Zero Waste Week, Day Three — Trying My Best

by Katy on April 16, 2013 · 34 comments

Zero Waste Home


Today is Day Three of Zero Waste Week, and although the day was mostly devoted to laundry, (seriously, where does it all come from?!) there was a definite waste-free bent to the day:

  • Drank loose leaf tea throughout the day.
  • Everyone’s lunches (work and school) were zero waste.
  • Dinner was back bean chili made from bulk purchased beans, which included leftover pinto beans, leftover sautéed onions and tortilla chip crumbs that I save in a jar to sprinkle on chili and the like.
  • I bought a half-pound of bulk sausage meat from New Season’s, and had them package it in a compostable container.
  • I returned my glass milk jug and bought new milk. ($1.50 deposit on the bottle.)
  • I dropped off a half-dozen or so spent gift cards at my friend Lise’s house. She teaches silkscreening classes, and they use the gift cards for spreading the ink.
  • I baked a batch of oatmeal cookies with the last of some homemade dough. I then proceeded to burn them all to a horrible, blackened stinky crisp. This was a problem, as they were an integral component to the kids’ school lunches for today.
  • So I made a plan to bring my own container to Papa Murphy’s Pizza and buy some bulk cookie dough. Sadly, they only had it pre-packaged, so I left empty handed. I was halfway to the car, and then realized I needed to get over myself already and just buy the freaking cookie dough! (It helped that I had a coupon for free cookie dough, which I had found on the floor of Safeway!) I baked up a dozen cookies for the lunches, and then hid the rest of the dough in the waaaay back of the fridge. This way there will hopefully be enough for Thursday’s lunches. I could have easily mixed up another batch of cookie dough, but I had to help my mother clean one of her rental cottages in the evening.
  • I will be at work and not part of getting the kids ready in the morning, so I got the loose leaf tea ready with an instruction sheet for my husband. Yes. Seriously. He will reach for the tea bags otherwise. Don’t judge me. I’m kind of bossy. But also nice. I did all the laundry, so I get to be boss for the day.
  • Oh, and I used some reusable wipes when cleaning my mother’s guest cottage, and also some disposable nitrile gloves. Cleaning the bathrooms of strangers? That warrants a barrier. Plus I’m allergic to latex.

That is all. It’s midnight and I have to get some sleep.

How is your Zero Waste week? Have you been making any changes to your normal routine? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly April 17, 2013 at 2:30 am

You’re such an inspiration! I have I bombed out twice at work. Day 1 – cake served on paper plates for a baby shower. I should have refused. But, it was CHOCOLATE. Yesterday at staff meeting someone brought in bagels from a delish bagel store. Yup – used a small paper plate. I couldn’t refuse. I hadn’t eaten breakfast. I did however put my plate in the recycle bin in the copy room. 🙂 The rolls for my grilled burgers last night? Came in plastic. My morning coffee? A can, with creamer from plastic. On a good note – I am increasing my awareness of our trash output and I feel good about that. So thank you – and keep up,the good work!!


Kimberly April 17, 2013 at 4:50 am

I haven’t been brave enough to take my containers into the store yet. Maybe that’s my next big bold move?

But, I have been taking a cloth napkin to work for my lunch.


Karen April 17, 2013 at 5:11 am

Katy, I regularly use gloves when cleaning house. Latex for wet cleaning (I am not allergic to it) and cotton gloves for dry cleaning and for paper filing. The cloth gloves may seem a little extreme, but I have very bad eye allergies and would rather use them than have prescription eye allergy drops for 10-14 days twice a day. I think this could be considered as preventative medicine.


Karen April 17, 2013 at 5:14 am

New mail system does not check spelling yet. Must investigate. Anyway correct e-mail address is above for receiving new comments.


