As our environment becomes increasingly more fragile, low-waste (or zero-waste) living is gaining momentum--and thank goodness for that. According to The World Counts, there is over 1 billion, 600 million tons of waste dumped globally each year. That is a staggering number and one is left thinking… where will it all go?
People are starting to get the hint that their daily actions matter when it comes to preserving what environment we have left, and maybe (MAYBE) even seeing some regeneration if we act quickly and wisely.
Over the past few years, primarily after purchasing my own home, I started to become very aware of waste--specifically, mine. The garbage can towering with bags mocked me as I struggled to get to the end of the driveway on garbage day. I was conscious of the amount of plastic coming into my house on a regular basis and didn’t like it. I was working on reducing the amount of chemicals that were used in our home and realized that many were coming in disposable, plastic bottles.
Every single-use plastic item that I used regularly left me with a growing amount of guilt and maybe a little shame.
I knew I could do better.
A lot of people become paralyzed by the idea that if they aren’t doing something with 100% effort and accuracy, they might as well not do it at all. But when it comes to low-waste living, a little can go a long way. As the saying goes, a lot of people doing low-waste living imperfectly is better than one doing it perfectly. So, with these words in mind, I slowly started to shift a few habits in my home that reduce our overall impact on the environment, and quite honestly, on my wallet.
When I say I no longer buy these things, in some cases that’s a bit of a stretch. What I mean is it is very rare for me to buy these items anymore and when I do, they last a very long time. I’m not perfect and, although sometimes I wish I was, by no means an extremist. I’m just a gal trying to do the best I can. But sometimes I just need to use a piece of plastic wrap, ok?
These changes were not made overnight. Like most long-term shifts, I started slow, replacing one item at a time with a more sustainable option, and grew my list over time.
So, without further ado, here are 10 things I no longer purchase and--more importantly--what they have been replaced with: quality, sustainable products.
1. Ziplock bags
I had been feeling guilty about ziplock bags for a while. It was just one more single-use plastic that I did not need to be using and contributing to our landfills. Luckily, Stashers are an incredible replacement for plastic baggies. They are made of non-toxic silicone, have an incredible seal and can be used over and over again. I have a deep love for these bags and every time I use them, I feel proud that I will have nothing for the garbage can when I’m through. They come in multiple sizes, which is very helpful. I use the large size to freeze items or even defrost meat in (seal chicken breast in the bag and then pop it in a sink of warm water). I also love the regular size for snacks. They’re fantastic for travel because they’re zero-waste without the weight or bulk of a container. For some, the price may be a deterrent, but if you consider the fact that they are a one-time buy (and you would otherwise be continuously purchasing boxes of plastic baggies), and that you only need a few in your drawer, it's a money saver in the end. Financially and environmentally beneficial? Sign me up.
2. Plastic wrap
Let’s just keep the single-use plastic ball rolling here. I really struggled with plastic wrap. It’s just so good at what it does. And the convenience kept me coming back for more. But I couldn’t ignore another easy swap for a single-use plastic item, and so entered beeswax wraps. This genius invention is made by infusing cotton, food-grade beeswax and oil. Together, these form a breathable, moldable paper that can fit over any bowl, dish or container. They come in various sizes or can be cut to your preferred size. These wraps solve the problem of covering food while also eliminating the issue of plastic waste. They are easily washed, dried, folded and put away in the drawer until next time. There are a ton of companies out there to choose from, but being a Canadian gal myself, I highly recommend Abeego or Nature Bee, which originated right here in the Great White North.
3. Dry Shampoo
Let’s be clear--this doesn’t mean I am washing my hair every day. Hardly. My swap for store-bought shampoo actually didn’t originate out of a desire to reduce my waste (although the elimination of aerosol bottles is a huge win here). I was actually struggling with a dry scalp and found that traditional dry shampoo exacerbated the issue. I was also making a move to more natural, toxic-free hair, makeup and body products at this time in my life. When I found out how easy it was to make your own dry shampoo, I couldn’t not try it. I am a blonde, so making dry shampoo is as simple as pouring tapioca or corn starch into a small glass jar, mixing in a couple of drops of lavender essential oil (optional) and putting the lid on. That’s it! I apply with a clean makeup brush and it works great. If you are a brunette, and don’t like the white residue this (and most other dry shampoos) leaves behind, simply add a bit of cocoa (obvious bonus: smells like chocolate). Another application option is to save an old spice bottle with the holes in the top and put your mixture in it for easy sprinkle application.
