I’ve had quite a few people message and ask me questions about this topic, and so I want to be very transparent.
In the zero waste community, I feel like there’s a lack of trueness in what it actually means to live with less waste. When our family first started out at the beginning of last year, I was overwhelmed and thought I needed to purchase all these new items : stainless steel food storage, bamboo and metal dishes, glass bottles, matching napkins and rags and towels, bamboo toothbrushes, and even thought the only option was to go vegan.
At least on Instagram, a lot of the accounts I follow seem to focus on the “aesthetics” of living zero waste rather than placing the importance on the purpose of what it means.
I’m writing this along with photos to show what it probably looks like IN REAL LIFE for some of you, specifically those of you who are just starting out or live in a state where taking care of our earth is not on the to-do list (ahem, Oklahoma).
C L E A N I N G
I still have quite a few cleaning supplies in plastic bottles that are considered “toxic.” And I am going to use them all up. I’m in a weird state right now in the sense that I am making the switch to producing less trash as well as using cleaner products throughout my home, but also trying to switch to a *minimal life, owning as few things as possible. Which looks like this : a mix of “green” products which I buy or make as I run out of the products I had before, and not a moment sooner.
As shown in the picture above, my “mopping” looks like tying an old rag or an old tshirt around my broken Swiffer, and spraying Thieves all over the floor. I don’t have a pretty straw/bamboo broom, I have an old plastic blue one that works just fine. I don’t make homemade vinegar cleaner every time I need to mop yet because I have plenty of cleaner that I need to get through first. My cleaning rags aren’t super cute and don’t all match. They’re cut up old T-shirt’s and old rags with frayed edges, some with holes.
Our family also still buys trash bags, we just fill them a lot less often. But if you’re doing really good with producing less trash, use paper bags instead.
G R O C E R Y S H O P P I N G
Zero waste grocery shopping in Oklahoma. Wow. Barely even a thing. When I read other people’s blogs or posts over them grocery shopping at farmer’s markets year round or going to the store with their mason jars to fill up, I get really discouraged. I take cloth bags for bulk (made out of old pillowcases, so they aren’t that pretty) and reusable bags, which for me doesn’t mean the pretty market bags (aka the $80 one at local shops that says “OKC”….dream bag) or matching mesh bags that you see on zero waste accounts. It means ugly totes that I’ve been given or had for years, but refuse to buy anything new because….. well, zero waste. Which is what it’s about!
Last time I went to the grocery store with jars to fill in bulk (which is not possible for most small towns in OK unless they drive to OKC or somewhere related), the cashier looked at me like I was growing another head. Which happens a lot to me when I bring reusables, whether its a bag or a cup to a coffee shop. Going zero waste is really hard, but it doesn’t make it any easier when it’s a foreign concept to others in your state.
H O M E D E C O R
When decorating your home, it’s so easy to go overboard. We want the latest and trendiest, and we want to stay relevant. So after dropping a few hundred dollars, you take it all home and then a few months later, you find out you aren’t relevant anymore and need to redecorate!
My advice is 1. Find out what your own personal style is and 2. Buy quality and classic pieces that will last forever or get used to the idea of thrifting. I do not recommend thrifting bed frames, and always thoroughly check wooden furniture.
Clutter makes most zero-wasters cringe which is why minimalism and zero waste sometimes go hand-in-hand.
Choose furniture for your home that is functional yet simple. That way they have multiple uses and can be used in any room. Plants are a great way to decorate your home. For those who usually kill everything (me), there are plenty of plants that are really sturdy and can adapt to all kinds of environments. Bonus of owning these : a lot of them naturally purify and cleanse the air in your home! English ivy, Aloe Vera, Sansevieria, eucalyptus, and ferns are all really good ones. Books, vintage dishes, and decor made from local artists (calligraphy, macramé, pottery, canvas art) are also great options.
My main point is to not get discouraged! Comparison is a thief of joy, and can make you want to give up or quit. Making the smallest changes in your day to day make a difference. Give up buying paper towels and disposables. Try to remember your grocery bags when you go to the store, and if you forget, opt for paper bags. When you shop for clothes, either thrift them or try and buy 100% cotton. Invest in steel, bamboo, or glass straws (usually no more than $12 for a pack) so you can refuse plastic straws. You are doing a great job, just keep on keepin’ on!
*minimalist – not a fad, actually a really hard lifestyle choice
in the links are a few of my favorite makers that I know would make something absolutely beautiful for you to cherish in your home forever!