Megan April 17, 2013 at 5:39 am

Yesterday I hosted the second viewing of “the Bible” series and we had lunch here. Before discovering your blog last summer, I wouldn’t have thought twice about whipping out all paper products. But using all normal plates and variety of glasses, made for very pretty lunch settings! Also, a friend was looking for a paper towel, I handed her a normal dish towel. I told her I was ditching paper towel and she said she heard about that via her own daughter who visits often. Hopefully I am planting seeds in my own circle of friends without being preachy which can be a HUGE turnff for some. I had to throw out two reusable lunch boxes that had just gotten stanky and beyond the ability to clean after a few years of use. My daughter said one smelled like a locker room. So, we’ve moved on to two that my MIL gave us that she got for free as a “giveaway”. Also, my daughter has to make a German doll for school by Monday. Plan for her to use an old tea towel instead of buying new fabric. I have a long way to go but your blog and this “Zero Waste” week have certainly caused me assess our everyday ways in every way! THANK YOU!


Elaine in Ark April 17, 2013 at 7:06 am

I’ve just started using my dish washing cloths for messes instead of paper towels. However, my dog had a stomach upset, so it was paper towels and plastic gloves & bags for the duration.

Baby steps…


Lindsey April 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

I use newspaper for dog vomit.


Linda in Indiana April 17, 2013 at 5:59 am

Seems I take one step forward and three steps back. Spending this week learning from your blog and comments and observing my normal routine. Not to be too hard on myself, I do lots of things right but so many things are just ingrained habits….but I live in such a rural area that bulk options, different shopping venues are extremely limited. I would have to drive at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to get anything like you get…and that seems counterproductive. I think we need a website or such that lists places that offer the options that let us waste less. I have no recylcing pick up…so when I go to the town 30 minutes from my home that has any shopping, I drop off my recyclables at an “icky and stinky” spot. They have changed it recently to this spot and now they do not accept glass and what they accept is very limited. So, trying to do what I can do and looking for more options. I sure appreciate all you have shared along with the other commenters. Thank you all so much!


Elaine in Ark April 17, 2013 at 7:10 am

I take my recycling to the center in the next town. I think it’s run by the American Legion post. They give away loads of money locally, to different good causes (more than $150,000 every year). I’m happy to schlep my stuff over, since I go near there at least twice a week anyway.


Linda in Indiana April 17, 2013 at 7:24 am

Sounds like a win-win! Sure wish there was something similiar around here. The one that is closest to me is run by the city and they allow people from surrounding towns to bring to the site.


Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares April 17, 2013 at 8:17 am

Linda, you might want to look into Country Life Natural Foods. They probably deliver to your area, and delivery is free with a $400 order (I go in with friends). It’s not perfectly zero-waste, but they do sell lots of items in large packages, such as 50-lb bags of flour and other staples. If you have questions as to what kind of packaging things are in, you can ask. Either way, though, it’s less waste than a grocery store. We are able to reuse the huge paper sacks as packing material, too.


Linda in Indiana April 17, 2013 at 8:29 am

Thank you! Plan to check it out.

Deb from Iowa April 17, 2013 at 6:07 am

We ate supper out last night. Instead of just driving through and eating on the go, we chose to go to a dine-in restaurant where everything is glass, stainless, and cloth. No disposables. The meal was lovely and we had a nice time. Zero waste caused us to slow down. It was pricier, but so worth it. Our food was healthier, and we were treated well. The only glitch was that I always get a “to go” box and put half my dinner in it. Well, I didn’t want to get styrofoam and I didn’t think to bring anything so I ate it all which I guess was okay since I didn’t have lunch. When I got home, I put a glass container with a lid in the van so that next time I will have a container!


Christy S April 17, 2013 at 6:24 am

It’s so fun hearing how everyone else is doing! Yesterday I made (from scratch) bagels and bread for the rest of the week. Which would have been a great win except for the fact that I’m pretty sure I used about as much saran wrap for the rising process as there would have been packaging on store bought. Other wins: packing a waste-free lunch for today, eating dumpstered veggies (is that even better than zero-waste?), biking to work (which shouldn’t really count since I don’t have a car so I do that every day), and drinking loose-leaf tea. Fails: buying packaged cream cheese and butter for the bread and bagels, taking free individually wrapped chocolate from the breakroom (only kind of regret that one), and continuing to use kleenex at work (need to stop and get hankies on my way home today).

non-finicky delicious bagel recipe:


violetcrone April 17, 2013 at 6:26 am

Doesn’t anyone have a fireplace? Save up the problem paper products and use them for fire starter. I take the free newspaper for 3 months just to save up the newspaper for starter for the winter when I run out.


