Waste Not

attempting to waste less and live more deliberately


Paper Towels, Paper Towels Everywhere!

During the week of our trash audit, we found one item that continually made an appearance – paper towels! Paper towels everywhere! Why so many? Well, Sam and I both wash our hands several times a day – let’s say an average of 5 times a day. We also blow our nose from time to time – let’s say once a day. Together, that’s 12 paper towels a day (note: this does not include kitchen paper towels).

Math Time

12 paper towels a day x 7 days a week = 84 paper towels a week

84 paper towels a week x 52 weeks a year = 4,364 paper towels a year

That’s a lot of paper towels. While many paper towels are made from recycled material (which is great), there is still a large amount of energy and resources being expended for the production of my paper towels. I look forward to delving into that topic, but for now, back to wiping my nose.

These paper towels are in a category called Single Use Items. Dry the water off of my hands, pitch it. Wipe my runny nose, pitch it. Dab the sweat off my forehead, pitch it.  So here’s the question: what can we use to complete all of these tasks that is not a single use item?

You guessed it – handkerchiefs! Handkerchiefs, or as I like to call them, hankies, have been around for quite some time and they work well!  A handkerchief is a thin square of fabric; it can be carried in one’s pocket or purse. A hanky serves the hygienic purposes of wiping one’s hands or face, blowing one’s nose, or drying tears. In addition to their utilitarian use, hankies are beautiful! They can be simplistic – think white with lace trim – or ornately decorated. The possibilities are endless.

Clean hankies can also be used to carry small items. Just the other day, I asked the cashier at my favorite coffee shop to wrap my morning croissant in my clean hanky. One less wax bag used, total victory as far as low waste is concerned, and it looked pretty darn cute too!

Not Convinced? 

ImageFeel a tickle in your nose? Grab a hanky!

ImageWaving goodbye to a dear friend? Grab a hanky!

ImageFeeling toasty? Grab a hanky!

Image Running an ad agency? Grab a hanky!

ImageHaving nervous feelings? Grab a hanky!

ImageSitting for a painting? Grab a hanky!


Giving a presidential speech? Grab a hanky!

ImageCrying happy or sad tears? Grab a hanky!

Grossed Out?

Carry two hankies: one for your nose, and one for hand-drying and other snot-free activities. If you choose to go for it and blow your nose into a hanky, don’t worry! They are quite big and there is certainly enough room on them to blow your nose several times a day. When you are done with your nose hanky, just throw it in the hamper and grab a fresh one. I will admit, the first time I blew my nose into my hanky, it felt a bit odd, like rubbing my nose on my sleeve. However, now I am used to it and feel quite pampered!

If you are still grossed out by your own germs that you live with daily, still consider carrying a hanky for hand drying. This small step will greatly reduce your waste!

Have you ever used a handkerchief? How did it feel?

♥ ali


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Waste Not Baby

We recently visited our very dear friends, Patrick and Amanda. They wanted to introduce us to someone pretty amazing, I will let Amanda tell you about that! ☺


Patrick and Amanda at our Rehearsal Dinner – April 2013

Tell me a bit about yourself and how we know each other.

Hi! I’m Amanda. I live in Bakersfield, California and work as a drilling fluid engineer; I went to college in northern California and studied Geology and Geography. My husband and I are both rock nerds and absolutely love traveling, hiking, camping, and playing with our adorable beagle, Gracie.

We know each other through our adorable significant others. Our husbands went to college and played baseball at Whitman together. I’m pretty sure we were destined to be friends though, with or without them. 🙂

Question: Did anything absolutely amazing happen to you recently?

OH YEA! My husband and I welcomed our beautiful son into the world at the end of June 2013. He’s honestly the best thing that has ever happened to us. We are 100% smitten. He’s a total cuddle bug and poop factory all rolled into a handsome little package.


Amanda and Jasper – June 2013

Question: Are there any alternative measures you are taking to reduce waste and expenses while raising your lovely boy?

