Waste Free Living

Thursday, September 19, 2013


About a year ago, I stumbled across this video of a family that is committed to living waste free, which means almost nothing they buy or consume ends up in a landfill. It's all either composted or recycled and if it can't be composted or recycled - they don't buy it. When this story came out, it was met with a lot of resistance from people, most of them pulling the 'poor, deprived children' card (because they don't get processed junk food and juice boxes? My mother didn't buy those because they weren't economical, and I turned out just fine). While we have no desire to be a family of hippies trying to collapse the American economy nor are we under the impression that recycling yogurt cups will save the world, I commend them. It would be hard, but if they can do it, I think that's awesome! The family's cumulative trash for an entire year all fits into one person's hands. Compare that to the more than four pounds of waste that the average individual produces each day, and you're bound to come to a realization that we could all stand to evaluate what is going into our trash cans, our landfills, and ultimately our bodies. If the benefits that this family has gained aren't enough to propel you to make some changes (they reduced their spending by 15% in a year [for a family with a $40,000 income, that's a savings of $6,000], and hello, clutter-free home), then the video below should help you along. There can only be two reasons why someone wouldn't want to reduce their waste - they aren't educated about the effects or they're lazy - and I mean no offense by saying that, I'm a bit lazy myself sometimes. The video below should help with the former - it's rather long, but pretty interesting and worth watching.


So what is my family going to do to reduce waste? Here we go:
- We're using cloth diapers with all of our children. I won't go into too much detail, since I could write an entire post about this subject, but long story short - 18 billion diapers go into the landfill each year (which adds up to 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp or 250,000 trees) and the average cost of disposable diapers is $1,600 for two years (depending on the brand you buy), whereas you can buy 24 cloth diapers for about $400 and even factoring in the cost of water to wash them, it would still be cheaper. We actually diaper Evie the old fashioned way with prefolds and covers and it cost us a little under $300, but knowing what I know now, I could have easily kept it under $200. (We keep 6 covers and 12 prefolds and wash every day or so.) The savings go up even more when you consider cloth wipes and reusing your diapers and wipes on future babies.
- We're committed to keeping toys to a minimum in our house. We try to buy quality (usually wooden) toys that don't overstimulate and will last through all of our kids. This reduces the amount of plastic (Barbie's, Happy Meal toys, etc.) going into the landfill each year. Plus, I'm not supporting major corporations who are only interested in the almighty dollar. I'm voting with my money, and saving money by filtering the kind and amount of toys we buy. I plan on doing a post on all of our favorites soon.
- We bring reusable bags to the grocery store. I'll be honest here, a lot of times I forget them in the car. When I do, I ask for paper and we use them to store our recyclables in, throw the whole thing into the bin, and the bag gets recycled too. I've been eyeing these baskets that just drop into your shopping cart, then you throw them into your trunk and you don't have to worry about bags. I also ran across this idea and I really want to sit down and try it out on some old t-shirts.
- We make our own cleaning supplies and use a pack of cheap washcloths instead of paper towels. If you want recipes for homemade household items, check out my Pinterest board. We started gradually transitioning into homemade household things a little over a year ago and I haven't had to buy laundry detergent or dishwashing detergent since then. I plan on trying homemade toothpaste and deodorant soon.
We stopped buying bottled water. This also saves us tons of money. Our fridge filters our water, but when we didn't have that, we used a Brita filter on our kitchen sink (and the filters are recyclable). I bought a few reusable water bottles to use when we're on the go, and we just use our everyday glasses when we're at home.
We recycle and compost everything possible. Without recycling and composting, the amount of trash we create would be significantly more. These are no brainers as far as simple things to do to cut down on waste. Plus, you can use your compost in a garden.
- We shop at our local Farmer's Market. I really love knowing exactly where our food is coming from and how it was grown. I've started getting really serious about the way we eat and we have gradually moved to an almost exclusively organic diet with very little meat. Plus, none of the food is packaged, so you don't take home any trash.

These are some things that we would really like to start implementing:
- Using cloth napkins. We really don't go through that many paper towels, but I'd like to make the switch to cloth napkins soon anyway in hopes of not having to buy them.
- Getting rid of all Ziploc bags - but they're so handy. We've been talking about buying some glass jars for food storage, but they're pretty expensive, especially when you're trying to use them for everything.
- Baking our own bread. We used to go through around two loaves of bread a week, so that's 96 plastic bread bags that we would throw away, but since we've changed our diets, we eat and buy a lot less bread. I would still really love to learn how to make an authentic sourdough bread though.
- Gardening/ordering a CSA box. Alex and I have talked about having a garden since before we were married, but every time we try something gets in the way - things die or frost or we know we're moving and don't want to put the effort into plowing and planting in a space that won't be ours next year. Once we get settled somewhere semi-permanent it's definitely something we want to do each year, but for now I would really love to look into a CSA box. (Albuquerque readers: check out Skarsgard Farms for CSA boxes and La Montanita Coop for the best local foods.)
If you're interested in seeing the products that our family uses to try to live a waste free lifestyle, head over to my Amazon store and click on the 'Waste Free Living' category on the right. Our family does get compensated with a small percentage when you purchase anything from this link. I also recently did a post on our favorite children's books and have a section devoted to those in the store as well.

I would love more ideas - how does your family reduce waste and/or save money?

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