The Trash Cleanse: Tips For A Zero Waste Life
By Meryl Pritchard, founder of Kore Kitchen, originally on Our Body Book.
I live in a one bedroom apartment, by myself, and have no pets. A few months ago I found myself taking out a bulging bag of garbage at least once a week, sometimes even two. When I looked to see what I was throwing out, most of it was either food or packaging. A month ago I came across a video by a girl named Lauren Singer, who talked about her Zero Waste lifestyle, which ultimately changed my life. I had never really connected the dots between the trash I was creating, where it was going, and how it was affecting the planet. Throwing out trash is a system we’ve created: throw trash in bin, put bin out for the trash truck to pick up, and never see said trash again. I just assumed this was normal and ok, since everyone was doing it.
The reality is, it’s not ok and it’s not normal. After learning about the reality of our trash burden, I knew I couldn’t continue to contribute to it in my personal life, or with my business. Everyone has a voice, and when you have a business- no matter how big or small, you have a platform to share and inspire. I want to inspire others to join me in becoming zero waste.
When someone says they’re “throwing something away,” where do you think it actually goes? Anything that you throw in the trash either goes into the landfill, the ocean, into our animals, or on the side of the road. Instead of throwing something into the trash, we should be: recycling, reusing, repurposing, or rotting (composting it).
Why we CAN’T rely on landfills? The problem with landfills is that they are sealed holes in the ground, and when all the trash is thrown in there together, nothing can breakdown properly. A majority of the items made from plastic can’t ever be broken down completely. Most of what is probably in your trash can right now is food. Food is one thing that the Earth can breakdown quickly and reuse. Our soil is just like the Earth’s digestive system. When food is thrown into the landfill, it cannot breakdown properly and will produce methane gas, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases which heats up our atmosphere.
Zero Waste means you don’t produce any trash. There are 5 steps that you follow in this lifestyle: Reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle, rot.
Start by simplifying your life. Reduce your amount of belongings by only keeping what you truly need and what is most important to you. Go through every room – the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room. Donate what you no longer need to Goodwill, homeless shelters, or women’s shelters so that someone else can benefit from it instead of throwing it directly into the ground. After you’ve reduced your items, you can go ahead and get rid of your trash can as well since you will no longer be sending anything to the landfill. I turned my trash bin into my new recycling only bin, which is a great way to reuse an item! Now that you don’t have a trash can, you have to be very mindful about what you bring into your house.
TIP: Trash bags cannot be recycled so don’t line your recycling bin and throw out a bag full of recyclable items. The recycling center most likely will not open that bag, and all of it will end up going to the landfill.
To avoid packaging waste, you can purchase all your groceries and pantry items from your local farmers market and bulk bin. Bring your own reusable bags to carry your items out with. I bought a set of mesh and linen bags in different sizes from Amazon. Most of the time these bags will include a ‘tare weight’ on the label, which will let the cashier know how much the bag weighs and will remove that amount from the total weight of your item. Sometimes this process can take a bit longer since they’re not just scanning a prepackaged item. Just kindly let the people in line behind you know that you’re trying to save the planet, they will understand.
Sponges are not recyclable or sustainable so you can switch out your sponge for a compostable bamboo brush. For more difficult scrubbing, look for a copper dish rag. To reduce food waste, only buy what you need and shop for fresh items twice a week.
TIP: To reduce water waste, keep a medium sized bowl in your sink to collect excess water when doing dishes or rinsing produce. You can use that runoff water to rinse dishes with or feed a plant.
Shopping for your produce at the farmers market will no doubt improve your diet, be beneficial for your budget, and is the healthy for the planet. You will also be eating seasonally and supporting your local economy. I enjoy connecting with the farmers I source from and learning about their farm. It helps you connect to your food in a different way. When you understand how it was grown and what it took to get to you, when you sit down to eat that food at a meal you have a different appreciation for it. You can usually find specialty items like honey and olive oil from farmers. If not, purchase it from the health food store and choose the ones that come in glass containers. Glass is a very sustainable material and easily recyclable.
TIP: Glass containers also have many different uses – you can reuse it as a glass to drink out of, a flower vase, or to store food or another item in. I also like to save them to use for gifting people if I make a zero waste scrub or body butter.
Most people’s bathrooms contain a handful of scented body lotions, a basket full of make-up that never gets used, shower gels, lip glosses, soaps, and nail polishes that tend to just take up space. You really only need a few items in the bathroom, and almost all of them can be made at home with a few edible ingredients.
Let’s start with your teeth. Around 2 billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown into landfills every year. You can refuse the free plastic toothbrush you get every time you visit your dentist, and instead purchase a compostable bamboo version. Toothpaste is one of the easiest things you can make at home. My zero waste toothpaste includes baking soda, coconut oil, and peppermint essential oil. If you want to step it up a notch, you can also add in ashwaganda, neem, turmeric, stevia powder, and cinnamon.
Most deodorants contain aluminum, a heavy metal which wreaks havoc on your endocrine system. You have delicate lymph nodes right where you apply deodorant, and your skin is your largest organ absorbing about 60% if whatever you put directly onto it. Most commercial deodorants also contain parabens which are carcinogenic and harmful to the environment. Aside from the health benefits of switching to a homemade version, you will also be saving on plastic packaging that all deodorant comes in.
TIP: Keep an aloe vera plant in your kitchen or bathroom for cuts and boosting your skincare routine. Put a couple of its arms in the fridge to keep it cool. You can cut small square’s from the cold aloe and use it for a cooling face mask. Filet a square so that you have two halves. Rinse your face and wipe it with the aloe until the aloe is dry. It will feel sticky at first, but when you rub it in, it absorbs and leaves your skin feeling super soft. Aloe is also very healing for your gut, so filet the rest and throw it into your morning smoothie.
OUT & ABOUT
Eating out can sometimes get frustrating since there are literally single use plastics everywhere. The best thing you can do is just be prepared. Always have a mason jar with you to get a coffee, smoothie, or drink to go. Make sure to have your linen and mesh bags to grab items from markets that you may stumble upon out of your normal routine. I also like to carry a glass rectangular container to get fresh fish or poultry from a farmers market or health food store. You can keep bamboo, compostable, or reusable cutlery in that same bag and keep it in your car.
TIP: You always have a right to refuse a straw, a napkin, your food to-go (if you don’t have a reusable container with you), etc.
MAKE A CHOICE, MAKE A DIFFERENCE
At Kore Kitchen we made the decision to switch to eco-friendly packaging. Our containers are now compostable, and can biodegrade in any home or commercial compost. We also switched from single-use recyclable plastic bottle to reusable glass. The new packaging is more delicate, and the glass bottles make the delivery bags heavier, but it is a small price to pay to inspire change in our community. Meal delivery services are known for their excessive single-use packaging. To me, it was a no brainer to have containers that can be reused by the earth and not sent to the landfill.
Remember that every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in. Be mindful of what you’re supporting, and know that you can and will make a difference. Even doing one small thing a day helps. The planet needs all of us to work together right now.
MERYL PRITCHARD is the founder of Kore Kitchen, a curated and nutritionally designed, meal delivery and cleanse offering service based in Los Angeles. Learn more about how Kore Kitchen has gone green over on their website.