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!
Up until now I have loved using my sponge brush where you can pour dish soap into the handle and it dispenses as you wash. One thing I do like about that also is you can buy new brush heads for the handle which does limit waste. However, this is definitely not the most sustainable option either since the sponges have to be thrown away and my dish liquid comes in a plastic bottle. So I wanted to try out this brush and dish soap bar!
For the record, I don't have a dishwasher where I live but if you do have a dishwasher that's great! It saves water compared to hand washing dishes. Also, Dropps has eco friendly dishwasher pods that you can try out. Or comment below if you have another favorite eco-friendly dishwashing tab.
Overall I do think that I like this brush better than the sponge, it seems to do a better job at scrubbing off any stubborn food. The soap I'm still a little iffy on. What I've been doing is wiping my brush across the bar and then scrubbing my dishes. I do notice a lather on the dishes as I scrub but not all of the time. I'll edit this post when I finish going through the entire bar to see how long it lasts me.
I also find this brush super easy to hang on the hook of my dish rack and I keep the dish soap on a wooden soap stand in the corner of my sink so I can easily tap into it and wash dishes. Kyle even said that he really liked the soap brush as well so I'm happy we'll at least be able to continue using this and not the disposable sponges.
What are your low-waste dish washing hacks? Let me know in the comments below!
The idea of going zero waste can be really overwhelming at first, and it can seem really expensive too if you focus solely on swapping out products for more sustainable ones. But did you know that there are a lot of things you can do to benefit the planet that are either cheaper than what you're doing now, completely free, or actually save you money? Most of these are small habit changes you can make to live a little more sustainably and be more intentional with your actions. Here is my list of practices you can start as soon as today.
1. Unplug Your Appliances:
This one is minor but it can make a difference. When you aren't using your coffee pot, toaster, etc. just go ahead and unplug it. When devices are plugged into an outlet they can draw energy out, even if you aren't using them. This will help conserve energy and lower your energy bill.
2. Wash Your Clothes on Cold:
Here's a fact: 80-90% of the energy used in a washing machine cycle is just heating up the water. So if we skip the hot water and wash our clothes on cold we can save 80% of the energy used in our washing machine! And once again, this will reduce your energy bill too.
3. Skip the Dryer:
Another great way to save energy is skipping the dryer completely and air drying your clothes. Now I will admit I am not 100% sold on this myself, I feel like my clothes take 2 days to dry when I do this. But one thing I have committed to is not drying anything a second time if it's still slightly damp, and using my drying rack instead.
4. Do a "No-Buy":
I love this one because it involves you spending no money at all. A "no buy" is when you commit to not buying anything outside of necessities for as long as you decide. Could be a week or a month. Consuming less is massively helpful to the environment because every individual product we buy has its own carbon footprint. And this will help you in the end save a little bit of money and be more cognizant of your spending.
5. Turn off the Water:
Whether it be in between washing dishes or while you're brushing your teeth, keeping the water off when you aren't actively using it will save you money on your water bill. And even more importantly, it conserves water! Also, trying to shorten your shower time if you take long showers would make a big difference as well.
6. Lights out:
This one is pretty self-explanatory: if you aren't in the room, turn off the light!
7. Eat less meat:
Meat, especially red meat, is the primary source of methane emissions. Our global meat consumption needs to decrease by 50-90% by 2050 to remain in a good space for climate change, according to EAT-Lancet. I think people are intimidated to eat less meat because they think you can't eat plant-based meals without being a vegetarian or vegan. But that's simply not true. Anything you can do though to reduce your meat consumption will make a difference. Whether it be taking part in meatless Monday's or trying to aim for more plant based meals overall, you don't have to go vegetarian or vegan to reduce your carbon footprint. And yes, eating plant based will save you money and is better for your own health overall.
8. Shop Secondhand:
This is a big one I've already talked about quite a bit so I won't elaborate much, but buying as much as you can second hand cuts down on packaging and helps save items from the landfill that you would be using anyways. Plus it can save you so much money at the end of the day. (Check out my previous blog posts on shopping secondhand here).
9. Find a new home for your belongings:
If you are getting rid of something, before you just simply donate it, try to find someone who will use it and hand it off to them. This is where Facebook Marketplace comes in handy! While donating to a store is great, there is no guarantee that they will be able to sell what you donated, and at the end of the day it may end up in a landfill. However, if you try to find someone who wants what you have and will use it, there's a far greater chance that it will go to use. When this doesn't work, Goodwill donation bins are a great backup!
