Zero Waste Living and Recycling For Beginners

easy ways to have a zero waste lifestyle

Have you been interested in zero waste living and recycling but thought it would be too expensive or too difficult?

My name is Amanda, and I have always loved recycling. Even before I understood anything about carbon footprints and landfill concerns, donating excess items to charities and thrift stores rather than throwing them away has always made sense to me.

Throwing away anything of recyclable value makes my stomach turn.

When I first moved out, I contacted my apartment complex to beg them for a recycling receptacle. In Iowa, I asked for and then regularly filled 6 recycling bins on a weekly basis. At our current townhouse, I’ve already contacted the front office, asking for a recycling receptacle.

I made the switch to a reusable water bottle and started using a French Press for our coffee (though now we use a Ninja Coffee Bar, which is also zero waste as it does not require any sort of filter).

Being eco-friendly has always been important to me, and as my life has gotten busier, I’ve searched for ways to make recycling and a zero waste lifestyle easier.

Here are 4 easy ways to transition to a recycling and zero waste lifestyle:

Reusable Water Bottles

This is possibly the easiest switch of all to make. Switching to glass or stainless steel water bottles saves an average of 300-1400 plastic water bottles per year.

There are several brand options for you to choose from when it comes to water bottles. Target and Kohls both have large selections of water bottles to choose from, including customizable colors and messages for a personalized encouragement to hydrate smart.

Changing How I Shop

Enter, my new favorite subscription ever: Mighty Nest.

With MightyNest, I can put my shopping on auto-pilot. $10 a month (that’s it, no extra taxes or fees!) gets me a delivery with something new to integrate into my zero waste lifestyle. Here’s a peek at some of our deliveries:

  • Dryer balls (set of 3) – we love these! They reduce static, eliminate any need for dryer sheets, and you can add a light scent of your choice with just a couple drops of essential oils prior to the drying cycle.
  • Snack skins (1 sandwich and 1 snack) – as a mom on-the-go with two littles, both of whom now eat food, these are lifesavers! I typically put some sort of gluten-free snack in the snack bag for Tristan, and I use the sandwich bag as a holder for Dean’s pureed fruit and veggie pouches, a spoon, a couple carrots (to gnaw on) and a bib. This way, we are prepared if we happen to be away from the house longer than we expect, without risking a mess in my purse. I’ve been very impressed with the strength of the velcro. Plus, they are super cute!
  • Swedish wood towels – I wrote about these paper towel alternatives recently. These are miracle workers. Recently Tristan spilled an entire sippy cup (open, of course) full of orange juice on the kitchen table, and one Swedish towel soaked up all of it quickly.  Apparently they are picking up in popularity – last week I saw some for sale at our zoo!

 

Mighty Nest has an entire online store as well, with lots of other zero waste products for sale at a discount. I can always add them to our monthly order and still get free shipping. Next month I’ll be adding an order of bamboo toothbrushes to replace our current toothbrushes.

Sign up for your first delivery of 3 dryer balls for $3 by using this link, or use this link to get bees wrap as your first delivery for $3.

(psst…keep reading to learn how to score a free month of MightyNest!)

Recycling Made Easy

Let’s face it, recycling can be a pain. And with varying recycling laws, it can be confusing to know what you can and can’t put in a recycling bin.

As a general rule, anything with a 1 or 2 inside the recycling triangle symbol is safe to be placed in the curbside recycling bin, so start there.

That’s great and all, but what can you do with every other number inside the recycling symbol? Obviously there must be something, but if it involves a trip to the recycling center, suddenly the rates of recycling plummet.

DoSomething.org is an incredible organization, dedicated to all sorts of socially good causes. By signing up with them and pledging to “Rinse, Recycle, and Repeat,” you get access to a free shipping label, which you can apply to a 10-pound box of empty recyclable containers (most commonly personal care products). DoSomething.org will then deliver these empty containers to be recycled into all sorts of things, even park benches!

Are you in college? Getting involved with DoSomething.org puts you in the running to receive up to $5,000 in college scholarships. It makes me so happy to see socially aware college students getting involved and making a difference!

Clothing Donations Made Easy

I love the ThredUp online thrift store for more than just the ease of shopping. My favorite part of ThredUp is actually their selling process. As I wrote in my Completely Honest Review of ThredUp, you get very little back when you sell clothes, but I do it simply because their process is so easy.

