Is zero waste always possible?

This is kind of a huge thing for people trying to cut down their waste, especially when there are items that we actually need in our lives. Medicines, feminine products, medical items etc. So are these items truly necessary or have we just been conditioned to think that they are.

In short, yes. But it is really more complicated than that. It seems that sometimes people are shamed for needing these items, and while it is good to reduce our waste we really need to realize that sometimes people actually do need these things in their lives, they may be trying very hard to be less wasteful and we don’t need to shame them.

Reasons someone might need waste in their life:

-Medical needs. Try as we might we really can’t fix all issues with oils

-Medical products- change those gloves, change needles, STOP the spread of disease. Zero waste won’t do any good if we all contract weird viruses.

-Someone may not have time, or the ability, to prep every single meal. We don’t know their life so don’t tell someone they need to buy all zero waste food.

-Some people may not be able to use a menstrual cup, it might be easier for them to use disposable products, we don’t know. So again, no need to judge. Peoples needs are important.

-Maybe it’s just not in their area. I know that it’s really hard for us to get stuff zero waste, save money and not starve.

This is a lifestyle that comes with many privileges. Take a look at this awesome buzzfeed video to see more on it. Zero waste for 30 days.

If you aren’t able to be 100% zero waste don’t feel bad. I used to beat myself up all the time over this. How as I going to buy laundry items that would get clothes clean when we live with 3 cats? In my area I can’t. How can we take care of 3 living creatures without waste? We can’t. I made myself miserable trying to be perfect, when I finally stopped and just did what I could I lived a much happier life.

So try to do what you can, still use what you need. While it is good to question our need of some items we also don’t want to just trash everything just cause of waste.


A Guide to Zero Waste Shopping

Before we had decided to go Zero Waste we had played around with the idea. We weren’t sure how to go about it or even if we would be able to go about this lifestyle. We live in the metro of Iowa, good ol middle of nowhere state. We are so forgotten we are literally the LAST to get any trends. The lowest on the chain. The thought of having to shop entirely zero waste left me feeling slightly hungry, as if we would starve if we had to follow this life. But we researched it, and looked into grocery stores that have bulk etc. We really put a huge effort into making lists of what we would need to be able to survive. A LOT of research went into this before we started making the switch. It was a long and rather difficult process. We are STILL trying to find things that we need without any packaging. While we are not able to get ALL things without any packaging we have managed to get about 95-99% of our items that we need either in bulk or biodegradable packaging. We also only try to buy those items in packaging that can be 100% recycled over and over (so items like glass, paper and metal) so that when we do recycle we are ensuring that it won’t be reused just once. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best that we can do.

So how does one Zero Waste shop when you live in an area where people think of Costco or Sams club when you say you need to shop in bulk? With a little work, but it’s honestly not as hard as I had initially thought. Our locally bases grocery store pretty much has everything that we need, and in the event that we need something else we are lucky enough to have a Whole Foods store in the area. Although I try to avoid them since they told us we are not allowed to bring our own containers and the only thing they offer are plastic baggies.

Most grocery stores are set up the same way, they either have 2 doors labeled “Home goods” and “Grocery” or they just have the one door. The grocery door usually leads to the fresh produce right away, and if there is only one door that usually leads straight to the fresh produce first. I will be following this pattern as I go through this guide, mostly because that is how we shop but also because it is good to have a plan when shopping zero waste.

So let’s dive right into Zero Waste shopping:

1. Bring your own bags and jars for fresh produce, bulk and checkout. We bring reusable bags for our produce and check out. We opt out for jars when bulk shopping because our bulk bins offer paper sacks vs plastic and we have no way to weigh the tare of just the jar. If you are able to though, I recommend bringing your own jars. Don’t ask if you can do this, if you have a the means to weigh the tare and all that then just bring the jar/container and fill it. When bringing your own bags to a store that offers plastic ones, hand those to the cashier first and say “I brought my own so please use these” and always, ALWAYS be polite but do not let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Ask to see rules in writing, or to speak to a manager if someone says you can’t have your own container. Most of the time it is not worth the fight and they do not actually have these rules. Just remember to be nice and polite about it.

