Zero Waste Tip #9: Responsible Minimizing

9. Let the dumpster be your final resort, and find creative ways to donate items when it’s time to part with them!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve hauled a lot of stuff to the dumpster over the past few years. However, this is a critical lesson that ties into both zero waste living and minimalism, and one that I’ve been really trying to challenge myself to adhere to.

As you begin to de-clutter and make steps towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle, the question that inevitably follows is:

What do I do with all my junk?

For years, I allowed myself to load up my car with things I no longer wanted and drop them off at my local thrift store or Goodwill. However, it eventually dawned on me that I wasn’t saving all these things from the landfill – I was just dumping the responsibility of getting rid of my trash to Goodwill instead. They weren’t going to sell those jeans with holes in them, the toys that were broken and taped back together, the shoes with soles falling off the bottom. They were going to toss them in the giant dumpster.

Once that light bulb switched on, I resolved to start doing my research. First, research products before I purchase them to ensure that I’m buying quality items that don’t eventually end up in the landfill. And finally, when I am ready to let go of an item, research to see if there’s anyone else who might actually use it for good instead. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!

Here is a compilation of some amazing companies that will actually give your trash a second chance at life. I will continue updating this master list as I find more.

How to combine Minimalism and the Zero Waste Movement
This is the prepaid mailer I received from Marine Layer! Super sturdy and large enough for about 5 tees.
  • Re-Spun by Marine Layer: This company will give you a prepaid mailer envelope for you to send them old t-shirts (any condition), which they break down into fibers, create new yarn, and then use that to make new clothes. For every t-shirt you send in, they’ll give you a $5 credit to use towards a purchase on their website ($25 maximum).
  • Blue Jeans Go Green by Zappos for Good: If your old jeans are at least 90% cotton, you can donate them by creating an online account with Zappos, printing a free shipping label, and dropping off your box at any UPS location. Your denim will be transformed into housing insulation! Levi’s also participates in the Blue Jeans Go Green program; they’ll give you a 20% off coupon for dropping off your old jeans at your local store (see details here).
  • Soles4Souls: Send in used shoes here to support a micro-enterprise program that helps people step out of poverty in developing countries. Shoes can be mailed in for free or taken to one of their drop-off locations.
  • Worn Wear by Patagonia: Patagonia clothes in any condition can be mailed back for them to recycle.
  • Wands for Wildlife by Appalachian Wildlife Refuge: Send your old mascara wands here to be used for removing bugs and larva from rescued wild animals and birds.
  • Best Buy: Bring old electronics to your nearest Best Buy store to either trade in (if eligible) or recycle. They even offer coupons for some new items when you recycle old gear.
  • Home Depot: Take your old rechargeable batteries, cardboard, and compact fluorescent light bulbs to your local Home Depot so they can be recycled.
  • Advance Auto Parts: Receive a $10 gift card for bringing in your old car battery to be recycled.
  • Fayetteville Public Library: Donate gently used books to your local library.
  • ReStores by Habitat for Humanity: Here’s a good place to donate gently used furniture, appliances, housewares or building materials. They’ll sell your items and use the money towards Habitat for Humanity’s work around the world.
  • Furniture Friends: If you’re local to Northwest Arkansas, consider donating used furniture (in good condition) to this organization, who works to provide international students and families with furniture upon their arrival to NWA.
  • Brick Recycler: This company collects donations of used LEGOs in any condition, and they’ll give them to children around the world to be reused.

Zero Waste Tip #8: Soap Bars

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

8. Stop buying hand soap in plastic bottles; instead, look for bars of soap without plastic packaging!

This is another zero waste swap that requires no daily thought beyond the initial purchase. However, as you transition into a more eco-friendly lifestyle, this is also an excellent opportunity to begin evaluating the ingredients found in your soaps and skin-care products. If you look at the back label and can’t understand most of the ingredients listed, perhaps it’s time to do some research on what you’re applying to your body’s largest organ (your skin)!

According to this article from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, soaps that are marketed as antibacterial usually “contain certain chemicals not found in plain soaps [such as] triclosan, an ingredient of concern to many environmental, academic and regulatory groups…. We don’t yet know how triclosan affects humans and more research is needed.”

