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Our Plastic-Free / Zero-Waste Goals!


I’ve been vegan for almost 20 years, and my husband just a little less than that. 

We compost every bit of food waste in both our own compost bins as well as in the city’s bin (though we tend to use that for yard waste).

We compost all of our yard trimmings.

We greywatered our plumbing and so we irrigate one of our gardens with our used bathroom shower and sink water. 

We have tanks that hold 1,000 gallons of rain water to irrigate another garden.

I work from home (thus I don’t commute), and my husband walks to the car pool to get into work and walks home from the bus stop on the way back. 

When we do drive, it’s a 14-year-old Prius that still gets 40 miles to the gallon. 

We shop for produce at our local farmer’s market each week, often walking there instead of driving. 

In fact, I walk everywhere — to the local stores for groceries, to my bank, to my post office, to restaurants, even to hiking trails. 

I make all my own legumes, lentils, and grains from scratch (no cans or packaging).

We use canvas bags for all our groceries. 

We tell restaurants not to give us straws.

We wash and reuse the few plastic bags that do wind up in our house. 

And yet…I can do better. And I’m aspiring to. 

I announced to David that one of my intentions for this year was to live as close to zero-waste / plastic-free (they kind of go hand in hand) as possible, and the journey has thus far been enlightening and exciting. The best feeling after the first week was not having to put our garbage can out on garbage day (even my friend across the street noticed). We put out the compost and recycling bins — but not garbage. 

Now, that’s not to say I won’t be contributing to landfills at all. We have plenty of packaging in the house that — until we use it all up and never replace it — will be thrown out, but the idea is to:

  • reduce consumption of non-renewables as much as possible
  • replace the prevalence of plastic in our lives
  • recycle what we’re forced to (without becoming over-reliant on things that appear to be recyclable)
  •  repair what we already have without buying something new
  • rely on foods that can be made from scratch, like my homemade bread and homemade peanut butter for breakfast today!

In the first week, I’ve already made a number of changes, first and foremost letting good friends know this is our goal so we can avoid the awkward moment when they buy or bring me something made from plastic. 

I’ve also put items back on the shelf I was about to purchase but realized were made from plastic. Not that I couldn’t find good crusty bread at the farmer’s market (in paper) or peanut butter in glass jars (or something I can press myself into my own glass jars), but this week I’ve been having a lot of fun making my own peanut butter (with roasted salted peanuts), baking my own bread (from a sourdough starter given to me by a friend), making my own almond milk, and of course continuing to use my beloved pressure cooker to make beans and grains. 

 

Discoveries and Disappointments

*During the week (before I was able to get to the farmer’s market), when we went to a couple different local stores for produce, we had to forego romaine lettuce and cauliflower because the only available versions were wrapped in plastic, so now I know which local stores sell them without plastic. 

*I noticed that the Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour I have in the pantry is packaged in a plastic, non-recyclable bag. Very disappointing. Not a big deal because I can bring containers to the bulk section of stores to buy flour but disappointing for a company that strives to do so many things right. 

*I decided to finally invest in a Le Creuset dutch oven, but I didn’t want to buy a new one, so I found a fantastic deal for a gently used one on eBay! (Blog post about that coming.)

*Gotta figure out the cat litter thing (blog post pending about this, too!) 

*My iPhone 6 has a cracked screen and a ridiculously slow battery. Can’t wait to tell you what I decided to do! I’ll leave that for the next post! 🙂 

This is a journey, and like I always say related to being vegan: Don’t do nothing because you’re can’t do everything. Do something. Anything. So, we’re trying. And there’s a lot we can do!

Homemade Peanut Butter

Forgive any imperfections, as these short videos were made for social media, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t have a home here, too.

Homemade Almond Milk

Again…forgive any imperfections, such as the vertical shot, but this video was made for social media, and the requirements are different.

  • N

    It’s great that you are starting your zero waste journey and I applaud the steps you have taken thus far to live zero waste. It did make me uncomfortable reading this though because it’s so (and please don’t take offense)…white and privileged. You are forunate to live in a safe, affluent, walkable community in close proximity to stores and wow! hiking trails. That’s awesome, for you. So many of us do not have that luxury because we are poor, working class, diabled, single mom’s and people of color. You are also fortunate you do not have to drive to work becaue your husband makes a good income. Many of us are working two or more jobs just to make enough money at the end of the month. We have to drive to get to multiple jobs. You’re fortunate you have a good education and can “work from home”. Many of us cannot afford a college (or post graduate!) education and the only jobs we can get are outside of the home in low paying service industries. It is so nice that you have a yard and space with good,clean, safe soil so you can have a garden and you have space to create your own compost pile. It is also a luxury that you have the time to make your own bread and cook from scratch – when people do not “work from home” and have multiple jobs and children to raise or are differently abled – this is not always possible and sometimes a can of beans is the healthiest, quickest thing we can provide.

    Again, for a person of your means you are doing good things for the planet. However, many of us are not in your situation and would still like to help. I know it was not your intention, but this list make the zero waste lifestyle seem like something only white, well off people can do and places the blame of our planets current situation on less priviledged people (who are certainly the elast to blame) Can you create resources and tips that are more inclusive and provide ideas and inspiration for those less fortunate than yourself?

    Thank you and namaste.

    • Namaste? That’s a pretty passive aggressive sign-off for such a judgmental post. Your assumptions and conclusions about me and my husband are shocking and completely unfounded. You know NOTHING about my life, my history, my upbringing, my struggles, my past. Nothing. I’ll be continuing to share my story with my audience in the context of my experience; if you want to observe, you’re welcome, but as I wouldn’t tolerate this kind of judgment in my actual home, I won’t tolerate it in my online home either.

  • Carolina

    Hello Colleen!I love that phrase of yours. It has become some sort of mantra for me. You were my first guide in my whole transition towards veganism and also in life in general. Thank you for your words, your time and your beautiful soul. Carolina from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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