Wardrobe and Zero Waste Update

Last week I worked on our wardrobes, and this week I worked on reducing our waste.

First, I completed my minimalist wardrobe my purchasing a white dress and pair of sandals. I got rid of one of my grey jackets, one shirt, and one skirt. So, now, my “core” wardrobe consists of: four sundresses, a denim jacket, two blazers, one pair of jeans, one shirt, one pair of shorts, one bathing suit, a pair of sneakers, dress shoes, and sandals. I also have two formal dresses that I can’t yet part with, as well as my bikini from Goodwill that I wore last summer (Rob won’t let me get rid of that!).

For Rob and Beanie, I made a list of clothing for them. We got rid of items we didn’t need and went to Goodwill to look for things on our wish list. I then hit e-bay to look for the rest.

Beanie has 4 long sleeved shirts, 4 pair of pants, 4 short sleeved shirts, 4 pair of shorts, 3 sundresses, 3 pair of tights, sneakers, boots, dress shoes, sandals, 2 sleepers, and 2 swimsuits. She also has three fancier dresses that people have given us, and they are too cute to get rid of!

Rob’s wardrobe consists of 3 pair of shorts, 1 Hawaiin shirt, 1 paisley shirt, 1 short sleeved shirt with a band collar, 1 polo shirt, 1 striped shirt, 2 pair of dress pants, 1 pair of jeans, 1 sweater, 1 turtleneck, 3 button down shirts, running shoes, deck shoes, boots, and sandals. Rob collects t-shirts from moped rallies, so he also has a collection of those and two formal suits. We both kept an older pair of jeans to wear when we paint the boat.

As far as zero waste is concerned, we are focusing on not letting the recycling pile up. I bought a container to go next to the garbage can under the sink, and I’ve found a recycling center that will accept more plastics than the one near our house.

Next week is my week to focus on my resolution to get off the grid, but I do not want to invest a great deal of money on the house at this time during the year. Instead, we will focus on getting Moonraker ready for the summer (70 days left until launch day!). We will be away from shore powers during much of the summer, so being off the grid will be important with the boat.

Zero Waste Wednesday: A Garbage Update

We’ve made some great progress toward meeting our New Year’s Resolution of reducing our garbage. We split our time between two houses in the winter, to make Beanie’s therapy schedule easier. At our house, we have been filling about 1/3 of a kitchen garbage bag per week. At the other house, it’s been 1/2 of a plastic grocery bag.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the garbage is diapers. We used cloth diapers until the Bean turned two. At that time, she was outgrowing her supply, and we decided to just use disposables, since we were surely so close to potty training! However, potty training is sometimes more difficult for kids with SPD, and we don’t know if Beanie even feels the urge to go. But we’ll keep plugging away. I am positive that we will meet our goal of filling no more than one grocery bag per month, once the Bean is potty trained!

Otherwise, we’ve had the most luck with using reusable grocery shopping containers and finding creative ways to dispose of food waste. Also, making a weekly recycling trip has cut down on paper, cardboard, and plastic waste. Recycling is overwhelming if we don’t reduce first, but we have no more than a canvas grocery bag full of items to take in each week.

So, out of curiosity, after garbage day on Monday, I am going to bag the diapers separately for a week and see how much garbage we would produce without them.

Zero Waste Wednesday: Working Our Way Down

Producing close to Zero Waste is a lofty goal..and one that can seem impossibly unobtainable. We made the New Year’s resolution to produce no more than one grocery bag of garbage in a month, and it’s hard to know where to start.

We’ve been using reusable containers for grocery shopping, and buying in bulk whenever possible. We even get our shampoo, conditioner, dish soap, and laundry detergent in bulk, so that we don’t have the container waste.

We used to recycle a lot. The problems arose when the items for recycling took over our kitchen, especially if we weren’t able to get to the recycling center that week. Now, since we’ve reduced our waste in general, we only have a few items to recycle. I’ve put an extra garbage can under the sink, for these items.

Food waste is our next project. We’re not home enough for composting to be practical, but we do live in the woods. I’ve found that if I leave clippings and other food waste outside, they will be gone in the morning. The trick here, like with recycling, is to reduce first. We really try to eat as much of the food as possible, so there is less waste in the first place.

