Waste Reduction Recipes for the Happy Healthy Home

I made it 2 feet from shore before almost tipping over…do not attempt!
Much better…paddled one tire at a time to a pick up point.
The haul from 1 hour on Lake Odessa in Louisa County

New place, same passion! Hello friends, I am now working in Iowa for Louisa County Conservation as a naturalist and I just hosted a waste reduction workshop for the public. I put together some waste reduction recipes that I wanted to share plus some not so fun facts about why we are even alarmed by plastic waste.

Why Reduce Plastic Waste?  As a society we create an enormous amount of waste in our day to day lives. Plastic waste is the worst culprit polluting our land, water and air.

How much are we using?

  • In 2019, over 400 million tons of plastic were produced. Half is destined as single -use products.
  • 500 million plastic straws are used every day in the United States. That’s enough to circle the Earth twice.
  • 1 million disposable water bottles are made every minute of every day globally.

Why not recycle?

  • 91% of all plastics are NOT recycled. In fact, Plastic cannot be recycled (endlessly remade into the same product). Only glass, paper and aluminum can be recycled. Plastic #1, #2 and #5 can be downcycled into a usable product one time where suitable markets exist.

Where is it going?

  • Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. The EPA reports that “every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”
  • 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste currently covers 40% of our oceans, causing both ecological damage and harm to wildlife.
  • About 89% of the plastic in our waterways is single use: cigarette butts, plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic lids, straws and stirrers, other types of plastic bags, and foam take-away containers.

What are the impacts?

  • Marine animals both ingest and get tangled up in plastic. This can lead not just to injuries but also painful deaths. 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals die each year from eating plastic.
  • Petroleum plastic is a byproduct of refining oil and gas. This process causes air pollution and contributes to the climate change crisis.

Luckily there are a number of ways to reduce plastic waste

  • Try making cleaning products and food from scratch. For example, if everyone made their own laundry detergent from the recipe below, we would eliminate 1 billion single use plastic jugs. We could also save truck fuel (for transporting liquid detergent) and CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 27 million cars off the road a day or planting 9 million trees! Wow!
  • Try to eliminate single use plastic from your life (yes, it’s daunting but so worth it!)
    • Reusable water bottle, shopping bags, and take-out containers.
    • Choose fruits and vegetable not wrapped in plastic when possible.
    • Choose store-bought beverages and foods processed in paper, glass and metal.
  • Support products that use less plastic packaging. Consumer choices make a big difference.

Please let me know any creative ways you have discovered to reduce plastic waste in your home. Please feel free to share any of this information. Happy creating!

Laundry Detergent: safe for HE washers


  • 4 oz bar soap grated (equals about 2 cups)- use Castile soap either homemade or Dr. Bronner’s, Fels Naptha, or Ivory
  • 2 cups baking soda (Dollar General sells huge box for cheap)
  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 1-2 cups Borax


  1. Mix it all up and store in a 2 quart container
  2. To use: 2 TBSP per large heavy load
  3. Always put powder in before laundry- works in all temperatures
  • For at home: the above recipe is great for a family of 2. If you have a bigger family, double it! Some folks use a 5 gallon container, others use large metal popcorn containers.
  • Enjoy the savings and knowing that you are reducing waste!!!

Natural Liquid Dish Soap Recipe


  • 1/2 cup Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds
  • 1 1/2 cups distilled water or boiled tap water
  • 1 TBSP washing soda (found in the laundry aisle)
  • 1 TBSP table salt and 3 TBSP hot water


  1. Boil about 2 cups of water in a tea pot or microwave.
  2. In a cereal bowl, dissolve 1 TBSP salt in 3 TBSP hot water- stir for about 30 seconds
  3. In a separate bowl, dissolve 1 TBSP washing soda in 1 1/2 cups very hot distilled water- stir for about 30 seconds- let cool completely
  4. Add the Sal Suds to a dish soap dispenser. Add cooled washing soda mixture.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt mixture to the dish soap and shake vigorously. It will turn cloudy and thicken.

