3. Do These Three Things Before You Invest in Zero Waste Products

How to decide when to invest in zero waste products, and more importantly, when you should not. Zero waste has this mythos around it, where it needs to be really pretty, it needs to be ready to go onto Instagram or Pinterest or out into the world to show, “Hey, we are zero waste.” And that is not the core of the movement. We need to use what we have in order to reduce the amount that we consume. It doesn’t have to, and it most definitely should not break the bank.

We’re not looking for perfect zero wasters. In fact, perfect zero waste does not exist, and having to go out and buy five things that are like a hundred bucks each Is not something that is A) sustainable in any sense of the word, but B) even realistic. I got into zero waste back in 2016 when I wanted to not only reduce my waste, but save the money that it was taking on disposables every month because they cost a lot. 

But I did not start doing that by just going out and buying the most eco-friendly trending item. What I did is I looked at what is going to make the biggest difference in mine and Mr. Grizzly’s life when it comes to disposable. 

The biggest thing when it comes to going zero waste is that you need to come at it with a zero waste mindset.

Now, a zero waste mindset:

  1. Hey, it’s free! 
  2. But two, it’s something that when you look at anything, whether that is a piece of plastic, a  glass bottle or aluminum or glass, and think, Hey, what is going to make the absolute most amount of sense and the most amount of use Out of this particular thing? 

You don’t have to buy a billion different things in order to go zero waste, and that is absolutely true, but things will vary from house to house and even person to person as to where you can make the biggest impact in terms of reducing your disposable waste.

But how do you figure out where to invest your money and where to invest your time? 

Top 10 Wishlist

The first thing that I would suggest you do is make a list of the top 10 things that you’d like for your eco-friendly life. Now, this isn’t just, “Hey, I’m going to think about this abstractly and never put any of this into action.”

No, I want you to go and actually physically write down or type out or put it down somewhere. Put it down, so that you see what are the top 10 things that you’d like for your eco-friendly life that would make things easier for you. 

Once you have those 10 down, I want you to order from one to 10, what you think that you need the most.

Now, once you have that done, I want you to set that aside for a moment, and we’re going to talk about trash audits. Now this is something that you may have heard of if you’ve been in the space for a while, or you may have even done one.

Trash Audit

For those who don’t know a trash audit is literally what it sounds like you were going in and looking at the stuff that you are throwing away. That is not only literally throwing in the trash. But also, what are you putting in the compost? What are you putting in the recycling? What are you throwing away the most of? Because this is going to dictate where you might want to focus your energies. 

Now, why do a trash audit? 

It seems real gross. You don’t want to go digging through your trash, especially if you aren’t able to compost that requires digging through some, maybe not so great food. That’s fine. You don’t have to do the trash that you have already created. There is an alternative option, but the reason why we want to do a trash audit is because knowing is half the battle.

The same reason why when you’re trying to figure out how to budget and what you’re actually spending your money on, you write down all of your expenses, writing down all of the things that you’re throwing away makes it a lot easier to be aware of where those money sucks or those waste sucks are coming in your life.

There are a couple of different ways that you can do your audit. The first way you grab a pair of gloves, a second trash bag, and either a partner or a voice command app on your phone. So you’re going to go through all your trash. That means the bathroom, the living room, the dining room, the kitchen bedroom, all of these things.

You’re going to go through all of the trashes, and you are going to figure out what you are throwing away, you are going to list out all of the things you are seeing. If you see something being thrown away multiple times, put a check mark next to it. You are going to start seeing patterns in your trash.

If you’re less than inclined to go digging through the trash. And that is a-ok instead, grab a notebook, open a note on your phone (whatever’s most convenient for you), and every time that you go through and go to throw something away, No, this takes a little bit more mental energy to remember to do all of this.

And I know it’s really, really tempting to just be like, “I’ll throw this away in the work bin so that I don’t have to worry about writing it down.” No, I want everywhere that you are throwing stuff away to write that down because we want to get an honest look at what we are doing and what we are producing, in order to have a solid view of how to move forward. 

