A Zero Waste Week on The Non-Consumer Advocate!

by Katy on April 12, 2013 · 59 comments

Zero Waste Home

Would you be interested in participating in a Non-Consumer Advocate Zero Waste Week? I am very inspired and intrigued by Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste lifestyle, but am hesitant to make a full commitment. I guess my qualm is that I’m pretty sure it would cost my family more money. I know that Bea Johnson says her family crunched the numbers and that they’re saving money, but her before would be very different from my before. (I am muy excelente at saving money on groceries, and yes that does include some packaged food!)

Just last night I was driving my fifteen-year-old son home from soccer practice, and I wanted to get him a treat. The poor kid had spent all day sitting in school, an hour at the library for private Japanese tutoring and then two hours at soccer practice. And to top it all off, dinner had been Caesar salad, which I  know would not be enough to sate his ravenous appetite. My first inclination was to drive him through Dairy Queen for a Blizzard, but then I started to think about the garbage that would create. So instead we headed home and I whipped up a batch of waffles from scratch. Flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, butter and milk. Ingredients we already owned, with almost completely recyclable packaging.

Was there any complaint? Hell, no!

Challenges I can already see would be the Luna bars and Greek yogurt my husband takes with his work lunches. (He really didn’t like my homemade yogurt, although I could strain it for a less runny consistency.) Perhaps I could bribe him with promises of  microbrew growlers from The Hawthorne Hophouse . . .

I suppose I already have the answer to this question as there are currently 479 entries to win one of five copies of Johnson’s Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste , which is a record number for this blog!

If you’re interested in participating in a Zero Waste Week, please write your name in the comments section below. We will be begin on Monday, April 15th.

And please, someone help me break the news to my husband, who already feels like his home life is already just one large blog experiment.

Lucky guy.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Krystal April 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

Always ready to take my journey one more step, excited to partake!


Katy April 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

Yay, happy to have company!



Katie April 12, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Love your blog, Krystal!


Krystal April 13, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Thanks Katie!


Christy April 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

I’m so in!


Deb from Iowa April 12, 2013 at 10:10 am

Yes! Let’s go!


Gloria Shirley April 12, 2013 at 10:18 am

I’ll give it a go.


Linda in Indiana April 12, 2013 at 10:26 am

NO WAY am I giving up my toilet paper! Let’s just say I will work this week to really,really reduce my waste and become even more aware of it! I have a loooong way to go.


Christy April 12, 2013 at 10:28 am

I didn’t think of that. What’s the alternative? Not cloth, I hope!


Tracy Stone April 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Bea buys toilet paper with the paper wrap so she can recycle that part of it.


Sanna April 12, 2013 at 10:33 am

I’d give it a try, too, though I don’t know what “zero waste” exactly means. (toiletpaper yes or no? 😛 )


Katy April 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

Toilet paper yes!



Susan in Indiana April 12, 2013 at 10:38 am

I’m sorta in……please let me keep my toilet paper!!! I’ll try everything else. Let’s go!


Susan April 12, 2013 at 10:50 am

I share in the hesitation to do something like this. Being aware of waste is never a bad thing, and trying to do better is a good plan, so I can see the utility of a zero-waste week. I just think it is important to recognize that success will be different things to different people.


Katy April 12, 2013 at 11:23 am

That’s why I’m just trying a week. Not sure how Zero Waste I can be either. Hesitant, but excited to give it a try.



Jennifer Zink April 12, 2013 at 11:44 am

I’m so excited that you’re having a Zero Waste week! I’m in! I’m super glad we can keep the TP, though. 🙂


Surviving and Thriving on Pennies April 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm



Hannah April 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I’m in!!


Amy Dunn April 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I’m in for an Aiming for Zero Waste week. We’re already down to one bag of trash per week but we’ll try for even less. Not so sure I’ll include the DH in this though. Like yours, Katie, mine often considers himself as the guy who did not raise his hand to be a frugal lab rat. This might push him over the edge.


Kailey April 12, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I’m in!! I’m excited and trying to be optimistic but like you I can already see a few things that will get in the way. I guess putting the garbage in the freezer doesn’t count right? Haha


Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares April 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm

See how you already saved money by opting for waffles instead of a Blizzard? Certainly some things will cost you more, but you’ll save on enough other things that it will make up for it.

