What’s My Carbon Footprint?

10.10.2017

0600

2017-10-10

 

I wanted to calculate my carbon footprint because I haven’t ever done so. I know that I watch what I buy and how much energy I use so I was hoping it would be low. There are aspects of my life I could probably change to reduce my carbon footprint, but I wanted a base number to start with. There are a few different carbon print calculators available, but this is the one I used. Also, I’m located in the United States of America, so I used the Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator, from the Nature Conservancy.

Because these calculators consist of a lot of smaller chunks of information, I thought I would at least list out the information needed for this calculator. I had to go searching for a large chunk of information to input, when I filled out my survey. So here is the the many pieces of information I needed, that you might need as well if you choose to use this carbon footprint calculator:

  1. Get Started: A QUICK CARBON FOOTPRINT ESTIMATE
    1. Zip Code
    2. City
    3. County
    4. State Country
    5. How many people live in your household?
    6. What is your approximate gross annual household income?
  2. Travel:  HOW DO YOU GET AROUND?
    1. Car(s): (Miles per gallon)
    2. Public Transit: (Miles per year)
    3. Air Travel: (Miles per year)
  3. Home: HOW MUCH DO YOU USE IN YOUR HOME?
    1. Electricity ($/year)
    2. Natural Gas ($/year)
    3. Heating oil & Other Fuels ($/year)
    4. Square ft. of living space
    5. Water useage ($/year)
  4. Food: HOW MUCH DO YOU CONSUME OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
    1. Simple Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Meat, fish, eggs
      2. Grains & baked goods
      3. Dairy
      4. Fruits & vegetables
      5. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    2. Advanced Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Beef, pork, lamb, veal
      2. Fish & seafood
      3. Other meat (processed, nuts, etc…)
      4. Poultry & eggs
      5. Grains & baked goods
      6. Dairy
      7. Fruits & Vegetables
      8. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    3. Shopping: HOW MUCH DO YOU SPEND ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
      1. Simple Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
        2. Services  ($/month)
      2. Advanced Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
          1. Furniture & appliances
          2. Clothing
          3. Entertainment
          4. Paper, office & reading
          5. Personal care & cleaning
          6. Auto Parts
          7. Medical
        2. Services  ($/month)
          1. Health Care
          2. Information & Comunication
          3. Medical
          4. Vehicle Services
          5. Personal business & Finance
          6. Household Maintenance & Repair
          7. Organizations & Charity
          8. Other Services

So my results stated that my Total Footprint is 20 tons CO2/year, which is 59% better than average person. This is a good standing to start from. I’m actually quite happy with it. I could try to adjust my daily decisions to see if I can reduce my footprint a re-take the survey, but it’s a good starting point.

The last section in the calculator allows you to sign a pledge to stand with Climate Action. There are a few different carbon footprint calculators. I encourage you all to take a look at how large or small your carbon footprint is. It’s amazing when you see it written down in a calculated measure of your daily decisions. Here are a few other websites that also have carbon footprint calculators that might be of god use as well:

  1. Carbon Footprint Calculator
  2. The Nature Conservancy Carbon Footprint Calculator
  3. EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator
  4. WWF Footprint Calculator 
  5. Carbonfund Calculate 

TheNatureConservancy- Household Footprint

 

 

Cheap and Easy TV Mount

06.27.2017

0600

Materials:

  • One 1-1/2″ (width) x 5-1/2″ (depth) wood lumber about 18″ (length)
  • Two 2-1/2″ wood screws (to hold the first wood piece against the wall)
  • Two M4-7.0 screws , at 40 mm in length (to hold the second wood piece against the television)

Tools:

  • Drill
    • Drill bits (drill bits to drill holes for the screws that will hold the wood piece against the wall as well as to drill holes in the wood piece that will attach to the television.
    • Flat wood drill bit (to create the holes that I’ll use to sink the screws into the wood, so that it won’t pop out)
  • Table saw (or saw it by hand with a rip hand saw)
  • Measuring Tape
  • Heavy duty block magnets

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Locating the studs in the wall:

So I wanted to mount my TV up on my wall, and I wanted to do it in a simple and cheap way so I figured that a French Cleat would be the best. First I located my studs in my walls, and I used a different method this time. Usually, I can differentiate stud sounds through the gypsum board, but I thought I would share the other method I use. If you take strong magnets and move along the wall, they will be able to locate the existing nails embedded on the studs. Now, because this can leave scratches along the paint on your wall, I actually sewed little fabric sleeves for each one from fabric I had left over from other previous projects. You don’t have to use fabric, you can wrap paper around it and locate the studs that way too. Sometimes it takes a bit of searching to find the first nail, but once you do, the rest of the nails will be located within the same location on the other studs.

Knowing where the studs were located, gave me the general length of how long of a piece of wood I would need, so I chose an 18″ piece of wood.

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I first divided the piece of wood in half. Because the width of the wood was 1-1/2″, I moved the center line off by 1/4″ to offset the width. I did this because the next step was to cut the wood piece in half at a 45° angle. By offsetting the divided line by 1/4″, the 45° angle cut would be more centered. I then designated which piece would be screwed against the wall and which one would be attached to the TV. To avoid confusion, mark the surfaces of the pieces which will need to be screwed into the wall and TV with a black line in the corner. So mark the actual surfaces which you know will have screws entering the wood piece.

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To start this, first unhook all of the wires and cords from the back of your television set and place it face down on a towel. It’ll be easier to measure the mounting holes this way.

For the wood piece that would be attached to the TV, I measured the width of the mounting holes on the back of my TV (each flat screen television comes with). I simply measured the same distance on my wood piece and marked up the two locations. I marked these holes slightly higher on this piece because I knew the bottom inch of the wood was the angle and I wanted to avoid it. Once you remove the screws where the mounting holes are, you can bring these screws to the hardware store to find longer ones which will be used to attach the wood piece with.