While we were pregnant, we found that we agreed on most ideas of what could come along with taking care of a baby except one thing: diapers! My husband had never thought of any other diapering option but disposable diapers and I really wanted to try cloth diapering. My husband is very logical and methodical about the way he makes decisions so I had to sell him on the idea– I succeeded and we are now beginning to cloth diaper our 3 week old son!


We both wanted to cut costs as much as we could with a new addition to our family. Cloth diapering was a great solution for us and here is why. On average, newborns go through approximately 10-12 diapers per day, although I can attest to my son going through a few more than that range (and 8-10 diapers per day as they get older!) With most disposable diapers costing an average of $0.25 per diaper, expenses can add up quickly to approximately $1,095.00 per year! This cost does not include disposable wipes either—and with that little baby bottom we like to keep clean-I have experienced needing to go through PLENTY of those suckers.  If we assume we won’t have a potty-trained little dude until he’s approximately 2-1/2 years old, our diaper expenses can add up to an approximate total of $2,740.00. (*Note: My math is approximate and based on ranges of 8-12 diapers per day)

Cloth diapering minimizes these costs for us. I spent $415.00 on our cloth diaper stash. I purchased 3-dozen prefold cloth diapers and 5 one-size waterproof diaper covers, and 15-one-size “pocket” diapers with additional 15 inserts (total of 30 inserts). This entire stash should last me until our son is potty-trained. With my grand total for diapers being $415.00, my cost per diaper is $0.09. That’s huge savings for our family and we can reuse these diapers for future kids (don’t worry honey, we’re not there yet!) Cloth diapering saves my family approximately $2,325.00 in diapering costs over the span of 2-1/2 years!

Now onto reducing our waste-I get to reuse my diapers over multiple years while disposables get thrown away after one use! About 25% of the cloth diapers I bought were “gently used”. I know this may sound gross to some, but these diapers are sanitized and checked prior to purchase and then washed and sanitized again by yours truly before placed on my son’s bum. Buying cloth diapers used is a great way to reduce waste!

If we look at how many disposable diapers I would go through with my son, assuming 10 diapers per day at 2-1/2 years, that’s 9,125 diapers in the garbage! I’m not saying I won’t pack some disposable diapers into our diaper bag when we go on errands or road trips now and then because disposable diapers are incredibly convenient and can make my life way easier when I’m about ready to explode from doing laundry.

The amount of landfill waste and monetary waste generated from the convenience of disposable diapers helped us decide to cloth diaper our son. It may not work for everyone, but even a cloth diaper here and there can help.


Amanda and Jasper – Jess Cadena Photography


We are so blessed to have this wonderful family in our life!  Meeting Jasper and in a way meeting our friends in their new role as parents was truly a special gift. A big thank you to Amanda for taking the time to tell us about her new role as mom and guardian of baby Jasper’s adorable little bum. What an incredible little man! Don’t be surprised if we come visit again, soon! We’re in love! ☺


Are there any measures you have taken as a parent to reduce waste and cost?

♥ ali


Think Tiny

After our trash audit (results here), I noticed something odd, we were still making quite a bit of trash. Food wrappers, bottles, packaging…how could this happen? Didn’t I say I wanted to waste less?!  Well, turns out that alone is not enough.


Tiny Habits

I don’t know about you, but I typically fail when I try to make a big change. I am quite sure I have taken up running every year for the past five years, which has yielded about ten good runs.  Behavioral researcher, BJ Fogg (great article here) would say this is because I am designing for the outcome (running), rather than the behaviors that lead to the outcome (putting on workout clothes, gym shoes, grabbing my ipod).  Fogg believes that creating many tiny habits that lead towards the desired outcome is the key to lasting behavioral change.

If I only attempt to make as little trash as possible, I will surely fail. However, if I create many tiny habits that can lead me to that goal then I may see a change, and a lasting one at that!

Don’t design for the outcome, design for the behaviors that create the outcome.

Finding an Anchor

Fogg also suggests the importance of when you practice your new tiny habit. For example, after I drink my coffee, I will put on my running shoes, or after I finish the dishes, I will chop food scraps for the compost bin.  By attaching your new tiny habit to an existing chain of habits, you can increase the likelihood of solidifying your new habit.


