Over six years ago my husband and I started simplifying our lives. We downsized a lot and did it in steps. Each year we would go through our things and do a serious evaluation on what we had, what we didn’t want to depart from, and the items we really didn’t need. We would sell or give away the items and became more mindful about anything else we would ever purchase again. We also knew the house we had was way more than what was needed for the two of us. Finally we put our last home (over 1500 square feet) on the market and it sold immediately. From there we went to an apartment (around 850 square feet) for a year and then decided to move from the Midwest out West.
We took two trips and brought only what we could fit in our Toyota corolla and two 5 x 8 trailers. Now we are in less than half the square footage of our last home in a 640 square foot condo. After building three homes, we moved into a condo which has actually become our favorite home. We also sold our second vehicle. We don’t need it anymore because living downtown in the city we can utilize the bus, walk, or ride our bikes. For us, it’s all about living a new healthy lifestyle and making less of a carbon imprint as much as possible. Plus it was one less vehicle to maintain and insure. I’ve simplified my life and I’ve never felt more free. My actions also benefit the planet and the future for others. I have more time to focus on self-care, relationships, and for even more enjoyable experiences.
While beginning our journey of simplifying, I discovered people that wanted to reduce the waste they were creating. In fact, their goal was to have zero waste. Amazingly they eliminated so much of their waste that what was left was only what they couldn’t recycle or compost.
For example: One woman I learned about stated she is not wanting to preach or tell others how to live, but simply wants to live out her own values. If it ends up inspiring another person, that’s an added bonus. Well I’m one of many that she did inspire.
The only waste that she has had in two year’s time is what you see in this glass jar.
So, I decided to start with examining my own trash. I found of course a lot of packaging and I needed to improve my paper waste as well.
- Worldwide consumption of paper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years leading to increase in deforestation, with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture.
- The United States alone, waste paper accounts for approximately 40% of the total waste; this is equivalent to almost 72 million tons of waste paper annually.
Nearly 2 million plastic bags are used and disposed of every minute. (Earth Policy Institute)
The time in which it takes a plastic bag to fully decompose, depending on the specific plastic type, is between 100 and 1,000 years. During this long process of decomposition, disposed plastics leak several potentially toxic pollutants into the soil of landfills and are carried naturally to our oceans. (Columbia.edu)
Carbon dioxide emissions are a main concern about landfills, another is their production of methane, methane is 84 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. California and Texas, with their high populations, have the greatest landfill-related methane emissions.
All that methane is produced by organic trash like food waste and yard trimmings. While it can be argued that some bushes need to be trimmed, it’s hard to make the case for throwing away food, which makes up more than a fifth of the nation’s waste stream — more than any other material that ends up in an incinerator or landfill.
Another thing I do is use my shredded paper for compost. The paper I don’t shred I place in a separate paper bag for recycling pick-up.
Here are some other things I’ve done and simple actions you can take
I was already using my own reusable shopping bags for brining my groceries home, but I was still using the plastic produce bags. In 2017, I purchased my first set of reusable produce bags and have been using only reusable ones ever since. This step is huge. Imagine everyday, all day long, every person shopping is filling their carts full with plastic produce bags for each single item of produce. If everyone used their own reusable produce bags, that can eliminate a tremendous amount of plastic right there.
If you forget your reusable bags at home one day and end up with plastic, many stores have a convenient recycling bin you can return them to.
Another way to eliminate waste is buy minimizing your packaging. Buy food from bulk bins using your new produce bags or your own containers. Go to the customer service counter to have them weigh your containers and add a tare weight. Most reusable produce bags already have a tare weight on them. There are some places you can bring your own containers to buy shampoo, soap, and cleaning products in bulk.
If I purchase meat, I bring a large freezer bag that I always reuse. Stores may insist they wrap the meat in their own packaging, but the freezer bag can be used for extra protection to keep the meat separated from your produce.
I buy from the farmer’s market when it’s in season and try to support others in my community by buying local when I can.
I plan out my meals and shop for only what I need so as to minimize my waste. Very rarely do I have any food waste. If there are scraps or peelings, they can be used for compost.
I love kombucha and I found a couple of places where I can purchase my own jug and do refills. I was able to do the same with bulk olive oil.
I’ll bring my own cup for when purchasing coffee and my own containers for ordering take out or my leftovers from eating out.
Eliminate straws and one time plastic use with cups and silverware.
I’m learning to make my own personal care and cleaning products. I know exactly what I’m getting in my products and that they are safe. I not only minimize my packaging, but I’m saving money too.
Buy used, borrow, or utilize a repair café or buy only what we really need.
Recycle, recycle, recycle, but try our best to minimize packaging to begin with.
What a fantastic way of recycling and helping our planet- Creating art & beauty out of trash! To learn more go to- http://beachplastic.com/
I have not eliminated my waste to the point of the example of the jar I shared about earlier, but I do what I can. Any steps you take is a positive step. You might be surprised that you’ll end up doing way more than you ever imagined. It is actually fun and I’m amazed how many others have been inspired to follow my lead. I have had both adults and youth ask me where they can purchase my reusable produce bags. I also overheard some teens comment as I walked away about how cool it was that I was using reusable produce bags. I have given them as gifts. Last year they were Christmas gifts to my parents and mother-in law.