2. We always hit the produce first, since it’s the first thing there as we walk in the door. Our local grocery offers pretty much everything without plastic except for berries and sugar snap peas. Which is kind of a bummer since berries are a staple in smoothies. We stock up on apples, citrus, bananas (we buy bananas in bulk and freeze them in a baking dish), potatoes (thankfully these come in singles that you can bag yourself) lettuce, kale, onions, radishes, carrots and whatever random lose food item we feel like buying that week. It will take some time, and you may have to scope out a store first to see that kind of produce that they have in stock. Some items will also be loose and some will always be in packaging. You will have to decide if you really need that item anyways or to just find a way to live without. What I find helpful when shopping is to just follow the rainbow diet. I try and find items of every color so in the end I have the whole rainbow and try and vary that throughout the day.

3.Next up is bulk, again you may want to make a pre-trip and see what they have. Our bulk bins offer a large range of rice, nuts, oatmeal, granola, snacks and nut butters. We also have a bulk candy section so that is a plus when it comes to finding snacky items. We fill up on oatmeal, chia seeds, flax seeds, nut butter (fresh pressed and free of any additives) as well as granola, various snack items, rice and what ever grain like couscous or quinoa that we need. Unfortunately we have not been able to find bulk pasta anywhere. Don’t be afraid to get too much. Bulk tends to last a while and you might find you’re eating a little more if you aren’t used to fresher items from the store.

4. Our next stop is the baking aisle, if we need anything. We still buy flour and sugar and basic baking items because we can’t find them easily or at all in bulk and they come in paper packaging which we can compost or recycle. We can get most spices from the bulk area so we usually try and do that, or we buy spices in glass. If you do fill up spices (or tea of coffee) at the bulk section than use the same method you would with jars and bulk bins. A plus side is if you have cloth bags they don’t weigh that much and can be weighed without knowing the tare. Old pillowcases can be good for this.

5. Canned goods. We still use canned items for some things. It is up to the buyer if they feel that is not making any waste. For us we do not have the time or the means to cook that many items, and while we are switching to dry bulk beans we can’t cook tomatoes every time I want a pasta sauce. It is too much and too time consuming, so I buy cans and recycle them appropriately. We don’t like most canned items though and prefer fresh to canned.

And that’s it, that is how we shop. We are usually done in about a half hour, depends on how long we debate on the things we need. We don’t hit any other areas of the store unless I need sparkling water (which comes in cardboard and aluminum cans that are infinitely recycled) otherwise we just stick to the fresh or canned items and I started making most items at home. I just made homemade vegan tortillas, I can make pretzels, bread, pancakes, cookies and cake all from home so we don’t worry about a grain intake. My next task is homemade pasta and we should be set on everything we need to eat and enjoy.

Zero waste may seem like an impossible thing to accomplish but it really isn’t. And if you start small you can make huge strides in reducing waste for the environment. Instead of grabbing a pre-packaged bag of lettuce, or apples, grab the fresh unpackaged kind. Sometimes it’s cheaper! I really like being able to pick each individual fruit or veggie personally. Then I know that I’m not getting a rotten or smooshed one at the bottom. You may not be able to find iceberg lettuce without plastic but Romaine lettuce comes loose. And while buying unpackaged certainly helps reduce waste we still have to deal with the pesky stickers and rubber bands on items. While we may not be able to 100% reduce waste we can make huge steps by making little changes.

