My Personal Zero-Waste Goals for 2019: Apartment composting, handmade paper, gardening, and more

I love starting a new year for many reasons 🙂 One of them: I always carry less trash to our dumpster or trash shute than the previous year. Another reason is that this New Year’s will be spent in our new apartment, which has a large kitchen and has helped me cook more consistently and, in turn, reduce waste and eat better.

Moving into this apartment was really great for other reasons too. Gabe and I were able to settle in easily. And, due to our minimal possessions, and we finally have room for recycling bins. I think this may shape up to be a very efficient year for us- in regards to sustainability, finances, and healthy eating.


Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking very hard about how I want to improve in 2019. I want to learn (take some classes), collaborate (participate in clubs or community projects), and do the most good (donate to charitable organizations & reduce my negative climate impact).

Here are all of the goals I have for my personal waste reduction in 2019 🙂

recycled & handmade paper

I’m trying to be diligent to reduce my paper usage because most of my monthly recyclables are paper products. My reduction goal is not only because of deforestation concerns, but because of recyclability issues, water footprint, and bleach usage.


Evergreen Packaging paper mill, Canton, North Carolina. Alex Ford/Flickr, CC BY

It isn’t widely known, but paper products made in the U.S. are mainly made up of recycled paper and materials from forest thinning– meaning that the paper companies are using “materials that would otherwise go unused.” Of course, the industry does cut down plenty of trees, but logging is behind agriculture and livestock in terms of causing deforestation.

Paper is a sustainable, natural resource, generally speaking. But the problem comes with the transportation of lumber, processing the pulp and bleaching it, and transportation of the finished paper product.

All of that adds up to a pretty bad impact on the environment with thousands of pounds of bleach poisoning aquatic life, and thousands of gallons of clean water wasted.

My goal is to reduce overall paper consumption. But if I do need some for writing, I plan to order handmade recycled brown paper from a small business owner on Etsy 🙂 I love the uneven, textured feel and look of handmade paper. Plus, this shop sells some that have dried flowers pressed into the paper.

THINX > period pads

This one also has to do with water usage. Cotton is a water-intensive crop whether it is grown conventionally or organically. While choosing organic cotton sanitary pads is better for our health, organic cotton uses around 2-3 times for water than conventional cotton. I fully believe that organic should be the only type of crops grown, but we can at least reduce our total consumption.

The common Zero-Waste solution to the pad problem is to use a menstrual cup. I’ve tried, but it’s not for me. Instead, I’m now using THINX organic cotton period panties in conjunction with tampons. Yes, water intensive to originally produce, but will save so much trash and production of cotton pads in the long run. I do plan to switch to sea sponge tampons soon in addition.

1/2 plant-based dog food

Kibble is estimated to be responsible for 25% of animal agriculture. Unfortunately, since animal food is especially processed and is transported multiple times, that adds to the carbon impact.

Dogs are omnivores, and many veterinarians recognize that a well-planned plant-based diet is beneficial for them. I have had Howl on a plant-based diet before and he did enjoy the food, but it was too complicated for me to keep up with when I was working a lot. Dogs require a lot of calories and meeting that with plant foods takes a lot of prep work.

My husband prefers the ease of just feeding him kibble, so I resigned to that a few months ago. But Howl has always had a bit of a delicate stomach, and that prompted me last week to begin feeding him a diet of half plant-based food again. Tofu, oatmeal, mashed pumpkin, and black beans are now a consistent part of his diet and he loves it 🙂 Whenever I feed him plant-based, he is more relaxed- and that’s a big deal for a Weimeraner.

worm bin for apartment

As I’ve been doing my trash audits, I’ve noticed that the most common things that I’m sending to the landfill are:

-Tofurkey or Field Roast plastic wrappings

-banana peels, apple cores, sweet potato peels, etc.

-hair and dust from sweeping

– paper flour sacks

All of that, minus the plastic wrappings, could be fed to a bin of worms to create nutrient-rich soil! I’m currently on the lookout for free or secondhand 5-gallon buckets in order to make my own 3-tier worm bin. If anyone has any experience with worm composting, please comment below because I’d love some advice 🙂

This one is really important to me because organic material doesn’t create nutrient-rich soil if put in a landfill and unfortunately contributes to the methane emissions of the landfill.


less Uber, more bus & trolley

Uber is great, I’ve said it before, and I love it. But, I live downtown and it is silly of me not to utilize the free trolleys that run most days of the week. The trolleys can get me to the bank, craft and book shops, libraries, and to my mom’s house. If I can do all of that, why spend the extra money and carbon on an Uber ride?

Additionally, I plan to use the bus much more frequently. The bus can even get me all the way to my city’s Whole Foods, so I can’t imagine why I shouldn’t utilize it for even more accessible errands.

homemade____ to reduce packaging

-bread crumbs

-plant milks


-sprouted grain bread (I’ve already been making homemade white bread for the last 6 months)

-extracts like vanilla, peppermint, etc.

-vegetable broth

Bread crumb canisters aren’t recyclable, and neither are cracker bags. Some of these items come in recyclable or partially recyclable packaging, but could be avoided if I learn to make them at home.

consistent recycling

This is a hard one because we live in an apartment and the building hasn’t set up their recycling program yet. I was frequenting our local recycling center until I sold my car at the beginning of 2018, and since then have carpooled with my sister to go to the center whenever I can.

Space to store my recyclables was also an issue. Now that we have a bigger kitchen, I finally have the cabinet space for recycling bins! ❤ This year, I hope to divert all of my recyclables from the landfill.

less clothing purchases & list them throughout the year

I want to purchase less pieces overall. Many times I purchased a piece at DAV or Goodwill only for it to have piling or holes within a few months.

In 2017, my sister and I had a contest to see which of us could buy the least amount of clothing over the course of the year. That was a really enlightening experience. Even though I spent much less than the average woman does per year, the list of my purchases was…extensive. In 2019, I want to list every item of clothing I buy or make and I hope it will be a very short list.

purchase better to reduce overall purchasing

I made the mistake of purchasing kitchen items or home goods that weren’t durable enough, and as a result ended up having to find a replacement (example: handheld DirtDevil vacuum that lasted 6 months. Granted, it only cost me $4 at an estate sale, but these kind of things caused me more work than if I had researched and chosen products more carefully).

Gardening…well, getting some plants

…and attempting to keep them alive long term. Indoor air makes me feel unwell and I think it’s time that I get some plants to keep the air cleaner in our apartment.

This will also give me a use for the soil that my worm bin will yield! 😀

use less heating/cooling

According to our energy bill, 56% of our current energy usage is from heating our apartment. That is money that I’d prefer to save- as much as I can, anyway. Obviously, I still plan to use heat in the winter and cooling in the summer, but we are trying to set our thermostat lower for the rest of this winter. And, I plan to ventilate our apartment more in spring, summer, and fall on every nice day that I can. This will save us quite a bit on cost, and on CO2 emissions. Between 1.2 and 1.6 pounds of CO2 are emitted per kilowatt in my state (Kansas), so a reduction in heating/cooling costs equals a huge reduction in CO2 emissions.

What are your sustainability goals for 2019? 🙂

Main Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


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