10. Get outside:
Spending time outside and turning off your heat or AC for a few hours can help conserve energy. Plus getting fresh air is always good for the soul.
These are just a few habits that we can try to get into that will have an impact on the environment, and our wallets for the better. And who doesn't love a win-win? What small things do you do that help the environment and save you money?
If you read my recent blog post about How to Thrift Responsibly, then you would know that a huge focus of living a sustainable lifestyle is buying as many items as possible secondhand. Purchasing items used means you are giving it a second life and preventing it from ending up in a landfill. After swearing off fast fashion in 2019, I decided in 2020 I would start trying to find secondhand items before buying anything new, including furniture (with some exceptions). This slideshow below features all of the items I found secondhand this year and where I found them!
Second hand furniture
This year was the year I discovered Facebook Marketplace! It's an online selling feature as part of Facebook, similar to Craigslist. After we made the shift to working from home and moved into an apartment with more space, I needed a desk for myself. I was able to find one for free on Facebook Marketplace! It was originally white with lots of pen stains on it, so I bought some contact paper to give it a more fun and updated look!
Another great Facebook Marketplace find was our TV stand. They were giving this away for free as well. It was a little old so to liven it up we gave it a fresh coat of white paint and it works perfectly in our living room.
The last piece I got from Facebook Marketplace was the white dresser, and yes it was also free. We got this because our bathroom didn't have any storage for towels and toilet paper, etc. We had to store everything in our basement or small bedroom closets. This fits perfectly in our office space, which is right off of the bathroom. We store our towels, bedding, and all bathroom supplies in here now.
The wooden dresser we bought we got at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $30. These stores sell secondhand furniture.
We also bought our rug here for around $30 too, although it was brand new still in the plastic. I am still including the rug in this because the rugs were given to the store from Target because they didn't sell, so we were still buying something and saving it from a landfill.
Second Hand Clothing
I also bought tons of clothing this year secondhand! I went to Goodwill and found a great turtleneck, pair of jeans and a staple black belt when shopping for new clothes to wear to work.
At Plato's Closet I found a flannel by Madewell, some cute tan sneakers, jeans, and two turtlenecks.
On Poshmark I found a retro style sweater and I got a pair of jeans from a secondhand boutique in Philly.
I'm not sure if "stealing winter boots from your mom because she lives in Florida now" totally counts as secondhand but regardless I included them in the list because otherwise I would have had to buy new boots for the winter!
And lastly is my winter coat from the REI garage sale. This is a sale where REI resells any items that were returned to them and have been worn. They're sold very discounted but you must be an REI member to buy!
I hope this post shows you that you can find what you are looking for and cute items secondhand, it may just take a little bit more effort than buying brand new.
My goal for 2021 is to continue to buy as many things as possible secondhand that I can, and to not buy any more shoes this year. What are your goals for 2021 towards sustainability?
Fast fashion is a recent buzzword that comes up often when discussing the environment. But essentially it is inexpensive clothing that is mass produced and designed to only last you one or two seasons before falling apart. Think of shopping at a mall and you'll get the idea of what is meant by fast fashion.
Fast fashion is detrimental to the environment because it produces clothing that will end up in a landfill within a few years as people continue to repurchase new replacement items. One huge thing you can do to help our planet is cut out fast fashion from your lifestyle. For many of us, thrifting is the most accessible way to do this. However, there is a downside to thrifting and its recent popularity. Thrifting can hurt poor communities who rely on thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army for all of their clothing.
There are many people who's only option is Goodwill because they simply cannot afford clothes from other stores. While it's great to see so many people thrift shopping for the planet, this is hurting poor communities because it drives prices higher at Goodwill and it means there are less options for them.
I've personally struggled with this concept because I want to be able to thrift responsibly to save the environment, but also without hurting my local communities who rely on Goodwill. Is it even possible to do both?
Through my research and from looking for creative solutions I've found several key ways to find a balance between the two. Keep in mind, these tips are direct towards anyone who has the means to shop elsewhere for clothing or could afford to buy items first hand, but want to shop secondhand for the environmental impacts.
