There is a LOT of advice on the internet right now on how to live a "zero-waste" lifestyle, and let me tell you, like 80% does NOT work for me.

I want to reduce my waste. I want to do better for the planet because I genuinely believe we have a problem. But for the nights/weeks I'm barely surviving and having any sort of dinner sounds like an insurmountable task, cooking a vegan, gluten-free, plastic-free, ethically sourced meal that doesn't make me want to cry is just not realistic. My love for cheese is fervent. I'm not going to stay up until midnight making a DIY face wash and house cleaner. Honestly, at this point in my life I can't afford a lot of the "zero waste" options. Mad props to people who can manage that lifestyle, but I just. Can't. Do it. So. I wanted to share what me, a normal person who's really bad at being zero waste, has been doing for at least six months that I've ACTUALLY been able to integrate into my life, even on the "I give up" days. I've organized these options from cheapest (free) to most expensive:


A quick google search on your local recycling laws

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At least in the US recycling laws generally change county to county, which can make what's actually recyclable and what's not a little confusing. Even if your packaging claims to be recyclable, if your county doesn't accept it, it's not going to get recycled. Back in California I was throwing away my milk cartons for YEARS, but turns out my county recycles milk cartons!! Gosh darn it. So take five minutes to read up on your area's recycling laws: you're probably going to be surprised.


Try to shop for Aluminum and Glass Packaging

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Did you know plastic can only be recycled a few times, while aluminum and glass can be endlessly recycled? I DIDN'T SIX MONTHS AGO. If you're a nerd like me you can check out this University of Oxford data on plastic use/recycling for more details.

I am nowhere near zero waste, but I have been able to cut down on my plastic use simply by prepping myself mentally pre grocery-shopping to choose glass or aluminum packaging over plastic. Sometimes my store only has a plastic option (boo), but if they have a better option I reach for that if the price is right.


Buy Less Crap

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This one has been HUGE for me in reducing my waste. I never realized how much I used shopping to deal with stress before I started trying to reduce my waste, ESPECIALLY on cosmetics products. I would also use it as a social activity, just making a "target run" with a friend and inevitably buying some facemask or fuzzy socks or candle I definitely didn't need. I still go on these fun late night trips with friends, but I've released myself from the feeling that I NEED to buy something to have fun and be in on the action. I've spent a lot less money and brought a lot less trash/junk into my life. But, if I find a candle I like and I've used up the ones I have at home, I TREAT MYSELF BABYYY. Just, not excessively.


Switch to a Bamboo Toothbrush

(~$5)

PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS AND GO THROW AWAY YOUR PERFECTLY GOOD PLASTIC TOOTHBRUSH. Use that bad boy up! Use it for all it's worth! And when it's obviously gross and needs a change, try a bamboo biodegradable toothbrush! I've been using one for over a year and I literally notice no difference. And not to mention that at my CVS it's actually cheaper than the name brands?! Sprinkles on top, some bamboo toothbrushes come in paper packaging rather than plastic. Here's an option from Target.


Reusable Cotton Pads + Micellar Water

($20)

This was actually one of the first switches I made, and I've had my set for about two years now, still going strong. I will say they're just now starting to get stained, but a bit of bleach and they'll be good as new. I throw them in with my weekly laundry to get them nice and clean. This is not the set I purchased, but I would really recommend this one on Amazon, because 20 is actually a more realistic number of pads and having two washing bags is an absolute must, because if you cram too many pads into the bag they don't get cleaned very well (learn from my mistakes). Yes, the micellar water comes in plastic, but I'm making WAY less waste than I did before and I call that a win.


