Sunday, January 29, 2017

Revisting My Wasteless Resolutions

Since we just started a brand-spankin' new year, I figured what better time to see how I am doing on my resolutions for 2016 - 17? Most of these resolutions are, of course, geared towards being less wasteful. I find it really helpful to set realistic goals for myself and check their progress to see what I need to adjust or keep the same. NOTE: (This was drafted midway through 2016, revisiting it now in 2017!)

Below are this past year's goals and how I feel I have done concerning each one:

1. Stop getting unrecyclable/uncompostable items from fast food places. Only buy what can be recycled/composted. 
Well, goal met! I still eat out, a lot, and in some ways eat out more now than ever thanks to weekly girl's night ;). The only difference is now mainly I support restaurants and "fast food" places with sustainable practices and easy to compost wrapping. These restaurants include Chipotle, Panera, & Taco Bell (along with other "dine-in", fast-casual and other restaurants, a blog post coming soon about this!). Bringing my own containers/mugs/cups really helps with this too, and most places are more than happy to accommodate me and my containers. I have also gotten more brave in asking if my container can be filled, no matter where I go, which used to be really hard more me.

2. Focus more on refusal and less on recycling. It's too easy to be lured into plastics and disposables when I tell myself, "Oh, I can just recycle it". Remember the 5 R's.
My recycling output has been reduced so much this year that I would consider this resolution met, though I still have recyclables. A lot of that has to do with doing more bulk research in my area and finding stores where I can buy more in bulk. For me a big issue was finding sugar, flour, and spices in bulk - I have since found my solution at Whole Foods which is far from my home but close to work. As a result of shopping more in bulk, I just about fill up my bin every two weeks with recyclables, and while there is some plastic there is a lot less of it; I try hard to buy things only in glass, metal, or cardboard. What is left, that I can't find easily in glass, metal, or cardboard, I opt for the most recyclable plastic I can find. Usually what is in my bin that is plastic is what is currently unavoidable for me (like ketchup, Dr. Bronner's bottles, agave name a few) or too time consuming difficult to make (ketchup, almond milk, etc.). I also began donating a lot of cardboard to my classroom's "Inventor Center", where kids can take materials out of to create with.

3. Phase out of using toilet paper, or at least do a trial period without. My dream would be an attachable bidet, which isn't too expensive.
Something about this puts me off. Maybe I'm a germaphobe, not sure, but going without TP for #2's really freaks me out for some reason. I feel so much cleaner with water than toilet paper though, and using a squishy water bottle as a "make-do" bidet works great for #1's. It's just the #2's I gotta get over. Goal not met (yet). Still working on a good system for the bathroom.

4. Buy more items used, especially items that can be just as easily obtained used. Take the time to research.
I have and have not done well on this. I bought a lot of my home wares, clothing, and other every day items from Goodwill. Goodwill has been surprisingly good at supplying anything I could have asked for at a given time. However, what I couldn't find at Goodwill I bought new...but could have easily bought used if I waited/looked a little harder.  I will be trying harder next year to source as much as I can second-hand and to not "jump the gun" so quickly on purchases. Let's say goal halfway met. UPDATE: As mentioned in my last post, I had a really hard time this year finding what I needed used so resorted to buying a lot of new, and while I did think hard about these purchases I felt terrible buying new. Ugh. Maybe goal not met at all. I will say while new, and while some was from companies whose eco-friendly values I questions, a good number of items were from other companies whose values I stand behind (handmade, made in the USA, ecofriendly processes and materials) and while new (and more expensive) I do not regret these purchases at all as the items have paid for themselves in usefulness.

5. Continue thinking hard about purchases and take my time before buying, especially new. Consider all aspects of purchase, from beginning to end. Research, research, research!
See above paragraph for this goal. I will say where I struggled earlier this year with purchases, now I have become almost unbearably strict when it comes to purchases now it can easily take me weeks to decide if I want to buy something. Now I just gotta put my words in action. UPDATE: I definitely would say this goal is basically met, as I really think hard about whether or not I need something, and all factors like how it was made, what it is made out of, and more! I think really hard about purchases now and do lots of research, and try to only support companies/shops that align with my values.

