I’ve made progress in creating a zero-waste household, but of course we’re far from it. For years we’ve typically set out curbside 1/2 to 1 can of trash plus the recycling bin. That hasn’t changed much so far, but I’ll tell you what has:

  • Our awareness. It’s interesting what you see when you take a step back, or focus differently. For years my food and supplies procurement focus has been on buying local, organic, and/or chemical-free products, but I haven’t paid much attention to packaging. Now, that’s all I see!
  • Our shampoo. I’ve transitioned from liquid shampoo to shampoo bars. Originally I tried the Karma Komba Shampoo Bar from Lush, which smelled amazing and worked well. When I checked the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, I was horrified to learn that this product earned a score of 5/10, indicating a moderate hazard to human health. Ironically, the ingredient with the highest toxicity score was the fragrance. Determined to find a replacement, I found Chagrin Valley Soap . Ida, a soapmaker in Ohio, uses only all natural ingredients – and the testimonials page alone had me swooning! I have since ordered four shampoo bar samples (which came packaged in brown paper inside a reused box), and let me tell you, I’m like a walking shampoo commercial, tossing my healthy bouncy hair around. Just a quick lather with the shampoo bar and a vinegar rinse to smooth the hair cuticle, and wa-la! Zero-waste shampooing!
  • Our yogurt. I’ve been meaning to make yogurt for years. For some reason it felt like such a big deal, even though I watched my mom make it when I was a child, likely because I felt like I needed to acquire special equipment. Boy was I wrong, because it was ridiculously easy. After a timely post from SouleMama (she must have read my mind), I used 1/2 gallon of local milk (in a returnable glass jar), warmed it to 180 degrees to kill any bacteria, cooled it quickly to 120 degrees and stirred in 1/2 cup of Stonyfield plain yogurt, poured it into mason jars, and put it in a small cooler with a hot water bottle and a towel to keep it warm. Eight hours later, we had yogurt! I love it when something so basic feels so magical.
  • Our toilet paper. I ordered Seventh Generation from Amazon which comes wrapped in paper instead of plastic. Not only is it 100% recycled (minimum 80% post consumer), it is cheaper than my local store.  And with 48 rolls stockpiled, I don’t have to keep puttin’ it on the grocery list.
  • Our gum. I learned that plastic is an ingredient in chewing gum. Even “natural” gums, like Glee. Sorry kids, no more gum! I know it sounds like I’m completely barbaric, but really, it’s for their own good. We got rid of every plastic water bottle in the house, why would I let them chew plastic? When I was a cooperatively homeschooled child, our homeschooling partners had a big bucket of beeswax (still dripping with honey) stored in the classroom. We loved to pull off bits of beeswax and chew it like gum. So..maybe I’ll ask my beekeeper friends if they have any beeswax to share. That would be so much more novel and sensible than buying packs of chemical-flavored plastic at the grocery store, now wouldn’t it?
  • Our homegrown. I’m talking PRODUCE, people! This year with the help of an abundant garden and my large collection of mason jars, we have canned pints upon quarts of garlic pickles, sweet pickles, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, pickled beets, peach jam, strawberry jam, and raspberry jam. I’ve made it a priority to preserve food, and not only will we get immeasurable pleasure from eating our own produce in the depths of winter, but we’ll reuse the jars again next year.

And the quest continues….