After you complete your tiny habit, it is important to reward yourself! No, this doesn’t mean cake. More like patting yourself on the back, telling yourself “I did it!”, or doing a little happy dance. Positive reinforcement! ☺

Three New Habits

In an attempt to utilize some of these techniques, I have chosen three new tiny habits to practice this month.

Reusable Mug – If we don’t have it, we don’t get any coffee.

Handkerchief – Keeping a handkerchief on hand and several at work; some for hand drying, some for nose blowing.

Composting – Turning food scraps into soil.

I look forward to practicing my reusable mug habit tomorrow morning! Mug, meet cappuccino!

♥ ali

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Waste Weigh-In

The big reveal! I feel like Alison Sweeney on the biggest loser “Trash, your current weight is…” (some of you will know what I am talking about).


A Quick Review

The EPA says the average American creates 4.40 lbs. of trash. We were curious to see where we stood. Our plan, collect all of our trash for one week. Weigh it, divide it by two (two people), divide it by seven (days in a week), and find out our personal trash number.

We collected, we weighed, and now we know!


1.64 lbs/person/day

Day by Day

After we weighed everything, we went one very stinky step further.

By day, we separated our trash into three categories: Recyclable, Compost Bound, and Landfill Bound. Below you can see what that looks like in pictures (be glad your computer doesn’t yet have a scent feature).


Categories by Weight:

Recyclable – 16 lbs., 5 oz. – 71%

Compost Bound – 2 lbs., 9.5 oz. – 11%

Landfill Bound – 4 lbs., 1.5 oz. – 18%


While this gives us a good snap shot of our trash life, it isn’t a perfect survey. For example, I am sure we make a lot more waste around the holidays. That being said, I am pleased that our number is so low, but we still have a lot of work to do!  You learn an awful lot about yourself by picking through your trash one stinky item at a time. For example, we use a lot of paper towels! This was surprising to me because we have already eliminated our use of paper towels in the kitchen. Most of the towels we used were just to dry our hands at work. How easily all this trash could have been avoided had we just kept a small hand towel at work. In fact, most of our trash was avoidable! Several iced latte cups made their way into the garbage, even though I have a perfectly cute tumbler sitting in my kitchen. You may have noticed more than a few beer bottles, unacceptable when we live just down the street from an amazing tap room that will fill reusable growlers.

In addition to learning about our personal waste, we also found that we need some serious schooling in all things trash. What do those numbers on recyclable items mean anyways? and Can I compost a gently used paper towel?

Our goal is to create as little trash as possible. I have a million reasons why we want to do this (and I will be sure to share a few), but one simple reason is because we can. If you knew your household was creating 23 lbs. of trash a week and there were some simple steps you could take to reduce that number, wouldn’t you? We don’t plan on depriving ourselves, we just believe it’s possible to live a beautiful life while creating less waste.

Next Step

Over the next several days we will reflect on our results and create a plan to help wean us off our waste. Stay tuned!


Have you ever considered taking a one week or one day trash audit?

♥ ali

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Low-waste Organizing

I so look forward to sharing the results of our trash week (if you have no idea what I am talking about, read about it here). Until then, look what Sam made! 

Meet our low-waste drawer organizer.


Why call it “low-waste” and not “no-waste”? Well, some of the supplies that were used aren’t exactly low-waste, but because we had them on hand we decided to go ahead and use them rather than buy anything new.  

The Process:

When we first moved we had no utensil organizer. I fashioned one out of cardboard and duct tape, it sufficed for a few years, but we were ready to move on. Sam suggested that rather than buy a new one, maybe he could make one.  I’m very lucky, I know ☺

Using scrap wood from work, wood glue, and some spray paint we already had on hand, Sam built our beautiful Pottery Barn-esque utensil organizer for exactly zero dollars! He also made one for the bathroom drawer!

Everyone loves a good before and after, enjoy!





ImageHave you ever broken out your craftiness, rather than having to buy new?

♥ ali