As our family celebrates Earth Day this year by planting a new garden, we also reflect on how far we have come on our zero-waste journey.
Since we decided to live more sustainably and eliminate single-use products about six months ago, we’ve discovered that some things are easy to reduce or reuse, and some are not. And some of us are more into this than others!
Here are our top swaps that we have found easy to do and easy to maintain:
- Un-paper towels, tissues, and napkins: Switching to cloth paper towels and tissues has been super easy and doable for us. There are so many fun prints to choose from of the cloth paper towels! For the tissues, Jason and I are using good old-fashioned bandana handkerchiefs, and the girls are using a combination of cloth tissues and bamboo tissues. Cloth napkins are also an easy swap. We started out using the fancy larger table napkins and then found a fun and cheap option on Etsy. Again, lots of cute prints to choose from! We bought a simple holder for them on Amazon and we now have an accessible stack always on the table. Pro tip: check the sizes of the cloth napkins before buying a holder. Many are an odd size.
- Cloth toilet paper: Ok let’s get real. Half of our family totally bought into this one, and half are not fans. Jason and I jumped in with both feet and are still using the new bidet and cloth toilet paper. The girls, however, are not buying it. And that’s ok! For the guest bathroom that they use we have stocked bamboo toilet paper. It took them some getting used to since it’s a bit rougher than the ultra soft brand we used to have. But they are fine with it now. We also figured we couldn’t really expect our guests to use cloth toilet paper. This is swap we get asked about the most! People (even our extended family) cannot believe we are using cloth to wipe our bums. But I’m telling you, once you use a bidet you will never go back!
- Single use swab (instead of Q-tips) and Bamboo toothbrush: So I basically forced this swap upon everyone at Christmas. I put these in everyone’s stockings and pretty much shamed them into using them. But it worked! One daughter still likes to also use her electric toothbrush, but she at least changed out her plastic toothbrush for the bamboo one. The single use swab also took them some getting used to. We were big Q-tip users! Our next goal here is to figure out how to reuse the bamboo toothbrushes when we are done with them (we change them out to a new one about every 4-6 weeks). I’m dreaming of a bamboo soap holder for the shower.
- Bar soap, shampoo, and conditioner: There are lots of choices out there for good bars. Personally we like Humby Organics for shampoo and conditioner. For bar soap (and lotion) we buy from a local family farm that uses goat’s milk. Shop local!
- Making our own dish and hand soaps: Two words. Castille Soap! This changed everything for us when it comes to kitchen cleaning. We’ve used scented kinds and simply diluted with water for dish and hand soap. Then we got fancy and added our own essential oils to the unscented kind and made our own cleaning sprays.
- Safety straight razor: We swapped our plastic razors for an all-metal fully recyclable Leaf razor. Even Jason is now using this to shave his head. This has probably been the single swap that has saved us the most money! Do you know how expensive plastic razors are for a family of three women and one man who is bald by choice? A lot! By using the Leaf razor we can save money while also saving the planet. Win win.
- Soap Nuts (for laundry soap) and Wool Dryer Balls (for fabric softener sheets): These have proven to be a super simple change for us. The Soap Nuts are easy to use and work quite well. Our only problem has been forgetting to take the bag out of the washer, and accidentally throwing it into the dryer! The wool dryer balls have also worked well for us. We add a few drops of essential oils to them for scenting. The main problem we’ve encountered here is that our clothes still get quite static-clingy. We’ve tried putting a safety pin onto the balls (as we’ve heard helps). It’s still a work in progress.
Clearly the bathroom was the easiest place for our family to practice zero-waste. We’ve found that we can swap most bathroom and personal care products pretty effortlessly. So we’ve chosen to continue to focus on this area.
The place we’ve found most challenging to swap? The kitchen. It’s not easy for us to shop package free. Sure, we bring our own reusable grocery bags and even use mesh produce bags. But we live in a rural area that doesn’t really have bulk stores nearby.
I had an ambitious plan of buying all our dry goods in bulk (online), storing the larger bags in the garage cabinets, and then putting small amounts into glass containers in our pantry. This is easier said than done. And not so easy for us to maintain long-term. Plus, I feel guilty buying things online with all the unnecessary packaging. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ease and convenience of Amazon! But I don’t love how they tend to over-package everything. I recently got a tiny object packed in a small box, that was packed in another larger box, with tons of bubble wrap. It’s like those Russian nesting dolls; to get to the small item at you have to open five other larger ones. At least we are now trying to reuse all the packaging materials for when we ship out our eggs to customers.
Speaking of package-free shopping, I’ve heard some people say that they request eco-friendly or no packaging options from sellers. I’m not that brave yet. Maybe soon!
So what sites, stores, or companies have been our sustainable go-tos?
Websites and Online Stores to find zero-waste products:
Etsy and Amazon (duh.) : You can seriously find anything on these two sites. Just search “eco friendly” and go nuts!
A Drop in the Ocean: https://adropintheoceanshop.com/
Great small, local company for soaps, charcoal toothpaste, etc. that will let you send back and reuse your bottles and jars.
Zero Waste Cartel: https://zerowastecartel.com/
A terrific first stop for all things eco-friendly and zero-waste. You can find just about anything here. Not sure where to start? Try one of their Zero Waste or Sustainable kits!
Earth Hero: https://earthhero.com/
Another awesome one-stop shop for sustainable products. If it’s eco-friendly, you can find it here.
Marley’s Monsters: This is what we started with for the un-paper towels and un- toilet paper.
Tushy: Easy to install and use bidet attachment for the toilet
Humby Organics: Amazing shampoo and conditioner bars, soap bars, deodorant. They even have these great little round tins to store your bars in for use in shower and for travel. Recently they started offering a subscription service. So easy!
Leaf Razor: Makes an awesome metal safety razor with blades that you can recycle back to them in a little tin. Pricey at first, but saves you money in the long run.
Earth Hero Last Swab: Single use swab that comes in its own little holder. Choose from different colors and even add a second makeup swab. We bought ours on https://earthhero.com/
Soap Nuts: Easy to use instead of liquid laundry detergent. These are dried berries from trees in the Himalayas, that when agitated in water, release a natural cleansing agent called saponin–which also acts as a fabric softener. They are great for sensitive skin! Again, get them on https://earthhero.com/
Castille Soap: Discovering this product was a game-changer for us. It literally has a million uses. We use it for dish soap, hand soap, countertop cleaner spray, dog and cat shampoo, and the list goes on! Dr. Bronner’s makes all sorts of scents, and plain unscented (which you can add some essential oils to). Their website has a handy cheat-sheet for dilution. Print that out and put on fridge! Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Get it at https://www.drbronner.com/
What ways have you practiced zero-waste, sustainability, or package-free? We’d sure love to hear!