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Challenge Number Six: Thirty Days of Zero Waste

Today’s the day! I’m very excited about this Challenge.

I’m constantly shedding items that I don’t need, and not replacing them with new things. This started a year ago when the Goldilocks Movement‘s “Happy Starts at Home” cleanse worked wonders for reconfiguring my emotional ties to with material objects. The No Shopping experience then had more stuff making its way out of my space. And now I’m here, reworking my relationship with stuff on an even deeper level. Yay.

After some time down in the research rabbit hole, I found some focus with Trash is for Tossers by NYC-based Lauren Singer. Here’s the filled-in 1st step of her 2 Steps to Zero Waste:

Evaluate: the first step is to take a look at your daily life and ask yourself the following questions:

How much garbage am I currently producing and from where?

  • My biggest sins are grocery delivery from Fresh Direct and everything delivery from Amazon. FD has improved dramatically since they started years ago, but the waste both bring into my home by means of plastic-wrapped everything is deplorable. And while I don’t do it often, getting any restaurant food delivered is a veritable nightmare of plastic and Styrofoam containers, plastic utensils (even when you request them not to be included), condiments (same), napkins, copies of delivery menus (why do you need them if you’re getting delivery?!) and bags inside of bags. I cry for the earth every time I order my eggs and chorizo breakfast, which is my favoritest indulgence ever.
  • Plastic-wrapped vegetables from Trader Joe’s – I HATE how they do that.
  • Tea bags, and the bags they come in – I have so much loose tea but the convenience of tea bags makes me so dang happy.
  • Tops from almond milk, jars of almond butter etc.
  • Plastic bags from potato chips and pasta. Muffin tells me a store by her recycles these, so I’ll look for one by me and, worst-case scenario, drive them down when I see her. But until I find a place that sells potato chips wholesale… sniff. I’m not ready to fry chips when I feel like them.
  • Toothpaste, shampoo, travel size body products etc. These have been dramatically reduced since the whole No Shopping challenge. I now replace the favorites I have, recently gave away all the makeup I don’t want, and recycled the rest. Overall, I’ve reduced my makeup by about 70% in the last three months! But the rest exists. It’s there.
  • Tissues. Daily.

Why am I even interested in decreasing my impact? 

This is the heart of each Challenge, as I wrote over the weekend. I just don’t see the point in wasting anything, honestly. If there’s one thing I’ve learned by all this illness stuff, it’s that we’re so lucky to have what we have, and so much of it is by chance; we’re randomly born in specific bodies, at certain places and times, into families and homes not of our choosing. It’s a crapshoot.

I am a very fortunate person to have what I have. I don’t want to take that for granted. By taking things in and quickly, carelessly disposing of them, I am doing just that. I’m taking for granted the generations who came before me, those who have fought to protect this earth, those who work to create beautiful things of value, and myself; because I work hard for financial stability I don’t yet have. I want more stability, more quality, more value, and more pride in what I have and what I’m a part of. To do that, I need less in my life that’s easily so disposable.

Side note: I think this also comes from an emotionally rooted issue of worrying that I’m a disposable person — that I don’t matter to others and so they feel they can easily dispose of me. I don’t want to be that. I want to be a person of value. I want to matter so that people think twice about losing me. Ouch. That’s a big thing to admit to myself.

What do I actually use on a daily basis and what do I not use/need? (This can help you determine the things that you can donate and reduce.)

This is constantly happening, so I’m not as focused on this right now. But I do have a box on my floor that has an old curling iron, a few books, and picture frames, and soon will have some more odds and ends in it. Constantly shedding.

What products do I use that I can get more sustainable alternatives to? Ex: exchanging plastic Tupperware for glass or mason jars.

Lauren is big on tossing plastic for glass. That’s not happening with me. I use glass jars for many things, but also BPA-free plastic. I have heavy plastic reusable straws, stainless steel water bottles, cloth pouches for snacks, and cloth napkins. So I’m all set in that regard.

As far as feminine products go, I’m on my period right now. I looked for and found new sponges, which I’d used years ago, preferring them over the Diva Cup. So in prep for today I swapped out applicator-free tampons for the sponges (if you’re curious, I bought Jade & Pearl Sea Sponges in large, which are way too big for my baby-less vagina, so I cut each in two and now have four perfect sponge tampons). And I’m using the LunaPads I already have underneath. I know Thinx and such are the rage, but part of this is not spending more money on Challenges, and $26 for four tampons was plenty.

The most important one straight from Yoda’s lips: How much and what do I really need to be happy? 

Fortunately, the No Shopping and Happy Starts at Home cleanse got me past this question already. I’m no minimalist, but my space is filled with things that make me happy, and the majority of my belongings get used. As I take less in and more goes out, I’ll continue to whittle down.

My plan this month

The next section of her page is about whittling down and replacing, which isn’t applicable to me, so I’m just jumping into my rules for this month. I don’t expect to get to Zero Waste in my first day. But I want to see how much I can reduce, and there are some rules I will have to stay within so as to not bring anything new into my space unless it can’t be helped.

  1. No delivery: Fresh Direct grocery delivery, Amazon delivery (other than the handkerchiefs already ordered and en route), or takeout delivery.
  2. Finish up and document: I can use what I already have (groceries already purchased), but will save and document the non-compostable or non-recycable garbage by week. While I don’t compost, I know how, as I’ve lived with friends who compost. So food scraps and compostable items go into the kitchen bin, but everything else gets cleaned and set aside. At the end of each week, I’ll document what I have, and the weight.
  3. Nothing new: No buying things in packaging that cannot be recycled at all — so things like vegetables wrapped in plastic, pasta, etc.
  4. Reuse as much as possible: For example, I’m taking the empty coffee bin from Trader Joe’s to fill with new bulk coffee. Blah blah blah.
  5. No To-Go Anything: If I want a cup of coffee and I’m out, it’s gotta go in the container I’ve got with me. No straws. No cheats of coffee or Lemonade or anything. No exceptions.
  6. No new clothes: If I need a new garment, it must be used.
  7. Adapt as Needed: When I run out of a produce — toothpaste, lotion, etc. — I’ll buy a better alternative, meaning make my own or bring a jar and buy in bulk. So TBD on this one.

Exceptions:

  • The poop bags I use for Mitra are as natural as I can find. End of discussion.
  • I will record the waste factor, but medicine and supplement deliveries/pickups happen.
  • I have a roommate on the opposite end of the spectrum regarding this. I respect her decisions and do not try to change her. Shared space is shared space and stuff, stuff.

Thoughts so far:

Yesterday, I went downtown for restorative yoga. Afterward, I felt focused and energized to tackle looking for hankies and sponges and snapping photos of bulk groceries. I ended up walking two miles and didn’t find the majority of what I needed. I went home in extreme pain, severely over worked, ended up ordering handkerchiefs, and wishing I had saved myself the spoons.

Things just aren’t the same when you live in a body that hurts every day. I can’t just go to the farmer’s market on Saturdays and stock up for the week. I can’t just pop into a few places after work for something. It just doesn’t work that way.

But I’ll do my best. Fortunately, I have the time. Fortunately, I only have me to look after and store up for. Fortunately, I don’t require much. This goes back into the “Why am I even interested…” question. Because I know how lucky I am, and so part of this is about giving back with gratitude.

Let’s see what comes in with what I’m taking out. Yay.

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