Homesteading // Less Waste, pt. 1

>> Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This is a topic I’ve wanted to cover for a while. I touch on it from time to time, but have never dedicated an entire post to waste. You see, in all our budget and homesteading efforts, we still have a hefty trash bag at the end of each week. Lots of recycling, too. And, like many families, we go through good and bad cycles with trying to lessen our environmental impact.

Stephen is actually the driver behind this household goal for the new year. We’ve been watching Morgan Spurlock’s Inside Man on Netflix and finally got to the episode on where our garbage goes. We’ve seen all sorts of other features on this topic, and going to college in an uber eco-conscious town had us composting, recycling, and making package-free choices from young adulthood.

Then we moved seven years ago and got somewhat lazy.

Where we live, the opportunities to buy things in bulk are there . . . they’re just not terribly convenient. Composting is something we tend to do a much better job with during the summer months. And there’s a whole lot of other stuff to take into consideration.

I thought I’d share what we do in the following areas (just the first five -- the easiest to tackle, in my opinion), as well as where we can use some improvement. It’s our goal to expend the extra energy it takes to make strides toward being a less wasteful home. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about how to lean out waste in these categories too!

Saying NO to Plastic Bags

This is a natural -- and it’s likely something most people are doing already. We have a good stock of our own reusable grocery bags and bins. My favorite is our collapsable market style basket that is sturdy enough to handle a full load of even the heaviest groceries. I also keep a compact reusable bag inside my purse at all times for those random shopping trips.

Action: Purchase (or create) and stock of some produce bags (I like these washable ones and these mesh ones) for taking along on shopping trips. Not a lot of the produce is available in bulk (like greens, carrots, for example), so we’ll do what we can. Also very excited to do a CSA this year. We ended up skipping out last year because we just weren’t around much during the summer.

Buying in Bulk

Bring your own containers to the store, figure out the tare, and fill them up with food. Here’s where things have gotten a little hard for us. My budget tells me that shopping at Aldi is king for saving cash. In theory, buying in bulk is cheaper, but at the stores in our area -- not entirely so. We’re trying to determine and cost-compare certain things (flour, peanut butter, grains, beans, oats, soap, honey + syrup, coffee, tea, etc.) to see what we could start buying in bulk.

Action: This weekend we’re heading to an out-of-the-way natural foods store to check out prices. The one closest to us gives me some sticker shock. I’ll report back soon.

Banishing Paper Towels

We’re doing pretty well on this one. We bought tons of basic flour sack towels that we keep in a bin inside the kitchen. If there’s a mess or something to wipe up, we grab a towel. Same for most cleaning tasks. We had old rags and washcloths to do the dirty work. Then we wash them twice a week. The stash is going strong, and I’d love to write up exactly how this system works in another post (how we store, how we wash, etc.).

Action: I’ll admit we do still buy natural disinfecting wipes for the dirtiest of messes. I know it’s pretty easy to make these by mixing together your own cleaning solution and soaking rags in it. So, that’s an area for improvement.

Skipping Plastic Wrap, etc.

I wrote about my Reusable Food Wrap a while back. It lasted a few months, but I got distracted and didn’t make more. The stuff was perfect for topping bowls, wrapping cheese, and it was also really easy and inexpensive to make. We’ve also slowly been building our army of covered glass containers (we have that exact set and hope to add to it) that we use for storing hummus, sauces, leftovers, etc.

Action: Make more reusable food wrap. Get a few more glass containers. Do not buy more plastic wrap. Somehow I always end up with one because we have more to cover than I have things to cover them. Along these same lines, I’d love to find a better storage option for my freezer stuff (I do some glass, but all my bagels, burgers, and soups, etc. end up in plastic freezer bags).

Making Our Own Stuff

One way to eliminate waste is by not buying stuff in the first place. We’ve done a good job making our own laundry detergent and storing it in a big jug atop the washer. We also mix together basic cleaners that actually work using a solution of castile soap, water, and essential oils. Wow can you use castile soap and baking soda and vinegar in 1,000,000 different ways! As with everything else, though, this all takes time, energy, and foresight.

Action: Make a chart of all the cleaners and other household things we can make ourselves. Write down all the recipes so they are handy. And maybe even create some schedule for refreshing our stock of them. I’d also like to improve my formula for dishwashing detergent because our hard water has been an issue lately.

Do you have a goal to create less waste in 2016? 

What are your action items?

Related Posts

Cleaning With Baking Soda Basics
Cleaning With Vinegar Basics
Homesteading Stuff You Can Buy at the $1 Store
DIY Natural Lotion Cubes
10 Smart Ways to Use Epsom Salts
Our Composting Arrangement
Powerful DIY Laundry Detergent
5 Green Cleaners That Work
5-Minute Homemade Deodorant
8 Ways We've Eliminated Plastics
Cleaning Produce The Natural Way
Chemical-Free Clean With Castile Soap

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