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My zero waste exceptions and struggles

My zero waste exceptions and struggles - Green Indy Blog

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While my zero waste journey is going pretty well and my husband and I have drastically reduced our waste, there’s still a lot to work on. (Plus, you know, the whole zero in zero waste is absolutely impossible in a non-circular economy – but that’s a story for another day.)

Sometimes waste appears because we’re lazy. Sometimes waste pops up because I don’t have a better alternative. Sometimes there are things I’m just not willing to give up yet.

Here are the four big items I personally still purchase/use despite the fact that they produce some major waste.


The problem: I wear makeup every day. It’s not so much a problem as just a simple fact and it’s not something I’ll be giving up. The secondary problem is that I’m on a strict budget and I don’t DIY stuff I put near my eyeballs which means I’m often at a loss of how to get zero waste products.

The current situation: I’ve cut down on a lot of products that I used to purchase “just for fun”. To be honest, I really just wear eyeliner, mascara, lipstick or lipgloss, and the occasional highlighter. The contour/blush/eyeshadow palettes I just didn’t need.

The solution: See a full post on my makeup routine here. Slowly replace the 4-5 items I use daily with zero waste alternatives – and have some grace with myself as I work to replace them. For mascara, I’ve gone over to a cake mascara by Besame*. I’ve replaced my old lipgloss with a FIG+YARROW option* that’s amazing! The rest I’m still working on.


The problem: I have a severe headache at least once or twice a week (my sinuses love to revolt against any slight change in weather) and I need painkillers to get through the day.

The current situation: I’m taking Ibuprofen so my eyeballs don’t feel like they’re going to explode out of my head. We buy the largest quantity available to reduce packaging, but that still produces plastic waste once we’ve run out.

The solution: I talked before about creating an essential oil mixture for headaches – I still think the recipe works quite nicely, but it also just isn’t enough for those days when I feel really bad. So I guess my solution is to keep doing what I need to do to maintain my quality of life. We can’t win them all.

Sneaky Produce Waste

The problem: I mentioned this problem in my previous post about small tips for zero waste grocery shopping. Essentially, big zero waste fails are easy to spot, but beware of sneakier zero waste fails like produce stickers, rubber bands, plastic twist-ties, etc.

The current situation: We live in a food desert so, although we have a car, we’re pretty far from any good shopping options. To do a perfectly zero waste shopping trip we’d have to hit several places in different parts of the city – not a particularly zero waste prospect in itself. Also, the ever-looming budget lurks over our heads.

The solution: Once the nearby farmers market gets going, I’ll have access to plenty of food without packaging plus any extra shopping can probably be done at just one other store. Until then, I’m going to try to stay vigilant about those extra bits of waste that appear on a shopping trip.


The problem: Indianapolis is, let’s say, not a particularly public transport/bike friendly city. While there have clearly been major strides in improving both in recent years, there’s still a lot of places that are only easily accessible by car. (Like I mentioned above, we also live in a food desert – biking/taking the bus + walking almost a mile to a wildly expensive store in Broad Ripple is not a solution.)

The current situation: My husband and I share one car. His new work is on the other side of the city while mine is 2.5 miles away. I purchased a bike when I began this new job and cycle there 3-4 times per week. For shopping, we use the car exclusively.

The solution: I’m going to make a commitment to biking to work 100% of the time as well as using the bike on more errands. We’re also planning to buy a house in the fall that will be closer to both our jobs; hopefully we’ll be able to ditch the car for the most part after that.

What’s one item you can’t give up on your quest to reduce waste?

12 thoughts on “My zero waste exceptions and struggles”

  1. I love how honest you are and that you come up with a solution to all of the “problems”. You give me so much inspiration and I love to read your blog! keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks so much Freydis! I hope you find some practical advice here – and if you ever have some for me, I’m all ears!

  2. Thanks for sharing your honesty. I am trying to do our bit but I can’t see us ever going completely zero waste. At least I am cutting down on what we used to throw away,

    1. Yeah “zero” waste is definitely never zero, no matter how many perfect Instagram shots you curate 🙂 Good job on cutting down – that’s a huge first step!

  3. I still take dietary supplements, buy a few packaged foods that I can’t find zero waste – soba noodles, love you, and haven’t been able to transition my skincare routine fully! Hope your sinuses feel better, that can be so rough.

  4. I think that is one of the reasons the world does produce so much waste, is because it seems you have to be dedicated to it in order to keep it down. For a lot of people it’s just easier to live a life that unfortunately means a lot of waste. Though I guess like a lot of things, the longer you do it the easier it will get.

    1. Oh man, I am so totally down with this! People – especially with any kind of economic, physical, etc. limitations – have almost no zero waste options without a LOT of work. That’s a big problem and something that definitely needs to change before ZW becomes a larger movement!

  5. Thanks for sharing! My struggles are, Over the counter allergy & pain relief, eyebrow pencil, & beer bottle/can (they get recycled at least). What’s the best composting tips and tricks?

  6. Thank you for this article. Two things I haven’t found a work-around as of yet are my storage tubs and battery-operated toothbrush. I frequently move and often have to store my things in a basement or garage, where cardboard boxes, suitcases, and/or bags just won’t protect my things. I do have less tubs now that I’m working to reduce my belongings. That makes me feel slightly better.

    I can keep the same toothbrush base for years (bonus is that a battery-operated toothbrush cleans my teeth way better than a regular toothbrush). The head does need replaced but not that often as long as I keep deep cleaning it. Rechargeable batteries will last for years too.

    One thing that I just simply won’t give up is my plastic wide-toothed comb from Stanley. I’ve had the same one for 15 years and it still looks brand new.

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