Step 3. Reuse

This step is a very obvious but also innovative step in a zero waste journey. You know that recycling is not the answer and it is by itself a wasteful process and you know you should reuse stuff before chucking them in landfill or recycling bins. YES, I did put those two bins next to each other, they are both wasted, unfortunately!!!

However, finding ways to reuse stuff are difficult and sometimes need lots of research and time to figure another way of reusing something.

I decided to post on stuff that I ended up reusing so here goes the REUSING SERIES 🙂

Make your own period pad by reusing old clothing

A typical woman uses roughly more than 11,000 feminine hygiene products, tampons or pads, in her lifetime. That’s just for ONE FEMALE. That’s a lot of waste in landfill and tons of money out of pocket. We are talking about mountains and mountains of pads, tampons and baby nappies and grown up nappies in the landfill, where they don’t really belong to be honest.

Reusable pads are easier to use, more breathable, funner to wear as they come in different prints, colors and feels. You can mix and match with what you are wearing or how you are feeling that day. You can choose to have snaps on them or Velcros but there is no toxic plastic and glue next to your lady part so PHEW!!! In general, reusable cloth pads last longer, look nicer and feel softer plus protect better.

You might say, why I am not talking about menstrual cups?

Well for start, we are reusing material here, remember, second, if you are a tampon girl cups are perfect but if you are not, then pads are the only way to go.

Also, cloth pads are perfect for postpartum wear, I should know cos I used them for specifically this purpose. I used the longer and thicker overnight pads at that time. Many women soak their pads in soothing formulations to wear against their skin to promote comfort and healing after giving birth. I didn’t because I am lazy and plus I think they are pretty soft and nice already. And cloth postpartum pads seem to be a natural choice for women who choose cloth diapers for their babies.

Some pads are made leak-resistant by the thickness of their fabrics. Other cloth pads have a waterproof lining, so they require less cotton fabric than pads with no waterproof backing. The thickness of the pad also varies based on the flow level the pads are designed for, and whether they’re an all-in-one system or have adjustable inserts.

Cloth pads might seem expensive at first, but considering a typical women can expect to deal with 35 years of menstruation during their lifetime. That can cost her thousands of dollars in disposable products over time. When she switches to cloth pads, she will spend a lot less on feminine hygiene there onward.

So if you are convinced that reusable cloth pads are the way to go, grab an old T-shirt to up-cycle. You can use PUL (PolyUrethane Laminate) as the water proof layer as it is a type of laminated fabric. Or you can just go thick by adding more layers and leak proof it like that. It all depends on you and your flow.

Grab a pattern and cut away your material, sew them back together per the pattern and Voilá, you have a free reusable cloth pad.

If you want to join a group of people and sew away your cloth pad together, come along to our next get together and sew your free pad with us, all material will be provided but feel free to bring a shirt to reuse.

Top 10 things to toss when you start a zero waste lifestyle

You might be interested in going zero waste but don’t know where to start or might be frightened by the enormity of the idea of no waste. I have to agree that the start point can be daunting and confusing. The fact is you always have to start somewhere and starting with this list of top 10 items to toss is an easy way to get your passion for sustainability fed and actually take a tangible step towards your zero waste lifestyle. The fact is I was in your shoes some time ago but I started my journey and tossing these items are tried and tested with 100% satisfaction.
The most important thing to remember is that the zero waste journey is a continuous one and you never have to stop if you don’t want to so you will always find new things to get rid of but to start always start with an easy one because the chances are you are not going to miss or you can replace with less wasteful options if need be.
Here goes the list that I started with and you can make your own list but these are things that you probably not going to miss or even notice being omitted from your life:

1st thing to toss: Bottled water

Bottled water must be one of the most over rated products on the market. In US, people are now drinking more bottled water than milk or beer. Bottled water mainly contains tap water that in some cases are treated and purified but mainly is a glorified tap water, however as bottlers aren’t required to list the source of the water on the bottles there is no way to prove or disprove their advertising claims that their water come from purest spring waters on the planet. Moreover, the plastic or even the glass bottles mount to ridiculously huge amount of rubbish in the landfill or at best recycling loads that require massive amount of energy, water, and time and man power to recycle.
Then there is the issue of fluoride that some bottled water companies use to lure the customers. They mention that you need fluoride for the health of your teeth. The fact is in most developed countries the fluoride is added to the tap water for some time already, for example back in 1945 fluoride was added to tap water in US. Therefore, you don’t need the bottled water to bring the all needed fluoride for the health of your teeth.

