Minimalism

10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2!

If you missed Part 1, you can check that out here.

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p2

Let’s get right into it.

#5 Vote with Your $$$

Every time you purchase something, you are contributing to its demand. This is simple economics.

Put your money towards products and companies that you believe in. If it is important to you that your items are produced using renewable energy, then support companies that do.

For instance, there is a fair trade shop just around the corner from our apartment and it is currently struggling, so after work today I popped in and used my dollars to buy wool dryer balls and Bee’s Wrap. My dollars did not just get me faster-drying clothes in the dryer but they made a statement that I support these kinds of shops and want them in my neighborhood.

Resources:

#6 Your Pantry and Fridge

Open your fridge.

Now open your pantry.

How much of the stuff in there is going to end up in the trash can/landfill? I am not just talking about food packaging and wrappers, but food waste too.

Keep this in mind when you are at the grocery store. I am not asking you to only shop in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, but just start noticing.

Once you do it is hard to shake it.

 

CSA week 7

Joining a CSA helped us cut down on packaged produce, but sometimes we still received things in plastic. 

 

Resources for Cutting Back on Packaging:

#7 Wait it Out

When I find something that I want (not need), I bookmark it in my browser under a folder called “Things I Want to Buy.”

And then I leave it there for days, weeks, and months.

If I am still thinking about it long after I saved it, then I will consider it further. If not then it gets deleted, and to be honest, not many things have survived the “Things I Want to Buy” folder.

Basically, avoid impulse buys by having a waiting period for each item. You might find that you didn’t like it as much as you thought, or get home and realize you already have 5 black sweaters.

Resources:

#8 Put Some Effort into What You Already Have

Did something break? Then fix it.

Do your jeans have a hole in them? Sew them.

jean-patch2

The #8 overlooked way to create less waste is also known simply as taking care of your stuff! Wash and dry clothing according to the directions. Store equipment in the proper place. Use a coaster. Give your car regular maintenance. Fix the soles of your shoes when they have worn through.

Putting a little extra effort or elbow grease will make your stuff live a longer life.

Resources: 

#9 Buy Secondhand/Previously Loved

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that the majority of our furniture is secondhand. Everything pictured below has either come from Craigslist, a garage sale, or family/friends.

Not only is it way cheaper than buying anything new, but it keeps pieces out of the landfill. Beyond furniture, I do have some pieces of clothes that are secondhand, but the majority of my wardrobe is not. It is something I am working on.

Resources to get your secondhand shopping on:

#10 Don’t Give into Trends

The fashion world likes to tell us that we need new styles of clothing every few months. If it is not the 70’s bell sleeves, the chokers, or those “cold shoulder” shirts, it will be something else tomorrow. That way you can buy, buy, buy.

Don’t give into that crap. You don’t need any of it. I like to think that the clothes I purchase will be something I wear for a long time, so I stay away from trends and keep my closet pretty neutral.

Whatever the next ridiculous trend is, pass on it, and just wear your regular sweater that covers your shoulders with pride!

More Resources:

 

What else would you add to the list?

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10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 1

Millennials love lists, according to my friend Julie, and she requested I put this list together.

This list is not going to tell you to use a refillable water bottle and reusable bags. Those things are on pretty much every list about going green, but come on, we can do better than that.

So I present to you:

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p1 (1)

#1 Choose Quality

In life these days, we are inundated with cheap, cheap crap (and by crap I usually mean plastic) on Amazon, in the line at the store, and basically everywhere. We are enticed by the price, make a purchase, and within some short amount of time, that piece of crap breaks or gets worn out.

Into the landfill, it goes, where it will exist until, well forever.

We can avoid this by choosing more quality pieces when we make a purchase. When going for quality there are a number of things you want to look out for:

  • What is it made from? Choose materials that are known for their longevity like stainless steel or solid wood.
  • Who made it? A local craftsman puts time and hard work into their products.
  • What is the guarantee? Look for companies that have lifetime guarantees and will take back or fix your purchases.
  • Price? Yes, upfront it may cost more, but in the long run, it is something you will not have to replace.

Resources for making quality purchases:

#2 Your Lunch

First of all, don’t buy lunch.

Bring your own. Yes, pack up your lunch in the morning or the night before and bring it to work. I do it every single day.

But everything you bring doesn’t need to be destined for a Ziploc bag tossed in the trash. Make some investments (or go secondhand or use what you already have) in reusable pieces that you can pack your meal in every day.

Resources for a less wasteful lunch:

#3 Say No/Don’t Take Stuff You Don’t Need

This one is really easy, but also really hard at the same time. Sometimes it is difficult to say no to people, but a simple “No, thank you,” should suffice in most situations when you are offered useless (but sometimes useful) stuff.