To find the existing depth of the hole on the back of your television, I actually folded a tiny piece of paper and stuck it in the hole until it couldn’t move any further. When it stopped, I marked it with a pencil. My television mounting holes were 1/2″, in case you wanted to use that as a reference. When buying the new screws for attaching the wood piece to the TV, make sure you take into account the depth of the hole and the thickness of the wood. Because I could only find 40mm length screws, I knew I would have to “sink” my screws into the TV wood piece.

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I used the same method for placing the screw holes on the wood piece that would be screwed to the wall. I measured the distance where my magnets were hanging and placed the holes slightly lower on the wood piece. (Always measure the center of the stud to the center of the next stud.) I did this because I knew the top inch of wood was the angle cut.

I drilled my holes accordingly, and the diameter of the holes was based on the diameter of the screws I was going to use for each wood piece. I personally like a slightly snug hole for my screws, so I always measure the drill diameter to be slightly smaller than the diameter of my screw. I like that the screw will fit snug, but it’ll embed itself in the wood as well. For the drill bit that created the holes for the wood piece that attached to the television, I placed that aside, because I would need it to pre-drill holes in the wall when it came time.

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Once the drill holes were made, I took a Flat Wood Drill Bit to create the sinking spaces for the screws. The depth for the sinking holes varied because I used 2-1/2″ screws for the wood piece that would attach to my wall and only 40mm screws for my wood piece for my TV.

For this part, you have to measure the depth of each set of screws. As long as the screws are sunk into the wood and the surface is flush without anything protruding out, it’ll hang nicely. For the TV wood piece, I made sure that when the screws were screwed all the way in,  that they would only protrude out 1/2″ (which would be where it would attach to the TV). Because the other piece of wood would be attached to the wall, I just had to make sure I pre-drilled holes into the wall.

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I took the wood piece that was designated to be attached to the TV, and screwed it in. I then located the height at which I wanted to place my TV, then I pre-drilled the holes into the wall. I took the wood piece that was to be attached the wall and screwed it to the the pre-drilled holes.

I attached all of the television cords while my TV was still faced down on the towel, and then hung it up on the new French Cleat Hook. This is a really quick way to hang almost anything. This method is cheaper than buying a mount and with leftover materials, you can create this too. I really liked this design hacks due to the fact that it’s such a strong hook and it was so cheap to make.

Maybe this might help you find solutions to hanging furniture issues.

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Creating Sliding Drawers

06.20.2017

0600

Materials:

  1. One sheet of brown peg board
  2. KOMPLEMENT drawer handles from IKEA
  3. Bulk rope from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
  4. Extra nuts and bolts to secure the handles to the peg boards

 

DSC_6243Drawers:

I first had to measure the width of my cabinet openings, due to the fact that they were old up-cycled cabinets from when we had first moved into this house. The cabinet drawer opening measured 12″ wide and 24″ deep. Ideally, most new cabinet installments would add a nice overall look and clean up the space a bit, but the way new sliding drawers are built, the thickness of the wood would eat up a lot of the width opening. This is why I decided to make some generic sliding drawers.

I measured out the dimensions of 11-1/2″ wide and 20″deep on the peg board, and I had just enough board to make up three drawers. Because the peg board came with pre-drilled holes, it was easy to guesstimate where the handles would be located, and not all of the handles would necessarily be centered. Also, the screws that came with the handles accessories package were designed to fit a 3/4″ thick board, but the peg board was only 1/4″ thick. this is why I had to gather a few extra nuts to infill the space between the original handle screw and the end of the handle itself.

Once I cut the boards to the right size to fit the openings, I placed the handles where I wanted them to be located and attached the nuts and screws accordingly. Because I wanted these drawers to slide, I went to a local fabric store and bought some thick bulk rope. I used this rope to wrap around the long sides of the drawers so that they would slide out easier. The rope also evidently contained the items sitting on top. You can also contain the items that would sit on top of these drawers by screwing a thin piece of wood onto the top of the drawer so  you have a more secure way of holding your items.

Because the motion of the drawers is more of a pull-out motion when in use, I was more concerned about the items falling off in the back of the drawer when the drawer was pulled outward. Once the rope was tied on, I placed my items inside my small rectangular, fabric containers.

 

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Drawer Guides:

I nailed down 12″(L) x 1/4″(W) x 3/4″(D) wooden pieces on each side of the drawers, inside the cabinet, as guides for the drawers. I chose to use a 12″(L) because the depth of the cabinet is 24″. I braced the guides up against the front of the cabinet, in which these guides will help slide out the drawers along a smoother line.

Conclusion:

These drawers are very simple sliding drawers made form material found around the house. There are a number of designs to secure drawer guides in place, and this one was a very simple design. If I had used a 1/4″ bottom for the drawers, I would have secured a different drawer guide design underneath the drawer. I genuinely like the fact that these drawers slide on the rope and it makes virtually no sound when pulled out and pushed back in. It doesn’t’ scratch the surface of the cabinet shelves and it’s simple enough to take apart if I no longer have the need for this design. Maybe this design will work for you, in other areas of your home. I hope this post might have helped brainstorm some ideas.

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Upcycling Shelves

06.13.2017

0600

Materials:

Tools:

  • Miter saw
  • Electric drill  and drill bits

So my family usually keeps leftover material from previous house projects or from items that were disassembled. A lot of the time wood planks are left over. These vary in sizes so I try to upcycle them around the house. My father had a book shelf a while back and it had two 42″ shelves that were 1″ thick and two 72″ shelves that were one inch thick.

I  knew those shelves could be used elsewhere in the house so I designated the shorter shelves for the upstairs kitchenette and created shelves with the other two longer pieces, in two other separate areas of the house.

I bought four grey Everbilt 10 in. x 8 in. Gray Medium Duty Shelf Bracket for the kitchenette and I bought two white Everbilt 9.75 in. x 7.75 in. White Elegant Shelf Bracket for the shelf in the bedroom. The shelf in the hallway will be mounted up with two wood 2x4s on each side.

