Since adopting the Zero Waste lifestyle, my life and that of my family has completely changed, for the better. We not only feel happier, we lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff.
Today, my goal is to shatter pre-conceptions associated with the Zero Waste lifestyle and share what we have discovered about its incredible health, financial and time saving benefits. 

Zero Waste Home Essential: Commitment

Filling pockets with beach litter
And being an embarrassment to my teenage boys.

In a recent interview, I was asked to quantify Zero Waste. "For example, if someone refuses junkmail, is he/she 10% or maybe 40% of the way to Zero Waste?"

I went home shuffling numbers in my head and a couple of headaches later, asked for Scott's input (he is the left side of our household's brain) . We sat down, and for two hours tried to come up with percentages to define one's progress towards Zero Waste. But we soon realized that our assignment was pointless. In conjunction with following the 5R's in order, getting as close to Zero Waste as possible boils down to one fundamental element: Commitment.

If we keep putting Zero Waste (or voluntary simplicity) on the back burner for various reasons ("I don't have time for this" being the most common), change does not happen, routine sets back in. I found that a zero-tolerance policy was the best way for our household to tackle its waste issues head-on and to adopt Zero Waste practices as quickly as possible. Commitment can feel torturous or simply inconvenient at times, especially at first, when you train yourself to change bad habits. For example, I hated going back to my car when I forgot to bring my tote into the store, but commitment forced me to adopt a system and in five years, I've only had to accept one (paper) grocery bag (that was three years ago, on a weekend getaway). Commitment is the best way to make big strides. When we started, it catapulted our progress; today it keeps our yearly trash tally from growing again.

Here are 10 examples when Zero Waste is a pain, but where commitment makes a real difference on how fast and how close you get to Zero:
  1. Going back to your car (or home), if you forgot to bring your reusable bags (you can also carry things in your arms or simply transfer them loose from your cart into your car trunk). 
  2. Bringing jars to the grocery store or a plate to the pizza parlor knowing you'll get weird looks.
  3. Making do with the available bulk, even when you get tired of its selection.
  4. Taking time to stop a piece of junkmail, and spending money to mail an active discard.
  5. Paying more for a used item or a repair, knowing you can buy new for cheaper.
  6. Not settling for an inferior product at the store (i.e., not buying a plastic item, because the store is out of the glass version) and going home empty-handed (Shopping is voting!)
  7. Leaving a place better than you found it, even if it embarrasses your teenage boys ;)
  8. Saying no to the straw even if it makes a milkshake or a glass filled with ice harder to drink.
  9. Using Zero Waste deodorant, knowing that it does not block sweat in stressful situations.
  10. Forcing yourself to finish your plate when your ordered too much at a restaurant because you do not want to use a disposable container (you forgot yours).
Once you're motivated to reduce your waste, there is no other way to getting as close to Zero as possible than being fully committed and commitment is the fastest way there too. How committed are you?

109 comments:

  1. Anonymous3/13/2013

    I have been working on my Zero Waste goal for a while and still have a long way to go. I need to work on my commitment.
    Looking forward to your book for inspiration :)

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  2. Hi Bea,

    My commitment level is extremely high, although the rest of my family has some catching up to do. With commitment in mind, I am very nervous about our upcoming ski trip during spring break. I don't believe there are any farmers markets in the area and I have no idea what bulk will be available. I'm planning on packing our water bottles, my shopping totes, and mesh produce bags, but what else can I do?

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    1. maggie3/13/2013

      we travel to florida for thanksgiving every year. we host the dinner at the house we rent. two years ago we went online to find bulk supplies before leaving. when we left the airport in our rental car, we made a point of going to the store, purchasing the food we'd need for a week then heading for the rental.
      there are no farmer's markets where we vacation, so we make due with buying organic produce and using our mesh bags. we got some really funny looks at the deli counter when we asked that the cheese be wrapped in paper for transport home - but we managed just fine.
      in addition to the water bottles, shopping totes, and mesh bags, also pack dish towels and cloth napkins (to use instead of paper towels and paper napkins).
      hope that helps. :-)

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  3. Great list!

    I often pay more for secondhand items than I would have if I'd bought new. However, the overall savings balances it out, so I don't worry about it. It's usually just a dollar or two anyway. Goodwill clothing is often more expensive than sale Old Navy stuff, but their clothing is manufactured in countries without worker safety laws, so it's also a human rights issue.

    I look forward to reading your book!

    Katy

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  4. You are so right Bea. It is not a one time test to pass. It is a lifestyle that takes constant commitment. I have periods that I let go and one or two days later, get bak on track. The hardest part is getting my 11years old daughter on board.

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  5. Not as committed as I should be. Thank you for this reminder and the specifics to help get me back on track.

