Since starting up Simple Life Experiment, I’ve been looking forward to sharing some of the ways we are working towards zero waste in our home. It’s a very ambitious goal, and the fact that we use a bin and we still take it out each week is evidence of just how ambitious it is, but we are slowly making changes to move towards being as waste-free as possible.
I see the zero waste movement as part and parcel of the minimalist philosophy. Environmentalism is something I’ve always been interested in, but my enthusiasm for it was reignited when I decided to start consciously living with less. Reducing the amount of things we own goes hand in hand with reducing our impact on the planet, just as an awareness of the effects of consumerism naturally extends beyond the personal sphere to the environmental sphere.
So let me fill you in on some of the changes we have made lately and how I am finding them!
I realised we had been going through a lot – and I mean a lot of tissues – between the two of us, so the logical solution was to go reusable in this area. My partner suffers from severe allergies to dust and pollen, while I have chronic nasal congestion which leads to a lot of nose-blowing of a morning. I sourced a whole bunch of them from a few thrift stores in our area for only a dollar each (not all of them are pictured below as some were in the wash). We are still keeping tissues in the house, and have swapped to bamboo tissues for those that we do use, but I have noticed we are going through less of them which is great!
My conclusion is that this is an extremely cheap and easy swap to make. The tricky part is remembering to keep one in my handbag and in the car, though! I also love that they can be used for a variety of other things around the house. I’ve been using them to line the bottom of our reusable lunch containers to stop our wraps going soggy from the ice brick condensation, for example.
This is a zero-waste product I have tried to use in the past but have not been able to get the hang of. I haven’t had any trouble inserting it or with discomfort while it’s in. The real issue has been with leaking, as I haven’t been able to get a proper seal on the thing and have had to use it in conjunction with a pad to make sure I didn’t ruin my underwear and clothes…which completely defeats the purpose, of course. When my period came on yesterday, I was determined to try once again, and I succeeded in using the cup without any leaks for the entire day and night (changing it twice during those 24 hours). I used it with a panty liner just to be sure, and I had only the tiniest amount of spotting during the day – which I presume was fluid that gradually made its way down from before the cup was inserted – and no spotting whatsoever at night. I am now into day two of using my cup and all is going swimmingly again!
While I was troubleshooting my leakage issues, advice from Put A Cup In It was of great help, so if you are new to menstrual cups I recommend this great resource from experienced cuppers Kim and Amanda. Google in general is also a great place for advice, and there are so many websites and discussion forums dedicated to menstrual cups.
The verdict? This is not necessarily an easy change to introduce, but the environmental and financial benefits far outweigh the frustration of getting started. If I think about how much waste I produce each time I have my period, and the amount of money I spend on making that waste, it’s incredibly motivating!
On the downside, I don’t think I could use the cup under any circumstances. I found inserting it and – in particular – removing it quite a messy process, so I did it in the shower to allow me to do a quick rinse-off afterwards. I can’t imagine using it while travelling or in a public toilet, so I think I would probably only use the cup when I am either at home all day, or have a definite idea of how long I will be out of the house for.
I am also keen to try out reusable pads, as I have heard positive reviews of these and I think they could be useful in conjunction with the cup. I could see myself using these if I’m going out and am nervous about leaking, or for the lighter days towards the end of my period when I wouldn’t be collecting enough fluid to really justify going to the trouble of inserting and removing the cup.
We were given a big bag of coffee beans by a friend at the end of last year, which is what prompted me to think of this one. I don’t really drink coffee, but my partner does, and he had been going through a small jar of instant coffee every week. We were recycling the jars, but of course it’s always much better to avoid the packaging in the first place. We were keen to use the beans, which could easily be ground in our high-speed blender, but we didn’t have a plunger (we actually used to have the opposite problem – we had a plunger but never bought any beans, so I donated it a while back. Alas!) so I set out to find a secondhand one. We found one to pick up locally via Gumtree, which I then proceeded to break within about 5 minutes of owning it by dropping it on the kitchen floor!! Anyway, after a long stream of expletives, I tracked down another one and within a few days we had a new secondhand plunger. Once we finish the bag of coffee, I’ll recycle it via REDcycle, but after that I will see if we can track down some bulk coffee beans to avoid the packaging. Like the hankies, this was an easy change to make and will save us a heap of money in the long run, too!
These have been sitting at the back of our cupboard for the longest time, and when I saw them there I couldn’t believe I had been overlooking them! I have now started to buy our produce ‘naked’ again. This is another easy change to make; there is just the initial investment of buying the bags (or you could make them if you are good with a sewing machine!), which can be washed in the washing machine between uses if needed, then used over and over again. The plastic produce bags we have in the house I am still using, as I find some items, such as lettuce and carrots, fare much better when stored in them. I just rinse the bags, dry them by attaching them to the front of the fridge with a magnet, then reuse them.
This is not a new concept for me, as I already tend to give edible gifts almost exclusively, but I am starting to think a lot more about the packaging I use for them. Recently I surprised a friend with an upcycled jar filled with homemade toasted muesli (which I think is called granola on the other side of the Pacific) for her birthday, which went down really well! My intention is to also focus more on experience-based gifts this year, like inviting a friend over for dinner or out on a day trip together. Zero-waste gifts are definitely something that are easy for anyone to incorporate into a more intentional and sustainable gift-giving routine, and on the upside they are also easier on the hip pocket and are always met with delight. There’s nothing more warm and fuzzy than receiving something personalised and homemade instead of a useless, generic trinket destined for landfill or yet another teacup!
Well, I think that’s it for now. When I have some more new zero-waste initiatives in our home to report, I’ll do another of these posts!
Are there any changes you have made in your life lately towards zero waste, or that you would like to make?