We have found it is easy to make these changes and to start making most items at home. If we want juice, we just juice it. It’s tastier and healthier. This lifestyle also forces you to eat healthier since you can’t really get unhealthy items in bulk. Besides the occasional bulk candy (which I hardly buy because I forget candy comes in bulk 99% of the time) we eat a Whole Foods, no meat diet and it’s so much healthier. If you still eat meat and animal products you can still do this life. Some milk comes in glass bottles, you can bring your own container for meat and buy eggs in cardboard containers vs styrofoam. Once you start you really see how simple this life is.

So, happy zero waste shopping. If you want to see how I zero waste (and naturally too) clean then comment down below! I have tips on how to keep your cleaning routine safe, natural and pretty much zero waste. What are some zero waste tips you can share? I would love to hear from other zero wasters on how they manage in their area.

Have a great, trash free, day!

Should I recycle?

When I decided to become a zero waster I figured it would be a snap. I thought I could just Recycle as much as possible and still live the same lifestyle. It made me feel better to know that I would be putting something in the bin with the promise of reuse rather then sending it straight to the landfill. Honestly, I didn’t know much about recycling or what any of the numbers even meant. I was assured and confident that if it had the triangle symbol of it then I was doing the world some good.

But are we doing any good if we still continue to buy into this plastic packaging industry? If we want to stop something the quickest way is to stop the demand for it. If we still continue to indulge in the plastic world then we still create the demand for those products and they still continue to be produced. I hadn’t even considered this, nor did I consider the plastic things that I bought and consumed at alarming rates would never be reused as the same product.

Also, I had no clue what the numbers on the bottom even met, nor did I feel it was useful when I started to look up what they meant. So what do those little guys mean?

1: Polyethylene terephthalate; recycled into tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, fiber, and polar fleece

2: High Density Polyethylene; recycled into pens, recycling containers, picnic tables, lumber, benches, fencing, and detergent bottles

3: Vinyl; recycled into paneling, flooring, speed bumps, decks, and roadway gutters.

4: Low density Polyethylene; recycled into compost bins, paneling, trash can liners and cans, floor tiles, and shipping envelopes

5: Polypropylene; recycled into brooms, auto battery cases, bins, pallets, signal lights, ice scrapers, and bycycle racks.

6: Polystyrene; recycled into egg cartons, vents, foam packing, and insulation.

7: Other, Misc; recycled into plastic lumber and other custom-made products.

See article on plastic recycling for more information on recycling and the numbers.

These numbers are actually quite alarming, A little research goes to show that at best these plastics are used twice. While that may be better than sending them to a landfill that still isn’t a long life for something that sits on the earth and clogs the lands with disgusting single use items. The absolute best thing on this list is number 1 because those things at least are used for a longer amount of time but then again that is one of the least safe plastics according to various sites. In reality it’s a no win situation, and recycling can seem very daunting and altogether pointless.

Recycling can also have a negative impact as well, causing more gases to be released in the process or creating toxins through oil refinement. (See list of negative impacts here for more info) As well as not being as effective as proclaimed, and false hope to those who think recycling is the best option. A lot of plastics can’t be recycled anyways, and contamination still gets around with this method. Recycling, in truth is not the end all be all that people (and society) has made it out to be.

So then is recycling pointless and worthless as a zero waster? Not necessarily, but in reality we need to be smart about what goes in the bin. Plastic is not an infinite recyclable, aluminum and metal however are labeled as infinite. Glass is also infinite.Paper is recyclable up to 5-7 times, but it is also biodegradable so it can be composted. For more information on recycling lifetime see article here.

Okay, so that’s a lot of info. Not going to lie my head is spinning a little bit. What does this mean? How should we go about recycling and what does this mean with a zero waste lifestyle. Before you go ahead and toss out your recycle bin just think about what is in your bin. Is it mostly plastic? Find some alternative options.

Some alternatives to plastic everyday items are:

Shampoo/conditioner- buy bulk or shampoo/conditioner bar

Razors- safety razor or not shaving at all are the best options. Homemade sugar waxing is also a more and more common option.