Lindsey April 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

egg cartons are great fire starters. Also dryer lint, especially if you pour melted wax on it after you burn a candle.


Sanna April 17, 2013 at 6:31 am

I do rather well in not producing garbage, however, I’m very aware that I am only doing that well as I had to buy mainly vegetables, fruit, bread etc.
Meat and cheese is impossible to get without a paper wrapping at least (however, I’m happy as long as there’s no plastic involved). But I have no idea how to get stuff like toothbrushes, toothpaste, washing powder etc. without producing waste.
(We recycle about everything here, but I know that part of the “recycled” plastics will be burnt nevertheless)


Paige April 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I haven’t been able to start this week with everyone due to being on the midnight shift since Saturday, so I wasn’t able to prepare. But as for the washing powder issue…I make mine. Ingredients are Fels Naptha bar soap, Super Washing Soda, and 20 Mule Borax. All Ingredients packaging is paper and cardboard…so I would think you could use that in the fireplace. But I’ve never had a fireplace, so I’m guessing on that. Plus it all goes in a reuseable and sealable container and you only use two spoonfuls per load. comes out to about $.20 a load. Does that all count toward zero waste?


Amanda S April 17, 2013 at 6:31 am

It’s darn near impossible to get even moderately close to zero waste on the east coast, especially where I live. We have gotten a couple Whole Paychecks in the area, but each store is a 40+ minute drive from where I live… so, no. My local Farm Fresh does offer some vegetables loose, and so I am able to fill my mesh produce bags with the staples. They sell their fruit loose too (except clementines and mandarins, which I am extremely partial to). They also let me bring reusable containers to the deli counter and have never given me grief about it. I haven’t had the guts to try to take containers to the meat section yet. Other than produce, nothing is sold in bulk. I generally have to purchase based on which item comes in glass or a can (and hoping the can isn’t lined with BPA).


Julia April 17, 2013 at 7:17 am

I live on the East Coast, and I get pretty close to shopping zero waste where food is concerned. Sometimes it does involve making tough choices. My Whole Foods is a lot closer than 40 minutes away, though! My problem lately is trying to do any kind of minor home improvements without ending up w/ a lot of packaging waste. IÊ»m sure itÊ»s possible, but just like the food thing, it can be a learning process…


JaneUlness April 17, 2013 at 7:57 am

We went to happy hour with friends. The food is cheaper and I just have ice tea. I had cesear salad, sun dried tomato bread and stuffed shrimp. Yum. I will try to replicate sun dried tomato bread. It’s was kind of like a focciata bread. My husband had Irish nachos and sliders.
No waste and I got new ideas for dinners and a fun time with friends.


Lynda April 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Irish Nachos? Could you tell me what goes into those?


Kailey April 17, 2013 at 9:27 am

I’m not doing great but I’m also not doing terrible either. Unfortunately we haven’t changed much but a lot of that is due to the fact that we’re pretty waste conscious in the first place. Last night’s dinner was homemade chinese with ingredients we already had in the house; some prepacked like rice (although I’m going to start buying bulk), water chestnuts, almonds (I buy two pound bags) etc. Today’s breakfast was a homemade smoothie (no packaging) and some staples I keep my desk, multigrain crackers, peanut butter and dried figs.
We have to step up our game and start doing more bulk. If everyone else can do it so can we!


Dorie April 17, 2013 at 9:42 am

No real changes: since Monday, it’s been dental floss, dental floss, dental floss in the garbage, plus the plastic ring seal that comes on the glass deposit yogurt jar (sigh) and a broken glow stick that my son picked up on the school yard (why?) And I found that the cheese shop had stuck a small piece of plastic on the cheese when they put it in my fabric/beeswax wrapper so that went in the garbage as well.

Recycling so far: two junk mail cards, a receipt for the yogurt, and an empty wine bottle.

We’ve been eating the food I made over the weekend, which we store in glass jars: bagels with jam, vegetable soup, lentils with rice, roasted vegetables. Lunches are sandwiches, with fruit and raw vegetables from the farmers market. (Blah blah blah reusable containers)

Oh, for toothbrushes, we’ve been using the Preserve toothbrushes, which are sold in their own return mailer; send it back and they’ll recycle them. Also Toms of Maine will take back toothpaste tubes and turn them into packaging, so that’s the brand we’ve been using. I don’t if either is really zero-waste, but I am glad these companies are taking responsibility for their products’ entire life cycle.


