#InspiringZeroWaste || March Goal

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And just like that, we’re at the three month of this little zero waste challenge. How is it going for you all, friends? Now might be the point when you’re starting to feel your motivation waning — a year is a long time to commit to anything, especially something as big as waste reduction. I’d encourage you to use this month as a check-in. Ask yourself how achievable your monthly goals have been and, if necessary, readjust. Living a lower waste lifestyle doesn’t have to feel impossible, rigid, or boring. I hope breaking your biggest zero-waste goals into month-by-month chunks makes it feel as approachable and do-able as it actually is. If you’ve made it this far in the challenge OR you’re just joining in, comment below with how it’s going!

You can read each month’s goal and recap by going to the #InspiringZeroWaste tag on my blog, but as a quick reminder, here’s what I’ve tackled thus far in the challenge. For January, I zero-waste-ified my shower routine (I swapped my last shampoo bottle for a shampoo bar from Natural Vegan, bought a safety razor from Leaf, and have been switching out my conditioner and body wash to bars as they run out). In February, I researched textile recycling and wrote a giant post of resources for sending old clothing.

February Update:

Textile recycling seemed like a giant of a topic, and really, I only scratched the surface of the issues of clothing waste and the difficulties associated with recycling textiles in general.

What I Learned:

  • Primarily, I learned that textile recycling should be the norm. Although in an ideal world, all of our clothing would be organically grown and free from synthetic additions so that it would biodegrade naturally on its own, but of course, that’s not reality (yet, anyway). An easy solution is to send off your unwanted, well-worn clothes to textile recycling facilities or upcycle them at home.

  • More than anything, conscious consumption is key. When it comes to clothes, don’t buy more than you need, shop for ethically made pieces that are built to last, and recycle them when you no longer need them.

  • To read more of my findings, as well as a big list of places to send just about any type of clothing, click here.

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March Goal

My goals so far have all been practical and informative for my personal life and March’s goal is no different. For the next few months, my ZW goals will likely have to do with baby preparation. I’m due in two short months and am hoping to focus my (minimal) energy on making a plan to lessen waste during the postpartum months and beyond. I’ve had two kiddos of course, but low waste living wasn’t as high of a priority for me then as it is now, so I’m excited to dive in and change up my “baby phase norm” a bit.

For March, I’ll be focusing on finding (making/buying) zero waste baby essentials. This post won’t be as informative for my readers who aren’t in the baby-phase, but it’s something I need to dive into for myself and I hope my findings will be useful to some of you (both now and for future mamas!).

I’ve always said that you don’t need as much stuff to have a baby as everyone says and this time around I’m truly putting that to the test. Of course, we don’t have space for much excess, but after my two older girls turned 2 or 3, I sold or donated all of our baby stuff and am essentially starting from scratch this time around.

At the end of this month, I’ll share everything I plan to use to lessen waste once baby arrives, so stay tuned on my thoughts on cloth diapering, low waste pumping, and more. And, as always, leave me any tips or suggestions on the topic below!

A Guide to Textile Recycling: How, Why, and Where to Recycle Old Clothes

*This post is part of my #InspiringZeroWaste challenge for 2019. To read the original post click here, or click here to see my first post for February*

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As conscious consumers (or folks on the path towards conscious consumerism), living in a non-circular economy complicates things. Most of our products are designed with the short term in mind — they’re meant to be convenient, cheap to make, cheap to buy, and aren’t typically made with the life cycle of the product (or its impact on the environment) in mind.

Clothing is no exception. In fact, as far as typical fast fashion goes, clothing production has been the the unfortunate gold standard for waste, cheap production, and linear production.

In an ideal world, production would be circular — meaning: products are designed with the end of their life in mind from the beginning of it. Pieces made with natural fibers, in factories that recycle their waste and water, and reuse/recycle/compost their pieces at the end of their life are the most sustainable. But, of course, it’s not the norm (yet).

If you’re anything like the average American Joe, you’ve tossed trash bag upon trash bag of clothing into the dumpster before without giving it a second thought (upwards of 81 lbs of textile waste, per person, per year). Maybe you toss said trash bags off to your local Goodwill, or maybe you even pass them on to a friend. Either way, clothing waste is in the US is a huge issue that isn’t disappearing anytime soon (especially with the rate that people are Kon Mari-ing their closets).