We are already very close to zero-waste, though my version is a bit different from Bea’s. Instead of buying bulk flour and putting it in a jar, we just buy it by the 50-lb bag. After all, the bulk flour originally came in a 50-lb bag anyway. Also, while I still use some toiletries, I never buy them–my friends are trained to give me their cast-offs, or they come from garage sale free boxes. All to say, I’m not sure I want to have Bea’s particular iteration of zero waste, but I’m consistently working to improve my own version.

I’m glad you’re doing this! It’s the next logical step for a non-consumer.

And I vote ‘Yes’ on the cloth toilet paper.


Trish April 13, 2013 at 3:40 pm

that is a really good point Laura – the bulk stuff had to be contained in something at some point!


Katie April 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Hell yeah, I’m in! Even knowing that zero waste is not actually possible (depending on how you define it), it will be interesting to see how close I can get. I love thinking about garbage. It hits so many of my areas of interest – sustainability, material culture, fun facts & figures… this should be fun to do as a group.


Jackie April 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm

While I already try not to waste, I do have one area, and I’m not proud of it, that I need to contain…paper towels. So, in the spirit of the group I will def be in on zero waste week. Unfortuneately, I know like some of the others, my hubby will not want to partake, so I’m on my own!


Joyce April 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I am in. My hubby on the other hand? I don’t know. He has adopted most of my zero waste plans (it’s very tense in our house when one of the animals pukes and there’s no paper towels, or when he’s making a sandwich and it doesn’t fit in the box – no baggies) but I’ll have to school a little more. Thanks for doing this.


Blanche April 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm

This will be a first for me but I’m going to try!! Fingers crossed that if nothing else I learn a whole lot and maybe some day soon I can really do this!!


jennifer April 12, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I’m always up for a challenge as well as reducing my waste…even though I, like you, feel I am pretty good with saving money on groceries and a lot of other things too…we’ll see what the rest of the family says…though I am (and they are, reluctantly) always open to learn more, about, how to use less…I’ll have to get myself a copy of this, at the library of course…(: What a fabulous challenge! If only everyone was ‘open’ to simply trying to reduce, or at minimum, become more aware of what they ‘do waste.’ (:
I’m in.


Jean April 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

OK–I’ll try. At least if I don’t do well it will make me more aware of what is waste and get me moving one foot in front of the other.


AnnW April 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm

I don’t think I can do it because I am in the middle of cleaning out and giving stuff away. My husband has gone crazy with recycling, even though we’ve been doing it for 25 years. He now separates the cereal boxes and seltzer cardboard boxes for another type of recyclables. We also don’t compost food, which isn’t much, because of all the animals around. I have been dialing down all spending and am planning a vegetable garden, even a few barrels of potatoes. I will NEVER give up toilet paper, unless I am camping on Mr. Everest. I will walk to the grocery store or ride a bike before that. I am in favor of austerity programs like rationing, but I want to be able to control it.


AnnW April 12, 2013 at 4:00 pm

One good thing by Jillee.com has many many terrific recipes for making your own cleaning supplies and all sorts of personal care products. I have tried some and they are not difficult, use less ingredients, and have next to no packaging, and are way cheaper than commercial products. Everyone can cancel all their catalogs through catalog choice.org? This has made a big difference in my life. We used to get several hundred pounds of catalogs a year. My husband has switched all his business publications and newspapers to his iPad, saving lots of paper.


Rachel April 12, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Heck yes, I’ve been thinking about this all week. I even (finally)built a gate for my back fence yesterday so I can access my compost bins again, since sudden dog acquisition last year necessitated throwing up a quick fence – so I am ready!


Connie April 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I read your blog and Bea’s regularly and I love that you see your life is different from hers and how you are working to make it as zero waste as possible within your goals of also keeping costs down. My life has certain trade offs too that I want savings with as low environmental impact as possible. An example is that we have a freezer full of custom butchered calf meat that a relative raises grass fed beef and sells us the calf as if we bought it from an auction and its all paper wrapped but we sure couldn’t get it weekly in glass jars for zero waste. Thanks Katy!


cathy April 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm

After reading (all 479) comments of people entering to win Bea’s book, I started REALLY noticing all the waste we were generating (hello freezer clean out!). I definitely want to reduce our waste as much as possible, but know it will have to be on terms that work for our family (like not being able to buy many things in bulk because of cross-contamination concerns with food allergies). I also wonder about the products we already have. It seems MORE wasteful to switch to alternatives before using up what’s already on hand, whether it’s a bottle of laundry detergent or a package of pasta.

Katy, I’m curious about what you envision for your Zero Waste Week? What do you plan to do? Maybe that will help some of the rest of us think about how we can tackle this. Thanks!


