In today’s episode I share with you the ways I try to reduce the ecological footprint of living with cats from a zero-waste perspective. I cover toys/enrichment, food, and litter!
In today’s episode I share with you the ways I try to reduce the ecological footprint of living with cats from a zero-waste perspective. I cover toys/enrichment, food, and litter!
Wherever you live — whether in a house or an apartment, whether you have outdoor access or not, whether you garden or not — you will get SOMETHING out of this episode. (WARNING: I get pretty excited about composting!) This episode covers EVERYTHING you need to know: what type of bin to use, where to place it, what to fill it with, what not to fill it with ? basically how to reduce the outrageous 40% of food we waste in our homes.
(Click here for composting tips and to enter a giveaway to win my favorite compost bin!)
Remarkably, we throw away up to 40% of the perfectly edible food we bring into our homes! According to the Environmental Protection Agency “wasted food is the single biggest occupant in American landfills.” Globally, food waste is responsible for an estimated 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions.
And vegans aren’t off the hook either! Certainly, animal agriculture is the main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, but even when we waste vegan food, we’re contributing to methane created in landfills. So, even though we may not be contributing to greenhouse gas emissions by the food we eat, we ARE contributing to it by the food we waste!
That’s were composting comes in! Wherever you live — whether in a house or an apartment, whether you have outdoor access or not, whether you garden or not…you can do it!
Here are some top tips for starting to compost at home. (But for LOTS more, listen to the related Food for Thought podcast episode below.)
When I first made the decision to eliminate plastic containers and bags from my life and “go zero waste,” some switches were easy peasy. Some had me in a panic. Like finding zero waste hair care in general and shampoo and conditioner in particular.
My attachment to my favorite vegan hair care products (sold in plastic bottles) had me wondering if I would just have to make an exception when it came to styling my locks. But with a little time, a lot of research, and an irrational determination to see things through to the end, I made some new discoveries.
I have not yet found a zero waste solution for all of my hair care needs such as styling products (future post coming!). But in the meantime, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned and what I love so you can get started, too.
It took me decades to figure out what my fickle hair needed — in terms of the right style, the right stylist, the right shampoo and conditioner, and the right styling products.
Of course for all of these decades the main criteria for choosing hair products have been first and foremost: vegan and cruelty-free. (That is, free of animal products and free of animal-testing). I’ve tried a gazillion products over the years, and the brand that ticks all of my ethical, vegan, and beauty boxes is Aveda. Having used and loved this brand for over a decade, the thought of switching brands was not something I relished.
Because Aveda primarily sells their products to Aveda-approved salons, for a time I thought that my solution would be to ask my hair stylist if I could just fill up my existing Aveda containers with shampoo and conditioner from the large bottles she would already have open for washing clients’ hair.
While this would slightly reduce the existence of additional plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles in the world and while I think it’s a brilliant stop-gap (you can steal this idea!), I was open to exploring other solutions that would bring me closer to the zero-waste goals I was trying to achieve.
And a solution I found!
Let me cut to the chase and tell you about the zero waste hair care products I love so much that they successfully helped wean me off of Aveda. Then I’ll provide some other ideas so you have a bunch to choose from. (Keep reading for your 15% off coupon code!)
When I heard about a sister-owned company that made cruelty-free, plastic-free, chemical-free, zero waste, biodegradable, vegan shampoo and conditioner, I had to give them a try! (Plus, they have body lotion and body wash!) They were kind enough to send me some products to test, and I was hooked immediately.
Even so, I wanted to give my hair some time to experience the products before I shared my enthusiasm. Now that time has passed, I’m here to share why my enthusiasm has only increased. I’m hooked.
Plaine Products come in aluminum containers that they refill for customers again and again and again. Here’s how it works:
As you learned from the podcast episode called Zero Waste: It Ain’t About Recycling, very little of the plastic we buy gets recycled. And because it lasts for so long, every bit of plastic ever created still exists on this planet. Experts predict that at our current rate of plastic use and disposal, soon there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. That is a depressing thought.
