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.

Zero waste living in an apartment

This topic was requested by one of our readers/followers and I think it is a very appropriate topic as nowadays more and more people are living in apartments/units and places that don’t necessary have backyards, balconies or an outside area for gardening, composting or alike.

I lived in an apartment for as long as I remember, some of them had balconies, some had tiny backyards, some had none. I was in various stages of my zero waste journey and in any of these stages somehow I managed to move forward in an apartment.

Here are  my tips and tricks for zero waste living in apartments:

First make a plan

This is not different from the first step of 5R, the method that I initiated and follow. Make sure to have your goals set, communicated with those that live with you in the apartment, either your family or your roommates. Write what you want to achieve down and have it somewhere visible to everyone.

Then go through your lifestyle, your shopping, your eating and your work habits and identify points that you can improve upon in order to achieve your set goal. Make sure everyone take part in this exercise otherwise they will feel left out and that you are forcing your goals on them.

So now that you have a goal and you have ways to work towards that goal, it’s time to make plan for improving those things.

For example, you goal is to lower your organic waste in landfill:

One way is to compost, if you have a balcony with a shady area you can make or buy a worm farm (small one) but make sure to read about those (or wait for my next post on them) before committing to one as they can be high maintenance.

Another way is to get a Bokashi bin:

They are good for not too much organic waste specially offices or small apartments with few people. They don’t smell, and don’t make a mess so you can have them inside even in your kitchen.

What I did when I had a small balcony with no shady area was to get free Styrofoam Boxes from my local fruit shop and use those to bury my organic waste. It was a great bed for planting my potatoes, tomatoes, and herbs. My space was limited but as it was getting lots of oxygen, rain water and sunshine, the composting was happening so fast that I was amazed. I also composted my soap nuts in this manner:

Second reduce your consumption

What is important is we accumulate stuff when we have extra space, food, clothing, furniture, books and so on. You name it, we accumulate them all. When you live in an smaller area, for example in a small apartment, you know how valuable the space is. In another word, you value your space more than someone that has so much space doesn’t know how to fill it. So when I tell you reduce your consumption, you will thank me for it because as soon as you do this step, you feel lighter and find much more space around you that allow you to breath freely. So read on.

Reducing is not only about what we own is about what you bring into existence. If you buy something, you will bring it home in most cases and then have to put it somewhere so it will occupy space. But if you buy this thing from a shop or somewhere that is directly or indirectly connected to the manufacturer, you also trigger yourself as a customer to that manufacturer and shop. So they will plan more things for you. Even if you search for something on google, you are tipping bunch of businesses that you are potential customer so make them plan for your future when you are finally ready to make the purchase. So they go ahead and make those things for you and when you are ready they have it all packed and pretty for you. This might not seems like much in scale of one but imagine in a scale of million. Imagine if we all change behaviour and consume less. Many of unnecessary products won’t even been manufactured. Do you know how much time, resources, including energy, water and human manpower will that save.

So if you reduce your consumption in the long run you will realise that material things do not make you happy so naturally you won’t buy things that you don’t need as they don’t serve any purpose any more. If they don’t make you happy and they have no use so why should you spend your time, your money and your space on them.

This means you will only bring stuff home that you absolutely need. Hence, less waste. Because you need them so you won’t throw them out. Or you need to eat them so you eat them and the left over you compost.

You would say, what about the packaging. Well that bring me to the third:

Third reuse

The idea here is to try your hardest and get stuff that are reusable. Don’t think disposable, don’t think one time. Think always, all the time, multiples. Think bulk, think regrowth, think more than once.

Chances are packaged food are only usable once. Even if you take food from restaurant, have a container with you to bring the food home. Don’t bring disposable cutlery home where you have thousands of forks and spoons.

You might say, how about the fruit and vegetables that are in packaging. I say, AVOID THEM. Run Forest, RUN.

You can regrow most of your fresh herbs, vegetables and some of your fruit even in an apartment as long as you get some natural lights. So go to your local fruit shop and get some fresh produce. Why do you need those packaged ones any way. If any one has a purpose for those organic single sweet potato in a tray wrapped with plastic wrap in the supermarket, please comment below. Let me know so I get informed as I have no idea why those exist.

Anyway, let’s get back to reusing. So think actively about reusing things around you. Reuse all the jars you bring home, tomato pastes, pickles, pesto, other condiments. Use some of them to take soup to work (I have done this and continue to do so don’t you cringe!). Or maybe some others to make your own pickles. Don’t toss them out easily.

Reuse your old clothing that you can’t donate as rags and stop buying paper towels for the kitchen.

Reuse your milk cart and use it as watering can for your compost that you just made by reusing a Styrofoam Boxes from your fruit shop.

Reuse your plastic bags for your next trip to market or maybe make something new with them. There are tons of ways you can reuse plastic bags to make sandwich wraps, make plastic woven rugs, fuse them together and make a new more durable shopping bag.

I challenge you to look at your bin and find three things that you can reuse instead of tossing. Then try to do this on a regular basis. This will empty your bin after a while.

Want more ways to empty your bin:

Fourth start making your own… everything

I can’t say that I do make everything, specially with a 15 month old. But there was point when I was living in an apartment in Glen Eira that I did make our own everything 😉

From hummus, tomato paste, pickles to jam, cake, bread and so one.

Now I am making my own bread, so no packing come near my house for bread nor any waste go out of here as we bake fresh and eat fresh.

