Minimal Waste

I have found that the more I minimalize, the more I become aware of not only my purchases, but also what I throw away on a weekly basis. In striving to have less, I have also realized my desire to buy less and use less. The amount of trash that we accumulate is appalling. I want to be a good steward of this earth we call home.  

My solution has been two fold. The first is simple: don’t buy things we don’t need. I say it’s simple, and the concept truly is, but the implementation has been a big learning curve! The more I have eased my way into this lifestyle, the more I have noticed the things around me that I thought I needed but really don’t. An example of this is the boxes and boxes of hair products I was able to give away once I focused on getting my hair healthy to the point that it didn’t NEED all the hair products anymore.

My second solution is to stop using disposable products! It has been amazing to realize how much of our consumerism is based off of convenience…just use it once and then toss it! We cut way down on our spending and our tossing when we slowly switched to using non-disposable items. Finding other solutions can be hard and overwhelming at first; we are so use to disposable. But if you look, you will find a solution to pretty much everything that you throw away! I will help you out by walking through the items we have gotten rid of and the solutions we came up with and now use:

  1. Paper Napkins: Instead of using paper napkins, switch to cloth napkins! You don’t have to wash them every meal (unless they get really messed up of course). Just have some way of knowing whos is whos whether that’s initials or a different color napkin per person, or another creative solution you come up with!
  2. Paper Towels: Just keep a cloth rag handy to wipe up spills or what not. When they get dirty, throw them in the laundry basket to be washed.
  3. Ziplock Bags: We use both snack size glass containers and cloth zipper baggies in place of disposable ziplock bags.
  4. Plastic Straws: For Christmas, we bought stainless steel straws. Our kids love them and they are so simple to wash out as long as you don’t let them sit for too long before cleaning them!
  5. Diapers: We love cloth diapering. Diapers were one of the first things we switched from disposable to reusable. We have cloth diapered since our first child. I was hesitant at first as it seemed like a daunting task, but once we got a routine down, it has been quite simple!
  6. Wet Wipes: You can purchase reusable wet wipes or make your own! I am not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, but this was something even I as able to do! I bought a pack of flat fold cloth diapers and cut them into wet wipe size pieces of cloth. I then did a zigzag stitch in fun colors around all sides to keep them from unraveling. We still use them on our third child and they are holding up great! For being out and about, I use a wet/dry bag to store them in.
  7. Women’s Personal Hygiene Products: Ladies, we spend so much money in this area! But we don’t have to. There are some great products out there that can keep us from constantly buying new pads and tampons! I love the menstrual cup! If you have never heard of them and you are female, you simply must check them out! I also love cloth pads for lighter days. I’m so happy to never have to think about running out of/buying more pads!
  8. Nursing Pads: Speaking of pads…if you are a nursing mother, you can buy reusable cloth pads. You just throw them in the wash and use again!
  9. Razors: I have switched from using disposable razors to using a small, battery operated razor. You do have to change out the batteries, but mine tend to last a good six months before they die! A plus is that I never get razor burn or knicks anymore.
  10. Kleenex: We use to go through a lot of kleenex, especially in the winter months. A few months ago, we switched to using handkerchiefs. We all have two in our own color so as not to get them mixed up. I have greatly appreciated the lack of tissue filling up  our trash cans!
  11. Plastic Water Bottles:We bought Life Factory glass water bottles in different colors for each member of our family. They come in kid friendly sizes as well as larger sizes and we carry them everywhere we go. We use them at home as well instead of glasses (or plastic cups)
  12. Plastic Trash Bags: I must admit, switching from plastic trash bags to no trash bags might be a “level 2” when it comes to switching from disposable. We have started a compost pile, we recycle, and, with cutting down on so much disposable items, have found that we really don’t produce much trash. What we do produce is typically dry and non-messy and we just stick it straight in the trash can sans bag.
  13. Plastic Grocery Bags: While switching to reusable cotton or canvas grocery bags may not save you money (since plastic bags are free) it DOES save the planet. I also use mesh reusable produce bags. Many stores will give you $0.10 for each cloth bag off your purchase.
  14. Dryer Sheets: Not only are dryer sheets one of the most toxic things in your home, but they can also be easily replaced with dryer balls. I use wool dryer balls that I made myself, but you can also purchase them.
  15. Cleaning Products: You can replace both household cleaning products and personal cleaning products with Norwex microfiber clothes! They work great both for home surfaces and your skin.

I suggest you start with one or two things on this list that look accomplishable to you. We certainly didn’t change everything over night! It has been a gradual process. My guess is that you will notice how much less time and money you spend on continuously buying the disposable item that you will want to slowly switch over your other items too!  It’s true that there is an up front cost to all of these items, but when you do the calculations on what you aren’t buying anymore, you will realize that you make up the cost in no time!

This list is the items I have found that we throw away often. Our list is still a work in progress and we continue to switch over to non-disposable. Your list may be different. Pay attention to your trash can and ask yourself these questions over the course of a few weeks:

-What are the items that fill it?

-What do you tend to throw away often (and therefore purchase often).

-What one time purchase could you make that would eliminate ever having to buy that item again?
Your wallet and the planet thank you.


