Reduce your waste: A guide into 2020!

Hey! A while back I posted about going on a super cool meditation retreat, you can read about that here. Anyways, on said retreat, we were on the topic of fire. What does fire mean to you? Fire can mean a lot of things, but for us at the retreat, it symbolized the passion and the fiery anger that’s inside you. We were asked what burns inside of us, what gets our fire really going. For me, it was our world’s use of plastic – that there’s a real-life garbage mass that isn’t going away anytime soon, and that our attachment to consumption and convenience has build this mass of… waste.

Growing up in the changing of the millennia, the use of plastic was very well normalized in my household. Our food was almost always packaged. Everything from lunchbox snacks, to pasta, potatoes and apples. We ate a lot of frozen food which came in packaging. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s hard to absolutely avoid any plastic packaging – and I’m not completely dismissing plastic altogether either. Plastic has really made our lives easier and kind of better. Think of the ways the medical field uses single-use plastic. It’s actually safer and healthier than washing and reusing some medical equipment. What I want to focus on here is our behaviour and attitudes towards plastic. Does that bunch of bananas need to be wrapped in plastic, even though it comes pre-packaged by nature? Do you really need to buy spinach that comes in a clam shell container, even though it’s cheaper and less wasteful to buy it in a naked bunch? It may be more convenient but usually you are paying a dollar more or so for that convenience compared to it’s naked counter part.

I hate to say it, but we’ve become awful lazy humans. But what can we do to fight this, and also give our home planet a break? I know what you’re thinking, I can’t do it! I don’t have time to wash my lettuce every time! Well let me tell you can, and you do. And I’m going to show you all the little things that you can do to reduce your waste, and help make you, your family, and our mother earth a little bit healthier too. Start by trying one thing!

Now, I would like to disclaim something – this is about reducing your waste, and not completely going zero-waste. I know that there are chic Instagram accounts that post minimalist zero-waste content and they look so perfect and they are perfect for doing so. Well, don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Don’t get discouraged. It’s their job and it’s unrealistic for us ordinary, real-life people. Let me remind you that any little bit is a big step. This is a process, and a continuing one. This is also a practice; a way to show up for your over-flowing garbage can and our home planet. It’s something that with a little nudge and building of habit, you will continue to do, and hopefully pass on. Let’s get started!

Disclaimer: the blog post below contains non-affiliate links.

Reusable Grocery Bags

The first thing people started doing to reduce their waste was use canvas or reusable shopping bags for their groceries!

They are very easy to find, and a lot of stores give them to you when you buy an item. Others you can buy for a dollar or two. Ikea has great reusable bags, Lululemon gives out a bag when you buy stuff. Ours came from Home Sense and were given to us by Pat’s mom. Just leave them in your car and grab them when you go shopping. Congratulations! You just eliminated a bit of plastic. For my household, we don’t go shopping unless we have them! Need to pick up something last minute? We can’t unless we have a bag with us. Even a backpack will do! When the cashiers offer bags, say no. You can probably put that item in your backpack or purse.

Another thing I want to remind you is that if you forget your bags it’s okay! Try again next time. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a practice, and so, it takes practice.

Reusable Produce/Bulk Bags

Want to go one step further? Try using mesh produce bags instead of the plastic ones at the grocery store. Love shopping in bulk? Bring a canvas bag!

Some well-loved produce bags

We ordered these mesh bags from Amazon. However, they got stolen when they were delivered. But then got some more as a gift! We use these for apples, avocados, peppers, spinach, etc. Our bulk bags came from this super cool grocery store called Herb and Spice. They have a bulk section and really took our plastic reduction to the next level. No longer to we buy rice, oats, or popcorn in packaging. We are also able to get exactly the amount we need while supporting a local Ottawa business! If you are worried about the weight of the bag affecting your overall price with food, it doesn’t. They weigh almost nothing.

Bulk Jars

When you use bulk bags, you can keep your items in there, or you can put them into jars. Any jar will do. We use anything from jam jars, to 1L mason jars, to dry bulk jars. We got the big ones from Amazon. They are also kind of stylish for your kitchen!