How easy is it?

Go online to ThredUp.com and request a clean out kit. In just a few days, you will receive a self-addressed, postage-paid bag. Fill it with gently-used clothes for women or children, and either place it on the porch for your local postman to pick up or drop it off at the post office.

I am totally guilty of driving around for weeks with Goodwill donations in my trunk. This method is so much easier for me to go through things, bag them up, and put them on the porch. It’s one less thing to worry about, which translates into an increased chance of me actually doing it (just being real here).

If you’ve never shopped at ThredUp.com before, use my link to sign up and get a $10 credit to use on your first purchase

Putting It All Together

Hopefully this post has shown you that a zero waste and recycling lifestyle is not only a good thing, but also super easy and inexpensive for anyone to implement, no matter your budget.

Right now, between working full-time, being a present mom to my two busy boys, nurturing my marriage, and writing my book, I don’t have the time to dedicate to many extras – but my conscience won’t allow me to not be responsible with my little patch of earth.

If I can implement these changes, you can too! Recycling my excess and taking steps towards a zero waste lifestyle help limit what goes in the landfills, and encourages production of products made with recycled materials.

Want to win a free month of Mighty Nest?

I love Mighty Nest and share it with everyone. Thankfully, the wonderful people of Mighty Nest have graciously given me two free month cards to gift to my readers!

From now through April 23, 2018, enter to win a free month of Mighty Nest from me! 

To enter, like the Crunchy Hippie Life Facebook page and share the contest post.

Winners will be announced on Facebook and Instagram on 4/24/18!

Don’t forget, even if you don’t win, you can score your first month for just $3 using this link for dryer balls or this link for bees wrap.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to share with your friends or pin for future reference!

easy ways to have a zero waste lifestyle

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Non-Toxic Household Cleaning Supplies To Use For Your Spring Cleaning

diy zero waste cleaning supplies

The weather here in St. Louis might be completely confused as to what season it’s supposed to be, but I am not. It is spring time, and that means one thing:

Time for spring cleaning.

I much prefer to use natural products around the house, both because they are cheaper and because they are healthier for my toddler and infant sons to be around since they are all over every surface.

It’s also very nice that these recipes contain various combinations of a few basic ingredients, most of which are already in my pantry. I love knowing exactly what I’m introducing into the environment around my babies.

Most common ingredients in almost every homemade cleaner:

white vinegar

essential oils 

castile soap

baking soda

Related: 5 Eco-Friendly (and cheap!) Paper Towel Alternatives

 

All Purpose Cleaner

diy all purpose cleaner

photo credit and recipe from The Bold Abode

Dean is crawling all around now, and sticking everything in his mouth. To protect his little system and keep him safe, we really like this natural all-purpose cleaner.

Adding extras like lemon essential oils give the cleaner a “classic clean” scent, as well as add the benefits of the essential oil’s cleansing properties.

If you choose to add citrus essential oils to your cleaner, be sure to either use a glass spray bottle or a plastic bottle specifically designed to hold essential oils. Otherwise, the citrus oils can eat through the bottle, and then you would have more things to clean up.

Tub Scrub

homemade shower cleaner

photo credit and recipe from One Essential Community

This shower cleaner mixes together in about a minute, and lasts for a long time. It leaves the shower soap scum-free.

We don’t currently have hard water, but this spray would still be just as effective as if we did have hard water.

I love how cheap this shower spray is to create and use. Paired with a scrub brush from the dollar store, this is super affordable and it just works.

Window Cleaner

homemade window cleaner

photo credit and recipe from Farm Girl Inspirations

When I was little, my grandma taught me to use plain vinegar in a spray bottle and wipe down the mirrors and windows with a crumpled up page of newspaper. It leaves the glass with a streak-free shine, but also leaves the room smelling like vinegar.

This version doesn’t smell as harsh, especially if you add a few drops of essential oils to the mix.

I’ve still not found anything better than a crumpled up piece of newspaper when cleaning glass though. I imagine something like a Swedish dish cloth would be the best reusable option that won’t leave behind pesky tiny fibers all over your clean surface.

We have two Swedish dish cloths and I absolutely love them. They are so incredibly absorbent (one dish cloth recently soaked up 4 ounces of orange juice with ease!), strong, and even dishwasher-safe.

