23 Tips for a Zero Waste Home Office

A little over a year ago, I decided to create a more sustainable, zero waste lifestyle. As a writer, time at the desk is a huge part of my life, so figuring out how to create a zero waste home office was a top priority from the beginning—and, honestly, one of the easiest parts of my life to hack.

Although for quite some time I have been slowly sliding into a more responsible awareness, I didn’t fully understand the importance of my shopping choices and waste contributions until I started trying to find more routine household products that could be reused instead of tossed (e.g., handkerchiefs instead of tissues). About a year ago, I made a personal commitment to produce as little trash as possible—especially plastic trash (which basically sticks around forever and forever). Since then, I’ve eliminated as much of my trash as possible (via some of the tips I’ll talk about in a minute) and tried to be as responsible as possible in disposing of unavoidable waste (via composting and recycling).

When I made these commitments, I expected to feel good about myself, maybe live a healthier life, and hopefully “make the world a better place” (as my sister is always telling her kids). What I didn’t expect was that I would love the zero waste lifestyle. Seriously, I am a total addict.

I love the simplicity and the beauty that have come to the forefront of my life as I’ve become more mindful of my lifestyle choices. I love that I’ve eliminated ugly plastic “essentials” (like shampoo bottles and dish brushes) from my life. I love that I have an easy metric that helps me decide not to buy junk I don’t need. It’s weird, but I even love washing out bottles and cans before putting them in the recycling bins.

There are still challenges I’m working on. I’m not zero waste (if there really is such a thing). Particularly, I’m still trying to figure out how to buy food with (way) less packaging. Although I recycle most of my “non-recyclable” kitchen waste through TerraCycle, I realize it’s still not as sustainable as avoiding the packaging in the first place. Still, I’m pleased that so far I’ve reduced my actual send-it-to-the-landfill trash to, on average, one tiny bag a month.

Which is all to say: there are a lot of heavy-duty reasons why it’s important for all of us to be more mindful of the waste we’re creating, but for me the top reason is joy. I love this lifestyle. For me, it’s a move toward health. Making conscious waste choices is no different from making conscious eating choices. They both require discipline and some self-growth. But they’re both deeply rewarding.

Anyway, enough preaching. For those interested, I promised last winter that I’d share a post about my top suggestions for creating a zero waste home office. For me, the office was one of the easiest transitions to make, since I was already creating very little waste in that area of my life. Below are my tips for making sustainable choices in your writing life.

Buy (or Bum) Tools That Are Eco-Friendly Choices

1. Highlighter Pencils

I outline longhand in a notebook and use a color-coded highlighting system to organize my notes. But highlighters, of course, are plastic (and toxic). Fortunately, a super-easy switch to make is to highlighter pencils. These are basically just giant colored pencils, but they work just as well as the markers.

2. Aluminum Pencil Sharpener

I bummed mine off my mom (who might have gotten it from my granddad). Instead of buying a big plastic sharpener, I keep this one handy for topping off my pencils. (I also have a wooden sharpener that came with my highlighter pencils, which was great since they’re too fat for the standard-sized sharpener.)

3. Stainless Steel Scissors

Ditch the plastic handles for an all-steel version. I haven’t actually made this switch myself because somehow I already own a bazillion scissors—which in itself is a good reminder to use what you have, even if it is plastic, instead of buying something new just because it’s “zero waste.”

4. Paper Tape

Most tape is plastic. Whether you’re mailing review copies of your books or just taping the flap on an envelope that just won’t stick, opt for a paper alternative for packing or wrapping. I haven’t made this switch yet either, but will as soon as I use up my current supplies.

5. Compostable Phone Case

When I finally got a smart phone last year (yes, I was the last person on the planet to get one), I bought a wooden case off Etsy. I thought it was a better alternative, but half of it ended up being plastic. When next I need a case (which will be a bummer, because I love this one), I’ll be looking into compostable options made from eco-friendly materials.