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  6. Anonymous3/13/2013

    Commitment is the way but very hard. I have been working on zero waste awhile now, its a feeling of peace for me. I am having a very hard problem with my husband, he just does not want to do it or actually understand the concept. i have a long road with him. looking forward to your book.

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  7. #10 strikes a chord with me. I hate leaving food behind that will be thrown away or trying to stuff myself with food, so I hear you on the taking (or forgetting to take) reusable containers to restaurants.

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  8. This was something we experimented with at the beginning of our zero-waste path. We have small children 9 and 7. We live in an old house and were re-painting the upstairs. We switched out from new switches in our three rooms to the push button switches like in the rest of our home. [We took the old ones to a salvage resale/recycle shop] It took us on average 13 days to remember consistently to push vs. flip. It took another 10 before we stopped having to call on memory to do so and it just came naturally. We used this as a guide.....it's going to take a bit to think about the changes/implement them and a bit more to have it as an ingrained habit when you don't have to devote brain power to it. We chose one area a month to make items, institute the change and truly embrace it so the habit was formed. We all need to be kind to ourselves as well as the planet. So commit away!!!!

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  9. With 3 children under 5 I am often just too tired to do the ABC that is the normal environmentally friendly way in our house. And I hate that. Because tiredness means to me, laziness and laziness means taking conventional ways as a shortcut - a take away meal for example. That means we eat food that goes against out whole ethos. I find that a little motivation in the morning means we eat a healthy, sustainable and low or no waste meal in the evening. You can't make sourdough pasta last minute. :)
    Thanks for the motivation and the kick in the pants I needed this morning. Yesterday was a shambles. Today will not be.

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  10. Anonymous3/13/2013

    Re: #10 - I'm not going to finish my plate if I'm full. If I'm brought too much food and can't eat it, i'm not forcing myself too for the sake of zero waste! Because it won't help my "zero WEIGHT!!!"

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    1. Well said :)

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    2. I think most of us just order too much, though! Have you seen the insane portion sizes at restaurants???? They are gross. Recently, I have been sharing portions while eating out and it is working beautifully and no waste. Another friend of mine carries a reusable container in her purse for leftovers and I think that's genius, too. :)

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    3. Anonymous3/14/2013

      If you take your lunch to work, you can use the same container for the leftover dinner.
      Just wash up the container at work.

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    4. Again, I am not here to dictate one's life or food intake! Everyone should do what feels right to them ;). This list above represents my personal choices.
      For me, the point of #10 is the same as with #1. Once I forced myself a couple of times to go back to the car for my totes, it trained me to remember bringing them the next time. And once I forced myself a couple of times to finish my plate because I ordered too much, I started remembering to order much smaller portions the following times.

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    5. Portions is US can be huge. In France they seem a bit smaller most of the time. Still, I never order an dessert if I have to order it before eating the other courses - only if I'm hungry at the end of the meal.

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    6. Why not just split a meal and save your weight and your pocketbook and be eco-friendly at the same time?

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  11. That's why you take on one or two things at a time to change. If you try to change 6-7 things you become overwhelmed and might not want to do it anymore. So don't beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon. Just pick yourself up dust yourself off and start again.

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  12. I love this post! I try to change a little at a time and keep that consistant, so far it makes me feel a little closer towards zero waste. I do have a looooong way to go.

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  13. "Estela3/13/2013
    I love this post! I try to change a little at a time and keep that consistant, so far it makes me feel a little closer towards zero waste. I do have a looooong way to go."

    I think we all have a long way to go, so please do not think you are on this boat alone.

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  14. The cycle of commitment for me is free time, more money in the bank, little stress, feeling good. It's the letting go-joining my own brigade for a safe & healthy home, workplace, & environment. I commited to learning why I buy and use what I use/eat/put in & on my body. I feel so much healthier not ingesting leaching plastic particals, dye and chemical induced skin rashes, it's an ongoing process. I learn from few, but share with many. I do not claim to be minimalist. I enjoy having comforts, but i only buy what I need, share or donate what I don't, and taking the first step(s) is the hardest part. Get inside your head and see what makes you buy & use in the first place, then go back to your car and get those bags and glass containers. We need more awesome people like you doing this and sharing your big or little commitment with your world.

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  15. Anonymous3/13/2013

    While i feel we are making great progress toward zero waste by not accumulating any more trash/paper/plastic, it seems like zero waste is still a long way off because we are having to finish consuming all the products we have now that are packaged.

    Looking forward to getting to the end of the shampoos/lotions/toothpaste tubes etc. so that we can begin to live in a house without all that wasteful packaging.