Why Textile Waste Is a Problem

What’s the big deal? It’s not like you’re sending hazardous chemicals or plastic that takes years to biodegrade to landfill. Why is clothing waste an issue in the first place?

Two of the biggest reasons, as I see them, are as follows:

  1. Most clothes are made of synthetic fibers which, like plastic, take years to break down, or may never fully biodegrade. In fact, when stuck in a landfill, clothing made from synthetics like polyester or lycra release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, and take at least 30-40 years to biodegrade. It’s not an “out of sight out of mind” matter, and even cotton clothes woven with synthetics don’t biodegrade as easily as natural fibers like organic cotton, linen, hemp, tencel, etc.

  2. We have way too many clothes to begin with. Combined with the fact that our clothes aren’t made to last, the sheer amount of product sent to landfill (both from retailers and consumers) is insane. Most of these clothes are forgotten about, or worse, incinerated.

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Steps to Combat Textile Waste

1. Consume Less:

With a “Less but better” mindset, you can shift from buying clothes you don’t really need that aren’t made to last to buying “investment pieces” that are made to last for years to come and, hopefully, won’t need to be disposed of. The brands in my List are all great jumping off points to look for ethically made, quality pieces.

2. Resell/Gift:

When a piece has plenty of wear left but may not fit your body or style anymore, you can sell it or gift it to someone else. Host a clothing swap with friends or sell them with resell platforms like Poshmark or Depop.

3. Upcycle:

For pieces that are towards the end of their life or you don’t feel could be resold, upcycle them into new-to-you products that you can use around the house. Cut up old t-shirts to use as cleaning rags, headbands, and more. Or, you can transform old clothing into completely new clothing if you have the creative skills for it. A quick Pinterest search of “upcycling clothing” should do the trick.

4. Donate

But Don’t Automatically Assume Secondhand Shops want Your Stuff

I include this point with caution because, as crucial as secondhand shops are for circular economy and sustainability, they don’t always need or want your junk. Before you drop off a load of unsorted belongings, consider these points:

  • Is this a piece someone else could actually use? (Ie. it’s not stained/ripped/hanging on by a thread/broken)

  • Does this shop need donations of this kind right now?

If the answer is no to one or both of these questions, scout out another secondhand shop or consider upcycling or recycling the piece.

5. Recycle:

Once a garment has reached the definite end of its lifespan, chances are there are ways it can be recycled into something completely new. Not only does recycling keep clothing out of landfill, but it reduces the need for new, virgin fabrics which can be costly and not-so-eco-friendly to produce.

Keep reading for a list of where and how to recycle your clothes by type. Keep in mind that you should have resources available locally (or semi-locally) for textile recycling — so it’s not really as hard as it sounds. Do a quick Google search for “your town + textile recycling” and see what pops up.

Clothing waste is a huge issue, and most people don't know where to send their clothes once they've reached the end of their lifespan. Luckily, textile recycling isn't as tricky as it sounds.

Recycling by type:

Cotton/polyester blends:

  • ReSpun: Marine Layer’s recycling program that accepts any and all (non-spandex) tees.

  • Patagonia WornWear: Patagonia will accept any of their old clothing back to recycle.

  • Terracycle: an incredible recycling program that can almost literally recycle anything. You do have to pay for the box to ship things back in (which is semi-costly), but worth it!

  • Brass Clothing’s “Closet Clean Out”: Brass sends you a pre-paid mailer that you stuff with clothes and send back. They send it to a textile recycling center in NC. I didn’t see any restriction on type of clothing accepted.

  • I:Co (Locations worldwide — I:Co is who retailers like H&M use for their recycling programs, although I’ve, not surprisingly, found that their track record isn’t the greatest when it comes to actually recycling the majority of what they bring in.)

  • USAgain: collects used clothing of any kind and condition in their drop off locations

Athletic clothes

Dress clothes

  • Dress for Success: A really cool organization giving women who don’t have access to interview appropriate clothing your gently used work-wear for free.

Undergarments

  • Knickey: This organic underwear brand has partnered with a NYC organization to recycle all unwanted underwear (any brand, condition) and will even send you a free pair in exchange.

  • The Bra Recyclers: Ensures bras don’t end up in landfill by recycling them into new product/insulation/bedding.