6. E-Books

Although digital downloads aren’t without their own footprint, it’s clear that e-books don’t require the same output of physical resources as do paperbacks and hardcovers. I’m not a solid e-book user (I also use Paperback Swap and, of course, the library), but when I’m buying new, I generally opt for the digital version.

7. Wooden Coasters

Gotta have my coffee (or kombucha) handy when writing! There are lots of good options available for coasters (including odds and ends found around the house, if you’re so inclined). If you’re buying new, opt for a natural material such as wood, instead of plastic.

8. Beeswax Candles

I use a big three-wick candle for “dreamzoning” when it’s too cold or windy for an outside fire, and I like to have a small candle in the corner of my vision when writing in the evenings (or reading in the mornings). My research tells me beeswax candles far and away the healthiest choice—for both myself and the planet. In regards to health, soy wax is a decent runner-up (although its footprint is often problematic, depending on how it was sourced). If the candle doesn’t tell you what it’s made from, then it’s probably made from paraffin (a petroleum byproduct) or other chemicals. (Also, look for cotton wicks, as some others contain lead.)


9. Wooden/Natural Fiber Decor

In decorating your office, opt for furniture and decor made from natural materials, especially if you’re buying new. Look for hardwood furniture (not MDF or laminate—which are constructed with chemicals such as formaldehyde). If you need a rug, avoid polypropylene and nylon (read: plastic) choices and opt instead for wool, cotton, or jute. For decor, shop used (such as antique typewriters!) or find non-plastic alternatives (books!).

Buy Recycled

10. Recycled Pencils

Pencils in general aren’t so bad, since they’re made primarily from wood, but if you need to stock up, why not choose pencils made from recycled newspaper? Recycling your own trash is great, but the process only works if we’re also purchasing recycled materials. You could also check out these refillable pens and pencils made from grass rather than plastic.

11. Recycled Notebooks

You could, of course, opt out of using notebooks altogether in favor of no-paper options like your computer and phone. But, c’mon, we writers love our notebooks. Instead of kicking the habit (although it’s a good idea to only buy notebooks when you actually need them), make a conscious choice to find recycled alternatives. Avoid plastic covers—which include faux leather versions. I use fat ones for outlining and this slim version for my monthly budgeting. And I’m currently considering this lovely for collecting sayings. Or check out these journals made from stones rather trees.

12. Recycled Address Book

Technically, you could use one of the above notebooks if you need it for something like addresses. But you could also opt for a sweet little recycled version made specifically for the purpose.

Choose Tools You Can Reuse/Refill

13. Fountain Pen

When writing those longhand outlines, I’ve always used an ergonomic pen. I love it, but it goes through ink cartridges like nobody’s business. When I mentioned in my New Year’s goals post that I was thinking about trying a refillable fountain pen, awesome reader Glenn Cox sent me a pen and a bottle of ink (woot!). I haven’t completely made the transition but am committed to getting there.

14. Staple-less Stapler

Staples aren’t plastic, but they do interfere with recycling (so be sure to remove them before putting paper in the bin). Plus, if you can staple your papers without a staple, why not? I got my staple-less stapler used off eBay (since all the newer options are made of plastic). Never have to buy or reload staples again…

Shop Your Home (and Your Trash)

15. Use Junk Mail for Scratch Paper

Although I try to reduce unnecessary mail as much as possible, I still get the inevitable credit card offers, etc. After cutting out and throwing away the plastic address windows, I recycle what paper I can’t use and save the smaller scraps for scratch paper. Sometimes I’ll even cut up the bigger pieces to create little scene cards for outlines.

16. Save Rubber Bands

Occasionally, the mail carrier will strap all my mail together with a rubber band. I always save them against that rainy day when I really need a rubber band.

17. Use Old Devices

I still have a 2nd Gen iPad, the first one I ever bought. The hardware is too old to play nice with the latest iOS updates, and I’ve been thinking about replacing it for years. But the truth is I only use it to run the Scrivener app when outlining away from my computer. And that still runs fine. So why replace it?