6. Remember that to have a life and not sacrifice it in the name of environmentalism. Some things just cannot be avoided just yet, and that's OK.
This was a hard one for me, but a goal I think I've done much better on. I used to get so upset about my waste not fitting into a jar, beating myself up for small mistakes, and in general having a hard time not letting zero-waste take up a lot of my daily thoughts (as mentioned in my previous post). I think unchecked, zero-waste could easily be slightly addictive for me. I have since learned to let go, take things in stride, and realize I have limitations based on where I live and what I can afford. I'll make do for now, and while I won't do away with my original goal of a yearly jar of waste, I will learn how to get closer and closer to it each year as best I can. Goal met.

7. Tackle composting again.
Done, and DONE! I bought a large composter from a neighbor at a yard sale and it's out in my yard now. All of my food scraps, leaves, clippings, hair, nails, and anything else organic are all there. I'm amazed by how much has gone into the composter and how much room is still left in that thing. This goal has definitely been met! My compost sits in a bucket in my freezer until it is filled and ready to be dumped.

Lastly, how have I done on my goal of only 1 trash bag per year? Well, in short, I DID IT! I went from May of 2015 to now (2016) and produced a nearly full trash bag (still has plenty of space left). I still would like to reduce my trash further, but for now I am happy knowing I have met my goal. I think filling 1 bag per year would be my remaining, steadfast goal for the rest of my lifetime. I feel very confident I can make this year much less wasteful because when I did go through that bag searching for items for my commemorative art project, I was struck by how much was completely avoidable and in some cases gluttonous. I could have done so much better, and that gives me hope for the year to come.

Some new zero-waste specific goals I would like to add, specifically for 2017, are:
  1. NO plastic straws - !!!
  2. Be more consistent with keeping zero-waste kit in car/bag and taking it EVERYWHERE
  3. Don't use vacuum - sweep! (And sweep regularly)
  4. Try bars of soap for laundry detergent (or soap nuts)
  5. Eat out less (1-2 times per week)
  6. Buy no new clothing or try a "no new clothing" trial period of a few months (once wardrobe is better established)
  7. Be more zero-waste in classroom - make changes as needed (blog post coming soon, very excited!)
And I'm sure there will be more. That's all for now! See ya next time. xoxox

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I failed...kinda.

This draft has been sitting here for months. I think I am able to finish it now. I am going to apologize upfront and say this, while mostly organized, is really rambly and months of personal thoughts, so get settled because this may take a while.

These past few months threw me for a loop. I got a new job (my first real-deal job since college) and since I had been so focused on that, I neglected this blog. I have also spent a few months wrestling with veganism, minimalist, and zero-waste practices in my life, and in general feeling like a big ol' failure a lot of the time. It may seem like these lifestyles overlap, and they do for the most part, but there are some glaring issues when they combined that can make fulfilling those lifestyle choices perfectly very difficult. For example, when it comes to food, vegan options where I live are almost always packaged (like cheese, milk, tofu, etc.) and so while they are vegan, they are not zero-waste. Minimalism and zero-waste can even find conflict, when you find the perfect item you need but it happens to be made out of 100% plastic that is not recyclable or compostable at the end of it usable life. Or, the fact that I keep a set of dishes and silverware I have no use for other than to avoid using disposables for guests or when I host parties. They take up an entire shelf in my tiny kitchen, so which value do I compromise on - being zero-waste or being minimalist?

For a few months it was really bad and I was being very hard on myself about it, feeling almost like a fraud and a traitor to what I was spewing out here. I've since let go of some of those feelings, and while it doesn't feel great to do what feels like backtracking on my ideals, I feel strangely happier about it all. I think a big part was just figuring out the appropriate levels of zero-waste and veganism I should have, comfortably, in my life, in order to continue those lifestyle choices with gusto.

Too often zero-waste blogs only show the "pretty" side of things, where everyone adheres to all of the zero-waste "rules" perfectly and everything is just peachy. While this is certainly a good thing (and I am being just a touch dramatic) it kinda sucks seeing those blogs sometimes when you can't or don't follow all the "rules". I know I'm not the first person to talk about this (see Fort Negrita's post about a similar topic here), nor is this my first blog post about the subject. It's just that sometimes it does seem to be a rarity for people to talk candidly about their personal zero-waste failures. And what I mean by that is instead of choosing the zero-waste choice, you choose the wasteful option. Instead of saying no straw, you say nothing. That sort of thing.