On a previous post, I went into intensive detail about my efforts to reduce pollution, waste, and energy use while simultaneously saving water and trees. For this post, I’d like to run through my 12 favorite products (or non-products) I use to offset my waste production.
Brush Naked bamboo toothbrush
I just received my first pack of bamboo toothbrushes in the mail. These toothbrush handles are made from a sustainable, compostable source. I bought a four-pack for less than $15 on Amazon. The first time I brushed with one, there was a faint (and somewhat enjoyable) smell of wood that quickly subsided. The bristles are made from nylon, but replacing a plastic handle for bamboo is a great way to offset waste.
Upcycled prescription bottles
Pharmacies are not allowed to reuse prescription bottles for refills. If you take a prescription regularly, what do you do with all of your empty plastic bottles? Recycling is an option, but you may have heard that most recycling methods are now considered downcycling. And if every piece of plastic still exists today, it may as well serve a function rather than sit in a landfill. A quick Pinterest search will land you hundreds of creative ways to reuse prescription bottles. Upcycling prescription bottles may also prevent you from purchasing small storage containers, further offsetting waste.
Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle
I’ve been using Klean Kanteen products for over five years, and I love them. I’m currently using the 64oz bottle with a stainless steel and bamboo cap. The initial purchase price may seem a little steep, but these bottles last forever, and that’s the point. I cannot recommend reusable water bottles enough, especially this brand.
On-the-go food storage
If I’m storing my food for travel, I’ll use my tiffin, reusable lunch bags, and bamboo cutlery. I love the compact and secure storage of a tiffin. The only downside is lack of insulation. For food that does need to be refrigerated, there are numerous vacuum-sealed, insulated food storage options out there that will help you offset waste.
Stainless steel French press
The French press is my absolute favorite coffee-brewing method and my preferred method when brewing at home. As you’ve probably noticed by now, I have a thing for stainless steel. French press + stainless steel? I think I’m in love… Add freshly ground, shade-grown, fair trade, organic coffee? Hubba hubba.
I also love the mandatory slowdown that a French press requires. While the rest of the world is getting frustrated because the water in their Keurig machines just isn’t heating fast enough to “brew” coffee in less than twenty seconds, I’ll be relaxing with a book while the aroma of my steeping coarse-ground beans slowly fill the room.
Maybe one day I’ll buy a vacuum pot coffee brewer so I can pretend to be a mad scientist, but that’s an entirely different topic for another day.
Miniature sewing kit
This is more of an “unproduct” for offset waste purposes. By using this sewing kit, I recycle, donate, or trash fewer items due to minor wear and tear. This is my attempt to repair before recycling in the 5R model (refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle). When sewing jobs are too big for me to handle, I ask a friend and talented seamstress to lend a hand with her sewing machine.
Ingredients for DIY toiletries
I’ve been experimenting with making my own toiletries for a few years now. I’ve washed and conditioned my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I’ve brushed my teeth with baking soda and essential oils. These simple ways to offset waste, save money, and improve my health led me down the rabbit hole of at-home experimentation. Baking soda strips my hair and irritates my gums after long-term use, so I’ve transitioned to other methods. I use a shampoo bar and recycle the paper packaging. If I wash my hair infrequently and use minimal soap, I don’t need conditioner. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a plastic-package-free toothpaste that I like (suggestions welcome). However, I have learned to make my own deodorant, lip balm, and lotion. I even made shoe polish to save my favorite pair of work shoes.
I have a love/hate relationship with this razor. Fair warning: safety razors can have a steep learning curve, and you won’t escape your first few shaves without battle scars. I’ve never shaved my face (nor do I plan to), so I can only comment on shaving my legs. Women are used to taking a standard razor and shaving the entire length of leg from ankle to knee in one long swipe. This is nearly impossible with a safety razor, and I am struggling to unlearn this habit. Battle scars aside, safety razors are affordable (including replacement blades) and plastic-free! (Did I mention I love stainless steel? Is that obvious yet?)
Whenever I’m inclined to donate or trash a piece of clothing, I cut it up to make small rags. I use these rags primarily as tissues. I will also carry a few as handkerchiefs throughout my day. I used to have a separate stash to replace toilet paper (it’s not as gross as it sounds), but my roommate wasn’t keen on letting me continue that habit when I moved in. Obviously, there are hundreds of uses for cut-up clothing. I highly recommend figuring out a way to upcycle before buying new.
Let’s do a little math. Let’s say your cycle lasts that perfect 28 days, and you only have your period once a month. Every month, you buy a box of tampons for $12. At the end of the year, you’ve spent $144. Let’s say you start your period at age 12 and go into menopause at 50. Without factoring in inflation, shorter/longer cycles, pregnancy, and other scenarios that would impact your tampon-purchasing, you would spend a minimum of $5,472 on tampons.
Now, let’s do some math I actually like: I bought a Diva Cup five years ago for $40 and have replaced it once. So, in five years, I’ve bought ZERO tampons, spent $80 on two Diva Cups, and reduced my use of disposable, potentially toxic items to nil. Is that convincing enough?
I’ve been using bulk bins for quite a while and have been pleased with my reduction in packaging waste. You have to do a little math, but bulk bin items are typically cheaper than their packaged counterparts. Carrying my own containers gives me an extra reason to smile as I leave the store. Stores that offer bulk bins almost always allow customers to bring their own containers. You have to weigh your container prior to filling. Otherwise, you’ll be paying for the weight of your container along with its contents, but it’s a worthwhile part of the process.
In this picture, you’re looking at three-and-a-half pounds of quinoa!
Even though loose-leaf tea could fall under the bulk bin category, I thought it deserved its own section. I have made the best tea with bulk loose-leaf, a sauce pan, and a large tea steeper. I have little evidence to support the why, but my experience is always better when I make a cup of tea this way. Like brewing coffee in my French press, this is yet another way I slow down and stay present in my life.
#13: Reusable shopping bags
This is really a no-brainer. With the growing number of taxes and bans on single-use plastic bags, reusable shopping bags are becoming more mandatory than ever. To read more about bag legislation in your area, visit Bag the Ban.
#14: DIY cleaning products
I have an ample stash of vinegar, baking soda, castille soap, isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, borax, Fels Naptha, washing soda, and essential oils to keep my house clean from top to bottom. If you’re interested in ways to make your own cleaning products, visit Shalom Mama, DIY Natural, and Wellness Mama for recipes.
There you go. Twelve (+2) of my favorite ways to offset my waste production. I hope you found value in this post, whether it inspired you to make a few changes to offset waste or pat yourself on the back for little things you didn’t even realize you were doing. Feel free to drop me a line to share your thoughts or tell me your favorite ways to offset waste.