Zero Waste Tip: Look for bars of soap instead of soap in plastic bottles
Tom’s of Maine bar soap is one of my current favorites! Look for it at your local natural grocery store or here on Amazon. It’s affordable and comes without the harmful ingredients found in other soaps.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a brief list of ingredients to watch out for in your skin-care products, including triclosan, parabens, and fragrances, so keep this in mind as you search for a soap bar. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients, the better!

Pro Tip: Make sure you invest in a proper way to store your soap bars. If you don’t, you can look forward to mushy soap with a much shorter life-span. The best soap storage method will provide a way for water to drain so that the bar is not constantly soaking in water.

My favorite soap dishes are similar to these: handmade of natural wood, with slats allowing for water drainage. We also have a set of porcelain soap dishes, which are easier to clean but not ideal for using in the shower, since they’re harder to keep dry.

Lifestyle Benefit: Perhaps I’m the only one, but in my mind I equate bars of soap to simplicity. There’s no plastic bottle, no fancy design trying to sell you on the product, no directions written on the outside of a package. It’s simply soap. Wash and repeat.

Buying bars of soap is also an excellent way to support small businesses, since they are often handmade or sold by local artisans and businesses. Some of my all-time favorite bars of soap were handmade bars purchased at my local natural grocery store.

Earth Benefit: Those plastic soap bottles you bought for your first home, to bring to college, or for your school supply list in elementary school? The adorable travel sized ones you’ve bought for nearly every vacation? Yep, they’re all still out there. The most common type of plastic used in soap bottles is HDPE (#2) plastic, and it can take up to 100 years to decompose! Here’s an article with more information about plastic types if you’re interested in learning more.

The Earth is swimming in plastic bottles, and the biggest way for consumers to begin to remedy the problem is to stop purchasing them! Buying bars of soap that are unwrapped or that come in paper packaging is the perfect place to start.

Find additional blog posts about zero waste swaps below:

Zero Waste Tip #1: Reusable Grocery Bags

Zero Waste Tip #2: Reusable Straws

Zero Waste Tip #3: Reusable Coffee Mugs

Zero Waste Tip #4: Real Kitchen Towels

Zero Waste Tip #5: Cloth Diapers

Zero Waste Tip #7: Reusable Water Bottles

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

7. Say no to single-use plastic water bottles.

There really is no excuse for this one, unless you live somewhere with literally no access to clean drinking water. When you think of waste pollution, the number one type of trash that most people think of is plastic water bottles. They’re taking over our oceans, washing up on beaches, and marring beautiful landscapes in every country across the world.

Zero Waste Tip #7: Stop using single-use plastic water bottles.

Pro Tip: Think about the qualities you want in a reusable water bottle before you purchase one! If you’re sporty and want something easy to clean and dishwasher-safe, try out a Nalgene bottle. If you’re constantly grabbing water bottles from the fridge because you prefer drinking water cold, this insulated water bottle is a perfect replacement! Even better than purchasing one? Use any water bottle or cup you already own, OR shop for one at a local thrift store to cut down on packaging waste.

Lifestyle Benefit: Switching to a reusable water bottle is a money saver! An online article released by Harvard University, “Reasons to Avoid Bottled Water,” states:

“Bottled water is about 3,000 percent more expensive per gallon than tap water… [even though] bottled water generally is no cleaner, or safer, or healthier than tap water.”

In other words, when you buy single-use plastic water bottles, you’re paying more money for a product of equal value to what you already have free access to. Every single bottle of water that you purchase is a waste of money. Every. Single. One. If you spend $3.50 on a pack of 20 water bottles at the grocery store, congratulations! You’ve just needlessly spend $3.50! Doesn’t it sound foolish when you look at it that way?

According to thewaterproject.org, the average American spends $100/year on bottled water. That could be the easiest $100 you’ve ever saved, simply by remembering to bring your own water bottle with you! Not to mention – reusable water bottles are sturdier, don’t leak chemicals into your water over time, and can reflect your personality and hobbies!

Earth Benefit: If you’re looking for a Saturday night Netflix or Amazon Prime movie recommendation, check out Blue Planet II. My husband and I recently watched this documentary, and I can’t think of a better way to persuade anyone to start caring about how we treat the Earth. The final episode addresses plastic pollution and how drastically it’s impacting the globe, so why don’t you start with that one!

