Simple ways to reduce your waste and live a more fulfilling life, with less.
In recent years, I have become increasingly aware of the amount of waste I produce, the impact that has globally, and the surprising amount of control I have over that. It has taken years to get to this point in my journey, and I am certainly not done learning yet. I want to take a few moments of your time now to let you know some of the most helpful ways I have implemented low waste living in my day to day life.
What is Low Waste Living?
Low waste living is living simply. Going back to basics and diving into what it means to live a fulfilling life, with less stuff. This does not mean throwing everything out in one huge haul, in fact at the beginning it becomes about using absolutely everything you already have until it can not be used anymore. Through reading, research, and implementing certain techniques into my lifestyle, I have become more open minded and understanding of the many ways I can be living with less.
It is important to understand that low waste, especially in the beginning, does not mean no waste. In the beginning of your journey, and all the way through, I encourage you to get every use out of the products you have. Reuse bottles, find multiple uses around your home, and shop more sustainably when you do need something new, and the world of a difference will be made.
Shopping sustainably means doing some research into the companies you choose to give your money to. It's about looking for businesses that encourage low waste living, use recycle-able or even compostable packaging where applicable, and take care of the planet and every employee they have along the way.
It also becomes really important to shop local where you can. I live in a town of about 20 000 people, so I understand not having all the amenities of a big city, but if you ask around, it is easy to find some of your day to day items locally. Shopping in your area keeps waste and transportation costs down as well, you’re stimulating your own economy, which encourages these local businesses to stay afloat and keep doing their thing.
Okay, so now that we understand what the lifestyle means, lets get down to seeing it on a daily basis in our homes.
Our kitchens are often where we see a lot of waste being produced, from food packaging to food scraps, which is exciting because this means we can make a huge impact here. When I started my low waste journey, I started in the kitchen. After a few months of implementing changes there, I moved on to the next room. This was really helpful in making this transition manageable for me as a student with a lower income.
1. Bowl Covers/Beeswax Wraps
This is such a game changer. Bowl covers are typically fabric on one side (hopefully with a cute pattern or cute saying) and then a durable waterproof cover on the other side to keep all the mess of that freshly baked casserole, in the bowl. They are great for keeping food fresh, especially with big families who are storing left overs often; they are easy to use and easy to clean.
The other option is beeswax wraps, and since I am often making smaller portions since I live on my own, they are my preferred product. They are normally a cotton fabric that has been soaked in beeswax to create a reusable cling wrap. No fussing around and struggles getting it out of the box, just quick, clean, easy and EFFECTIVE! I cannot express how excited I was to find a product like this that worked so well. I have been using mine for about 9 months and they are still super sticky and work really well. You can use them to cover dishes, or wrap fruit and veggies to help keep them from going bad. As well you can fold and mold them into snack pouches for on the go, which I think its awesome! All natural, biodegradable, and they save you money - score!
Here are my favourite beeswax wraps (and they're Canadian made!)
2. Buy in Bulk
Another easy switch is buying in bulk. This will cut down on packaging and pricing! Also most bulk stores, like Bulk Barn, have a ‘bring your own container’ program, so you can bring in an old glass jar or cloth bag, fill it up with product and produce no waste. Switching to Bulk Barn as my main grocery store took some getting used to, and yes you have to remember to bring your jars and your bags, but in the long run it is so worth it.
As I mentioned earlier, I am in a smaller city, but we still have a huge selection at our bulk stores and I can find things such as coffee, rice, pasta, soup, snacks, nuts, protein powder, and all my spices; and I’ve been surprised at the amount of fair trade and organic options available. This was a switch that has made a major impact on lowering my waste production.
3. Compost and Foraging
Let me start by saying that composting is a lot easier than I thought it would be. Sounds silly but I really thought it was a big process. I am lucky to have found a community composter for my food scraps, so to be fair I’m not doing all the work on my own, but collecting my scraps and bringing them over to the compost has reduced so much waste for me. I first tried to cut down on the amount of food I was throwing out in the first place, and then I found other uses for some food scraps. For example, banana peels can be chopped up and sprinkled in your plants for a calcium rich fertilizer! For the scraps I cannot find any other uses for, to the compost it goes, to have a second life.
The other place that had many simple and easy switch overs was my bathroom. Once I started doing research I was shocked to see that some of the worst and longest lasting waste in our oceans, comes from our bathrooms, and it really doesn't have to. A lot of the great bathroom swaps are actually just going back in time a bit to maybe how your great grandmother lived, and she made it just fine I’m sure.
1. Biodegradable Toothbrush
As I am sure many people know by now, the amount of toothbrushes thrown out every year is absolutely shocking, and they stick around for about 300 years, much past a lifetime. And when there are better options out there, why stick with the plastic? I have used bamboo toothbrushes and also other biodegradable ones made out of cornstarch, which I found to be even more durable than the bamboo.
After I have used my toothbrush in the bathroom, it moves to my laundry or cleaning room where it becomes a handy tool for scrubbing in those hard to reach and smaller places. Once the bristles are worn out, they are removed and put in the garbage and the handle is placed in my compost!
Here are the biodegradable toothbrushes I use!
2. Reusable Cotton Rounds
Another switch that has saved me lots money is reusable cotton rounds. The ones bought in store are wrapped in plastic and all of it ends up in the garbage by the end of the month. I use them to remove my makeup at the end of the day and wash my face. The reusable ones that I use were made in my town by a local maker, make a great gentle exfoliator because of the material, and work really well to remove makeup and dirt. When I got my pack I took one out and designated it for nail polish removal; yes it is all stained but it does a great job, every time. It has also saved me tons of money. I was spending about a hundred dollars a year on cotton rounds before making the switch and now I save all that money, which really does add up over time.
Here are the cotton rounds I use.
3. Safety Razor
For those who choose to shave, razors are the most often replaced item in a bathroom. There are 2 billion disposable razors thrown into landfills every year, and, like the toothbrushes, they take hundreds of years to break down. Getting used to a safety razor can be weird for some people, but it didn’t take me long to make the adjustment. The blade comes in all paper packaging and the handle can be reused for, most likely, the rest of my life. There are a few different options for disposing of your blade. Some companies take them back in a recycling program, but also most recycling depots in your area would take metal to recycle there as well.
4. Bar Soap, Plant based soaps
Soap is a big one. Hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and the many other products your use throughout your bathroom can be really toxic and harmful to you, your home, and the environment. These items are also typically personal preference to the person. I understand that there are a huge variety of skin and hair types, so I cannot recommend one specific solution, but being mindful of what is in your products and searching for better solutions is really important. This is a personal step to take, but whether you’re getting plant based products, or finding a bar soap you like, or making your own, there is most likely a better solution out there.
5. Glass Container Products
This is a small and simple one, but really important. At a first glance, it seems like all toiletries and such come in plastic packaging, and sometimes it can be hard to find an alternative. In my experience, I have found almost every product I use available in a glass, cardboard or other recyclable material packaging. Sometimes it is more expensive, but for me, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. As well, I find I get second uses out of the glass containers when they are emptied by making my own lotion or something in them. I could rarely find second uses for all the plastic tubes and containers I was using before hand. We love giving things a second life.
Keep an eye out for more blog posts on low waste living and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our shop email, or contact me directly through Instagram (@aje.brown or @birch_and_berries)
Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this post, and I hope it was helpful it starting your journey, or continuing the journey you are already on to reduce your waste. We can all make an effort and an influence on this beautiful planet we call home.