Eliminating Household Waste Saves Family 40%
Bea Johnson claims in her book, The Zero Waste Home, that she cut her family household living expenses by a whopping 40% simply by cutting out waste—wow! I was intrigued as so many Americans don’t have a spare $400 to cover an emergency. Could the solution to being better at saving money be shifting our focus to cutting out waste? Johnson’s goal wasn’t to save money, but to reduce the amount of garbage that she was putting out curb side every week. To do this she had to change her shopping habits to avoid plastics and even recyclables. She outlines in detail the various lifestyle changes she made, (even making her own makeup) and reports that her family is not only happier and healthier, but also wealthier by a shocking 40%.
If you find saving money a struggle, then this might be a simple way to find an extra 40% that you could then sock away for your financial freedom (see the FIRE article from last month’s newsletter) and retire younger, healthier (apparently plastics are full of nasty chemicals that leach into our food and water supply) and wealthier. What’s not to like? Well, I read the book and it is pretty hard core. Johnson admits that she evolved into her waste free ways over time, not overnight. I actually found it a bit discouraging as I have such a long, long way to go to even get close to zero waste. And I thought I was pretty good as we recycle just about everything in England.
Somewhat daunted, I thought I’d see if there was a book for beginners like me and found Kathryn Kellogg’s 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste. The simple tip format makes it easier to digest and easier to find quick things I could do right away to reduce our family waste. Guess what? These tips also save money over time too, although there is an initial outlay. I found this book an easier way to get started and was able to make immediate changes, but am keeping Johnson’s book for when I am ready to tackle the next challenge. One step at a time.
Here are the Top 10 Quick and Easy Zero Waste Changes I’ve put in place that really are easy to implement, save you money and make you healthier too.
Talane’s Top 10 Quick and Easy Zero Waste Changes
- Swap bar soaps for plastic dispenser liquid hand soap. When we did this, I was amazed at how much longer the bar soap lasts. I had been hood-winked into thinking the liquid soap was better. Why? I don’t even know. I’ve stopped buying liquid hand soap altogether because it isn’t better.
- Swap cloth hankies for paper tissues.In the 1950’s everyone used to carry a pocket handkerchief. I inherited a lovely collection of beautiful floral handkerchiefs from my cousin Corrine. Side bonus: they don’t make your nose red and irritated so an improvement over paper tissues. Toss them in with your laundry and keep reusing for years.
- Use beeswax wrappers for your lunch sandwiches instead of plastic wrap. I was surprised at how easy these are to use instead of plastic wrap and bought them in fun, bright colors so the kids love them too. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and they last over a year. Or, you could also use a metal tiffin as Kellogg does for her sandwiches.
- Use a bar shampoo instead of liquid shampoo in plastic bottles. We love the Lush version bar shampoo and although it seems somewhat pricey, it lasts for months so a cost savings and a bonus for travelling as not a liquid so you can pack in your hand luggage in handy metal tin. Extra bonus: less clutter in the bathroom as we’ve eliminated bottled shampoo and body gel too! Still haven’t found a good bar conditioner though…
- Use cloth napkins every day instead of paper napkins, not just for holidays or special occasions. Each member of the family has a different napkin ring and can reuse their cloth napkin until it needs washing. Then just toss into the washing machine with everything else. I don’t worry about ironing them unless company coming, but you could if you wanted to be fancier.
- Use loose tea instead of bagged tea. Okay, I’m still working through my stash of bagged tea. I didn’t realize that tea bags were plastic and I was drinking in polypropylene. Yikes! I’ve bought a teapot with a pull-out stainless steel strainer inside and buy loose tea in metal tins that can be recycled or used as piggy banks for coins or storing nails, etc.
- Filter your water and bring your own water bottle with you. Kellogg suggests using Activated Charcoal sticks to filter your own water as they remove mercury, chlorine and lead, but not fluoride. I prefer the Berkey filter which takes out the fluoride as well. Did you know the secret to a better cuppa is the water quality? Another added bonus: tastier tea, coffee, and water and you’ll save money on buying bottled water.
- Use reusable grocery bags. A no-brainer. I carry a small foldable nylon bag in my handbag to have one to hand at all times and was surprised how often I use it.
- Buy recycled paper for your home officeand set your default printer setting to double-sided and then recycle the paper or compost it.
- Buy furniture and household items second hand at auctions, yard sales or charity shops. I bought a nearly new Dyson hoover at the auction for $30 instead of $300! Estate sales are great because you can pick up quality household items for a fraction of the price. Most of the furniture in our house is from the auction house, snapped up bargain prices. Bonus: shopping at auction is much more exciting and you don’t have any outgassing of new furniture so a healthier option as well.
- Bonus tip: This isn’t necessarily an easy option, but my kids finally talked me into getting three chickens, affectionately named: Jackie, Wilson and Kermit. They are fairly cuddly, don’t mind being walked in a halter around the garden, lay 2-3 eggs a day, eat a great deal of our kitchen scraps, and create a wonderful fertilizer for the garden. I insisted that the kids take care of them 100% so this is an easy option for me as I get the benefit (fresh, free-range eggs!), but the kids do the hard work of keeping the shed clean and feeding them. Make sure it is your kid’s idea though and be clear that they take 100% care of them or you’ll have another job on your hands. The kids had to save money up to buy them out of pocket as well so they really were keen.