What you also learned is that when it comes to materials, glass is indeed 100% recyclable (though we should re-use it rather than recycle it when it’s perfectly functional). So is aluminum. And in the case of Plaine Products, the aluminum bottles are sterilized and used a number of times before they even get recycled. AND, the recycling process for aluminum requires even less energy than was needed to make the bottles in the first place!
What’s more: the boxes they use to ship (which you can use to send your bottles back) are custom-made to fit their bottles. That eliminates the need for peanuts or packaging! AND they’re made from a mix of 95% post-consumer waste and 5% post-industrial waste. Absolutely NO new materials are used in the manufacturing of their green shipping cartons. They even use plastic-free tape.
AND…everything comes in two natural scents: Mint + Rosemary or Citrus + Lavender. Both are divine!
If I haven’t convinced you to give them a try yet, then experience their awesomeness yourself. Use this link anytime you make a purchase, and enter “compassion” as the coupon code to receive 15% off your order! The shipping is a flat $5, which is pretty amazing.
The Aveda conditioner I was using before cost $44. You might think that’s crazy, but for a fantastic, cruelty-free, toxin-free, vegan, natural conditioner that I loved, I was willing to pay it — especially because I had tried so many others that just didn’t work for my hair.
The fact that I’m paying 1/3 less now for a zero-waste, sustainable, plastic-free, vegan, toxic-free, biodegradable conditioner (and shampoo, etc.) is the icing on the cake! By the time you factor in your 15% off coupon code using this link, I think you’ll be happy with that, too!
Shampoo Bars – I’ve never tried them, but I’ve heard mixed opinions about shampoo bars. Give them a try yourself, and let me know what you think.
Refilling from Bulk Section – Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco is the closest store to me that has bulk shampoos and conditioners with which you can fill your own bottles. HOWEVER, the brands they have aren’t vegan or cruelty-free. But look to stores near you with good bulk sections!
DIY – Make your own. Good luck. 🙂
REMEMBER TO USE ANY OF THE LINKS BELOW AND USE “compassion” TO RECEIVE 15% OFF YOUR ORDERS
You’ve probably heard by now that France banned the use of meat-like terms in packaging for vegetarian food. Yes, that’s right. “Food producers in France,” as reported by the Independent, “will be forced to think of new ways to describe some of their vegetarian and vegan foods when they are banned from using terms such as ‘vegetarian sausages and ‘vegan bacon.’ French MPs have voted to outlaw use of such vocabulary, claiming they mislead shoppers.
Firms will no longer be able to use ‘burger,’ ‘steak’, ‘sausage’ or ‘fillet’ to describe foods that have no meat in them, such as ‘ham’ slices or ‘chicken’ pies that are made of soya or wheat. The ban on such vocabulary will also apply to dairy alternatives.”
I recently shared my response to the Economist magazine’s article about “The Vegetarian Butcher,” Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation farmer who wants “to become the biggest butcher in the world without ever slaughtering an animal.” As a result, some Dutch politicians called for a ban on meat names for products that contained no animal protein, and “the country’s food authority asked The Vegetarian Butcher to rename misleading products...because it might confuse consumers.
Dutch media termed the episode ‘Schnitzelgate’ after a similar situation in Germany, whose minister for agriculture said that ‘meaty names’ such as ‘schnitzel’ and ‘wurst’ should only be legal for animal-based products.”
And of course we’re familiar with such shenanigans in the United States as the dairy lobby uses the Dairy Pride Act to try and outlaw the use of such words as “milk,” “ice cream,” “butter,” and “yogurt” from products made from non-dairy sources. I’d like to see them tell a lactating woman she has to refer to her “breast beverage” because the dairy industry “owns” the word milk or that peanut butter companies have to devise a new name for this favorite food.
