... when you're constantly on the move, few things remain unchanged.

this week's tip | improve your karma, try trash free

Thursday, January 15, 2015

To recommence this segment for a brand new year, I want to kick it off with a topic that's very near to my heart: the trash free lifestyle.

A trash free (also known as zero waste) lifestyle is exactly what it sounds like ~
 a way of life in which nothing is contributed to landfill.  
Where everything you use is either recyclable, repurpose-able or compostable: 
in an effort to decrease the global magnitude of trash and, consequently, the devastating toll it's taking on our Mother Earth.  

Happily, this lifestyle is gaining popularity and many bloggers have worked their butts off to increase its awareness and share their stories.  My favourites are:

Trash is for tossers (excellent summary article by the author here)

Trash Free Living here or here

While I'm not even close to mastering the ultimate goal of absolutely no trash, like some of the above gurus: I have taken very conscious steps to reduce the amount of trash leaving this household.  Right now we are down to just one biodegradable, tall bin liner per week!!   Fortunately, we live in a city that's very environmentally aware and amazingly has its own trash free by 2040 goal, making it very easy to be proactive in the lifestyle here in Austin; but I know this isn't the case everywhere.  If you live somewhere without a recycling program but still wish to jump on board, there are some amazing suggestions here and here.

The top 11 steps I've taken to become trash free:

1.  diligently recycling everything that's allowed!  Plastic, paper, cardboard, steel cans and tins, unbroken glass, polystyrene and so on.  This takes so much out of the bin - I'd say two thirds at least  - and I'm frequently astonished at cities (ahem Atlanta) that don't recycle!! 

2.  donating all unwanted clothes, household items and furniture to places like Goodwill.  Neither Will nor I have ever curbed anything. 

3.   grocery stores throughout Austin don't give you plastic bags for your purchases, but even if they did: I'd still only take my reusable grocery totes!

4.   repurposing as many items as I can: used candle tins have become catch-alls and flowerpots (by making nail holes for drainage underneath) // old Birchbox boxes are used as present boxes // mason jars are all over the house serving any purpose you can think of - tea canisters, dry herb containers, bath salt holders, drinking and cocktail glasses... you name it!

5.  buying in bulk wherever I can: like dog food, aforementioned bath salts, dish washing detergent and liquid hand soap.  Back at the house these all get distributed into glass jars, yes, even the hand and dish soap: meaning I get to recycle one large item of packaging, instead of several small ones.

6.  I bought a re-usable BPA free cup from Starbucks for $1 so that I don't have to constantly use and discard their paper ones, which adds up to a lot for me.  The plastic cup literally pays for itself within the next few visits because as soon as you mention that you have one, Starbucks gives you 10c off your beverage!  
I know drinking from plastic, even BPA free, isn't for everyone because of the other toxins it leaks, I just haven't made that leap yet, but Starbucks (and many other places) have excellent and very fancy ceramic alternatives!

7.  using live or dried elements of nature as seasonal decorations instead of plastic/ synthetic ones.  Over the past two Christmases, I have incorporated the discarded live pine tree trimmings from hardware stores - turning them into garlands, bouquets, arrangements and wreaths.  That way, once the season is over, I return them to the earth so that they may come full circle. 
 I've also completely boycotted plastic gift wrap paper, opting instead for butcher's paper, recycled paper and twine or cloth ribbons; which are all far quicker 'biodegraders'.  
(my Xmas gift wrap pics here .  Yes, the foliage is shamefully plastic, but 
I want to mention that I've been reusing it 3 years in a row). 
   There are so many other raw materials you can use throughout the year, like cotton stalks for spring or hay bails, dried wheat and fruit for autumn!  Be as creative as you like 
(and share your ideas along the way!)

8.  Will and I drink a lot of tea and I became very aware of the amount of used tea bags we were discarding, so some time ago we started buying the tea we most often drink (earl grey and jasmine green) in bulk, loose leaf form.  Now we simply steep the leaves through a stainless steel mesh tea net and are able to use the old leaves as compost, significantly reducing the amount of bags in the kitchen bin!

9.  cleaning products and methods have been the most trash producing in our home.  I'm a huge germaphobe and don't like using soggy hand towels or cloths, so had always used paper towels or clorox wipes for cleaning messes.  But just like the tea bags, one day I noticed the amount of these in our bin, found out the wipes aren't biodegradable and I decided to try something different.  Old cotton washcloths with marks or stains that weren't coming out became rags that I now use in conjunction with disinfectant spray.  Luckily, we had so many of these that I'm able to dry them out in between several uses - then it's off to the wash!  Leaving nothing for the landfill and only one recyclable plastic spray bottle every couple of weeks. 

10.  although I love to hand-write, still keep a journal and often write blog posts or work assignments by hand before typing them up, I've started using scrap paper (like bills, letters from the vet & bank, not to mention the envelopes they arrive in) to write these drafts.  This ensures I don't waste a clean sheet of paper on something I'll inevitably throw away... even if it is destined for recycling.

11.  as a doggy mama, I value the importance of how quickly doo-doo bags can add up and only choose biodegradable, compostable options like these.

I know I still have a long way to go and I also know that all I can ever control are my own actions, but I implore you to consider the massive strain our planet is already under and hope you'll agree that it's worth making yourself more accountable for the footprints you're leaving behind.  If we could each decrease our amount of weekly rubbish by even 5%: the overall result would decrease global trash and benefit our planet drastically!  When  I read articles like this one, I know the time has come for me to make a change and simply being too lazy to wash something is no longer an excuse I can validate for myself.  I truly appreciate you reading and hope to hear your feedback, or the steps you're taking to help soon :)


  1. You rock! What a great thing to do. I'm very glad to hear your community is being thoughtful about waste too. There's definitely too much of it in the world.

    1. Thanks a million, Lexa :). Yes we are so fortunate in this corner of the world - I wish more places would jump aboard!




About unwavering me

Sharing my stories of migrating from Australia to the US | travel adventures | married life | furry kids | new experiences | lessons | and loving life despite always missing home. xo.


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