For the kitchenette, I located the studs by knocking on the wall (you can also use magnets to locate the nails located in the studs as well) and since I wanted the top shelf to have at least 16″ of space from the shelf to the ceiling, I had to create two marks that marked both the top and bottom of the top shelf. I then measured another 11″ below the bottom line of the top shelf and made two marks for the bottom shelf. I wanted to leave at least 22″ above the countertop so there was enough room for using the countertop surface.

Because the shorter shelves didn’t reach across the wall of the kitchenette, I offset the shelves to make the weight of the items on the wall even. I measured the distance between the studs for each shelf, and transferred that onto each shelf. It’s easier to attach the shelf brackets to the shelves first, and then attach them to the wall. My studs were 30″ (on center) between each, so I knew to leave half an inch from the edge of each shelf edge and then measure inwards 30″ to mark the next center of the next bracket.

Once I attached the brackets to the shelves, I had to pre-drill the holes for the screws in the studs on the wall. If you screw in the top screw on the bracket closest to the wall (where the blue arrow is pointing to), and then place a  small level on top (where the violet arrow is pointing), then you can swing the other bracket up (where the maroon arrow is pointing), until the level shows that the shelf is at an even plane.  This seemed to be the easiest way for me to attach the shelves and also double checking the correct balance of the shelves.

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For the shelf under the window, I first located where my studs were and made sure I cleared the electrical outlet. Ideally, I would have place a bracket where that electrical outlet is located, but there wasn’t any room. I wanted the height for this shelf to have an 8″ clearance, so I simply measured 8 inches below the existing shelf and marked two lines for the top and bottom of the shelf. For this shelf I trimmed the edges so it would fit the width of this space better. I also drilled a hole above where the outlet was located, so there would be access to the outlet.  I attached the brackets to the shelf based on the width of my studs. For this shelf, I literally held up the shelf with one hand, and traced the inside of the drill hole locations with the other. As long as I continued to press the shelf against the wall, it didn’t move much. I did this because I wanted to mark where the drill holes were and also to pinpoint the center of the holes. There wasn’t room to swing the shelf up to level it out, (such as the kitchenette example), so when I placed the level on the shelf, I only had to adjust the shelf slightly to even it out. Once the first screw was placed, it pretty much held up it’s own weight until I could drill in the last three screws.

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The shelf in the hallway was mounted with a different method. I actually had to cut this original shelf piece in half. It was the other 72″ long shelf piece, and by placing each of the halves next to one another, I created a  18-1/2″ depth shelf. I first located the studs in each wall and measured 11″ height clearance for the space above this shelf.  The width of the space was so small, that putting up brackets would have taken up too much room. I pre drilled the holes in the 2x4s based on the width of my studs I had located. Always remember which 2×4 belongs on which wall, so you’re not accidentally drilling extra holes. After that, I placed each piece on the new mount and held the shelf pieces in place with finishing nails.

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This was just one of my upcycling projects using materials I found in the garage. If you can find materials that are still in fairly good shape, I would try to upcycle it for a useful piece of item that you may need. It’s cheaper than going out to buy brand new material- especially since you’ll still have your extra supply of material laying around.  I like to use up what I buy, it’s habit of mine and it’s saved me money over the years. I hope this post helped jog some ideas for you!

Creating A Locking Mechanism For My Carabiners

05.16.2017

0700

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I’m a big fan of carabiners. I have all different types and designs, however, I tend to favor the Asymmetrical D-Shape. On a whim a few years back, I bought two S-Binder carabiners. I really liked this design because the items I would place on the bottom half of the carabiner were separated from the top half. The top lever was the lever that I would use to hook and unhook the carabiner to other objects.

This also lead to an issue with the way in which I used it. Each time I would wrap my hands around the carabiner to press open the top lever,  I would inadvertently press my palm against the bottom lever and the objects had a very good chance to slide out. This involuntary action happened a few times and I had to come up with a quick solution.

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First, I wrapped a small piece of Velcro around the bottom lever, but over time, the Velcro started to become weaker and would become unattached, which left the end flap of the Velcro unattached. I knew I had to come up with a more permanent solution. I knew other carabiner brands sold their Asymmetrical D-Shape carabiners with locking mechanisms or had an external accessory that helped lock their levers in place. I had to make my own locking mechanism in order for me to not drop my keys all over the place.

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I took a old piece of an iron on elbow patch (I had bought a set years ago and never used them all up), and I cut the length to the distance that it would take to cover the lever and half of the basket of the carabiner. (If you don’t know where the ‘basket’ is, I labeled all of the parts of a carabiner in the first image).

With a few sewing needles, I marked the locations of the fabric of which I would have to sew the fabric together. I removed the fabric from the carabiner and sewed it up. I needed to create a snug fit for the locking mechanism so that the fabric didn’t move easily when in use. When I sewed my second locking mechanism, I sewed it a little too snug, but with fabric, you have a slight chance to stretch the length and width of any product due to the material. This was material for iron-on elbow patches, so it was a very, very slight stretch .

Once I was finished sewing both the locking mechanisms, I slid the pieces on, moved my key rings over them and then slid it back over the levers. It’s a simple solution to a very basic tool I use everyday.

If you use any other kind of fabric, perhaps 100% cotton,  you may have to sew it a little tighter because cotton tends to stretch more. And, you may want to extend the length of the locking mechanism so that it can’t slide back and forth on the basket as easily. The idea is to make the fabric slight “stuck” on the spine of your carabiner. If it has a hard time sliding around the basket, then it most likely won’t slide around when in use.

I hope this might give any of you some ideas as to how to approach design problems such as this one. Happy sewing and don’t loose those keys!

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A Climber’s Guide To Carabiners

How to Store Vegetables And Fruit Without Plastic Bags

04.25.2017

0700

When I was growing up, I understood that fruits and vegetables were stored in the refrigerator. As I slowly transitioned to being an adult, I realized that my assumptions were pretty wrong.