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    1. Anonymous3/14/2013

      I'm totally with you there. Used my last can of beans last night and tossed the container into the recycling, which, like my trash can, is growing smaller each week. Dried beans are available in bulk, and they taste much better. I'm still buying canned tomatoes, but I'm looking forward to summer when I'll begin preserving my own. A few tubes of toothpaste left to finish. At least it's Tom's, which can be dropped at a Gimme5 collection site.

      One thing that has helped me is the Earth911 website, where I've found lots of information about hard to recycle items and mail back programs.

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    2. Anonymous3/14/2013

      thanks for that Earth911 tip. what a useful web site!

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  16. This is my favorite post you've ever written. It's the truth, not just for living Zero-Waste but for any other major decision in your life.

    However, I am treading the waters a bit now. I wouldn't try to call myself Zero-Waste nor would I say I was a certain percentage. I just know that I need to test things out a little bit and figure out what works for me and what options are available to me.

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    1. I would not call myself a Zero-Waste person either. But if you want to change things do it in babysteps and not giant steps.

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  17. Yes, as soon these things become routine it is less of a challenge and simply our way of life. It can be disappointing when others give us strange looks for using our mesh bags, jars etc but I make no apologies for my simple life, in fact it's something I'm proud of and this realisation makes it so much easier to smile at the person staring rather than blushing at their attention. Shopping is voting and living our lives according to our values is modelling behaviour for others too.

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  18. I've been trying to unclutter my home and life for awhile. It's a hard thing to do, but I'm still working on it. As for the "little things". If you put all the little things you have change together, you will see that you have made a big change in your life. For me it's getting others in the house to get on board with my changes and stick to them, and I'm still working on them.

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  19. Bea, I love you. :)

    I love the fact that you bring up that zero waste is not always comfortable but you force yourself to feel the pain by being a pioneer. There are things I don't do because I don't want to subject myself to the "embarrassment" in public - like picking up a recyclable item out of a co-worker's garbage (the thump I hear when it hits the bottom hurts) or anything on your list.

    Some things are harder when you're trying to be the best earth-friend you can be. But you stick at it. So, I love you! And I promise to continue embarrassing myself and commit to doing without if I'm unprepared.

    Excellent post.

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  20. i do most of these steps thanks to finding bea's story a couple of years ago, and agree about the committment, especially in the beginning. this is one of the best posts i've read in a while..thanks bea!

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  21. Anonymous3/13/2013

    I hate to be a downer because I am all about not wasting and saving the environment, but the way you phrased those items on your list it sounds more like the flogging and punishment than typically accompanies perfectionism, rather than a "commitment." What about every little bit helps? Do as much as you can. If you have small successess and develop a good core of small habits those can grow into larger ones. If you try to take it all on at once, and make it into a zero sum game, it's more likely that you will give up in frustration and despair. I think any little effort should be rewarded and appreciated; perfectionism and punishment should be removed from the equation.

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    1. Thanks for your personal view on this. I am not quite sure I understand your point, but I would not call the list punishments; rather growing pains or training exercises (in the case of #1 and #10). No pain, no gain. What you call the "zero sum game" that we are likely to "give up in frustration" seems to have worked for us, and our yearly trash tally, since 2008;), making Zero Waste more than a goal: a complete lifestyle.
      But again everyone works differently. I would not dare tell you what works or what does not for you to achieve that same goals. You know your limits better than I do.

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  22. Anonymous3/13/2013

    I finally found a store (2 hours away) with a HUGE bulk food supply... sadly, of the 100 containers, around 60 are candy, 10 nuts, and 10 dog treats, dog food. That's my biggest pain in the ole arse... finding it!

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  23. What you've written speaks to my and my struggle : it's hard to change your habit, specially when everyone around you look, well, careless but you're the only one to be able to say no (inclued to your lazyself) !

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  24. Getting in the habit of unloading groceries from our canvas bags (we shop once a week or once every two weeks) and putting the bags in the wash, and then when dry taking them to the car when we go to get the mail. This way they get used.

    Could care less of the odd looks we may get when we take our own containers. Bear in mind when we do eat out we eat at small local eateries where serving sizes are smaller and when any and all scraps can be placed in a paper bag and put in the composter.

    One issue I find often overlooked is letting an establishment know how much you appreciate items that you can buy using your own container and telling the establishment that you would like to see more of a variety. Often times a stores suppliers offer certain items. Like my local Raley's where they carry organic milk in glass bottles, but not the cream. Telling them what you want often makes them look for other suppliers.

    By the way I recommend deodorant stones which do help even in stressful situations. Although I believe drinking more water makes for fresher smelling perspiration.

    And we use stainless straws which we bought from Amazon.com and these are washed after each use, even when we happen to be in an eatery having an old fashioned milk/vegan shakers. They go in a small washable bag and are brought home to be washed. Also have washable stainless chop sticks as well.

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    1. Anonymous3/13/2013

      Hi Beth,

      I too have those stainless steel straws from Amazon. They're great, aren't they?

