What I Learned From Taking A Year Off From Buying New Clothes

The Rules:
1. I could make do, repair, or repurpose what I already had
2. I could buy things secondhand
3. If people gave me clothes as a gift that was okay
4. Underwear was fine to buy new, cause eww

The Results:
1. I made it the whole year and didn’t miss going shopping for new things
2. I made a slight exception and bought one item that was custom made by a friends daughter who is an aspiring fashion designer
3. I saved a ton of money, see below
4. I discovered that my 9YO was totally cool wearing secondhand duds. I found out that it’s harder finding secondhand clothes for boys, so I did need to buy somethings brand new for him

The Savings: Total spending for myself plus an ever growing 9YO boy
Last 365: $480
Previous 365: $1,366 Ouch!
And the 365 before that: $2,863 Jeez!

The Outcome: I know going forward it will be super easy for me to make smart clothing purchases and I would totally feel comfortable doing this challenge again

Zero Waste Make-up & Clothes

Let’s face it most of us want to look cute. I just want to be consciously cute. In the last several years I have transformed my thoughts and ideals around make-up and clothing, while still holding on to who I am as an individual.

Make-up

Over the past few years I have started wearing make-up less and less for several reasons:

1. If you wear the right colors that complement your skin color/tone, eyes, and hair you don’t need to wear much or any at all. I had a color analysis done a while back. This helped me only purchase colors that look best on me. It was a great decision, and now when I do buy clothes, I only buy the colors that I look best in.
2. Most people don’t know when I am not wearing make-up
3. Time is saved getting ready in the morning and time saved not buying make-up
4. Money, make-up is expensive, nuff said
5. Waste, make-up packaging can be super wasteful. Plastic wrap, boxes, containers that may or may not be recyclable.

Some days this is all I need to put on my face

I do have a couple of staples that I still use regularly; lipstick, lip balm, eyeshadow & mascara.

– For lipstick, I use Mac brand as the containers are recyclable at their store.
– For lip balm, I make my own out of beeswax and avocado oil infused with lavender.
– For eyeshadow, I am using Urban Decay Naked Palette. It’s not the most zero waste option, but I can mix and match colors. I also use eye shadow as eyeliner by applying using a q-tip which I compost when I am finished. Mac is a great option if you are looking for something with recyclable eyeshadow containers that you can return to the store once finished.
– I was recently looking for a good zero waste option for mascara as I am not really interested in making my own and I found this on Etsy which I am excited to try.

In addition to all this, I make my own toothpaste, salt scrubs, bath salts, bath bombs and dry shampoo. I plan on writing a future post with all my recipes. In the meantime, you can check out my toothpaste recipe here.

Ultimately make-up is a personal decision, do what feels most comfortable to you. There a lot of good low waste or zero waste options out there. You just need to do a little searching.

Clothing

Back in March, I made the commitment to not buy any new clothes for a year. The rules were simple:

1. Use up and repair what you have
2. Secondhand or homemade was totally okay
3. If you receive new clothes as a gift, it’s okay, but let the person know for the future reference
4. New shoes were a no-no unless you acquired via #2
5. It’s amazing what a little fabric dye can do to help you revitalize your wardrobe
5. Underwear was okay to purchase new. No one wants to wear worn out drawers

Color analysis; These are the colors that work best with my eye color, hair color, skin color and red tone in my skin.

So far I am happy to report that I have only bought new underwear and a couple of bras. I challenged myself with mending several pairs of pants, a dress, and even put a new clasp on a bra. I bought a pair of shoes barely used secondhand. And even dyed a couple of items I would have normally donated.

About six months ago I took the challenge even further by rotating all the hangers in my closet in the opposite direction. As items are worm and returned to the closet the hanger is flipped back to normal. With the goal being to use what you have and get rid of anything that you don’t use by the end of the experiment. I’ve done a pretty good job over the years building a wardrobe the looks good on me, functions and I enjoy. I am happy to report to date there is only one hanger that remains unmoved, and I have plans to wear it at an upcoming event.

