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Living a Zero Waste Life

A reader sent me a link to the Zero Waste Home blog yesterday. I was inspired! Here’s a video which Yahoo! did on this family that shares how they are seeking to live a Zero Waste Life:

Now, most of us probably won’t ever achieve zero waste in our homes. However, I’m motivated to think of small steps I can take to reuse, reduce and recycle.

They have a list of tips here which you’ll find interesting.

What simple ways are you seeking to reduce waste in your home? I’d love to hear!

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  • sara says:

    We had some old t-shirts that weren’t suitable for donation (holes, EMT insignia). I cut them into squares and they are our napkins. I guess a more motivated person could have hemmed them, but the jersey fabric doesn’t fray, so it’s not necessary. Even my paper-towel-ophilic husband will use them as meal napkins now.

    Also, our local food bank takes any non-religious and non-political magazines to offer its clients- ReUse before Recycle!

  • We have done away with *almost* every disposable item in our home. Cloth diapers, cloth napkins, cleaning rags, mama cloth, family cloth, and microfiber towels for the swiffer! It’s really easy to make these changes.

  • Freebies says:

    wow- that is a definite shift in they way we think and lifestyle. We recycle all our bottles, papers, glass..ect and we don’t have a full garbage every week- maybe half.

    I would love to compost but have not got that going yet.

    That family is pretty inspiring.

  • Megan says:

    What an inspiration! Also, their home was SO clean and while I’m sure that was for the cameras, the zero-waste lifestyle probably doesn’t hurt 😉

  • Rosy says:

    Wow makes me think twice, three times… and on. We could do alot in our house to live more green. Although I bet it is not cheap to do so. That family did not look like they are couponing… that would mean wasting paper and printer cartridges…lol Great video! Thank you

    • Rae says:

      Lol that’s what I was thinking. When she was talking about how she is saving money over what she used to, I bet it would at least triple my food/household budget. Not knocking them at all, I think it is awesome but I don’t think I’d be able to go that extreme. I’d like to put some of their ideas to use though. My family of four generally does one kitchen sized trash bag per week (up to 3 per 2 weeks if my husband is not following my directions lol) but I think I could reduce even more without too much effort.

  • Amanda says:

    Wow!! That is very inspiring!

  • Amanda says:

    I saw this video earlier today. Intriguing, but it felt kind of strange that they kept saying that the zero-waste lifestyle made them so happy….I suppose it is better than a consumerist lifestyle being a source of happiness, but I couldn’t help but feel that it sort of turned the green lifestyle into an obsession or religion of sorts.

  • Tracy says:

    My grandfather uses empty prescription bottles as well as peanut butter jars to store nails, blots, etc in his shop.

  • Megan says:

    We live in a community that is very recycling friendly but they do require that everything needs to be rinsed. I don’t think a natural resource (water) should be used in order to make things recyclable so we just throw bottles, cans, yogurt cups, etc in the kitchen sink and they catch waste water as we wash hands, towels, etc. I’m able to rinse out all the recyclables without using any extra water.
    We also installed water barrels and compost bins in our yard when we moved in, took the neighbors a while to warm up to them but now no one even thinks twice about them.

  • I can’t help but feel this family is focusing on ‘zero waste’ at the exclusion of other things that would have a bigger impact. For instance, eating less meat/no meat or living in an even smaller house could be more effective on a larger scale. I commend their efforts, however, and wish other people would follow suit.

    My husband and I live very close to my husband’s work and also live within a mile to every essential service. It’s not as “pretty” as living in a beautiful home and I wish we were able to garden and compost (apartment), but I think I am doing my part, just in a different way. These things are hard to evaluate.

  • jayne says:

    I have went to using baking soda for some time now and it really works Try it!. This video really made me think about things. Thanks for sharing!

  • It’s not much, but my family doesn’t buy paper towels. We haven’t bought paper towels in probably 10 years, and it makes me wonder how much money we have saved. We use rags instead and wash them as needed. I also use a steam mop with a washable pad. A little tank of water lasts about 5 -10 moppings, so that is water saved for every time I am not filling a bucket.

