If you follow trends in eco-conscious living, odds are you’re familiar with the concept of zero waste.
More or less self-explanatory, it describes a lifestyle that’s beneficial to the planet by creating as little waste as possible.
Naturally, participation in zero waste varies by level of intensity. Some keep a modest compost bin next to the sink. On the more extreme end, there are those who can fit an entire year’s worth of refuse into one jar.
Much of the rhetoric in this movement focuses on using, reusing, and repurposing items as opposed to letting them end up in a landfill. At the same time, there is a growing market of companies offering products to consumers under the ‘sustainability’ tag. A number of these items are aimed at replacing single use or plastic products.
Despite being well-intentioned, the problem with these brands is that their products are often price exclusionary. Not everyone can afford the water canteens made from repurposed plastic bottles or the brushes made from recycled paper. This makes sustainable living seem more akin to luxury living. It also overlooks the inexpensive—and cost-free—habits we can all adopt to contribute to the planet’s well-being.
Luckily, there are brands breaking the oh-so-expensive mold. One such brand is Chicago-based Zefiro. It’s founder, Carley Pulford, says she got introduced to the world of sustainability by accident.
“I was house sitting for a friend in Vancouver,” Pulford says, “and she asked me to head over to their local refill store to get some more detergent.” Refill stores aren’t as common in the US, but the basic principle is that they sell household necessities in bulk. Customers bring their own jars and pay for what they need by weight. Thus, the need for unnecessary or single use packaging is eliminated.
Carley was entranced. “My friend introduced me to how much unnecessary plastic I was using, and it completely changed my thinking.” Upon returning to the US, Carley looked for ways to live a similar lifestyle, but was disappointed. There was no one-stop-shop where she could purchase an array of household materials for sustainable living. Most of the one-off items available were just too expensive.
So, entrepreneurial gears grinding, she created Zefiro. At their online store, customers can find anything from toothbrushes to resealable bags; all reusable and reasonably priced. What started as an idea inspired by a friend evolved into a nation-wide footprint. Zefiro has products available online and is on shelves in 14 states and four provinces in Canada.
Four of the items on her site stood out as inexpensive, simple swaps that could dramatically reduce household waste. We asked Carley for a bit of commentary on them.
1. Silicon Bags
These aim to replace single use plastic bags. Use them for storing things in the freezer or to transport your packed lunch.
2. Wool Dryer Balls
“This is one of the few items that requires a sort of upfront investment,” Carley notes. “They’re more expensive than fabric softeners, but they’re free of harmful chemicals and last 1000 washes.” These are made from wool and are thus 100% biodegradable. Carley includes a recipe for an essential oil blend with each purchase. Add a few drops of the mix and clothes will come out smelling dryer-fresh.
3. Silicon Wraps
These can take the place of single use saran wrap. They stick to porcelain, glass, and ceramic, but not plastic or wood. Since they’re silicon, consider them able to be reused infinitely. According to Carley, they can also serve as baking mats. Just be sure to fully clean any oil or grease off before you try to use them again to stick to anything.
4. The French Bag
This bag uses little fabric and stretches to fit whatever is on the shopping list. It’s sturdy enough to last and is also 100% biodegradable for when its time is up.
Carley says all Zefiro products are shipped in repurposed packaging. That includes old envelopes and Lagunitas boxes given to her by her neighbors. All this in mind, it’s easy to understand why Zefiro’s slogan is “Where Sustainability Meets Affordability.” Hers is one of several brands making sustainable living more accessible.
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