Living a more zero waste lifestyle makes you more conscientious and aware of your choices as a consumer. Not buying excessive food and buying a reasonable amount of perishable foods so that extra trash isn’t produced is also a part of the lifestyle. I had to learn that even as I continued on this journey. This meant that I had to really understand how certain fruits and vegetables ripened and why. There are a lot of articles and diagrams for how to store vegetables and fruit, but I thought I would draw up my own diagrams and create my own chart (which you can download here, Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags)

It’s amazing what you realize you don’t have to store in your refrigerator and how much room that frees up is also a gift in itself. There are a lot of ways to store vegetables and fruit, which will keep them from ripening too soon.

I organized my chart by color coding them with the different ways you would have to store the produce. The images below illustrate how to store the produce listed in the chart.

  1. Vegetables
    1. Yellow = Open Container in a location
    2. Orange = Open container with shallow water on countertop
    3. Green = Airtight/Open container in Refrigerator
    4. Dark Blue = Dry/Damp towel in Refrigerator
  2. Fruit
    1. Red = Open Container in a location
    2. Light Blue = Open container with shallow water on countertop
    3. Pink = Airtight/Open container in Refrigerator
    4. Violet = Dry/Damp towel in Refrigerator

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags

3d illustration of empty cupboard

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags- Countertop

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags- Refridgerator

Download my chart in PDF format here, Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags.

I hope this post gives some helpful ideas as to how you can store your vegetables and fruit without plastic. I certainly have used it and it works great. It’s a lot less work in my own life to organize my refrigerator this way, so Happy Grocery and Produce Storing!

Vegetables That Regrow Themselves

04.11.2017

0700

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After reading a few articles about certain vegetables that can regrow on their own, I had to try it. I found a few articles that referred to this unique set of vegetables like this article 13 Vegetables That You Can Regrow Again And Again.

I decided to try to regrow green onions, carrot and celery. The green onions started to regrow almost immediately and the celery root started to regrow after about a week. The carrots took the longest to sprout leaves, which was about the three week mark.

The process was so simple. I did exactly what the article said, cutting off the celery and green onions about 3 inches before the root base. I cut the carrot bases off about half an inch from the base. That might have been a little too close, because the carrots took the longest to regrow. I changed the water out weekly, which I used to water my other plants. After about two weeks, the celery pretty much finished re-growing. It gave me a about five inches of new celery to consume, but not more than that. The green onions did keep regrowing though. I would cut off the stems about where I had cut them off before and they would regrow right back. And it’s still re-growing!

I moved my carrots to my garden, so we’ll see how those turn out. This was a cool experiment, and I encourage anyone to try it. Be patient with your vegetables, and change out the water weekly. I started this process about two months ago, so this post took awhile to put together. I still eat my green onions from my experiment, and I add it into my salads each Sunday when I meal prep for the week. It’s simple and I don’t need that much to eat, I just gather what I need for the week, and by the next week, my green onions are back!

There’s probably a more efficient way to grow these and I’m probably missing a few key ingredients to make my green onions even tastier, but this is a great first step in this process. This experiment does make me want to create my own aquaponic system now.

Happy regrowing!

Zero Waste Take Out Food

03.28.2017

0700

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Ordering take out food is the one thing I didn’t want to give up when I started living a zero waste lifestyle. The concept of always going out to eat when I didn’t want to cook, seemed viable when I first started this journey. Of course, going home, not wanting to cook and  finding the energy to go out to eat was also another challenge. So, after some investigating, and research I had to put together a “Food Take Out Kit”. Most of my research was simply through trial and error with this kit, and finding restaurants willing to serve food in my dishes. I’m lucky that I live in a city that is trying to be more environmentally friendly so I did find a lot of restaurants willing to serve my take out food in my own dishes.

I first called a lot of the restaurants in my downtown area, to see if they were willing to participate in my zero waste effort. A lot of the restaurants were more than willing to participate, but with different methods. Some were willing to take my dishes to the kitchen where they would directly serve my dishes right into my containers, and some were more adamant about bringing the food out on one of their own plates and then transfer it into mine, so to not contaminate their kitchen. Either way, it was fine with me. However, during my research, I did come across some restaurants that were not willing to do either method.

I furthered my research by ordering take out from as many restaurants as I could, when I could. It takes a bit of trial and error, but if you have a Food Take Out Kit, I think it make these trips much smoother. The one thing that seemed a bit tricky was the different types and sizes of side dishes these restaurants offered. Also, I had to slowly gauge what sauces or dips would come along with certain dishes. I didn’t really know what sized to go container each restaurant used, so I used large glass tupperware in hopes that the volume of my tupperware would suffice.

I usually go to the prospective restaurant and order my food with the hostess right then and there, so that I can hand them my glass tupperware dishes to fill up. I had to make a couple of trips to really get this kit down correctly, but here it goes. In my Food Takeout Food Kit, I have:

Food Take Out Kit:

  1. Containers:
    1. Three 54 oz. containers (for main dishes)
    2. Three 35 oz. containers (for smaller portion dishes and side dishes)
    3. Four 1 cup containers (for sauces)
  2. Reusable cloth produce bags
    1. Three medium sized bags
    2. One large bag

I use tupperware by Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6-Piece Rectangular Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 54-Ounce Each for my larger dishes, as well as Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6 Piece Square Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 35-Ounce Each for my smaller dishes, side sides or appetizers. I use Pyrex Simply Store 1-Cup Round Glass Food Storage Dish for sauces or dips that the dishes might come with.

I also will bring my dishes to my local grocery stores, to their deli counter to fill up on whatever I need to. It’s also easy to fill up on cheeses or meats at the deli counter with large rectangular dishes like these. It’s easier for the deli worker to tare the weight of your dish and to fit your choices easily as it’s also easy for them to move around the items to fit more snug.

The downfall of this system is that not every restaurant will allow you to use your own dishes so therefore you either have the choice of eating out at the restaurant or not at all. On the other hand, there is a way to bring that food home which you may have a good selection of restaurants willing to participate in it, and you’re not producing unnecessary trash. I don’t mind that certain restaurants opt out of this participation. They have every right to run their business as they please. However, I’d prefer to buy from restaurants willing to do this though.

