When I talk with people that are self-professed animal lovers but are disconnected when it comes to dairy (or just love cheese so much that their lives couldn't continue without "their" brie) Gotta have my cream, my grilled cheese, my.... I sit there and believe at the base of my heart that if people saw what animals go through in order to get that cheese on your plate, it would look a whole lot less appetizing and there would be so many more plant-based eaters based on logical harmony (which by the way is a website here about vegan and cruelty free cosmetic lists and resources, an aspect of this lifestyle that took a very long time to click for me). Because really, I've seen happy baby cows that act just like puppies and goats that cuddle up like cats (things I can post here too) and know that the people that have doggy companions with little smushed faces, grunting and drooling and wobbling, can surely also find a spot in their heart that connects to a fuzzy pink pig. I might be wrong too.
Well the animal lover/dairy industry contributor conundrum hit me smack in the face as I realized my own part in the earth lover/major unnecessary waste producer. Gulp. Thank goodness for the people that are putting out so much content about this online and thank goodness that for some reason, it crossed my path last month. Hopefully this post can operate in the same way for someone else... This is just to break down some changes that are churning in attempts to be more mindful about the waste we create. An extremely helpful resource if you're in Chicago, or just for general inspiration if you live anywhere, is https://www.zerowastechicago.org/. Two additional resources: https://www.sustainablelifestyleco.com/ and https://packagefreeshop.com/
Some of the switches we've made so far:
-Buying secondhand books
-No more paper towels. The paper towel industry doesn't need more of my money... Instead, we cut up old t-shirts and use toilet paper for the too gross messes that only happen once in a while (cat puke)
-Limiting food bought in plastic bags (Trader Joe's.....) and packing cotton produce bags. Trying to keep a thin bag bunched up in my purse for on the fly grocery buying. I've even started making my own drawstring bags which has been a fulfilling way of putting smaller fabric pieces to use!
-Composting! If you live in a city, there are companies that give you a bucket (mine was $8) and then you return it at any time and pick up another for the same price...and you can pay more and have someone swing by and grab it, or keep your own compost and hand it off to a friend or neighbor that gardens. This has been the biggest game changer for us after seeing that our two major sources of waste are plastic bags from food and food scraps themselves. It has opened my eyes to being more appreciative for how completely the earth provides for our needs, and how delicious and colorful it all is!
-Being more mindful of to-go cups...taking an espresso at the counter only takes a few more minutes. Also swapping paper filters for metal filters for drip coffee, aeropresses, etc.
-Lunette cup (or Diva cup) and organic cotton pads if necessary. Whether or not they all contain BPA's or GMO's or pesticides or any assortment of ingredients that make people uncomfortable, for me it comes back to not needing to give my money to these industries. I'd rather save it to indulge on other good things! Dates, figs, persimmons! Chocolate! These products aren't generally cheap, especially when considered over a year's time...and anyway, just like plastic bottles, the product breakdown rate seems to be far off from the time spent using the product.
-Charcoal water filters
Next step switches:
-Determine if the recycling is actually getting recycled. Our garbage company uses one dumpster and "sorts the trash"...so we're trying to find another alternative to ensure that the materials are actually getting reprocessed
-Buy more items in bulk!
-Homemade laundry detergent using rose or lavender Dr.Bronner's and washing soap (or homemade washing soap made from baking soda)
-Switches to natural sponges/washcloths for dishes or compostable brush heads
-Keeping rinds for orange/lemon infused homemade cleaning solution and experimenting with making candied rinds, storing them in olive oil, grating the rind and freezing it ice cubes, etc... And now that it's winter, I plan to simmer some orange rinds with cinnamon sticks, cloves, etc on the stove.
-Freezing carrot, onion, garlic, etc. scraps in jars for homemade stock
-Making an effort to go to more farmer's markets in the spring (and always asking for their un-sellables!)
-Buying a glass nail file instead of the disposable kinds
-Consider buying a Japanese ear pick (mimikaki) instead of buying q-tips
Things that don't have solutions yet/need to research further/not sure if I'll ever get there???
-Lens wipes... almost not willing to risk possible lint on fabric scraps...
-Hankies (maybe just at-home use?)
-Toilet paper (paper-wrapped rolls are way too pricy at this point and family cloth is not my thing...)
-Glue and various art supplies ??
I guess you have to answer for yourself whether it is even worth reducing waste or if it is all going to shit... Especially when considering the trash being pumped out of New York, LA, Beijing, Mumbai, not to mention major factories and businesses everywhere. I cheer a hopeful "just because you can't do everything, do something!" (thank you, Colleen Patrick Goudreau) My future kids will have enough reasons to roll their eyes with an "ugh mom", most likely to my inherited dance moves, they don't need to be saying it about the negligence and greediness that I've shown when it comes to disregarding limited resources and the not noticing the ways that the earth ceaselessly sustains us all. And lastly, giving credit to Colleen Patrick Goudreau again for this insight, it really isn't about perfection when trying to make a difference, it's about intention. It's about upping my care and reverence by 2%, baby step after baby step, keeping my eyes open and claiming responsibility, and then seeing it beautifully impact all other aspects of my life.