Zero Waste and Roommates

Fun fact: I live with three roommates. 

Can you reduce your waste while you have roommates?

They want to write a rebuttal post titled "Living with a Zero Waster," which could be pretty cute.... could being the opportune word. 

My Roommates from Left to Right: Peter, Justin, and Dylan

My Roommates from Left to Right: Peter, Justin, and Dylan

I've read a lot of emails from people lamenting their roommate situations. They feel as though they can't achieve zero waste while having other non-zero wasters living with them. While it presents a different set of challenges, it's far from impossible. I want to give you sneak peak at my situation and hopefully it will inspire you. 

what to split:

BILLS: We split all of the bills. Including the trash bill.

DISPOSABLES: Justin and I don't chip in for paper towels or toilet paper. Our roommates still use paper towels, but I'm noticing them use rags a lot more. Justin and I still buy toilet paper, but we don't buy much since installing the bidet. We buy 100% recycled paper or bamboo pulp. It comes wrapped in paper and we store it in the built-in in the bathroom. 

CONSUMABLES: I make all of the cleaning products, and they're open for the whole house to use. We all buy our own food, except Justin and I make our meals together. I'm the only person who cooks on a daily or even weekly basis. So, the spices and olive oil are pretty much solely mine. You'll have to make this call depending on how often you and your roommates use them. 

I would offer to buy all of them from bulk bins, and have them split the price with me if we both cooked a lot. 

separate spaces:

We have separate cupboards, separate shelves in the fridge and freezer, separate bathrooms, and separate bedrooms.

This is why you never see a full picture of my fridge. Two of the shelves aren't mine. Having separate spaces really helps me. If there were packaged goods all in my space, it would make things a lot more difficult. There's a peace and joy that comes from how clear and uncluttered my space is. If I had packaging encroaching in my space, it would rob me from a lot of that joy and peace.

I like having my own bathroom. There's no trash can in the bathroom, and my medicine cabinet looks clear and uncluttered. Justin still uses conventional deodorant which is why he says, "I'm not zero waste." But, that's the only thing he buys in packaging. I still think he counts as zero waste. 

Everyone can participate in zero waste, it's a goal not an ultimatum. 

shared spaces:

We all share the living, dining, kitchen, and laundry room. Which means we still have a trash can. It would be so much easier and prettier to not have a trash can in the kitchen. Out of habit, I still sometimes go to the trash can. Then remember I'm supposed to put it in the jar. I do refuse to take out the trash, which I feel is totally justifiable. 

I'm the only person that really cares about how the house looks. I was given free range. Justin obliged in garage sales, thrift store hunting, and late night craigslist pick-ups to decorate our little home. Almost everything we have is second hand. 

Photo by Andrew Burton from an article by The Guardian. The picture is linked to the article.

Photo by Andrew Burton from an article by The Guardian. The picture is linked to the article.

A typical evening involves crowding into the living room, snacking with real plates, someone playing a video game, Nala fighting for a spot on the couch, and I'll probably be blogging.... this may or may not be happening right this second.


I supplied all of the dishes, cutlery, and cups for the house. They were all bought second hand, except my set of china given to me for graduation. We started out using those, but they're really fragile. After having four plates break and a roommate who doesn't know his own strength, they've been relegated to picture taking and special occasions. 


Everyone is welcome to use the cloth napkins, dish rags, mason jars, and reusable shopping bags. When a rag or napkin is dirty, I throw it into the bottom of the washing machine. Whoever does the next load of laundry will wash the rags and napkins.

They're also more than welcome to use my compost bin. Since they aren't big cooks, they don't have a lot of food scraps, but I've definitely noticed them using it when they do. 


Zero waste is my personal choice, no one else's. I don't expect anyone to join me. But, because of how normal, easy, and economical zero waste choices are I have seen a change in my roommates. They're using dish towels and cloth napkins. They're using homemade cleaners and looking at their consumption differently. 

They know I write a blog, but I don't talk about zero waste. I don't tell them what they should do. I just do my thing, and if it interests them - they do it too. 

They will probably always buy Stoffer's lasagna and mac and cheese, but they're still refusing so many disposable items. I'm really proud that our house of four only takes out one 12oz trash bag a week. I'm super proud of my boys! 

Leading by example is the best thing you can do. People will take notice and start to make small changes in their own life. And, small changes over long periods of time done by many will lead to HUGE impacts. 

Do you have roommates? What have some of your biggest challenges been? 