Bubble bath- reusable bubble bar or bulk liquid soap

Soap-unpackaged bar soap or naturally biodegradable packaged bar soap

Floss- biodegradable floss, or refillable biodegradable floss

toothbrush- unpackaged or biodegradable packaged bamboo tooth brush

Toilet brush- bamboo brush

Dish/bottle/straw scrubber- knitted scrubby or bamboo scrubber

Straws-bamboo or metal (silicone is an option but still not recyclable or biodegradable)

Menstrual cycles-reusable pads, diva cup, free bleeding or period panties

Medicines/band aides- alternative practices like essential oils or natural remedies, cloth bandages made from old shirts or clothing (100% cotton is best.) Please note that I am not a doctor and you should inquire before you change anything with your medical lifestyle. If you need something do not give it up, your health is ultimately very important and don’t feel as though you can not accept any medicine if you do need to do so.

You can find a lot of these products here at package free shop by trash is for tossers, as well as many zero waste ideas on her blog.

Packaged food: Buy bulk with your own containers and unpackaged fruits/veggies. If you are a meat eater you can try bringing your own containers to the meat counter-but don’t act like you are unsure in this practice. Be confident when asking, simply say “blank pounds of that meat in this container please” if you are confident your are more likely to be accepted and unquestioned. Also for meat eaters buy eggs in cardboard not styrofoam.

Opt for glass packaging where ever possible if needed, glass is an infinite recyclable.

Once the plastic side of life is cut out of our lifestyles as best as we can, we are able to focus on the other recycling uses. Obviously it is still not the greatest, but still better than sending our cans to a landfill. If you are a person who is busy and do not have time for massive meal prep canned food is the best option sometimes. We buy canned beans still and canned tomatoes/sauce simply because these are the items that take the longest to cook and we eat them on a daily basis. We do not have the means at this time to cook massive amounts of beans and canned works best with our life. We rinse the cans according and recycle them. Along the lines of things like this are sparkling water cans, metal straws and metal cutlery. Straws and cutlery are harder to know what to do with so research those items before tossing them in the bin.

Okay, so paper items. It is best to just compost these items if you compost. If not recycle them accordingly. Boxes can be reused by putting donations in them or using them to ship back for charity-see link here. Otherwise recycle cardboard boxes accordingly. Otherwise another great option to is try and go paperless, in a technology world this is more and more popular. Recycle/reuse or donate old electronics accordingly.

So, then recycling? Is it good? Bad? After all this research and information I can conclude it’s a neutral topic. Should we recycle more? No, we should cut out plastic from our lives. We should compost (if possible) everything that we can, cut out the packaging that is not necessary and then we should evaluate what is left and recycle accordingly. The end result should be no trash and very little if possible in our recycling bin.

Zero waste may seem daunting or impossible, especially depending on the region. But as someone who has no bulk stores or zero waste stores in their area we have somehow managed to make it work. Mostly thanks to metal, glass, bulk sections of our local grocery and lush cosmetics (which recycle everything, offer naked packaging and have compostable paper packaging.) we have managed to fulfill a minimal waste lifestyle. Now we are focused on using up the plastics that we have before we went to this lifestyle.

Recycling can be a wonderful tool, but we still need to be wary of the impact that it has and how many of the items are actually going to be reused/recycled. If you are serious about this life, research everything you can and evaluate what items in your life can be replaced by other more environmentally friendly products.

Happy Zero Wasting!


Going Zero Waste

As we move into the new year and decide as a household to become, or move toward the ultimate goal, of being a zero waste we have a seemingly daunting task ahead of us. Attempting zero waste can seem crazy, radical, and even a little mental. We have been sitting on this idea for a while, and now we have settled that this is going to be something that we are actively doing and working towards. While it may seem like something out of the ordinary and difficult to do, it really isn’t. Okay, it’s out of the norm to do this but it’s not as difficult as it seems.

