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reusable produce bags

Shifting to Zero-Waste Living

I am trying to be a better human. I eat a mostly vegan diet because I don’t like the idea of an animal suffering for my lunch, and after seeing this turtle suffer, I never want to use a plastic straw again. Inspired by videos about zero-waste living and zero-waste beauty options, I’ve looked at the products I use on a daily basis, and tried to shift to more zero-waste products. I wanted to share some of the little changes I’ve made in my everyday life.

Please note, some of these items have affiliate links. This means if you follow the link and make a purchase, you pay the same as everyone else, but I get a small commission. Any link marked with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link.

In the Bathroom

Plastic-Free Toilet Paper: It is difficult to find toilet paper where the rolls come wrapped in paper, not plastic, and they don’t come in a 48-roll box. I don’t want a year supply of toilet paper in my home. So far, I’ve only found individual paper-wrapped rolls for sale at Sprouts.

Zero-Waste Personal Products

Bamboo Toothbrush: We’re supposed to get a new toothbrush every three months. I was so happy to find bamboo toothbrushes*, in paper packaging. They come four to a box, and each toothbrush is numbered, so if you have multiple people in your house using them, you can avoid accidentally using someone else’s toothbrush. They have the same durability as any other toothbrush I’ve used.

Zero-Waste Deodorant:  No more plastic containers of deodorant for me. My zero-waste deodorant* comes in a glass jar. You use the little spatula in the jar to scoop a little onto your fingers and then put it on your armpits like lotion. It’s a deodorant, not an anti-perspirant, so it doesn’t stop you from sweating, but you don’t smell when you do.

Menstrual Cup: I will hopefully never have to buy tampons again. The menstrual cup* is a game-changer. Instead of using and throwing away three to six tampons a day during my cycle, I wear this reusable silicon cup inside my body and empty it two to three times a day. It took a few days to figure out the best way to remove it each time, but now it’s easy and convenient to use. Within a few months, this this has paid for itself because I haven’t had to buy tampons.

Safety Razor: I’ve always used razor cartridges that contained plastic, and I wanted to try an all-metal safety razor*. The angle is completely different than other razors I’ve used, and it’s just an exposed blade that’s cutting your hair. It’s easier to nick yourself. I still use my other razor for my armpits and bikini line, at least for now.

Shampoo Bar: This shampoo bar* works great. I rub it on the top my head a few times to build up a lather and spread it to all of my hair. I suspect it could last longer than a typical bottle of shampoo.

Around the House

Laundry Soap in a Box: Do you know how hard it is to find laundry soap that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle or a pod? It was challenging to find laundry powder* that comes in a recyclable box, but I found it. It works just fine.

Reusable Food Containers: I still have resealable plastic bags in my home, and I do use them on occasion, but I try to use reusable glass containers*, and sometimes plastic containers I’ve had for years, instead of single-use bags. When I use plastic bags, I try to reuse them whenever possible.

At the Office and Professional Outings

Bring my Recyclables Home: My office doesn’t recycle, so I bring home papers that don’t need to be shredded so they can be recycled. I have a designated pocket in my backpack for paper to be recycled.

BYO Silverware: The office kitchen has single-use plastic silverware. Instead of using those, I keep a regular spoon and a fork at my desk for eating my lunch and snacks.

BYO Water Bottle: I bring my own water bottle from home so I don’t have to drink water in plastic bottles.

Metal Travel Mug: I have two ceramic mugs at my desk that I use to hold hot beverages and snacks, but I also have a metal travel mug* that I use when going out for coffee or attending events so I don’t have to use a single-use cup and plastic lid.

Reusable Spork: One thing that is always in my backpack is my fold-able reusable spork* so I don’t have to use plastic silverware when I go to conferences.

Grocery Shopping

Rosie’s Chicken in Pyrex, fresh from the market

BYO Container for Meat: When I buy Rosie’s chicken, instead of buying meat in plastic and Styrofoam, I prefer to go to the meat counter and have them weigh the product and put it in a reusable glass container* I brought from home.

BYO Jars for Bulk Foods: I like shopping in the bulk foods section at Sprouts. I bring my pre-weighed glass jars to get what I need. I label each jar with the weight of the empty jar so the cashier can take off that weight and only charge me for the product at check-out.

Reusable Produce Bags: These reusable washable mesh bags are fantastic for produce. If a store gives a discount for bringing your own tote bags, they often give me a discount for each produce bag and jar I use.

What’s Next

Going forward, I want to keep exploring options to be a better steward to the planet. I want to try composting, but have substantial doubts about my ability to maintain my own composting bin, so I’m more likely to try a composting service.

I will also keep an eye out for zero-waste or plastic-free products. Once I run out of liquid hand soap, I’ll switch over to bar soap. I am interested in finding a zero-waste moisturizer. Putting coconut oil on my face sounds like a breakout waiting to happen. As I go through my day, I try to stay aware of when I use plastic products and look for zero-waste alternatives and/or ask brands to change to more sustainable packaging.

Reducing the Waste I Create

I’ve watched the videos like I Tried To Make Zero Trash For 30 Days and We Tried To Make Zero Trash In Our Beauty Routines For A Week, and they inspired me to look at my habits and what I can do reduce the amount of trash and waste I create. Like many people, I recycle and I use a reusable water bottle, but I feel like I can do more, especially when it comes to the amount of plastic I use. These are some of the things I want to try to reduce my environmental impact:

Don’t Forget to Recycle by Blue Pylons from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Bamboo Toothbrush: The next time I need a new toothbrush, instead of buying a plastic one, I want to try one make of biodegradable bamboo.

Zero-Waste Deodorant: Instead of buying a deodorant in a plastic twist-bottom tube, I want to try a natural deodorant that comes in a glass jar. I also wonder if something like this would be better for my sensitive skin.

Shampoo Bar: Yes, there is shampoo that comes in a bar. I’m curious to see how well this will work. It’s going to be a while before I try it because I have short hair and it wasn’t too long ago that I bought a new bottle of shampoo.

Seedling by Kevin Doncaster from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Regular Bar Soap: There was a time when we just had bars of soap next to the skin for washing our hands. I could go back to that. I wonder if I can find a bar of soap that has exfoliating properties that I could use instead of my apricot face wash.

Asking Companies to Consider Lower-Waste Options: There are certain products that I know I won’t want to give up – like my moisturizer. I can ask them to consider offering a version that comes in glass instead of plastic. At least then they’d know there’s an interest.

Reusable Produce Bags and Food Containers: Top of my list this year is to pick up some reusable produce bags so I don’t have to keep using plastic ones every time I go to the store.

I often shop in the bulk food section of Sprouts for seeds, dried fruit, grains, and lentils. They don’t advertise this, but you can bring your own reusable containers to use after they weigh it. I want to get some jars and try this.

Since my diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, I would love to compost the parts I don’t eat. I currently don’t for a few reasons: (1) I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong and create a smelly mess that will attract rodents and bugs and (2) if I use vermicompost (aka worms), I’m afraid I’ll kill them and have a smelly mess that will attract rodents and bugs. (The fear is real – I’ve killed a cactus.) My city collects landscape waste, but not food scraps for composting. If I want to try it, it appears Arizona Worm Farm sells a ready-to-use worm bin.

I’m excited to try new products as I need them and see what works.