  1. I’ve done a lot of these changes. I still use plastic zip lock bags to freeze bread but it gets rinsed and reused until it falls to pieces. My husband still uses tissues (I have hankies) and didn’t like when I tried no bag in the kitchen bin (all other bins are already bagless and mainly contain tissues).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These are some awesome and interesting ideas! I hadn’t thought of some of these. I think I’d have to look up the stainless steel straws, and I’ve heard of (but not been brave enough!) to try the menstrual cup 😮 Thanks Janie!

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  3. We do some of these as well. We actually do still use paper towels and kleenex mainly because my husband can’t make the change yet and because we blow noses A LOT around our allergic household.

    My favorite change on this list is the menstrual cup. I bought one a few years ago and used it here and there but once I finally decided to go all in, I haven’t looked back. Not only is is better for the planet and for waste purposes, it cut down on my cramps so much they are hardly noticeable anymore. I’ll never go back!

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  4. I’ve also transitioned into bulk buying and use mason jars for all food storage at home and retrieval at the store. It has simplified our eating by default, which turned out to be a good thing! I love the concept of zero waste and keep moving steadily in that direction.

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  5. Interesting – some of these things we never even began to use anyway (maybe we are old-fashioned?!) like hankies or proper serviettes (each family member has their own napkin ring). I also frequently use jam jars instead of a plastic container for all kinds of stuff. I would not use bottles instead of a glass on the table, though, since we like a little culture and feel kids should learn this. But there is always room for improvement and this is some food for thought. Glad to see a new post!

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  6. I’ve been using cloth napkins for quite awhile. I like them so much better. I started folding them back up, if usable for another meal, and everyone has a unique fold to theirs. (i.e. – square, rectangle, crooked…) Thanks for the blog. I look forward to reading more of your ideas. I have used quite a few of these ideas already, and have been composting for years. Thanks for mentioning the wool dryer balls. Will have to research this. Usually, I just shake out the static. I can even smell my neighbors dryer sheets when the weather is nice.

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  7. I’ve been using rags for years and I clean out my Ziplock bags. I make my own cleaning products. I’m still throwing things out – I’m going room to room – drawer to drawer – so once I’m done with that, I want to cancel my trash service. That is my goal by the end of this year.

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  8. Interesting post, thank you. Its funny how minimalism draws one into the zero (or minimal) waste concept sooner or later. We do most of the things on your list – except for the children related stuff (diapers, straws etc) since we don’t have any children, and the no-plastic bag for trash can. I think we are actually required by the trash company to gather the trash in bags. But we recyle everything possible & have a compost (& use cloth napkins, glass jars etc) so we dont throw away that much of “regular” trash or that frequently. It doesn’t bother me to bits though since the plastic bags we use in question are made from maize and here in Sweden where I live the regular trash is being incinarated & the heat produced from the process used for central heating around the cities, not going to landfil. Several countries in Europe do this I think.

    I would strongly recommend you to try affecting your communities/ politicians/trash companies/decision makers (whomever is in charge) to change your system. I guess it is a long term project, nothing easily changed, but one that would make a huge difference. This way you would no longer have any more landfills. Trash would be a source for heating instead of just waste.

    Another, small tip is to make your own cloth napkins from worn out fabrics like sheets (in stead of buying ready made ones). This way it doesn’t brake the bank & you re-use fabric that would otherwise be thrown away. Zero waste, eco friendly & frugal. We had a lot of old sheets that I made into rags & napkins so we have so many me & my husband use them for everything, even if we have a cold. They are so much softer for around the nose area! No more sore & red noses!

    I have also sewn my own re-usable cotton rounds. I did buy the fabric for those, since they need to be made from cotton flanell. Two double rounds (used a glass to make out the shape) on top of each other, zig zag them together. I did a lot of them too, so we don’t need to worry about running out before landry. We use them as we would regular disposable ones, like for facial toner, cleaning cuts/bruises etc. My husband loves them too, after his shave. They keep their shape so well, don’t desintegrate/melt away like disposable ones.

    Personally I prefer an old fashion safety razor for shaving. Produces minimal waste in the form of the replaceble blades, but they can be recykled anyway (metal). No batteries needed.

    Btw – if you (like me) love nail polish but have avoided them for long due to all the chemicals I strongly recommend the brand Little Ondine (Brittish brand). They are all toxic free, odor free & peels off, so no harsh polish remover needed! Thus no need for disposable cotton rounds (nail polish remover was the only reason I still kept/used disposable cotton rounds). They are NOT too good to be true, they are in fact better than “regular” polishes in all ways. Thet stay on better, they look fab, they smell absolutely nothing & dry super quickly! And can be worn during pregnancy & by children. I just love them! Minimal waste-related since you won’t need polish remover or disposable cotton rounds 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Some great suggestions here. I love the journey that simplicity takes you on. Becoming conscious of waste-free living is certainly a path we are heading down. I agree it is a gradual process and each little change add up to big changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s wonderful to see you back. I’m currently reading Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson and she includes many of these ideas, but this post makes it really accessible to those who don’t have time to wade through a book.

    I also love the idea of bamboo toothbrushes (which can be composted) and am planning on experimenting with her recipe for making liquid soap when I run low on our current supply. My one disappointment is that we generally don’t have bulk aisles in the UK.

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