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How does minimalism and zero waste go together?
The beautiful thing about minimalism is that it naturally supports being zero waste.
If you buy less, you're demanding less of the economy, which will create less demand. Sure, it'll take a lot of consumers to cut back on the products they buy in order to make a difference in the supply chain, but every little bit helps.
"Reduce, reuse, recycle" is in that order for a reason.
Reduce the amount of stuff you have and use.
Reuse things where you can.
Recycle is last because even though it's a solution, it's not a perfect one. Recycling requires a lot of energy, creates a lot of waste, costs a lot, and recycled materials become downgraded with every cycle.
Here are six ways you can change your consumption habits in order to be more minimal and therefore zero waste.
It's kinda crazy what a little unsubscribing can do.
I somewhat recently found out about an app that allows you to request to be unsubscribed from various sources of junk mail. Just snap a picture of the offensive mail and type in your mailing address, and the app will do the leg work for you. Junk mail be gone!
The other thing that can inadvertently help you to reduce waste? Unsuscribing from marketing email newsletters.
Guess what—this will also help you spend less money and make your bank account happier.
The less you buy online, the less waste you will create. You'll reduce the plastic packaging, paper receipts, and the gas and energy of transportation it takes for your item to arrive on your doorstep. (I'm personally still working on this one: Amazon makes it too easy for a busy mom.)
2. Hang in There With Your Old Items
Let's talk towels. Collectively, we have maybe 5 adult bath towels. (Beans' hooded baby towel doesn't count….)
These towels are old. They're fraying at the ends now. The white ones aren't so white anymore. They're not fluffy and some of them are downright ugly.
I've been tempted so many times to *just buy new towels*, especially almost every time we go to Target. They're so affordable, and they're so white and fluffy and soft.
But do we need new towels? No.
Our towels still dry us. They are clean and free of mildew. And it's not like we're hosting extravagant houseguests anytime soon.
3. Repair and Clean
By repairing and cleaning your items, especially your clothing, you can make them last a lot longer. And if you take really good care of your stuff, you'll end up buying less.
I bought these beautiful leather boots in 2013. It's 2018. I feel like it's almost impossible these are still alive, especially being a woman with lots of new style options every season. (Okay, part of the reason I haven't replaced my boots yet is because I legitimately can't pull off short boots aka booties. Believe me, I've tried.)
Part of the reason why these boots are still around is because I took them to a cobbler and spent $30 on a pair of $100+ leather boots to get them re-soled. That and I condition them with olive oil every once in a while.
Slippers: Phone a Friend
I've had these sweater-slippers for even longer than those boots. They used to be literally shiny (I think they at one point had glittery thread running through them? But maybe I'm imagining things.) They used to have pom poms.
These little slippers keep me warm and comfy, but because they have fabric soles, they wore out quickly.
Repairing these slippers was beyond my wheelhouse. I tried iron-on patches but they lasted about 1 month.
I asked my friend Elana at @salvageandstitch to help me out with these. I caught her at a great time, and she was more than willing to take on my slipper project. She sent them back in beautiful condition with brand new canvas soles. And her work was a million times better than I could ever do myself (with a reasonable amount of sanity still left over).
A Little Dawn Goes a Long Way
Yeah, so, even though Dawn has a little duckling on its packaging, it's far from natural. That shit is a chemical and cuts through oil in order to save those cute little wildlife guys.
BUT—Dawn is a lifesaver when it comes to getting tough stains out of clothes. Greasy ones, blood-related ones, who-knows-what-my-kid-was-eating-or-doing ones.
Just spot-treat your item with a little water, a tiny dab of Dawn, and scrub the fabric onto itself. Rinse it a little, and then throw it into your next load of laundry.
If the stain doesn't come out the first time (usually due to a grease stain), do the same thing but then also let it dry with some corn starch before throwing it into the wash again. That should do the trick.
You know how I won't stop talking about our reusable tissues and napkins? How we bought the first batch from Marley's Monsters and then how repurposed Beans' flannel receiving blankets (and had them professionally cut up and serged via Etsy)? Yeah, repurposing those cute little blankets still makes me smile every time I blow my nose.
And you know those dingy old towels I mentioned before? In the name of nearo waste, we will continue to run our less-than-perfect bath towels into the ground. Then we will cut them up, serge the edges, and use them as rags.
Repurposing will keep unpresentable items out of rotation, and will also keep those items from going into a landfill. Repurpose what you can.
5. Buy Parts
So I love my French Press. But one day I got a little over-zealous with cleaning the carafe. That one fateful day, the bubbling soap caused me to drop it, and the glass shattered when it hit the floor.
Instead of buying a whole new french press, I found a replacement glass carafe on Amazon for about half the price of a new french press.
Frugal, check. Nearo waste, check. Win win win.
Next time you need to throw something out because it's broken beyond repair, can you instead find replacement parts to fix it?
6. Buy Less—And Higher Quality
When you need a new pair of jeans, do you want to run to Target to get your fix for $20, or will you do your due diligence and shop around until you find *the perfect* pair of jeans? (Okay just kidding, shopping for jeans sucks. I could've come up with a better example, but you see where I'm going here.)
Chances are, the pair of jeans that will fit you well and that will last after several wash cycles aren't going to cost $20. If you splurge on a pair of $100+ jeans, the quality will be there.
You won't be as tempted to shop for more jeans, because you know you have this awesome pair of jeans that fit you just the right way and go with everything in your closet.
Your jeans will last you longer because they're higher quality.
And, if for whatever reason you find yourself done with your pair of expensive jeans before the end of their life cycle, the resale value will be higher, and you can use that money to buy your next pair of perfect jeans. Feel me?
So: buy less. Buy only what you need. Take away temptation. Run your posessions into the ground. Repair and clean them to your best ability. Buy higher quality classic style clothes you love that will last you a long time.
How have you put any of these recommendations into practice? I love hearing a product-rescue story—comment below.
Cover photo by Chua Bing Quan