Jenna Krabacher April 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I’m in if I can use toilet paper 🙂


Tracy Stone April 12, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I like to think I’m doing well with about a half a bag of trash in a week for three of us plus two dogs and two cats, but then Bea’s blog e-mail shows up and I don’t feel so smug anymore. I read the entries up to mine, but I think I’ll go back and read some more. I’ve been thinking more about my trash since then, but haven’t really taken any action. I’ll see what I can do next week. Our single-serving bars are pretty bad. Maybe I can try some of the recipes for them next week and just not have any for a few days. And my Chick-fil-a cups are killer. I was reusing one and my “home ” restaurant is used to me handing it over to refill. I’ll make sure to do that next week. Some (not all) Starbucks will let me reuse the plastic cup for cold tea, too. I should definitely cut down on my eating out!


Diana April 12, 2013 at 5:35 pm

I would love to learn to live with less trash and less stuff…so please pick me!


Greenstrivings April 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm

I’d like to try this. I don’t know how close to zero I can get or if I can drag my family with me, but I think the goal is to make us more mindful of our waste and of ways we can conserve, so I’m game. Thanks for challenging us!


Kathy April 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Looks like an interesting read.


dee April 12, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Wondering how this would work. Very interesting concept!


PoppyEcho April 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I am in- sort of- I know I can’t succeed this week but I can do some things, and for the rest I can write it all down and then I’ll have a really great list to start making improvements from. (For example, I live in an apartment in the city and I’m not set up for composting- But after I start writing down “ends of carrots” for my garbage, I can/will be forced to call that “pick up your bucket of compost weekly” company to see if I can afford that service/research other options).


Anne April 13, 2013 at 1:01 am

I guess I’m joining but on my pace.
There’s no bulk where I live so for now, I’ve just gone by the butcher and the fruit and veg vendor without taking on of his bag for the latest. I’ve managed to take back the eggs box and the cream glass but not easy to ask someone to, please put the meat in the glass.


shirley April 13, 2013 at 2:44 am

count me in!


Roxanne April 13, 2013 at 3:29 am

I’m in!!!!


Claudia April 13, 2013 at 3:50 am

Good challenge! I prefer gradually to move closer and closer to Zero Waste, adding one or two new things each week, but I’m definitely with you in spirit.


Ann Y. April 13, 2013 at 4:53 am

Great post – I would love to try to waste less. My husband is in…he is always saying “I hate waste” – and we already do little things, not near enough. I am going to try and add some new things – we already use our plastic sandwich bags over and over for a month, and things like that, but we could do more. My mother, raised in the Depression, was the QUEEN of not wasting, and she always quoted your blog name – I have a wall hanging with the “use it up” saying in my kitchen. I am really going to try – thanks for the inspiration !


Kate April 13, 2013 at 5:40 am

Not saying I am ready to try this, but on the blog Sortacrunchy.net , she talks about how they use cloth toilet paper. Here, I will even post the link : http://sortacrunchy.typepad.com/sortacrunchy/cloth-toilet-paper-how-and-why.html It really doesn’t seem any worse than using cloth diapers.

I would like to reduce my waste, my biggest problem is food and paper clutter. My husband is celiac and all the gluten free stuff seems to come in plastic. We can’t buy from the bulk bins, they could be contaminated with gluten.

But, I would also like to research getting a composter..



A. Marie April 13, 2013 at 9:15 am

Like a lot of the other folks, I’ll go in as far as I can. (I do have an unfortunate weakness for microwave popcorn, but I also have a wood-burning insert I can toss the empty bags into!) And I’m fortunate in having a DH who has seen the light on frugality, household waste, etc. Not bad, considering he’ll be singing “When I’m 64” to me on his birthday next Friday!


Nancy April 13, 2013 at 9:52 am

I’m willing to give it a try, but it will also be challenging with my husband’s work lunch. Have you tried making the snack bars for your husband to try?


Katy April 13, 2013 at 10:53 am

We did make Luna/Cliff style bars a few years ago, but it was a pain in the tuchus. However, we’ll be trying them again this week.



Rebecca April 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm

A big part of why she can do this is that she has the financial freedom to make purchases based on packaging not cost. Around here, only high end, all organic, specialty items have the option of bring your own containers, and that is not in our food budget. She also has a very good curbside recycling and composting program, neither of which is available around here.