Air Freshener

homemade air freshener

photo credit and recipe from Bren Did

Story time: When I was in college, my lab partner and I stayed at school late so we could spend more time on our dissection. However, we had a social function after that, and we smelled strongly like formaldehyde. So we drove to Walmart and bought a bottle of Febreze and sprayed ourselves heavily with it, like a preteen boy who has just bought his first can of Axe.

This was obviously before I became the crunchy hippie I am today.

That story makes me horrified at my younger self.

Now we use a homemade air freshener, and we can create our own scent blends for pennies on the dollar.

This is also good for spraying in shoes, gym bags, and other stinky things.

Wood Polish

homemade furniture polish non-toxic

photo credit and recipe from Mom 4 Real

Did you know that homemade wood polish not only smells great and is a very effective dusting spray, but also that it helps buff out scratches?

It’s true!

During the packing process from our Iowa-to-Nevada move, we scratched up the floor to our living room in one. long. scratch. down the center of the room.

After I spent over 20 minutes trying to color it in with 4 different colors of crayons, I remembered that olive oil on polished hardwood blends scratches in like normal. And voila, 2 minutes later, the whole room looked brand new.

Toilet discs

diy toilet cleaning tabs

photo credit and recipe from One Good Thing By Jillee

If there’s one chore I hate, it’s cleaning the toilet. Thankfully, my saint of a husband doesn’t mind, so he cleans them for me. One thing we agree on though is the use of toilet discs. The fizziness helps clean the toilet with minimal effort, without adding all sorts of harsher chemicals to the air.

I like this recipe especially because you don’t even need a mold for the tabs, you can just dry them on parchment paper. Super simple and super cheap.

Stain remover

diy stain remover

photo credit and recipe from My Frugal Adventures 

Can we please take a moment of silence for all the adorable baby clothes and accessories that have been sacrificed to baby poop or pureed broccoli spit-up?

So many cute clothes and bibs. Why they even make white baby pants and onesies is completely beyond my comprehension.

This recipe contains Dawn dish soap, so it’s not completely “all natural,” but it is a simple and effective stain remover for sure.

Keep it in a squeeze bottle (old ketchup or mustard bottles work) and apply to stains before washing. Don’t forget to air-dry stained clothes until maximum stain removal is complete, as heat will set in the stains.

Related: How to do laundry when you don’t have hookups

Zero Waste Cleaning Supplies

Don’t forget about your other cleaning supplies! Paper towels are truly harmful to the environment and honestly an unnecessary expense. I much prefer washable options like old socks (awesome for dusting!) or old work t-shirts cut into rag size.

I love this idea of using old towels to make reusable swiffer pads from Natural Nesters!

diy swiffer pads

I always hated the wastefulness and expense of single-use mop pads, so this option is much better for the environment and your pocketbook. The instructions require very minimal sewing, so anyone can do it, even if you don’t have a sewing machine.

If you just really hate sewing, I’ve also gotten away with tucking long rectangles of old t-shirts into the tuck spaces of swiffer dusters. It works very well, requires new sewing, and unhemmed jersey knit still holds up well to repeat washings.

While I haven’t ever personally used Norwex cloths, I’ve heard from multiple friends that they are awesome. I like the idea especially since you just use water and then can wash them. I’m all about washable options.

Be sure to check out this post for more ideas on paper towel replacements and other zero waste cleaning supplies options.

I love to find ways to make our lifestyle more eco-friendly, zero waste, and healthy. By making our own cleaning supplies we can limit the trash created by the repeated purchase of plastic bottles and containers, limit the exposure of our children’s systems to the harsh chemicals of standard cleaning products, and still ensure a clean living environment for our family.

And when a box of baking soda is $0.62, it’s also a crazy-cheap way to live, which I’m all about.

Do you make your own cleaning supplies? Drop a comment with your favorite recipe!

If you found this information helpful, please help me help others by hitting one of the share buttons below to share with your community!

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Ditch the Paper Towels: 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives

Ditch the paper towels and start using one of these eco-friendly alternatives! #ecofriendly #greenliving

When it comes to making the transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle, one of the easiest changes to make is to stop buying paper towels. Not only does this save you quite a bit of money, it reduces a huge strain on the environment caused by the paper towel industry.

