“Waste” is an anomaly. There is no “away” in creation; humans are the only species to think up such a thing.
Going zero-waste is an overarching direction in the Coyle-Carr household. We have been working toward sending less to the landfill and decreasing our need for recycling for several years, learning all sorts of creative skills, tips, and crafts along the way.
But as I explored in a recent post, a life that makes “zero” waste in the society in which I live is impossible, which can be disappointing and discouraging if individualistic perfection is what we are after. In the journey toward ecological well-being I have found that perfection is not helpful. Further, it ain’t even the goal.
I want to make less waste and more life!
The goal is to love. And love is the long labor of a lifetime.
9 Less-Waste Goals for 2019:
Here are some specific ways I hope to press on in love this year.
1. Baby Care
Henlee Caroline is due mid-March and we hope to welcome her fresh little self with a non-toxic, plastic-free environment as far as we are able. She will come to us awash in the love of God and we want her to always understand how that love is meant to overflow into relationships with self, neighbor, and the rest of creation.
Here are some ways we hope to create less waste and more love in the ways we care for our growing family:
Babies learn through their environment, so we are working diligently to make rhythms of ecological well-being the obvious and integrated norm in our household. We will model for her what it means to try.
I am hoping to nurse our child. My sister-in-law gave me her breast pump for when I need it. We will also use glass bottles for storage and feedings with rubber nipples when necessary.
We registered for toys, clothes, and furniture made of natural fibers and wood where we could; the car seat was nonnegotiable, obviously. We will try to avoid all virgin plastics, but will evaluate secondhand stuff with plastic elements item by item.
We will search out and welcome second-hand stuff—have you ever seen the kid aisles at thrift stores? So many things have never even been worn!!
We will remember that our daughter will not need All The Things.
I want to meal prep a good bit in advance for my first month postpartum. I will use my own glass casserole dishes and glass jars for freezer storage as much as possible. A few plastic storage bags may be in order because we have some leftover from moving a few years ago; we will use what we have with gratitude.
2. Hone my altering and mending skills.
A dear church friend recently gifted me with several sacks of hand-me-downs. I was able to harvest something like 11 new dresses, 5 tops, one skirt, and a magic pair of black velour pants.
Most of the stuff needs to be taken in a couple of sizes, so I hit the books and mined the crafty archives of my brain and got to work, trying my hand at altering for the first time ever.
The process was beautiful and absorbing. I loved the connection I felt with the material world and my ancestors as I snipped, figured, and sewed. Wearing the final product isn’t half bad either.
In this shining new year I would love to sharpen these newfound skills to recreate my wardrobe into something that fits me as I am. I want to feel confident about hemming Aaron’s pants and repairing small rips or holes in our clothes.
Not only will this goal keep us clothed and keep material out of the landfill, I imagine it might foster a sense of contentment. Altering and mending require a commitment to the idea that I have enough to meet my needs—and an imagination to create something good with what I have.
The market can’t mess with that.
3. “Secondhand First” Policy
Amazon is incredibly convenient. As my nesting instincts ramp up, I am sure I will find myself pining for a lamp here, a rug there, Lord, we need new curtains, etc.
I have been inspired, however, by a few articles floating around the internet about folks who bought nothing new (outside of food and meds) for an entire year. We will not be attempting such a feat—because, baby—but I want to reorient myself to the wonderful world of secondhand.
And I say “reorient” because practically my entire house is secondhand.
It is easy to forget more holistic options when there is money in the bank and all of Amazon at fingertip. But there is enough in this world. I do not need to buy into the mass produced marketplace for every need or want.
Therefore, I (re)establish this my Secondhand First Policy.:
If we need something, I will jot it down in the Notes app on my phone.
As I have time I will evaluate that list and hit up our local thrift stores and charity shops to see what is available.
If the need is time sensitive, I might let my community know about it. Perhaps someone’s mom or cousin has that lamp/desk chair/pitcher hanging out in their basement unused.
Will buy new if truly necessary, but I wonder what “truly necessary” means?
I am excited to see how this goes.
4. Water Usage – Have a plan.
I noticed just this past week how quickly a bowl I left to soak in my sink filled up with water while I simply washed my hands. Wow, I thought, so much water in so little time.
If the water is coming on, I need a plan for it.