E-waste is a huge problem. Resist all those commercials telling you to buy a new phone/tablet/computer just because there is a new one. Instead, use every last drop of juice in the ones you have. (And then dispose of them responsibly.)

Cultivate Good Habits

18. Buy Used

I have several rules of thumb I use when deciding what and how to purchase.

The first rule is to wait. I don’t have an official time limit, but unless it’s an item I really need, I try not to buy things the minute I put them on my list. I think about it for a while, until I’m sure I really do need it and that I’m making the best choice for what to buy and how to buy it.

The second rule is to avoid plastic—both in the product itself and (often, more sneakily) in the packaging. As mentioned above, I look for non-plastic alternatives. As one example, when I needed a laptop stand, I bought a wooden alternative from Etsy.

The third rule is, when I can’t find a non-plastic alternative (and sometimes even then) I, buy used. I shop garage sales in the summer, buy clothes secondhand (mostly from ThredUp), and look to eBay before Amazon.

19. Request No-Plastic Shipping

Although I try to buy locally whenever possible, the fact that I’m super-picky about what I buy and how it’s packaged means I often end up looking online. There are several problems with purchasing from the Internet. One is the carbon footprint created by the package’s need to be transported to my door.

The other problem is that one of my biggest remaining sources of trash comes from plastic mailers and packaging. Whenever possible, I shop from responsible sources that don’t use plastic packaging (such as Package Free Shop, Wild Minimalist, Fat and the Moon, The Good Fill, Tiny Yellow Bungalow, and Life Without Plastic). When this isn’t possible (such as when I’m shopping on eBay or Etsy), I always try to remember to add a note to the seller, requesting they ship without plastic if at all possible. More often than not, sellers are happy to oblige.

20. Use Power Strips You Can Turn Off When Not in Use

Phantom energy” refers to the energy some devices pull just from being plugged in. Anything that runs on a remote, features a light, or uses a big “wall wart” plug may be pulling power even when not in use. A good way to combat this (for your pocketbook as much as anything) is to either unplug unused devices (think: your toaster) or plug into a power strip you can turn off (this is great for big devices such as your computer and TV). My TV’s strip is on only when I’m watching something in the evenings, and my computer’s strip is on only during the work day. (While you’re at it, get strips that will protect your devices against power surges.)

21. Borrow Equipment When Possible

I don’t own a printer or a scanner. In part this is because I ruddy hate the things (and they hate me back). But it’s also because I use them only a few times a year. On the rare occasion when I need to print a contract or something that’s just a page or two, I use a relative’s. If I have a big printing job, I’ll take it to Staples.

22. Don’t Print Unless Absolutely Necessary

The big postscript to the above tip is to simply avoid printing whenever possible. As noted, I hate printing anyway, so this isn’t a big sacrifice. About once per book, I find I do need to see my words on the page in order to properly edit them, but mostly I edit on the computer or on my Kindle.

When I do need to print, I use an “eco” font like Spranq Eco Sans, which uses less ink than normal fonts. I also downsize the font as much as practical to reduce both ink and paper usage.

23. Play Downloaded Music Instead of Streaming

Everything that happens on our devices and/or the Internet often seems “zero waste.” But it’s important to remember that even when we play something off the cloud, that data is still being stored on a physical hard drive powered by electricity. In short: everything we do on the computer requires physical resources of some kind.

It’s so easy to play music on Pandora, YouTube, or Spotify instead of off the hard drive. But it requires less resources all around to play music you downloaded once rather than music (or video) you’re constantly streaming. I try to purchase music I like (either a digital download or a used CD), put them on my devices, and play off the hard drive instead of streaming. This isn’t a hard and fast rule for me, by any means, but it’s something I try to be aware of.