You are not required to take anything from anyone. If you have no use for something, just don’t take it. Don’t feel obligated in any way.

Here are some common situations where you can be offered stuff you don’t necessarily want:

  • Dentist (You can accept another roll of floss when you finish the one from 3 years ago)
  • Conferences (water bottles, magnets, pens, notepads, etc.)
  • Races (shirts, water bottles, drawstring bags, etc.)
  • Generic events (tote bags, glasses, hats, pens, etc.)
  • Sporting events (magnets, calendars, t-shirts, bobbleheads, etc.)

ALL of those things are the first to go when you declutter. You know I am right. 

Resources to say no:

#4 The Bathroom/Beauty Routine

Bathrooms can be a haven for where body lotions go to die in the back of the cabinet.

The first step is to take stock of what you have versus what you actually use and need. From there, swap out disposables for reusable items.

Easy and not so scary swaps:

 

cotton rounds

My washable cotton rounds

Resources for taking it a step further:

#5 Limit Online Shopping

Yes, Amazon Prime is amazing, but everything you order on the world wide web comes with packaging, and usually, it is excessive packaging.

I for one would rather shop in a brick and mortar store where I can see the quality of an item, and I can touch it and feel it. When buying online, despite how many reviews you read, you aren’t quite sure what you are going to get when you open the overly packaged box.

One thing I try to do is see if an item I am looking for is available at a nearby store for pickup. When shopping online, a lot of clothing stores let you see if your item and size is available at specific locations. You can reserve it right then and there. No shipping involved.

Resources:

 

Stay tuned this week for part 2!

We Broke Our Microwave and Never Fixed It

Usually, I am always in the pro-fix-whatever-is-broken camp, but in this particular case, I am not so sure.

A month or so ago, we had an incident with the microwave…

kitchen3

Since we have a tiny kitchen, we have an abnormally tiny microwave. Basically, a heating pad was in there and couldn’t fully spin around, leaving it stuck against the microwave’s wall. That caused a bit of a sparking and singeing episode and the microwave has not been used since.

To avoid any accidental and habitual use, I just unplugged it. At first, it was quite annoying since I was so used to checking the time on it, even though there is a clock right on the wall.

microwave

My morning oatmeal used to be ready in 2 minutes and re-heated dinner was just a few minutes away. Ok, I don’t need to explain to you how a microwave works…

Anyway, now everything gets heated up in the oven or on the stove. I used to grumble about it, but really it doesn’t take that much longer. If I know I need to heat up leftovers in the oven, I just need to remember to turn it on a bit beforehand.

Overall, the re-heating process of any food does not take any more than 15 minutes, but it does create some extra dishes…

Should we even try to fix it? Or just go with the flow of no microwave?

 

 

 

Can A Used Table Be An Upgrade? Yes!

Besides our couch, the kitchen table is probably used the most piece of furniture we own.

Except it is not actually used for dining.

It is where:

  • I work
  • I blog
  • We dump everything when we come in the door
  • The mail gets tossed
  • We put stuff from the kitchen to give us room to cook in there
  • And on and on

table1

The current kitchen table has been around for a number of years now. I picked it up at a garage sale and it made its first appearance in my apartment during graduate school. I ended up spray painting the legs black and re-staining the top since it was most definitely used as a kid’s table and had been covered in marker.

K used it in his previous apartment and it is now in our apartment.

table2

It has definitely made the rounds.

It’s a fine table. There is nothing really wrong with it, but it does not serve us anymore.

We can only fit two chairs underneath the table. That means only two people can ever sit there. We can never have people over for dinner (we only have 2 chairs anyway), or just sit at the table with more than one other person.

It is time to finally get a bigger kitchen table that can fit 4 adults where at least 2 are not standing up. And one where I did not do such a terrible job staining it. (This was even before last year’s debacle with stripping and staining our kitchen chairs).

Anyway, we want a quality piece of furniture that is going to last us many years, not just a quick fix that looks cute for the moment.

We like the style and look of a lot of West Elm tables, but we are not too keen on the price.

On the other hand, we are also willing to pay more for a quality piece.

For now, I will be been scouring Craigslist for a good deal. Maybe I will even find one at a vintage market this summer. Let me know if you find any!

 

 

 

How I Bought 1 New Piece of Clothing in 6 Months

I hadn’t even realized it had been that long.

Back in September, I made a vow not to buy new clothing for the rest of 2016. I slipped up in November, but by December I did not falter again.

Now we are cruising through February and I came to the realization that I still have not made any new clothing purchases.

Do I live under a rock? No, but I have made some conscious decisions on how to keep my credit card inside my wallet. Here are my top 3 tips on how to not be tempted into buying new clothes.

1. Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe!

I said goodbye to the constant emails that tempted me with sales and deals. Now I no longer get sucked into going to the retailer’s site to see what I can get for up to 75% off.

A side benefit is that my inbox is much less crowded.

 

2. Don’t Go Shopping Just Because

bike

Bored? Go ride your bike. 

In many worlds, it works like this:

Bored? Let’s go shopping!

You are not shopping out of need, but instead out of pure boredom and for the thrill of finding a deal. Most likely anything you come home with is not something you needed.

Instead, fill your boredom up with something more productive. Read a book, knit a scarf, go for a walk. Think of all the money you’ll save! (That is unless you decide to pick up an expensive hobby, good yarn can get pricey!)

 

 

3. Save Your Wanted Items For Later

There are definitely times where I come across a piece of clothing that I may not have a legitimate need for. Instead of making an impulse decision, I save the link to the product in a bookmarked folder on my browser called “Things I Want To Buy.”

Usually, if I save an item in there, I forget about it later and it never gets purchased. Or I go back to see what is on the list and realize I definitely do not need it. If I still remember it’s there weeks later, I will consider it more. I personally find it to be a good system.

It also makes a really good go-to for gift ideas!

What do you think?

Packing In A Long Weekend in CA

My cousin got married in California over the weekend, so the majority of our family packed up our things and flew to San Francisco for the nuptials.

 

audrey-wedding1

The view from the wedding venue

 

Carry On = Minimal Clothing

While packing for a wedding is hard, packing for one in a climate you aren’t familiar with (and in a carry on bag) is even harder.

So this was my attempt at packing light! The most obvious clothing I needed to pack was something for the wedding and family dinner the night before. Otherwise, we would just be doing some exploring and going to see Alcatraz!

To avoid any crazy overpacking, I started with making a list of items I knew I would need, and then items that crossed over and could be used for different purposes.

  • 1 pair of boots
  • 1 pair of moccasins
  • 1 pair of heels for the wedding
  • 2 dresses for rehearsal and wedding
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 4 shirts/sweaters
  • 2 vests
  • 2 scarves
  • 1 regular jacket and 1 rain coat
  • obviously the other essentials

All made it into my carry on without a hitch! Pairing different vests and scarves with different shirts, pants, and shoes, really helped vary my outfit choices over the 5 days. So at least in most pictures, it does not look like I am wearing the same thing every day!

Being Conscious of Waste While Traveling

 

audrey-wedding2

Taken at the Cliff House, San Francisco, CA

 

Every single restaurant we went to had a sign that stated water would not automatically be served  due to California’s severe drought.  Living in a part of the country that is not under such water restrictions, it was a bit shocking at first, but it makes complete sense. How much water is wasted being brought to customers who don’t even want it?

In other news, my foldable reusable bag came quite in handy throughout the trip. It carried leftovers, souvenirs, jackets, and umbrellas. I refused straws at restaurants and refilled my water bottle where ever I was.

I definitely was not zero-waste perfect on this trip, but I made conscious efforts and shared them with my family.

Many other bloggers do a fantastic job covering how they travel zero-waste. Check them out:

Most importantly, check out the Zero Waster’s Travel Companion! Put together by the Zero Waste Bloggers Network, this guide can help you travel more consciously to 32 different cities around the world!

Doing Good on No New Clothes – Kinda?

Letting people know what you are doing really helps. I have been telling my mom and my friends so they know my goal is to not purchase any new clothes for the rest of this year.

Friends can be helpful and not helpful in this situation. Luckily, I have a helpful friend. Before going on a recent camping trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, I considered investing in some Keen sandals for our planned kayak down the Platte River. As I was asking a friend about her pair of Keens, she reminded me that I was not supposed to be buying anything.

I tried some excuses on her such as:

  • these are shoes, not clothes
  • they are a necessity (they aren’t, I don’t kayak that often)
  • they are a good deal
  • it is an investment
  • and so on and so forth

In the end, I knew she was right. So I did not buy them and I didn’t end up needing them for kayaking.

 

sleepingbear3

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – didn’t need new shoes for this! 

 

This situation reminded me of the time I gave up dessert for Lent. Since I could not have cookies, I ended up eating a bunch of donuts and pop tarts because I declared that they weren’t dessert, but breakfast items.

Anyway, while I have not been buying new clothes, I have noticed a slight uptick in buying things. Mostly it is stuff we needed, or replacing items with a more durable option. I am recycling our plastic soap dispensers and purchasing stainless steel pumps and bulk hand soap instead. To avoid any temptation, I try to peruse Craigslist and stay off of store websites.