  • Free the Girls: An incredible non-profit that helps victims of human trafficking start their own businesses reselling gently used bras in their communities.

Denim (There are LOTS of resources for this - I’m only listing a few)

Bedsheets and towels

  • Cut them up into smaller towels/sheets to use for cleaning

  • Call your local homeless or animal shelter to see if they’re accepting donations

  • Coyuchi for Life: Coyuchi’s circular subscription program that recycles old linens and towels and send you new ones regularly.

  • USAgain: accepts used clothing and household textiles in any condition at their recycling drop of locations.

Shoes


Before I dug deeper, I knew textile recycling was a thing, but wasn’t sure where to begin sending my own clothing in. I hope this post can be a recurring resource for you (it will be for me, anyway!) for when your clothes wear out.

#InspiringZeroWaste || February Goal

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(For the first explanatory post on #InspiringZeroWaste, click here!)

Month 2 of 2019 is upon us and I’m welcoming it with open arms. January always seems to last twice as long as other months and February brings with it a sweetness and anticipation for Spring (hopefully) that I’m excited to embrace.

If you followed along last month, you’ll know that my first #InspiringZeroWaste goal was to make my shower routine as zero waste as possible. First, I’ll share an update on how that went, and then I’ll dive into my goal for month #2.

January Update

I purposefully eased myself into the challenge with this goal because I knew I was running low on most of my shower essentials and have been wanting to make the switch to zero-waste options for a while.

What I tried:

  • I started using products from Natural Vegan Club in late December. I love their flexible subscription style service that allows you change your products each month and get things only as you need them. I’ve been using their shampoo bar for a month and, although my hair has had an up and down response, I’m happy with it so far. Shampoo bars are an adjustment - I’ve found I have to take my time and make sure I’m getting every bit of my roots saturated or my hair looks greasy the same day I wash it. But I’m not giving up yet and will keep researching on the best ways to use them. (To order free samples from Natural Vegan Club, click here!)

  • I ordered a Rose Gold safety razor and blade disposer from Leaf Shave a few weeks ago. Although it still hasn’t arrived, I’m making do with the razor I have now until it gets here.

What I learned:

  • A shower routine is fairly easy to do low-waste/zero-waste. If you’re not ready to commit to shampoo bars, Plaine Products is an AMAZING brand that is just as zero waste as package free options. And if that idea is too much, just be sure you’re recycling/composting your packaging according to the labels to reduce as much waste as possible.

  • Bar soaps are SO cheap and last SO much longer.

  • Using body oil instead of packaged lotion is even better for your skin and oftentimes a more eco-friendly option since they usually come in glass bottles that can be reused in your home instead of plastic, and they’re made with plant-derived ingredients.

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February Goal:

For the second challenge of the year, I’ve decided to dive into researching textile recycling, both locally and on a bigger scale to see what’s truly sustainable and what isn’t. Although I’ve paired down my wardrobe drastically in the past few years, occasionally I discover a piece I haven’t worn enough to justify keeping or something starts to deteriorate that I’m not sure what to do with. I’m hoping that by educating myself on the best options for recycling old clothing (and what to do with the pieces that aren’t recyclable) I’ll be better equipped to make sustainable future purchases and hopefully help you do the same!

I’ll share everything I’ve learned in a big blog post at the end of the month, so feel free to send any questions or resources my way as I begin my research.

I wrote last month about how to responsibly “kon mari” your life and, when it comes to clothes in particular, most of us are prone to dumping trash bags of old college tees and torn up pants off at our local Goodwill or secondhand shop without a second thought. And although supporting thrift shops is incredibly important, the reality is that many of these clothes never find a second home and many of them just end up in a land fill anyway.

So, stay tuned for more on this topic and, if you’re up for it, join me in stock piling a little collection of unused clothes to donate responsibly and recycle at the end of this month. I’ll be going through my husband’s, my kid’s, and my own closets to make sure we’re eliminating our clothes in the most ethical and sustainable way possible.

A foreshadowing…

If you’re curious about what you can do NOW, while I’m doing my research, I’d suggest checking out Marine Layer’s new recycling program ReSpun. I had a call with a member of their team early last week to discuss a future collaboration and learn more about their recycling process and, luckily, I’m super impressed with what I learned from them.