      Cheers,

      Grace

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    2. Beth: I am referring to the alum stone in the above list.

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    3. Nikuscha3/22/2013

      About this deodorant stones that you mention here... I remember having them here in Germany some years ago and wondered why you can't buy them here anymore. But about a week ago I've watched a couple of documentary reports about the health risks caused by aluminium like the risk for breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease. In fact, as aluminium works amazingly as a deodorant, it is often used in conventional deodorants and shoud be the reason why alum stones work so well. I'll try to get more information about this.. do you have any about possible risks of alum stone usage?

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  25. Anonymous3/13/2013

    Bea, I thought of you the other day when a friend offered me a piece of wrapped salt water taffy (from Florida!). I assume in this situation, you would refuse the taffy. I'm not trying to read your mind, so I'd love to hear how you deal with such situations; have you resolved that you don't need it anyway, or do you ever allow yourself to indulge? Thanks!

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    1. Funny you ask. A couple of days ago, I gracefully declined a piece of bubble gum offered after a meal;)

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  26. KimB3/13/2013


    . There are things I don't do because I don't want to subject myself to the "embarrassment" in public - like picking up a recyclable item out of a co-worker's garbage (the thump I hear when it hits the bottom hurts) or anything on your list. "

    Who cares what other people think. When we are out and a restaurant gives us our drink in a can, we bring the empty cans home so we can put them in the recycle bin. If I'm at my childs school and see a recycleable item being thrown away I will pick it up and bring it home. If someone ask me why I tell them. If they give me a wierd look for doing so then it's on them and not me. I know that I am doing something for the environment and being a good example to my child and to others.

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    1. I've noticed that people tend to associate the actions with what they think of the person already. In the past, if I've been at events (work & church picnics) where there wasn't recycling, I (cheerfully but insistently) set it up and kept it up. At the end of the event, I bring the (large) bags home with me, or to the nearest recycling point. Funnily enough, co-workers offered to take them and recycle them for me, so I wouldn't have to carry it on the bus. (Church was easy walking distance and I was among the last to leave.) And even more strangely, other people brought up recycling during the planning process the next go-round and a few people proudly told me of their personal recycling efforts in the meantime... It's as if lots of people care, but sometimes it takes one person stepping up and doing it to make it seem less embarrassing/difficult/scary. :)


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  27. I am still working towards a zero waste home. The one item I haven't been able to avoid are the filters from my water filter when they are done. The rest of my waste seems to arrive because of guests. It is really annoying to have one time use items left behind when guest leave.

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    1. Are your water filters necessary? Is the tap water where you live not acceptable?
      As for the guests issue: You bring up another item that I could have added to the above list. When I started I wanted to put a sign on my front door that said: Zero Waste Home. I never posted the sign, I created this blog with the name instead;). People now know to respect our lifestyle when they come in (and they do). Could you let guests know ahead of time to be respectful of your Zero Waste goals? Could you give them pointers/alternatives for the items that they are bringing in? Could you have them take their waste away with them -I can assure you, they'll bring less next time if you do;)

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    2. Our Tap Water tastes bad, so we have to filter our water too. We have the Brita Filter System (for a pitcher). The used filters can go in the Gimme5 bin at our Wholefoods and be recycled into toothbrushes etc. http://www.preserveproducts.com/recycling/britafilters.html

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  28. Picking up litter on my favourite beach in Corsica has become quite a routine. And I see other people doing it!
    Maybe when my daughters grow it will embarrass them :).

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    1. Yes, #7 was instilled in my by my father who taught us to always leave a place better than when we got there. This leads to picking up trash and recyclables, random acts of gardening (planting flowers in vacant spaces)and the many R's we practice.

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  29. May I add to your list:
    - bying loose potatoes, when the 5 lbs bag is so much cheaper
    - cashiers taking out the greens from my cloth bag (tearing them, wetting everything, making a huge mess, eventhough I have a dedicated cloth bag for them with a huge opening so they can double check what's in there after I told them).
    - bulk is not what it used to be, there are more and more processed food/products (low quality)
    Yes, commitment is hard. But we can do it :)

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    1. Awesome list. Thanks Natalie!

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  30. Will you share how you deal with junk mailings

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    1. Anonymous3/13/2013

      Hi Lori,

      Bea has talked about junk mail before. If you click on the search bar and type in "junk mail" it will come up.

      Just in case, here is the link
      http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/search?q=junk+mail

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  31. Anonymous3/13/2013

    Question: Will there be a print version of the book, or just kindle/e-book versions? And there will be a print version, how does that fit in/not fit in with the "zero tolerance" approach to zero waste?