Now if you’re reading this and are thinking that this is impossible, that it’s crazy or that we are just some crazy tree hugging earth loving people who don’t bathe then let’s take some time to talk about why we decided to do this and the benefits that it holds for our household. And we still bathe, I promise.

It started a while ago when I had watched the documentary (warning, graphic images of dead birds in the trailer) Plastic Paradise. I tried to find the full movie but it looks like it has been taken off Youtube, however you can rent it I believe and it is well worth the watch. Basically, we live in a single use world. Obsessed with ease and comfort we have mass produced plastic as a norm and it clogs our oceans and collects in many places. One of these place is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastic is mainly a single use items in things such as cup lids, straws and even in our shoes/clothing and many other daily use items. It doesn’t easily biodegrade, if even at all. It clogs our oceans and causes damage to the world and animals. By our obsession with ease and comfort we have created a plant of plastic. And with items we don’t even need to live in our everyday life.

After watching this, I felt hopeless as to what I could do. I looked around at what we had and half of the products we own are plastic. Now that isn’t to say we need to turn around and trash those items. That would be so pricey having to replace all those products we own and they would just end up in a landfill sooner. Instead we are currently focusing on using up all the items we have that are plastic while refusing to bring any more into our home. Our end goal in this is to eventually find that we no longer need a trash can.

Wait, what? That is so CRAZY! I know right? I agree, but it’s crazy good. Think about it, if we in turn stop all flow of plastic into our house we have no packaging that needs thrown away. We don’t have plastics that need recycled (we are focused on only recycling those items that are infinite like glass,metal and aluminum) and we have officially set up a compost for for everything else in our life. Eventually we will have no need for trash bags and even no need for paper towels if we switch to reusable and washable items.

Okay, so that is a lot. And it seems super crazy. Like insane. I know how crazy it can seem, having been on this thought of zero waste for quite some time I had already told people our goals and gotten the responses of how crazy this venture is. And in a world obsessed with the easiest products it certainly is a goal that seems to have no feasible way of actually being attainable.

So what does zero waste even mean for us?

Firstly, stopping the flow of all plastic. That means refusing anything plastic. Bringing our own cups, saying no straw, buying only bulk and unpackaged items and bringing own containers or composting the ones provided in stores. No more plastic containers, instead we opt for glass ones or metal cans etc. We have to bring our own grocery bags (not to bad since it’s more and more common) and our own produce bags. We have to take extra steps though by refusing plastic straws that are automatically dropped onto tables and into drinks. 500 million straws are used everyday, to give you an idea of just how large this problem really is. Instead we got reusable metal straws, which we mush be vigilant in bringing with us. We will need to prepare ahead and bring our own utensils/plates if we know that we are going places that won’t offer those items.

I invested in a safety razor with refillable blades; I have recipes for homemade cosmetics, toothpaste, mouthwash etc. We are using up the last of our shampoos/conditioner and I have switched to unpackaged bar shampoo/conditioner and deodorants well as unpackaged soap. I have bought recyclable or unpackaged face care products that I do need. I made myself some reusable cotton pads out of an old t-shirt, which was a heck of a lot of sewing let me tell you. I plan to make reusable cleaning cloths, paper towels and handkerchiefs. We have several options with toilet paper, as that traditional ones come in plastic, we could buy bulk from a hotel or other bulk seller or we could invest in a bidet which is the most cost effective one. The rest of the toiletry items I have I am using up, after I do so I will decide which items I need to buy such as lotions, perfumes etc.

These are just the small steps we are taking to achieve this lifestyle, just a start to a long journey which will be so worth it in the end. While we still have so many items that are plastic I feel that it is best to either keep them for the time being and use them until they are no longer good or donate/sell those items that we no longer need. The hardest steps will be refusing, especially around holidays or with mail. Also gift giving will become a lot harder, nowadays it’s extremely difficult to find items that are unpackaged. Buying clothes will change with more trips to a thrift store to find untagged items. Wrapping gifts is a new task to tackle but we can wrap items in cloth or newspaper. So please, I ask people that are close in our lives be patient and understanding as we task ourselves with this new journey.