Don’t believe me? Here are some quick facts about the impact of using paper towels:

  1. Paper towels cannot be recycled. This means an estimated 6 million pounds of paper towels wind up in landfills every year.
  2. Paper towels account for an estimated 110 million trees and 130 billion gallons of water, just to produce.
  3. Rolls of paper towels cost an average of $1 per roll. That adds up quickly, especially for an item that you don’t even need!

So what can you use besides paper towels? I’m glad you asked!

Rags

When we were first married, our total income for our first year of marriage was a whopping $16,000. Obviously, there wasn’t room for superfluous purchases like paper towels. We cut up ratty old clothes to use as rags. Depending on what we used them for, we either washed them to reuse over and over again or we threw them away. This is obviously the cheapest option, but might not be for everyone, especially if you don’t wear cotton. Polyester and linen wouldn’t absorb very well, and wool is generally water-repellant.

Related: How to do Laundry in an Apartment – Without Hookups!

Newspapers

Do you still get the newspaper? For smaller spills, cleaning up with old newspapers is a way to use them again before they hit the recycle bin. Also, windows can be cleaned with that beautiful streak-free shine using old newspapers and some vinegar in a spray bottle.

Looking for more ways to save? Download my free ebook!

Washcloths

I used to babysit for a family who used washcloths for everything from napkins to cleaning up spills. Generally, you can find bundles of washcloths for less than $12, so this would be an option that would probably be more absorbent than old t-shirts.

Wood cellulose towels

We received a supply of Swedish towels in our MightyNest subscription this month and we love them! They are made of wood cellulose, painted with adorable patterns using non-toxic paints, and reusable for several months. When they finally wear out, we can throw them in a compost bin and return them to the earth. All the convenience and feel of a paper towel, but without the waste.

MightyNest is my current favorite subscription! For just $10 a month, you get a new item or two that help you transition to a non-toxic, eco-friendly lifestyle. Sign up with my link to get a set of 3 dryer balls or 2 sheets of beeswax reusable wrap for just $3!

Unpaper Towels

For families with frequent messes (or just looking for the convenience of a paper towel with a single investment), there is the “unpaper towel,” made of cloth. My favorite part of this option is the convenience of it. They have snaps so all the towels snap together like regular paper towels, and you can even put them on a standard paper towel holder! When you’re finished using it, just throw them in the washing machine. How awesome is that? If you sew, these can be made in an afternoon. If that’s not your vibe, Etsy has plenty of options for you, like this classy wood grain patterned set of 12 that fits any kitchen decor.

I have actually never purchased paper towels in my adult life. I don’t even miss them, even with a toddler! Using sustainable options for cleaning up messes is one way that we save money and decrease our impact on the earth.

Do you use paper towel alternatives? Leave me a note in the comments and tell me what you use, and share this post with your friends who are looking to save money and live green!

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Completely Honest Review: ThredUp online thrift store

ThredUp review, online thrift store, buy kids clothes online, buy womens clothes online, how to buy clothes from thrift store

This post is sponsored by ThredUp.

When I started my first job at a clothing store at the mall, I became responsible for my clothing budget. Wanting to stretch my money as far as possible, I decided to check out the local Goodwill. $20, an hour, and a few bags of clothes later, I was completely hooked on thrift store shopping.

The thing about thrift store shopping is the time investment. I developed a system to streamline my time looking through clothes and then trying them on.  Now that I’m a mom of two, one of whom is quite mobile, I can’t spend as much uninterrupted time meandering through the aisles of the thrift stores. The baby in the carrier also inhibits me gathering armloads of clothes. It’s okay though, I love them.

So when I found ThredUp, I was intrigued. An online thrift store? With all the brands I would snag at Goodwill, but all were previously evaluated for quality and organized by size, brand, and price? This might be too good to be true!

ThredUp Online Shopping Experience

I spent a long time perusing everything in my size on the website. I had to hold myself to a strict budget or else I would have ended up with 3 pairs of Banana Republic jeans, a Michael Kors vest, and a Coach diaper bag (but even all that was only around $150 total). I finally settled on a green tunic and pair of Banana Republic wool pants.