The movement toward banning “meat,” “milk,” and other descriptors from plant-based versions simply demonstrates how threatened companies and governments are by the success of these products. Instead of hopping on the cruelty-free bandwagon, they’re attempting to hinder their growth in the marketplace. (It won’t work.)
Meanings evolve, words change, context matters, and consumers aren’t stupid. They know a veggie version from an animal-based one and in fact, they’re choosing the former over the latter precisely because it’s animal-free. No one who orders a veggie burger, drinks almond milk, or eats cashew cheese is being duped. But associations with the names of familiar animal-based meats and milks help create their gustatory expectations.
More than that, the etymology of these words reveal that they have less to do with the animals than we think: schnitzel comes from a Proto-Germanic root meaning “to cut, slice”; wurst comes from a Proto-Germanic root meaning “to mix up”; sausage comes from the Latin word for “salted”; in English, the original meaning of word meat was “food in general” — and we still use that meaning today in sweetmeat, coconut meat, and the meat of a nut.
The word underwent the same evolution in French. The word viande (“meat”) also originally meant food in general — not simply the flesh of animals for consumption. That word became narrowed over time, but its root vivere remains, meaning “to live.” In its current usage referring to a dismembered body part of a dead animal, however, viande certainly represents anything but life.
Language is not simply a means of communication. It represents and reinforces the attitudes of our culture; it informs and gives social credit to our thoughts, rhetoric, and actions; and it masks, justifies, or dulls our ethical red flags. In fact, I would argue that the words the meat, dairy, and egg industries currently rely on to market and sell their products are really the ones that dupe consumers. The euphemisms they use to hock their wares disguise the violence inherent in bringing animals into this world only to kill them. Even the very use of the words pork, bacon, poultry, beef, burger, and steak conceals the presence of the once-living animals.
Perhaps instead of banning such qualifiers as “veggie,” “vegetarian,” and “vegan,” they should add “pig,” “piglet,” “sow,” “cow,” “calf,” “steer,” “bird,” or even “animal” as qualifiers on their own products. “Cashew milk” could then compete fairly with “calf’s milk,” and “veggie burger” would be on the same playing field as “cow burger.”
If they’re really so worried about “duping” or “confusing consumers,” they would stop referring to their production practices in euphemistic terms. The egg and chicken industries would stop referring to the burning or cutting off of the tips of birds’ beaks without anaesthesia as “beak conditioning.” They would stop referring to the amputation of the tips of birds’ toes without anaesthesia as “toe clipping” or “toe conditioning.” The dairy industry would stop calling the cutting off of cows’ tails without anesthesia “tail trimming.” The pork industry would stop referring to the pens they confine pregnant pigs in as “maternity pens” or “individual gestation accommodations.” And instead of referring to their practice of killing piglets by slamming their heads against floors or walls, as “blunt force trauma,” they would call it what it is.
The animal exploitation industries and the politicians who rely on the deep pockets of the animal agriculture industry know that words matter, which is precisely why they work so hard to conceal the reality of their practices and products from the public.
The attempt to control the words used by plant-based companies — words that are already part of the public’s vernacular — is a desperate and short-sighted ploy to save a dying paradigm. Animal-based meat, dairy, and egg companies are fighting a losing battle and missing a golden opportunity to give customers what they want: animal-free versions that provide the fat, salt, flavor, familiarity, and texture without the cruelty.
Instead of trying to change words, they could be part of changing the future.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an author, speaker, podcaster, and host of Animalogy, a podcast about the animal-related words and expressions we use every day
I’ve had so many eye-opening moments since starting this Zero Waste journey — one of them having to do with food waste. It’s why I’ve devoted three podcast episodes to this topic, when I thought I’d just be doing a simple episode on how to compost.
Certainly it’s been revelatory to learn about the rampant (and preventable) food loss and food waste that takes place in the harvesting, production, processing, and transportation arms of the food sector — the animal livestock industry being the number one culprit. But it’s been the food waste that takes place in the consumer sector — in our own homes — that has left a deep impression on me.