In an effort to lessen their own textile waste and provide a solution for brands and consumers alike, ReSpun works with Recovertex, a recycling facility in Spain that has been recycling textiles since World War II. Marine Layer collects unwanted tees, of any shape, size, condition, and material (except spandex) and ships them off by the thousands to Recovertex where they’re broken down, sorted, and respun into new tees. Any non-recyclable parts like labels and tags are added to fabric that is recycled into things like bedding and home insulation. (Click here to request your own recycling kit from Marine Layer to start the process with me!)

This is a “closed loop” process which, ideally the fashion industry as a whole will move towards one day. And as an added positive, Marine Layer offsets their carbon footprint from shipping the tees overseas by donating to organizations that offset their emissions. It’s called a carbon neutral process and it’s fascinating.

Stay Tuned…

I’ll be sharing more at the end of the month, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, feel free to join me in gathering up your old clothes that are un-sellable that you think would be a good fit for recycling (and one more time, you can get a free recycling kit here).

What’s your #InspiringZeroWaste goal for this month? I’d love to hear how it’s going thus far!

De-Cluttering without Wasting — 5 Tips for Conscious Downsizing

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The topic of living a “clutter-free” lifestyle isn’t a new one around here. I’ve been through several downsizing/minimalism phases, each one varying in severity and longevity, and bits and pieces of my journey are littered throughout the online pages of this blog. Getting rid of stuff, it seems, comes and goes in trendy waves. I’ve ridden several and, I hope, crossed over into a balanced lifestyle of intentionally living with less without the guilt or restriction I once felt about the label “minimalist”. (A label I don’t subscribe to, by the way).

With the recent success of Netflix’s rendition of Marie Kondo’s not-so-new method of tidying up, it seems minimalism is on another trendy high, with folks all over the world declaring which items do and don’t spark joy in their lives. I love lots of things about Kondo’s method, especially the subjectivity, but one thing I’m hesitant to love about this “mass exodus” of ex-hoarders into minimalist territory is the sheer amount of waste that’s bound to be created, despite the KonMari warnings to dispose of things mindfully.

It’s inevitable, somewhat, creating waste initially when you begin to live a more conscious lifestyle. But I think it’s possible to Marie-Kondo your life without throwing all of your non-joy-sparking possessions into a landfill.

This blog post could go much more in depth, but, for sake of time and practicality, here is my quick two cents on how and why to de-clutter as mindfully as I think we should do anything else. Whether it’s your first bout of downsizing or you’re a veteran minimalist, living with intention requires you to be mindful in all areas of life, including where you put the things that don’t serve you anymore.


Infographic via  Trade Machines.  See the entire image  here  - it’s very eyeopening.

Infographic via Trade Machines. See the entire image here - it’s very eyeopening.

  1. Get rid of clothing responsibly

    Americans purchase one article of clothing per week and we keep our clothes for only half as long as we used to 20 years ago. It’s estimated that Americans toss about 70.5 pounds of textile waste into landfills each year, with a measly 15% ever being donated. The pictured infographic is wonderfully helpful for explaining more.

    Here are a few simple ways to be mindful with your downsized clothing:

    • Host a clothing swap

    • Sell or re-gift them

    • Send pieces to relevant charities

    • Send them to a certified textile recycling center (a full post is coming soon on textile recycling, but here’s some great info in the meantime!)

  2. Purge Heirlooms Carefully

    Sentimental clutter is one of the hardest areas for most people to purge. The memories associated often seem to attach themselves to the physical item. I’ve never ascribed to the “rule” that you can’t keep any sentimental items, but here are a few rules that I follow when getting rid of anything with sentimental value.

    • Send the most valuable to other family members

    • Keep what you love without guilt

    • Host a garage sale or “free sale” to purge the rest

  3. Declutter your Kitchen without Throwing it all in the Trash

    Things like spices, mismatched sets, and appliances that you never use all probably fall in the category of “not sparking joy”. Be careful that you don’t lump it all into the trash when, chances are, each item needs individual consideration.

    • Sell/donate appliances and supplies in good condition

    • Combine extra spices/herbs or use them up before recycling the packaging

    • Compost food waste

    • Recycle as many containers as possible

  4. Find charities/organizations that may need your miscellaneous extras

    For odds and ends that you don’t use and aren’t sure what to do with, there may be a charity or organization that will take it off your hands. Many schools will accept musical instruments, office supplies, or children’s toys. Homeless shelters often take clothes, unused food, and the like. Do some digging into local organizations and send some items their way.