This list is, of course, far from complete. It’s just an inventory of the things I do or try to be aware of in making the lifestyle choices that are best for me and everyone else on the planet. I hope these ideas will inspire you to create or refine your home office into a waste-free paradise!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Have you tried a zero waste home office? Do you have any tips to add? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Interesting list, thanks.

    One major thing that you can do is to find computer hardware that most people regard as obsolete because it won’t run the latest version of whatever, and reload it with free open-source software which is much less resource hungry.

    For example replace Windows with Ubuntu Linux. The user interface is sufficiently similar that you should be up and running in about a day.

    Don’t worry about security, what is built into Linux is vastly better than most of the commercial stuff.

    Load Libre Office, which gives you a free word processor, spreadsheet and presentation package.

    Use Thunderbird as your mailer and Chrome as your browser. You now have full functionality on something which is reusing old hardware instead of scrapping it.

    Does it really work? I’ve been using it for about 20 years, and written five novels on it as well as running a business. I’ve had no malware problems in that time, and am compatible with almost anything else.

    Installation is now easy. Simply download an image off the net, boot it and follow the instructions. Updates are automatic, but only happen when you allow them.

    There was a time when open source required a certain amount of technical knowledge. I even wrote one of the standard textbooks to help people get started. Now it’s so easy that just about anyone can do an installation.

    • I like your approach to this. The one addendum I’d make is that Firefox is a far better browser choice than Chrome (not so much for ecological reasons as for privacy concerns). The maker, Mozilla, is a non-profit with a true desire to see information privacy and control over our data become possible for everyone. As far as performance, it’s not the slow resource hog you remember from years ago. Modern Firefox is competitive with the best of them, and is available on pretty much every device. It was an easy switch that I haven’t regretted!

    • Sadly, Scrivener stopped Linux support years ago. There are ways . . . But if you are married to Scrivener, I would pass on the Linux thing.

      If you are willing to move to Linux, Manuskript is not as fully-featured, but is a reasonable alternative. And personally, I write 90% of my stuff in Joplin (available for all platforms and mobile devices). It’s markdown based, so it will not generate a publishable document, but it is a great way to write, which is kinda the point.

      Anyway. Recycle that hardware!

      (Fedora Linux for me, in case that matters) 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s good to know!

  2. Great post! Lots of wonderful ideas for being eco-friendly. I’m curious about the stapleless stapler. What is the brand, and how does it work? (e.g. Some create a hole in the papers, while others hold them together through pressure.)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The brand is Chadwick. When I google it, all I come up with are “vintage” sales, so I don’t think they make them new anymore. Mine connects papers by punching half a hole.

      • Are they held about as securely as with regular staples? How many pages can you “staple” at once? I love the concept of never needing to refill!

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          No, probably not as secure as a staple. I’ve never needed to staple more than two or three pages, so not sure what the max is.

  3. Deborah Turner says

    Hubby and I have recycled everything for years, and usually only have enough trash to put the bin out once a month (and then it’s not full). I do have a printer, because I read better from paper than a screen (that usually gives me headaches). My suggestion with paper is to get recycled, if you can, and for drafts, print double-sided. I don’t always follow that, as I make notes on the back side of the sheets while I’m editing. We shred the used drafts for packing, or send it to a recycler for reuse. I also use three-ring binders for my notes; they last a long time and can be reused when the project is finished. (Yes, the covers are vinyl, but again, they last for years, if taken care of properly. I have some binders that are over 30 years old).

    Vegetable matter is always composted, and we recycle cans and bottles when we can. All of my storage containers are glass (though the lids are always plastic, a problem). My biggest gripe is that we used to be able to recycle plastic bottles, and now most recyclers aren’t taking them, so we’re forced to trash them. I do wish manufacturers made more containers in glass, which can be reused.

    I’m curious about your stapler.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      As mentioned in a previous comment, it’s a Chadwick stapler. It’s vintage, and I don’t think you can get them new. I bought mine used off eBay.

