sustainability · zero waste

ZERO WASTE UPDATE: COMPOST, WASTE-FREE PERIODS + MORE

It has been ages since I’ve posted a zero waste update, but I figure late is better than never. In 2018, sustainability will be a focal point for me on the blog (along with personal development and, of course, minimalism), so I’m excited to be getting started on this early on in the year. Things have been changing rapidly on the waste front in our household, so let me give you an update on what’s new!

Compost

We first started composting in 2016 at our old place, where we had a strange but very functional system that involved finely chopping up or blending our scraps and putting them on the garden bed in front of our ground-level balcony. We would then add a few scoops of dry leaves and soil on top every once in a while, which we would collect from under the big tree at the back of the unit complex. At first, we weren’t sure it would work but everything decomposed nicely, it never smelled and didn’t look unsightly.

Since we moved to our new, smaller apartment in October 2017 (check out my minimalist home tour here), we had to abandon that routine, but luckily I discovered just before we moved that there’s a compost bin at my work (apparently a very well-kept secret, because I never see anyone else using it!), so we now keep our scraps in a container in the fridge and I take them to work every second day or so.

Since I have been on holiday from work lately, our temporary method has been to freeze the scraps so that we can accumulate them for longer periods before I take them in every few weeks over the break. At this point I’m growing a little tired of carting frozen compost to work on the train during my holidays, so I’m looking forward to going back to work and being able to only accumulate one container at a time.

This can’t be a long-term solution, so in future we’ll either need to figure out a composting system we can use on our balcony, or find something communal closer to our home. I’ve already contacted our local ward office regarding community compost, so I’m hoping this will yield something of use!

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Frozen compost.  They’re sliced bananas you can see, which stayed green for weeks on end. We eventually opened them and they were simultaneously unripe and rotten, so were unfortunately inedible.

Waste-free periods

I first swapped from using disposable pads and tampons to using a combination of disposable pads and a cup, and have now made the transition to cloth pads, cloth liners and a cup. I have both a size 1 Diva cup and a size 2 Lunette cup. I find the Diva cup good for light days only, as it leaks on my heaviest days, and the Lunette for my heaviest two days or so.

The liners I use in combination with a cup. Even when the cup’s seal is really strong, I find there is always a tiny bit of leakage within the first hour or so after inserting it, so having a liner in place avoids any underwear staining. The pads are great for days when I don’t feel there’s enough flow to justify taking the time to use the cup but when a panty liner won’t quite cut it.

My pads are from Wemoon, an Australian-owned company, and the pads are made here in Australia too. If I need to buy any more pads in future, I’ll be sticking to the black ones only as they don’t stain. Obviously these are made to be stained; it’s just me being weird about scrubbing unnecessarily at the stains on my non-black pads! I can understand why some women would not like the black pads as it’s a bit harder to see the blood against the black, but I haven’t had a problem with them. I think this is because I know my flow very well and how much I can expect on any given day of my cycle, so I know what to use when and don’t end up getting caught out with a pad that’s soaked through before it’s too late.

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Clockwise from the top: size 1 Diva cup, size 2 Lunette cup, dark pink and black panty liners, light pink and black regular pads.

Food packaging

This has been another big – but gradual – change in our house, which I talked a bit about in this post discussing my zero-waste shopping kit. I am now buying in bulk wherever possible and choosing only plastic-free fruit and vegetables. For those items I can’t find at the bulk store, I am choosing recyclable paper, cardboard or metal packaging wherever possible and in general just avoiding plastic as much as I can.

If you are just starting out on a more sustainable path but don’t know where to begin when it comes to reducing your waste, I highly recommend first focussing only on food-related rubbish and ignoring the rest for now. As soon as we started composting our food scraps and buying most things unpackaged, our rubbish output dramatically decreased. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Once this step is done, reducing waste in other areas feels so much easier because the bulk of your rubbish has already been done away with.

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A sampling of unpackaged things I’ve been buying lately in our own containers, clockwise from the top: olive oil, Himalayan salt, bicarb soda, dried Italian herb mix, loose-leaf herbal tea, desiccated coconut.

Medical waste

I’ve been thinking a lot about medical waste lately, and I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that most of it is unavoidable. For obvious reasons it wouldn’t be reasonable, advisable or possible to ask a medical professional to not wear gloves when it is deemed necessary. My conclusion is that the only way to minimise my medical waste is to stay as healthy as I possibly can, while still receiving some necessary, waste-creating checkups on a regular basis like pap smears and blood tests. Obviously, if something unexpected comes up like an accident or severe illness, there would be nothing I could do about the waste aside from refusing some disposable items in the hospital if I was well enough to do so.

On a positive note, though, it is sometimes possible to avoid a few bits of medical waste here and there. The cups pictured below my husband and I took along to our latest dental checkups, which turned out to be a great idea. We took them along in a cloth bag and asked the dentist before our appointments if they could be placed under the water fountain on the side of the chair. She was very happy to oblige and we were really pleased about avoiding using the plastic cups usually provided.

I bought those cups years and years ago to use as picnic cups, long before I had any interest in reducing my waste, but they have now become so much more than picnic cups. We also took them to France with us last year on the plane and they ended up being a great way to avoid using plastic cups for water while flying.