So why are we doing this? And what are it’s benefits? We have tackled what plastic does to our environment, but why specifically are we wanting to do this? Simply because I feel that as a Christian woman I still need to take care of what we are blessed with and for me this means that I will no longer be a contribute to the pollutants of this world. It’s a healthier lifestyle anyways, with ridding ourselves of the majority of chemically made plastics and opting for natural biodegradable items instead.

The benefits include a cheaper grocery bill, while many people claim buying fresh and bulk is not cheaper if we opt for things in bulk that are unpackaged and buy only those fresh items we need and use in a timely manner we save a lot more money than if we bought all the packaged items we think we need. That means a lot of making our own foods, but I find that I enjoy the fresh items a lot more now than packaged and preserved items. We still buy canned goods but those can be bought for about 40 cents a can. We also save money by not buying trash bags, paper towels, disposable cleaning items, cleaning supplies (I make my own natural ones) new clothes or new items in general. The only thing we have not found a solution for yet is pet food and liter. I am working on that however and if I find a sustainable solution I shall gladly share. For now, the containers we buy those items an can be recycled or upcycled.

So this is the biggest goal that we have for this new year. It’s a task, it’s daunting and it certainly will be some work right now. But I feel passionate about this, and it’s very doable. So we are attempting to be a zero waste house. Feel free to ask any questions about this lifestyle, I am no expert but I have been making switches in my life and doing a ton of research on this top. I am happy to share anything that you guys might want to know.

Resources to check out:

Zero Waste Home

Sustainably Vegan

Clean my Space (not zero waste but great for making your own cleaning items and general organization.)

Plastic free shop by Trash is for Tossers

My 2018 New Year Goals

I know that it is a little Cliche to be posting my New Years goals or resolutions. I am not really an advocate for resolutions because I feel as though if you are wanting to change you can do so at any time and you don’t need a whole new year as an excuse. But there is also nothing wrong with sitting down and writing out what you want to accomplish for this year. Goals can be a wonderful thing, especially those goals that help to better your life. So this post isn’t really about the resolutions that I am trying to hold myself up to. I don’t want to set some crazy standards about how I need to be this year, and I don’t feel that I need to change who I am. I just want to better the lifestyle that I already am living. So here are my goals for this New Year, the things that I want to accomplish and work on the most.

1. Go fully vegan: This is probably the biggest goal, and the worst thing coming from a self proclaimed plant eater. I have always tried to use plant powered wherever possible because in reality I eat about 90-95% plant. As a transitioning vegan, it isn’t always easy to switch over cold tofu. I hadn’t properly prepared or made it clear to friends and family that I was eating this certain way and did not want to stray. So for holidays or special occasions I would let it slip. Why bother others with my requests, why tell them that I can’t eat that? It was just easier to eat the meal they prepared. But for this year I want to eat 365 days no meat. 365 days of making my own thing, requesting something else and saying “I can’t eat that”. 365 days of refusing the normal holiday fare. We shouldn’t let a good habit slide because of those around us and we shouldn’t compromise our goals just because it’s a holiday or because that was the food that was made. I am going to have to get really good at making and/or bringing my own things. The hardest part-explaining to my mom why I still can’t eat the veggies because she put butter on them.

2. Go full zero waste: We have slowly been transitioning and moving to this lifestyle. I have all the packaged things we have left over in their own area waiting to be used. The main goal is to get rid of the trash can and potentially just have a jar. We have a compost set up, recycling for stuff that can be that we still had and we buy in bulk and unpackaged when possible. My next step is to announce to everyone that we are doing this lifestyle because I do not want to receive anything in packaging anymore. Thankfully this Christmas people got us useful gifts that are actually minimal waste. So we are off to a pretty good start.