Lynn D. April 17, 2013 at 10:09 am

Let’s not forget invisible waste, the carbon from driving your car, running the drier etc. I just saw the coolest twisted clothesline
which eliminates the need for clothespins! I’m always one or two clothespins short of what I need, so this would be great.
I’m taking baby steps. Today I’m going to put a bunch of clean bags, jars and tins in the trunk of my car so I’ll always have what I need. Yesterday I decided to declutter the bathroom of expired medicine, and things I no longer use, recycled what I could and I still have less than a paper grocery bag of real trash.


Linda in Indiana April 17, 2013 at 11:07 am

Just went to the Zero Waste Home site and Bea has a new APP available for the smartphone or Android that helps locate bulk items and you can enter places near you that have bulk items. You can also rate your success at these places. This is great! However, I have neither a smartphone or an Android. Hoping it will later be available for the PC. But for those that do have these resource, what a bonus find.


Linda in Indiana April 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

Just went to the Zero Waste Home site and Bea has a new APP available for the smartphone or Android that helps locate bulk items and you can enter places near you that have bulk items. You can also rate your success at these places. This is great! However, I have neither a smartphone or an Android. Hoping it will later be available for the PC. But for those that do have these resources, what a bonus find.


Meredith in SA April 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm

We have eliminated paper plates and napkins from our house, and we take cloth bags to the supermarket, which cuts down a lot of waste to begin with. I’ve started knitting some cotton dish rags to phase us out of using sponges, and we’re pretty sparing when it comes to paper towel use. We do buy milk in plastic containers, but they’re recyclable in our city, as are the foam meat trays, as long as you rinse them. We use tupperware for all food storage, except ziplocks for frozen soups, stews, and meats. I have a question though: When you take reusable containers to buy food in bulk, how do you handle the tare? Do you pay for that extra weight every time?


Dorie April 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm

If the cashiers don’t subtract the tare weight automatically then I ask them to do it, and they always have. The tare weights themselves are printed on my cloth bags; the glass jars I weighed myself, and then I put a permanent label on them.

The employee-owned cooperative across the city not only subtracts the tare weight, it gives me five cents back for every reusable container that I bring. So even though it’s a longish bike ride I try to do most of our bulk shopping there. I’ve heard that some other places do the same.


Aimee April 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm

What Zero Waste ways would you all recommend to freeze meat? I need to stock up this weekend during the big sale, and my normal method involves plastic freezer bags.


Krystal April 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I use canning jars, most of the high-quality jars are freezer-safe. And completely reusable!


carol April 17, 2013 at 5:44 pm

There is always freezer paper. It does have a shiny side, so it may be plastic coated. I have successfully frozen food well wrapped in unbleached parchment paper. But then what do you do with the parchment paper/freezer paper when you thaw things? Parchment paper can be composted. Lately, I’ve been investing in glass containers a little bit at a time. Things freeze well and the containers can be reused. I suppose that you can also use rigid, reuseable plastic containers.


Krystal April 17, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Today was a bit better than my previous days!

-Per usual, brought my reusable steel bottle to yoga, and found my missing one at the studio! Reminded myself to wait until I get home to clean my mat with homemade cleaner and a towel, rather than a paper towel at the studio.
-Stopped in for a smoothie at Starbucks between appointments to get some work done. Requested a glass up, no straw. Good to see they didn’t include a paper or a sleeve for the order. Horrible to see that this Starbucks (along with MOST I have been to) didn’t have recycling, and those who sat and drank from disposable cups at the cafe tossed them in the trash on their way out the door.
-Cooking from my fridge tonight, including the fish I picked up at the market and carried home in a jar. The twist tie around the spinach we are preparing it with makes me cringe.
-Kept one glass of water today and kept refilling it. Working to be more mindful about how many glasses I use throughout the day, and therefor less dishes being washed=water, energy, detergent saved.
-Loose leaf tea in a stainless tea strainer, with honey purchase in bulk (I used canning jars).


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