5 lessons from 2 women who crammed a year of trash into 2 pickle jars
Published Thursday, April 28, 2016 6:00AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 28, 2016 8:12PM EDT
After a whole year of cramming all their garbage into just two pickle jars, two moms from Saanich, B.C. say they now like the zero-waste lifestyle so much, they don’t plan to change a thing.
Tara Smith-Arnsdorf and Katelin Leblond, both work-from-home moms, used to haul a black bag of garbage to the curb every week, even after diligently recycling. But after being inspired by others they saw on YouTube, the two friends decided to try going 12 months throwing out almost nothing.
They stopped buying things they didn't really need and picked up other things secondhand. They cooked more homemade meals, they did away with disposable freezer bags, paper towels and tin foil; they stopped buying convenience and takeout foods; they made their own household cleaners and body products; they politely refused trinkets for their kids. And, much to their surprise, they realized they didn’t miss much.
Their grocery bills went down, they saved on gas by not going out and shopping less. Smith-Arnsdorf’s family ate less meat, while Leblond recently became a vegan. They even recycled less because there were simply fewer boxes, cans and papers coming in. And while they have yet to crunch the numbers, both believe they saved a ton of money.
But of course, saving money wasn’t the point; learning to live with less, and ditching the throwaway plastic life was.
They offer tips on their blog, PAREDown, but here’s what they told CTVNews.ca they learned along the way.
1. Start out small
Leblond admits the way she started her zero-waste year was all wrong. She decided to change all her daily habits right away, beginning with a huge household purge that left her living room looking “like a hoarder lived there,” she says.
She “wanted it all done yesterday,” she says, switching out disposable items while learning to bake her own bread and make her own butter. It ended up being a whole lot of stress.
So she recommends making changes gradually. When you run out of one disposable item, such as dryer sheets for example, make the switch to dryer balls. Smith-Arnsdorf suggests swapping out a few disposable things in the kitchen first, such as using cloth napkins instead of paper, bringing grocery totes everywhere, or ending the use of plastic wrap and paper towels.
“If you try to do too much you won’t be able to stick to the lifestyle,’ she says.
2. Remember the kids will be ok
Leblond says the biggest challenge of her zero-waste year was changing her own mindset that her kids needed to have the “stuff” she used to regularly buy -- toys, new clothes, snacks. Even with secondhand clothes, homemade food, and a pared down lifestyle, her kids are not deprived.
“They will be perfectly fine without fish crackers,” she says.
Smith-Arnsdorf says her two boys are young and will grow up living this lifestyle, but she admits her daughter, who’s 14, isn’t crazy about used clothes and giving up being able to get things when she wanted them.
So there’s been some “pushback” there, says Smith-Arnsdorf. But she also knows her daughter is proud of what they’ve accomplished and is growing used to their new life.
3. Some changes aren’t worth the trouble
Both say there were a few disasters in their year of change. Smith-Arnsdorf tried baking her own bread but quickly gave up. Now, she buys from the local bakery, placing loaves in bags made from old pillowcases.
Yogourt-making also didn’t work out -- “that was an epic fail” -- so instead they’ve just stopped buying it, realizing they didn’t really need it anyway.
Leblond has tried growing her own veggies in the backyard but admits that hasn’t yet worked out.
“We thought that would be easy. It’s not. Our gardens are the saddest thing ever,” she says, though she’s going to keep trying.
She has also realized that battling her husband to stick to the rules now that their one-year, zero-waste challenge is up isn’t worth it either.
“He didn’t choose this,” she says; he simply went along with it. So if he wants to stop at a McDonald’s drive-thru after a long flight home, she’s not going to raise a fuss.
“I don’t want to be the naggy wife.”
4. It’s not time-consuming; it’s time-liberating
Smith-Arnsdorf says people often comment that their homemade, pared-down life must be so time-consuming. But she says once you’ve set new habits, it isn’t. She can whip up a batch of face cream or a household cleaner once and it will last six months, for example.
In the beginning, there was a lot of research, reading other people’s tips and finding the stores that would let them bring in their own containers. But after that, it’s simply a new routine.
“It honestly doesn’t take a lot of time,” she says.
5. Life is better slowed down
Both women say they never realized the simple act of cutting back on trash would trickle into so many aspects of their lives.
“Our whole attitude about how we want to live our life has shifted,” says Leblond.
She used to feel like the weekend had to be anchored by a big event, such as going to the indoor playground or shiopping at Costco, or rushing around to lessons.
“There’s none of that anymore,” she says. “Now we play in the park, we work in the garden, whereas we used to have this idea that that wasn’t good enough, that our kids wouldn’t be entertained.
By simplifying their shopping, they’ve slowed down the pace. “And we didn’t expect that at all,” she says.
Smith-Arnsdorf agrees and says that even though their one-year challenge is up, she doesn’t plan to change a thing.
“I honestly feel there’s no going back. This is our lifestyle now. I can’t imagine stepping back.”