If you follow my blog regularly, you know that I promote the idea that Zero Waste is an aspirational goal, a concept to build your life around and to provide guidance for minimizing the footprint you and your family are leaving on the environment. What Zero Waste is not is an unbending religion or an exclusive group of all-or-nothing adherents.

For individuals pondering the idea of adopting a Zero Waste lifestyle, I encourage writing out a Top Ten List (or whatever number you are comfortable with) of items you’re not ready to/or cannot give up.

In my view, if you’re going to stick to a Zero Waste lifestyle, you must be realistic.

Had I asked anyone in my life, three years ago, what they thought the number one item on my list would be? I know without a doubt that the resounding answer from everyone would have been, “NEW SHOES!”

In the beginning, my husband and I had individual “Mulligan” Lists consisting of a few can’t-live-without personal luxury items as well as a number of household essentials. Much to my own surprise, new shoes did not make my final cut! Over the following weeks, as we went about daily life we encountered several other necessary household items that we’d inadvertently left off our lists. As a result, our lists grew to 14 and 16 items. So the goal in our first year was to find enough alternatives to reduce each list to 10 items.

Here are our original lists with updates:

As you can see, we were able to eliminate items. We did this slowly; we didn’t stress out about finding replacements. Instead, we found alternatives such as stovetop popcorn bought in bulk,  plastic-free ice cream bars, and coconut oil in bulk.  Over time, by living our daily lives and generally keeping our lists in mind, we were able to achieve our goal.

Now it is important to define what terms dictate your list. How extreme do you want to be? For us, we kept the list exclusively for items packaged in plastic. While we aim to buy as much as possible in bulk, we realize this is not a 100% achievable — yet. We continue to purchase select items in glass bottles, cardboard boxes, and even a few tin cans. Keeping in mind our belief in Progress over Perfection, we strive to keep these packaged items to a minimum.  And through our gardening adventures, we plan to reduce/eliminate our dependence on them.

 Having a “gimme” list is useful for many reasons. In the beginning, it is a fantastic tool to help you navigate the grocery store. If the items are packaged with plastic and not on your list, don’t buy them. The list is also a reminder of the luxuries you can look forward to.  If you are feeling down about not being able to indulge to the extent you did in the past, try focusing on the items on your list that you can still have.

 We exist in an “on demand” society where we are used to having what we want, when we want it. Moving away from this way of thinking is going be difficult. The silver lining is that you will start to feel grateful for the times you CAN indulge in items that you no longer purchase for your home. For me, it’s, eating chips and salsa at a restaurant; for my husband, it’s going out for an ice cream cone.  Now, when, our kids have something as simple as juice at a friend’s house or at a restaurant, they regard it as a treat. These are all things we used to purchase for the home (and therefore consumed without thought). Now that these items are no longer part of our daily life, we appreciate them in a special way when we have the opportunity to enjoy them. I love this!


“Gratitude turns what we have into enough” – Melodie Beatie