So I find that most people (in my circle, anyway) are getting on board with the concept of natural deodorant. More and more information is surfacing cautioning people from using the chemical-laden, aluminum-filled store-bought brands. Heavy metals next to your breast tissue all day, ladies? Run for the hills. But when I tell them that I actually make my own deodorant, I usually get an eyebrow raise or two. But let me tell you--I tried countless natural brands and, being the sweaty person that I am, none of them could get me through the day without grossing myself out with my own stentch. A girlfriend actually made this deodorant for me first. That was two years ago and I have never gone back to store-bought. Not only does it last forever, but it’s super easy to make, 100% natural, incredibly inexpensive and plastic-free. I am a hard sell, and I promise you this homemade version comes out on top.
Grab the recipe for this homemade, easy, effective and natural deodorant by filling out your email below. I'll send it right to your inbox. Bye, chemicals and heavy metals. You can't sit with us.
5. Plastic hand soap bottles
My solution to the never-ending stream of plastic hand soap bottles came to me when one of my favourite shops moved in down the street. The Kind Matter Company is an eco-friendly, sustainable living store that boasts an array of household items mostly made by Canadian companies--many local. They hooked me up with hand soap from The Bare Home, a non-toxic, environmentally friendly soap that arrives in a glass bottle, which you are encouraged to refill. You can order boxes of refills directly from The Bare Home, or--and this is my preferred method--visit a refill station like The Kind Matter Co. when you run out.
Are you an Eat. Move. Live. subscriber? If so, you'll see a discount code for Kind Matter Co. in your inbox this week! That will allow you to shop 24/7 in their online store and snag some of the incredible products I've mentioned here (plus so much more) for a great price. Not signed up? No problem. Fill in your info below to access the code now.
6. Plastic dish soap bottles (and dish soap, for that matter!)
Keeping my love of The Kind Matter Co. going, when I figured out I could make my own dish soap using a toxic-free concentrate, I ran over to the shop, snagged myself a large glass pump bottle and, just like that, eliminated my need to buy any more plastic dish soap bottles. I use my concentrate (Doterra brand), mix it with water and I’m done. These bottles can be used for so many things over and over again, so be sure to grab that discount code if you haven't already and pick yourself up a couple! They also look a whole lot nicer on your counter than store-bought plastic brands. Im a minimalist at heart, so this is something I really appreciate.
7. Coffee filters
I’m not going to lie--I loved the convenience of throwing my morning grinds and filter right into the compost bin daily. But eventually I decided, even though it was composted, it was one more item I didn’t need to be buying. My coffee maker came with a reusable filter that I could easily rinse out with each use. If yours doesn’t come with one, take a look at this one and see if it would work with your pot. It’s convenient and economical and prevents those, “Shoot--I’m out of filters!” moments.
8. Cooking oil spray bottles
For convenience, I prefer to have a spray bottle of cooking oil above my stove. But we know aerosol cans aren’t our best option, and even if they’re a pump bottle, it’s one more bottle that eventually ends up in the trash. Enter this glass oil dispenser. I love this little gadget! Remove the top, fill it up with your favourite oil (I recommend avocado, fractionated coconut, or extra virgin olive oil), and you’re done.
9. All-purpose cleaner plastic bottles
This is a favourite of mine for a few reasons. For one, I love having a cleaner I’ve made (again, using my concentrate), knowing it’s safe for my home and my family. Secondly, putting your cleaner in a pretty amber bottle means you don’t mind having it out on your counter, making it even more convenient. If you don’t have a concentrate, you can totally make your own, effective, counter spray. Here’s a recipe you can check out from Crafting The Good Life, but there are a ton out there that you might want to play around with. Don’t feel like you need to purchase an all-purpose cleaner from the store to get the job done. Marketing is a powerful tool. But you can do a great cleaning job using a couple of household products you likely have in your kitchen right now.
10. Water bottles
Finally, if you are still using a plastic, disposable water bottle on a regular basis… get your life together. No excuses.
And there you have it: 10 things I don’t buy anymore! Not only did this shift make me feel good about what I was doing for the environment, but in many cases, supported the health of my family in a big way. I am saving money and planet Earth through very little effort at all, all the while creating a low-tox home environment.
If you haven’t already, I challenge you to pick one thing on this list and make the switch this week! Start small and see where it takes you. My bet is you never look back.