Blog post 14: Zero waste presents?

Present from my daughters for their father (birthday)

I don’t like to feel obliged to give presents, although I like giving and receiving them when I’m sure the person will be happy with it.

Some people started the concept of “Green Friday” to fight the “consumption fever” of the Black Friday 😉 I love it!

Idea of the Green Friday: Think different:

More ecological, more sustainable. Where was the product produced and how does it comes to me? Which material is it made of? Is it durable or cheap-breaking-after-2-hours? Is there a more sustainable alternative (not too expensive)? Can you find it in second hand?

The most difficult is to find ideas of zero-waste/sustainable/eco presents. And don’t get fooled by the increasing market using those words to sell their products… We don’t need 100 reusable of cotton bag, nor 30 straws of all kind, so many reusable cans or bottles… It also costs a lot of energy to produce them!

I’ve been looking for some idea for you ;-):

  • Some activities (cinema, museum, overnight in B&B, excellent meal at your home,…
  • In summer: Zero waste flowers or fruits where you can pick up the flowers or fruit you like in the field, and just pay what you take (based on trust of course!)
  • Chocolate in your own container: I usually go to the pralines shop with my own box; they love it! (my husband and kids; as well as the shop who saves some money).
  • Bake cookies! I’ve a lot of quick and easy to make recipes; but there are for sure plenty as tasty on the internet!
  • Home-made beauty or cleaning products? For beauty products, you have to go to other sites than mine (promise, I’ll search for easy and quick recipes, but not now…); the website from the list of my favourite blogs/website have plenty of recipes. Give some home-made laundry with the recipe so that they can make it themselves! (it is as giving a win-for-life as they will save so much money with it!)
  • Cooking lessons or book: seasonal vegetable or vegetarian dishes. My favorite books (in dutch: “de moestuin van Mme zsazsa”, the “Lekker ecologish” van Velt.
  • Reusable stuffs (bottle, straw, tea bags, toothbrush, ear bugs, lunch box,…). But check first if this is the 23th reusable bottle that the person will receive, or is there something that he/she would really like or use frequently. My favourite is the reusable baking paper. It is very cheap, and you can use it for years (I’ve mine more than 10 years!). You can also use it to protect your oven for spilling, to lay under a pizza in the oven, to grill vegetables,…)
  • If you know what you will and you have time, you can search in second hand shops.
  • Or if you need more inspiration, I found a website with 101 ideas, even for kids.

IF this is too difficult, why not try to reduce the packaging by wrapping it in fabric left overs? (you take them back afterwards for next time). Or even old t-shirts or home-made gift bags?

Enjoy giving and receiving presents!


PS: Please, if you have some excellent ideas, feel free to post them here below (it doesn’t appear directly as I’ve to approve the comment first).

PPS: Follow me on Facebook if you want to be updated for nice tips, extra recipes, order washing products,…

Blog post 7: Is zero waste more expensive?

How much does it cost (or save) to become less/zero waste?

Of course, I also want to know it! Therefore, I decided to calculate it for you 😉

Cost calculation of my DIY cleaning products (explanation here below)

How much does it cost (or save) to become less/zero waste?

Of course, I also want to know it! Therefore, I decided to calculate it for you 😉

For cleaning products, I’ve been calculating the cost of each of the product I’m using and compared to a similar product. Of course, I did not compare the cheapest brand from the supermarket; but took the price from a well-known ecological brand here in Europe.

I’ll guide you through the table.

If you buy one kg or litre of each ingredient, you’ll pay about 42 euro for all of it (GREEN).

In the uncolored part of the table, I’ve calculated the quantity of each ingredient I needed for each of my cleaning product and calculated the final price per cleaning product (ORANGE).  I compared it to the price of the ecological brand I used to buy.

In conclusion, I saved 3x more money for the same amount of cleaning product. And I still have enough ingredients to make another batch of product!!!

In their book (I didn’t find the tables on internet), the “famille zero dechet” also compared the cost of cosmetics and cleaning products before and after they became zero waste. They found a factor 2 (saving 2x more money).

I realized that the zero-waste concept, is often coupled to healthier food, fair-trade and ecology. We all have our “specialty” or our motivation to live more ecologically, e.g. one eats less meat, another cares about water and energy waste, do not fly, or reduce plastics and waste volume.

Ideally, we should tackle ecology from all angles… but I’m not there yet, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to claim that I don’t have any ecological footprint. So, let’s do what we can/want without culpability feelings. 😉

Let’s go back to the price. Packaging-free shops offers often biological food. If possible, they propose food produced locally. This implicates also that most of fruits and vegetables are seasonal and not flying of sailing oceans and seas to arrive to your plate. Sorry, strawberries are not growing in winter…

I’ve compared prices of few ingredients, between “my packaging-free shop”, buying bio in a regular supermarket, or in a bio-supermarket.

