The trash we still make as zero wasters

Yep, you read that right. We still make trash!

Everyone on our team is pursuing a zero waste lifestyle, and that looks different for every single one of us. We're all at a different point in our waste-reduction journey, and we each have our own perspective, but we have one thing in common: we all still create waste.

We have made such a difference by going zero waste, so why are we writing about what we still throw away? Because we think it's an important thing to talk about. So often, zero waste can seem like a competition, but we don't live in a perfect system, so none of us can be 100% zero waste. Isn't it better if we all share our struggles and the moments we could do better? Sharing our mistakes helps us zoom out and remember that we're all in this together. Our transparency helps encourage others that a low waste lifestyle is possible, even if it doesn't happen overnight.

The zero waste movement isn't about perfection or keeping your trash in a jar, it's about a growing movement of people who are consciously reducing their waste and working to take better care of the planet.

Something that's very close to our heart is making the zero waste movement more accessible to all, and we felt it was important to take a moment to show you what zero waste looks like in real life. Here's the trash that each of us still makes.

Genevieve, Eco Collective's Founder and CEO The trash we still make as zero wasters

"I live a zero waste lifestyle, but there are still a few things I knowingly buy in plastic. I focus on reducing the waste that I choose to bring into my life, and although I am disappointed when I create accidental waste, focusing on what I can do makes it easier to let it go and stay positive, which makes the lifestyle easier to sustain.

Some of the things I still buy in plastic are PRETZELS (can't do without them), tortillas if I don't have time to make them, and cheese. I also buy vitamins in a plastic bottle. When I buy greens or other produce from the farmer's market or health foods stores, it often comes with twist ties or rubber bands. I choose to drink only local or organic wine, so sometimes I'll end up with a wine foil. Try as I might to request no receipts or pay with cash, I still get a paper receipt sometimes. The plastic ring is from a sparkling water.

I've found that keeping a positive perspective makes zero waste an empowering and rewarding lifestyle instead of feeling limiting. I've been on my zero waste journey since 2016 and I've reduced my trash by about 80%, but more importantly, I've become a part of a community of conscious and resourceful people who are doing their part to restore our beautiful planet."

Marimar, Eco Collective's Co-Founder and COO trash zero wasters still make

"Hello and welcome to my trash. 
My trash is pretty consistent. I'm privileged to have found a birth control method that works very well for me and that I can afford and access easily. I understand I can use other methods of birth control that create less waste (IUD), but for medical reasons and knowing this method has worked so well for me, I place my heath and family planning over the trash it creates each month.
A big creator of waste in my life are my contacts! I use monthly contacts instead of weekly or daily so I don't create as much trash. I also use saline solution, and while I can recycle it, I wanted to include it in my "trash" because it's a consistent disposable plastic I use that I cannot find a reusable alternative (so if anyone has any suggestions...). 
I finally used up all my Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer and while I don't wear make-up too much (lazy and I'm awful at it), it took me a while to go through it (#projectpan).
I love Twix. My boyfriend bought a bag of Twix, I ate one. Moment on the lips, forever in the landfill.
Even though I shop second hand, I can’t seem to avoid the plastic tags! But they make a great flexible tooth pick... anyone... anyone?
I bought a pair of headphone earbud covers online and they came in a small thin plastic case. I held on to it thinking I would find a way to repurpose but it brings me no joy so I am letting it go.
Lastly is my dog’s poop bags. I like to think they are her trash, but I guess I buy and use them, so they’re my poop bag...? There are a few alternatives to disposing your dog’s dookie pies, but sometimes when I’m out and about, I just don’t want to carry around her poop, I just don't. 
Not pictured: Produce stickers and all my receipts, I refuse them at stores, grocery stores, and restaurants but they are still my trash."