  • Megan says:

    I can’t help but be a little disappointed with people questioning them and their motives. They want to not waste and they are doing a great job of it. Cutting their living quarters in half is a very large adjustment and I commend them for it. This video is very inspirational and I hope people continue to be inspired by it!

  • Holly says:

    Very cool! Like you said Crystal, this is not for everyone to do to this measure but it is neat to see and a reminder of how much we waste everyday

  • Lynn says:

    We try to live as simply as possible (we really need less stuff than we think we do) but have a long ways to go.

    One thing I’ve changed is not signing up for “free” samples. Sure, the cost out of pocket may be free to me if I sign up for free samples of lotion, mayonaise, shampoo, etc., but the cost to the environment is high. Samples tend to be wrapped in multiple layers of packaging, plus the fossil fuels required to ship it to me. So, I may have to purchase items a tiny bit more, but I’m hoping my little part will add up to to someone else’s little part and so on. Probably wishful thinking as companies push the freebies to promote their product and many people love “freebies.”

    We also recycle as much as possible, use reusable containers, cook from scratch (less packaging), wear clothes multiple time (unless visible dirty or stinky), keep the heat low, don’t buy new trendy toys and gadgets, etc.

  • Miriam says:

    I first saw an article on this family in BHG and thought” no way” but as I read the article, I found it inspiring. Just like couponing and /or striving to live a debt free lifestyle. I sure it was accomplished in steps with goal setting as part of the process. It seems overwhelming and unachievable at first but as this family set out on their journey to live waste free, just like Crystal and her family set out to be debt-free/pay cash for a house. Setbacks and momentum were probably all accomplished over time. I would love to hear in more detail this family’s journey to accomplish this goal/lifestyle. Could we possibly have it as a guest post? I have certainly found Crystals journey inspiring and helpful to set out on my family’s effort for debt-free living and would love to do the same with being more mindful in waste free living. It’s all about the baby steps.

  • A similiar, but more extreme version of this story was laid out in the book “No Impact Man” and the corresponding documentary. They both really show the reality of pulling along an uncooperative spouse and how to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

    • Shelby says:

      Thanks for sharing this! We have Netflix and No Impact Man happens to be one of the movies that we can get instantly online. I’d love to watch it to learn more about this and I think I will tonight!

  • We cook all whole foods and purchase none (with the exception of the only occasional bag of chips) processed food at all. We also have a nice ceramic bowl on our kitchen countertop for compost.

    As such, we are the only family that I know of that does not have a large plastic bin out front for garbage disposal. We have an agreement with out sweet neighbors across the street – we get to put our one little grocery store (yes recycled) plastic bag into their bin if there is room on trash day. If there is no room…then it waits until next week!

    Our main source for bulk foods is Country Life Natural Foods.

    Oh – my husband also bikes or walks to work everyday and we almost never purchase new toys. Everything is from a garage sale or a hand me down.

    And no, I am not obsessed with this. It is a wonderful, frugal, environmentally conscious way of life for me and my family. I agree that all of this can become a religion in and of itself. The Cross of Christ is offensive, but being an environmentalist is not. There is no morality in it.

  • Koree Fugate says:

    I think the important thing to remember is that we are called to be good stewards of this earth. We must take care of the earth for it is our temporary home. This is an excellent article that should compel us all to make changes in our lifestyle. While not everyone has the capacity or money to do all of these things we could pick one and implement it into our lives. For instance, I no longer buy water bottles, paper towels, or tissues. I never buy disposable plates/utensils/cups etc. I try to use glass containers instead of Ziploc baggies. (PS-I am totally skeeved out by those reusable menstrual cups!! anyone else??)

    • Rosy says:

      OMG I just looked it up…eww. Kudos to those who do that but yeah.. nope not for me. Thank you for educating me, I never would have even imagined something like this.

    • Dorothy says:

      I really love using a Keeper. It is most convenient to use at home, but on the whole I think it is healthier for me and the planet. I actually can’t stand using tampons anymore after using a reusable menstrual cup for over eight years.