If you want to try this Food Take Out Kit, you actually may already have tupperware at home that you could use. If not, I included links to the ones I use. To clear up any confusion, make sure to show the hostess that you already have the 1-cup containers for sauces and dips ready to be filled. I’ve noticed that their concerns are usually associated with the condiments that come with the dishes. The last bonus with creating a zero waste take out food system, is that if you’re not finished with the meals once you bring them home, just place the lids back on and you can save the food for later or eat it the next day. It’s such a simple clean up system!

Yes, I use two bags to carry these dishes around.

Yes, it gets heavy at times.

Yes, it’s worth it, knowing that I’m not contributing to more trash to the landfill.

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The Concept of Collecting

03.14.2017

0800

 

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Collecting is for some people a childhood hobby, but for others a lifelong pursuit or one that begins in adulthood. Collectors who begin early in life often modify their aims when they get older. Some novice collectors start purchasing items that appeal to them then slowly work at learning how to build a collection, while others prefer to develop some background in the field before starting to buy items. The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. The scope of collecting is unlimited, which is expressed in the hyperbolic expression: “If something exists, somebody somewhere collects them.”

The concept of collecting items became an odd concept to me as I moved closer to a minimalistic lifestyle in my adulthood. As a child I had started collecting items made by the Japanese company Sanrio. I specifically collected items with the character Hello Kitty printed or embedded on them. These items include pencils, pens, notebooks, plush toys, erasers, stickers, sticker books, etc. I started collecting these items because a close friend of mine had her own collection, and she frequently traveled to Japan, so she had access to rare items with Sanrio characters printed on them. I remember as I child, Sanrio had many characters, which in turn, produced many product items for each character. There always seemed to be an endless supply of designs, items, and apparently, extended family members of those characters that would pop up. There was no end to the Sanrio empire. For this reason, I stopped collecting these items. There was never a cap on anything. I could never own a set collection of anything with my love of the Hello Kitty character. I realized that had collected and created my Hello Kitty collection to look at. It was there to be admired of its perfection, but was never to be used. The perfection of the product was so valuable to me, that the items had to stay in mint condition; just sitting on my desk or in my drawer, but never used and taking up space.

When I finally made the decision to actually use what I had bought over the years, it literally took me two years to finish using all of the erasers I had collected, and it took me another three years to use up all of the pencils I had collected. I honestly couldn’t believe that I had a large enough pencil supply to last that long. I realized how much money I had wasted in my love for this character. I tried to use up all of my stickers and even that task took years to finish. I had to decorate a lot of handwritten letters, birthday cards and Christmas cards with those stickers.

Fast forward to my college years, and you’d find me collecting pressed pennies. Now I thought the idea of pressed pennies was such a cute concept. I only paid $0.51 for each souvenir, which was two quarters and a penny. Each time I went to any vacation around the United States, I would seek out these Penny Souvenir machines and pick my design, and there it was. A quick freshly pressed penny with a design I had chosen from the three options that the machine allowed.  It was cheap, quick and easy to find, or so I thought.

Then, I took a vacation to Vietnam during my college years, and there were no penny souvenir machines over there. What was I to do? Start a new type of collection- so that this vacation was still documented by some arbitrary object? Does this penny souvenir collection count if it doesn’t include this international vacation? Should it be a “Vacations in the United States where I technically could find a Penny Souvenir machine collection?” It was absurd. Was there even a reason for me to not include this vacation, because technically I was forced to exclude it. My penny souvenir collection seemed pointless at that point. I knew my tiny little collection of pressed pennies had no value, it was an interesting concept, and it was cute, but beyond that, it held no value in my life. None of my collections that I’ve ever had in my life held any value. At one point during high school, I collected pins, and also badges, and again- no value. With all of these collections, I did have photos attached to those memories, and those photos I did keep. Over the years, I got rid of my pins, badges, and gave away my Hello Kitty collection to a young girl who, like myself, was fascinated with the cute character.

Jump four years and digital photos became more common. I wanted to photograph everything. I wanted to buy a terabyte external hard drive just so I could collect and keep all of these photos. The more I became concerned about documenting everything, the more I realized I was always pulling myself away from the valuable moments in my life. I would digitally archive everything I could find, that included articles and photos. As a college student, I think you’re trained to document almost all of your work, whether it’s for a portfolio, referencing papers, memories or ‘just in case I spill soda all over my laptop, because I stayed up all night writing this essay and yet- I’m still not finished’ scenarios. I have been guilty of that too.

After college though, I started to slowly pull away from the habit of documenting everything. It just wasn’t necessary for me anymore. As long as I had the correct information for my resume and my portfolio was intact, I was set.

Some people collect items that can gain monetary value as years pass. From antiques to creating a collection of rare items. Some of those may pay out in the long run. Some people make a living collecting rare paintings and antiques, but even then, each item is a rare and unique piece. To put the time and effort into a valuable collection is a art form in itself. Mine were not any of those qualities.

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Fast forward seven years out of college, and you’ll see me rarely take a picture anymore. I’ll take pictures for my blog, and instagram images, but you’ll rarely see me take a picture otherwise. I don’t take selfies. I don’t care much to document my face, for me or anyone else. I do like to document events with my family or gatherings with my friends, but you’ll see me take maybe three pictures for each event. If anything, the title sequence to The Wonder Years, really left a lasting impression. I prefer to take a video now more than ever, but just one for each event. It won’t be too long, just long enough to capture the sounds and the voices, in that space and at that time. They’re videos that are just enough of that memory.

I’m learning to be completely 100% present, whether it’s in the conversations I interact with, the people I listen to, watching the next generation play on the playground, or simply knowing that I’m being present with the minutes passing by. This is my approach to collecting now. I collect memories and moments. I try to pay attention to everything my brain handle remembering. Being present is so important in my life, caring about people in my life and spending time with them. I’ve lost people over the years, as many of us have, and I know that all I can hang onto are my memories. Time passes us by so quickly, and life catches up with us easily. We all grow up, time marches on and just knowing that simple realization, makes me want to be more present with those around me. Maybe a picture or two will suffice, but honestly, I’ll take my memories with me wherever I go.

