Zero Waste

Sustainability Documentaries to Watch This Month

I’m going back to school this fall.  To get my gears running, I’ve been diving myself into documentaries.  As adults, when we are removed from the educational realm, it’s often really difficult to continually expand our knowledge.  I’ve always loved documentaries.  But with watching any documentaries, I always go in with the mentality of “take this with a grain of salt.”  Any good documentary will have a clear stance or a message it is trying to promote.  A good documentary won’t be wishy-washy on its point.  But I think it is important to not view these documentaries as the only truth, but watch it from a learning standpoint.  After watching, do some research of your own, and see if you can adapt any of the practices into your daily lives.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (2016)

The True Cost (2015)

Global Waste: The Scandal of Food Waste (2011)
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Food Choices (2016)

Fed Up (2014)

Cowspiracy (2014)

Mission Blue (2014)

Zero Waste

My Wardrobe’s Life Cycle

I talked a little bit about clothing I no longer buy in my last post.  But today, I want to dig a little bit deeper into the thought process of how I came to that conclusion.  Right now, looking into my closet, my clothes are probably 30% thrifted and 70% store-bought.  I imagine that percentage will slowly balance itself out and shift more towards thrifted in a few years time.

I always loved thrift stores.  I love finding weird knick-knacks and transforming them into something unique and beautiful to me.  But up until 2 years ago, I only thrifted furniture and home decor.  One day, I decided to peruse the clothing aisle.  That day, I was seriously overwhelmed since everything is unique, so I had to look at every item.  But observing the price tag, it did instill a little thought of, “hey, this is a good price!”

Today, I shop pretty much exclusively at thrift stores.  This will range from Goodwill and Salvation Army, to my local boutique second-hand stores.  The things I still buy new are undergarments.

My move towards used clothing and away from new clothing started when I online shopped a few years ago.  When I got my package, I was excited.  When I opened it, I was annoyed that every single item was individually packaged in plastic.  I used to think that if I shopped at a brick-and-mortar store, it would not be packaged in plastic.  But no!  Every single piece of clothing that ends up on the racks and shelves, an employee had to open it up in its individually-wrapped packaging to hang it.  Thinking back at how many items of clothing I bought from stores, that’s a lot of plastic packaging!

Beyond environmental reasons, I think the main reason why I love thrift stores is finding a great bargain!  My favorite find to date is a brand new, white cardigan from White House Black Market for $2.  Once you can find that kind of deal at a thrift store, it’s kind of hard to convince me to pay full price again.  Of course, the kind of clothes you find depend on where you live.  I currently live in a college town.  So beyond the townies, it is students and professors who donate the clothing.  I frequent the Goodwill store right by campus, knowing that is the store that students from the Chicago suburbs and professors would drop off their donations.  I like to go especially before winter break, spring break, and summer break, that’s when students do their closet clearout before going home, and that’s when really good stuff comes in!

So … where do my clothes go after they have served their purpose?  I try to mend any rips and tears on my clothes as much as possible.  But if it is damaged beyond repair, I will take them to a textile recycling drop box.  If you look carefully, you’ll find them all over your city.  A really common one is the green and white USAgain box.  If I no longer like an item but it is in good condition, I’ll either donate it or sell it on my Poshmark closet.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still like to occasionally window shop at the mall.  I don’t do it often, but I do like to see what is currently trendy.  I am now ruthless on fit and loving the item, so I rarely will walk out with something.  But for me, it’s a fun challenge if I see something I like on a mannequin, and I try to find a similar item at a thrift store.

Zero Waste

Things I’ve Stopped Buying

I’ve been living zero waste for a little over a year now.  Living zero waste has helped me grow and be more conscious in my living.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I learn from every single one and make sure that I don’t make them a habit.

I wanted to talk about the things I’ve stopped buying since I’ve gone zero waste.  There’s actually a lot of stuff that I no longer buy, but I wanted to keep the big picture for people interested in living more sustainably.  So I’ll separate them into categories.  This is a result of living zero waste, practicing minimalism, and using the KonMari method around my household.

Clothing

  • Fast fashion:  I was such a lazy kid growing up, so I had my mom buy the majority of my clothes until I was in college. But once I got control over my wardrobe, I became sucked into the world of fast fashion.  Looking back to my college photos, I noticed a trend.  Freshmen year, I was really into bright, pastel colors.  Sophomore year, I wore lots of graphic tees.  Junior year, I started hoarding lots of skirts and dresses.  You get the gist.  The problem with fast fashion is that they usually aren’t in great quality, and they go out of style so fast.
  • Repeated Styles:  If I have something in my closet, I no longer see the need to buy a duplicate style.  I’ve trimmed my closet down so that I have one or two of each thing, and they are all of high quality.  For example, I used to have 5 different blue sweaters.  Granted they are different shades of blue, but at the end of the day, I had 5 blue sweaters.  That is no longer an issue I have.  I’ve also dwindled down my shoes to under 10 pairs at all times.

