Hi! My name is Tricia and I’m a newbie zero-waster. I grew up in Mississippi, but I’ve lived in Utah for 10 years. There is so much to love about Utah. I’m happy I’ve been able to call it home for so long. I studied to be a Home Economics Teacher, but now I home school my two kids (ages 5 and 2). We are starting our second year this week and loving it!
I discovered the concept of zero waste when I was pregnant with my second child. I can’t say it is easy — going against the norm is difficult even before you add in a couple miniature humans — but I’m taking it one step at a time. I am no expert yet, but I have learned a few things that I’m happy to share here. Let’s start by answering the five questions of the zero waste tag to tell you a little bit about myself.
1) What got you started?
A few years ago, I found a paper recycling dumpster at my local grocery store and realized I could start recycling. I did lots of research trying to find ways to recycle other materials (glass, plastic, etc), but there weren’t many options in my city. That led to sending emails to my landlord and a city councilwoman, and searching online for more solutions. I stumbled across the Zero Waste Home blog, and basically read it from start to finish.
2) Most memorable moment?
I’ve made lots of small changes, but the thing I’m most proud of is something I did at my last apartment complex. I had gone around to all my neighbors asking them to sign a petition to get a recycling bin. Months after we moved out, I learned that the owner had gotten one because of my efforts!
3) Favourite bulk purchase?
This isn’t anything special, but my favorite bulk goods are steel-cut oats and popcorn. I use so much of those that I end up saving a lot of packaging.
4) Most recommended zero waste item?
An insulated water bottle!
5) What keeps you motivated?
Honestly, taking it one step at a time. Trying to live a zero waste lifestyle with kids and a husband who is less than enthusiastic is already an uphill climb. I implement changes one at a time — that way I don’t get too discouraged or overwhelmed. When things feel easy, I add something else.
Now, some of my tips for striving towards Zero Waste with kids:
・Buying clothes/toys secondhand. There is almost no reason to buy new kids’ clothing. They grow out of it so fast, and it is so easy to find used! Kid to Kid and Savers are my go-to places. I only buy new if I can’t find anything at those places (and don’t have hand-me-downs from friends). The same goes for toys and even art supplies. I’ve found markers, crayons, drawing paper, and even oil pastels at Savers.
・Veggies and fruits for snacks. There are so many packaged, processed kids’ snacks. I usually avoid those and just give my kids nuts (from bulk), fresh fruit, and fresh veggies for snacks. If we’re heading out, I’ll fill a small reusable container with nuts and dried fruit and throw that in my bag. I bring whole apples on hikes instead of the usual granola bar.
・Cloth napkins. I take a cloth napkin everywhere. When my toddler was younger, it doubled as a bib if we went to a restaurant. I also saves us from using paper napkins at restaurants.
・Reusable water bottle. Even if I could wait to drink something when I’m thirsty, my kids can’t. Carrying water keeps me from having to buy a drink for them when we’re out, and since it’s insulated it’s stays cool and refreshing!
・Reusable sporks. I carry a camping spork in my bag for each of us. They are small and lightweight, so they don’t add heft to my bag. Plus, the kids love using them!
・Chilling the heck out when it comes to kid parties. I serve finger snacks and cupcakes with cloth napkins, reuse the same felt garland for every party, and just let them play. No elaborate decor or games (sorry, Pinterest). For the last couple years, I’ve asked guests not to bring gifts, and it has really cut down on waste and excess clutter. We give a couple gifts separately.
・Growing a garden. We’re lucky to have access to a garden space at our apartment. We grow kale, spinach, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and more. We’re even experimenting with growing chamomile for tea! My kids are so proud of our garden, and they love to help plant and harvest. Growing your own food is the ultimate zero waste endeavor, especially if you can make your own compost and save seeds. I’m glad I get to teach my kids this skill, and that they get to see for themselves where their food comes from.
I’ll reiterate that I’m not perfect: I don’t use cloth diapers and we occasionally get takeout. But I’m moving in the right direction, and I think that is what’s important.
Written by Tricia Burke