you’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard the term "zero waste" thrown around. next to “adaptogen”, i am predicting it’s one of those buzzwords of the last year. and why not? even though it sounds like a phase and trendy, i am whole-heartedly on-board with zero waste becoming a thing that we just all do without thinking! zero waste doesn’t have to mean that you absolutely create no waste at all, but an overall catchphrase for people trying to make steps to cut down on waste in order to live as zero waste as they possibly can in that time of their life.
making substitutes and compromises for the good of humanity and the planet. i’m all in for that. it also goes hand in hand with a thifty, frugal and minimalist lifestyle.
so i wanted to share some “zero waste” or more ecological changes i’ve made over the past year and some goals of mine for next year. maybe it’ll give you some ideas or hopefully inspire you a little to try something out!
i feel proud that 2018 was the year that we’ve really hunkered down and got more serious about zero waste and the switch to a more ecological, sustainable household.
pre-2018 there have been some really ecological switches we’ve already made. we started composting within the first two years or so that we moved to budejovice, and lucky for us, our landlords have a compost heap that they kindly let us put our bio into, which in turn fuels our building’s garden! pretty neat. since we started doing this, we only have to take out the (small sized bin) trash about once every three weeks! hooray! that may sound strange, but there’s nothing stinky in there since we have a separate compost container which is emptied once every couple of days (choose something with a lid that closes completely!).
of course we’ve been recycling (no brainer),
always bring shopping bags with us when we go (always on foot) to the supermarket
and throw almost no plastic away.
we also had been using old holey socks as a dusting rag and plastic produce bags as “saran wrap”. we’ve never bought saran (plastic, cling) wrap here before.
since the beginning, we’ve bought compostable dog poo bags for ferdie. (tip: it’s better to dispose of these in bio bins vs. trash bins where they’ll decompose slower because the trash isn’t allowed to aerate like the compost is)
i’m very passionate about purchasing only recycled toilet paper as entire areas are deforested just to make new, fluffy toilet paper. #knowbetterdobetter
we bring our own containers, cups and utensils when we travel or go on day trips. i’ve found that glass jars make excellent “tupperware” containers as well as impromptu wine glasses for a picnic. if i were in the market for a new travel tumbler, i’d definitely spring for a stojo collapsible tumbler! that’s always my problem that i bring my tumbler and then it takes up space for most of the trip, unused.
alex is very adamant about unplugging nearly every appliance when not in use. with how expensive electricity is in europe, it helps a lot not to having a computer sucking it up! it’s also much better for your battery appliances to unplug from the wall as soon as they are finished charging, so you’re also taking better care of your things.
here are some recent changes we’ve made just over the past year.
– eliminating use of aerosols. i personally decided i wouldn’t buy any more, but the problem for a long time had been: where the heck can you find non-aerosol shaving cream? i found my answer in d’fluff shaving cream in a tub from LUSH. it smells like their rockstar soap and although it doesn’t foam, i’m down with this change!
– we switched to bamboo toothbrushes, which i had to order by mail because previously, there were no local shops that sold them! i have since found a couple so i think we’re good to go now. before, i ordered from the bam and boo, which sent them so quickly even with a special, personalized note in czech which i thought was so sweet as they came from portugal.
– choosing bar soap vs. liquid soap which has to be sold in packaging.
– eliminating purchasing anything with palm oil or high fructose corn syrup (or glucose-fructose syrup, as it’s known here). for years i believed in the myth that HFCS was banned in europe, but you can still find it in everything!
– the switch from typical supermarket laundry soap and dishwasher tabs to an eco-label laundry soap (made from soap nuts) which is highly concentrated and therefore more ecological and more earth-friendly dishwasher tabs. both of these switches are more expensive than what we used to buy, so i totally understand going more eco-friendly isn’t for everyone and all budgets. however, if you wouldn’t notice an extra few dollars here and there, why not make this simple switch? i like the czech brand of laundry soap tierra verde out of brno. (why is everything cool is out of brno these days?)
– switching from disposable feminine products to a medical-grade silicone menstrual cup has been a complete.game.changer. it’s one of those things you kick yourself for not getting much much earlier. did you know a tampon applicator takes 500 years to break down? i went with first greener and am really pleased that i did. as a menstruating human, this seems like one of the single biggest improvements you can make to take steps towards zero waste. cost was an barrier for me with this and not being able to shell out for one for awhile, but the company i purchased from often runs deals for only $10 (that includes international shipping). i’m pleased some companies are making menstrual products more accessible to women of all income levels.
– right at the end of the year, i finally found reusable produce bags that were a reasonable price. hoorah!
– we have nearly stopped buying paper towels, using regular old towels or other cloths instead.