If I leave you with anything from this post, be present. Be present in the moment, with the people you’re with and engage your mind with everything around you. Let yourself remember the colors, smells, voices and sounds. You’d be surprised how easily we will forget those details as time marches on.

 

 

The Dangers Of Microfiber Cloths

03.07.2017

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You know when a new product comes out, and it promises to eliminate chemicals and cut down on the process of cleaning, and then we wait ten years or so, and figure out the drawbacks from this said new product? Yeah, that’s what this post is about. So when microfiber cloths hit mainstream media, I purchased a set just to try it out. They worked as the company had stated, they worked efficiently and I never had to use any chemicals ever again. They seemed like the perfect clean up rags for tile surfaces, mirrors and I even tested it out on some pen marks on room walls.

Because I used these rags mostly for cleaning up and wiping down surfaces that were wet from water, I washed them when it was necessary. The first time I washed them, they stuck to the rest of the rags in the load so after that, I used a laundry dedicates wash bag to contain them.

Then more research started popping up, and here’s what was discovered…

What are microfiber cloths?
Microfiber cleaning cloths are made of microfiber fabric comprised of polyester and nylon. Microfibers are much thinner in diameter than human hair. Those used in cleaning textiles are split in a way that creates spaces within each fiber. Regular microfiber, such as Split microfiber vs cotton that used on furniture or in clothing, is soft but not useful for cleaning because it is not absorbent. Conversely, the spaces within the split fibers in split microfiber can absorb up to 8 times their weight in liquid and trap dust and germs so they are not spread around or released into the air. Studies have found split microfiber products can reduce the bacteria count on surfaces much more effectively than cotton. Check a product’s packaging to determine if it is split microfiber or not. If it’s not labeled, you can check by running your hand over the cloth. If it doesn’t grab at the imperfections of your skin, then it’s not split microfiber.

Uses for microfiber cloths

  • Dusting surfaces. Simply wipe the surfaces with a dry cloth. No sprays are needed because a static electric charge that attracts and traps dust develops when the cloths are moved across a surface.
  • Cleaning mirrors and glass. Slightly dampen a portion of a cloth and rub the glass surface with it. Once you’ve removed any spots or smudges, use the dry portion of the cloth to dry and polish the surface.
  • Cleaning counters. To superficially clean counters, use dry cloths to pick up surface dust, dirt, and hair. To deeply clean counters, slightly dampen a cloth and use your usual cleaning spray.
  • Washing dishes. Use just as you would any other dishcloth.
  • Mopping floors. You can use a dry cloth to pick up surface dust, dirt, and hair or a slightly damp cloth to wipe down your floors with your usual cleaning solution. You can also purchase mop heads made of microfiber fabrics. Many people who own Swiffer-type mops designed for disposable mopping pads simple attach a microfiber cloth to the mop instead of a disposable pad.

Cleaning microfiber cloths

If you take good care of your microfiber cloths, they should continue to perform at their peak for years.

  • Remove trapped dust, dirt, and hair by pre-soaking the cloths in water and a mild detergent.
  • Wash the cloths in cold water (hot water damages the fabric so it is no longer effective). Only wash the cloths with similar fabrics because they will pull lint out of cotton or other materials during the washing process. Bleach and fabric softeners shouldn’t be used (bleach deteriorates the fabric and fabric softeners clog the spaces in the microfibers so they are no longer absorbent).
  • Line dry the cloths or use the lowest heat setting on your dryer and do not iron them. This prevents heat damage to the microfibers.

Environmental ramifications
There is debate over the extent to which microfiber cloths are environmentally friendly. They are beneficial to the environment in that they aren’t tossed out in the trash after each use like paper towels, nor do they need replaced as frequently as cotton cloths. Moreover, they significantly reduce the amount of water and cleaning products needed when cleaning.

Despite these advantages, microfiber cloths are made from nonrenewable resources and are not biodegradable. There is also concern about their role in microplastic pollution. This sort of pollution occurs when tiny bits of polyester and acrylic rinse off of fabrics during washing and end up collecting on the coastlines of densely populated areas. Fish can ingest the harmful debris, as can humans when they eat affected fish.

Inevitably, choose your products wisely. There are positive aspects and negative aspects of every product you purchase. I’ll probably keep my microfiber cloths to wipe down mirrors still, but I’ll switch out for cotton rags to wipe down my surfaces instead. I would like to get rid of them, but that would also mean that because these are not recyclable, they would inevitably go to the landfill. I have used them to protect my glassware and dishware when I was moving, so that seemed fine. Pick and choose how you want to use these cloths depending on your lifestyle and routines. Micro plastic pollution is everywhere and it’s up to us to change our thinking habits about the products we use and how we go about discarding them. Maybe we will not be able to eliminate the pollution, but we can certainly reduce. Also, sometimes a new product, isn’t as great as it will seem to portray; if they system isn’t broke- don’t fix it.

 

 

 

Seeking Simplicity

02.07.2017

0800

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I think people in general will seek a level of simplicity in their lives. I know I  strive for my own simplicity. This may boil down to simplifying a routine or a room in my home, or simply clearing my mind of clutter. It makes living and creating memories much easier to accomplish and it frees up my time for activities that I want to participate in, rather than feel obligated to do.  I honestly work at this each day. Due to the ever changing winds that we deal with in life, I constantly reevaluate my routines and make sure that I’m not taking on activities that I either don’t want to do or know that it will complicate my life in ways that are unnecessary.

Sometimes the clutter in our lives will come in, even for a short period of time. But let it only stay for a short period of time. I found this article from Apartment Therapy, who outlines steps to Seeking Simplicity very clearly. I hope you enjoy it.

