Almost exactly a month ago, I wrote a post detailing our house's collective efforts to lower our carbon footprint and expenses in the coming year by making more eco-friendly, energy efficient choices. For accountability and for anyone interested in following along, I'm going to be writing a monthly re-cap post of our results for the month; the good, the bad, and the problem solving we needed to engage in. So let's dive in. None of the goals relating to saving on utilities have updates yet, as we are just now getting our bills for December. *The following paragraphs contain affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Hey Jillian!*
The biggest item wasn't on the list last time: Auditing our trash. Taking stock of what we're throwing out, and figuring out how to reduce that has been a huge part of my efforts this month.
Looking at which restaurants offer takeout in styrofoam (boo) and which offer it in compostable brown paper containers (looking at you Chipotle, thank you!) greatly reduces our trash, we cook a lot at home, but even one meal with disposable containers nearly fills our trash can.
We had been using disposable diapers overnight, because none of our cloth ones were sufficient to keep kiddo dry enough overnight not to leak or bother his skin. We got a couple of these overnight fitteds from a swap page, and they have been working like a charm.
We hadn't been composting, because winter, but eggshells, banana peels, and coffee grounds were making up a huge portion of our trash. We got a 5 gallon bucket to keep inside, which holds about a month of compost, so I only have to go out ot our compost tumbler once a month. I add wood chips from the chicken coop along with the food waste. Nothing is really going to actively compost right now, but once it warms up there will be tons of great material for those microbes to work their magic on.
Right now, the biggest trash culprit is plastic packaging from food, and we'll be working on reducing that this month. I need to start baking cookies to reduce packaging, darn.
I bought a household shredder, because I had been ripping up and throwing out mail with personal information. Now we will be able to shred & recycle them, which is both safer and more eco-friendly.
1) No more dryer & running laundry on cold: I definitely haven't minded this at all. The actual process has been a breeze. We do laundry a couple times a week, I can fit two full loads on the drying rack, and everything is dry in about 8 hours. That means if I hang it up at night, it's dry by morning. I love drying our shirts and dresses right on the hangers, it's like having everything pressed and putting stuff away is a breeze. Some people have brought up scratchy towels, but honestly the second they touch any moisture they soften up, so I really don't notice at all when drying myself. One unintended benefit, is the kiddo loves helping hang laundry to dry, he does all his diapers himself!
2) Baking our own bread: This has gone really well. I have been using this recipe (but without the sugar) and thanks to a little troubleshooting with my baker friend Miss Weinerz, my loaves are coming out like perfect store bought sandwich bread. To improve my bread baking level of success I invested in a small kitchen scale for weighing ingredient vs measuring by volume. The next chapter for my bread baking is bubbling away now: I am three days in to growing my own sourdough starter. Her name is Pam. Did you know it's considered bad luck not to name your starter? I am looking forward to trying my hand at some sourdough loaves in a couple weeks when she's ready for action.
3) Fermenting our own yogurt: This has been even easier than baking our bread. Once a week I've been making yogurt using the Yogurt function on my Instant Pot. All you need is milk, a couple tablespoons of leftover yogurt, and a food thermometer. I use the process outlined here, and with about 5 minutes of hands on work, I make a nice thick, tangy Greek yogurt, no straining needed.
4) Bringing cloth bags to the grocery store: This is an area where we can still improve. It's fine when I go out to get groceries, because I keep bags in the bottom of my purse, but when my husband picks something up on his way home, he doesn't have the bags and a plastic one comes home with us. I should put a cloth bag in the backpack he takes to work so he's prepared.
5) I've bought one LED bulb to replace an incandescent so far.
6) This month our dishsoap and our toothpaste ran out. We switched to unscented castile soap that we can get in bulk from our co-op for the dishes, and have had no issues, dishes are clean. We also made our own toothpaste, and the recipe is at the end of this post.
7) Menstrual cup was no problem, zero tampons & pads used.
8) Our meat share doesn't start until March, but we have been cutting back on meals with meat, and I have been shopping the reduced case at our local co-op for meat so we can afford to buy local, responsibly raised meat.
My biggest takeaways so far are two-fold and sort of opposite: 1) It's not that hard to make most of these lower waste changes. 2) The idea of zero waste is bullshit/impossible. The bulk goods I'm buying come to my co-op in some kind of packaging. I am still working on finding lower-waste ingredients for my toothpaste, even though it's better than toothpaste tubes. I think once the ingredients I have run out, I am going to just get this toothpowder that comes in compostable packaging, and mix it with fractionated coconut oil, which I can get in glass containers. But I'll still give you my toothpaste recipe, because I really like using this toothpaste, and maybe you can help me find more responsibly packaged ingredients.
Jillian's Whitening Toothpaste:
5 tablespoons calcium carbonate powder
1 tablespoon xylitol powder
1 tsp activated charcoal powder
10 drops food grade spearmint oil
enough fractionated coconut oil to make a paste, about 1/3rd of a cup
I mixed all these together, and filled one of our Squooshi refillable food pouches with it. One of the downsides of homemade toothpaste is often that you are dipping your toothbrush in a jar, which can lead to contamination and bacteria growth. I love the cheery little pouch in the bathroom now, and we can squeeze the toothpaste on to the brush no problem. My husband likes the toothpaste as well.
If you want to keep up with my ideas in real time, come follow Hey Jillian on Pinterest, where I am keeping track of all my low waste and urban homesteading plans and ideas. I even have a Reduce board for all my household specific ideas.
This coming month some new low waste plans are: to borrow a usage meter so I can evaluate the power use of each of our main appliances; get our garden planned and any seeds started so we can grow more of our own food; switch to DIY shampoo when my current shampoo runs out.
Have you made any eco-friendly changes this year? How are they going?
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