November Zero Waste Victories: Hair products, holiday decor, and office supplies

It’s easy to feel defeated in the Zero Waste lifestyle-which at most times is a constant uphill battle. However, November was a month of MANY unexpected and unique wins for me 🙂

Many challenges were presented to me, or had been present for some time, and I finally figured out the sustainable way to handle them.

So, here is a very encouraging post about some things I have recently learned which hopefully help you as well as we all try to create less trash.

problem: hair spray/gel/mousse

I have bought approximately 1-2 bottles of hairspray or mousse every year since my freshman year of high school. Not that bad, but much more than I want to consume. As I was using my Aquage brand hairspray at the beginning of November, while my husband and I were on vacation in Dallas, I was haunted by guilt of the negative effect that hairspray can have on health, indoor air quality, and the environment. I decided, as I was packing my things to bring home, that I would leave my hairspray bottle behind for good- both literally and figuratively. I didn’t want to buy a more “natural” version from a health food store as many “natural” versions tend to still contain synthetic preservatives and are packaged in plastic.

solution: aloe vera gel

It totally works. I happened upon this solution when my mother gave me a bottle of Animal Aloe. A bottle of pure aloe vera gel that was packaged and marketed to help pet wounds heal. She hadn’t been using it for her pets in awhile, so I figured I would get some use out of it if only as sunburn treatment in summer. But the other day, as I styled my hair in an almost Pintrest-worthy messy lob, I finished it off by spreading a few teaspoons of aloe vera gel through my hair like a setting gel.

I’ve got to say, it felt so light and fresh. The gel is also great for taming fly-aways. Although the bottle is plastic, it was given to me so I didn’t actually bring more plastic into the waste stream. When I run out, I’ll probably use the gel from an actual aloe plant which would be completely trash-free!

problem: hair texturizer

Plastic spray bottles. Synthetic preservatives. Two things that are usually enough on their own to make me reevaluate any product. In the distant past, I had purchased Not Your Mother’s Testurizing Spray.


1:1 mixture of corn starch and baking soda. The same mix as I’ve used for deodorant for the last 3 years since starting my sustainability journey. Optional add-ins include: cocoa powder for hair color matching, or arrowroot powder to avoid GMO corn starch.

This stuff works as a great texturizer and as a dry shampoo. Paired with some aloe gel, it helps create a nice messy wave hairstyle.

problem: dog beds (commercially made):

My Howl is a bit over two years old now and I only purchased an actual dog bed for the first time two months ago. It was made of nylon *cringe*, sold at Wal-Mart *cringe*, and cost me $23.99….*also cringe because I could’ve made it for cheaper than that*.

Up until that point, I’ve used my old childhood blankets as Howl’s kennel bedding (which he seemed to enjoy) but it eventually they just were not holding up.


solution: homemade doggy duvet 🙂

Made with scrap fabric and extra filling from my (used) overstuffed couch. Shh..don’t tell my husband xD

One yard of a Goodwill cotton sheet, one yard of scrap checkered flannel, and sewn into a giant rectangle. Howl is much more willing to snuggle up in his kennel now.

I like to think that he dislikes synthetic fabrics as much as I do, because he sure didn’t like sleeping on that nylon bed. My little environmentalist ❤

I also made him a pillow with scrap unbleached cotton muslin and filled with extra couch filling 🙂

problem: paper usage

I am a private math tutor and end up writing a lot of equations out for my students. I was nearing the end of a secondhand notebook (DAV tends to sell mostly unused notebooks for 25 cents a piece) that had lasted me most of this year in conjunction with all my old unused notebooks when I faced the challenge of my paper consumption. I considered purchasing handmade recycled paper from an Etsy shop owner (and honestly I still probably will for my to-do lists) but I knew it wouldn’t keep my paper stores stocked enough for my tutoring sessions given that most of my students end up with 3 to 5 pages of example problems in each session.


solution: Boogie Board (LCD writing tablet)

It is plastic, yes. But they typically last for years if they are treated decently. This last month it has saved so much paper- I haven’t needed to buy any. I can simply write out an example problem or two and my students can take a picture of them before I clear the screen.

Bonus: My pen/pencil consumption is down too because of not having to use paper.


problem: vacuum

I had many concerns about buying a traditional vacuum again.

  • mostly made of plastic, and not easy to recycle in my area
  • would need replacing within a couple of years
  • e-waste from the cords when it eventually would stop working
  • paper and plastic packaging waste

I’ve already been through two vacuum cleaners in the last two years. One I had bought new at Wal-Mart, and it died within the first year. The second one was a handheld DirtDevil from a very nice estate sale- this one lasted me all of six months. I was due for a new one, but couldn’t bring myself to go to a big box store.


solution: vintage & secondhand Bissell manual sweeper

Ebay to the rescue.

This might have been one of my proudest moments as an environmentalist- right below eliminating my car and eating mostly vegan. Secondhand, steel= mostly recyclable, no electricity = no carbon footprint to use, and durable. This one from the 80s was still in the package and just had never been used.

problem: Christmas decorations

A major problem for the average American household. Common plastic holiday items include:

  • tinsel
  • fake greenery wreaths
  • cheaply made string lights
  • PVC seasonal tablecloths and placemats
  • Figurines
  • and more….

Besides being plastic, these products are also packaged in the stuff too.


solution: secondhand from thrift stores and family

This year, I decided to do what I call a “Makeshift Mantel”

It includes:

  • a strand of lights gifted to me by my mother a few years ago
  • a secondhand tablecloth
  • a secondhand metal sleigh
  • a ceramic Christmas cookie jar, gifted to me last year
  • a secondhand wooden Santa candle stand
  • a secondhand gold metal fir tree with 5 mini-picture frames (that I have yet to fill)


problem: Uber

Uber is wonderful and I absolutely love it. At the beginning of this year, I sold my car with the intent of minimizing my transportation footprint for the rest of my life. It’s been great, and was such a relieving choice to make. However, I didn’t begin riding the bus until September…which is a more sustainable option given that it runs so often and is pretty much extreme carpooling. I took a lot of Uber rides that I could have replaced easily with a bus ride or trolley ride.

solution: Take the bus or free trolley whenever I can

My goal for 2019 is to cut down my transportation costs and emissions yet again by purchasing a monthly bus pass and utilizing it instead of Uber 80% of the time. Uber can be reserved for emergencies or late nights when the bus isn’t running.


Thank you for visiting my blog today 🙂 I hope that the information presented in this post will help you on your sustainability journey. Do you have any new Zero Waste goals for 2019 that you’re already planning? 🙂 I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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