  4. Like your list. If I need to print something I often use the blank side of letters I receive in the mail or something I printed one-sided previously. This may go along with your item 15. Also printing double-sided can save paper.

  5. Love the tips and there are many I had not given any thought. Thanks much!

  6. Eric Troyer says

    Thanks for the tips! We’ve been moving in this direction for years and will continue to do so.

  7. On the topic of computers, add in a UPS, which is an uninterruptable power supply. They rank above surge protector strips, because in the case of a power outage your computer stays on and you can gracefully shut down your computer. Or just keep working, depending on how long the outage lasts. Some UPS systems have an outlet for your modem, so if you’re syncing your Scrivener novel to DropBox, then you keep your internet connection. I was syncing to DropBox so that I can work on my novel on the go with my laptop, as well as at home on my desktop. If you have a home server for backups, you’d connect it to the UPS as well.

    I have a UPS because a surge protector wasn’t enough to protect my computer a year ago, when a series of 30-second power outages bricked my system. No computer = no writing time for me. My TV and other non-essentials can make do with a surge protector 🙂

    On the topic of notebooks, I vary somewhat in that I’m trying to go with refillable notebook portfolios. Or notebook covers, I’m not sure what they’re called. I’m looking for something like the one I bought in the seventh grade, which I used to write a play. The thing has a pink vinyl cover, and inside is a spiral notebook that has a plain cardboard cover inside the cover flaps. Sadly, I don’t see a brand name on mine, but I think these were made by Mead, the same company as the notebooks in the link.

    I like the refillable option for notebooks, because most of my notes these days have to do with story plots or research, which I’d archive into Scrivener’s research folder anyway. Since I’d carry around the notebook in a purse or laptop bag, I want the cover to be sturdy, hence the portfolio covers.

    When I was a teenager my mother used to get these beautiful leatherbound planners as a gift from a church. They were about 9×7 inches, and each day in the planner had plenty of writing space, so I simply used them to write novels when Mom passed them to me. She’s not a planner type, but I’m in camp “repurpose” for usable items you might otherwise throw out.

    I like furniture to be made of real wood by default, simply because it makes it easy to stain them, or paint them with normal paints, as opposed to the steps you have to go through with synthetic materials. I’m into the concept of “heirloom quality,” where a thing can be passed down intact to the next generation. Ergo it can’t be made out of synthetic crap you have to replace in a few years. I’m frugal, so I’d rather spend a little more money on something that will endure, rather than less money on something I’d constantly need to replace because it’s not durable. I enjoyed a bedroom set mother had when she was a girl; stuff was made to last back then. That’s craftsmanship I wish were more commonplace these days.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yeah, I tried to paint a laminate desk. I made it work in the end, but it is not a project I recommend. :p

  8. Good morning, K.M.
    I like this post; it awakens the granola loving soul. I was about to share it, but noticed you didn’t have a Twitter share link anymore. This caused the gears in my head to spin, and I’m wondering if this was a strategic marketing decision. Then I thought: I wonder if K.M. has ever considered writing a guide or blogging about her SEO habits, and what you’ve learned about social marketing in your writing journey thus far. My final thought was: when is K.M. going to make the jump from podcasting to vlogging?

    Thank you for reading my stream of consciousness reply (#Salinger), I look forward to your thoughts,

    Joshua Cole

  9. Wow, I had no idea you were so eco-friendly!
    That’s really cool. I don’t think I’m anywhere near where you’re at, but I think it gives me something to aspire to. Not only that, bit it’s something I’m thinking will help when teaching our daughter how to be more responsible for her footprint in a world of overuse and waste.

    That wooden computer stand is super cool! Love how that was designed.
    What is a stapleless stapler? Never heard of that.
    Another idea to keep the waste down on the digital front is to replace the batteries in your laptops and tablets when they no longer hold a charge very long. I just replaced the battery in my laptop (which costs a measly $50 bucks) and installed it myself with easy on-line tutorials and saved my computer from being replaced (which I’m assuming is what most people do). iPad battery replacement is also a thing, so I’d look into that as well. Great sites like ifxit provide excellent diy tutorials and the equipment is super inexpensive!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Very smart about replacing the battery on a laptop instead of the whole thing.

