“Going green” is a journey, and while some manage to stay waste free by making everything they need form scratch with bulk raw material and their bare hands, others are working at rethinking the products they use towards healthier, more eco-conscious choices, but are still buying manufactured consumer goods.
In the latter instance, why not pushing the progress a step farther by combining our effort to choose better for the Earth and us, with consuming less (aka saving money) via a no-waste approach? Indeed, a lot of waste is due to not fully extracting all content from its packaging, meaning it IS avoidable. Different types of products require different tactics, but there’s always a way to “get in and get it all out”! Here are 5 techniques, tackling most mainstream forms of commercial packages. If put in practice, we can bring a drastic amount of waste down and get closer to zero, waste-haters’ favorite number!
1- Flatten-out, roll-up, harvest, repeat
With tubes, foil pouches or any flexible, foldable products, this is likely the best method to get all the goop out. Think everyday home products like hand soap refills, personal care products like toothpaste, skincare & cosmetic tubes, food items like mayonnaise tubes, and many others including children’s crafty plastic paint or glitter tubes. Simply flatten out the packaging starting at the end opposite the opening and keep going until all the content is out. Depending on the product and usage frequency, get everything out and store what’s not needed in a reusable container (don’t we all have empty glass jars at home?), or simply repeat tactic with each use until the package is completely flat and empty. Fond of gadgets? Plenty exist and claim to help with getting the last drop out, like The Container Store’s Squeeze Ease. How about this instead: A glass bottle of shaving cream can held upright works wonders to flatten out those toothpaste or cleanser/moisturizer tubes. Once a tube is completely flat, cut open the opening end and scrape the inside for extra usage days. it takes a little DIY crafty work but the satisfaction is priceless.
2- Upside down, pour, repeat
When dealing with rigid packagings, turning them upside down is the way to go. Bottles are a great example of products perfectly fitted for that method. There too, gadget assistance is promising ease of implementation, like MyBotto, a simple, efficient stand that old bottles upside down, until all the liquid is out. Of course, keeping your bottle straight and upside down between anything from books to other bottles, to canisters, whatever’s around in the kitchen, does work too…
3- Cutting and scraping
For hybrid shaped containers made of semi rigid or flexible (plastic tubes again) material and a typically too narrow rim/opening to allow for a spatula (or if tiny ones like the Spatty can get in but can’t help because it is a large package) or our hand to get inside, the best way in is to cut then scrape the product left inside. Simply collect the product and store in a jar-type container for later use so it does not dry out.
4- Water diluting
Adding water to the original product and keep using in a more diluted form until the container is empty works really well with various types of products and can be used following the upside down method. Just to make sure everything has been used. If cooking and making a sauce, diluting vinegar, oil, ketchup, mustard is fine. Works with moisturizing creams and cleansers too since water is part of the ingredients needed to get the end benefit. Same with home products like laundry detergents. So easy to avoid waste with such products!
5- Creative crafting
Sometimes it takes some thinking to find a way in those tricky-shaped products. If a packaging does not fit the typical norms for material or structure and defeats tips 1 to 4, let’s get some real thinking going before calling it quit. There has to be a way in. Here’s an example, worth sharing because it is about one of the most widely used daily products: deodorants. Hating that annoying feeling when getting to the point of rubbing the plastic edge against our underarms even though we can tell there’s much more product left inside! Well, see if this works next time (it did with the Secret brand type): Unscrew the bottom, force a pencil under the platform and uncover a good extra inch of product. Please note that this is by no means an endorsement of that brand of deodorants, at all. What it is an encouragement to is to be ingenuous and not throw out a product once it becomes trickier to get the goop out! All you need is to unleash your waste-avoiding creative potential.
So why is it important to get that last dollop out of the box? As mentioned in the beginning, it’s a healthy zero waste practice and since you paid for that product, you might as well get all the benefit of it. It also delays our next purchase and over the long run, reduce the number of packages we consume (and have to deal with once empty) and the associated environmental cost due to both transportation and resulting emissions. And don’t count on manufacturers to favor easy product flow over design appeal or cost (two main reasons consumers pick one product over another) because the more we buy… the more they sell! But just as important is the realization that such simple effort to get all content out allows us to then be able to correctly recycle (clean empty package) or reuse the container, closing the much needed green loop.
Finally let’s not forget the thrill from these lightbulb moments when we realize how we could get more out of an atypical packaging. Any other tried-and-true methods you use that you could add to this list? Half of us consumers try to stretch the usage of individual products (check out this chart showing average waste per product type), let’s bring THAT number up!