Simple low-waste swaps for Earth Day

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With each purchase at Ren Market, owner Kendra Dean hopes to eliminate a little more plastic.

The low-waste shop in the Lincoln Park Craft District makes it easier for people to be earth-friendly. But minimizing waste doesn’t have to cost you.

"Zero waste or low waste a lot of times is viewed as something that is only accessible for people who have more money, higher socioeconomic status," Dean said. "Everybody’s heard the term, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And what you can change that to is Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, which doesn’t affect your wallet negatively at all."

She says the first thing to do is quit buying what you don’t need. From there, start with the areas that fill up the trash can.

"Oftentimes, the places in the house that create the most waste are the kitchen and the bathroom," Dean said.

She carries products that can be swapped, even on a low budget. At the grocery store, she suggests keeping produce loose or picking up some cotton mesh produce bags that can be reused.

Another swap is ditching Ziplocs for hardy, reusable bags. Ren Market has a brand called Stasher.

"You can throw them in the dishwasher, you can freeze them, you can even sous vide in them," Dean said.

In the bathroom, she suggests a swap in the shower.

"Some of our most popular items are our shampoo and conditioner bars. These are shampoo and conditioner without the bottle," she said.

According to Dean, they last 60-100 washes.

If you want to quit the plastic bottles of laundry detergent too, she has bulk options for people to fill up their own containers. Or she carries laundry sheets that look like dryer sheets but are actually laundry soap to be tossed in the washing machine with the clothes.

And when you’re ready to dry, leave the dryer sheets behind for wool dryer balls.

"A lot of people have actually heard about them, and a good number of people use them. I think they’re fantastic," Dean said. "I recommend using at least three in your dryer."

If spring cleaning is in your future, Ren Market features a wall of tap handles, each filled with a different cleaning solution. Dean says the refill station is not only earth-friendly but also wallet-friendly.

"To fill up a 16-oz. bottle, it’s about $4," she said.

She encourages people who feel intimidated by the thought of trying to go zero-waste to just take some of these simple steps to start.