      The stapleless stapler connects papers by punching a semi-complete hole. It makes a little tab that sticks out and holds everything together.

  10. Thanks much, I hadn’t thought of many of those tips and I’ll be “stealing” some for use in my office soon.

  11. Great post! I remember when I first read about your color-coding system for notes & adopted it for myself. I quickly switched from highlighters to colored pencils because the markers would bleed through the page and smear my notes. I am loving the fountain pen idea, & am keen to use the no-plastic shipping request. This whole post has me excited for office renovation!

  12. Here are my two pieces of eight to add: For coasters, I love to have my cut and polished rock coasters. They look nice and completely natural. As a computer geek, I tend to keep a lot of extra parts “just in case”, such as cords. One way to keep the cords from being a tangled mess in a drawer is by making loops of each cord and shoving each through a toilet paper tube. That way, you can just pull one out without having to untangle them and you can store more of that kind of thing in the same drawer, saving space. Yay for hoarders!

  13. Some might find this writing device an aid to reducing two types of waste: 1) paper waste and 2) time. It’s proved remarkably—no pun intended—useful for limiting distractions—wasted time—enabling to focus just on writing. Here are a couple links with info:



    I bought my reMarkable in early December 2018 and have used it every day since. I hand-write all my story ideas, notes, outlines, and first—rough—draft of scenes. I then would dictate/voice-to-text to transcribe and then edit to clean up the text file. Before my reMarkable, I would have stacks of paper for each project. Now, my workflow is one step less with reMarkable’s text conversion, and that means less paper-clutter.

    I am a full-writer and ghostwriter. My stories span multiple genres, and I’m comfortable writing in them. I’ve written a lot of nonfiction and fiction since going full-time in 2008. Over two million words worth: 30 books ghostwritten for clients: 12 nonfiction, 9 memoirs, and 9 novels).


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That looks pretty great! I wonder if it would be able to read my writing to change it to text though…

  14. Great post! We always try to keep the environment in mind and you have certainly given me some great ideas.

  15. While this might fall into the ebook category, I was surprised that you didn’t mention digital subscriptions to magazines.

    I’ve had a goal for the proverbial “paperless” office for years now. To that end, I’ve been taking old writing magazines I still have and have been scanning them, and turning them into PDF publications that will supplement my digital subscriptions to those magazines. I don’t have much left to do on that point.

    There’s also the point of scanning a lot of other paperwork.

    Of course, all this scanning will also mean saving a lot of shelf/storage space, freeing up room for other things. Storing those documents on CDs/DVDs might mean more plastic, but for me the space savings is worth the trade-off. An alternative to that is to buy an external SSD drive, or install a much larger SSD drive in my computer so that it can handle the storage without affecting my computer’s performance.

    Added to that, all of my music CDs I now have on both my computer *and* on the Google cloud, and that saves a LOT more plastic than the few CDs/DVDs I might use for those paper products. Plus, by putting my music on the Google cloud, I now have access to *ALL* of my music no matter where I am, thanks to my smartphone, even if I’m in my car.

    Having said all of that, I’ve noticed that certain types of books are hard to find in digital form. Generally speaking, the older the book, the harder it is to find.

    Sometimes, though, having a physical copy is just easier or better. I once raced a co-worker in looking up a randomly chosen word in a dictionary. He did so using the dictionary on his work computer, I used a paper dictionary. I beat him! Probably wouldn’t happen with dictionary.com, but I have some *serious* problems with that website, given their obvious political leanings with how they’ve defined certain words. (Yeah, that’s actually a problem these days, unfortunately. Too bad some lexicographers can’t just stick with being lexicographers.)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Great point about the magazines. I don’t have any current subscriptions, but when I did, I got them digitally. Works great.