Time showers. Try 3 minutes max for “body showers;” 10 minutes max for hair washing. Adjust as necessary.
Turn the water off while soaping up—in the shower, while washing hands, and while doing dishes.
Figure out who controls our parsonage’s sprinkler system—can we hold back a little?
Capture clean water when waiting for hot water. Sometimes it takes upwards of 30 seconds for hot water to reach our back bathroom. Is there a way I can capture that otherwise wasted clean water? I could nourish plants with it or put it in our dog’s water dish, etc.
Reuse pasta water. Totally did this the other day and it worked! I had just boiled some pasta to go with our supper and needed to steam some broccoli and cauliflower for the casserole I was prepping for Sunday lunch the next day (which turned out SO GOOD; get the recipe here). Well, I simply drained my pasta over the pot I wanted to steam the veggies in. Et voila! Pasta water is also easily stored in the refrigerator for up to a week if I don’t need it immediately.
5. Focus our energy.
My first trimester was difficult. There was not a minute when I did not experience nausea until week 13. Seriously. This meant that I spent a lot of time being very still, focusing my energy on being present to the new life forming within and the changes taking place in my body—and not being able to care about much of anything else.
A few good habits fell by the wayside. Being in any kind of heat intensified my nauseous experience, so I stopped using our clothesline. We also have to keep our thermostat between 67 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit until I give birth because of a medicine I have to take right now.
But these necessary setbacks are only for a season.
In 2019 I hope to:
Bring back the clothesline.
Reestablish our normal HVAC patterns (Read more here: When Temps Rise, Our Thermostat Does Too).
Explore energy Sabbaths, or simply enjoy Sabbath more regularly and intentionally. During an energy Sabbath we would move about our day without using any fossil fuel or electricity (excepting the refrigerator), kindling light by candle, going outdoors, and eating food that either does not need to be cooked or that can be prepared over a campfire.
And, NEW, set up a solar oven. We do live in Texas after all. I want to learn how to harvest the sun’s power to cook a few meals a week!
6. Grow something.
Our little garden was a joy this past summer. And then it died overnight and broke my heart. This year, however, I know more about Dallas’ several growing seasons and plan to begin the first spring garden before Henlee’s arrival. Wish me luck.
7. Vermicomposting – Begin the den.
Last Easter Aaron and I built an awesome little worm bin as an act of resurrection. We very shortly realized, however, that any amount of worms we welcomed at that point in the year would most likely die of heat before they could establish their magic composting nest.
So this year, most likely within the month, we are going to purchase some worms and stop sending food scraps to the landfill.
Read about our first worm bin here: 1,000 Worms: An Under-Sink Ecosystem
8. Eliminate waste in the kitchen.
I am so serious about this. I want to quit wasting food. WHY is this so difficult?! And do you want to know what is most embarrassing about it? The two food groups we most often lose are salad greens and…meat. *bows head in shame and sadness*
In order to stop wasting these precious resources we will not bring one scrap into this house without a plan. I will also put meat into the freezer immediately if I do not have time to cook it within the day of purchase (cooked meat will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator; raw meat only lasts about 2 days). Another idea is to keep food that needs to be eaten first on the top shelf/eye level.
Wanna do it. Gotta do it. Gonna do it.
9. Save money.
Maybe this does not come across as an obvious less-waste initiative, but everything is connected.
Spending usually means material waste, but it also often means a waste of time and energy. I want to simplify this year and be okay with that:
Sticking to our budget for one-month periods. We will check in and adjust the budget together as a family at the end of each month as necessary. (By the way, I use Personal Capital to help us keep track of everything. It’s free!)
Crafting simple and scrumptious meals at home instead of eating out.
Carrying flowers or home baked goods to parties instead of purchasing a candle or something.
Enjoying the library instead of having to own.
Generally stop buying stuff and start borrowing, creating, thrifting, and crafting instead.
Financial instability is one of the tenets of the consumerist market; the more unstable people feel the more they throw caution to the wind and spend, spend, spend—making themselves all the more enslaved.
This year I want to diligently work toward that all-important—yet seemingly elusive—6-month “emergency fund” so that we can breathe easier and worry less. Less worry means less temptation to fill ourselves with treats and sprees. Less treats and sprees could mean more room for life itself.
Saving is less-waste.