Example: I need to eat gluten free (celiac) so I buy bags of brown rice pasta by the case from Amazon for just under $3 a pound. That same pasta, only organic, is available bulk at our co opp for $5 a pound.


cathy April 13, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Rebecca, I have the same issue with bulk food. All in my household have dietary restrictions (medical, not lifestyle choices). I’d love to buy gluten-free pasta in bulk, but I there always seems to be some allergenic food cross-contaminating what I want to buy. We’re lucky, though. We have excellent curbside recycling and yard waste/compost pick up. We’ve reduced our garbage a lot over the years, but I looked around the house and we still have PLENTY of waste–especially packaging.

I really appreciate how this topic has helped me view things a bit differently.


SueC April 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Sure, why not? We started our first SNAP challenge today so in for a penny in for a pound!

Where do we begin?


anna mermaid April 13, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Well, I can’t do a zero waste, as I live in a condo and can’t compost, although I do not eat any animal products just plant based whole foods, so I dont have a lot of packaging. I also have a cat that uses kitty litter, so i have that to deal with. I havent used paper towels, napkins, plastic wrap or baggies for years. And there is no way I am giving up toilet paper! I will however follow along and try to reduce waste where I can.


chppie April 13, 2013 at 8:41 pm

You know my family likes Geek style yogurt and I was able to thicken up my homemade yogurt by using a Greek yogurt as a starter and added powered milk during the process. Works like a dream!


Rowen G. April 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm

I’m in the midst of an eating-out-of-the-freezer month (at least for meat) so I won’t be buying much this week anyway, but I plan to see what ideas I can add to my own household. I have very few food allergies myself, but have yet to see cat-kibble sold in bulk. (Then there’s the litter situation. . . ) My own weekly house “garbage” would fit in a grocery-store plastic bag, but I’d like to take it down farther. We do have good curb-side recycling here, which helps. I also have the advantage of a local dairy that delivers, and takes back thier own bottles. I think it’s a little more expensive – haven’t really checked for a while – but I’ve been getting milk from them for 30+ years.


Robyn J. April 15, 2013 at 5:36 am

Count me in as well. I’ve started the decluttering process, in my own closet…WOW! I have a long way to go to get to a Zero Waste Wardrobe but I’ve taken the first steps.

This week my plan is to streamline what we already have and use it up 🙂 from there I’ll be gutting my cupboards and pantry. I can see the challenge for me is getting my kids and husband on board. They about fell over when they saw how much stuff I drug out of my closet, drawers and under my bed. They have no idea what’s in for them next. I’ve declared full out war on clutter (and the sad thing is I didn’t think I had that much! hahahah) Oh my, long way to go, but let’s begin!


rhonda murphy April 15, 2013 at 5:37 am

I’m in. It will be a great exercise to see how well I can do for the week, and then see what new habit I can incorporate to keep it going. Success will look different for everyone, but I do believe every little bit helps. Thanks for the challenge!


JD April 15, 2013 at 5:47 am

I’m ready and in, but my husband isn’t. I’ll do what I can around him, though. For those with cats: I use the corn litter, which is flushable and biodegradable. Other’s use torn newspapers, but that never worked for my cats. For hairball/vomit incidents, I use worn out washcloths and rags which are kept on hand, rinse them briefly, then toss them into a covered pail to wash later, just like cloth diapers. For those in apartments and condos worrying about garbage: there are actually small indoor composting and worm composting systems. You can look for them online. Some gardening retailers might have them.
My nearest bulk stores are 60 miles from me , so I have to balance packaging waste against wasting gas, and the bulk supplies are limited mostly to nuts, beans, grains and flours — no bulk baking soda, for instance. When I buy grass fed beef from a farm, it comes pre-packaged in plastic freezer packs, with no choices there. But, my local egg producer reuses cartons over and over — I just return them to him and he refills them. I’ve cut down paper towel use to nothing for me except when covering a dish I’m heating in the microwave — I’ll need to provide a better alternative there. My husband is the kind who snatches 2 or 3 paper towels to wipe up a two-inch spill on the floor. I’ll keep trying with him, though!


carol April 15, 2013 at 8:59 am

Regarding the yogurt–do try adding some powdered milk, as described above. I buy the nonfat Organic Valley variety from my local food coop. You may have to whisk it into the milk to get it to dissolve. Regarding toilet paper–order a 48 or 60 roll box of Seventh Generation 2-ply online. The rolls are individually wrapped in paper. You can throw wrappers and box in the paper recycling bin. I haven’t used paper towels in years. We use white cotton wash cloths instead. (You can find them bundled at Costco. I love your idea. I’m on board and will focus on food packaging this week.


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