Seeking Simplicity: How to Start Living a More Minimal Lifestyle (from Apartment Therapy)

  1. Give yourself a clear, personal goal (and a timeline)
    1. What is your personal definition of a more minimal home and life? Is it to have only the bare minimum of objects? Is it to declutter a whole room of stuff you haven’t looked at in months? Is it to learn to live with less or stop buying things you don’t need? There’s no “right” way to be a minimalist; we can all have our own definitions of simple and stress-free. Just take the time to define it for yourself. Not sure where to start defining what you don’t want in your life? Focus on what you do want — what makes you feel alive, what you’re passionate about — and then begin to strip away the things (physical and otherwise) that are getting in the way of you doing more of what you really want to be doing.
    2. Give yourself a clear goal, with broken-down steps to attain (and remember to write down the things you need to complete those steps). And then give yourself a time frame to achieve each step (not just the final goal). Consider making alerts on your calendar so you are held accountable. And don’t just write down what the goal is — write down why you want to live more minimally (less stress, more money, less stuff to haul on your next move — it can be anything that means something to you).
  2. Decide how your home can help you live a more minimalist lifestyle
    1. Your quest for a more minimal lifestyle might point you in the direction of a smaller or simplified home. This is a big step for folks who own or rent homes, but not impossible. Again, start with a goal of what you want — be specific. Not sure what you want? Do some traveling — and look to stay in homes in the size range you’re thinking about. You’ll be able to visualize your future life easier if it’s a size you can downsize to. Or perhaps the size and type of your home is okay but it’s what’s in it…
  3. Declutter
    1. This seems pretty obvious, but it can be the most painful step for folks who have a real attachment to many of their items. Start slow and intentionally. Throw out or donate everything you obviously don’t need first. Then take and hide everything you think you could do without for a few months, to give yourself distance to be able to give them away. Then use that motivation to gather the courage to take decluttering as extreme as works for your dream, minimal lifestyle. Keep reminding yourself that stripping away as much stuff from your life will make it easier to achieve a more simple life and allow you to have more freedom. You don’t have to only live with a bed and a laptop; again, you get to decide what living more minimally means to you.
  4. Train yourself to live with less
    1. If you’ve been used to creature comforts for a long time, you might not be ready to take a minimal plunge all at once. Consider having comfort-free weekends or months, slowly eliminating comforts and luxuries (even as simple as pricey haircuts or weekly movie dates) and seeing what feels okay to lose, and what things are too valuable to your happiness to give up.
  5. Ask yourself “do I really need this?” all the time
    1. Before you swipe your credit card, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” And ask yourself all the time. At first you may easily justify purchases out of habit, but as the question sinks in, you might find yourself realizing you don’t need many of the items you impulsively buy.
  6. Be a re-user
    1. Another great habit to explore on the path to a more minimal way of living is learning to be a great re-user. Save packaging to reuse for other things. Learn to repair and fix things rather than replace. Use old clothing for scrap fabric for DIY projects. Be open to being creative to find ways you can reuse something you already have rather than buy something new.
  7. Invest in high-quality
    1. When you do have (or want) to buy something new, splurge on high-quality items that are meaningful for you. Remember that it might be nicer to have a sparse home filled with dreamy designs you adore versus full of things you just sort of like. But also remember that, again, you define what minimal means.
  8. Be clear about why you want to be more minimal (and remind yourself often)
    1. Go back to the first step above regularly, especially when things get tough, so you can remember why you’re trying to live more minimally in the first place.
  9. Forgive yourself and keep trying
    1. As someone who has given away everything they owned one and a half times now, I can assure you, we manage to acquire stuff at impressive speeds. And also sign up for a lot of work obligations, too. This is just human nature. But don’t give up on your quest to simplicity if you wake up one day and notice you’ve let a lot of unneeded stuff clutter up your home or schedule. Just start over at the top, breathe in, and keep trying.

Tips For Staying Organized

01.31.2017

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So it seems that organization can be an issue for any household. Depending on how much your daily routines take up the extra time you have, and what needs to be done within that time frame. Household size also counts as well as square footage of said household size. I thought I would list some tips of how one might go about organizing daily life and personal organization. Although my mantra is to eliminate excessive amounts of items for these tips to apply to me, but everyone is different. I live a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle so maintaining it is simple since I don’t have to do much to get by 🙂

In Your home:

  1. Develop daily routines – Get into a regular routine to simplify your to-do list and plan better.
  2. Make your bed every day – Check out this video… Fast forward to the 4-minute mark and watch through the 6-minute mark and you will see how making your bed will simplify your life The Head of the Navy SEALs Explains Why Making Your Bed Every Day Is the Most Important Life Lesson.
  3. Delegate chores to household members – Don’t try to do everything around the house if you have others that can help. Ask for help to reduce your workload. Here’s a post for how to get your household members on-board with organizing the home.
  4. Place wall hooks in your entryway – Invest in a wall rack system or a few 3M hooks to hang keys, backpacks, coats and umbrellas so they are up and out of the way as soon as you arrive home.  Be sure to check out our post for 10 Items You Need to Organize Your Home Like a RockStar with more ideas.
  5. Sort mail immediately – This ensures bills are not misplaced, other important items are not forgotten about and paperwork clutter is reduced.
  6. Write your to-do list before bed – Get things off your mind before bed so you can sleep better.
  7. Fold your clothes standing up – Try the Kon Marie method which allows you to easily see contents in drawers.
  8. Pack your lunch the night before – Reduce time spent in the morning getting ready by having lunches ready to go the night before. Better yet, prepare them all at the beginning of the week!
  9. Pack healthy snacks the night before – Here are a few healthy ideas for snacks to pack the night before.
  10. Keep a weekly meal planner – Try a meal planning journal like this and simplify grocery shopping, meal planning and your budget.
  11. Create a recycle station – include bins for recycling, trash, donate, sell. Try this one to get started.