Note: Over time this liquid dish soap may thicken a little too much. If this happens, add a little more water until it is the desired consistency again. It also helps to just shake it before use. I have now reused my dish soap container 7 times in one year!

Another Homemade Dish Soap: A Natural Recipe
  • 1 ¾ cups boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp Borax (found in the laundry soap aisle)
  • 1 Tbsp grated bar soap (castile bar soap like Dr. Bronners or Ivory)
  • 15-20 drops essential oils or fresh lemon juice- citrus cuts grease
  1. Heat water to boiling.
  2. Combine borax and grated bar soap in a medium bowl. Pour hot water over the mixture. Whisk until the grated soap is completely melted.
  3. Allow mixture to cool on the countertop for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. Dish soap will gel upon standing.
  4. Transfer to a soap dispenser and add essential oils or lemon juice. Shake well to combine.

Notes: I have not perfected this recipe yet but I am motivated to try! Zero waste solution; uses soap bits. Reduces plastic waste and saves money! May not work as well as the other recipe. Still experimenting with using maybe ½ cup grated bar soap. I keep a jar of baking soda under the sink to sprinkle on greasy dishes. Works magically!

Simple Homemade Chocolate Sauce

from barefeetinthekitchen.com


  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


  1. In a cold saucepan, whisk together the cocoa and the sugar until all lumps are removed. Add the salt and the water and bring to a boil over medium to medium-high heat. 
  2. Reduce to a simmer stirring constantly. Simmer for about 30 seconds and then remove from heat. Let cool and then add vanilla. Pour into a 16 oz glass jar and refrigerate until needed. Enjoy!

Notes: The chocolate sauce will be very thin when it finishes boiling, but it will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Reduces plastic waste, saves money, and has no added chemicals! Good for the environment, good for your pocketbook and better for you.

Ocean Waves Bath Salts


  • 1 cup Epsom salts
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • Food coloring
  • 3 TBSP dehydrated milk (optional)
  • Essential oil (optional)


  • Mix the salts in a mixing bowl
  • Whisk in (or use a fork) 8 drops of food coloring if you want just one color. For layering colors, divide salt mixture in half and add about 4 drops of food coloring each
  • Add optional dehydrated milk
  • Add optional essential oil
  • Layer bath salts into your special jar
  • Decorate your jar however you like… add a label.

Notes: this makes a wonderful gift! Try reusing a plastic jar if you are worried about glass breaking in the bathroom. My daughter loved making this and using a handful in her bath every day.

Grandpa Waldo’s Baking Mix

Ingredients for 1 quart jar

  • 3 cups flour (white or a blend of whatever you like)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt


  • mix dry ingredients together and store in a 1 quart jar
  • Make you own flour blend by adding cornmeal, whole wheat flour, or ground flax seed. I like to always use ½ white flour and ½ cornmeal- depends on your tastes!
  • to make 8 pancakes
    •  mix 1 cup baking mix and 1 egg plus enough milk to create desired thickness
    • Grandpa takes an electric skillet and fries bacon first (325) then leaves some of the grease to make the pancakes! Best pancakes ever!

Notes: less plastic packaging, less money, more freedom!

Further resources:

Plastics 101/ National Geographic; excellent science-based story of plastic. 6 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggh0Ptk3VGE

Plastic Pollution: How Humans are Turning the World into Plastic; incredible. 9 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS7IzU2VJIQ

The Story of Plastic. April 22, 2020. Full length mind blower. https://www.storyofplastic.org/watch

Plastic Wars. March 31, 2020. Frontline. 55 minutes. Plastic Industry professional marketers are still trying to tell us it’s our fault for not figuring out how to recycle what cannot be recycled. They are still trying to sell solid waste agencies million dollar sorting machines. Bottom line; there is no market for this much plastic and refining oil to make petroleum plastic is contributing to climate change and planetary destruction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dk3NOEgX7o

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