So is it food waste? Is it cotton rounds? Is it wrapping from new purchases, packaging that the new purchases come with? Once you have all of this done, now you’re going to make changes to reduce the trash that you found. 

This is where the list that you made earlier comes in? Is it something that is the same, are the things that you thought that you had the most issue with the same things that are bearing out in your trash audit? Are those the same? If not, then that might be something that you need to reconsider in terms of reprioritizing what you want to reduce. 

For example, when I did my first trash and recycling audit. I was going through a ton of individual single serve yogurt cups. I love Greek yogurt. It is creamy. It’s rich in probiotics. It’s just fantastic and a great snack. But when I was going through like 10 to 12, little individual yogurt cups every week, that adds up to a lot. 

So I made the commitment to go over to the bigger container, yogurt instead of the single serves, then I could separate them out into smaller containers.

I’d still get my yogurt fix, but I wasn’t creating as much plastic as I was before that. Now, if this is something that you really loved and did, like this was part of your routine every single day, every morning, you had yogurt with insert mix-in here. You could even start making your own yogurt. That is something that is do-able, ou could buy a yogurt maker yourself, DIY it, and that is a way to bypass the plastic altogether. Especially if you’re using milk from a local source that’s sold in glass. 

Product Audit

One last thing that you need to do before you really sit down and determine what is our next sustainable buy is, you need to do a product audit.

Now I started my zero waste journey back in 2016, and I didn’t really make a huge commitment to it until after Mr. Grizzly and I had moved into our house in 2017. Over that time, I accumulated a lot of hair care products. 

I was 100% the person who would go into Walmart during the after Christmas sale when they had their jumbo containers of shampoo and conditioner for half off—I was getting all of that for $5. I was like, sign me up. I will get this and this and this. And so. 

So while I definitely wanted to switch over to a zero waste hair care product earlier than I currently am. I am just now 3.5-4  years later, just getting through the end of my unsustainable shampoo and conditioner, and I’m very close to being out of my body wash. So now I can make those sustainable swaps. So what is it for you? Is it your makeup? Is it your containers for your food? Is it your lunch box? Whatever it is, you are looking for. What do you already have to use up before you go and make those sustainable swaps?

Because the most sustainable thing is the thing you already have. This is really, really important. Because it is so easy to fall into the trap when you’re trying to go zero waste to looking at what people who are much further along their journey are doing and be like, okay, in order to be like that, “I need to buy X, Y, and Z,” and that’s just not true. What are the things that you can repurpose? What can we reuse? Can you cut your things up in order to extend the life of that? Before I switched to toothpaste bites, I collected all of the tubes that I had in a little container. One day I just sat down, cut them open and scraped all of the toothpaste out of those two.

And it lasted me another three months because you just, it’s impossible to get everything out. If you don’t just open it up and go, go for it. 

Putting it all together

Now, once you have all of these done, then you are ready to make your actual list of where are you going to invest? 

You are going to compare these three lists. You have your wishlist, which is that first list you made. You are going to look at your trash audit, and you are going to look at your product audit.

Based on those, what is it that you really need to look into? What is the thing that is most necessary for you to reduce your waste moving forward? I can promise you, it’s not likely going to be the glitziest, shiniest thing, like a new water bottle or a tiffin or a reusable straw. Zero waste is not glitz and glam.

Zero waste is making do, it is working with what you have. And if you find that there’s something that you do need to find an alternative for. Is there something that you are going to be able to MacGyver and figure out a way to reuse in order to avoid having to go buy a new thing? 

For example, if you use a lot of paper towels, because that’s what you grew up doing. Is there something that you can do in order to reduce those paper towels? Can you cut up old t-shirts in, into rags and put those on the, put those on the counter while putting the paper towels out of reach? It’s changing those small habits that’s going to lead to long-term change.