With all these changes, we’re filling one kitchen-sized bag per week, if we don’t count garbage from decluttering/remodeling. I think the next step is to fill a kitchen-sized bag every other week. Only after we are able to do that consistently for a couple of weeks, will we look at filling a kitchen-sized bag every three weeks, then every month. After that, we will work toward filling a grocery bag every month.

It’s definitely do-able. I’ll keep you posted!

Zero Waste Wednesday: A Zero Waste Car

Yes, cars do produce waste. (For a unique way to reduce that, look here). This post, however, is about reducing the waste inside your car! This is an easy way for us to move toward our resolution of producing less garbage.

We love road trips. Sometimes we get up and, spur of the moment, pile into the car and take off on a new adventure. Often, there is nothing more refreshing than a change of scenery.

Which leads to the build-up. Pop cans, coffee cups, food wrappers, and the like fill my once-shiny vehicle. Here are some ideas for preventing all the waste:

1. Keep 2 travel mugs in each car. They can be filled with coffee that you bring, coffee that you buy, water, or even fountain soda.

2. When you have time to prepare, bring LOTS of food. Veggie wraps make an excellent on-the-road lunch. Raw veggies, nuts, popcorn, and granola are great car snacks.

3. If you must stop for a meal or snack, stop at a grocery store. You’ll be able to find something that uses less packaging. Fresh fruit are wonderful for this! Sure, there will be some waste, but not nearly as much.

4. Keep your grocery shopping supplies–canvas bags, empty containers, produce bags, etc.–in the car. You can use these for unexpected grocery store stops, and they will be there when you actually do go shopping.

5. If you get the mail while in the car, bring it all in right away! Most of it can be recycled.

I hope this helps you keep your automobile clean and happy!

New Year’s Resolutions

Normally, I don’t make new year’s resolutions. The fall is my new year, and I tend to make my goals at that time.

However, this Christmas break–along with some of the gifts we were given by generous relatives–has led us to plan for the upcoming year. Many of our crazy dreams stand a good chance of becoming reality. These are our resolutions:

1. Eat less poison. My brother and sister-in-law gave my this book, which has renewed my desire to stop eating the toxic, standard American diet. True, we avoid trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, and refined sugar. However, we’re still eating plenty of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and omega 6 fats. We’re positive that this has contributed to our being sick over the holidays.

2. Get completely off the grid. This has long been a dream of ours, even though we thought it was just a pipe dream. Now, we will be buying solar panels for the boat, and we have a wood stove. We learned that water heaters for wood stoves are inexpensive and relatively easy to install. Little by little, I know we can drastically reduce our utility bills, and I think we can be off the grid by this time next year.

3. Generate one plastic shopping bag (or less) of garbage each month. This will take some serious lifestyle changes, but I think we can do it, if we are committed.

4. Put together a 12-piece wardrobe for me, and 20-piece wardrobes for Rob and Beanie. I already have a plan for mine, although I probably won’t follow it exactly. Rob and Beanie don’t wear dresses on a regular basis (and Rob doesn’t wear them at all!), so they will require more pieces. However, I think it is very realistic to have all of us in minimalist wardrobes by the end of the year.

5. Have next year’s Christmas shopping done by December 1. We say this every year, but this year we’ll make it happen! That means we’ll buy some gifts next month. We’ll watch Woot, Meritline, and look for unique gifts in the ports we visit over the summer.

So those are my goals for the next year. I’ll make categories for each of them, and keep you posted on our progress!

Zero Waste Wednesday: Alternatives to Recreational Shopping

When I was a teenager, there was only one place to meet up with friends: the mall, of course! We’d catch up on gossip, walk around, have lunch, and absently make some purchases as we went. It was an enjoyable time, but my closet kept getting fuller. I’d purge the things, and it would fill up again. Not exactly compatible with a lower-waste lifestyle.

So why do we recreationally shop? The mall is a place to spend time with friends, and it is much more interesting than sitting in the living room. It’s a place to have a mothers’ night out. Shopping is a great way to release stress. We’ve all indulged in “retail therapy” at some point or another.

We know that voluntary simplicity is not about self-deprivation, so how can we meet these needs without accumulating more unnecessary garbage?

–Have a clothing exchange party. This probably won’t work if you already are a minimalist, but if you have some clothing that is still nice, you might enjoy trading with some of your friends. You do all need to be the same (or close to the same) size.

–Go thrift-store shopping. This will satisfy your desire to search, but, due to the time it takes to search, you won’t go home with nearly as much.