– purchasing our vegetables in the warmer months from a local CSA (community supported agriculture) vegetable box program cuts down both on plastic wrapping, supports local south bohemian farms and is just a fun, healthy way to make sure we eat loads of season veggies. it also challenges me to stop being lazy and cook or make something with them before anything goes bad. (for my local budejovice friends: you can order a vegetable box starting usually around june from u dobraka)
– alex says he’s most proud of our household’s switch to alternative milks vs. dairy milk. this helps loads with water consumption, is far more ecological, and much more animal-friendly. (alternative milk recipe at the end of this post – woo!)
changes i would like to make in 2019
– one of my challenges is zero waste hair products. most drugstore products are aerosol or just the typical tube. i think i will end up purchasing from LUSH’s hair line as not only have i already raved about their products but i so appreciate their commitment to reusable packaging, as well as their vocal stance against animal cruelty.
– do better with food waste. i have already eliminated a lot of issues i’ve had with food waste over the past year and meal planning helps SO MUCH with not only reducing waste, but also saving some crowns. i’ve made some great strides in the past year, i’d like to do even better in 2019 getting my food waste down to 0%. laziness can be a big (bigbig) factor here, and that’s a tough one to overcome! i will also try making or buying less products that i don’t finish.
– i’d like to remember to start taking what few glass empties i have back to a supermarket to get a refund. this is extremely common practice in germany, but not quite as common here, and we normally just go to the normal glass recycle bin. it would be nice to start getting a few crowns back here and there vs. nothing!
– i’d love to invest in a set of cloth linen napkins i’m actually proud to use! will look to a thrift shop or bazaar before checking a store.
– collectively, one of our main focuses as a household is a reduction in goods which use plastic, single-use, throw-away packaging, such as musli, for example. buying musli or any cereal here in the czech republic is such a headache – it is either expensive or contains palm oil, for the most part. there is one brand i like, but i find i am eating it over and over and get so tired of it. any of you out there DIY your musli or cereal? please share your wisdom!
easy DIY recipe: oat milk
one of my big goals is to DIY even more. i already do quite a fair bit of DIY in terms of household products and foods, sauces that i can’t buy in the czech republic, but i’d like to DIY more with products i already buy to avoid excess packaging and saving money. in the first few days of the year, i’ve already decided i will no longer buy oat milk at the store (40kc or $1.70 per liter) and instead, make it. it is startlingly easy to do, takes only 10 minutes of active time and can be a huge money saver! this recipe also happens to be zero waste as you can use the remnants.
– a blender
– cheesecloth (or similar)
– large pitcher
– 1 cup of oats (your choice)
– 1 liter (approx. 4 cups) of water
– 1-2 TB honey or maple syrup
– 1 liter glass bottle
1) soak your oats in plenty of water for at least an hour.
2) rinse your oats and plop them in the blender with the 4 cups of water and your optional tablespoon of honey or maple syrup*.
3) blend blend blend!
4) place the cheesecloth securely over the pitcher (a rubber band helps). pour the oat milk mixture from the blender onto the cheesecloth so it strains, with the milk passing into the pitcher. wring out the cheesecloth to make sure you’ve got all excess liquid.
5) pour the strained oat milk from the pitcher into a 1+ liter glass bottle which will be your “milk bottle” and pop in the fridge.
6) shake vigorously before each use. consume within 2-3 days.
7) scrape off the oat bits from inside the cheesecloth and store in the fridge – you can easily tuck them into your morning oats when you make your next pot of oatmeal or porridge!
use this oat milk anywhere you would typically use milk: in your cereal, coffee, oatmeal (double down!), wherever.
* 1 TB of sweetness is just enough to give it a similar sweetness as dairy milk has, 2 TB if you like it a teensy bit sweeter – even this does not taste “sweet”, so to speak. experiment.
finally, i feel like i need to give a biiiiig shout out to polly – former expat/travel blogger turned absolute zero waste maven at green indy blog and inspires me every day with thought-provoking topics i hadn’t even realized or considered she has loads of information on her blog, instagram and even runs e-courses helping people cut back on waste and save money.
i do want to state here that i am simply learning and am a student at this whole zero waste thing. i’m not an expert by any means and am not perfect. zero waste isn’t zero. this post is simply keeping track of my progress and hopefully a way to hold myself accountable for my goals. although i don’t think we all should be one of those people who can fit their trash in a jar or anything, there is a lot of work we can do. you don’t have to have a lot of money to “join the movement”. it’s not about going out and purchasing fancy bamboo utensils or whatever. it’s just about using what you already have, being creative and resourceful, and when something you have stops working or breaks, upgrade it (funding allowing) to a more ecological version.
how do you feel about the zero waste movement? i’d love if you shared a big win from the past year and maybe also something you want to improve upon as well! here’s to a greener new year.