I am proud of my accomplishments, using make-up less frequently, and maximizing the clothes I already have. The biggest eye openers have been:

– I still get a ton of compliments on my clothes
– I don’t feel the need to please anyone but myself
– I am saving a ton of money and time
– I no longer have to try on five outfits before I can leave the house

How to Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

Everyone knows by now that I am really getting into this zero waste thing. Somedays I obsess over how I can continue to push myself on this zero waste journey and others days I am on auto pilot making great progress without noticing the amazing changes that I have made overtime. I have a few cleaning supplies that I make myself. They are super easy to make, inexpensive, don’t contain any harsh chemicals, and work great. They work so well it makes me think we are being bamboozled by the cleaning supply industry when what grandma did was more than good enough to get the job done. Below are some of my favorite homemade cleaning supplies:

Easy Everyday Cleaner: Great for wiping down counters and tables

  • Spray bottle
  • Vinegar
  • Water

Step 1: Fill the spray bottle with 1 part vinegar 2 parts water.

More Powerful Everyday Cleaner: Great for cleaning your stove top, and cleaning up after a pet accidents

  • Jar
  • Orange, lemon, grapefruit or lime rind
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
Step 1: Keep your citrus fruit rind instead of composting
Step 2: Put rind in an empty jar and fill with vinegar
Step 3: Let the jar sit for several weeks. Once it’s changed color it’s ready to go.
Step 4: Fill the spray bottle with 1 part vinegar solution (without the rind), and 1 part water. Compost the rind.
Step 5: Get another rind ready so that by the time you run out you are ready to go with the next batch

Floor Cleaner: Great for tile, stone or laminate.

  • Bottle, or spray bottle
  • Vinegar
  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)
  • Water
  • A few drops liquid dish soap
Step 1: Fill empty bottle with 1 part vinegar, 1 part rubbing alcohol, 1 part water and a few drops of liquid dish soap
Step 2: Put cap back on the bottle, and shake to mix
Step 3: Let the suds settle before use

Bathtub/Sink Cleaner: Good for removing soap scrum and general cleanliness of the tub/sink

  • Lemon (I like using Meyer lemons)
  • Baking soda
Step 1: Cut Lemon in half
Step 2: Sprinkle baking soda on lemon, preferably over the tub or sink you wanted to clean
Step 3: Scrub the tub or sink squeezing the lemon and sprinkling more baking soda on the lemon as need
Step 4: Let it sit for a few minutes
Step 5: Rinse
Step 6: If really dirty repeat

Toilet Cleaner

  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Toilet Brush
Step 1: Flush toilet
Step 2: Pour 1 cup vinegar, and let sit for 20 minutes (60 minutes if it’s really dirty)
Step 3: Sprinkle baking soda in bowl
Step 4: Scrub with toilet brush
Step 5: Add more baking soda ,and brush if needed
Step 6: Flush toilet

My Zero Waste Day

Over the last several months I have made great strides in being more zero waste each and every day. I thought it would be fun to write-up how my day went today (skipping some of the boring stuff), so here it goes.

In the morning:

  • IMG_4051I woke up and brushed my teeth with my homemade toothpaste and compostable bamboo toothbrush. Both are awesome I and couldn’t live without at this point.
  • In the shower I used my shampoo/body wash bar and shaved using my old school metal razor which I love.
  • Instead of blow drying I let my hair air dry.

Clothes:

  • I put on a pair of thrifted jeans, thrifted jeans always feel more comfortable to me.
  • All the other worn clothes were bought new at some point in time in the last few years. I did however recently decide to not buy any new clothes for 365 days. All clothes must be repaired, refashioned or replaced by secondhand only items. I am happy to report so far so good 48 days in with no major need/desire to purchase anything.



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Food & Drink:

  • School lunch packed for 8YO; ham sandwich, mini tangerine, bulk bin carrot, homemade peanut butter cookies, dried cranberries from the bulk section, packed in reusable bags.
  • The ham was purchased and sliced at home.
  • I am still looking for a good alternative to store bought bread, making my own is too time consuming.
  • Bulk tea in a travel mug for back and forth in the car.
  • Homemade stuffed peppers and coconut milk mashed potatoes* for both lunch and dinner. All ingredients purchased without plastic at the co-op using mesh bags, cloth bags, and glass jars to transport items home.
  • Homemade Peanut butter cookies for dessert and breakfast too :D.

*I didn’t cook this meal so if people are interested I can ask Steve if he is willing to write a guest blog post with the recipes.

Leisure:

  • Read a book from the library, French Kids Eat Everything.
  • Took the dogs for a walk.
  • Started making homemade yogurt (I will let you know how it turns out).

I am really proud of how many changes me and my family have made to move closer to a zero waste lifestyle. Last year at this time we would have been consuming a ton of plastic, eating more processed food than we would have liked and buying things that we didn’t need. The improvements we have made have opened my eyes up to consumerism, having more with less, making things myself, and saving money in the process.