    • Sarah says:

      I agree, yes we need to be wise stewards of this planet- the Bible clearly indicates this. But He also gave us dominion over it. I think that is just as important to remember. When He created us, He knew how many people would eventually inhabit the earth and what resources we’d need/use. As a Bible-believing Christian, I know that he gave us what we’d need for as long as He has us here. While I do reduce, reuse, and recycle consciously, I’m also not afraid to toss things. For me, it’s the old “All things in moderation” idea, I guess. You can go off the deep end in any area. Like Ryan Howard in an earlier Office episode, he didn’t want to be the “_____ Guy.” I’d rather be known as being well-rounded, doing the best I can in all areas, rather than the “______ Girl,” be that any number of things.

    • LoriBeth says:

      Nope, I’m a total convert. I adore my DivaCup. It’s easy, cheaper, better for the enviroment, more comfortable, I could go on and on. Yeah, I had to get past the “ick” factor, but after that, smooth sailing. I’ve been using mine for over a year, and there’s absolutely no way I’d ever consider going back to tampons or pads. If only I had been better informed 10 years ago. 🙁

    • MC says:

      Get on Mirena if you’re ok with that type of birth control. Makes periods lighter and can even get rid of them within 6 months of being on it.

      No blood = no tampons or anything else to make you wanna gag.

    • ksenia says:

      Umm…. Why would anyone be “Skeeved” by that? I don’t get it.

    • Jamie says:

      I got a Diva cup last year and have loved it! I highly recommend it. I am so much less likely to leak.

  • Mona says:

    I get an error message – sorry this video is no longer available. 🙁

  • Meghan says:

    Here’s a few things we do to:

    1. I always carry reusable bags with me; I’ve even used them in department stores! I love the ones that fold/zip up and fit in my purse.
    2. I make sure to remove myself from all mailing lists for catalogs
    3. I don’t sign up for “free” samples (nothing in this world is completely free…..tons of wasted packaging)

    1. I print on the back of all the paper my son brings home from school. I only use “clean” paper when absolutely necessary, and he brings home so much paper that I almost never have to buy any!
    2. I almost never get plastic bags from the store, but the few that I get I use as liners in our small trashcans (laundry room, bathrooms, etc.)
    3. I save any boxes, large envelopes, or packing supplies that I receive and use them to mail my own things.
    4.!!!!! I can not recommend this highly enough as there’s always someone that wants what you don’t want and can reuse it! I once got rid of a broken TV….it would have cost me $75 to take it to the dump, but instead someone who knew how to fix TV’s picked it up. I saved on the dump fee, they got a TV for free (only needed a small, cheap fix), and we both kept the TV out of the landfill. Win, win, win!
    5. When we move (which is frequently), I have learned to post my moving boxes and paper on craigslist (or I only learned this last summer, when it was going to cost me at least $100 to recycle the boxes. I listed the boxes/paper in the “Free” section of Craiglist, and in under 10 minutes I had a list of 5 people who were ready to come *that day* to get my materials. They were grateful to get the boxes, I was grateful to get rid of them for free and without having to take them anywhere (since we had 150+ of them).

    Recycle– We recycle everything–toothpaste cartons, toilet paper rolls, etc. When we lived in Oregon, recycling was completely free but you paid for trash according to how large of a can you used. I wish every place in the US would adopt that system because it really motivated us to recycle as much as possible (extra bags of trash put at the curb cost $4 apiece!)

  • Diana says:

    I agree we are supposed to be good stewards of this planet! We live small, frugally, and somewhat green. It’s not possible to walk to work or do any major composting…but when I read zero waste blogs I inspired to find new ways to reduce waste. It’s also inspiring to see how others live in smaller greener homes, live with less stuff, have fewer items if clothing, and purchase fewer processed food items! It seems like much of America and tv inspires just the opposite.