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    1. Anonymous3/13/2013

      If you look under the book section of the blog it has links to where you can buy the book. you can buy a kindle/e-book version if you like, however you can also buy a paper copy. I am not sure of Bea's reasons for having it available in paper. I decided to get a paper copy and I plan on donating it to my library when I am done. It is possible that to target a larger audience and get people to convert to zerowaste you need to reach them through ways that they more familiar with.

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    2. Anonymous3/14/2013

      Not all of us use an e-reader. I depend on the library and also books loaned by friends. I don't have a reader. But then I'm super in the minority as I don't have a cell phone either. You can reach me at work... or at home. I'm not going to carry a phone around. My biggest pet peeve is people who are constantly on their cell phone and can't stop long enough to acknowledge the person waiting on them in a store or a restaurant. Or seeing folks out at a restaurant, but there is no real conversation, just everyone on their own phone texting away.

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    3. Anonymous3/14/2013

      I don't have an eReader either. I applaud you for not having a cell phone... wish I could tailor my use. And you are right, I'd rather sit down at a restaurant and have a real conversation, then sit across from someone and just text back and forth... or facebook back and forth. An actual conversation is a dying art!

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    4. Thanks for your question. Your question is only natural and common, I have answered it many times before.
      The book is available in both formats. As you probably know, in this day and age, it is the best way to reach a maximum of people. I don't think it would be fair to exclude paper readers from learning about the Zero Waste lifestyle. I would even be a hypocrite if I did not have a printed version of it, I only read paper books from the library, myself! (I don't have an eReader either).
      Again, shopping is voting! We, the consumers, are voters!
      If you want to see eBooks flourish, by all means, purchase the eBook.
      If you prefer to have paper books remain on the market, by all means purchase the paper book (When you're done with it, please share it, pass it along or donate it to your library).
      Whether or not my book is a "waste of paper", only time will tell. But I doubt that a book that can help people reduce their waste and consumption dramatically, would be. Just as I believe that this blog and the countless hours that I have spent sharing my lifestyle is any "waste of time".

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    5. I don't consider any book that can be used as a reference manual to be a waste of paper- after all, it is (to be) reused over and over again, right? :-)

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    6. Anonymous3/17/2013

      It is not clear to me that ereaders are environmentally sound - consider the resources that go into making them, including rare earth minerals and huge expenditures of energy to obtain them.

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  32. I was embarrassed at first by my containers at the store. I think my husband was more embarrassed though. We have both gotten over that part. The key for us has been to take things on one step at a time. We have a long way to go, but I enjoy the challenge of finding the next zero (or near zero) waste solution for our home.

    My recent victory is sending my daughter to school with cold chocolate milk for lunch. She had been buying those Tetra pack milks at school this year because she so wanted chocolate milk, but now - near zero waste chocolate milk! I buy the quart of chocolate milk in glass at the grocery store and freeze it (partially diluted with regular milk) in ice cube trays. We pop 6 or so frozen milk cubes in her (empty) water bottle in the morning, and by lunch she has (still cold) chocolate milk! I will admit that I am pretty proud of that work-around. :)

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    1. Fantastic tip, Sarah! Thanks for sharing!

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  33. #11- making returns to the store!

    For me, remembering that I can return stuff to the store when I make a purchasing mistake has been very important. Sometimes it's a bit embarrassing, but it saves money and waste and space to return items that you purchased and then realized you don't really need or want.

    Sometimes I have a hard time saying "no," but have buyer's remorse later. So putting on my big girl panties and heading to the customer service counter to make a return has become essential to my attempts at a ZW life. Also, know that I might have to make a return makes me think twice about a purchase.

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    1. Anonymous3/14/2013

      This is something I don't understand: purchasing mistakes.
      What kind of mindset is that? First buy, then see if you need it?
      I prefer to leave the item in the shop, go home and think a few days if I really need it. If so, I'll return to the shop and buy it. It's not like stock is running out!

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    2. Anonymous3/14/2013

      I can't speak for everyone but I do make shopping mistakes because I live in the country and hour away from any big stores and I go to the city maybe 3-4 times a year so I sometimes feel that if I don't get an item I think I need right away I know I won't be coming back for a while. Also when I shop I always have my young 3 kids with me and although this is a good learning and teaching experience I don't always have time to think thoroughly about my buying decisions.
      Certain things do help like strickly sticking to my list (also saves time) and for very particular items (cloth diapers for exemple) shopping online where I have time to compare products and make clear decisions.

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    3. Alexa: Thanks for your input! "Purchasing Mistakes" is a normal step to Zero Waste, and your returns mean that you are on the right track and learning from your shopping experiences! I made many of them at first too, and once I established a errands list, they slowly decreased. I don't make them anymore, but I returned an item for Scott last week ;)

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  34. Anonymous3/14/2013

    Me too Alexa, the returns policy has been my saving grace in my attempt with zero waste,it is a tedious task to keep returning and refunding,but it gets you closer to ZW in the end. It is reassuring to know there is other people like yourself.