  5. Carefully consider future new belongings

    The cornerstone of a mindful lifestyle with less clutter (which ultimately means creating less waste), is what you do moving forward. If you purge your belongings only to replace them shortly after with “new and improved” ones, you’ve missed the point.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t shop or buy things that do, indeed, spark joy or fill a gap. However, once the initial purge is over, being extra cautious of what you buy/accept/bring in means that you’ll have less clutter and less to worry about downsizing later.

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As you Kon-Mari your belongings, remember to do it without creating unnecessary trash. Here are a few ways to de-clutter without waste.

Of course, none of us do this perfectly. It’s impossible to exist without creating waste of some sort. However, I hope these tips inspire you to Kon-Mari your life away and dispose of the joyless items responsibly.

Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat more!

#InspiringZeroWaste || January Goal

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As promised, the first installment of my #InspiringZeroWaste goals. I’m so excited about the reaction to this challenge and can’t wait to hear how your months go and which areas you choose to work on. I sat down with my planner today to map out each of my goals (I got halfway through the year and will reevaluate what I need to focus on as the year progresses) and was surprised by how tricky it was choosing what to focus on.

I’m not new to the “Zero Waste” lifestyle — I’ve been slowly working on reducing the waste my family and I produce for three or four years now. However, despite the progress I’ve made, I still found myself getting discouraged and overwhelmed by the amount I still had left to tackle. All of the little conveniences that we don’t even pay attention to until we realize how wasteful they are, all of the road trip stops at gas stations for a quick (plastic wrapped) snack, all of the in-flight plastic cups, or waste created while on vacation. It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?

This challenge, as I mentioned in my introduction post, is meant to aid you in cultivating an overall awareness of what you’re consuming and where your lifestyle is headed while making tangible progress towards your goals. How is it going for you so far? Let’s support each other along the way and watch as our goals become habits over the year.

So, my first goal of the year is to “zero waste-ify” my shower routine. I’ve been using clean, organic and healthy beauty products for a while, but of course, each of them usually comes in (recyclable) plastic. There are a few other options I’ve found, like Plaine Products’ amazing refillable aluminum containers, or Seed Phytonutrient’s biodegradable recycled packaging. But I would ultimately prefer to skip the “packaging” step all together and use a product that was truly waste-less.

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For Shampoo: I trying my hand at shampoo bars (gasp! I know). I’ve wanted to for a while, but have either been testing other brands or waiting for my old shampoos to run out. The timing was perfect for this month, so I decided to jump right in. I’ve been using the bar shampoo from Natural Vegan Club for a week or so now (washing my hair usually twice per week) and am pleasantly surprised. I’m still using up an old conditioner, but plan to buy a conditioner bar from Unwrapped Life.

For Bodywash: Similarly, I’m waiting for a bottle to finish (that I’ll recycle) and then I’ll use bar soap for shaving and washing. I have quite a collection built up from several brands, so I don’t suspect I’ll be buying any new soap for a while.

For Shaving: This is the area I’ve struggled with the most. I use my razor a lot — daily in some way or another, so I’ve tried just about everything. Except a safety razor. So this month, I’ll be buying one (I’m debating between Leaf Shave or Oui Shave — I’d love your recommendations!) Safety razors are zero waste in that there isn’t a plastic cartridge or handle that you throw out (because, as far as I know, they can’t be recycled) every few weeks. Their blades can be saved and sent to centers that specifically recycle razor blades. I’m nervously excited to order mine (they’re a bit of an investment) and will definitely be sharing about how I like it.

My favorite part about this routine is how versatile it is. My kids can use the same products I do (except the razor, of course) and each of them travels extremely well without needing to waste travel-sized products or cram giant shampoo bottles into my carry-ons.

I’ll plan to write an update on how each month goes (maybe as a “quarterly update” if monthly updates don’t work out), but for now, I’d love to hear what your goal for January is and/or if you’ve ever tried zero waste-ing your shower routine.


Don’t forget to use the tag #InspiringZeroWaste to share your posts with me and others in the community!