Rik, also known as "Tidy Guy" on Instagram and his blog, joins The Zero Waste Collective to share his thoughts on the zero waste lifestyle, and provide a special DIY cleaning recipe! Rik grew up in a small town in The United States, and is currently living in Calgary, Canada. Although relatively new on his zero waste journey, Rik has been working towards a more sustainable lifestyle for quite some time. His endeavours also include switching to a vegan diet and lifestyle, and minimalism, all of which complement one another. Rik shares his motivation for these changes, as well as tips for those who are new to zero waste. Best of all, he shares a DIY zero waste recipe below for Concentrated Pine Scented Vinegar Cleaner! (All Photos have been provided by Rik).
ZWC: You're on the journey to zero waste, veganism, and minimalism. What inspired you to take on all of this change? Where did you start?
Rik: Like many others that grew up in small town America, university really pushed me to expand my worldview. It’s a cliche, but university was very enlightening for me. I took courses in socio-cultural anthropology that explored the impacts of economic development and how global financial interests shape environmental and cultural outcomes. I began to reflect on the habits of first world consumer society and the ingrained dichotomy between consumerism and socio-environmental responsibility.
I discovered that the idyllic American lifestyle that I grew up with shielded a backdrop of normalized behaviours that were at odds with my personal morals. At the center of this realization was the intersectionality of all three of these movements: how excessive waste and garbage pollution is inherent with excessive consumption, the environmental footprint associated with consuming animal products, and how the culture of single-use convenience necessitates a demand for unyielding resource extraction.
The more I opened my eyes, the more compelled I felt to make a change. Once you start reading about these topics it’s sort of like a floodgate opens. It started with minimalism and trying to change my consumer habits to stop supporting things like fast fashion (which is both socially and environmentally disastrous).
Then I started learning more about veganism and how eliminating animal cruelty benefits not only animals but also the our health and the environment. Zero waste came last, because it seemed to be the least accessible at first but as I’ve continued on my journey (six months in now!) I’m learning how easy it can be and how perfectly it overlaps with all of these other goals.
ZWC: Thanks for sharing how you got started! It's definitely a big learning curve for anyone, and we each experience different forms of motivation. You started with minimalism, but were you always such a tidy guy?
Rik: I think so! My living spaces aren’t always perfect but from a young age I believed in the link between a clean space and a clean mind. Because of that, tidying has always been very therapeutic for me, sort of like a physical process to unburden my head if something is stressing me out. It’s not that doing dishes is necessarily my favourite thing to do, but there’s something very peaceful and grounding about mundane household chores.
ZWC: Dishes aren't likely anyone's favourite activity! But you're totally on to something - it can be therapeutic to clean. What advice do you for people who are new to each of these movements, particularly zero waste?
Rik: I’m very new on my own journey to zero waste, but so far I’ve learned two important things I’d share with someone starting out:
(1) think holistically; and (2) be kind to yourself.
Think holistically. Zero waste is very appealing to the environmentally conscious because the end result is so tangible. You physically reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill. This is great! But it isn’t always accessible or realistic and I believe it’s just one important piece in a larger puzzle. What I love about all three of these movements is that they’re all complementary.
By thinking holistically about waste and planetary impact, all of these different lifestyles align to achieve an outcome closer to true zero waste. Buy less to minimize demand for resource extraction, eat less animal products to minimize carbon emissions, and take ownership of garbage by reusing and repurposing to reduce pollution.
Be kind to yourself. That said, all of these things are very demanding lifestyle changes! And they’re not all necessarily for everyone. Any small change helps. Any time you refuse a straw or bring your own tupperware to take leftovers home (ignoring all of the judgy looks) you’re part of a larger movement to influence change and stimulate demand for more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Every small change is a ripple in a pond, and it’s important to remember that. So be kind to yourself if not every “best choice for the environment” fits your lifestyle. I’ve learned this firsthand negotiating different social situations and by often trying to jump into zero waste habits that are unrealistic for me.
ZWC: Agreed. Always be kind to yourself! Tell us more about your Instagram and blog. What do you hope to achieve by sharing your experiences, as well as recipes?
Rik: With Instagram and my blog I hope to promote change in my community through education and by making sustainable lifestyle changes more approachable. I want my Instagram and blog to reflect that by doing the leg work that goes into researching relevant topics and by experimenting with sustainability swaps and recipes. I hope to offer others as many lifestyle “recipes” as I can to make a sustainable and tidy life easily accessible and achievable.
ZWC: You love to share your recipes on Instagram and on your blog. Tell us about the recipes you're sharing in this post!
Rik: The recipe I have here is for a pine-scented vinegar cleaner. The best part is that this is just one idea out of the literally unlimited ways someone could infuse vinegar. Infused solutions can be used as multipurpose cleaners and sometimes in food applications like as salad dressings (just make sure you’re not dressing your salad with pine-scented vinegar haha).
Not everyone will be able to use pine twigs for this recipe, but I want to emphasize how many possibilities there are for infusions!
The recipe is infinitely customizable and hopefully it inspires others to look into all of the other really great (+ tasty) combinations there are. Other infusions I’ve come across that are worth checking out include fresh lemon peels + thyme, dried rosemary, and vanilla beans + cinnamon sticks.
Recipe for Concentrated Pine Scented Vinegar Cleaner by Tidy Guy
Rik: Vinegar’s high acidity is excellent for breaking down different plant ingredients and extracting their aromas and flavours, creating infusions that are great for a range of household purposes including cooking and cleaning. With the right infusion ingredients, you can easily make a delicious salad dressing or a fresh scented multipurpose cleaner.
For this recipe, I’m sharing how to create a pine-scented vinegar cleaner but these steps can be followed with any number of different infusion ingredients to make your own customized infusion for cooking or cleaning.
What You’ll Need:
1 litre jar (any airtight container of whichever size you prefer)
3.5 cups of white vinegar (enough to fill about ~75-80% of the container)
Two small pine twigs (or any desired infusion ingredients)
Place the infusion ingredients in the empty jar you will be infusing in. In this case, gently arrange the pine twigs in the container for a beautiful visual effect.
In a small pot, warm the vinegar to just before boiling and let sit for a 2-3 minutes.
Pour the warm vinegar into the jar with the pine twigs or other infusion ingredients, using a funnel if necessary. Fill the jar until full.
Seal with an airtight lid and store the mixture in a dark cupboard or pantry, out of direct sunlight for two weeks to brew and infuse the aromas. Shake every couple of days.
After two weeks, strain the infusion to remove the pine or infusion ingredients. Store in an airtight jar. For display purposes, you may keep a few of the pine twigs in the jar.
Compost the remainder of the infusion ingredients.
Rik: Please remember that it is important to dilute vinegar appropriately before cleaning! When you’re ready to use your pine scented cleaner, fill a small spray bottle with ½ of the vinegar concentrate and ½ water. Do not ever use vinegar to clean marble, granite, or hardwood surfaces! The acidity will etch the surface.
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