–Go to an antique store for the same reason. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to leave one of these stores empty-handed.

–If you want to walk and catch up with your friends, go to a walking trail. If it’s winter, try cross-country skiing.

–Have a craft night with your friends.

–Plan and make a fancy dinner with your friends.

What are some other ways you socialize without bringing home more stuff?

Zero Waste Wednesday: Developing a Wardrobe

After Christmas, I’m going to go shopping. And what I purchase will further my journey into voluntary simplicity.

For clothes.

Yes, I have clothing. I currently own a lovely pair of jeans, an Old Navy MP3 player sweatshirt that fits nicely, a homemade-looking skirt, an Enwrapture skirt, two short-sleeved shirts, one 3/4 length sleeve shirt, a denim jacket, a black blazer, and a pink sundress (the only one from last summer that has held up, after some repairs from Rob). I’ve got 10 pieces, and they work well. On Monday I wear the homemade looking skirt with a shirt and the blazer. Tuesday I wear Enwrapture with a shirt and the denim jacket. Then I change (temporarily) into my jeans and do the laundry. Wednesday I wear the homemade looking skirt with a shirt and the denim jacket. Thursday I wear the Enwrapture (facing the other way–it’s reversible!) with the 3/4 length sleeve shirt. Friday is blue jean day, so I wear the jeans and the sweatshirt.

So what’s the problem?

Well, I’ve kind of lost 40 pounds within the last year. The homemade looking skirt and one of my shirts completely hang on me. The Enwrapture skirt is falling apart. Also, the pink dress gets no wear during the school year, and my other outfits will get no wear during the summer.

We do laundry every 3 days, but that does not produce a full load. We would like to fill the machine (without creating an extra load) on wash day, especially in the summer when we’re using coin laundry.

It will take some experimenting, but we think we will fill the machine every 5 days. We will try it every 4 days and see if we should wait an extra day. So, that laundry will happen every 5 days, this is my dream wardrobe.

I will keep:

1. The denim jacket, but I will put new buttons on it.

2. The jeans.

3. The sundress.

4. One of the shirts. (The one that doesn’t hang on me).

Then, thanks to eBay, I hope to aquire:

A white dress, befitting of a sailor girl. In the off-season, it would go well with a long jacket. The jacket would also go well over the sundress. I would opt for a lighter color–perhaps a brown or lighter grey.

Next, something simple and sleeveless, that could go on the boat and go with the blazer and denim jacket.

And one more fun dress, that could take both jackets…

(OK, so I probably won’t get the tats…)

And I will top it all off with a pair of shorts that actually fit. So there you have it, a 9 piece wardrobe for me! If you count shoes, I’ll keep my sneakers (which really do double as boots, for my purposes), my dress shoes (which I only wear indoors, at work), and buy a sturdy pair of sandals. That will put me at 12 pieces, and I won’t even wear shoes most of the summer!

I will post updates as I gather them…

Zero Waste Wednesday: Don’t Be Afraid to Buy Used

Rob and I have theorized that there is enough stuff. They really could stop manufacturing anything for a couple of years, and we would all be all right. People replace their stuff so quickly and so frequently, that there is a lot of very nice stuff slated for the landfill.

So, now we have a frugal way to keep things out of the landfill. Whatever you are looking for, try to find it used first!

I know there is a stigma to buying used. Part of me thinks that this is deeply rooted in our consumer culture. If you’re ever seen “The Story of Stuff,” you could say that it’s because, in buying used, you’re not feeding the arrow enough. We are taught to consume conspicuously, and it if we don’t have fancy, name-brand things, we must be *gasp* poor or *double gasp* tightwads. It doesn’t matter who or what we harm in our consumption.

So, yes, buying used will help save the earth. But what about germs? All these people have touched those things. Think of all the people who slept on that couch. Ewww!

First of all, new items are hardly sterile. They still get touched. Germs are literally everywhere. That’s why we have immune systems! As far as the “eww” factor, a good shampooing will fix any furniture. Clothes get washed, and hard surfaces get bleached. Really, they will be fine!

OK, but aren’t used things in worse shape? That’s why people want new, right?

Yes, sometimes, but we have found many items that, with a little TLC, can shine as good as new. It does require more time, but it can be worth it in the end. When you buy something that was made before planned obsolescence was the norm, when items were supposed to actually last a year–and then some!–you’re really getting a higher quality product, even if it does require some sweat equity.