Zero Waste Tip #6: Bamboo Toothbrush

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

6. Choose bamboo for your next toothbrush purchase.

One of the easiest swaps you can make as you transition into zero waste is switching to a bamboo toothbrush. Why? Because this requires absolutely no change to your daily routine, and it’s not necessarily going to cost any more money! This set of toothbrushes on Amazon averages out to $1.60 per toothbrush, which is comparable in price to a set of 4 Colgate plastic toothbrushes bought at Walmart. It’s a solitary exchange that’s just as good for your teeth and better for the environment. Literally the only thinking involved is purchasing the toothbrush, and then you’ll use that piece of bamboo just like any other toothbrush you’ve ever owned. Just brush.

Pro Tip: If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you can swap out your dental floss at the same time! Here is a plastic-free alternative: biodegradable natural silk floss in a tiny reusable glass bottle.

Lifestyle Benefit: Something about the natural bamboo on your bathroom counter looks SO much cleaner and Instagram-worthy than a blue and purple plastic stick. I’m probably beginning to sound like a broken record on these tips, but switching to zero waste products just looks so much classier!

Earth Benefit: According to this National Geographic article, “A billion toothbrushes will be thrown away in the U.S. this year, most of them plastic.” That’s a lot of unrecyclable plastic! The great thing about bamboo toothbrushes is that they can be composted except for the bristles!

Zero Waste Tip #5: Cloth Diapers

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

5. Trade disposable diapers for cloth diapers.

Somehow this often falls at the bottom (no pun intended) of people’s lists for how to transition to zero waste, and I admit, it took me a while to jump on board. I used disposable diapers with my first son, and I remember the huge weight that lifted off my shoulders when I decided to not go with cloth diapers.

What do I wish I could go back and tell myself two years ago? There are enough AMAZING reasons to choose cloth diapers; you don’t have to do it just because you feel bad about all the disposables sitting in the landfill (although that’s an important fact to consider). Let the guilt and pressure go, but still choose cloth.

Here are just a few positive reasons to be in favor of cloth:

1. It’s a decent investment on the front end, but this is probably the biggest money saver in the whole realm of zero waste swaps.

Stay with me while I do the math for you: A box of Pampers at Walmart costs $39.76 for 148 diapers, which is approximately $0.27 per diaper. So if you use 8 disposable diapers a day for 2.5 years (912 days), that’s 7,296 diapers x $0.27 = $1969.92.

Now, say you spend $500 on cloth diapers, and $200 on laundry detergent (both generous estimates), you’ve STILL saved $1269.92 over the course of diapering your child! That itself is worth the switch, in my opinion!

And to sweeten the deal even more – if you’re a first time mom, you can put cloth diapers on your registry and let friends and family buy them for you! 😉

2. Cloth diapers are infinitely cuter! So many fun colors and patterns to choose from. Just look at how cute these GroVia O.N.E. diapers would be on your own sweet babe! 😍

Zero Waste Tip #5: Start using cloth diapers.
Here are some of the GroVia O.N.E. cloth diapers that I recently bought! Each came with two inserts – a large one that we’ve been using during the day, and a smaller insert to increase the absorbency if needed.

3. Because they’re not disposable, you’ll never run out of cloth diapers and have to make a mad dash to the grocery store before bedtime to ensure you’ve got something to cover your baby’s bottom (as long as you’ve got a large enough stash and wash them within the recommended amount of time).

4. Cloth diapers are made with less ingredients (no fragrances, no chemicals to add absorbency, no inks or other additives). Even though Pampers.com claims that all their ingredients are tested and completely safe, I’d guess that the cloth diapers still come out on top when it comes to the quality of materials you’re placing on your baby’s skin. [Disclaimer: I did use Pampers Swaddlers on my firstborn with no problems! If you’re going to pick a disposable diaper, they’re a win in my book!]

If you’re convinced and ready to join me, please like this post and leave me a comment! I’ve only recently begun my cloth diaper journey, so I’d love to hear any and all tips of the trade. Once I get a little more experience under my belt, I’ll type out another post to share my thoughts on the GroVia O.N.E. diapers and their cloth wipes (see photos with links above)!

How to be a Minimalist Mom

Minimalism. The word often evokes strong emotions on both sides of the fence. Either you’re all in and can pack all your belongings into a tiny house, or you’re a Why-would-I-even-try-when-I-have-so-much-stuff kind of person. I’d love to offer a different approach.