What Would Grandma Do?

My grandma Helen was an amazingly strong woman. I was fortunate enough to spend a great deal of time with her growing up and she made a huge impression on me. When I was in the 7th grade I wrote a biography about her life. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) there are many things Grandma did that match the zero waste lifestyle I strive for today.

Like most kids born in the earlier 1900s Helen grew up on a farm. The farm had an apple orchard, cow pasture, vegetable garden, flower garden, and a barn with cows, chickens, pigs and cats. Her mother made lots of things; clothing, wines, jellies, breads, pies, canned meats & canned veggies. She used the streetcar to go to the library and checked out tons and tons of books.

When I would visit Grandma she would wash her clothes by hand and hang the items out on the line to dry. We would leave out our left over food scraps for the birds, squirrels, and the woodchuck. Her main cleaning supplies were vinegar and baking soda and after washing dishes we used the waste water to help water the plants in the garden. Grandma saved everything; pie pans, paper bags, and glass jars. Old clothes were used for rags or for making quilts.

I like to think if Grandma were still alive I could learn and share zero waste tips with her. Thanks Grandma feel being a strong role model!

Zero Waste and Hawaii

Since my own zero waste journey started every time I go out into the world I see things differently than before. My recent trip to Hawaii was no different. There were many things I was impressed with and even some things I was surprised by.

Some zero waste things Hawaii got right:

  • No plastic bags at the grocery store. In July Hawaii got a bunch of news for their plastic bag ban in grocery stores. This is great for many reason including plastic isn’t biodegradable and more and more plastics are ending up in the pacific garbage patch.
  • There was a 20 cent charge for paper bags which was a great enforcement of good behavior changes. I saw many people bring their own reusable bags and most cashiers said “thank you” for bringing your own or saying no to a bag which was nice.
  • There is $500 fine for litter. I don’t think I saw any litter on roads and very little on the beaches. I even saw a couple people picking up the few pieces of garbage that were on the beaches we visited. This showed me how much everyone cared.
  • Many houses collected their own rain water and have solar panels. Two things I would like to start doing myself.
  • LED lighting or no street lights on highways, so little light pollution which was great for star gazing. If you want to know more about the impact of light pollution on people and our environment I recommend the documentary The City Dark.

Some things that need improvement:

  • It was hard to find many recycling cans. Now maybe all garbage get sorted before it goes to the dump. I was surprise either way.
  • I didn’t see anywhere to compost. Maybe this is only done on a individual level? I would image the islands could benefit with commercial compost considering all the farming that is done.
  • Holy huge portions! Large portions at restaurants, enough for two to three meals. I couldn’t believe the size of the food portions. I gained 5 lbs on vacation, thankful I have lost 4 lbs of it since I got back. This seems unnecessary, unhealthy, and wasteful.
  • I was surprised to see so many styrofoam take-out containers considering the no plastic bag ban.

Of the few issues I did see there might already be solutions in place that I just didn’t notice. All are easy to address if a solution isn’t already in place. All and all I was REALLY impressed with the progressiveness I saw in Hawaii, these are people who respect the beautiful land that they live in.


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What A Recent Vacation Taught Me About Zero Waste

We recently took a family trip to Hawaii. This was our big gift for Christmas this year as we decided we wanted to spend money on life experiences instead of stuff. Before and while traveling this time I noticed a few things about my own personal habits that made me think.

The clothes you have are enough. My partner Steve pointed out I bought new clothes before vacation. “You always buy new clothes before vacation”. He was right! Every vacation that I can think of in recent time I bought something to wear beforehand, whether it was a cute dress, hiking shoes, or a beach coverup. I need to watch out for this the next time. I shouldn’t need to buy anything before I go on a trip.

You don’t need to prepare for everything. My initial inclination is to pack more than what I needed. I even cut down and repacked half way through, but looking back there were a few more things I could have done without. Smaller/light luggage is the way to go! I had a carry-on and backpack, but would like to get down to only one bag in the future.

Always bring your own water bottle. We did this in Europe over the summer but for some silly reason I thought bottled water would have been easier in Hawaii since I read an article that recommended buying bottled water because you shouldn’t drink the water that was collected by the rain. Turns out we would have been fine with our own bottles because there was plenty of access to city tap water.

Bring your own a shampoo bar and homemade toothpaste. A shampoo bar would have worked for this trip. If you don’t know about shampoo bar they are a good zero waste replacement for shampoo and conditioner. Also I had recently made my own toothpaste, but didn’t bring which I immediately regretted. Recipe is below.

