6. BEER: I used to fill two growlers every Friday at our local brewery (to avoid recycling bottles). This would require bringing ice packs with me at 6:00 am, freezing them at school, making a special stop to get the growlers when I got off, and keeping them in a cooler until I got home at 3:30. Don’t get me wrong; I love IPA. But it’s expensive, negates my workouts, and usually makes me tired anyway. I’m going to put my beer money into the travel fund for a while and save my drinking for special occasions.
7. TRAVELING: I finally decided to ease up when we’re traveling. There are still a few Near-O things I can’t leave home without, but for the most part, I won’t worry about it when we’re on vacation.
8. THE PACKAGED ITEM COMPROMISE: My original agreement was to buy one packaged snack per month, but now I buy one per week (alternating between tortilla chips, potato chips, and Annie’s farm animal crackers). I also buy one package of grass-fed hot dogs per month for a quick weeknight dinner. We’re definitely generating a little more trash, but my house is full of happy eaters.
9. BREAD: While the idea of popping into the local bakery for fresh bread in my organic cotton bag is idyllic, having an extra weekly errand is not. I’ve settled on locally baked bread (in a paper bag) from the grocery store, where I already stop twice a week.
10. ACCEPTANCE: And above all else, I’m not going to panic when I’m not in control. If a friend serves lunch on paper plates, I don’t need to fret about it. If my husband comes home with a slough of wrappers, I’m just glad he’s home. If we’re at a bakery and my kids race to the stack of plastic-coated cups at the water jug, oh well. I can only control grocery shopping, meal planning, and myself. And I’m good with that.