As I explain in Food Waste Part 2: Food is Not Garbage, Americans throw away up to 40% of perfectly safe, perfectly edible food — all of which winds up in a landfill, sitting in a dump, creating methane and other greenhouse gases.
The lightbulb that went off for me is simply this: food doesn’t belong in the garbage. I know that may sound ridiculously obvious, but I think because it’s so ridiculous obviously that it doesn’t even penetrate our skulls. We can’t see the forest for the trees.
When I started on this journey and began making changes in my life and in our home, one of the dilemmas I was faced with was what kind of garbage bags would I be able to find that fit our existing cans (below) and that are biodegradable. I started researching and googling and stressing until I realized…we don’t need ANY garbage bags at all — because there’s nothing stinking up our garbage!
The only reason we line our garbage bins with plastic bags is because of all the wet food we throw away that becomes stinky and smelly. Once we put those stinky garbage bags into our outdoor garbage cans, hungry, opportunistic critters (or “pests” as many people consider them) find these food-filled cans and create the human / animal conflicts that lead to their demise. The raccoons, skunks, opossums, crows, foxes, even bears who topple our garbage cans and make a mess are simply being resourceful enough to want to eat the food we considered waste and discarded.
Animals are the ultimate zero-wasters!
But, no food breaking down in our garbage…no smell. No smell…no “pests.” No “pests”…no conflicts or fear of disease-transmission. No conflicts…harmony. (And if you’re worried that urban and suburban wildlife would starve if we stopped throwing food away, my recommendation would be to focus on creating a wildlife-friendly habitat.)
Same goes for dumps.
The only reason dumps smell putrid is because of all the food we throw away that becomes stinky and smelly. If organic matter weren’t putrefying (especially because it can’t properly break down without the oxygen and soil and microbes it needs to do so), dumps wouldn’t smell. They also wouldn’t create greenhouse gases or attract “pests” that also create conflicts and a certain bad reputation and sometimes death for them. (Listen to the podcast for more about the negative effects of food in dumps.)
So instead of buying biodegradable garbage bags (which, by the way, can’t biodegrade without the right conditions, and there are no right conditions in a dump), we simply put our garbage and recycling into their respective receptacles — sans plastic bags.
Despite the goal being zero waste, we do still create waste in our home, mostly from products we still had and are using up before starting this journey and packaging from online orders (for the garbage) and aluminum cans from the cats’ food and the beer bottles David occasionally buys (for the recycling). All of the garbage items are dry, so there’s no issue there, and as for the recyclable items, we simply rinse out the cat cans and beer bottles before putting them in the garbage bin. The rest is any mail I can’t compost (yes, I’ll be discussing the challenge of reducing unwanted mail!) No need for a liner.
On garbage days, we bring take the receptacles directly to the city cans in our garage, dump in the contents, and rinse out our cans before returning them to the kitchen. Easy. Peasy.
As for what we do with food scraps, you’ll want to listen to the Food Waste Part 2 podcast episode for the gazillion ideas I provide for reducing food waste in the first place — and composting is the final (not first) suggestion. That’s right…the other massive revelation that guides my actions every day: ZERO WASTE ISN’T ABOUT WASTE DIVERSION. IT’S ABOUT WASTE PREVENTION.
Yes, I compost all the food scraps that remain (more to come on that topic), but I’m now focused more on eliminating food scraps in the first place, including when I eat out or at other people’s homes. (And for years we used compostable bags to line our compost pail on our countertop to make it “more convenient” for us to bring it down to the city’s green bin in our garage, but we stopped buying those, too, because it’s only a little less convenient to bring the actual pail down to the green bin, dump it, and bring it back to the kitchen. Big. Friggin. Deal.)
I’m reluctant to even recommend biodegradable garbage bags, because of all the reasons I gave above, but I realize there are municipalities around the world who don’t offer green bins for homeowners or apartment dwellers and many people don’t have compost bins (or know what to do with them if they did), however, please do me a favor and first:
Thanks for reading! Lots more to come!