Cotton Produce Bags

(~$15)

This is my most recent discovery, and I LOVE it. Again, once my "eco-glasses" were on I started to notice how many HUNDREDS of plastic fruit and veggie bags my family was going through. I would rinse and recycle them which was a huge pain in the butt, and then I just tried to grab what I could with no bag at all. But that got cumbersome/frustrating really fast. The solution that has ACTUALLY worked for me is throwing my set of reusable cotton bags (here) into the reusable bag I keep in my car for grocery shopping. My fiancé was SO nervous to use these and was worried about getting weird looks/lectured by a grumpy check-out lady, but we haven't had any negative experiences here in Italy, and it's actually started some interesting conversations at check-out. People's reactions in public have been extremely positive both here and in California. I also swear because the bags are more breathable our veggies stay fresh longer with having wet plastic pressing against them. If they get a little dirty, you can throw them in the laundry with your reusable cotton pads 😉 I highly reccomend.


Safety Razors to reduce plastic trash

($20-$75)

I think I'm going to write a detailed post on safety razors next week, so I'll keep this brief. I've been using mine for about three months now and I LOVE IT. It has a learning curve, but it means no more throwing away plastic razors. I have and highly recommend the Oui the People single-blade weighted razor, but it is PRICY. Right now you can snag one with their old branding for $67.50 and I THINK if you sign up for their newsletter you can get another 10% off. I would not be surprised if this gets further reduced in the coming months, I got mine for $50 with a sale. If that just sounds like crazy money to you (I get it), you can find options on Amazon that range from $20-$50. For me, the safety razor is an investment piece I wanted to LAST for years to come, and with a bit of care the Oui the People one is just that.


PHEW. Thanks for reading. Trying to figure out how to create less trash is a LOT and pretty overwhelming, so I hope these ideas work for you, don't stress you out, and actually make your life BETTER. If you're trying, you're already doing great. One little thing at a time! If you have any questions about the products mentioned, feel free to leave a comment down below and I'll do my best to answer! :)

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Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Hi. I'm stressed out of my mind. I moved to a new country a month and a half ago and I'm currently living as a glamorous trophy-wife-- aka I'm unemployed actively searching for work while my partner graciously covers for both of us. I'm frantically trying to learn the language. I am currently lying on a second-hand couch with my jeans popped open with a crazy double chin. Like I said. Glamor.


I want to buy fun stuff SO BAD to distract myself, but if you are at all familiar with my profile on Instagram (cough cough, @empties.likemysoul), you know I'm trying to create less beauty waste and follow a no-buy with only three "cheat cards" for the year. I thought this would allow me some purchasing freedom without feeling constricted, but still drastically reduce my spending.


Two and half months in and the reality is my spending HAS reduced drastically (I would say by roughly 50%), but I feel extremely constricted like I'm on some dumb 99% watermelon diet. Yesterday, after a 75-day streak of sticking to my no-buy rules, stress got the best of me and I impulse shopped. I was mad about it. I started getting all grumpy and upset over a purchase that was supposed to be "fun". I started thinking about my last blog post where I aggressively touted how great it was not to overbuy and here I was buying shit I didn't need to relieve stress, and now it was causing me more stress. Who was winning here?


After a good night's sleep, I started to think about where this shit-storm came from. Why is this simple buy/nobuy, use/waste dichotomy so emotionally difficult? Why can't I just get my crap together?


College. Now, if you have the blessing of NOT having to go to school in the US, what I'm about to discuss might not make much sense. I graduated about two years ago with my Bachelor's Degree and I was EXTREMELY lucky to have parents that had saved money since before I was born to get me to college. I chose to go to Community College to cut my first two years of costs in half, did an hour and a half commute for 2 years to save on living expenses, and I was able to win a few scholarships to reduce costs.


All in all I got out with only about $2000 in debt, which is significantly lower than the national average. However, that doesn't erase five years of mentally living off of "tomorrow money" and credit card limits that I knew I could pay off at "some point". The cycle I saw constantly in myself and in my friends was to spend absolutely nothing for months at a time, skip meals, say no to social outings that would probably end up in expenses, and then get to such a point of frustration and nihilistic anger that resulted in late night online shopping and restaurant runs, overbuying unhealthy food, and expensive cocktails we really couldn't afford.


This cycle was completely unhealthy, but at least for me and my circle it was the only option for emotional survival. Even if we did get through college via debt, there was no guarantee we'd even get work that would pay it off. I like to call this the "avocado effect": living in a financial system you basically can't win/get on top of, treating yourself to an avocado at the grocery store at 11 P.M. because your soul is basically empty from overwork, and then getting called selfish/irresponsible on social media for buying avocados.