Now, I’m 100% for KonMari and the Minimalists. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed their work. I’ve narrowed down my belongings to things that spark joy. I’ve done the packing parties. However, I don’t think you need to sort through your entire home this week and toss out everything you don’t adore. Not only is this not sustainable, it’s just plain impractical for an everyday mom.

Who has the time, with kiddos running crazy through the house, to unload the entire kitchen and haul carloads of unwanted gear to the nearest Goodwill? And if you’re like me, your spare time for minimizing is limited to about 10 minutes – after catching up on dishes or laundry and before baby wakes up from a nap and wants to nurse!

Here’s what I am suggesting: just slowly start to let things go.

Tomorrow when you get dressed for the day, quickly scan your clothes and pick one shirt that you never wear at all, that has holes in the front, that’s 3 sizes too small. Remove it from the hanger, find an empty box, and start a “Get Rid Of” pile. Put it somewhere you’ll easily see but that is out of reach of little fingers (somehow my children always discover the items I plan to donate and decide they want to play with it ALL).

My “Get Rid Of” pile is generally on top of my washing machine, next to the garage door. Why? Looking at it every day reminds me to continue scanning my house for things I don’t need. It keeps me from piling things in the back of my closet that will inevitably be forgotten.

So wherever it is, designate your pile. Then as you live your Momming life today, tomorrow, and the next day, just gradually add to the pile. Those clothes in your son’s closet that are too small, but not nice enough to save for baby #2 (or #3 or #4) – throw them on your pile. That extra coffee pot from college that you replaced and never use – straight to the pile. The third and forth cheap corkscrew you bought on vacation because you forgot to pack your nice one – yep, on the pile too.

Whether you have time for the major minimalist purging now or not, this slow daily habit of tossing what you don’t need is the only thing that’s going to sustain a long-term minimalist lifestyle. Make it a habit. You’ll be so glad you did!

It may not look Instagram perfect at first, but one thing at time, consistent de-cluttering makes significant progress. It is so worth it!

Zero Waste Tip #4: Real Kitchen Towels

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

4. Use real towels instead of paper towels.

This was a hard one for me. For some reason, my brain just kept telling me to reach for the paper towels, and that there was no way a real towel could compete. But guess what? I was wrong!

After I finally began to re-train myself to stop grabbing paper towels, I really started to prefer it. I don’t need a huge wad of paper towels to clean up a mess anymore, because the real ones (no surprise, really) are so much more absorbent. I don’t need to keep grabbing new paper towels when I’m cleaning the kitchen, because I can do the whole job with just one rag. So. Much. Simpler.

Pro Tip: Find different types of cloths for different kitchen needs: absorbent towels for drying dishes and cleaning up spills, small flour sack towels for wiping the counters, and thin rags (that dry quickly) for cleaning off the kiddos after meals!

Lifestyle Benefit: You will save SO much money by following through on this tip! I generally spent about $20 on paper towels each time I bought them. Consider using this money instead to buy these kitchen towels and these dishcloths on Amazon. If you completely cut out the paper towels after that, it saves you $20 each time you would have purchased the paper towels – roughly $20/month x 12 months = $240 annual savings! Just think of all the other fun zero waste products you could invest in with that $240! 😉

Earth Benefit: This article from the Norwex Movement lists 9 astounding statistics on paper usage worldwide, including the fact that “If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year.”

Zero Waste Tip #3: Reusable Coffee Mugs

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

3. Stop buying coffee in the drive-thru.

I get it. I really do. If you’re pulling into the Starbucks drive-thru, it’s completely inconvenient to ask the barista, “Hey, can you put my latte in my own mug?” Trust me, I’ve tried it, and you can’t help feeling a mix of high and mighty, a lot of embarrassment, and a little bit like the barista is complaining to everyone else he’s working with about your crazy demands.

Zero Waste Tip #3: Reusable Coffee Mugs

So, unless you’re willing to stick to your request in the drive-thru, the best option is to carry your own mug and hand it straight to the barista when you order inside the building. This way, no one has to wait on you to reach the front of the drive-thru line. No disposable coffee cups go to the landfill, and you’re not inconveniencing anyone. Win, win!