Scraps bin

If you are in an area where you are able to compost, I highly recommend doing it. What happens is any compost collecting organization with your city or township will use it to make your community look nicer! It goes towards gardens and other farms nearby. If you don’t, like us, I suggest saving your kitchen scraps in the freezer. This can be anything from potato peels, carrot skins, onion skins, etc. You now have ready-made ingredients for a simple veggie broth. Here’s a super simple recipe to keep it going. You and your family will feel so good making something from scratch, and it’s a good idea to get the little ones cooking with you if possible.

Menstrual Products

As women, we are destined to produce a little extra waste every month. But we don’t have to! I recommend these products to those who need that push to at least try something new, and if you like it, then that’s great! If not, no big deal. You do what you are comfortable with on this topic.

Now, my period isn’t that detrimental because I take birth control. And, I felt bad using tampons and pads for only just a little protection. I felt like I was wasting a lot of products when I really didn’t need the entirety of the product. My first attempt at reducing my bathroom waste was Thinx – period underwear. I absolutely love them. They can be used by themselves, or as extra protection. I like to use mine overnight. They are comfortable and don’t feel like I’m wearing a diaper! You can put them in the washing machine, but I don’t recommend putting them in the dryer. My next product I was hesitant for a long time. But I made the leap and will not be buying tampons ever again. Yes, it’s the menstrual cup, or Diva Cup. They are a little extra cash, but for a one time purchase every year or so, it really put a reduction on my bathroom garbage bin. They take some practice so don’t feel bad if you can’t get it the first time around!

Make a lunch

Something that I’m still practicing every weekend is meal prepping and taking my own lunch to work. I also made another post about cooking, and getting into the kitchen to make delicious meals for yourself and your family. This idea may seem daunting for some, especially when you don’t or can’t carry a whole lot to work with you. But again, every little bit counts. Most people already have good Tupperware containers in their kitchen. From snacks to whole meals, I believe you can do it. Again, every little bit counts! It’s healthy too.

As long as you’re okay with doing some dishes…

Bring a reusable mug/water bottle everywhere!

This one I like to claim to have no exceptions. This one is really easy. Tap water is freakin’ great. We, as humanity has made drinking water the cleanest it has ever been and it’s free. Most of us are lucky to have clean and accessible drinking water. So, fill up a water bottle and put it in your purse or bag. Don’t leave your house without it. If you do, ask for a “for here” glass at your local coffee shop, chug a lug and go about your business. Coffee is the same. If you are hanging out at a cafe for a while, get it “for here”! If you want it to go, don’t leave your house without your travel mug. It will even keep your drink warmer, longer. ALSO, there is usually a 10 cent discount on bringing your own cup, so take advantage of that!

If you forget it… it’s fine… I guess… But I will be disappointed.

DIY Cleaning products

This one came to me recently as an attempt to save money on cleaning products and I was also not too fond of some of the chemicals on most store-bought cleaning products. I found myself researching better ways to clean and stay healthy in my kitchen. I came across the David Suzuki Foundation website in an attempt to find something to use that I already had in my cupboard.

Make ’em smell good by adding your favourite essential oils!

I use a bleach solution, a hydrogen peroxide solution and an alcohol solution. Each are a solution of about 2:1. So, 2 parts water, one part product. Hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol are very cheap on the shelf, costing ~5$. Since I make my own solution, I have cleaning products that not only last a long time, but are healthy and non-toxic. You can re-use spray bottles you ready have, or get them from Amazon.

9Before I sign off, I would like to remind you that yes, it’s something you have to buy into. It’s a lifestyle choice. However, you don’t have to all at once. Change starts small, and you grow along with it. I hope that this little list can give you the inspiration as to what waste reduction really looks like. Don’t be afraid to take this leap. I fully support you, and if you need any advice, let me know! I’d love to hear about how you reduce your waste. Have a great New Year! All the best!

Honerable mentions: silicone baking sheets for the oven, and a salad spinner.