Since we’ve started Tinycaravan, we’ve been on a journey to limit our impact on the planet. A large part of that is limiting the amount of waste we produce. We started bringing reusable utensils everywhere, invested in reusable produce bags for the grocery store, and learned how to recycle the right way. Recently, we decided to take another step towards living with a zero waste mindset.
The Zero Waste Movement is a lifestyle that focuses on the conscious & unconscious effort to lower the impact of harm done to animals, humans, and the environment. It’s not about attaining perfection but making an effort to do more and do better for the planet. The transition has been a great learning process and we’re excited to share our experiences with you.
This month we will be showing you our waste, documenting our progress, and providing weekly updates on the transition. Dismissing the idea of “out of sight, out of mind,” anything that cannot be reused, repurposed, composted, or recycled will be put into mason jars that we will share in each post. We intend on taking what we learn from this experience and incorporating that in our zero waste journey (and we hope you will too).
Note: Although we don’t normally keep our trash in a mason jar, we’re doing it this month so that we (and you) can visually see how much trash we produce each week.
Where are you currently living?
San Francisco, California
Why do you want to live a zero waste lifestyle & what do you hope to gain?
I try to limit my impact with what I eat and where I shop, but I want to start doing more and make a bigger effort to live more mindfully. Being able to visually see how I’m contributing to the plastic waste stream will hopefully push me to be more intentional and conscious in my choices. Most of all, I want to show our community that it’s possible to live with less waste and to do less harm –– everyone will have a different journey, but it all starts with one small change.
Where do most of your waste come from?
Food packaging from potato chips, chocolate bars, oatmeal packages, boxes of cookies, sweet & sour gummies, and other snacks.
What have you found to be the most challenging or frustrating?
I recently went to a Trader Joe’s to buy my groceries for the week. It didn’t bother me as much before, but that time I noticed everything was packaged in plastic. Lemons, cucumbers, lettuce – even garlic! In addition, every individual fruit had annoying stickers that could not be recycled. Plastic is everywhere and it’s frustrating because we can’t escape it. There’s also the constant struggle of trying not to buy snacks all the time (I love snacks) since chip bags and the wax paper from chocolate bars will go straight into the landfill. I try not to feel discouraged, but I think about how much waste I produce, multiplied by all the people in the world who produce more or less, and it’s hard not to feel hopeless at times.
What have you found to be the easiest transition?
Definitely composting. A lot of my waste comes from food –– such as fruit peels –– and I am guilty of forgetting leftovers in the back of the fridge. Luckily, the Bay Area has a great composting system and I’m able to put my fruit peels, odds & ends, and items like compostable boxes back into the Earth. Still, I feel guilty when I throw an old cucumber in the compost bin because I don’t like to waste food. This experience has definitely made me more conscious about shopping for groceries. I’ll only buy what I need when I need it even if it means making more trips to a local market.
What surprised you the most in the waste you produced? How can you try and reduce that waste?
One thing I almost never think about are receipt papers and paper napkins. I usually keep receipts in my wallet until it’s time to throw away and there is always a large wad of it. Although some can be recycled, most receipt papers are coated with BPA, a substance that can contaminate a recycling cycle and even cause harmful health effects (yikes) so most must go in the trash. I always say “no” when asked if I want my receipts, but there are occasions where that isn’t an option; the grocery store, dine-in restaurants, some coffee shops.
To reduce waste is to go full circle –– shop at local farmers markets (most receipts I’ve found to be BPA-free), dine out less (save money & eat the food I have at home. This means, less food waste? eh?), and make note of coffee shops that give out receipts so I can start going there less (luckily, my new favorite coffee shop – shoutout to illycaffè – have the option to say “no”). Paper napkins will be an easier transition because I have a cloth alternative (that I washed and never used again. Ugh, my laziness is just so…). Usually, if restaurants give them out I’ll take them home to use and compost. Let’s see how the rest of the transition goes!
What ended up in my 32oz. jar?
Plastic baggies from salty chips and sweet chocolate, waxed lined oatmeal, plastic wraps from jars, tops of a yogurt cup & a San Pellegrino soda. Dismiss the paper napkin, that’s going into the compost bin (yay).
If you have any tips to reduce waste, I’d love to hear it!