December 26, 2009

a Zero Waste Christmas or almost...

Well, my most dreaded day of the year is over: Christmas day and all the potential waste and extra consumerism that it entails. We did pretty well this year (better than the last), but there is also improvement for us to work on (it will be part of our new year's resolution).

Here is what we did:
  • We've used our patio topiary as a Xmas tree for the last 2 years (it looks great in our minimalist modern home), lit with LED lights on a timer and decorated with mostly vintage ornaments from the Alameda antique market. We did not buy any ornaments or new light strings this year (yeah! that's a 1st)
  • For greetings cards, I made homemade plant-able envelopes (thyme seeds) with a picture in it (that part and the stamp need improvement). The greeting was handwritten in a folded envelope, which eliminated the need of a greeting card and reduced the amount of paper and labels used.
  • We gave homemade consumables in a returnable or reusable jars (jams, pickles, quince paste...)
  • We gave gift certificates for services (manicure, movie tickets...): My personal favorite present this year came from my husband who gave me coupons for dinners out and undivided time with him (much needed for decluttering)
  • We mostly gave used items: I like to label these "vintage", it is better accepted than the words "used" or "from a thrift shop"...handkerchiefs, brand tee shirts or jeans, board games, sports equipment
  • If we had to buy a new product we chose one with minimal or no packaging: A converse shirt with a cardboard and jute tag (both compostable) - but a plastic sleeve with 3 buttons in it... I miss the days when buttons were always sewn onto your garment (it is easier to find when you need them and you don't have that extra wasteful bulk on the tag), socks with a cardboard wrapper (but a small plastic hanger), a bike and engraved luggage tags (both naked and free of tags! yeah!)...
  • I have kept all cardboard boxes/sleeves that I received from eBay shopping, I reuse them when I sell on eBay, Amazon or ship presents
  • We did not use any virgin wrapping paper: We used newspaper cutouts (my son loved the USC player pictures I chose for him), our Xmas dinner meat wrapper (see item to be improved below :(, paper bags that have made their way into our home (could not stop the neighbor from giving me a full bag of fruit last month), shipping packaging (we received a used book from amazon in a plastic envelope, it was white and a red ribbon made it pretty), packing paper from a UPS delivery, and this year Santa did not wrap his own presents (Santa is trying to be greener, I told the kids)
  • I am making paper cards (hostess gifts) from some the used paper wrappers, we recycled the rest
  • We used ribbons and twine that we already had and kept them for next year
  • We used paper tape if needed
  • In January, we will send the greeting cards we received to: St. Jude's Ranch Card Recycling, 100 St. Jude Street, Boulder City, NV 89005.

What we should and will improve on (our to do list for next year):
  • Vouch to only buy used: with planning we could have found a used bike for our son on Craigslist
  • Let the kids shop for all of their cousin's presents at our church Xmas boutique (used items donated by members of the church), it reuses stuff and donates money to a good cause at the same time
  • Request minimal packaging when purchasing used on eBay: I received a tee shirt that was wrapped in a zip lock bag (people still use these?) and wrapped again in an envelope for shipping... A BAG IN A BAG
  • Make sure that an item is used when buying on eBay (I bought a wooden monopoly game, I thought that it was used and it came all shrunk wrapped)
  • Not use any papers mentioned above to wrap our presents, I will make reusable gift bags from pretty fabrics/cloths from the thrift shop to encourage friends and family to not use store bought wrapping paper
  • Let friends and family know about our zero waste efforts (this blog will help I hope), so they know not to give us any packaging or item that is not compostable at best or recyclable at worst (i.e, plastics)
  • Talk Grandma into giving used
  • Get my duck and rabbit meat (Xmas dinner) in jars, my husband went to the store and came back with a wrapper. Both were cut up at the counter and could have fit in 1.5L jar.
  • Find an alternative to landfill for hard meat bones that my dog can't chew
  • Find an alternative for the non recyclable picture of the kids in my greeting cards, I love getting and participating in the greeting cards exchange each year and love to see how kids have changed. But perhaps I will be ready for electronic next year...
  • If I send out another greeting card though, I shall choose for a minimal stamp. I did not think much it when I bought mine this year, but I ended up with HUGE stamps. what a waste

So, what's in my trash this week?
  • Plastic cork from Beaujolais Nouveau (damn it!), the wine was good though. Note to self: email Georges Duboeuf for alternative to their plastic corks... screw top? and double check wine bottle corkage before buying
  • Duck and rabbit bones (they would kill my chihuahua) wrapped in the meat counter wrapper. Note to self: That's the last one
  • Lego packaging: the boys each received a brand new set from grandma, the box and baggies (#5) seemed recyclable but the sticker sheets and plastic accessory holder did not. Note to self: Call recycling center and ask if the sticker sheets (and USPS stamp sheets) are recyclable
  • Wrappers of cough lozenges. Note to self: find a recipe for honey candy for the kids coughs
  • Dirty wax paper wrapper of a breakfast roll. Note to self: Husband needs additional training

Not too bad considering that the average American fills their trash cans 25% more between Thanksgiving and Xmas than a typical 5-6 week period according to

Final Note to self: Post my declaration of Plastic Independence and allegiance to Zero Waste so that my readers (if any) know what the heck I am talking about! ... to be continued.

December 23, 2009

Here I come

all right, here I am... I created this blog site a couple months ago and could not get it started... just did not know where to get it zero waste seems so small and meaningless in the scheme of things that I did not think it was worth elaborating about, I did not think that it could make a difference.
Tonight I watched the movie Home (my mom recommended it), and I think that it is a great starting point. I am inspired to share my experience and open ground for discussion, afterall we all play a part on this (endangered) earth.

I have put my family on a waste diet for the past 12 months, analyzing whatever comes in contact with the bottom of our one home trash can and slowly trying to get it as close to zero waste as possible. In this past year, I have learned to shop, refuse (what is given to me), reduce, reuse, and recycle as little possible (for only such a small percentage of our trash is actually recycled) along with up and downs (boosts of self trash control esteem and let downs). You'll see what I am talking about. This is day one of my zero waste diary.