Health and Beauty

  • Feminine Products:  I use a menstrual cup and I love it.  I’ve written a blog post about it.
  • Makeup:  As I’ve grown older, I no longer feel the need to cover up all my imperfections.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love to get dolled up every day, but I’ve minimized what I wear and streamlined it all to 5 items.  I only wear mineral foundation, mascara, blush, brow liner, and eye shadow.  I’m also looking into making my own version of these 5 items.
  • Hair Products:  I wrote a post on sustainable hair care a while back on the products that I make instead.
  • Face Wash & Moisturizer:  I use castile soap as a face wash and oils (rosehip, argan, or almond) as a moisturizer.

Household

  • Cleaning Products:  It is amazing how much cleaning power vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap have.  I use these three in different capacities as cleaning products around the house.
  • Paper Products:  I don’t buy paper towels, tissues, or napkins.  I use rags, handkerchiefs, and cloth napkins instead.  The one exception is toilet paper, which I still buy regularly.  We are looking into installing a bidet to decrease our toilet paper use.
  • Aluminum Foil, Saran Wrap, Wax Paper, Parchment Paper:  These are all staples in the kitchen.  I don’t buy any of them anymore.  For aluminum foil and plastic wrap, I used to use them to store leftovers.  I now use my homemade beeswax food wrap instead.  If I need to cover a baked dish that calls for aluminum foil, I cover it with a cookie sheet.  I use a Silpat for all my baking needs or I just grease the pan with oil.
  • Ziploc Bags:  We use stainless steel tiffins or glass Tupperware.
  • Trash Bags:  No trash, no trash bag.
  • Bottled Water:  Growing up, we always had a water filtered installed.  But we would always buy bottled water when we traveled because it was convenient.  Now, I use a charcoal water filter at home and bring my water bottle with me when I travel.   (I will buy a few gallons of emergency water to put in storage if necessary.)
  • Packaged Food:  The only packaged foods I buy now are ingredients that are packaged in paper or glass.  I buy flour and sugar packaged in paper.  I also buy condiments (mostly Asian condiments since I can’t find them in bulk) in glass, like soy sauce.  I don’t buy any canned foods or processed foods beyond what I’ve just listed.

This list is just a sampling of things I no longer buy.  There are more specific things, but that list is much, much longer.  I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that when you make a commitment to reduce your waste, it will snowball into minimizing in all aspects of your life.  Your life will be much simpler and happier!

Zero Waste

Sustainable Eye Care

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If you are one of those lucky people with 20/20 vision (like my husband), I envy you.  But for the unlucky souls like me, I wanted to offer a few tips on keeping your eye care as sustainable as possible.

Glasses

I wear glasses at least 1 day out of the week, just to give my eyes a rest from contacts.  I also switch to glasses the minute I am done with work for the day.  Glasses are a lot more sustainable than contacts, but obviously they aren’t the best option for everyone.  Here are a few tips to keep your waste down when you use glasses:

  • Re-use your frame: Glasses prescriptions last 2 years.  When your prescription is up, just have your optomistrist swap out the lens.  You will save a lot of money.  I spent about $150 on my Ermenegildo Zegna frames, and I don’t plan on swapping them out anytime soon.  If you absolutely need to change your frame, you can have your optomistrist swap out the lenses for a pair of shades or no prescription lenses.  You can have a cute fashion statement or sunglasses.
  • Ditch the lens wipes: These are expensive and usually packaged individually, creating lots of waste.  I just use castile soap, warm water, and the cloth that my glasses came in to clean my lens.

Contacts

There are no zero waste options for contacts.  Nor do I think there should be.  I feel like in order to make sure everything is sterile, it’s impossible to have a zero waste option for contact solution or contact lens.  However, you can still be conscious and sustainable to divert 100% of the waste from landfills.

  • Switch to bi-weekly or monthly contacts:  It’ll save you lots of money.  Dailies typically cost a lot more than bi-weekly or monthly contacts.  You will also save a lot of packaging from being produced.  For example, if you use monthly contacts, you will only create 12 pairs of packaging.  If you use dailies, that’s 365 pairs of packaging a year.
  • Recycle every part of your contact solution packaging:  These usually come in a cardboard box that is recyclable.  The bottle will also have a little plastic shrink wrap on the cap.  I drop these off at my local grocery store (where you can also drop off plastic bags).  The plastic bottle is typically made from #2 HDPE plastic, which is easily recyclable.
  • Recycle contacts blister packaging and your lens:  Depending on your municipality, your blister packaging might actually recyclable through your curbside recycling program.  If not, Bausch + Lomb has this cool recycling program where you can send in your contact packaging (and the used contact lens) for free.
Zero Waste

Thank you, for sparking joy.