For the animals,
Zero waste is not about waste DIVERSION; it’s about waste PREVENTION! We (vegans and non-vegans) throw away 40% of the food we bring into our home — leading to greenhouse gas emissions in landfills, waste money, human / animal conflicts, and squandered resources.
Enjoy Part 2 of the series on food waste, which offers a number of solutions for preventing food waste in our own lives.
What are you doing to prevent food waste in your own home?
Over the holidays while visiting friends, David confessed something to me. He said that while he supports us buying toilet paper made from recycled materials, he covets toilet paper at other people’s homes because it’s so much softer. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe he didn’t say covet, but he made the point that our toilet paper is a little — rough. (And we’ve been using it for decades!)
I had no plans of changing our toilet paper; I would never buy toilet paper from virgin materials; however, my zero waste journey — by accident — has led to a solution that speaks to David’s desire for soft loo roll and my desire to buy sustainable products.
As I reduce / eliminate the number of things I purchase that cannot be re-purposed and re-used, I realized the recycled toilet paper I was buying comes packaged in plastic! Yes, I know…duh. How did I not see that before? Well, I just didn’t.
So I started researching toilet paper made from renewable resources not packaged in plastic, and I found it in Who Gives A Crap! AND IT’S SOFTER!
(Click here to get $10 off!)
HOW IS IT SUSTAINABLE?
As I opened the box, I was thrilled to find the rolls individually wrapped in pretty paper that can be — wait for it — first enjoyed as reading material (lots of fun facts on every roll!), then reused as gift wrapping paper, then either composted (or recycled).
Why is it softer? Well, Who Gives a Crap offers two options for their toilet paper: that made from 100% recycled paper and that made from 100% bamboo. I can speak only for the bamboo, and I can say without a doubt that it is oodles softer than any sustainable toilet paper I’ve ever used!
It’s thick, it’s soft, it’s made from a fast-growing grass (bamboo), and it’s less expensive than the brand I was using. But it gets even better!
Who Gives a Crap donates 50% of their profits to providing sanitation and toilets in developing countries where diseases associated with lack of hygiene is a critical problem. To date, they’ve donated over $950,000. As I’ve said, the paper on their loo rolls includes interesting facts (great conversation starter if you use it for gift-wrapping!), as does their website and newsletter, such as
Did you know?
More people in the world have mobile phones than toilets. Think about that next time you’re texting on the loo!
So, until I get a bidet and don’t have a need for toilet tissue, they have a new fan in me! Click here to get $10 off your first subscription to Who Gives A Crap! You should see the $10 off graphic in the bottom left-hand corner.
We can’t talk about Zero Waste living without talking about the big picture: the amount of food that gets wasted at the front end of the food chain: during production, harvest, and processing. And we can’t talk about Zero Waste living unless we face the fact that the highest food losses are associated with livestock production. Listen to Part One to find out how there is nothing Zero Waste about garbage. (The original meaning of the word garbage had to do with “the bowels and body parts of a butchered animal considered inedible by humans — the offal.”) Enjoy!
In Part Two, we’ll talk about the food WASTE that occurs toward the back end of the food chain — at the retail and consumer levels — and what we can do about it.
Back by popular demand: The Compassion in Action Conference! Register early to receive perks, including:
The intention behind Compassion-in-Action is to connect like-minded people with each other and to give you the tools and resources you need to reflect your deepest values in your daily behavior so that we can create the compassionate world we all envision — for all animals, both human and non-human.
Through lectures, Q&A sessions, and group work, we will address such topics as:
By the end of this weekend together, not only will you have connected with dozens of incredible like-minded people and connected with your deepest, most authentic compassion, you will also have tools for living purposefully, boldly, passionately, and compassionately — in a way that is both effective and joyful.
Our presenters are the best, and I’ll be sharing more with you about them. In the meantime, I hope you will begin following Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste, Stephanie Redcross of Vegan Mainstream, and Ari Nessel of The Pollination Project. Register today!