Also known as another episode of Lauren Overshares on the Interwebs.
So, we have established many times that I love the earth. I could talk all day about the merits of using microfiber cloths instead of paper towels and filling up glass jars at bulk stores. But what about the finer points? What about, um, toilet paper? What about…um, you know…the stuff?
All stuttering and beating around the bush aside, here is a list of zero waste things that you might be curious about, but too shy to ask about:
1. What do I do about blowing my schnoz?
Sean and I have started using bandannas as hankies. We don’t have a single tissue box in the house (aside from a kitty-decorated one that my mom gave me two years ago). Wait, what? EWWWWW, you blow your nose on something…and then you blow it again…and again…? GROSS. Do you have the plague yet? Look, you’re talking to a certifiable germaphobe here, and when it comes down to it, it isn’t that gross. It’s not like you’re sharing. Besides, this is one of those things that everybody used to use until Kleenex came around. It seems to have a lot in common with the Kleenex disposable hand towels (hilarious until you realize they actually exist). This website explains it exactly as I would.
Moral of the story: Use hankies. Good enough for my grandfather, good enough for my dad, good enough for me.
2. What to do with my pet’s poo?
This is a difficult one because what you can do with the poo varies by region. In Bea Johnson‘s city, the wastewater treatment plant ok’d her query about flushing her dog’s poo down the toilet. On the other hand, I have met a few wastewater managers who would faint at the idea; if everybody started doing it, their daily load would go up, which could cause problems depending on the age and type of facility. This is a situation where you may need to make a phone call.
For dogs, there are other options that might help lessen your footprint, such as using leftover plastic bags from things you haven’t yet eliminated, like newspapers or empty bags from veggies. If you’re going to chuck it anyway, you may as well chuck it with some poo in it, right?
When it comes to kitty litter, my favorite option is Feline Pine. There is a scoopable version, which has been recently updated for better scoopability, but we get along great with the pellets. A $9.99 bag will last us a good month or so, and I find that as long as I do a quick poop scoop every day, things stay smelling fresh. Some people might cringe about the frequent scooping, but it honestly takes no more than two minutes every evening, and I just do it while Sean is doing the dishes. Wood is a renewable resource, and while traditional clay litter does hail from mother earth, it is strip mined and generally no good for the environment. In addition, if you’re the rural type and you have room for compost, you can extract the poos from the wood pellets/pellets-turned-sawdust and compost the sawdust. As we live in an apartment, this is something that you may need to do some googling about if you’re interested. Here is a potential resource.
Moral of the story: Examine and improve your pet waste routine. Find a place in your house to store food waste bags or newspaper bags for picking up dog poo. Switch from clay litter to clumping sawdust litter or pellet litter. Call your local wastewater treatment facility and ask them if it’s okay to flush your dog’s doo.
3. I can’t switch to a composting toilet…what now?
I hope everybody reading this can agree that we’re facing water scarcity issues, particularly in Arizona and other dry states (ignoring, for now, the much worse issues in other countries). Setting aside the easier to approach subjects of energy-and-water-efficient appliance switches in the home, what can you do on a budget for your toilet?
You can easily install a dual flushing system with rudimentary plumbing skills, or…you can spare a flush. Look, I drink a LOT of water and get up to get rid of that water three times a night (please pretend this doesn’t mean I’m dying of kidney failure — I’m trying to figure it out). And you know what? I don’t flush. And neither does Sean. If it’s a numero dos, or if we have company over, of course we’re going to flush, but when it’s just the two of us, we let that yellow mellow. Why not? Maybe it means you need to clean the toilet a little more often, but even this busy germaphobe doesn’t mind it in the name of saving some H20. (And on that note, why not find some eco-friendly toilet cleaning products? I love Seventh Generation.)
Moral of the story: Get over your fear of letting yellow mellow. Close the lid, and it’s like it isn’t even there. Just don’t forget to give it a check-a-roo before your friends come over. (Great, now nobody will want to visit me at my house…Please come over, we’re very clean!)
4. I’m a post-puberty, pre-menopausal woman. What now?
Yep, I’m talking about this on the Internet. Men, you may wish to skip to the next part.
Look, this is another thing like the hankies that used to be very different back in the days before disposables were invented. I discovered the alternatives on the Zero Waste Home, and even this hippie immediately thought No way, never, not happening. But I took a leap, and now I can say that every month I waste 0.0 little plastic packages. And that, ladies, feels pretty darn good.
There are many options out there, but I would recommend buying one of these and some of these and finding which one or which combination works for you. It can be a daunting investment to make (I paid $40 for the first and got a set of the second discounted on Amazon), but you end up saving loads of money in the long run, never mind saving hidden environmental costs. This is also an excellent option for people with sensitive skin. If anybody has serious questions about this, I’d be happy to answer them in a private message, but the websites above have really good FAQ sections that are what convinced me to step out of my comfort zone.
I will say that patience is of the essence with this. It took me at least three or four months to get to the point where I was with disposables before. There are, of course, different routines that you have to get used to, but it is no worse that what you dealt with when you were first faced with The British. (If that reference escapes you, think US Revolutionary War).
Moral of the story: Saving the world might mean stepping out of your comfort zone. But it’s totally worth it.
There are many other things that people might not think about or wish to talk about in polite company, but these are the ones that seemed most important to me. There are others, such as the merits of cloth diapering for those of you with or soon-to-be-with beebs, that are all over the internet and worth researching if you are interested in zero waste.