Two years out and I'm just starting to heal from that cycle mentally, and it hasn't been an automatic process. I had completely forgotten how to spend in a healthy manner, rather than "binging" on purchases. I've made a lot of mental progress in my no-buy process. Now, at least there IS a discourse about a purchase instead of a frantic impulse grab for 30 seconds of excitement.


Yesterday, I went back to that moment of standing in a dirty downtown grocery store at 11 P.M., blankly staring at the pile of avocados after a 15 hour day.


I bought an avocado yesterday, and that's okay.

76 views1 comment

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

The Danger of Instagram Buzzwords


If you're anything like me (young, female, insecure) and spend way too much time in Instagram's beauty community, there's a couple words you're going to see over and over and over again.


Stash. Junkie. Haul. Declutter.


These are all terms that are HIGHLY glamorized on Instagram, with aesthetic photos to match. Spend ten minutes browsing through Instagram stories and you're probably going to see a lot "hauls" and a lot of explanations as to why the account creator felt justified in buying makeup they didn't need.


I am 1000% percent guilty of participating in all of these things. But, I am also here to call absolute bullshit on all of it.

This is my beauty trash from last month. Four of the products you see here went bad (like, a smell so terrible it was a health concern) before I could even use them up. I could, very easily and comfortably call these "declutters" without a SINGLE raised eyebrow on my Instagram page. BUT I AM HERE TO CALL BULLSHIT!


These products were NOT declutters. They were WASTE. They were an absolute failure on my part (economically, ecologically, and personally) to balance my rate of purchasing with the rate of my makeup consumption. Instagram's insane advertising power has completely distorted our reality for what is acceptable as a consumer.


I don't "like" Instagram posts that have the word "declutter" in the caption. I haven't for months. Even if we're internet buddies, I'm not putting my liking power towards the word. For some reason (cough cough marketing) "declutter" has become a prettier, more acceptable word for "throwing away". Decluttering is COOL now.


But there IS NO AWAY. Every plastic container that goes in the trash is going to be around for longer than we're going to be around. I recycle my empties when I can, but the reality is most cosmetic components are not recyclable. According to National Geographic, "the amount of plastic packaging on U.S. products (not just on personal care items) has increased by over 120 times since 1960—with almost 70 percent of that waste piling up in landfills."


I am part of the problem. I have way more makeup than I need. I want to purchase MORE constantly. I have a weird, dragon-like penchant for collecting shiny eyeshadows. But, I'm trying to be better. I have cut my beauty purchases in half in the last six months, and the amount of product I've gone through has almost quadrupled. These empties are still mostly going in the trash, but the amount is better.


I'm not here to tell you you need to live in a cave barefaced without a skincare routine. I get it. I'm a modern lady with cystic acne who flipping loves black eyeliner and full coverage foundation. Switching to a zero-waste beauty routine is just not accessible to most people, myself included. But we can take a second and consider. So let's stop decluttering and acknowledge our trash, ESPECIALLY in our instagram captions.


Gift that green eyeshadow to a friend you know will love it and use it. Donate that extra lipstick that came in your Holiday Kit (that you know you'll never use) to a women's shelter BEFORE it goes bad. Donate your cleaned mascara wands to #wandsforwildlife, a charity run by Appalachian Wildlife Refuge to help injured animals (link here).


It's not perfect, but neither are we. Let's stop glorifying waste and love what we've got.


Let's declutter the word decluttering and call it what it is.

Trash.


If you're interested in communities that support you in trying to being a more responsible consumer on Instagram, check out:


#projectpan

#nobuyyear

#wastenotwantnot





Articles That Helped Me Think Things:


https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/containers-and-packaging-product-specific-data


https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/beauty-personal-care-industry-plastic/


https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-taiwan-has-achieved-one-highest-recycling-rates-world-180971150/


https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/08/instagram-influencers-psychology-social-media-anxiety

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