PERSONAL: A LESS WASTEFUL HOME
Friend, thank you for stopping by! I am not an expert and I am not 100% waste free. I am, however, on a journey to progressively produce less waste, continuously become more aware, and I'm grateful for the chance to share what I've learned so far! I've found that slowly making small changes in your home is way more manageable than trying to become waste free overnight. It's been so rewarding to see how little things have added up and made a huge difference in the long run.
Grocery shopping: By far the largest source of waste was generated through food packaging and grocery bags. Funny enough though, this was also the easiest thing to mitigate! I starting using reusable grocery bags and mesh produce bags. I also made it a point to buy less packaged foods and stick to mostly whole produce. This made such a huge difference - most days as I unload groceries I'm surprised to find that my shopping trips are now almost completely waste free.
We got a bunch of the mesh bags (above) off Amazon; you can get a pack with many different sizes.
Reusable grocery bags are also super easy to come across; you can buy them for a couple bucks at any grocery store. Baggu also makes really cute ones (right) if you're looking for something a little nicer.
Apartment composting and what to do with food scraps: A year ago I started two small composting bins that I keep in the back of a coat closet. There are about a thousand red worms in each bin literally eating my trash and turning it into super rich compost. It doesn't smell, it doesn't mold, and it's super low maintenance. I collect vegetable and fruit scraps in a gallon ziplock bag and when the bag is full (about once every 2 weeks) I dump it in the bins for the worms! I bought some rubbermaid storage bins from Target, ordered my worms from Amazon, and alas, my compost bin was born. I could write an entire post about this journey, however I'll just keep it short and say that it has been the most amazing experience and there are so many helpful resources online if you're interested in starting your own bin. I keep another gallon ziplock in the freezer and will collect bones and other vegetable scraps. When that bag is full I throw everything in a crock pot, fill it with water, let it cook on low for 12-24 hours, and voila - the best home made broth. Between the homemade broth and the compost bin, we end up having very little food waste and in it's place, a lot of delicious broth (which also means you don't have to buy the packaged, preserved store stuff) and rich compost (perfect for a small garden or even house plants and indoor herbs).
Dish, hand, and body soap: Instead of buying liquid body wash, opt for bar soap instead! You can usually find bar soap with little or no packaging (and it lasts a lot longer too). I also found how easy it was to make your own hand and dish soap with very little waste. We would need to buy more soap every other week and it was painful seeing how many bottles we'd throw away. Recycling is a great alternative to trash but still takes a lot of energy and produces waste indirectly. I couldn't believe how simply buying package free bar soap and making your own hand/dish soap (from bar soap, water, essential oils, and washing soda) eliminated almost 100% of waste in this category.
(above) bar soap with no packaging found at Whole Foods
(right) homemade hand and dish soap using this recipe.
Cloth towels in place of paper towels: One of the first changes I made when I moved into my own apartment. I bought a bunch of linen towels, knit a few, and sewed a few too! We've completely eliminated the need for paper towels in our home - it's probably been almost 2 years since I've bought a pack and I don't miss them one bit.
We have a huge stack of towels under our kitchen sink. Towels for the kitchen, napkins, cleaning rags, face and hand towels, etc. If you have access to a sewing machine, you can buy fabric by the yard for cheap and make a bundle of them (they are super easy I promise). Purl Soho is a resource I like to reference; they have so many helpful tutorials.
Buying second hand clothes and other home goods: Last fall I shared a little bit about my journey with ethical clothing and my convictions with the waste/injustice in the fashion world. A majority of my clothes I buy second hand from local thrift or vintage stores. It's a more accessible way to shop if you are on a budget. When we need home goods such as drinking glasses, storage containers, or other random appliances, I'm often surprised with how many quality things you can find second hand (and usually for cheap). I've recently discovered Rawson, a local vintage store based in Chicago and have ordered several things from them (including the CK pants in the picture below) and love their style. Vaux Vintage is another online store that has quality pieces in a modern/90s/80s style.
Material conscious: What's been so helpful through this whole process is really staying material conscious in every purchase/decision you make. If given a choice, opting for paper or glass over plastic (easier to recycle, sturdier, made from raw materials instead of oils), being aware of what your fabrics are made of (natural fibers such as linen, silk, cotton, are easily broken down while plastic fibers such as polyester, nylon, rayon, don't break down well and find their way from the washing machine to our oceans).
As mentioned earlier, my home isn't 100% waste free. It is, however, less wasteful than it was a year ago and I hope that in a year it'll generate less waste than it is today. I've listed a few helpful resources below and hope that they're a great reference for you as well!
Zero Waste Chicago: Environmental organization offering resources and hosts awareness events.
Litterless: Journal about sustainable and waste free living
Mur: Small scale home goods store passionate about conscious products
Dill Pickle Co-op: Food co-op store with bulk/package-free options