Please don’t take my lack of zero-waste posts as a sign that I’ve been slacking on trying to become one with Mother Earth. On the contrary, I’ve still been doing what I can to cut down my carbon footprint and even save a few bucks in the process.
So, just how have I been keeping up my zero-waste lifestyle? Well, I’ve made the usual tasks such as recycling part of my everyday life. I recycle at home, and when I’m out, I try to recycle whenever and wherever possible. If you read my last zero waste post, I don’t use plastic utensils or straws anymore– I bring my own now 🙂 And I always make it a point to specify that I don’t need utensils or a straw to whoever is helping me if I’m dining out or getting a drink that requires a straw. Don’t be afraid to speak up about these things! Sometimes I would notice that people would seem annoyed when I would mention it and I didn’t get it. I’d be thinking: “hey, I’m saving you money by not using your stuff and bringing my own! But I can sometimes personalize things, and so I had to realize that it may have had nothing to do with me, and even if it did — who cares! The purpose of me forgoing plastic serves a much greater purpose than worrying about a 5-minute interaction. My point is that once we start becoming more vocal about things and take charge of our user experiences when dining out or getting food, if this is something you’re not use to doing, the slightest sense of resistance can feel uncomfortable or discouraging but don’t let it distract you!
I also still bring my reusable bags with me when I get groceries. This has actually been great because I added a couple of more bags to my arsenal, starting out with two and now owning four. These bags not only help with cutting down on plastic, but they truly are useful! If you pack them correctly, you can carry so much more stuff in them than plastic bags! In one of my reusable canvas bags, I can fit about as many groceries as would probably fit into three to four doubled plastic bags. And the even weight distribution coupled with the sturdy strap of the canvas bag makes carrying it way more comfty and easy than the plastic bags, which usually start slicing into my hands after only a minute or two.
Other than the stuff I started doing when I first determined I was gonna try going zero-waste, here are a few newer things I’ve started incorporating into my life to help me get there:
I Got Reusable Towels
To cut down on my paper towel use, I started using reusable towels. I bought a pack of
about 10-12 plain, white cloth towels, and I use them to wipe up spills and clean general things like kitchen counters. Honestly, this has been one of the more difficult things for me to do. Why? Well, everyone has their weaknesses right? For me, I used to be a HUGE germaphobe. It was bad. I was that person who would literally use an entire roll of paper towels to clean up a smaller spill if it was something gross because I didn’t want anything to get on my hands. My naturally evolving self has calmed down from such extremes, and that was the case even before I went vegan. But starting a zero waste venture did help with my germaphobe ways even more. But using the towels for really gross stuff is still not an option. If I ever have to clean up vomit or bodily fluids, I don’t think I’ll be using these towels. I mean, it took some– okay, a lot of getting used to when I would clean my very dirty, greasy stove and then told myself I was gonna wash that towel with my only semi-dirty clothes. I envisioned stove grease penetrating every piece of clothing I owned. An irrational thought I’m sure, but I was so tempted to grab for paper towels! That’s why I haven’t stopped purchasing disposable towels completely. And there’s another reason. I have no problem using a towel if I am eating certain foods with my hands– even the messy foods (yum). But if I have guests or family over, I don’t want to force them to use towels over paper towels. although the intention may be pure, it just doesn’t seem fair or right. But remembering and reminding myself that this is a journey and a marathon not a sprint has helped. And when looking at the bigger picture, I’ve still made vast improvements in my own usage of the disposable stuff. I’ve gone from using an entire roll of paper towels to clean up one spill and wipe down the kitchen counters, to using about 1 roll of paper towels per month. That’s pretty freakin’ good if I do say so
myself! And also, keep in mind that trying to reduce waste kind of flows naturally into a vegan lifestyle when it comes to some things. For example, if the bulk of your diet is fruits, veggies, and grains, you’re not gonna have as much mess to clean up in your kitchen anyway! So you’ll naturally use less disposable paper towels and will likely not mind using a reusable towel to clean up the minor messes you create. And even if you fry, saute, roast, or do whatever else to tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. you’ll probably still create less mess than when cleaning, prepping and cooking with meats. Just sayin’