I’ve always considered myself a clean and tidy person.  Clean as in I scrub every inch of my house frequently, and tidy as in I regularly organize my space.  To be honest, I’ve never been the kind of person who had to say to a guest, “yeah it’s a bit messy right now…”.  However, even though I pride myself on being a clean and tidy person, I often find that I have to do “spring cleaning” throughout the year and clear out stuff so I can feel refreshed in my home.

I’ve heard of Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for a few years now (thank you Pinterest)but I never thought I needed a book to teach me how to tidy up and organize since I was already an organized person.  Then the Gilmore Girls revival happened.  My favorite character, Emily Gilmore, became a Kon-vert when her husband passed away and she sets off to de-clutter her life.  A curious Google search and hours of YouTube videos later, I bought the book.

Compared to the average American, I don’t have a lot of stuff.  Keep in mind, I’m 26, just married, and have no children.  So when I was reading about Kondo’s clients with mountains of clothing and possessions, that was hard for me to relate to.  I definitely am not a minimalist, but I have significantly less things than your average twenty-something.  But one concept sunk in for me.  In the book, Kondo goes in-depth to explain her process of de-cluttering.  She de-clutters by category and in order – clothes, books, papers, misc, momento.  As she works through each category, she’d hold each item in her hands and ask the question “does this spark joy?”

sparkjoy

It felt a little bit silly to hold a blouse and ask myself, “does this spark joy?”  But after a few attempts, I understood why she asks this vital question.  Like I’ve said before, I don’t have that much stuff.  But somehow, I have to take boxes of donation items to Goodwill several times a year.  How is that possible?  For me, I get lured by the idea of sales or something that catches my eye, and I purchase it.  Although that item might have some use for me or my household, it doesn’t really enrich my life.  So eventually it sees itself in the Goodwill box.

One thing that really spoke to me about the book was how as you get rid of stuff that don’t spark joy, you have to thank it.  One of my really good friends from college is Japanese.  She’s not religious, but before every meal, she’d say “itadakimasu”, which roughly translates to “I humbly receive”.  This notion of gratitude for the hands that have prepared the food is really similar to my Christian upbringing when we’d say grace at the dinner table.  Being Asian myself, some of the Japanese cultural acts like greeting your house when you enter, or always maintaining thankfulness isn’t that foreign.

For me, thanking an item for keeping me warm or being a good read is closure.  I think I had trouble getting rid of some things in the past because I didn’t bring myself to acknowledge my journey with the item.  For example, I kept the dress I wore to my college graduation for a long time even though it was no longer my style because it has that sentimental feeling attached to it.  But it no longer “sparked joy”, so it was time to say goodbye.  Thanking the dress for such a wonderful memory of graduating college with my friends gave me sufficient closure and the reassurance that I won’t regret this when it’s out of my hands.

It’s almost like a good breakup.  Before I started dating my husband, I had one serious boyfriend.  When we ended things, we both expressed our appreciation for one another and wished each other the best.  We don’t talk anymore.  But to me, that was an excellent closure.  We enjoyed each other’s company when we were in each other’s lives.  But when that chapter ended, we moved on to better things.

thankyou

I think if we are fortunate enough to own a lot of material possessions, more often than not, we don’t treat them with proper respect.  Our mindset is often that of “hey, I bought it,  I can do whatever I want with it.  If it breaks, I’ll go out and buy another.”  But this kind of attitude is quite negative.  So doing exercises like thanking inanimate objects might sound odd at first, but it does change your perspective on treating everything you own with proper respect.

For me, the KonMari method has really fit into my zero waste lifestyle seamlessly.  I’m a lot more picky on what I want entering my house.  Things don’t enter my house because they are a good deal or on clearance.  They have to enrich my life.  In de-cluttering my life, a lot of my belongings got sent to thrift stores, where they will hopefully spark joy in someone else’s life.

Zero Waste

Sustainable Hair Care

dsc_3610I’m so, so, so excited to write this post.  I’ve gone about 7 months of no-poo, and my hair has never been fuller, healthier, and shinier.  No-poo is the practice of washing your hair without commercial shampoo.  It runs the spectrum from using only water (purest form of no-poo) to someone like me who uses shampoo soap bars and other natural alternatives.  I wanted to share with you my entire hair care routine and my alternatives to commercial products.  Here are some benefits to doing a sustainable hair care routine:

  • Inexpensive – depending on what brand of shampoo you use and how much shampoo you use each time, you could be running to the store every other month buying a new bottle.  I use a shampoo bar that costs around $3-4, which lasts me about 3 months.
  • Less oily – I used to have to wash my hair every single day to prevent my hair looking like an oily mess.  Commercial shampoos often strip the natural oils on your hair.  While we might think that’s good and it’ll make our hair look cleaner, our body ends up producing more oil to replace what was stripped.  Shampoo bars don’t strip the oils, they simply clean the excess oils off.  What I’ve found is that I can skip a day or two of washing my hair and it will still look and feel great.
  • Travel friendly – No more bringing bottles of hair products with me!  One bar and I’m ready to go!

