We have been following the zero-waste lifestyle for almost 10 years now. I don’t have an exciting story where you’d lived in a mansion surrounded by all the fancy things in the world and then had an epiphany and embraced a zero-waste lifestyle. I have a rather humble story to share with you.
We have always lived a frugal life since we were married, to avoid being in debt and paying interest. I had a tight budget and shopped from sales using coupons and discounts. While the frugal lifestyle saved us a lot of money, the cheapness of some of the products didn’t sit well with me. It felt like someone else was paying the price for all the conveniences that turned into our needs. Paper towels for example- I could get paper towels for next to nothing using coupons during a sale. The convenience which cost me a few dollars should make me happy, right? But it felt wrong to throw away paper towel in the trash. I tried to reason with the pain and started reusing them until they fell apart but I kept wondering about the waste that was created out of habits and conveniences.
I started noticing more areas of my life where we were being wasteful- cheap clothes, foods that are not local, too many inexpensive options etc. I reached a tipping point and my journey as a zero waste muslim began.
It was a simple decision but I had to take consistent actions to walk the talk. I had small kids and sometimes I’d think maybe I should postpone until life was a little less hectic. Because zero waste lifestyles meant I’d have to cut back and cut out certain convenience that I’ve gotten used to. But I started anyways and never looked back alhamdulillah.
The first things that I tackled to transition into my new life was to be waste free in the kitchen. And here are the changes that I made in my kitchen to reduce and eliminate waste-
No single use products-
Instead of using paper towels, we use microfiber clothes, kitchen towels and rags for all of our clean ups, drying our hands etc. Newspapers/ flyers are used to clean up spills, wet messes etc. A cookie cooling rack can be used to drain fried foods instead of using a paper towel.
Cloth napkins have replaced our paper napkins. The small ones are used when brown bag our meals and the big ones are used at home and during travels. You can buy fabric form your local fabric store and make your own napkins. Fat quarters make great ones as well.
Zip close bag-
Tupper wear boxes and Pyrex containers are what we use instead of zip close bags. Cloth napkins are great for packing lunches, like sandwiches, fruits etc. These napkins are really efficient as they are easy to use and wash well. We also occasionally use reusable/ washable We occasionally use reusable snack bags as well.
Disposable plates & utensils-
We use regular plates/utensils at home and take them with us if we need to use plates/utensils outside like for trips/picnics/barbecues etc. Tupperware boxes work well too.
Use reusable alternatives-
We don’t buy trash bags, never did. I reuse grocery bags instead. The meats that I buy come in plastic bags that gets reused to line the kitchen trash bin that collects household garbage that can’t be composted or recycled.
I use different size lids, plates etc. to cover bowl that don’t have a lid or use containers that have lids.
We bring our reusable grocery bags, bulk bin bags and containers when I shop. I try to steer clear from items that comes in non-recyclable bags- which means saying no often to different kinds of chips, cookies, condiments etc. The goal is not to live an ascetic life or to deprive yourself. You want to live a balanced life, removing and eliminating as much waste as you can and improve as you become more skilled in this new habit.
Cook at home-
The pre-packaged foods use a lot of non-recyclable plastic, creating so much waste. Cooking at home is not only earth friendly buy also wallet friendly as you are likely to spend much less per meal when you make your food at home.
I learned to make the things we eat regularly at home- like bread, cookies, cakes, pies etc. We limit our prepackaged food purchase to minimize waste and look for alternative packaging that can be recycled. We also learned to live without some things like mayonnaise, ketchup, salad dressing etc.
The simpler your food is the less waste you’d produce.
You can waste less by being careful when you prep your food. Trimming vegetable closer to it’s root or top, peeling thinly nor not peeling at all (organic vegetables), using up most or all parts of vegetables/fruit are some of the great ways to reduce waste while prepping.
Whatever can’t be eaten can be composted so it’s not wasted.
Fridge or freeze or leftovers as soon as you can so the food remain fresh. Forage your fridge and finish eating the leftovers before you start making a new meal. If you have too much left over, freeze them as soon as you can to prevent waste. If you’re not sure what to do with something- freeze it as well so it remains edible while you’re coming up with a plan to use it up. Be creative to use up left overs and make soups, casserole, quesadilla etc.
Take inventory of your pantry so you know which items need to be used up before they expire. Try to organize your pantry, kitchen cabinets in a way so the food items are visible and not disappearing somewhere in the back of the shelf.
How to do it-
Make it easy-
It’s imperative to make zero waste easy so you can sustain it insha Allah. The easier you will make it the more inclined you will be to adapt to this new lifestyle.
Have a plan for your zero waste home that works for your family. Have a goal and come up with small and effective steps that will take you to your goal. Don’t try to convert everyone at the same time. Just start in your own corner.
Be happy with your choice to live a deliberate life. Try not to be angry with people who don’t share your values or family members taking their time to join you. People are willing to listen and follow when you smile and not frown. Practice what you preach with grace and it will do wonders insha Allah.
Patience is the key to developing any good habit. Choose to be tenacious in your pursuit of a better Earth. There will challenging days when you’ll feel like you’re the only one doing this, you’ll feel small and alone, but persevere anyways. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in one day.
Keep at it-
Don’t try to be perfect at zero waste lifestyle. Chasing perfection is from shaitan to derail you. Do the very best you can- bring ihsan to your actions. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them. Your mistakes are invaluable lessons, use them.
Now is the best time to become a zero-waste mom. Yes, we are busier than ever in these turbulent times. But the Earth needs you now. Today is the best day to take actions so you can leave a better planet for the next generations insha Allah.