Zero Waste Dog

I love my pup more than anything. But, going zero waste with a dog has been challenging. I would like for you to meet my fluff ball, Nala. We rescued her at one, and she has severe separation anxiety.

We do almost everything as a family. She comes to work, out to eat, and even to the movies! We like to go to the drive in theatre where she's queen of the backseat. 

Everything you need to know about going zero waste with a dog from

Buying dog food is one of the biggest zero waste challenges. Dogs love food. Well, most dogs. Mine isn't very food motivated, except when it comes to, ya know - our food.

When we rescued Nala, she was severely under weight and would refuse to eat. So, we would mix a couple of tablespoons of wet dog food in with her kibble to entice her to eat.

I think she got a little spoiled; because, she won't eat dry kibble. Now, I just drizzle homemade stock over the kibble, and she loves it! As far as kibble goes, I was left with three options. 

Everything you need to know about going zero waste with a dog from
  • Buy it in Bulk: The only place that sells dog food in bulk is Rainbow. I have heard that it is excellent quality. But, it isn't convenient. I'm hardly ever in the area, and the drive or train or ferry ride would make a 2 to 4 hour trip.

  • Make it: I don't feel comfortable doing that at all. I thought I could handle it, but the vitamins and minerals dogs need are very different from our own. I was reading a study where they asked 100 vets to come up with a meal plan to meet all of a dogs nutritional needs and only 7 had complete nutrition. 7! Me = Not Qualified.

  • Buy it with Recyclable Packaging: This of course is not ideal, but I know my dog is getting a high quality food and all of her daily nutritional values are being met. I love Open Farm! They’re partnered with Terracycle.

Terracycle will take packaging back and make sure that it is recycled responsibly.

Treats have been the easiest switch. It's simple to make treats, but most spoil quickly. I'm looking for a good treat that has a longer shelf life than 2 days.

As soon as I find it, I will share! Our local pet boutique has treats in bulk that are made with decent ingredients, and pretty much every single PetCo has a treat bar. Just bring your own bag to fill up.

Goon face.

Goon face.

This will be really specific to your dog. I know Nala will destroy a stuffed animal in 3 seconds flat. So, we don't buy them. If your dog likes stuffed animals, they're making some really cute ones from compostable fabric like hemp! My mom, bought Nala a hemp squirrel.

(Which she surprisingly hasn't destroyed) Nala is a chewer, so we try to stick to bones. We buy toys meant to last. For us that means femur bones and antlers. I've found both of these bones with minimal packaging at the pet store. When the antlers get to small for her, I pass them along to a friend's smaller dog.

Everything you need to know about going zero waste with a dog from

ESSENTIALS Leash, Harness, Collar, Bowls, Kennel, Beds
My biggest piece of advice is buy to last. We bought Nala's harness, collar, and leash when we first got her, and I don't plan on buying another one for the next several years. If one falls apart, we will look for one made out of a compostable material. We have 5 bowls in total. One stainless set for home and work (100% recyclable!!) and one ceramic water bowl for the bedroom at night. 

Her kennel is made of solid steel and will outlast all of us. It should repair easily if anything does happen, and I will pass it along to another dog when we don't have a need for it. Her bed is supposed to be chew proof and dig proof. So, far it's lived up to its claims.  I'm really hoping it's with us for the next decade.

Everything you need to know about going zero waste with a dog from

You cannot leave dog poop on the sidewalk. Ever. Ever. Ever. Pick up after your dog, please. Unfortunately, there's no perfect solution to this problem. We typically let her go in the backyard and then shovel it into a hole. When we're at work, we let her go in the tall brush where no one ever walks. But, if she ever poops while we're out and about, we always have a bag. Here's where you have options. (I've used the first two)

  • Cornstarch: They say they're made from a cornstarch polymer. I don't know if they're mixed plastic. It claims to biodegrade. I've buried one to see what actually happens. (I'll let you know in about a year!)

  • Flushpuppies: Made of a polyvinyl alcohol that's supposed to be certified compostable and dissolve in water. Anything left will be filtered out by the water plant like toilet paper. I called the water plant to see if this was true and to get their opinion. They didn't know. However, you cannot use these with anything too wet or when it's raining because the bag can start to dissolve.

  • Toilet Paper: I've heard some people take toilet paper on their walk and then flush it at home. Which wouldn't be practical for me.

Everything you need to know about going zero waste with a dog from

As a note: I want to say dog poop can be flushed you cannot flush cat poop.
Our water filtration system is not capable of filtering cat feces.

How do you keep your dog zero waste? How do you deal with poop?