I also love shopping for my boys, so I looked around in their various sizes. I found a pair of Hugo Boss pants, a shirt that says “my big bro is my hero,” and a pair of overalls for Dean and I squealed with excitement when I found this perfect condition Spider-Man hoodie for Tristan. My excitement paled in comparison to his reaction when it arrived! He loves it and only answers to Spider-Man while wearing it.

thredup hoodie, marvel hoodie, shop secondhand, thrift store shopping, online thrift store

My total for all of this? $52.93! The Hugo Boss pants for Dean and Banana Republic pants for me were on sale for only $3.99. I couldn’t pass them up, even though I don’t actually have a “need” for office wear anymore. But, you know, if something business casual comes up at some point, now I have something to wear!

My favorite part was going through all my favorite name brands (at 2am). Before marriage and babies, my closet was stuffed with Banana Republic, J. Crew, Gap, and Express. Now that I’m getting back to being able to wear my pre-baby clothes, it’s so fun to spruce up my wardrobe with some new items in my favorite styles. I was especially tempted with all the Lululemon they have stocked right now!

Selling Through ThredUp

ThredUp makes it super easy to clean out your closet, too. Just request a “clean out kit” on their website, and the package will arrive in a couple days. The “kit” is just a big, polka dotted, postage-paid bag. Fill it, close it, and put it on your porch for your mailman to pick up. Since I tended to drive around for weeks with my car full of clothes to donate, this was especially handy. While the payout isn’t very high, it’s such a handy service, and I’m all about convenience right now.

I mean really, not only can you go thrift store shopping, but you can also send your items in for consignment, all without leaving your home? This secondhand-loving mama says, “yes, please!”

ThredUp has a special deal for you all that I’m so excited to pass on to you! The first 100 readers to use the code CRUNCHYHIPPIELIFE at checkout get 50% your first order, up to $50! This code is good through March 2018.

Be sure to share this post with your secondhand-loving friends!

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Urban Gardening Wish List

I am a firm believer that “to grow your own food is to print your own money.” Imagine the amount of money that would immediately open up to you if your grocery budget was significantly decreased! Thanks to the Urban Gardening movement, it is now completely possible to grow your own food, even in small spaces.

I’ve been combing through Amazon, putting together my wish list of urban gardening supplies. We are renting, so even though we have a small front yard (no back yard), I doubt my landlord would be too thrilled if I tore up the grass to plant a garden. Some precious friends with a huge farm have graciously offered to let us use a portion of their land for a garden, and I am equal parts humbled and thrilled, which is a very difficult mix of emotions to convey through words. Picture me jumping up and down squealing but also flabbergasted, and that would probably be pretty accurate.

I know many people are in the same sort of renting living situation, so I wanted to share this list and show you how possible it is to have a garden in small spaces, or without the whole plowing and tilling process. Here are some great products that will help you create the urban farm of your dreams:

1. Envirocycle compact compost bin

These are created with small spaces in mind. It comes in two sizes, the 35-gallon (pictured) and the 16-gallon. They sit on the ground and spin easily. Every garden should have at least two (since you need one to fill while the other one “brews” for 6 weeks or so). These guys are even BPA-free! I think they look like snails.

2. Tower Garden

I can’t say enough about these powerhouse growing systems. They are aeroponic growing systems, self-watering, and grow tons of food in 5 weeks or less. No weeding. It’s planting and harvesting, and that’s about it. You can purchase one at a time or a family pack in sets of 3. These can even be brought inside and continue your harvest year-round! To grow in here: lettuce, kale, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, strawberries, and possibly a melon or two.

3. 20 gallon fabric growing pots

Sometimes, you just need dirt. These pots are made of a sturdy fabric to allow for better drainage and easier air flow to the roots. To grow in these: sweet potatoes (check out this post on growing sweet potatoes in buckets), beets, garlic, and raspberries.

Other items on my wish list for our garden:

Urban apple trees (they are a hybrid that can stay planted in pots!)

Kitchen compost bin.This particular bin is great for under the counter storage. I used to have a countertop storage system and even though I kept up with it, it had an odor. With this, I can lock the  container closed and keep it under a cabinet. Less odor = happier family.

Harvesting Bushel Tote bag – to bring in all your delicious fresh produce!

Miracle-Gro AeroGarden – Absolutely, positively cramped for space? This little guy can even fit anywhere!

I am so excited to get my garden this year!

Want even more tips for gardening and DIY? Get access to ebooks, webinars, printables, and more with the  Ultimate Herbs and Essential Oils

Thank you for reading! If this post has helped you, please share and download your free copy of my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition!

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