2. What I Wish I Knew About Zero Waste BEFORE I Started

What I wish I knew when I was started Zero waste, the good, the bad and the ugly. So we’ve got 10 things that I wish I knew. We’re going to start with the good and end with the not so great. 

#1. I wish I knew the amount of money that you could save. 

Zero waste, in its essence, is an oppositional movement to conventional wisdom of buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. That is something that we have been taught since we are little to do. We even have “retail therapy,” which makes us feel better if we go out and shop like that is something that is talked about, like it’s normal. Making that mind shift from, do I want it to do I need it is really, really important.

That doesn’t mean that I never impulse buy or buy something that I just want. It simply means that I am a lot more aware of my purchases as I move through life. And it also saves you money because. A lot of times you are looking for what is already in the waste stream. So we are avoiding buying new.

And instead we are  looking at secondhand shops. We are looking online. We are looking at yard sales or flea markets or things that are already there and likely are a lot less expensive than they would be if we bought them brand new (and generally better quality, too). 

#2) Freedom from consumerism.

I have a very simple checklist that I go through when it comes to deciding what to buy: necessity, first; sustainability, second; and desire, third. So before I started this, I loved TJ Maxx with a burning passion. I refused to go in there simply because. It was a minefield for my wallet. I would always come out with something that I wasn’t expecting to buy. It wasn’t part of my plan, and I’d end up spending way more money than I had wanted to. 

After that, a couple of years ago, I went in after I’d been on this journey for a little bit, and there was basically nothing in the store that I really wanted to buy. I was like, well, I don’t need that. I don’t need that. I really don’t need that. And it’s just so freeing to not be like, oh, I have to constantly make decisions to not buy something because that desire isn’t there in the first place. 

#3 Less Cleaning

Another bonus is that because we’re reducing the amount that we consume, by default, you generally also have less stuff in your house. Having less stuff in your house means less cleaning.

And for someone who does not like to clean, that is so helpful. And it is anxiety reducing for me. As I have said before, I have anxiety and depression and they are most definitely compounded when the space around me is a mess and this gets into a vicious cycle in the winter. When I don’t have the energy to come home from work and clean, so everything just gets messy.

And then we’re in this doom spiral and honestly, who doesn’t love less to clean makes it look prettier. Don’t have to worry about it as much. 

#4 Quality of the product. 

So when I do decide to invest in a product, especially sustainable products. That’s exactly what I view it as an investment.

Yes. It’s more expensive upfront, but that also means that you buy this once and you are done. Like, for example, I just bought a Gua sha stone and real face roller from Mount Lai, and it wasn’t a little bit more expensive than I normally do, but they’re carbon neutral, they are a female Asian owned business, and they are ethical.

So I have more faith in the quality of their product lasting me versus going to Walmart and buying one. And I don’t know when that’s going to break or if I drop it the wrong way, is it going to crack in two because it was poorly designed. These are the things that I think about as I’m going, and I can tell you, I have saved a lot of money simply by not having to repeat, buy things from things that I’ve already bought.

So things last a lot longer and it’s great. Now there is a very real privilege here. I have some extra money. I have a job so I can have extra money, so I am able to do this. It is not a requirement to go buy these incredibly expensive things in order to be zero waste. As I’ve said, I am sharing my experience with zero waste.

This is my experience, but you do not have to buy these expensive things in order to go zero waste. This can also apply to secondhand stores. This is some of my favorite things. All of my cast iron pans have come from either secondhand stores or as hand-me-downs from my grandparents.

And they last so long, they last pretty much forever. And they’re fantastic. Whole other episode on that coming up. 

#5 Resourcefulness

One last positive thing that I wish I knew about zero waste before I started is the resourcefulness that I would find. When you don’t want to go out and just buy a new thing, you figure out how to extend the life of the things that you already have, or you find a way to use them in a new way to accomplish that new task.

So, what will I do with this after it’s used up? How can I repair or mend it in order to extend its usefulness? Or how can I use it up completely? I had a stack of old toothpaste tubes before I had switched to my toothpaste bites and literally just cut them open, used a scraper and put it into a little jar to use everything in there in order to get the most use out of it. 