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  35. Anonymous3/14/2013

    I think setting an ultimate goal (like the 100% you were asked to break down) is a big mistake. As many have pointed out, it's easier to change one habit at the time and I honestly think that many people shy away from ecological living as a whole because they have the feeling that they "just can't do it", as though it were some kind of everything/nothing choice. I really believe that it would be a great start if everyone just did one little thing towards zero waste and let the awareness grow. That's how I see your blog: a source of inspiration for these little things I can't try and implement in my everyday life. So thanks :) Fiona

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  36. Anonymous3/14/2013

    I assume this problem is everywhere... those store cards. If you want the sale price you have to have and use the card.

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    1. Anonymous3/14/2013

      My favorite store has the reward card program... but you don't actually need the card. They can access your account via your phone number. I hate all of those reward card programs and I refused to carry all of those cards.

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    2. Anonymous3/15/2013

      You can also get rewards cards apps for the smartphone, and at one point there was a website (might still be out there) where you could create a single card that would incorporate all the data/card info you entered.

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  37. For me ZeroWaste means cutting down on things. That means using cloth towels in the kitchen to pick up spills and not using paper towels. (Child and Husband need to work on that one more.) Using cloth facial tissue instead of paper facial tissue, (both need to work on that one too.) Hanging clothes on the line instead of using the dryer (we are good with that one.) Saving the water from bathing and washing dishes to water plants outside and the lawn. (we are pretty good with that one). I buy childs clothes from garage sales and thrift stores and then pass them to school for their clothes closet after child grows out of them. (good with that one. She grows out of her clothes fast that is why we buy from thriftstores. We rarely buy new clothes for us because we wear ours for years so they do get used a lot). Using vinegar as much as possible to clean with and not chemicals to clean with. I do a lot of other things but I need to go.

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  38. Just came upon this. Living here in the oc seems like its impossible but you make it seem attainable. Excited to look more into you're site! Thank you!

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    1. Welcome Jaime. You have wonderful bulk and vintage in the OC!

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  39. Anonymous3/14/2013

    For me, it's all about taking baby steps but keep on living. I'm not going to stop living my life because of a zero waste "oops". For example, I'm taking a walk with a friend. We stay out walking longer than normal and decide to go out to eat. If where we choose to eat only offers paper napkins, I'm not going to forgo the wonderful time out with my friend and the experience I'll remember simply because I would need to use a paper napkin. I just know that in my own home, I don't use paper goods such as napkins and paper towels, but cloth.

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  40. Anonymous3/14/2013

    I agree! Nicely said.

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  41. Zero Waste is rather fun and a necessity to me than a committment. I learned so many amazing things, got a lot of positive feedback (especially from those people that looked at me strangely at first ;)) and it made my life so much easier. I admit that some things are accomplished easier than others but those are the ones you can be most proud of afterwards. Also after finding a solution for them they might not be hard to do anymore.
    However it's very important to get all family members on board. They need to not only understand the priciples but deeply care about Zero Waste as well. Therefore you need to educate them for example by watching movies about environmental issues, plastics, pollution, money etc. The more they (and you) learn about the topic the deeper they care. My husband was very skeptical at first and tried to hold me back but now he inspires me and surprises me with his way of thinking and implementing Zero Waste in our daily life.

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    1. So glad you used the word "fun"! That was the point I was really trying to make in my previous, rambling post: that making Zero Waste goals into a game helps the commitment part my making it fun! Go, Anne! :-)

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  42. Anonymous3/14/2013

    There are always a few people on every post who seem POed about one thing or another... missing the point entirely. Laugh it off Bea, you're doing a wonderful job :-)

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    1. Anonymous3/14/2013

      Also, let me add, I have been reading for over a year now. Though I have made great strides in many areas, we still put out 5 bags of trash a week and only every fifth time do I remember my grocery/produce bags. BUT the times I do, I look in my fridge with my products packaged so pretty and trash proof that I swear I will do better and get better... We still screw up 75% of the time, but we are growing in baby steps. Got rid of 4 boxes of clothes today (sold some, donated the rest) and the truck and trailor are loaded with all sorts of wonderful suprises for the bidders at Fridays auction. Hope they can use this stuff more than we can. Good riddens!

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    2. Anonymous3/14/2013

      I think you should make things easier so that they work for you and aren't a chore. Save three (or so) pretty Totes/Bags you like and put them in the trunk of your car. Put paper/plastic/produce bags in one of the bags, leave the other two empty. When you go to the store you will remember to go back to the car and get them at the latest when you shop your first product ;) We also have one more bag at our coatrack in the apartment. All bags/containers that become empty during the week go directly in the bag (after cleaning) and can be transferred to the car any time you think of it. However it's great that you started thinking about all those things already (since most of the people haven't yet)!!!

