If you’ve been following me on instagram over the past month, you’ll know that we’ve been headed in the direction of living with lower waste in our family.
Last spring, I remember being so intrigued by several “Zero Waste” accounts I found on instagram. In my attempts to live more “minimally,” within our home, I often threw too many things in the trash can without even thinking twice. I was feeling awful about how much waste we were producing as a family of 5 and wanted to change this. But we had a newborn, life was a little overwhelming and the steps to get there felt so daunting. I didn’t realize at the time, how simple it could really be.
About 5 weeks back, as I was planning out an earth day unit for the boys schooling, I began to feel compelled again by all the horrific facts I was reading regarding pollution and waste and the issues we’re currently facing. When I thought about what had stopped me in the past from making better efforts in this area, it was these 3 main things: 1.) laziness 2.) believing that it was much too difficult/impossible to live zero-waste with young children. 3.) The thought of my small efforts not making any difference. Well I’ve realized since, that all of these reasons were just excuses for something I knew we needed to start doing as a family. I was letting laziness and the fear of failure stop me from making simple changes that over time can make such a big difference.
So a month ago, we challenged ourselves as a family to make some changes. It was so fun to incorporate this into our homeschooling because it turned our book work into a hands-on project within our home! The boys love a good challenge and got 100% on board with making this happen. They remind me when we’re off to the store not to forget our reusable bags and they’ve noticed the few times I forgot my mug at home when stopping at the starbucks drive-thru. I need that accountability!
I’ve also noticed how maintaining a healthy lifestyle and living with zero-waste go hand in hand which has been so neat and motivating for me. So even IF our efforts to help the planet were minimal, the habits we’re developing as a family are beneficial to our health and wellness and that alone, motivates me to keep going! Less processed foods, less chemicals in plastic leaching into our food, less unsafe chemicals in cleaners, and the list goes on and on. Our society has become much too focused on convenience and as a result, the earth as well as our personal health have both suffered in the process. SO here’s a few simple changes we’ve implemented over the past month:
Composting: This is one of the most obvious ways to cut back on waste in your home but you would be surprised how many people don’t compost. I’m actually so disappointed that we were throwing out so much food waste for so long when we could have been recycling our food, by giving it back to the earth. I found this great blog post all about composting if you have never composted before and would like to get started. We bought this kitchen composter to sit on our counter. And thankfully we already had a back yard compost from the previous owners but if you don’t have one, this one is a great and affordable option!
Reusable shopping bags: We’ve been diligently using our own reusable bags for groceries for about the last year now. Even this small change could be SO big if more people committed to doing it. Think about how many bags would not be thrown away if even 20 people committed to doing this after reading this post. (8 plastic grocery bags/week x 20 = 160). 160 less plastic bags going to the landfills each week. Now what if 100 more people started doing this. That would mean 800 less plastic bags going to the landfills each week. And 3,200 less per month. So while you might think it’s a small change. If we all did even just this for lower waste efforts, we would be creating SO much less plastic waste. And the thing that I have been trying to get better at is bringing my bags not only for groceries but also if I run into the drug store, the mall etc., My goal is to never have to accept a plastic bag no matter where I am shopping. These compact ones are neat for keeping in your purse or diaper bag so you don’t forget!
Reusable Produce bags: If half of your grocery haul is produce like ours, within your plastic grocery bags, is likely tons of smaller plastic bags. If you want to take things a step further, order some reusable produce bags too! I found these mesh ones on amazon and I now use them instead of plastic when packing my produce.
Shopping at the Bulk Barn (or other bulk stores): This is something recent we’ve started to do and I’m seriously amazed at how much of our grocery shop we can do there to cut back on packaging! And if you didn’t know, you can take in your own containers, jars and bags to fill up. They check the tare weight of your containers before you start shopping, make sure they’re clean (have to be completely washed, no crumbs or anything) and then they weigh them again after you’re done. I will be doing another blog post to share our master bulk barn shopping list but just to give you an idea, some of the main things we’ve started purchasing there are: oatmeal, granola, rice, pasta, flour, nuts, crackers etc., All stuff that we would have previously purchased in plastic packaging from the grocery store.
Metal straws and reusable coffee mugs: We love to use straws in our home and I feel embarrassed to say we always had a huge carton of plastic straws for smoothies, iced coffee etc., Last month, I grabbed these affordable metal straws now and the plastic ones are no longer. And if you’ve been following me for a while, you likely know I love starbucks and yup, I was definitely using their paper cups each time I went. My husband and I have now both started bringing our personal cups each time we stop for coffee and that’s another small change that over time can be huge. (especially if you drink a lot of coffee like us! ;))
I hope this gives you some guidance on how you can get started with producing lower waste as a family! And again, we’re not committing to perfection around here and there are some things that just won’t happen while we have young children. There will be days I’ll forget my resuable coffee mug and weeks when I’m just too tired to bake homemade muffins and protein balls and end up grabbing a box of granola bars instead. But we’re committed to trying our very best. Our realistic goal as a family right now is only to produce 1 small white bag of garbage each week. This is a HUGE difference from what we WERE producing some weeks. 🙁 We would like to do even better but we know from experience that you can’t set unrealistic goals right off the bat or you’ll set yourself up for failure. We’re really just having so much fun with it right now and doing what we can to send less waste to the landfills.