I Started Making My Own Cleaning Supplies
I decided to go all-natural with my cleaning supplies as well. That goes for hand-soaps, household cleaning supplies, and everything else. If I do purchase something, it has to be made by a brand that is known for having all-natural products with non-toxic ingredients like Miss Meyer’s, or a brand I found out about more recently, Ecos. But cleaning supplies are one of the areas you can cut down on buying and start saving some extra
cash too. That’s because it’s pretty simple to make your own cleansers. I use two different cleansers that are both homemade. I use them when cleaning the kitchen, stove tops and all. It’s also great because I have a cat (Atreyu <3), and I love knowing that as she’s walking around the kitchen while I’m cleaning, she isn’t breathing in any toxic fumes– and neither am I for that matter! But I do still use bleach to clean with and that is definitely a toxic product. I mostly use it only when cleaning the bathroom and definitely the toilet! I feel like bleach just can’t be beat when it comes to super-duper cleaning power. I usually dilute it and don’t use it for much else (except on my white clothes when doing the laundry), but eventually I would like to ease into using it even less than I do now. As far as my natural, homemade cleansers, one is citrus oil-based and the other is vinegar based. If I want a stronger cleanser, I’ll combine the two for ultimate cleaning power. Vinegar is great for cutting through grease and cleaning things. I’m going to write a separate post about these two cleansers, exactly what I put in them, and more on how I use them to clean so stay tuned!
I Also Started Making My Own Laundry Detergent
I discovered the beauty of castile soap! This is a hemp and coconut oil-based cleanser and it’s one of the most versatile products I’ve ever seen in my life! It’s also the main ingredient in my homemade laundry detergent. I mix the soap with water, white vinegar and apple cider vinegar to create an amazing detergent. I package it all in a mason jar and bring it with me to wash. Now I will say this– it took some getting used to using this as my detergent. When I first used this instead of store-bought detergent, it was weird because there were no frothy bubbles coming up in the machine window. I was skeptical that my clothes were actually being cleaned. But they were! And the funny part is, some of the clothes actually felt cleaner and a few things even smelled cleaner than they did when I would use store-bought detergent! This is one of those things that may take some getting use to for others also. Additionally, taking into account how much to use to feel like your stuff is clean can take some time. I am currently one single adult, so the amounts I use are also easier to figure out because I’m not washing a massive amount of laundry. Not to mention, some people may just have that psychological hold of feeling like their clothes are only being cleaned when they use store-bought detergents filled with a lot of fragrance. But fragrance isn’t what cleans your clothes. And frothy bubbles aren’t what clean your clothes. So, keep that in mind and consider giving castile soap a try! As mentioned above, for my whites I use the castile soap detergent in addition to bleach. I
don’t know if I’ll ever stop using bleach for my laundry because of my white clothes. But that may be another psychological hold I’ll have to work on getting rid of. And if I can find another method to get white clothes super white other than bleach, I’d certainly be willing to give it a try.
So that’s it. At this point of my zero waste journey, I’ve started using reusable bags for groceries, cutting down on my plastic use with metal utensils and straws, continuing to recycle whenever possible, cleaning with reusable towels, and making my own household cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. Slowly but surely I’ll keep at it, trying to get as close as I comfortably can to a zero waste life that works for me. And I say “comfortably” because at this point, I’m unsure if everything that can be done to live a zero waste life is something I would do. And I’m okay with that. It goes hand-in-hand with not judging others for the type of vegan lifestyle they choose to live. We are all trying to live our best lives in the vegan community, and doing anything at all is going toward the bigger and greater cause. That logic applies here also. Similar to how I don’t think I would stop purchasing paper towels completely but have made major waves in the amount I use on a daily and monthly basis, I will try new things and begin new things in my zero-waste life too. Some things may stick and some may not. But I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep sharing them with you all in the hopes that you’ll try them too. Maybe some of the things that don’t last with me will last with you and that’s another way we can all help each other. By picking up the slack where our fellow zero-wasters may have fallen. Good luck on your zero-waste journeys and stay tuned for my next update!