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    3. Anonymous3/14/2013

      Our biggest waste is all the trash we produce and for 2 people... we're planning to downsize our fridge and get rid of our freezer chest to force ourselves to think before we buy. If we don't we'll have no where to put it! I also got a nw (flat desk) with 3 drawer cabinet and will force myself to purge my stationary addiction and paper saving to those 3 drawers (except for tax stuff because we have a business but my brother has talked me into scanning rather than saving paper). I am sure it eventually becomes easier. I think right now we just got bogged down in all the stuff we HAVE (we just put 2 homes into one, UGH). Gettin' there :-)

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  43. BTW, Bea: My whole sizing down of my trash cans and indoor waste baskets *was* inspired by *you*.
    It was after I read the famous Sunset Article
    (which is clipped and in my file. I had gotten solar hot water, insulated my house and got into the electric car thing (plus recycled, etc) on my own before, but it was truly that Sunset Article (and this blog) that pushed me farther. Just thought you should know!

    MERCI MERCI MERCI!!!! -Deb

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  44. Anonymous3/15/2013

    I'm new to this blog, and find it not just inspiring, but your attention to detail, Bea, is incredibly helpful. Thank-you for making it easier for others to reduce waste!
    I think commitment at whatever level you are at is important. Zero tolerance might work great for some, others might need to take smaller steps. I couldn't shop the way I shop now (multiple small, local stores) when I had toddlers at home. Sticking to my current commitment, until my habits change, then moving on to the next goal, is working for me right now.
    I also think that while zero waste is something we should all work towards, there is sometimes a trade-off for the trash. I have a winter farm share of frozen veg and fruit, all local farms, but packaged in plastic. It's a fantastic idea for the cold NE. For now that is a better option than the "fresh" ones shipped from California to NY!

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  45. Anonymous3/15/2013

    Thanks for this!
    Makes me feel "less" alone in front of those situations! ;)
    And starting this type of choices in my life, it happens everyday!

    Merci beaucoup! :)

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  46. Anonymous3/15/2013

    An early example of commitment for me was watching Ed Bagley, Jr. -obviously in part for the camera- when asked "paper or plastic?" say "neither" and walk out of the store with his arms awkwardly full of groceries. It had never occurred to me to say something so simple and accept the consequences.

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    1. Anonymous3/15/2013

      Love the Ed Begley shows. Wish I still had that channel. Informative... and humorous at the same time.

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  47. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Anonymous3/15/2013

      What is this SPAM doing here?

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  48. Anonymous3/15/2013

    Love this post! I just returned from a 3 day stay at a children's hospital with my daughter and the amount of waste there was mind-boggling. There were no recycling options (for health/sanitation reasons?) but the amount of plastic in the medical supplies and food service items was insane . . . all of it just thrown away. :(

    Lora

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    1. Anonymous3/16/2013

      Yes! It is HORRIBLE! I work in a hospital laboratory. UGH! I use as little as I can but EVERYTHING it seems is individually wrapped! BOO! Although, our gauze pads and wooden cotton swabs are ordered in bulk and come paper wrapped in fairly large containers.

      And I go to our cafeteria as little as possible or just buy a piece of fruit, refill my coffee mug etc., but everything is wrapped or put on disposable plates, bowls, cups... and plasticware is used. So sad! I guess I'd better get active on this!

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    2. Love how you end your comment: "I'd better get active on this!". Let your voice be heard!

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  49. Anonymous3/15/2013

    where is fashion fridays? I love it sooo much.

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  50. Vanessa3/15/2013

    Thanks for the (gentle) kick up the butt, Béa. After moving house twice, going back to in-house work after being self-employed and having a few discouraging experiences with various butcher/deli people, I had given up trying to get closer to 100%. It's time to get serious again.

    The part that I just have to take a deep breath and accept is the extra cost of buying some things zero-waste. I keep reminding myself that zero-waste has saved me so much overall that I still come out ahead. :)

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    1. Exactly. As my mom often says (roughly translated), "you can't have both: the butter and the profits of selling butter" (it's a french saying)

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  51. i'm still working on upping my commitment level, but one of the biggest challenges for me is definitely the frustration i feel when the packaged item is cheaper than buying in bulk. i refilled a dr.bronners bottle recently and it was several dollars more than the original full bottle had been. and i've found that to be the case with a number of other items as well (milk is glass bottles is more expensive than the plastic gallon of milk as another example). i guess maybe you still end up with savings on your total bill if you are going 100% zero waste (there are still some packaged items that we buy) so maybe we just need to take the deep dive and go all the way...