Summer, Eco Collective's Co-Owner and CTO

a zero waster's trash in real life

“I’m not quite a zero waster with a ‘trash jar’ yet, and I’m totally okay with that. To make zero waste last, I make exceptions and try not to be too hard on myself. When I do make trash, I try to choose responsible companies to support. A common theme running through the trash that I do make is that it’s mostly health-related, or it’s from fancy vegan foods, made by brands I want to support. 
The most common type of health-related trash I make is condoms and wrappers from Sustain, a brand that uses responsibly sourced rubber. Yep, now you’re glad I don’t keep a trash jar, right? I stopped using hormonal birth control because I didn’t like the way it made me feel, and switched to the Fertility Awareness Method (read Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weschler if you want to learn about it), so I know what time of the month condoms are necessary, and when they’re not. I also haven’t been able to find a zero waste toothpaste with fluoride in it, and since I’m prone to cavities, I still buy fluoride toothpaste in a plastic tube. 
Since being vegan is the main way I reduce my environmental impact, I go easy on myself and treat myself to vegan delicacies, like Cocoyo, Miyokos butter, and a couple other innovative vegan foods not pictured here. One ingredient I’m careful to avoid is palm oil, which causes deforestation and species endangerment. Palm oil shows up in many processed foods, including most vegan butter and bath/cleaning products, sometimes under sneaky names that even I don’t always catch. At times, I’ll opt for packaged items when the alternative contains palm oil or animal ingredients. It’s a journey!”

Casey, Eco Collective Graphic Designer

Casey's trash

"As someone who is newer to the zero-waste community, I’m still learning and taking steps every single day. With that comes a lot of mishaps and slow progress. Weirdly enough, taking a step back and actually considering what I throw away weekly genuinely helps me understand my patterns and how much more aware I could be when I casually use plastic. Since I have roommates, most of the time things that can be recycled end up in the trash because of time, forgetfulness, or not thinking about how our trash can be divided. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m going to be perfect every week or that I’m not going to waste because it’s all about taking steps forward. But if I can start bringing awareness to my everyday choices, my zero-waste goals will slowly and powerfully change. So do me a favor and check out your trash every once and awhile!"


Anya, Eco Collective Photographer and Retail Associate

Her trash isn't pictured but we wanted to include her perspective!

"I honestly try not to be too hard on myself if I make trash, and I recognize that I have my own constraints. A very limited budget, not having a car, eating a vegan diet, the list goes on. All of this can be tough when trying to be more zero waste. However, questions I always ask myself, especially when food shopping is that, “Is this the most ethical purchase I can make at this point in life? Is this the most ethical purchase I can make with my budget? Is the product vegan? Is it recyclable or compostable? Does the company have fair and ethical practices/sourcing? Is this product reducing potential food waste?” And if I can answer “yes" to a couple of these questions then I try not to sweat it. Nobody is perfect, so I'm not going to stress trying to be." 

Sarah, Eco Collective Retail Associate

trash a zero waster still makes

“I don’t believe it’s possible or sustainable to give up everything at once. I make better choices everyday, really. I have noticed as of late I’ve been throwing away so much less and it feels good, but I do still throw things away. Something obvious would be my dogs food bag. That is the food the vet recommends so of course for now that’s my only option. I also still use plastic dental sticks because my dentist wants me to do that alongside flossing. Until I’m clear, it’s my only option. I still have painters tape which I’ve used for labels on my glass jars for years. Another thing I noticed are the plastic paint pens I use. They are a huge part of my art. I’ve been able to find refills but of course those also come in plastic. It’s okay if you can’t give it all up now. You don’t have to be perfect just make better choices within your means.”

The moral of the story

This blog was fun to put together, because if you look at our trash, you learn a little about each of us. Sadly, our landfill waste is our footprint, permanently pressed into the earth. But with a little time and care, we have reduced our footprint to have such a smaller impact on our great Mother. That's what we're about here at Eco Collective, and we believe in the power of community to make change. It's not perfect, but it's positive. Let's keep it real, folks.