2nd thing to toss: Plastic bags

Plastic bags were made popular by a Swedish company in 1960’s. They were convenient and palatable to the 20th century man who was not largely as environmentally conscious as a 21st century one. Plastic bags are mostly not accepted by curb side recycling services and some stores like IKEA have banned them in their UK and US stores altogether (“IKEA to Phase Out Plastic Bags in U.S.”. GreenBiz. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2017). There are biodegradable options for plastic bags and given that 60% of the plastic bags are reused as bin liners or for other purposes (Plastic shopping bags in Australia Environment.gov.au 2010-06-13 Retrieved 7 May 2017), it is probably a good idea to use the biodegradable options to avoid extra methane and co2 emission in the landfill. But you can toss the plastic altogether by using your fold-able cloth bag.
In Australia, major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworth, do accept plastic bags and in general any crunch-able plastics, like wraps and other packaging that crunch in your hand, for recycling. They turn these plastics into outdoor furniture for Aussie primary schools and pre-schools. In 2016, customers returned more than 299 tonnes of plastic to only Coles stores to be recycled. I have to admit I hear more and more that these bags are not recycled and just dumped in landfill so don’t trust the recycling much specially as China is not buying our recycled material so less incentive for them to do proper recycling after all.

3rd thing to toss: Window cleaner

Windows get cleaned on regular bases; if counted you probably go through at least couple of bottles of window cleaner per year depending on how many windows you have, how many times a month they get cleaned and how you clean them. They are advertised as fast cleaners, grease removers and so on. Chances are the worst stain on your windows is dust and rain water marks that are easily cleaned by slightly wet newspapers. For more offensive stains you can use some diluted vinegar and a clean rag.

Cleaning low windows are easy and hazardless chores for the kids in your household. Therefore, handing them non-toxic material to work with such as diluted vinegar probably will add to your piece of mind and will not create any allergies for your kinds plus you can enjoy a cuppa when your little one(s) are fulfilling their duties! On this note, newspaper inks can be toxic so if you are putting your kids in charge of window or mirror cleaning probably stick to the vinegar and don’t use the newspaper option.

4th thing to toss: Stove cleaner/Oven cleaner

There is no need to mention that these sort of cleaning products contain chemicals that have fumes that could be harmful to general public when breath in, it is even mentioned on the cans of products purchased in supermarkets. You can save money and save your health by ditching these products altogether. Just clean your stove and oven frequently to avoid sticky mess that are stock for ages and for extra cleaning and shine use diluted vinegar.

I mixed one part vinegar and five part water to clean stove, oven, even fridge and freezer. You might think, girl your house must reek of vinegar. My response is, NOPE! The diluted vinegar does not have an overpowering smell and even the slight odour that might be sensed at the time of applying is not distinguishable after couple of minutes. Vinegar water is a perfect solution for almost all cleaning problems in the house.

5th thing to toss: Antibacterial wipes

Antibacterial wipes can spread superbugs. Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections; most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities (reference
). So if these wipes are defeating the sole purpose of their existence seems logical to get rid of them. Risking sound like a broken record, I suggest you use diluted vinegar spray and a simple rag to clean your surfaces. Especially surfaces in the kitchen that contact your foods are sensitive places that you don’t want to be covered in superbugs. Water will clean most of the problems in the kitchen but to make sure all is clean acidity of diluted vinegar will do the job.

