Zero Waste Tips: Part 1

Here are some zero waste tips to incorporate around your home. Let’s start in the kitchen, the heart of the home.

Kitchen

  1. Use alternatives to paper and plastic disposables. Put down those paper towels and drop those plastic sandwich baggies! Look for alternatives to those products that can only be used once or twice and then you ship them off to the landfill. Use reusable rags that can be washed in the washing machine (hang dry these guys to save electricity). Instead of plastic lunch containers and baggies, use stainless steel containers. Cling wrap and aluminum foil can be swapped out for beeswax moldable wraps. Take a look around your kitchen and see what can be replaced with a sustainable and reusable option.
  2. Buy in bulk or at the counter. Bring your reusable bags, jars, and bottles for dry goods, wet items, and liquids. If you know a place that will happily use your containers, don’t forget to bring them with you. If you’re not sure if your store will allow it, ask. It never hurts to ask. Reusable bags are good for small, dry goods like grains, nuts, and potatoes. Jars are good for meats, fish, butters, and cheese. Bottles are good for oils, shoyu, and castile soap.
  3. If you cannot find it bulk, find a supplier or make it yourself. Bring your jar to the ice cream shop (Ask if local shops will be able to fill your jar). Take a pillow case to the bakery for bread. That way you don’t take home the plastic bag. Bring your own bottles to wineries and breweries. Or if you can’t find certain things in bulk, make it yourself at home like salad dressings, jams, juice, or hummus.
  4. Shop the farmers market. Most vendors will take your egg cartons back and they’ll let you use your own reusable bags. Your veggies will also most likely be free of plastic and stickers.
  5. Learn to love tap water. Ditch the plastic bottles of water. If you live on catchment, invest in some heavy duty filtration system. As long as you boil the water, it’ll be safe to cook with. That and get your drinking water in bulk. See if you can get glass jugs, it’ll be heavier, but less waste.
  6. Use bulk alternatives of natural cleaning supplies. Castile soap can be used as a dish/hand cleaner, baking soda can be used as a scrubber with a compostable cleaning brush. Purchase dishwasher detergent in bulk.
  7. Turn your trash can into a big compost keeper. Use the tiny composter from the stores as your trash can.
  8. Reinvent leftovers before they go bad. Use what recipes you have and only keep those that can be achieved with zero waste in mind. If you don’t like to eat the same meal twice, spice it up a bit and put your own twist on leftovers so it doesn’t waste.
  9. Invest in a pressure cooker. It halves the cooking time on most dishes.
  10. Some additional tips. Reuse single-side printed paper and receipts for grocery shopping and errand lists. Use your lettuce cleaning water as water for your plants. Open your oven after baking to warm your home in the winter.
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Homemade Laundry Detergent and Wool Dryer Balls

The amount of chemicals and toxins in laundry detergent is alarming. When you wash your clothes with regular store-bought detergent, all of those chemicals are being dumped into our ocean. I looked for a more natural and cheaper solution.

My family has always used a liquid detergent that can cost upwards of $4 or more for the decently sized bottles that last maybe a month or less with how much laundry my family does in a week. After researching what your laundry detergent should generally have and what was safest for the environment as far as ingredients went, I found a recipe with just three ingredients that can last up to 5 months.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 box of borax, 4 lb (20 Mule Team) – $4.69 @ Target
  • 1 box of washing soda, 3 lb (Arm & Hammer) – $4.49 @ Target
  • 3 bars of Ivory soap (you can also use Zote and Castille bar soaps) – $3.99 for a pack of 8 @ Target
  • 1 container, plastic or glass, at least 23 cup volume

***I’m sure you can find these items cheaper somewhere else, but at the time, I was already shopping at Target so I decided to get it while I was there anyway. A 3-quart bottle of Tide laundry detergent can cost up to $13 at Target and last maybe three months, two months if your family does eight separate loads a week like mine does.

Instructions:

  1. Grate the Ivory soap as small as you can get it. The smaller the shavings, the easier it will dissolve in cold water.
  2. Pour the borax, washing soda, and soap shavings into the container.
  3. Shake or stir well. Done.
  4. Use 1-2 tablespoon for regular loads; 2-3 tablespoons for larger loads.

I put my ingredients in the container in layers. Borax, then washing soda, then soap, shake, repeat until everything was added in and mixed together. Then I covered the container and shook it vigorously for 30 seconds just to really mix it well.

***Be sure to break up large chunks in the container.

Also, another switch we made was to completely forgo whatever dryer sheets my family buys and opting for natural wool dryer balls. I ordered from Amazon a pack of 2-2.75 inch dryer balls about the size of baseballs for $8.99. Throw a couple of them in the dryer with your laundry and it will cut down the amount of time needed to dry your clothes. Dryer balls help to create openings in your clothes to let the hot air flow between your laundry to dry quicker. If you want to add a scent, just add 2-3 drops per ball, when the smell dissipates, add some more. These dryer balls are good for 100s of loads and you create less waste by REFUSING to buy dryer sheets and plastic or cardboard packaged laundry detergent.

Good for you zero waster!

detergent and dryer ball
Here’s our container of laundry detergent and one of our dryer balls.