3. No spend year: I talked this over with my husband and we agreed to a no spend year. The rules: no spending anything unless it’s a needed item, a holiday in which you give a gift or the occasional game because we are currently trying to build up a gaming collection. But wait, doesn’t that go against minimalism and zero waste? Well yes, kind of. But the way that I do minimalism is if it brings me joy then I keep it. I am a lover of movies and games (both video and board) so that is something that I still need to explain to people that I won’t stop buying because I actually use them. However, I can start buying used ones instead of the packaged new ones in store. That can at least cut down on the plastic packaging we get from games. Also I do weed out those items that we no longer watch or did not like. I either donate or sell them. And even though it would be minimalistic to ditch all their cases, I keep those because I do not want to toss that much plastic just to have nothing on my shelf.

4. Blog more: I always have so many ideas for blogging but I go stretches without doing anything. I need to keep up on it, mostly because blogging for me is kind of like my journaling. I also need to stop worrying about numbers, which is something I am always concerned about with social media. If people like what I post then they will follow, if not oh well. Not the end, not everyone likes everyone’s content.

5. Do yoga every day: I know, I know. I am an instructor for goodness sake. But honestly I slack so much in this department. Not only do I want to do yoga every day I want to accomplish some hard poses and become more flexible. I want to make more flows, share them with people and just feel good in my body by doing what I know I should be doing everyday. So no more slacking. Yoga everyday needs to happen.

6. Last but not least, have an awesome year: Honestly our lives are what we make them. I have seen so many people complaining about how crappy 2017 was. And the same went for 2016 as well and so on. But honestly, despite all the bad I had some great years. I became a certified yoga instructor that; is pretty awesome. So I want to focus on positives this year, and really make it a great year. Because 99% of the year is how we react, perceive and make things. So here is to positivity and joy this year!

What are some goals you guys have? Some things you want to really focus on? Let me know in the comments, if we have similar goals don’t be afraid to chat with me. We could be buddies and help each other get to our goals this year.

Happy New Year guys! Let’s make this the best year yet!

Ways to be minimal waste this Christmas

Christmas is the best and worst time of the year. We all love the time with family as well as (lets be honest) the plethora of gifts we get. Even if we are wanting to try and be more minimal there is just something about getting a lot of things (that you probably wont ever look at again past the holidays) that gives us that childish giggle and joy. I love getting presents, even as I transition into a minimal lifestyle I still love getting things. Recently, I love getting things that are practical and fit into my lifestyle. However, we started transitioning into this lifestyle in fall and that was too late to inform my family without causing major anger and fights. My my mom is an all year kind of shopper, with a closest stuffed full (not even kidding) with potential gifts she is 100% always prepared for the holiday season. Many a panic over what to get people ended with my mom opening up that closest and pulling out an array of picture frames, lip balms, lotions, note pads, ornaments and other little Knick knacks. She saved my skin in the gift giving department over the course of my childhood, but this also meant that if I didn’t inform her in January that we don’t want any Christmas gifts this year, or we want them unwrapped and unpackaged, she would not handle it very well. I get it, buying something for someone they don’t want is a slap in the face and while she is very prepared (maybe too prepared) I just can’t do that to her. So we sit back and accept this one last (hopefully last) Christmas of wrapping paper and packaged items.

That doesn’t meant that you can’t do your part in the minimal waste side of things though. There are many ways that you can reuse, reduce and recycle all without having anything go to the trash or even the recycling bin.