The first thing is if you can afford to buy yourself high quality long lasting items such as a new winter coat or business professional interview clothing, do not go to Goodwill. You would be taking away someone's only option of a winter coat, or someone who is unemployed and needs a low-cost suit for a job interview. Items like these, when bought in good quality can last you a lifetime. Use the opportunity to splurge on yourself for these pieces and bonus points if you can find something made sustainably as well.
If you are dead set on buying secondhand high quality try thinking creatively. For example, the REI near me had an end of year garage sale where they were reselling items other customers had returned for a heavily discounted rate. In order to get into the sale you had to be an REI member (it costs $20 for a lifetime membership). I was in desperate need of a thick winter coat (have I mentioned that I moved from Florida to Philly recently) so I went to the garage sale and found the perfect winter coat for myself. It was over 50% off just because someone had worn it once, didn't like the fit and returned it. And because it was something you had to be an REI member to buy, I didn't feel like I was taking away someone's only option for a winter coat.
Other options for buying second hand without hurting your local community are finding stores like Plato's Closet, local consignment stores, or even look to online secondhand retailers like eBay, ThredUp, and Poshmark. These are all places where you'll find second hand items and at a discounted rate, but not as cheap or accessible enough to be someone's only clothing option.
Another thing you want to avoid when thrifting is to not buy things that are a few sizes too big with the intent of cutting them or sizing them down. The options are already very limited when it comes to their selection of plus-size clothing secondhand so buying something to cut into your size reduces the options of plus-sized shoppers even more.
Now this doesn't mean that you can never shop at a place like Goodwill. These are just things to be conscious of when you do go thrift shopping. Yes, we all love getting a great deal, but if we thrift responsibly we can help the environment without hurting poor communities.
How have you been able to find the balance between buying second hand for the environment but not taking away cheaper options from those who need them most?
Composting is a huge way to make a positive impact on the environment. When food items go into a landfill in a plastic bag, they are forced to breakdown anaerobically, meaning without oxygen. And when they break down anaerobically, they release methane gas. To put that in perspective, methane gas is 21x more harmful to the environment than CO2!
This is where composting comes into play. You can take all of your leftover food scraps and turn them into nutrient rich soil to be used for farming, gardening, etc. Some people even compost in their backyard!
Now I live in Philadelphia, not the best environment for starting your own compost. But I didn't want my food scraps to end up in a landfill either so I knew I had to try to find another way to make composting happen. Some cities have composting programs where they will pick up a compost bin for free each week in addition to trash and recycling, some cities even have community compost drop off bins similar to dumpsters. Unfortunately for me Philly did not have either of these solutions.
What I did find out is that there are plenty of composting programs in Philly owned by private businesses who will come by and pick up your composting each week. the downside here is that you have to pay for the service. I went through each and every composting service to see which ones serviced the area I live and would be the cheapest. In the end, I signed up for Bennett Composting. Once per week I leave my compost bin out by my front door and they come by in the middle of the night to empty it and take my scraps away.
In total this costs me $18 per month but to me this is a huge step at being zero-waste and is well worth it. (I do keep on searching for composting in Philly on a regular basis to see if any free alternatives come up.)
How do I manage the compost throughout the week?
Deciding to start composting is the easy part, the logistics can be somewhat tricky when you're talking about keeping all of your old food scraps laying around for a week at a time.
I didn't want a bucket full of food scraps sitting in my kitchen. It will smell and attract fruit flies. Plus, my kitchen is on the smaller side and I just don't have room for a 5 gallon bucket.
Luckily for me I do have a small private backyard area for the bucket. It has a sturdy lid so I'm not worried about bugs getting in and so far it hasn't been an issue. If you have an outdoor balcony area that works too.
Now that I have my bucket stationed outside, I don't want to be going outside and scraping my plate off into a bucket 3-5 times a day. So what I do is keep a tupperware container in my freezer. This allows me to easily discard my food after each meal, and keeping it in the freezer keeps it from smelling. At the end of each day after we finish washing our dishes from dinner we will empty the freezer bin into the outside bucket. This system works great for us at keeping our composting smell-free and doable.
What can be composted?
This is how I have managed to compost while living in a city. Comment below how you are able to compost in your city and how you manage it!
Join me as I document my journey to becoming zero-waste through this blog as a resource to others.