Freedom From Waste Starting from Zero

Striving for zero waste in one's life can sound like a burden that involves sacrifice. And some people make it sound like you need to buy a whole bunch of gear to save a whole bunch of waste. I am about to tell you how working towards zero waste is:
affordable & money saving

If you are aiming for waste-free, you need to start in your kitchen and bathroom!

There are very few prepared foods and ready made body care products that don't come prepackaged in single use waste, almost always plastic. Plastic is bad for people and planet from the start. Toxic, carcinogenic and hormone disrupting chemicals are unleashed in plastic's making, its useful life, its recycling (down cycling) and its near eternal breakdown in the environment. Van Jones explains the problems here:

All this is why we do not package our body care products in plastic, and we refill bottles, accept returns, and will even fill YOUR containers from our bulk dispensers.

Of course, I DIY. It's not only the best way to avoid single use packaging and waste, Doing It Yourself lets me use the highest quality ingredients for one tenth the cost of high priced plastic bottled body care. I don't need to buy any body care products. My daughter got us using the Peppermint and Lemon Toothpaste, and I take home samples of our various Raindance lotions and Anarres serums. I make my own foods from scratch too, like sprouts, kombucha, sauerkraut, and all sorts of stews sauces and soups from dried peas and beans.

I got my start making mud pies at a young age and learning to cook European, Indian and Chinese with my grandmother. It is always easiest and most fun to learn by doing, and to learn from others, and with others. I have enjoyed learning how to make useful things throughout my life, and as a second career, studied with Jan Benham author of The Creamy Craft of Cosmetic Making with Essential Oils and The Baby Boomers Beauty Bible With Jan I learned to make a lot of things from basic white lotion, to fancy creams, and soap. Yet it wasn't until I started practicing that I learned how to create a recipe.

If your teacher is You Tube and internet searches, I suggest you create your own recipes using these principles:

1. Find at least three recipes that use the ingredients you have to make what you want

2. The recipes should have similar proportions. If they don't, forget the one that's most off, and keep looking. Beware of recipes that give the same measurements for essential oils and fragrances - this is a tip off that the recipe has been clumsily copied from somewhere else, or has even been made up just to sell the ads in the margins.

3. Write down your own version of the recipe being really clear about the quantities. If you made a mistake and put 2 teaspoons of shea butter in, for instance, then write that down. If you like how it turned out, you'll want to make it again. If you don't like how it turned out, you don't want to repeat your mistake!

4. Make the smallest batch you can until you know you love the result.

5. Evaluate and... Experiment again!

If you want to get started Doing It Yourself, consider taking a DIY Intro or Full Day Workshop with us.

Here are some other zero waste principles and strategies that enrich my life:

Do I have it already? Do I really need a new one? Somewhere in this big planet full of stuff, someone has the thing I need but isn't using it.

Can I get it from the trash or recycle bins? I am that magical combination of lazy and cheap. I don't buy tarps when I paint - I use newspapers from someone else's recycle bin. I may not even buy the paint - I look out for it in the trash, and at the risk of offending decorators everywhere, I combine latex paints and once I have enough for the job, I can get it tinted at the hardware store as needed.

Can I get it from my community? I ask friends for things I need - in person, by phone, by email, by Facebook. I go through my stockpiles of things. If you need anything, just ask!

Can I trade something for it? There are barter networks popping up in many places. In Toronto, we have BUNZ groups on Facebook and as an app. Craig's list and Kijiji also have trade offers. Or just offer to trade when you ask as above. I mostly trade for food. Ys, food! Boxes and boxes of food! What do I trade? Alcohol I've been given, plants I grow and pot, body care products and workshops... This past year I traded away two huge mirrors, extra towels, extra pillows, fancy kids clothes, books, a dining room table set, a kids booster seat.... and always dandelion powder, power snack balls and most recently, gluten free home baked scones.

When we trade or gift with each other, we get the added bonus of connecting with others instead of the lonely pursuit of connecting with brands and shopping.

Can I buy it second hand? In addition to second hand and thrift stores, there are second hand and free markets, and online communities like Freecycle, Kijiji and Craigs list. If I need a specific thing, I post with a photo of what I want and *ping* like magic I can get what I need at half the price of new.

Some people think it's a virtue to "declutter" and get rid of stuff no matter how. While I aspire to decluttering constantly, it does matter if the stuff goes into the landfill. Don't let it. Take responsibility for your part in the cycle.