6th thing to toss: Coffee cups

Each of us drink at least a cuppa or two a day and these disposable coffee cups can be mount into a mountain of plastic or paper trash. The solution to this one is easy. This one is a replacement option and there are so many trendy reusable coffee mugs/cups you can enjoy instead of the disposable paper or plastic coffee cup. Get customised reusable cups and taste the caffeine in style. Or use some trendy designed cups for example on various sites.

Another part of the coffee cup that is wasteful is the coffee cup lids. They are usually made of plastic, the first of which was patented in 1967. When using a reusable cups, these lids are made of silicone or durable plastics that are washable and there is no need for tossing at least for couple of years.

7th thing to toss: Microwavable popcorn

I am all up for good old popcorn with my favourite movie but please ditch the microwavable one, save money and packaging and buy a kilo of corns from a bulk store and pop them in a pot on your stove. You’ll thank me for it.

The argument for these microwavable popcorns can be the ease of use and the speed of preparation. But the difference between the price of this type of corn and the bulk one can easily turn the argument against the use of microwavable ones.

8th thing to toss: Papers towels/tissues

Some paper towels can be used even multiple times but majority of them are disposed after only one use. In either case, using a simple rag can be your safe haven; you save money and the environment at one go.

You might use paper towels for other purposes, for all those you can utilize a more sustainable solution. For instance, make your own floor wipe with old clothing that are not useful anymore. Or design and sew your own cloth napkins instead using disposable tissues.

9th thing to toss: Antibacterial Hand wash

Refer to the 5th thing to toss as the same reason applies here. These hand washes are defeating their purposes and therefore using normal bar soap that can be bought in bulk therefore reduces packaging and waste is your way to go. In this way you eliminate bottles of hand wash, paying for expensive and often illusive products and still keeping hygienic household.
Another way to eliminate frequent shopping of bottled hand wash is to buy bulk. You can fill your liquid hand wash dispenser with a hand wash you bought in bulk to avoid packing but still have the ease of the use of liquid hand wash.

10th thing to toss: Body wash

I agree that we are increasingly using bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals and smear them all over our bodies’ everyday just to get by. These chemicals with their synthetic smells make us feel acceptable in the society and abandoning them seems too outrageous and even frowned upon in some communities. You have grown up believing these products make you clean like no other and nothing else can do the job. WRONG! Your body does not need them. Your body is meant to sweat to get rid of toxins and regulate its temperature. To keep the BO at bay you only need to keep the bacteria away from your skin surface that feed on your sweat and create the BO. These bacteria are easily washed away with a simple body scrub (wool or cotton one, even the synthetic will do the job). As long as you clean your body with water on a daily basis you will not have BO problem and do not have to use chemical to clean or cover the smell of your body, i.e., with deodorants and so forth.

Take the challenge and go chemical free and give a couple of weeks to your body to adjust to its chemical free life (like a rehab period for your body), and you will save money and time and your sanity next time you shop.

 

Let me know what you think about the list and if you are willing to pull the plug on these everyday items.

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued- part 3)

3. Chips and Dips

Have to admit, this was difficult. I have a confession to make, my name is Sam and I was a chip addict. I had the addiction since I was in school and probably that is what led to many of my gastro problems. These problems were also the trigger to make a change in my diet and get rid of chips altogether. Goes months before I taste another one and now I pace myself, so I don’t get into the trap again. We started making our own hummus and replaced the chip with our trusty home-made bread slightly more toasted than usual. This made a great treat or snack for us and when we have company. Given hummus was my favourite dip anyway, I didn’t miss a thing at all.  As a healthy version of chip, we also considered vegetable and fruit chips but haven’t go for this one yet. I was having my eye on a fruit and vegetable dehydrator, like a one below. I will let you know if we end up getting one, let me know if you like a review of this or the bread maker that we do own and love for over three years.