Pro Tip: There are a million different types of reusable coffee mugs out there, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like! Just find one that you like enough to use every day, and make sure it fits in your cup holder! I prefer the ones that aren’t insulated, so that it doesn’t keep my coffee scalding for 3 hours. Check out this cute “mama needs coffee” mug on Amazon!

Lifestyle Benefit: Forcing yourself to ditch the drive-thru is a spectacular way to stay within budget, because on days when you have no time to walk inside (or you don’t want to because it’s pouring down rain), you just don’t buy coffee that day. Trust me, you’ll survive!

On days when you can go inside, take your coffee shop moments to breathe deeply, look around, and slow down for a change. We need more of those moments in life.

And for yet another win, some coffee shops (including Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagels) will actually give you a slight discount for bringing your own mug!

Earth Benefit: If you’re like me, you’ll be surprised to discover that most disposable coffee cups cannot be recycled. Choose to do your part to keep them out of the landfill!

Zero Waste Tip #2: Reusable Straws

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

2. Replace plastic straws with stainless steel straws.

Zero Waste Tip #2: Swap plastic straws for stainless steel straws
These straws are dishwasher-safe if you have a utensil basket that holds them! I generally handwash them because they fall through the bottom of my utensil basket.

Next time you run out of straws, don’t buy plastic ones. Buy these stainless steel straws from Amazon instead. It’s a pack of 8, so there’s plenty for guests (or extras if you used one yesterday and haven’t washed the dishes yet). I also love that it comes with the straw cleaners, which are dishwasher safe.

Pro Tip: Most of my plastic straws come from restaurants when eating out! Keep one stainless steel straw wrapped in a handkerchief in the pocket of your purse. Then you can use it at restaurants as well!

Lifestyle Benefit: If you use the reusable straws for as long as using 3-4 packs of plastic ones, you’re actually saving money in the long run! Also plastic straws look like trash (because they are) and clutter up the pantry. The stainless steel ones look and feel so much classier!

Earth Benefit: According to a National Geographic article, “In just the U.S. alone, one estimate suggests 500 million straws are used every single day. One study published earlier this year estimated as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches” (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/04/plastic-straws-ocean-trash-environment/). Be part of lowering this number!

Zero Waste Tip #1: Reusable Grocery Bags

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

Hi, Hannah here! I wanted to share some of the easy first steps I took towards a more eco friendy lifestyle. These are great if you want to venture into the zero waste (or low waste) world but aren’t sure where to start! My recommendation is to just pick one tip that seems doable, integrate it into your life, and don’t move on to another until you’ve completed that one.

  1. Start grocery shopping with reusable bags.
Zero Waste Tip #1: Start shopping with reusable grocery bags.
I purchased 3 of these cute reusable bags at Walmart for just $1.25 each, and so far they’ve lasted for over 2 years! The produce bag was a gift, but it can be purchased on Amazon here.

This change is way easier than you think it is. Next time you go grocery shopping, purchase 2-4 reusable bags. Scan those first when you check out and put the rest of your groceries in them! OR even better, use 2-4 large bags that you already have at home. Who says they have to be “grocery” bags?

Pro Tip: The hardest part of this lifestyle change is remembering the bags when you go to the store, so start a habit of putting the bags back in your car after your groceries are unpacked! I keep mine folded up in the pocket of my drivers’ side door, right where I can see them as I get out of the car at the grocery store. Once you get into this habit, it’s as easy as grabbing the bags and putting them into your purse once you get to the store. Inevitably you’ll forget them at first, but slowly it will become a habit that you hardly have to think about!

Lifestyle Benefits: I LOVE shopping with reusable bags! Reusable bags are so much sturdier than their plastic counterparts, so they hold more without breaking. No more doubling up on bags when you need to carry a gallon of milk or several cans of soup! Whereas previously I’d have 10-20 plastic grocery bags to haul in from the car to my kitchen, now I usually have only 3-4 for several days worth of groceries. It reduces so much clutter, and you don’t have to gather all the plastic bags and find a place to stash them.

Earth Benefits: If you use the same 4 bags at the grocery store for one year, you could keep over 1000 plastic grocery bags out of the landfill or our oceans! (Estimate based on 20 plastic bags per week x 52 weeks = 1040 plastic bags per year.)