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Our favourite picnic cups turned zero-waste, all-purpose cups!

Zero-waste baking

I had been looking for a way to make my sugar-free banana bread waste-free. As is often the case, the solution was staring me right in the face: the silicone muffin cups in my cupboard, of course! I now simply reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes and make 17 to 18 muffins instead of the one loaf. No need to buy another muffin tray, either, as the extra silicone cups fit perfectly on top of the tray. I think I’ll also be turning my mango cheesecake into mini cheesecakes in future by using these, as I have been using some baking paper on the bottom of the tin which ends up in the bin.

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Finally! Waste-free muffins.

Smaller bin

Thanks to the changes we’ve been making, we have officially downgraded to a mini household waste bin, as well as done away with our bathroom bin altogether (which is what became our mini bin; our larger bin, which was in good condition, was donated to a thrift store). I also stopped buying bin liners a while back because it just didn’t feel right anymore to be buying plastic bags. I now pick up plastic bags on the street or gutter whenever I find them (which, sadly, is often) and use those as bin liners. The eventual aim is to do away with this bin, too. All in good time…

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Mini bin.

That’s it for my update, but I’ll soon also be doing a post on my 2018 sustainability goals. I’m proud of what I’ve already achieved but there are many more things I’m excited to try in order to reduce my waste output. I feel that having a definite list of what I would like to work on, rather than just a vague idea in my head, will be a great way of keeping me on track. Plus, one bonus of publishing the list online for anyone out there to read is that it will keep me more accountable; having a blog really is good for that.

So if you are interested in knowing what my more sustainable year ahead will look like, stay tuned for my 2018 sustainability goals. In the meantime, thanks very much for reading!

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8 thoughts on “ZERO WASTE UPDATE: COMPOST, WASTE-FREE PERIODS + MORE

  1. I think it’s fantastic that you are so committed to the zero-waste life that you’re taking compost with you on the train! That’s true dedication! But I understand how important it is, and it is so socially responsible as opposed to throwing out those scraps. Does your new place have a place for you to plant a garden? I bet you’d have the nicest flowers around.
    Those banana muffins look absolutely delicious, and I need to find some time to start baking!

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    1. Thanks so much for your support and encouragement when it comes to my zero-waste efforts, Steph! 🙂

      Hmm, unfortunately we don’t really have the right set-up at our new place for a garden. We do have a balcony but I don’t think I’d have the patience for pots and all the mess they make on the ground. Someday I’d love to be able to grow my own plants at home!

      Now if I do say so myself, the banana bread recipe is a really good one – in both loaf and muffin form – so I hope you do try it one day. I pretty much stopped baking anything else, firstly because it’s just so yummy, and secondly because it would be pretty hard to find any other baked good that’s free from gluten, sugar and dairy all at once while actually being so delicious!

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  2. Hi Lisa, thanks so much for stopping by my blog – especially as it’s allowed me to find yours! I absolutely love your mindset and outlook and have spent a lovely time this evening reading some of your older posts. Your blog is right up my street and I look forward to both catching up with your other, older posts and reading your new ones. I’m so delighted to have found your lovely blog. Continued success for 2018, Minimal-Lol 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Minimal-Lol 🙂 I have been enjoying checking out your blog today too, and I really appreciate you coming by to have a look around here and say hello. It’s always lovely to find another like-minded soul, so I’m looking forward to connecting in 2018!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d never thought about medical waste before reading this update, but I think you’re right and most of it is probably unavoidable. On a personal note, I can definitely relate to not wanting to use my Diva Cup when my cycle isn’t heavy enough. It’s seriously so annoying to go through all the effort for nothing 😂. I haven’t made the leap yet to reusable pads, but maybe one day! I love reading updates like this by the way. I find it so fascinating how people’s waste reduction strategies fit into their daily lives!

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    1. Thanks Britt, and I’m glad to hear you find the updates interesting. Sometimes it crosses my mind that some of these things might be a bit banal, or even overshare-y, but then I remember that I would find them interesting if I was reading someone else’s blog. So thanks for the reassurance on that! I’m the same as you; I really like seeing how other bloggers’ strategies – on waste reduction, minimalism or anything really! – fit into their lives and what they translate into on a day-to-day level.

      I can highly recommend reusable pads to you and I hope you do get to try them out one day. I started off with just a few to see if I liked them, as they aren’t cheap. I thought they would feel super bulky but they really don’t, or at least not more than a disposable pad but I guess that’s unavoidable. My aim in the long-term is to be sewing my own cloth pads. If I eventually make some, I’ll definitely offer to send you one to try out! There are heaps of tutorials online and they don’t look too tricky.

      Finally, one top tip just in case you do try out reusable pads anytime soon. To get the best comfort and use out of them, make sure you wear underwear that is relatively tight (with elastic in good condition and definitely not a size too big…ie. not the kind that are practically falling down after a day of wear). Because the pads don’t have the sticky backing of the disposable kind to keep them in place, only the wings and snap lock thingie, they really need the pressure of your underwear to stop them from moving around – if that makes sense. If it doesn’t have enough pressure from the underwear, the pad will move around which is really uncomfortable (especially if you don’t immediately have access to a bathroom to move it back in pace) and could also lead to staining of your underwear if the pad ends up moving too high or too low.

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