Here is what is in my regular hair routine (scroll down for recipes):

  • Shampoo – I typically buy this at the farmers market, or at the local co-op.  You will typically find them package-free.  At my co-op, you can actually slice your own soap, neat huh?  The featured image is a gift from a friend who got it from her local farmers market.  That’s typically the most packaging you’ll see – just a paper label that you can recycle or compost.  I am currently using goat milk shampoo bars.  But I have used vegan shampoo bars in the past, and they work just as well.
  • Conditioner – I remember I used to use conditioner every single day.  I would glob a large amount to make sure that my hair is smooth and shiny.  No more!  I use apple cider vinegar as a conditioning rinse 2x a week, and my hair is shiny and does not tangle, ever!
  • Deep Conditioner – Remember when all the beauty blogs told you that coconut oil is a miracle worker?  Well, it still is!  When my hair is feeling parched, I’ll take a quarter size of coconut oil and massage it in my hair.  I let this sit for a few hours and I wash it off.  My hair is super soft every time I do this.
  • Scalp Massage Oil – Because castor oil stimulates the production of collagens, it is the perfect scalp massage oil.  Some have said that castor oil helps them grow thicker and longer hair.  For me, the thick oil just feels amazing as a scalp massage oil.  I use a dime size all over my scalp (unlike the coconut oil, I don’t rub this on my hair).  I do this once a month.
  • Beach Spray – Move aside, Bumble & Bumble!  Although Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray is a lot of people’s holy grail product, it’s ridiculously expensive.  I make my own when I want to achieve effortless beach waves.
  • Heat Protectant – I don’t use heat tools very often (only for special occasions), but I do blow dry my hair every night.  I use a small amount of argan oil and run that through my hair as a heat protectant.  It helps my hair lock in the shine.
  • Hair Pomade – I have naturally wavy/curly hair that typically don’t need additional styling.  But for when I do style my hair for special occasions, I use a homemade hair pomade.  My husband use this as well.

ACV Rinse
– 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
– 2 cups water
Pour the ACV and water into a bottle.  After shampooing, slowly pour the rinse over hair, avoiding getting into eyes.  Let sit for a few minutes, and rinse off.  Style as usual.

Beach Spray
– 1 cup warm water
– 2 tbs epsom salt
– 1 tsp lemon juice
Combine ingredients and let cool.  Transfer to a spray bottle.

Hair Pomade
– 1 tbs beeswax
– 1 1/2 tbs shea butter
– 2 tbs jojoba oil
Melt ingredients over double boiler.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Zero Waste

Facial Oils

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I used to think my skin type was combination to oily.  No matter how many oil-free formulas I tried, my face would end up looking like a oily, hot mess at the end of the day.  Super attractive, right?  When I read about facial oils and how it could be the perfect zero waste alternative to store-bought creams, I was intrigued.  I was hesitant since I thought, “if my face is oily, how would rubbing more oil on my face help?”

Facial oils are inexpensive.  You can get a 1 oz bottle of the facial oil of your choice or around $10-20.  The bottle should last you 3-4 months if you use it in morning and night.  I typically use 5 drops and pat it on my face and neck.  Facial oils have many other uses, such as: massage oil, make-up remover, hair serum, cuticle oil etc.

I want to share with you my top 3 favorite facial oils that are regularly in my beauty routine.

Rosehip Oil ($$$)
Let me begin by saying that Miranda Kerr uses rosehip oil regularly … and she’s got fabulous skin!  Rosehip oil contains lots of fatty acids, such as omega-3.  It helps with photo-aging, hyperpigmentation, and acne scars.  This is a dry oil, so if you have dry skin, you’ll need something on top of it.  For me, this is the perfect day moisturizer.

Argan Oil ($$)
Argan oil has tons of vitamin E and is extremely moisturizing, so if you have eczema or dry skin, this is a perfect oil for you.  I typically don’t use argan oil during the day, because it’s too heavy for me.  This is perfect for a night moisturizer.

Sweet Almond Oil ($)
Sweet almond oil has loads of vitamin A, and is known to reduce UV damage.  Sweet almond oil is also a dry oil, so it is absorbed super fast and won’t leave your skin feeling oily.

If you are lucky, you will also be able to find these oils in bulk at your local co-op or bulk store.  After using these oils for about half a year, I noticed that the general oiliness of my skin has subsided.  I realized that my skin type is actually normal.  Since these facial oils are non-comedogenic, it is absorbed into the skin but allows it to breathe.