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My Newest Obsession – or, How to Start Going Zero Waste

No new knitting because my hands have been sore. BUT I’ve started a new project: zero waste. That’s right. No trash to the landfill anymore.

Long time readers probably know that I’m a little… crunchy. That tends to happen when you get a college degree with the word “environmental” in the name. “Zero waste” sounds pretty radical – and it kind of is, but starting it was really easy! I spent a lot of time reading zero waste blogs, and they are… really crunchy. Way more crunchy than me. Let’s not go there.

Anyway, going zero waste doesn’t involve eliminating plastic, eating only at farmers markets, or doing some radical hippy things that sound like torture (“Oil pulling!? That sounds painful!”). In fact, we haven’t bought anything or really spent any extra money… yet. (I’m thinking we’ll have to eventually, once we start replacing products that are more wasteful, but we’ll see.)

It’s really just 2 steps!

First Step: Keep Track of Everything you Throw Out

I’ve been doing this for the past few weeks now in my bullet journal. Write down EVERY LITTLE THING that I throw out. Zero waste means zero, right, so there are no exceptions here. Tissues. Cat food containers. Receipts. Wrappers around the lids of pickles.

pages from my bullet journal where I keep my trash log

If you do this right, you should get a really good idea of everything you throw out. I did about 3 weeks worth of trash (thus, 3 pages) and noticed a LOT of repeats. Some things, like dental floss picks, I throw out every day. Because I love data, I put the items into a spreadsheet and categorized them, so I can look at fun graphs.

The graph shows that food packaging is the biggest waste stream, by far.

If you’re interested in making your own spreadsheet, just check out mine here – you can copy and paste it as your own file.

I wanted to weight each thing, but Dan said that was kind of creepy.

Second Step: Figure Out How to Not Throw That Stuff Out

Ok, this is not really that small of a step, but that’s honestly all there is to it. Next to each item in journal, I have notes on what I can do to avoid that waste. Here are some examples:

  • Ziploc bags to store meat in the freezer – Use other containers, like pyrex glass or mason jars.
  • Dental picks – get a “Gum Simulator”
  • Roomba waste – Pick out the noncompostables (change, hair ties) and then compost the rest.

Here you’ll notice that you start doing some kooky things. This is probably the kookiest that I’ve gotten: I have a little makeshift composter at my desk at work.

It's a compostable cup that I put my other compostable stuff in and take down to the caf every day... but it works!

The backstory behind this is that my work composts, but the only place to “throw out” your compost is in the cafeteria. So, I’ve been buying iced coffee every day (or, lately, every other day) and putting my compostable waste, like napkins, cafeteria silverware, and tea bags in this. I took this picture right before I put the stuff in the bin – if there’s any food waste, I throw it out that day so that I don’t attract fruit flies!

That’s it!

Those two steps are what zero waste is all about. How much effort you put into each step is totally up to you.

I’ll probably do more zero waste-themed posts in the future, since it’s my current obsession.

On a funny note, when I talked to Dan about zero waste, he immediately thought of the wastes in Lean Six Sigma. I told him I’m not quite ready to bring work home like that. He’s such an engineer.

Zero waste can be hard, but starting your journey takes only 2 steps!

How to Lead a Nursing Home Craft Circle

How to Lead a Craft Circle in a Retirement Home

It’s been one year since I started leading a craft circle at my local retirement home. Looking back, there’s a lot of stuff I wish I had known, though. I thought I’d compile a list of tips and tricks, so, here they are! Hopefully I can inspire people to get out there and start working in their community.