For Personal Organization:

  1. Invest in a clear purse/briefcase organizer – Stop digging in your bag for an item. Invest in something like this and easily find what you are looking for.
  2. Use an online birthday reminder – Never forget another birthday (try punchbowl.com/reminders or Google contacts).
  3. Write down daily tasks – Electronic calendars are wonderful if you are on-the-go, but handwritten tasks are easy to cross off once completed. Try a paper day planner like this one or this pretty one.
  4. Get your finances in order – Create a budget if you don’t already have one. Try Mint.com and read this book (listen to it on Audible to save time).
  5. Create a follow up email folder – Place all unread emails there until read then delete.
  6. Flag important emails – Respond to flagged emails then archive or delete.
  7. Create folders for your emails – Try creating folders for electronic bills, electronic receipts, create a folder for each household member, etc. File important emails in each folder to reduce your primary inbox.
  8. Create a temporary folder on your computer – Place temporary items in the folder and delete files regularly.
  9. Organize multiple emails in one inbox – Forward all email addresses into one email inbox and set to auto-delete the forwarding emails copy so you never have to log into each email account individually.
  10. Organize your social media accounts – Organize your Facebook groups, Pinterest boards or create Twitter reading lists for a particular theme.

My Composting Procedure

01.12.2017

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So my composting procedure is pretty simple, and here is what I use to achieve the composting pile that I desire.

First, I choose a good location for my Lifetime 65 Gallon Composter . I choose an area on level grass or dirt where drainage won’t affect pavement, where it will be convenient to access for loading and where direct sunlight will help heat up the compost.

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I then will fill up my small compost bucket with kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, cores, egg shells, and coffee grounds. I also directly add broken leaves and broken wood branches to the Lifetime 65 Gallon Tumbler, along with the items from my bucket. At times, I’ll add in sawdust when I do work on house repairs.

A good compost will have a blend of materials. The blend will consist of brown and dry items such as dead leaves, wood materials, dried weeds, straw, hay, paper materials  and green items such as grass clippings, garden remains and kitchen scraps. A successful compost will have a ratio of 20 parts brown : 1 part green.

Over time, the compost will settle. The compost pile will need at least 4-12 weeks to create a good batch. Because this style of composting is a batch process, two composters are usually recommended, so when one is “cooking,” you can continue to add compost material to the other compost bin, to start the second batch. I tend to let my compost cook so long, that I can mix it in directly with soil pretty quickly.

I’ll rotate the Lifetime 65 Gallon Tumbler several revolutions weekly and if the composter is mostly filled with grass, it may need to be rotated more frequently to keep the grass from matting together. The compost is done when it becomes dark brown and has an earthy smell. It can be added directly t plants as mulch or worked into soil.

I usually dump the compost that’s done “cooking” directly underneath the bin, then subsequently move the bin out of  the way, so that I can distribute it around the yard.

Composting is my way of getting rid of my food scraps trash and it’s been working for awhile. Our soil is great and I’ll distribute the compost mixture around the yard through out the various dumping occasions. A lot of people have a misconception of compost having a strong odor, but if you keep the compost ingredients within the requirements of what is allowed, it really doesn’t smell that bad.

WHAT TO COMPOST:

  •   KITCHEN SCRAPS like fruit and vegetable peelings, cores, egg shells, and coffee grounds.
  • LAWN CLIPPINGS can be returned directly to the lawn with a mulching blade or composted
    as desired, especially if the grass clippings are too long to be left on the lawn.
  • LEAVES can be mowed to reduce their size which will speed up decomposition and
    increase the amount which will ft in the composter.
  • WOOD such as branches must be chipped or shredded in pieces smaller than1 inch.
    Saw dust must be resin free i.e. no particle board.
  • PLANTS discarded from the garden, straw and hay.
  • MANURES from herbivores e.g. cows, rabbits, or chickens. Excessive amounts will also  increase the salt content of the compost.

WHAT NOT TO COMPOST:

  • Meat, bones, greases, dairy products, or bread which attract pests.
  • Anything treated with pesticides or herbicides.
  • Black Walnut leaves which inhibit plant growth.
  • Oak leaves and pine needles which decompose slowly.
  • Diseased plants or weeds with seeds.
  • Pet or human waste.
  • Plastic, foil, etc.

I hope this helps for those who are looking to compost and are also curious about the set up. The assembly is easy and simple and hopefully you’ll be able to get going on it soon. This composter also cut back on the amount of trash that we produced greatly.

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Websites and Resources List

01.10.2017

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So I was asked awhile back to list some resources that I use, so here they are:

Issues dealing with everyday life and the earth:

  1. Earth 911 – http://earth911.com/
  2. Life Hack – http://www.lifehack.org/

Zero waste issue dealing with the home:

  1. The Zero Waste Home – http://www.zerowastehome.com/
  2. Trash Is For Tossers – http://www.trashisfortossers.com/
  3. Eco-Cycle- http://www.ecocycle.org/zerowaste
  4. Going Zero Waste- https://www.goingzerowaste.com/

Minimalist Articles and websites:

  1. The Minimalists – http://www.theminimalists.com/
  2. Becoming Minimalist – http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

Social Media in general:

  1. Other WordPress blogs about zero waste living and minimalist lifestyles: If you just do a simple search, then you’ll be able to find keywords regarding blogs you’ll be interested in
  2. Twitter: Simple word search
  3. Instagram: Simple word search
  4. Reddit: ZeroWaste Sub

So those are just some of my resources- Hopefully they will be able to help you out.

Examine Products Closely

01.06.2017

0800

I actually did this experiment back on August 27, 2016, but I finally decided to upload it now. I had other topics that I felt were scheduled before this post. (If you look through my Instagram account, you’ll see the date of when this image was taken and posted)

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Although the craze of sustainable products has made their way around the internet, it is important to always examine your products closely and investigate the companies you invest your money in. There is plenty of companies that practice greenwashing and may not think that their consumers would investigate, but I encourage you to.

Greenwashing is a form of spin in which green Public Relations or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.
Not all claims of products being 100% natural or biodegradable are true. Take for instance my biodegradable toothbrush. I pulled it apart and found metal flakes that held the bristles in place. I also held a lighter to the bristles to see what would happen and they melted as opposed to burning.
Not all companies are bad. Not all claims are false, but check out the companies that you trust your health and your family’s health with. It is a risky game at times and blind trust has to be executed in certain situations.
The internet is big and vast and a lot of people review products. Take a look at what they say and hopefully it’ll guide you in a direction you are comfortable with.
This has been a public service announcement. Ha! yea right.