Those are the positive things. Some of the not so great things that I wish I had known before I dove into the zero waste lifestyle. 

#1 So goddamn easy to fall into the zero waste aesthetic instead of the core values of zero waste. 

I know when I was first getting into it, I would be on Instagram, I would be on Pinterest, and I would see all of these gorgeous, gorgeous things and cabinets and pantries. And I was just like, okay, that’s the zero waste look. That is how it is supposed to look. That is what I need to do. This is the reason why so many people think that zero waste is expensive, that you have to go buy these things or else you’re not “zero waste enough.”

There is no gate-keeping in zero waste. We’re all on a journey, and we need to stop thinking that we have to be X, Y, or Z in order to be zero waste enough. You don’t need stylish stuff in order to go zero waste. In fact, if you are throwing out perfectly usable things in order to replace it with that, that is going against the zero waste tenets. You need to refuse, reduce, and reuse before you go and buy those sustainable items. 

#2 Eco Guilt

This next one hits me real hard. And that is eco guilt. So for those of you who don’t know, eco guilt is this very specific type of guilt that comes from thinking about your impact on the planet and the impact of your actions on the planet.

This tends to happen to me when I am falling down a rabbit hole of I’ve bought something unsustainable (for example, individually wrapped candies.) And I’m just like, “oh my God, this is terrible. These are going to end, like these are plastic. These are going to end up as microplastics,” and I just bring myself down and. It’s very rarely a kind picture that this eco guilt goes on that said cut yourself some grace.

Zero waste is hard. It is not the common thing to do. We are still a very small, but mighty sector of the general populous who are trying to reduce our waste. Do not guilt yourself when still 71% of the carbon emissions come from companies, not individual action.

If Coronavirus has shown us anything, it’s that we need to hold companies accountable for their actions, because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to address this climate crisis. 


Especially when you’re first getting into it, it can sometimes be hard not to be judgy.

I’m definitely nonot proud of this at all. When I first got into this, this was judging people based on what they are purchasing. This was especially prevalent at the grocery store when I would look and see all of the plastic wrapped item and all the processed food and X, Y, and Z.

And that’s BS. Like I still buy unsustainable stuff. Like there’s no reason to judge other people. It’s ubiquitous in our society. Plastic is everywhere. So it’s not surprising that plastic is going to worm its way into our lives. I once read that the initial thought that you have when reacting to something is what society has taught you. But the second thought is yours. We have to live with grace and our thoughts and know that others will do so as well. 

#4 ZW is draining

 You end up rethinking every stinking aspect of your life. Zero waste is so worth it, but sometimes it is very draining. It’s everywhere, not just in your kitchen. You question every single decision that you’re making when it comes to bringing something into the home.

And that can be really mentally taxing, especially if you’re already living with mental illness and you’ve got other stuff that you have to take care of. Adding this on top can be really hard. This is why you need to give yourself grace and, linking back up with eco guilt, environmental concern can kind of overrun you if you’re not careful with it.

So just like everything else you do, you need to make sure that you are doing zero waste in a way that you’re going to be able to commit to and keep with it does no good. If you’re zero waste for three weeks and then for four months, you just swear off of it because you can’t do it anymore.

#5 Buying stuff becomes harder

And then the last thing is that buying stuff. Becomes harder. So this is both a good and a bad thing. So when you get into zero waste, often you will also think about ethics company, mission company acts, et cetera, things that are a more holistic view of a company, rather than just, “Hey, is this the cheapest I can get this particular product?”

Which is good, in that we are voting with our dollar. And that is one of the only things that America will hear is voting with the dollar. But also, as I said before, if it becomes mentally taxing. 

1. What the Heck is Zero Waste?

Now, I’m sure that so many of you heard, if you have made your way here about zero waste and you’re thinking, oh, zero waste. What the heck? What the actual heck is that? it’s a lot less terrifying than it actually sounds.