So, how do you get started? Here are some of our favorite places to look for used goods:

1. Thrift stores are a great place to start. These are great for dishes and other kitchen-wares, clothing, and toys. Some even have furniture (although it’s all about the hunt, it you want something that isn’t completely dated). The Salvation Army sends all of their donations to a central location, then redistributes them, so it’s really the luck of the draw what you find and where. Goodwill does not redistribute, so certain communities will have certain items. For example, I love shopping at a Goodwill in a college town, for clothing. They have very up-to-date, even trendy clothes. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and St. Vincent DePaul are non-profit, so they will probably have lower prices, and the money will go to good causes.

2. Now let me talked about the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Technically, it is a non-profit thrift store, but it deserves its own category. If you’re going to do ANY project in your home, stop here first. You’ll find paint, building materials, fixtures, appliances, and furniture. Some is really dated, some is not, so it’s all about the hunt! One ReStore is not like another, so you might want to visit a few of them. Some also sell toys; we got an umbrella stroller for $5.

3. Next, check out independently owned resale shops. Some of these are very expensive; some are cheaper than thrift stores. Some have nice things; some have junk. We got our coffee grinder and table at a very artsy resale shop (I also got a nice pair of jeans there!). Once you find a store you like, go back every so often.

4. We got our fridge at a pawn shop. Usually these have good electronics, especially car stereos. Other than that, you never know what else you’ll find, so it is worth checking out!

5. Summer is rummage sale time. I posted about some of my tips for those here.

6. Craig’s List is great for larger items. We found our Volvo, our pop-up camper, our motor home, and Moonrakeron Craig’s List! You can also find very nice furniture, woodstoves, and appliances there. We found our stove on Craig’s List.

7. After that, it’s time for e-bay. I do a LOT of Christmas shopping there. There are plenty of new items, but used ones cost less. It’s buyer-beware though, since you are buying the item sight unseen. Don’t spend a lot of money if there is any chance the item isn’t in great shape. We got computer parts, books, and software on e-bay.

8. Finally, you might want to check out Freecycle. Some areas have a great one going, some do not. I tried it and was very disappointed with the one in our area. There were plenty of “in search of” posts, and few people offering anything. Still, I put up some items, and found that people wanted me to go above and beyond to deliver them. Silly, silly, silly. If it’s free, then the recipient should be responsible for picking it up at a time when the other person is available. But I have heard that it’s better in other areas.

So, enjoy living greener and more frugally. Happy hunting!

Zero Waste Wednesday: Mismatched Plates

This is a fun was to add personality to your kitchen and reduce waste at the same time.

Walking through any thrift store, you will see many outdated, single plates, being sold for a dollar or less apiece. These plates are going to sit in the thrift stores until they are eventually thrown away, destined for the landfill. What if we were to buy three of these and use them for meals? We couldn’t help but wonder.

So, Beanie picked out a blue plate, ruffled along the edge. Rob chose a 1970’s vintage dish, decorated with green vegetables. For me, it was a blue china piece. Those are our plates. Beanie knows where to place each one when she sets the table, and we are each in charge of washing our own. We tried to pick out mismatched forks as well, but the only interesting one was a small one for the Bean. We will continue searching.

So what about company? We’ll just keep looking for more interesting plates. We only need two more, for hosting. We’ll keep them up on the top shelf in the cupboard, so we won’t be tempted to use them ourselves and cause dishes to pile up.

So, here is our table, set for dinner. We think it looks really nice with our kitchen.

Zero Waste Wedneday: Plastic Bag Alternatives

I have been writing, from time to time, about our efforts to reduce waste. We have been especially focusing on how to reduce waste involved in grocery shopping and meal preparation.

We all know about canvas grocery bags. But what about the other plastic bags in our lives? What about Ziplocs and produce bags? I’ve found myself putting fruits and vegetables straight into the canvas bag, so that I won’t have to use a plastic bag.

Then, for my birthday, my friend gave me some Blue Avocado bags. These sturdy, pretty bags are exactly what I needed!

The net bags are perfect for fresh fruits and veggies:

The sandwich bags are great replacements for Ziplocs, and they are perfect for trail mix and granola:

By reusing something that will last, we are reducing our waste, little by little!