4. Jam

Making our own jam. Well this one is a hit and miss, not that it is difficult to do, because it’s not. It is easy specially with our trusty bread maker. Oh Yes, it makes jam too 🙂 I told you, I am in love with it:

Right, back to jam. So jam making is easy but I am a sucker for good glass container for free. So when I see jam on sale in cute glass jars, I just get rubbery hands and buy them. I actually estimated the price of buying frozen fruit and sugar and compared it to the same amount of jam in jar from the market and it turned out to be cheaper to buy the jam and I went for it. Actually got four jars. Before you judge me, I utilise the jars for various purposes around the house and in my office. I also use them to give hand-made gifts to others.

Disclaimer: I also add a bit of pectin some time to some jams, but the price per jam is so minimal I didn’t bother mentioning.

 5. Cookies and Cakes

I might have mentioned before that I didn’t baked until I was 26, oh wait no, this was supposed to be my secret 🙁 ok between you and me, I didn’t baked until I got married.

I always wanted to, but never got to do it. So as soon as we moved to our new apartment with my hubby, we baked. It was one of those cake boxes that you buy from supermarket. The mix comes in a bag but you have to add an egg and oil the container. This is to make you feel you are actually doing the baking. This addition of egg was introduced later after few years of selling cake mix in a box after they interviewed bunch of housewives and understood that they felt guilty feeding their family cake mix cakes from a box as they thought they haven’t done enough. So they changed the recipe to eliminate the egg in the mix and ask the user to add it to the mix at the time of baking and include them in the baking process hence increasing their sense of self worth. See the power and brain of marketing.

Anyway, I digressed. So we baked and I liked it and we did this for a year or two. Until I realised, we don’t what exactly goes into this mix except the egg that I have to skilfully add. So I used my trusty cook books and started to bake the easy recipes first. I worked my way to the hard recipes eventually. And now I can follow any recipe that I find on internet. Let me know if you are interested in recipes I use and how I find them.

6. Conditioner

I think this is a girly thing so might not apply to the boys out there. But conditioner was never relevant to me. I only dyed my hair once in my life and I hated it so I never did it again and for that reason my hair didn’t get brittle or dry and I never felt the need for conditioner. So it was easy to eliminate it. This took a while, as I had bought bunch of them in bulk when they were on sale and I had to go through them before never buying again. But after that, we didn’t look back. Let me know if you have to use a conditioner, in that case I share with you a easy and quick recipe for a home made all natural conditioner that will be quite useful based on what I heard from my friends.

7. Toilet paper

This is a sensitive topic for some. Ok, let me tell you why with some cultural background. So again, I am originally Iranian and lived there most of my life. We was ourselves with water from a hose in the bathroom after going number 1 and two. Some families do dry themselves with toilet paper, but it might sock you to know that some don’t even bother. In my family we do bother  🙂

In Colombia on the other hand, like most western countries, they use toilet paper for everything. They difference between Colombia and some other western countries, for instance, Australia, is that after using toilet paper, they put it in bins, not closed bins, in massive wicker baskets that they consider bin. In Australia for example, we trow the used toilet paper down the toilet and never to be seen again.

Ok, now that you know my hubby and I came from culturally diverse background for toilet paper, you might appreciate the challenge that we had and still have in terms of replacing wasteful disposable toilet paper with reusable toilet cloths. I started this when I got pregnant as I was researching about reusable nappies and wipes and it seemed the same concept to me to use reusable toilet cloth. So I started it and by the end of that year I was exclusively using reusable cloths when I went to toilet at home.

My hubby was a different story. The idea of washing yourself with water and wiping yourself dry with a toilet cloth was strange and bizarre and unnecessary to him, still take a lot of encouragement and at the first sign of discomfort goes back.

I wash these cloths in a load of their own with high heat and 15 minutes cycles. Sometimes include reusable period pads that are rinsed or baby wipes or nappies. No complaint there.

I should probably talk to you more on the baby reusable stuff but maybe another time. Sleepy hour for me now.

Don’t forget to comment and maybe recommend the topics you want to read about. Anything zero waste and sustainability is relevant.