So here goes, my handy list of zero waste Christmas without actually having anything zero waste(side note this is just what my family has learned and done over the years, please remember we are not experts and are not telling you to actually do any of these things these are just ways to reduce the amount of Christmas waste that my family does regularly. Also, I can not promise that you will have no waste either, but we can work together to greatly reduce the things we just toss in the trash.):

1. Reuse what you can: This is something that my family has been doing for years, not because we had cared all that much about what we throw away. Sure my family was more conscious than others and we did our best to throw away the least, but my mom was more focused on saving a little at Christmas. So each year we got our gifts my mom would have us save what we can. You can reuse gift bags, tissue paper, clothing boxes and even bows and/or ribbon. My mom would make the annual walk though the living room asking us to hand back her bows, gift bags, tissue paper and gift bags. She would tell us that she can use them again next year. She would collect the gift boxes for clothing and fold them back up to reuse them (on the same kid) each year. I am 23 and we are still using the same clothing boxes that my mom got us as babies. It might seem a little crazy but my mom has NEVER had to buy those things again. Pretty smart and then non of those items are going to a landfill anytime soon. You can even reuse wrapping paper that is still looking good, if you want to make sure that the wrapping paper isn’t thrown out.

2. When in doubt…BURN IT! As a family with a pretty spacey fireplace many a Christmas items have been chucked in the fireplace. I don’t advocate this method as much because it can be dangerous and I do not know the full extent of fires on the environment. But my family also never threw in anything artificial. The things we burned we already biodegradable anyways, it just saved us a trip to the recycle bin or having to break down boxes. On a side note, this is also a way to decompose pizza boxes since recycling won’t take them. So in went the paper and boxes. The occasional tissue paper because we had discovered that the colored ones changed the first color too. Is this the best way to dispose of things? Probably not. But it certainly is fun and the ashes went straight to the garden to fertilize next years crop.

3. Recycle what you can: So there are things that can’t be reused or burned, like packaging from toys. So recycle them, or upcycle. Save bubble wrap as long as you can for other packages. Check the labeling on plastic items to see if they are recyclable. Amongst a million other things you can do to recycle and upcycle. My mom was a fan of taking away those items during the year we didn’t care for and then regifting them either to us or others during Christmas. I don’t recommend that one, the look on your kids face when they receive the underwear they never even missed is NOT priceless. But you can make sure the plastic you get for Christmas is at least reused once by making sure it gets to the recycle bin. A lot of the time people just toss it all in a garbage bag and chuck it in the trash. At least make sure it’s disposed of properly.

4. DON’T use plastic ware during the meals: This is the one thing my family was never good at. Paper plates are a staple for our Christmas Eve bash. We can save the heaping trash pile from ever happening if we just use regular reusable dishes. If you think that where you’re going won’t have that option, bring your own. One thing I learned from the zero waste home book was to just simply tell people “I don’t have a trash can” when they inquire why you’re bringing your own. Genius, and simple and minimal questions asked in response to that.

5. Wrap less, save more: Either wrap the present in something biodegradable (for those still wanting a pretty package Kohl’s makes biodegradable paper printed wrapping paper-it still comes wrapped in plastic though) or forgo traditional wrapping all-together. For my dad’s gift we got him a new (by new we already had it lying around and it was in perfect condition) laptop with adobe photoshop-also had that lying around. We decided to put his gift in an a old army surplus bag we also had. He loves surplus, the gift isn’t wrapped and we got rid of something we didn’t need. If this doesn’t scream zero waste Christmas I don’t know what does since his entire gift is thrifted and regifted.

6. Save, save, save: Anything else that does not fall under any of the other tips-like shipping boxes-save them! Reuse all cardboard boxes, you can even reuse twisty ties from toys if you can find a creative use for them. Like use them to bundle up cords or tie up a food bags etc. Reuse the old boxes to ship items, or for donations. If you’re anything like me you go through your place about once a month picking up all the items you don’t need or use. Save the boxes for those items and easily transport them to your donation destination of choice.

While it might seem crazy to go to this effort for Christmas, when Christmas is already a huge effort it is definitely worth it when you go to take out the trash and all you have is one little bag of Christmas leftovers. Especially if you’re like me and are going to a Christmas that isn’t trying to be zero waste like we are. But we can make the most out of Christmas, and even save a few dollars as well, simply but reusing and upcycling a majority of the gift wrappings.

Have a Merry Christmas!