Recycling. The last in the list of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle yet, we often treat it as our first resort for anything plastic. One thing that's important to remember is that recycling is a business, and it's only utilized when it makes economic sense to do. Unfortunately less than 9% of plastics have ever been recycled. I'm not writing this to make anyone feel a sense of doom either, but really to educate on the ways we can be diligent with our recycling to help ensure that what we send to be recycled can actually *be* recycled.
I thought I was pretty good at recycling before going zero waste. I always made sure to clean out all of my jars and cans before recycling them, and I checked every container religiously for recycling symbols. I have however learned a lot more since starting this lifestyle that I think is important to share.
1. Just because it can be recycled doesn't mean you can recycle it: This one is a tough pill to swallow but it's hugely important. You need to search your city + recycling and read up on what items can be put in your single stream recycling bin. For example: the cartons that plant-based milk and creamers come in are coated in plastic, they can be recycled but not in all cities. Here is the breakdown of what Philadelphia allows as a reference. I just searched "Philadelphia Single Stream Recycling" to find this.
2. Don't "Wishcycle": Going off #1 here but if you aren't sure whether or not something is recyclable and you recycle it anyways that's called wishcycling. I have been guilty of doing this all the time myself before going zero waste and learning more about recycling. But don't do this! Because recycling is a business it needs to be efficient, if a recycling plant has too many items in it's recycling queue that cannot actually be recycled, instead of wasting time sorting through it all they will throw away the whole batch! Meaning that not only does that one item end up in the landfill anyways but so do all the other items in that batch that could have actually been recycled. That said: when in doubt throw it out.
3. Clean Containers: Anything that you recycle should be completely clean with no food residue.
4. Find Recycling for Miscellaneous Items: Items like plastic bags, batteries, etc. often can be recycled just not in your single stream recycling. If you have a plethora of plastic bags from the grocery store, outside most Walmarts are bins where you can drop the bags off to be recycled! Another example of this is at Mom's Market they have a whole area for Misc. recycling needs from batteries to shoes!
What other tips do you have for giving your recycling the best chance at actually being recycled? I would love to know in the comments below!
My Zero Waste Shower Routine
This might be my first "routine" that I have been able to adapt to be completely zero waste. Which makes sense given that I shower everyday, and it doesn't hurt that my shower routine was pretty minimal to start with. But I'm excited to show you my zero waste shower routine and how I've been keeping up with it. I even have a lot of alternative ideas you can use if these products aren't your thing!
Shampoo/Conditioner - Plaine Products: I first bought the shampoo, conditioner and body wash from Plaine Products back in July of 2020. I just finished the body wash a few weeks ago and still have a little under half left in the shampoo and conditioner bottles. So while the price is high I will say the products will last you long enough to make it worth it to me. I also love Plaine Products because when you're ready for a replacement bottle they'll mail you a new bottle and you mail your used bottle back to them. This way they can sanitize and refill it and send it out again. While the pumps are made from plastic they're yours to keep and use so you only ever need one set and they don't end up in the landfill.
Alternative - Shampoo and conditioner bars: I tried shampoo and conditioner bars as my first foray into zero waste from The Earthling Co. and honestly I thought product wise they were great. My only complaint was that I felt they ran out pretty quickly. They say shampoo/conditioner bars should last you at least 3 months but I think mine really only lasted me a month and a half. This could be on me for poor storage, I did keep them on a bar stand but they might have still been getting wet more often than they should have. That said I think they're a great option for anyone considering going zero waste and the start up cost pretty low.
Face Wash - Cereve Foaming Cleanser Bar: I'm so glad I found this face wash in a bar form. It works great and my skin loves it. In addition I've already been using it for two and a half months so far and it barely even looks used at all. Not to mention it's cheaper than what I was using before!
Body Wash - Plaine Products: As mentioned I originally bought body wash from Plaine Products back in the summer of 2020. Read below in the refill section to see how I refilled my bottle cheaper than replacing with Plaine Products!
Alternative Body Wash - Soap Bars: Bars of soap are cheap, accessible just about everywhere and are a great zero waste alternative. You can buy them in either little cardboard boxes or with just a paper wrapping around the outside. This is a great option for body wash because I'm sure everyone frequents a store where bars of soap are sold. I don't have a specific brand to recommend but try looking at your regular grocery store or see if a local business near you makes soap!