  16. I love my stapleless stapler. Just using it has converted a few people in my local writing group.

  17. I don’t know why the other comments seem to have vanished, but I’ve just tried running scrivener under wine on Fedora Linux and it worked.

  18. Tracy Davies says

    Thank you for posting this list with your ideas. You are making the world a better place! 🙂

  19. Great post! I’m so glad you made the effort to learn, and to share your findings with the web. I’m working on this too; it’s a real challenge.

  20. Use envelops from any snail mail for notes, back sides of any size for more notes, once filled I shred and use that as garden cover to stop weeds.

  21. Ms. Albina says

    I love your list. Highlighter pencils are cool. I need to organize my desk because it can get messy any suggestions. Double sized printing is good. I plan on putting my stories into a notebook folder so I can look at them and read them then revise if need be.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Top suggestion would be to remove anything you don’t use and try to have only one of each necessary item (notebook, pencil, etc.) on the desk at any given time.

  22. Adrienne Nesiba says

    I appreciate the clean living tips my main office is a living room at work but home office? That would be my bedroom. We recycle but it is so hard to completely avoid plastic. I do try to avoid it though. I mail order everything and like to think I’m keeping toxic fumes out of the air. The packaging often includes plastic tape. I appreciate the tips however… I will never be the recycler you are. Our home is completely remodeled with a stone and wood theme. It’s taken a lot of work. Well I guess there’s more work to do. Thanks for the input. There is more to do. !!!!’

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      One of my favorite quotes, from the blog Zero Waste Chef, talks about how we’re not trying to live a sustainable lifestyle perfectly for a week, but rather a sustainable lifestyle imperfectly for the rest of our lives.

  23. Thank you for this handy list. I have bookmarked it for future reference. I use wax crayons to highlight. Highlighter markers are not only plastic and toxic, they also damage the paper over time, sometimes making what was highlighted unreadable. I have also done away with shampoos entirely. I keep what is left of my hear short and use a high-quality bar soap that comes wrapped in paper, not cellophane. I also use my devices and vehicles until I absolutely have to replace them. Looking ahead, I would like to get buried under a tree in a cardboard casket, but I’ll have to talk to the county about that one.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hah, I was just thinking about getting buried somewhere without a coffin myself. :p Probably totally illegal, but it sounds good to me!

  24. Pepper Hume says

    Smart girl! Proud of you! Instead of a coaster which doesn’t dispose of the wet, cut the foot off an old sock for a koozie! Absorbent, insulates, washable. Cut a slit for a cup handle. If your hands get cold, cut the fingertips off cheap knit gloves. Shop thrift stores!! Most of them benefit some charity, so donate what you don’t need. It can be an amusing treasure hunt for interesting pencil jars, little boxes & paper clip bowls, baskets instead of plastic. I work in sweats in the winter and scrubs in summer. Both make great cut-offs for shorts.

  25. I started using a traveler’s notebook this summer and I love it. I don’t like binders and I was looking for a way to keep all my scrap paper notes together so I could stop knocking them off my desk every few days.

    I don’t know how I got this far without discovering a traveler’s notebook because it felt like it was made for me, I also like to write longhand and I have tons of empty notebooks. There are three elastic bands on the inside (you can add more) and you slide your notebooks or loose pieces of paper under the bands. So you can have multiple notebooks together in this one catchall refillable notebook.

    I found beautiful handmade traveler’s notebooks on Etsy and ordered an A5 size (plenty of sizes available) I fill it with Kraft notebooks. I use different notebooks for different stories and I’ve been thinking about adding a bullet journal. I can add as many notebooks as I need, and it’s perfect for carrying my story with me where ever I go.

    I’ve also been buying more used books, I love thriftbooks. And I use mechanical drafting pencils. Some of them are made of plastic but I already had them so I still use them.