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  52. Take the dive! It may be slightly more expensive but worth it. Especially when it comes to beverages. Noting tastes better than milk from a glass bottle!! It gets so much colder than in plastic. I just found a source of homemade root beer in returnable glass bottles at a local farmers market. Yum! And you get 25 cents off the next purchase when you return your empties. I also located 2 brewery's where I can purchase refillable "growlers" so I plan to try that out this week. Still not able to find refillable wine...

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  53. Hi,
    Just want to comment on the progressive approach, which is working well for me. Rather than give up because it is impossible to go from wasteful to zero waste, I set goals to get rid of plastic, and decrease trash, along with seeking healthier alternatives. For example, although a busy professional, I am now making my own dishwasher and laundry detergent, have switched to a deodorant stone, and have been composting for a few years. I appreciate this post because it inspires me to try to go one more level. While my family is not zero waste, we have vastly reduced our waste, and will keep seeking those environmentally and physically healthier alternatives, until we, too, achieve near zero waste. If it takes a few years, it is better than abandoning the fight!

    Can't wait for the book to come out, Thanks so much, Bea!

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  54. Anonymous3/18/2013

    I have been working on Zero Waste changes for about a year. With this new year came an even stronger commitment. Buying milk that is twice as expensive in returnable glass bottles is hard to take, but it is so worth it. The plastic gallon jugs filled the recycling bin so fast. I've been really paying attention to what goes in the recycling bin and trying to find zero waste alternatives there. Small steps, big changes. I also contacted the schools to see if they could be more aware of their paper usage. That is my biggest headache. Also, a small victory for me: I only use washcloths to change diapers and clean up the kids after meals. My kitchen sink is very far from the water heater and it takes a long time and a lot of wasted water to get hot. I found an old coffee carafe given to me from my in-laws. I fill it in the morning with piping hot water and use it throughout the day to wet cloths to clean up the kids. A small victory, but I was proud I thought if it;)

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    1. That is a GREAT idea! I also hate the water wasted till the hot water arrives.

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    2. Anonymous3/19/2013

      Thanks. My husband laughed at me, but I honestly think we will see a big difference in water usage. The carafe is insulated, so it works really well. I use the unused water to water plants, rinse dishes, or to brush teeth.

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  55. Anonymous3/18/2013

    Sometimes zero waste ideals paralyze me. I am so excited about your book and can't wait to read it! The zero waste dilemma? For me, to get the most out of your book I need to order the paperback. Ugh! the guilt.

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    1. I don't see why you feel the guilt because you want the paperback version of her book. Are you going to keep her book for future reference?? Are you going to read it multiple times to get the most out of it??? Do you think you will lend it out to others so they can learn from her book??

      Personally I would rather have the paperback so I don't have to be at the mercy of a battery in my e-reader. If my power goes out and I want to read a book I can get one of my outdoor solar lights and read from the light of that.

      SO STOP FEELING GUILTY!!!!!!!!!!

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    2. Anonymous3/18/2013

      Thanks! I needed that!

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  56. Chevanne3/19/2013

    I think the hardest part for my family is the cost and convenience factor of some cheap, disposable goods. If it were solely up to me, I would go all the way completely, but the process has to be tempered when you have another's input. My husband still comes home with plastic bags from retail stores (with groceries he's set) and prefers using sanitizing wipes to castile soap with a cloth. It becomes hard to keep pushing for small changes when there is resistance. Sometimes you have to back off, find a viable solution and start slowly getting rid of a disposable. It's difficult. I can't be everywhere or do all the shopping. I can only try to stay committed and motivated, leading by example and showing that zero waste is not harder or very expensive, though it might be inconvenient. So far, we've donated a lot of goods (much more to go), committed to cloth diapering and I've recently taken up using cloth wipes, cloth napkins, kitchen towels, mostly bulk shopping, secondhand shopping for clothes, patronizing local business versus big chains... we try our best. My husband is satisfied with the changes, but I think we can go further. Each new step is a victory and an impetus to go continue. When I think of all the plastic I've saved as just one person, It gives me hope. Even if no one else is doing it, push forward. One less plastic bag is a great start. Here's to all of us staying committed.

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  57. Anonymous3/21/2013

    curious as to how you deal with suncream Bea? it is essential where I live and I am yet to see it in anything other than a plastic tube?

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  58. That dress is awesome! Please can you do a fashion Friday with it?

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    1. Anonymous3/22/2013

      Two entries ago, she did! :) Just look under the "Wardrobe" tag. It was awesome.

      --Jen

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  59. Anonymous3/24/2013

    Hi Bea, I love your ideas and your commitment. Congratulations! Tell me, what do you do for presents that you and your family receive? Have you given your friends and family guidelines?

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    1. Please do a search with the keyword. You'll find articles related to your question.

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