• Pamela Oldham

My Journey to becoming a Less Waste Artist

I am just beginning my Journey to Zero Waste (Less Waste) I am realistic enough to know there really is no such thing as zero waste and we have to balance it with practicality. I work 48 hours a week as well as create art and am president of Trinity Arts Guild so time is precious. This is not a goal for a day a week or a year. I want to improve each day and year for the remainder of my life.


I have been moving this way for several years...I got good bags for groceries that I like to carry as well as produce bags several years ago. I tried several to find the bags I like. I like the thin but strong bags that roll up so small I can carry several in my purse or hand at a time. I like the bags for produce that you can scan through. The big bonus of switching to cloth produce bags is that my produce keeps much longer. I am looking for a source to find berries loose not in plastic cartons. Those clam shell containers are so wasteful but berries are so full of nutrition there has to be another option. A few years ago i was reading all the bad effects of plastic in my food so I made the change to light weight stainless steel containers to carry my food to work in. It took a while to switch out. It can cost as much for one metal container as a whole box full of plastic ones so as my plastic became damaged I replaced them. The good news is once replaced they last forever. Remember to think about your storage space before buying as well as what you normally use the containers for. If you are spending money make sure the size and shape fit your needs The square ones work much better for my needs than round.


I have had water bottles that I carry for years. In fact, I usually have several with me at all times, one for hot drinks, one for tea and one for water. It distresses me to see how many bottles of water are consumed everyday at work. Yes we now have recycling at work but plastic can only be recycled a few times and then it becomes part of our waste.


An art show we did at Trinity Arts Guild, triggered my desire to do so much more. Each entrant could make art about issues they found important. I was particularly compelled by Linda's piece on retail spending. I looked at that and saw myself spending and spending on cheap items that have to be replaced constantly. Buying art supplies in every brand and color. Buying just because it feels good to buy things. I need to focus my spending on quality items that will last a lifetime not a few days. My piece brought back memories of a year in my life that was pretty special. I took photos of the Great White Egrets and Blue Herons that hang out at Greens Lake near the Ballpark in Arlington. The water around these beautiful birds was full of trash. Cups, bottles, paper, plastic bags, gasoline cans, coolers. It made me so sad that for the next year I would walk there almost daily and carry 3 or 4 big trash bag and clean up trash around the little lake. The ironic part of this was that when my bag was full there was always a trash bin within 30 or 40 feet of me that I could drop it in. It spoke volumes of the laziness of people that they could not walk a few feet and drop it in the bins to begin with. I would have continued but they hired a big clean up company when they built the Cowboy stadium and had it all roped off. When they were done I had moved.


What are my current goals? Reduce my spending. I know volumes about paint. why do I need one of each brand and color. On the personal side I want to change over to more sustainable shampoo bars but need to use up my bottles and drop them in the recycle bin first. I am looking at dish washing and clothes laundering options for when I run out of these items. I used to make my own household cleaning supplies. I need to get back to that. I want to quit using so much plastic in my bathroom so I bought bamboo toothbrushes with boar bristles. I needed to replace my toothbrushes after having the flu anyway. My first try I was a little grossed out by the thought of boar bristles in my mouth but you know what they clean my teeth great and when they need to be replaced they are 100% compost friendly. I have months of toothpaste stocked up so I will use that up then try the self made kind from coconut oil, baking soda and mint.


I "Marie Kondoed" my space a year ago. I tossed out, gave away or resold lots of stuff. My closet is better off for that exercise. I went though and looked at things in there today. I picked out only five items in my closets and drawers that I don't love. Except for the worn out T-shirt that I cut into paint cloths, the items I picked out were impulse buys from the past year. The 4 going to a new home were low quality, not really my style and not staple items. My clothing goal this year is no new clothes. If I absolutely need something I will go to resale shops looking first. I will look for items I truly love that are high quality, good fabric items that will last. Over the next 7 years until I retire I would like to reduce my clothing to 15 to 20 quality staple outfits I can use for years.


Did my retail habit get the best of me when I began this journey a couple weeks ago...YES. I bought some bars of shampoo to try even though I have plenty shampoo. I bought a toothbrush holder but I love this item. It is made of fired clay and diatomaceous earth. It drys so fast no gross slime under your toothbrushes. I bought soap trays to go with the cup holder after I tried it. I hate slime under bar soaps as well. I also bought bees wax wraps and went back and got more to get one big enough to cover my serving platter I take to meetings. Much like my cloth bags for produce I found these bees wax wraps keep my produce much nicer than plastic so a little regret I did not wait until I used up all my bags but I love my wraps. This week I bought some handkerchiefs. I am working on my third respiratory infection of the season and have used boxes of kleenex. I decided it is time to stop. What I should have done is dragged my self to resale shops and got used ones. I am going to have to learn this resale shop thing.




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