Most of the times, we still make our own jam. The bread and jam and also pizza dough are easy to make thanks to our bread maker machine:

We only buy bulk essential ingredients to make stuff. Like fabric then I sew a dress or design one and ask a friend to make me one. Have to admit her dresses are nicer with better finishing as she is a proper dress maker 🙂

Another challenge, for the next month actively look around you and observe what you buy on daily, weekly basis and think if you can find a way or you already know a way to make that easy and cheap. If the answer is yes, go for it. If the answer is no, find a way to do so. If you can’t find it on internet, YouTube or by asking your family and friends then keep it in your shopping list.

This will eliminate a lot of things that you had to buy and remove their associated packaging as well. Also add joy to your life as we enjoy providing for ourselves and our families. Even cake mix marketing campaigns after world war II got that right, “housewives needed to feel like a more integral part of the creative process” because they wanted to make something with their hands for their family and adding an egg and putting the icing on the made cake from the box allow them to feel like that.

But even after all these efforts, you can see a lot of packing every where, what can we do.

Recycle them if you have to

I always say recycle if you have to because recycling is not waste free. Even if we assume that what we recycle get recycled. It requires a lot of energy, water, manpower, time and other resources to make something out of recycled paper, plastic, metal and so on.

Think twice before recycling, think if you can reuse it. Or even better think even before buying it, think if you really need it and if so think if you can make it your self. So I am just repeating here but go through the steps for every single thing for two weeks and then you will do them automatically. After a month you realise a massive reduction in your house hold expenses, lots of happiness around and a lot less garbage and recycling.

Let me know what you think and if you take any of the challenges, comment on your progress and what you learn by the end.

Hope these tips help you too Laura.

 

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.

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

What took longer to eliminate

  1. Bread

So I clearly remember, it was late 2014 and by this point we were buying bread from our local bakery where shall be remain nameless. It was going well as it was package free and a relatively ok quality. Until one day we found a piece of spinach in the baguette that we bough that day. It would have been fine if my hubby didn’t mention that the baker had a piece of spinach in his teeth that day as well. ARGHHHHHHH!!!

So you know what happened we didn’t go back. Went and bough ourselves a piece of machine called bread maker, this is the one and I cannot recommend it high enough:

That changed our lives. As this trusty bread maker comes with a handy recipe book that has more than 30 types of bread, cake, jam and dough that made our lives easier, tastier and richer. We bake for people and give them when we visit them or when they come over and they seem not to get enough of our bread. We can make any type of bread, pastry, and dough including pizza, pasta, pastry and the list goes on.

The cost is not comparable with the store bough bread, no matter how fancy you go on material it won’t be more than a dollar for a freshly backed fancy fruit loaf or mixed nuts and grain sour dough. I told you there is no limit but your imagination. Go buy a bread machine and you won’t regret it. I recommend this one too if you are gluten intolerance:

This purchase pay itself off after a month of bread making and not buying. I would say this was one of the best decisions in my life and I stand by it forever. Easy, cheap and tasty, waking up to a fresh baked bread smell in the house and so much option at your fingertips, this is what I call perfect replacement.

 

  1. Sauces

So you probably remember that one of the early steps, was to reduce the amount of shopping and do most things at home, for instance cook your food at home. So we were using some premade sauces to do the cooking, namely Asian sauces and Pizza sauce. They were packaged and premade so brought in preservatives, bunch of ingredients that we couldn’t even pronounce and of course packaging, lots of it. to our house. So we set to eliminate them, the Asian ones were easy as we just replace them with a trusty combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce. The Pizza sauce was also easy for me to make but my hubby wasn’t a believer, so it took couple of try and errors to turn him as well. Just used a good portion of tomato paste, warm water, pepper and salt and if handy some dried herbs mainly oregano, thyme, coriander and parsley. After that we didn’t buy these and saved tons as each pack was roughly a dollar or two on special. Probably as you notice, we are making our own Pizza and this is beneficial from two aspects, first we save tons of money and second we know exactly what goes into our Pizza, have to confess having the bread maker for making the dough is a huge help. The dough still has to be kneaded and that is when my helpful hubby come into play.

Have to admit having invested in bunch of good and easy cookbooks also helped us a lot to create new foods and don’t get bored as well as eating well and nutritious food with healthy  ingredients. These are some of the books we have:

Step 1. Rethink your journey

At the time I was living with my partner/husband with no children in the horizon. So I sat him down and had an honest discussion about what I believe in and how I think we should drastically but gradually change our consumptive life and led a simpler and more joyous living.

We both aspired to the path and agreed to do it in a way that will be lasting and not a short lived change.

The first changes we did were:

  1. Make a conscious decision of buying from market instead of supermarket to bring home less packaging
  2. Taking our shopping bags with us when we go for the weekend market haul
  3. Reusing plastic bags that were ending up in our house despite our best efforts
  4. Try to buy locally
  5. Religiously recycle instead of landfill
  6. Start and strive to make most of the food, bread, jam and in general our eating supplies ourselves in the house

These changes were conscious for about couple of years, when we were quite comfortable with them and they felt an essential part of our life style, more like a habit ingrained in our unconscious. However, being both immigrants-I am from Iran and my husband is from Colombia-we had visitors from overseas where consumption is unfortunately still mistaken as a sign of opulent living. So our attempt to have a simpler life was perceived as lack of economic means or outward stingy. It took me a while to change the dynamics and educate my immediate family on disadvantages of massive consumption but more on that in future posts.