Price Comparison

Target
Borax – $4.69
Washing Soda – $4.49
Ivory soap (3 bars) – $1.50
Total = $10.68 for 7.5 lb. up to 5 months

Tide Liquid Laundry Detergent 100 fl. oz. – $13.00 for up to 2 months
Tide Powder Laundry Detergent 5.93 lb. – $13.00 for up to 4 months

up & up dryer sheets box of 240 – $6.99 240 loads for up to 8 months
Wool Dryer balls – $8.99 1000 loads for up to 2.5 years

Homemade Tooth Powder and Bamboo Toothbrush

Along with this new lifestyle comes some conscious decisions to switch out plastic, chemical-infused products and make your own essentials from more natural ingredients. Once again this recipe comes from Going Zero Waste and she even got it approved by a dentist, granted it was her own dentist, but her dentist definitely approved of the tooth powder.

I wanted to get rid of my toothpaste and see where natural tooth powder could take me. Let me just tell you a little something. Making the switch from minty toothpaste to tooth powder is not easy. I would highly recommend finding a recipe for mouthwash or I will post one later if you want to wait.

What You’ll Need

  • 1/2 cup Xylitol – $6.18/lb @ Abundant Life
    • a natural sweetener
    • prevents bacteria from sticking to your teeth
    • neutralizes pH to help avoid tooth decay
  • 1/2 cup Baking Soda – $3.99/lb @ Island Naturals
    • very mild abrasive (less abrasive than commercial toothpaste) that dislodges plaque on teeth
    • breaks down stain causing molecules
    • neutralizes pH
  • 1/2 cup Bentonite Clay – $16.79/lb Island Naturals
    • draws out toxins
    • contains calcium
    • often used to help remineralize teeth
  • 1-16 oz mason jar

Since Abundant Life has proven to be cheaper in some places than Island Naturals, I will check Abundant Life’s prices for baking soda and bentonite clay and see if they’re cheaper there.

Instructions

  1. Stir everything together in a glass jar. Don’t use metal with the clay, it will deactivate.
  2. Done!
  3. Dip half of your wet toothbrush into the powder and then brush your teeth. You don’t need much.

The sweetness of the xylitol cancels out the saltiness of the baking soda. I recommend using a bamboo toothbrush with your tooth powder as an environmentally friendly alternative to the plastic commercial toothbrush. Bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable and all natural. You can also compost them after 4 months.

Homemade All-Natural Zero-Waste Deodorant

For a long time, I have had trouble with regular store-bought deodorant. I would buy a brand and stick with it for a year or two and then my body would reject it and get an allergic reaction from it. Then I would switch to another brand and repeat. In the last couple of months, I have grown irritated at my deodorant and decided to try something else. My friend told me how she would use lotion for her armpits and it wouldn’t smell and her armpits would become moisturized. I tried for a couple of weeks, but I would still smell my body odor. I couldn’t get too sweaty or the smell would become too strong, so I got rid of the lotion idea.

I came across an all-natural homemade deodorant recipe on Going Zero Waste‘s blog. This is her recipe and I am posting it here so you can access it or you can click this link. It’s made from three simple ingredients, water, baking soda, and Himalayan pink salt. After two weeks I don’t smell, my armpits aren’t irritated, and it cost less than the $3 sticks at the store. Kathryn K. is a lifesaver and she has some really awesome posts which I highly recommend you check out later.

 

FullSizeRender 13
Our spray bottles and excess deodorant in a mason jar.

 

What You’ll Need:

  • 8 oz of water (weight not fluid)
  • 4 Teaspoons of Baking Soda (Island Naturals $3.99/lb)
    • Absorbs moisture
    • Natural deodorizer that helps neutralize odor
    • Is alkaline and helps prevent excess sweating
    • Lowers your pH level to counteract the acids in sweat
  • 4 Teaspoons of Himalayan Pink Salt, fine
    • Provides essential minerals and trace elements
    • Helps eliminate toxins
    • Balances the body’s pH
    • Helps to increase blood circulation
  • Spray bottle (3 oz) or roll-on bottle
    • I got two small spray bottles from Target’s travel section for $0.99 each. One for Waiemi, one for me. Just remember to shake well before spraying.

Instructions:

  1. Heat 8 oz of water in a pot on the stove. Bring the water to a boil for five minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. While water is still very warm, add baking soda and salt. It should mostly dissolve in the warm water.
  4. Pour into small spray bottle(s) or roll-on bottle
  5. Spray once or twice before you go to bed and again in the morning.

If you would like to add some scent you can use 2-3 drops of essential oil. Tea tree would be best because of its antibacterial properties.

I made a big batch, poured 3 oz into my spray bottles and kept the rest in a mason jar. It’s in my bathroom for the next time I need to refill or make some more. The deodorant will last a long time, up to 5 months.

Make sure you use fine grain Himalayan pink salt so it dissolves easier in the warm water. In order to save money, I used my regular Himalayan pink salt grinder that we use for cooking, sat down with a glass jar and just started grinding into the jar. It took a few minutes to come up with enough teaspoons of salt, but at least I worked my arm muscles. I plan to refill my grinder with salt from Island Naturals or Abundant Life. When I find out the price, I will update this post.

The great thing about this deodorant is how simple it is to make and use. I don’t have to worry about the toxic chemicals I’m introducing into my body through my armpits and I don’t have to worry about an allergic reaction!