Razor - Planet Kind Gilette: I just talked about buying this razor from Target last week on the blog but now that I've been using it I can say I really love this razor! I love that it was really cheap, made from recycled materials, plastic free packaging and refill blades end up costing only $2.50 each.
Alternative Razor - Safety Razor: A safety razor is a great alternative to disposable razors for zero waste, however they can be quite pricey and come with a learning curve so be sure to do your research before buying to find one that will work for you.
I've talked a lot about how I use Plaine Products and how you can mail your containers back to them to be refilled and reused. Which is great! However, when it came time to re-purchase my body wash I discovered a refill van in Philadelphia called Ray's Reusables! This van frequents all the different farmer's markets in Philly which is amazing since once a month I can walk to my local park and get refills on whatever products I needed.
Reduce Water: Lastly, one huge way to reduce waste in the shower is by using less water! You can start by taking shorter showers, take cold showers, or turn the water off while you lather up. This is something anyone can start doing today and it saves you money too!
I started bringing my Plaine Products bottles to Ray's Reusables van and just having them filled there, this way I can avoid the shipping back and forth of the Plaine Products. I also found that it was cheaper to have her refill my containers. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to Plaine Products try searching for a local refill option near you. Luckily though if you don't have a local equivalent near you you can still use Plaine Products and save packaging!
I know I've mentioned Plaine Products quite a bit in this blog post and while they're what I have been using just know that they are definitely not the only option so don't feel discouraged if it's not something you are on board with buying!
What is your zero waste shower routine like? Let me know in the comments below!
Zero Waste Essentials at Target
One thing that makes going zero waste difficult is that it seems just about every product that's zero waste you need to buy online. And when you're used to being able to pick up some toothpaste or deodorant on your weekly grocery run it can be really frustrating to change to ordering everything online. Not to mention the cost of shipping, extra carbon emissions to ship something to your door, more packaging, etc. This is why I'm super happy to see that Target is starting to have a lot of zero waste options in their stores. And not just something that happens to be no waste or low waste either but products that zero wasters constantly rave about.
I had a few gift cards to Target after my birthday so I went to take a look at what they currently had to see if I could save myself a few online orders. It's probably been 4 months since I was last at Target so seeing all the new stuff they had was really exciting!
This is what I got at Target (& some things I had bought at Target back in December as well):
What other zero waste items have you found at Target? I would love to know! I definitely plan on trying to come here more often to buy my essentials vs. ordering everything separately online.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle for Kids
This past week my friend Michaela invited me to come talk to her elementary school class for their Reduce, Reuse, Recycle week!
I spent most of my week working on this which is why I took the week off from posting but now that I have this powerpoint I wanted to share it here incase anyone needed a fun presentation to share with kids! Or if you're just looking for ideas about things kids can do to practice reducing, reusing and recycling.
The powerpoint is attached above and contains some examples to each of the three R's and how kids can participate, plus has a little worksheet they can do as well to say how they want to help Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
How do you teach your kids or students about Reducing, Reusing and Recycling?
My mom recently found out about a sustainable grocery store that was in my area called Mom's Organic! And they're not just in Philly either (also in NY, VA, DC, MD areas!) On their website it seemed like they were truly committed to sustainability and had a huge offering of bulk bins so I was immediately excited to check out their store. I ended up heading there this weekend to take a look around and see what they had to offer. I went to the Bryn Mawr location just outside of Philly for anyone in the area who might be curious.
The bulk bins they had were amazing I was so impressed to find things even like honey, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar and more to be refilled! I also loved that they had a nut butter grinder. Even more too, below that were tons of jars of various nut butters that were all packaged in glass *chefs kiss*.
They had a huge array of bulk herbs and spices, as well as some looseleaf teas that were in bulk too, which I noted for a future visit.
The process of getting bulk was made pretty easy. I had to go up to the cash register for them to weigh my jar, and then I was free to go fill it. The cashier who helped me also wrote the weight of my jar on the bottom in a sharpie so I wouldn't have to worry about remembering. I ended up just getting almonds for a recipe (check out the Mediterranean bowls I made here) but I was making notes of everything they offered because I will definitely be coming back!