    I found this post really helpful, I’m going to look into No-Plastic Shipping, I never thought to ask for that and I always complain about the wrapped product inside of a second plastic bag.

  26. I go to Value Village all the time – my favourite place to find used notebooks and binders and things.

  27. Helpful post. You might really like the this. I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and he talks at ridiculous length about his love of fountain pens. Now I’m planning on trying one – soon! Lamy Safaris are not too pricey 🙂

  28. A great list. I would add that I have a large stack of office/copy paper from many sources that I use for printing. I even unfold letters and stick them in the stack. They almost always go through the printer. I cut the corners to eliminate staples and they go through nicely. I don’t care about the color of the paper for most printing, but I separate the colors anyway.

    Also, white office paper is worth more than mixed paper, so I try to separate it before recycling.

  29. I love listening to your podcasts. They have given me a better understanding of the craft of writing and helped me identify and rectify a lot of problems in my own work.

    I recently stumbled upon an old fan fiction of mine I wrote years ago. I was astonished at the easy flow of dialogue, fleshed out characters and story progression. I couldn’t believe I had written it (it had many technical issues, but I’m talking here about the actual story/dialogue itself). Whereas now, even after working meticulously on outlines, scenes and dialogues I am still unable to create the simple magic I had effortlessly achieved in that piece and for some time after reading it I was afraid I had lost my creativity. Then I wondered if it was so good because I never wrote it for an audience but only for my own enjoyment? Would I have been still as good if I had written it to post on a forum to be read (or criticized or ignored) by a large number of people?

    I wonder if it happens to other writers too or am I making up excuses for my own lack of creativity? If you ever get time, I would love to hear/read your thoughts on this, i.e., is there a way(s) to protect your creativity from being stifled by the pressure of things to come, such as marketing, publishing and the fear of being judged (and rejected) by an audience?

  30. These are really useful tips. That thing about the aluminium sharpener sent me back to my school days. Thanks for writing and sharing this.

  31. Connor Caple says

    I have been thinking about the amount of paper I go through in my planning/revision process a lot this week (Thank you Nanowrimo…). Many trees have died at my hand. I am considering using the Kindle more, particularly on my bigger tablet, with the colour highlighting to mark up mistakes, revisions, etc.

    Your mention of your highlighting system for revisions and planning (in ‘Outline Your Novel’) got me thinking about that. I’d not sure how it will suit me, but I always give things a fair try.

    I was a ‘pantser’ for many years until I tried outlining something around 10 years ago and discovered it didn’t dull my creativity as I had feared. My outlining system is cobbled together from lots of ideas I have encountered over the years.

    Scrivener has helped cut down my paper use quite a bit. I am going to give WriteItNow5 a try next month for a novel plan/outline/writing project and see where that goes. Just because I enjoy Scrivener doesn’t mean it’s the best for me.

    Plastic is a big issue over in the UK. More EU legislation is on the way through but, with the possibility of us going ‘independent’, I don’t know how far that will go here. It’s sad to think that, in my lifetime, we have gone from sustainable, wash-and-reuse glass bottles to mountains of plastic waste.

    Heck, even our apples and vegetables come in plastic wrap these days at our version of Walmart (ASDA). A sustainable lifestyle is going to be an uphill struggle, but we need to do it.

    Thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate you taking the time to write this.

  32. Computers that are too old to run the latest software will almost certainly run a lightweight version of Linux. On this you can either run Open Office, which is a free clone of office, or run scrivener virtualised under Wine. This not only gives you a free, green computer, but pretty well kills the malware problem.

  33. We love this list! So many great ideas for everyone newly working from home.

  34. Very Helpful and Informative post.

  35. I appreciate what you said about using packing wrapping for containers. We have a lot of compost that needs to be disposed of. We’ll have to consider getting a recycling center to take it for me.


  1. […] K.M. Weiland has 23 tips for a zero waster home office. […]

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