So a couple of definitions to start off with: Zero Waste is a movement whose motive is to produce as little waste as possible; specifically, focusing on reducing your plastic waste. We will get to plastic waste later in the episode.

Low waste is a very similar thing, but focuses on a more holistic view of this.

I will use these interchangeably, but know that there is a little bit of a difference. One huge thing. Zero waste is not a true possibility. We live in what is called a linear economy. A linear economy is where we take stuff from the ground or the trees or something from our environment. And we take that. → We go to manufacturing. →It’s shipped to the store. →We use it. →It goes into the trash.

That is the model that society, and more specifically, our economy is focused on and the way that it’s working that said a true zero waste society would actually follow what is called a circular economy. 

We still need those original resources in order to make the stuff that we may get and needs to live, but instead of thinking, oh, I’ll throw this out, when I’m done with it, it’s done so that you have the end goal in mind. 

For example, all of my products are designed so that they can be composted at the end of their lives. They go back into the earth.

You don’t have to worry about it being here 5 million years from now. Well, not 5 million, but like a thousand, so zero waste is not possible. That does not mean that we cannot try to reduce our waste though

So if you’ve been in this area for any amount of time, you know, the five R’s refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, and recycle.

These might be in a little bit different order than you’re used to. And there is a reason for that.


Refuse is very simple, and yet one of the hardest things to do. We are taught, “Hey, it’s free. Take it.” Usually those free things are not great for the environment are usually made of polyester or nylon or things that are not biodegradable or compostable.


Choosing to consume less in your life in order to minimize the amount of waste. Refuse and reduce and reduce kind of go hand in hand, reducing is you’re just reducing the amount that you’re coming in to. Deuce the amount of waste that you make. And also reducing, looking at the plastic and the packaging that everything is in.


This one is the most Pinterest worthy. You’ve all seen those pins that are like “15 ways to reuse wine bottles” or “Nine shocking ways to reuse pottery” or anything like that. There is a lot, but reuse does not only mean that. 

It is looking and finding ways around the need to go buy something new. Can you borrow something, use someone else’s tool or can you rent it, instead of having to go buy a new one? 

It’s just so important to look at the whole picture instead of just automatically being like, okay, I need to go buy this thing. 


Rot is just another word for compost. And the reason why this is above where recycle is, which what used to be second-to-last, is because we cannot recycle our way out of the plastic crisis. We just cannot, we’ve been sold on this idea from big companies who do not want to make the changes that these emissions come from. 


Yes. If you have it recycle, but it is not the first one. In fact, it’s the last one that you should be looking. Zero waste is a journey. No matter where you are, we will all have big flubs.

We will all mess up sometimes. But one big, big thing. Zero waste is not a mandate, nor is it a moral judgment on everyone and everything around you. 

So why should I care?

There is the impending climate crisis. I mean the climate crisis already exists, but we have that 2030, which is less than a decade away of that point of no return.

It’s environmentally friendly. Eco-friendly, when I talk about it on this podcast, is that you’re aiming to reduce your impact on the environment as much as you can.

Zero waste goes hand in hand with conscious consumerism. It helps you reprogram your mind so that instead of being like, “Ooh, shiny,” you look at the shiny and be like, “Okay, well, do I need it? Is it something that I will use consistently and after I’m done using it, where will it go?” That helps you reprogram your mind so that you are a better consumer and as a side benefit, you also end up with less to clean because it tends to lead to having less stuff.

Many big businesses are not working on a zero waste model. They are not focusing on the impacts that their stuff is having on the environment, having on their local environment. So you can vote with your dollar.

By buying small, not only are you going to help a small business person thrive, but also you’re showing the big businesses that, Hey, we don’t like the shit that you’re doing, so you need to stop or else you’re going to see a mass reduction in profits.

And my favorite, it saves money. I’m a frugal person. I love the amount of money that it saves me, me each and every day.