Can it be repaired? So much of what we throw away just needs a repair. Appliances can almost always be repaired. I have often been told that "it's not worth repairing". That's almost never true. I was told that about a $1700 professional dishwasher, that ended up costing $350 to repair. I've been told that about my 12 year old printer, for which I have a dozen $30 toner cartridges. It cost $140 to repair. I seek out repair people in my neighbourhood so I know where I can get clothing, appliances, vaccuum cleaners, shoes and sewing machines repaired. Do you have a Repair Cafe in your city? We do in Toronto

Can it be given away or sold? Offer stuff. Donate stuff. Drop stuff off. Distribute books to your local Free Library. Put stuff in a box out front of your house labelled FREE Stuff. Sell used books, CDs, DVDs and records to a local book store. Freecycle. Bunz. Give your old windows and leftover building supplies to a ReStore.

Can it be composted? And last but not least, if it's compostable, then compost it! I compost all our old cloth eventually after it has been a rag. It may take more than one composting cycle. So be it.

Can it be repurposed? Our sun room pillows are the ones my mother stuffed 50 years ago with her old nursing stockings. Over the years, I have sewn new covers on them, but from memorabilia fabrics - pieces of clothing or cloth that are beautiful and that often remind me of people who have passed on.

Occupy Your Home, Your Money, Your Life
In the midst of talking about things - buying things versus not buying things - we can forget about some big huge ways that we consume and therefore waste.

Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe economist of the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, and executive director of Honor the Earth, informs us that Canadians consume more fossil fuels than any other country on Earth.

Fossil fuels produce waste, pollution, dangerous jobs and endanger the very water that is integral to our lives. When you look at implementing any renewable energy, the first thing you look at is what you can conserve.

The most affordable energy, and the most environmentally friendly, is the energy you don't need to use. So how do you consume less non renewable energy? Look into which programs from your local utilities can you take advantage of - maybe you can change all your light bulbs, trade in your broken appliances for Energy Star appliances, get grants to insulate your home, keep your thermostat at 21 degrees in the winter and your air conditioning at 25 degrees in the summer, wear clothing for the weather.

Don’t use fossil fuel or nuclear generated electricity Find out what your options are given your location, your resources and your budget. One family I know who live in the country switched from a propane furnace to an efficient wood stove for heat. We at Anarres pump waste heat from the hot water and radiator voids in the walls of the building into our space, and only need to supplement with a FAR infrared space heater on the coldest days.

Offset your non renewable energy use. We also buy offsets from Bullfrog Power for ALL of our electricity and gas use. This way, our green gas comes from a methane-capture project situated on a Canadian landfill and does not add to greenhouse gasses! You can also hook up with green fuel from waste, not corn, and even offset an event.

Keep your money out of trouble. Is your money funding fracking? pipelines? Nuclear waste to be buried in rural, often indigenous communities? Frack NO!!!!

* Move your money to a credit union. There are hundreds to choose from. What's around the corner from you? I am a member of Alterna Savings and here in Toronto

* Move any investments you might have out of the tar sands and into the right hands. Got an RRSP lurking around destroying things against your will? Try asking about Ethical Funds and challenge them to find you Tar Sand-free funds Here's a list of Canadian Ethical Mutual Fund Providers

* Invest in renewable energy. I am a member of WindShare
SolarShare and use
Bullfrog's Green Gas and

*Invest in cooperatives. I invested in Community Car Share even though I don't drive! I am also a long time member of Karma Coop Food Store What coops are in your area?

* Keep your money local. Boycott chains. Barter with neighbours. Support small and family businesses. Buy your produce at a farmer's market. Use CraigsList. See if you can keep 95% of your money circulating locally.

* Use money as a last resort. Freecycle. Reuse. Repair. Donate. Trade. Gift. Put it on the curb for pick up. Find cool stuff. Ask. Put it on Craigs List. Barter. Find it on Craigs List. Visit your local dump. Inspire creative anti consumption.

* Last but not least! Make your own stuff! We've been conned into buying all sorts of things that our grandparents knew how to make simply, easily and cheaply. DIY your toothpaste, soap, body care, shaving cream, cleaning products. And soup. And tofu. And kombucha tea. Rediscover the joy of making. Feel empowered. And spare our home planet tons of garbage!

A momentum is occurring
People are uniting across the world
They are sending a message
The next step is fast approaching

"The System is Over, If We Want It"
Millimetre by millimetre we could SHUT THE SYSTEM DOWN.

We step out of the system and step back into ourselves.