Cooking your own food will always be cheaper, healthier and in most cases a tastier option. We stayed at a house through AirBNB the majority of the trip and made several breakfasts and dinners at “home”. It was well worth the time and saved us money.

And above all else life experiences are more important than material objects.

Life experiences are more important than material objects

 

UPDATED Homemade Toothpaste Recipe

Measure baking soda and coconut oil and place into small storage container. Use a spoon or spatula to mix into a paste. Add 5 drops of peppermint extract or oil. Mix again. Use a pea size amount each time you brush.

Homemade Chicken Broth

We cook a lot in our house (at least 4 times a week). Sometime I get adventurous, like the time I made gyro meat and tahini sauce from scratch for homemade gyros. They were amazing, but too much work. Other times it’s a game I like to play called what can I make with the random things in the pantry and fridge, I mostly win. Mostly is the keyword here.

For Christmas I decided to cook my first whole Chicken. I found a rosemary chicken recipe that I was excited to use. The chicken was great so I decide to save the carcass in my freezer for making chicken stock at a later date. And in the mantra of zero waste I started saving the scraps from onions, garlic, carrots, and celery and was storing in my freezer.

Rosemary Chicken

Yesterday was the day! I pulled the chicken and leftover scraps out of the freezer. Filled a pot with water and started cooking. About 4 hour later I have almost 5, 24 oz jars of stock.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Tips:

  • Instead of throwing away your leftover onion, garlic, celery & carrot scraps put them in a glass jar in your freezer
  • Do the same thing for meat bones
  • Substitute the stock for recipes that call for a cup or two of water like rice or quinoa
  • You can use the onion peals, but it can add a bitter flavor to the broth
  • Store the stock in the fridge or freezer in a reusable container. These are the 24 oz jars I use which are also great for bulk grocery shopping because they have a wide lid.
  • Make sure to write the date somewhere on the container
  • Enjoy!

Top Four Zero Waste Products

The following four products were easy to start using on my Zero Waste journey. When I say easy I mean it, these were simple swap outs of existing products and I either didn’t need to change my behavior or only made slight modifications. All four are now staples for me and my family.

mesh bags, bamboo toothbrush, wool dryer balls, reusable snack bag, reusable sandwich bag

  • Bamboo Toothbrush – Most toothbrushes are made of plastic. Not only is this brush compostable, but the packaging it comes in is too.
  • Wool Dryer Balls – We use this instead of dryer sheets, they cut down on waste and dryer time. You can make your own using wool yarn or purchase ones already made.
  • Reusable snack and sandwich bags for school lunches – why throw away plastic when you don’t have to, plus my son thinks they are super cool.
  • Mesh Bags for buying fruits and veggies – great for the grocery store and farmers market to cut down on plastic.

Hope you find these products of interest and start joining me along this life changing journey.  I am planning a future post around more advanced products that I use and some other products that just haven’t stuck for me yet.

My 1st Zero Waste Christmas

My journey towards Zero Waste started earlier in 2015 so once December had rolled around I had already created some good habits and a minimal waste mindset around what I wanted to accomplish for Christmas. Some initial plans rolling into the holiday season were to make our own christmas tree, focus less on buying things we didn’t need, to enjoy time with friends & family, and to take some time off from work.

Last year we decided that we no longer wanted to cut down a tree. Since we are big crafters making our own tree made a ton a sense and got everyone really excited. This year’s tree was made from upcycled fence posts left over from a project this summer and other items we had around the house.

homemade upcycled diy chirstmas tree
Our homemade upcycled Christmas tree. Made from left over fence posts from a summer project.

This year we also focused on fewer gifts. In total we got our 7 year old; a used dictionary (something he requested), an atlas (because he wants to travel the world), a stop motion animation toy so he can create movies, and last but not least a family trip to Hawaii (we found a great deal on flights). Focusing on experiences has been more meaningful to us.

Other Accomplishments included:

  • I took sometime off from work and the world didn’t end.
  • I was able to spend quality time with friends and family without feeling like I needed to attend every event that I was invited to.
  • Decorating the house took about an hour and putting everything away after Christmas was a breeze.
  • We didn’t purchase a single holiday candy, cookie, decoration, card, or wrapping supplies which saved us money and time.
  • We didn’t have overflowing garbage and recycling cans.

All and all I am really happy with how the entire month played out. I think it was the first time EVER I wasn’t stressed out about the holidays.