  • Danny says:

    I know this is NOT the place to ask this but I was wondering if anyone had any extra amazon diaper codes or $10 off babystore codes. I signed up for the two free subscriptions and got one in the mail and it didn’t have any codes and then I thought that I would buy a Parents magazine and when I typed in the code it said it was already used 🙁 Anyways I am really needing to save money and if I can save it on baby things it would really help me out. Thanks for reading this and sorry for the inappropriate placement of this post 🙂

  • Michelle B. says:

    I like the idea of the mesh laundry bags for the produce, I hadn’t ever thought of that before. Of course I would have to get some mesh laundry bags and make sure I take them with me to the grocery store and the farmer’s market, etc. 😉

  • We try very hard not to waste anything, here are a few of the things that we do. These wont apply to everyone simply due to the area that we all live in. Food is a main area where we try not to waste. Any fruit/Veggie leftovers are Pot Belly Pig food ( Yes we have a pig), Any non-seasoned leftover meat that cant be saved is dog food ( We foster dogs for our local animal rescue group) and bones/ vegetables tops etc are boiled to make broth for later meals. We have a garden each year that allows us to make quite a bit of fresh salads, etc. and since I can pick just what I need there isnt much waste there either. We are working on other areas too!

  • Mary says:

    This drawstring bag tutorial makes great produce bags. You can use sheer fabric or mesh to make them, or you can use old clothes or whatever. It is one small extra step to have to open them and see what is inside when you check out at the store, but not a huge problem. I always felt silly loading up my reusable grocery bags with plastic produce bags.

    • JaDell says:

      I bet you can use old childrens t shirts too! They are knit, so that means they are flexible. Sew up the sleeves and neck, and cut a small slit in the hem of the bottom of the shirt. Thread a string through and you have ready made produce bags! LOVING the idea!!!

  • Sarah says:

    I like checking this blog out occasionally. It chronicles her attempts to live a plastic free life. She is systematically cutting out buying things with plastic which is a huge source of waste. I have enjoyed it because it has taken her several years and she shares her struggles with it.

  • This video is awesome and inspiring. Thanks Crystal for bringing it to our attention. Just a little creativity can go such a long way. This family is thinking not just about themselves but the generations that follow.
    Selfless and being good stewards of the resources that God has placed under their care. Great stuff.

  • Bridget Burritt says:

    I saw this video and I have mixed reactions to this. I am all for recycling (we recycle weekly) and being a good steward of what God has given us but personally I think they are spending way to much time when they could be devoting more time and energy into giving their time back to God. We can get caught up in silly ideas. Is God really concerned about a zero waste lifestyle or reaching his people?

    This is just my little soap box and I don’t usually post my opposing opinion but I just disagree with spending all of your time to make sure you can tout you have a zero waste lifestyle

    • Crystal says:

      From what I read, I don’t believe they are Christians. However, as a Christian, I felt that I could learn from them and be inspired by them. But I very much agree that one can make a “religion” of sorts out of environmentalism and there is a need for balance so we make sure we are investing our lives in that which matters for Eternity.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  • Denise C. says:

    My questions regarding this family: tissues? used ones get thrown away. What happens if a glass breaks or mirror crashes? Feminine products? I just don’t understand how some basic simple items did not come up.

    • Lynsie says:

      For tissues you use handkerchiefs. If you look at the small waste pile she was holding, it included a broken glass. Feminine products: I use the diva cup and flannel reusable pads.

  • Denise C. says:

    I find it odd that this family does not use tissues, feminine products, what about something that breaks? A plate, glass, mirror.

    • Julia says:

      Not sure about things that break, but there are reusable feminine products like the Diva Cup and old-fashioned handkerchiefs that some families use instead of paper products.

  • Chris J. says:

    I would be interested in finding out more about where she is shopping. I would love to see the face on my local Kroger employees if I showed up and asked the butcher and deli departments to put meat in my jars. Also, I know about bulk supply type stores, but have never heard of any where you bring your own container to fill with things like shampoo and conditioner. Her boys look old enough that if they only began this journey five years ago, I wonder how difficult it was to get them on board. I think an interview with the kids could be fascinating and enlightening as well. All in all, a very thought provoking video!

  • Julia says:

    This family’s efforts are commendable. We recycle and buy many of our clothes second hand. I would like to do more to conserve resources, but I also believe my need to declutter takes priority at this point. I have the bad habit of saving things “just in case” which leads to keeping too much unused stuff.