At the moment, I myself have not purchased any new clothing or shoes. To be fair, I do have to mention that it is my birthday this month, so I have received some new clothing as gifts. Since I did not make the transaction, I am leaving that out for now.

Any suggestions for keeping friends and family on your side when you are trying not to spend?

No More New Clothes

Having been laid off from my job, I am now on a bit tighter of a budget than I was before. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to test my own willpower.

While I am not a big shopper (I get bored after maybe an hour on a good day), I definitely do buy new clothes here and there. Especially with the back to school season in full swing and all the cozy, warm fall sweaters and boots showing up in the stores.

I already have sweaters, boots, and scarves, and definitely don’t NEED anymore.

So, for the rest of 2016, I will not be purchasing any new clothes or shoes.

One of the best ways to avoid temptation is to remove yourself from store’s email lists. If I do not know they are having a 40% off sale, then I am more likely not to start browsing and see what is on sale.

 

email-subscriptions

No more of these. Unsubscribe.

 

I did this weekend go to a craft fair and flea market, but I am not counting my purchases from either. I supported local, handmade products and bought second-hand.

I will be keeping you updated! Do you have any suggestions and what has worked for you?

The Gift of An Experience

Father’s Day was a few weeks ago and so was K’s birthday. Both received the gift of an experience from me. My dad has always wanted to do an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River and K got a much-needed massage gift certificate.

Overall, I consider myself to be a pretty good gift giver. I listen throughout the year and make notes on my phone about things people would be interested in. Did you mention in a conversation you would love to learn how to scuba dive? Awesome! I will be taking note.

As I have gotten older, my wish lists have gotten shorter. I would rather receive an experience or activity rather than another sweater. I have even had to make actual requests to my mother to tone it down at Christmas. (sorry mom!)

I don’t need too much anymore, and right now I legitimately have nowhere to put it in our tiny apartment.

If you are having trouble thinking of good “gift of an experience,” here are a few I have either given or have received:

  • tickets to hockey games
  • tickets to baseball games
  • trapeze lessons
  • massages
  • segway tour
  • flight in a WWII plane
  • indoor skydiving
  • cooking lessons
  • money towards specific honeymoon activities
  • tickets to see Anthony Bourdain
  • knitting lessons
  • yoga passes

 

WinterClassic9

The Winter Classic in Washington, DC

 

trapeze

Learning trapeze

 

anthonybourdain

Anthony Bourdain at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago

The point is, I do not need/want a tangible item for every occasion. Being able to do/see things I normally would not spend my money on is the real joy. The gift of an experience has allowed me to I swing on a trapeze, learn to cook pasta, and knit a million scarves!

 

Using What We Already Have

After moving in, K still had a perfectly good IKEA HEMNES mirror that we really did not know what to do with. We were not using his HEMNES dresser anymore and already had a mirror in the bedroom. So, for the past two weeks it has just been leaning up against the wall, getting in the way of everything.

It so happens that the mirror that came with our apartment’s bathroom was in really bad shape (so bad that I am not even going to post a picture of it) and we had planned on replacing it since we moved in. I had casually perused bathroom mirrors on the internet, but really we already had a perfect mirror leaning against the wall all along.

Since the bathroom is white on white on white, the black frame was much too dark. To go with the beachy vibe of our shower curtain and bath rug, we chose to paint it a blue ocean breeze.

mirror before

This whole project was finished in just over 24 hours. Last night I taped up the mirror, using an outdated bike lane map to cover it up.

Fun Fact: You cannot buy spray paint in the City of Chicago

Over the weekend, when we asked the employee at Home Depot where the spray paint was, her response was “Anywhere outside Chicago.” At first I thought she was joking, but then we did some research and it is true!  It is an attempt to curb graffiti. With no intent but to fix up our mirror, K picked some up when he was out in the suburbs and I got started on the project last night.

I craftily brought the mirror outside on to our fire escape landing and propped it on our compost bucket (serving double duty!) Since it is not a big outdoor space, it took some maneuvering to get all sides and angles of the frame. There were multiple times I probably could have tumbled down the stairs….all in the name of upcycling.

The frame dried really quickly because I used KRYLON COVERMAXX . It dries in 10 minutes and can be handled in 1 hour! After a while of leaving outside and periodically checking to make sure a pigeon did not poop on it, I brought it inside to fully dry overnight.

Some quick touch ups in the morning and it was ready to go! I waited a full 24 hours before actually handling and hanging the mirror to ensure it was dry.

mirror drying

There was already a screw in the bathroom wall to hang the previous mirror on so we decided to wire the back of the mirror instead of screwing more holes in the wall. I drilled two small screws into the back of the frame and strung picture hanging wire between them.

And now for $3, our bathroom looks a bit more cool, and we used something we already had. 🙂

mirror finished