If you buy food with packaging, someone will pay the packaging you get… and it will probably not be the big multinational.

If we look at the comparison here above, buying bio is IN NOT MORE EXPENSIVE in specialized shops (packaging-free or bio-supermarket). As everywhere, supermarket offers more choice, and therefore different price range. However, if we all only go to the supermarket, small shops will disappear…

AND, if you go to a zero-waste shop, you will not be tempted by offers and you might save money by not buying plenty of other things which were not on your shopping list but taste so good 😉. If so, don’t forget your (home-made) reusable shopping bags!

If you want to save money, try the dishwasher and laundry powder. Both will be done in 10 min!


Blog post 4: What is zero waste?

Home-made bags for fruit/vegetable.
TIP: if you do different size, use different color when sewing the top; so you can easily recognize the different sizes.

Did you follow the blog since the beginning? Did you succeed to integrate something in your daily live? Don’t forget: it is good to be motivated, but don’t try to change everything at once! Do small changes that you find easy. The rest will follow later.

How much waste do you have per week?  Do you know that if you have 1 big garbage bag per week (60L), you produce 3 120 liter waste per year?

Some families (with kids: Bea Johnson, the “famille zero dechet”, “zero carabistouille” and probably many others) have 0,5 liters (yes, a small jar!) waste per YEAR?

We are not there yet: we have about 500L (30L every 3 weeks); so, there is still work to do. I hope this blog will help me too 😉.

If you do miss a challenge this week: then look into your garbage; which kind of waste do you have most?

 This week I’ll not give you extra recipes, but let’s understand the zero waste.

Do you know the 5 rules of zero waste?

It’s quite easy concepts; but the difficult part is the practice. You have to apply them in the same order as written here below.






First REFUSE what you don’t need: Someone gives you a publicity or a flyer, you get a plastic “made in China” toy for free when buying 2 boxes of cookies (oh, yes… of course you don’t buy cookies anymore… 😉), or receive a packed cookie with your coffee…. The most difficult to do is to say “no thanks, I don’t need it”.

If I have to buy toothpaste or sun protection cream (yes, I don’t make it myself (yet)…), there is often a “present” for free (day cream that I’ll never use, timer to time when we brush our teeth). I either wait that the action passed, or refuse the “present”.

One evening, I decided to e-mail all company who were sending us publicity by “addressed mail” by post, to tell them that I don’t want their mail. It worked!!!

If you can’t refuse, try to REDUCE: for example, give away clothes you never use or some of the so many toys from the kids, reduce the number of cleaning products.

I’m happy that I don’t like shopping … because if I would hang around in shops, I would be more tempted to buy.

Last month we sold some of our toys at a flea market with 3 friends. We had so much fun, we earned money and made some free space in our house! In Antwerp, you also have different place where you can give away good material to people in need: “in de buurt” or “Moeder voor moeders”. There is maybe something similar in your city? Otherwise, in Belgium, you can bring it to big second hand shops: “les petits riens”, “opnieuw & Co”, the “kringloopwinkel”,…

If you couldn’t refuse or reduce, you can still try to REUSE:  don’t throw away all plastic containers  but keep them  to reuse them for food, to craft at school or to put all the “treasures” that your children are finding…).

Why not to start with reusable tissues (when you don’t have a bad cold) and table napkin? Did you think about reusable batteries instead of single use? If you do go to a zero-waste shop or bio shop, you might fill in reusable bottle with shampoo, soap and cleaning products that you don’t/can’t make.

If you can sew, you can make new clothes from the one you never use; or bags for kids to go swimming,… You can use your grand-mother curtains to make reusable shopping bags for vegetable and fruits (see the picture on top: my non-professionally home-made bags). Or just buy reusable bags.

What you have left (should not be much anymore), hopefully you can RECYCLE. But don’t forget that the process of recycling is also requiring energy! I also thought, wrongly, that recycle would be first step. But it makes sense to use it as a “last solution”.

Check at the container park close by your home/work; you will be surprise of all the things you can recycle! In Mortsel (nearby Antwerp), they recycle plastic bags and all kind of hard/soft plastic!

It is easier to sort if you make some place close to where the waste is produced. If you have to cross the entire house, or go to the end of your garden… it will ended in your kitchen/living/cellar for some time, then you will get irritated to have it at the wrong place and you might throw it away in the normal garbage.

Last but not least: ROT. All what you can compost, try to compost it. The pioneer of zero waste (Bea Johnson) explains different techniques on her blog. Nowadays, you can find exactly what fits you: cheap/costly, small or big, for garden or window sill,… and you’ll need to buy less ground or fertilizer for your plants!

Good luck!


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