  • kat christensen says:

    This lifestyle goes totally against stockpiling so it would be hard to accomplish particularly where they take their own bottles to the store to refill shampoo and conditioner and with couponing you are trying to stock pile everything so zero waste for couponers and stockpilers would be nearly impossible, think of all the packaging that stockpiling contains. Also, my sister lived in Germany for a couple of years and she was charged money for having extra waste. She said her neighbors were disgusted at how much garbaged she put out. But if we all were charged for the extra waste from packaging alone, we would all consume less as well and companies would reduce amounts of packaging used. Viva buying in bulk!

  • kat christensen says:

    In response to the comments about making this lifestyle a religion, isn’t extreme frugality the same? or “religious” couponing? easy to judge huh?

    • Crystal says:

      I very much agree that frugality can be taken to the extreme. That’s why we try to encourage balance here. And you need to have a purpose for your frugality. It’s not just about saving money, it’s about being wise stewards with the resources we have so that we can put our families in a better financial position in order to be able to be givers.

    • ksenia says:

      Kat, thank you! I could not agree more! These people are living in a way that benefits not everyone now, but the future generations as well. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Although I love moneysavingmom and appreciate her help in my family saving me money — a lot of the practices encouraged here on the blog are extremely wasteful.

      • ksenia says:

        I meant to say “benefits not only everyone now, but future generations as well”

      • Crystal says:

        While I don’t pretend to be running a “green” blog, I do hope to encourage people to take babysteps towards greener living… and I believe that it starts by getting your finances in order. So many of the readers here started out by clipping lots of coupons and then have learned other ways to save money on groceries which has allowed them to move towards a more whole foods, natural way of life. I love to see that!

        So while I know that I can’t please everyone, I’m seeking to reach a broad spectrum of mainstream people and help them slowly have a paradigm shift about life and money — which I believe will ultimately have a huge positive effect on this generation, as well as generations to come.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

        • ksenia says:

          I’m sorry. I now realize that my comment came off as very rude. I really appreciate you posting this even though it is not the focus of your blog. Even all of us, coupon clippers, can find ways to reduce waste, not buy things we don’t need (or can’t donate) and recycle in small or large ways. I know living in the midwest makes this harder than here in Oregon.

          I agree with you comment about the fact that having one’s finances in order allows him/her to focus more on things that are important to them (serving others, being an environmentalist or both!) Thank you again and sorry …. again.

    • Cris says:

      I think what Crystal asked here was “What simple ways are you seeking to reduce waste in your home?” not “let us all judge that family for not being christians and being so over the top on living a green life”. I totally agree that I would not be able to live like them (can’t shop at whole foods for shampoo, etc) but I think the purpose of this video is to inspire us all to make changes, even if very small. I’d rather see a couple (or a whole family) that is “addicted” to being green or frugal then junk food, alcohol, drugs etc despite of their beliefs. By the way, I am not trying to compare junk food to alcohol, these are just examples!!

  • gina says:

    Something to consider….. All familys should have an emergency supply of food, water, first aid, back up power sources, etc for the unexpected. The Zero Waste family lives in prime earthquake country. They obviously do not have stored food and water as those require purchasing items un particular packaging. You need to rotate the supply to keep it fresh. Is it so responsible to not be able to take care of themselves, their children, in even the most minimal circumstance? I have no intent on knocking their desire to live a more simple lifestyle with regards to consumer choices, but I think they are missing a few of the details of self preservation.

  • Lisette says:

    I use flyers, teachers notes, etc to print coupons..sometime they are really colorful on the back.Sometimes you just have to overcome feeling silly or cheap when doing that but oh well not everyone is going to agree with whatever you do right? I only wonder what would this couple do if they had babies, I have two babies and I just found myself throwing 2 sometimes 3 full bags of garbage a week! It not only annoying but wasteful. I don’t see how using reusable diapers would help me. My electric bill it’s really high right now $150 average even more on water, so it wouldn’t be cheap for me since I got all my diapers nearly free or free.I have found myself too with too much recycling. I live in an apartment and we are 5 people living here.

  • Aberline says:

    It does bother me how wasteful couponing can be sometimes. I print on both sides of the paper whenever possible, and it makes me fume when sites print multiple coupons one coupon per page, with a bunch of ink and paper-wasting adspace on the rest of the paper. And sure the 12 oz soap bottles may be cheaper overall than the 64 oz, but that’s several times more packaging that necessary.

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