You can learn more about Mom's Organic's commitment to sustainability on their website here, but I was blown away by how well they were able to implement sustainability to their store. For one, in the parking lot they had chargers for electric cars which was awesome. Inside, they had a huge recycling area at the front of the store where you could recycle almost anything from batteries, to old shoes, or even bring your compost!
I also loved that majority of their produce was not in plastic packaging and I was able to use my reusable produce bags to get just about everything I needed!
In addition, I found that they sold bamboo toothbrushes - no plastic options available! I also found an entire aisle stocked with every kind of non-dairy milk you could possibly imagine, I was in shock! They also had plenty of great sustainable swaps like Stasher bags, glass jars, and stainless steel water bottles. Not to mention, at the end of checking out I got $0.10 off my total for bringing my own reusable bags!
I'm so glad that I discovered Mom's Organic because I am going to become a regular here after seeing their amazing offerings.
One way we can have a big impact on the planet outside of ourselves is advocating for changes. A lot of environmental activists make an effort to sit down once a month and write letters to companies and senators asking for change to benefit the planet! I want to get into this habit but starting out can be overwhelming because if you've never done it before you might not know what to say.
I decided to start by writing a letter to a business because that seemed easier to me and a nicer way to ease into this. I have a monthly vitamin subscription that I buy because it really cleared up my skin. But I hate how every month they mail me a brand new plastic bottle. I decided to write to them asking them to consider sending vitamin refills in biodegradable pouches instead. This way I could keep my initial vitamin bottle and refill it each month to save on plastic waste. This is what I wrote.
I am a long-time user and lover of you products! I would love to see you incorporate some more eco-friendly practices such as mailing vitamin refills in biodegradable pouches and not sending new plastic bottles each month.
I kept it super short and simple and also made sure to start off the letter by introducing myself as a customer and complimenting their product too.
While this is a small action, if we all take it bigger changes can be made. Companies need to hear what their consumers want to see. Additionally, if you choose to leave a company in favor of one who exhibits better environmental practices - tell them! Don't leave silently. Otherwise company's won't know that there's a demand for change.
None of this is specific to the environment either, do this for any company who doesn't align with your values and let them know about it.
Have you ever written letters to company's before? What did you say?
Repair: The Fourth "R"
We've all been told to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. But there's also a fourth R-- Repair. And while it may not be in the common phrase we all know, it's definitely not for lack of importance. Each year 13 million tons of textiles are thrown away or burned each year. It's estimated that each American throws away 81 pounds of clothes per year! One of the best ways we can reduce that number is to repair clothing before resorting to throwing it away.
I'm definitely no professional when it comes to repairing *anything* but last weekend I was trying on my clothes to re-home everything that didn't fit/doesn't get worn enough. To accomplish this task I spent some time trying on every piece of clothing that I owned. Halfway through this cardio exercise I was rushing and took off this dress that I intended to keep improperly and a small piece of fabric in the back broke off, releasing the metal decoration as well. Here's a picture of the damage.
Now instead of throwing this dress away, I wanted to try my hand at repairing it first. Especially because I felt this would be a relatively easy task to pull off with zero sewing skills. And what better way to celebrate Earth Month than starting it out with saving a piece of clothing from the landfill!
Even though I have no sewing skills I do have a small sewing kit of needles and one spool of blue thread (thanks Covid). I figured I could easily disguise the blue thread too since I could sew this under the dress fabric.
The repair was just as simple as I thought. I initially dreaded taking the time to do this because I felt it would be a pain and I actually put it off for a few weeks. In the end I decided to tackle this dress-saving-operation while I was watching TV and it only took me 5 minutes from start to finish. It almost made me embarrassed that I put it off so long seeing how easy it was and how well it worked. I now have a great dress that I love and already had and I don't need to go buy a new one- inevitably restarting the linear economy!
Have you put off repairing anything in your home? Let this be your inspiration to tackle the task!
Join me as I document my journey to becoming zero-waste through this blog as a resource to others.