Zero Waste Tips And Habits

08.19.2019

0600

Committing to a Zero Waste lifestyle, does take a good amount of preparation.  If you look around your kitchen, bathroom and even your bedroom, a lot of our world is made of plastic. 

BEFORE TRANSITIONING TO A ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE:


The easiest way I can instruct someone to go about transitioning to a Zero Waste Lifestyle, is to go room by room, and I would start with the kitchen. It’s not quick, since you have to go through every drawer, cabinet, closet, shelf, and the storage container. I would technically audit each room in this order:

  • Kitchen – We tend to buy the most items for this room, and food items frequently circulate in and out of this room
  • Bathroom(s)- We use quite a bit of personal care items, which have expiration dates, so I think this room also has a slew of products being brought in and thrown out
  • Storage closet(s)- Some households store extra supplies in closets, so I would go through and make a list of items I frequently stock up on. 
  • Bedroom(s)- Specifically, clothing and other disposable items that are bought, used and kept here
  • Living Room & Dining Room- Check cabinets or drawers where you may keep extra supplies of items, and list them 
  • Garage- This might be a big audit, since people use their garages for a variety of things. But I would go through and find all of the single use, disposable items and then find other bottles/jars/canisters that will create waste once the product is used up. 

DURING THE TRANSITION TO A ZERO WASTE LIFE STYLE:

During the process of transitioning to a more zero waste lifestyle, there will be a slew of products or foods, you will end up using up and finishing up. A big part of this section of the process, is a countdown to the day you finish using up that shampoo bottle, bag of rice, toothpaste tube, nail polish, nail polish remover, etc. Although, waiting until the end of the life of a product can feel frustrating, it buys you time to research on products you plan on replacing the action with.

Keep in mind that investing in products made from sustainable materials and have been proven to last a long time, are better investments for your wallet. When I was going through my transition, I came to realize that I don’t really care what zero waste looks like in my home. I’m more concerned about the function of the products I invested in. Some people do care about style and that’s perfectly fine; I am simply the type of person that does not. I don’t have a glass cup for every type of occasion, or have very specific dishes to use for certain occasions, but that’s just how I like to live. I like living a minimalist life and my zero waste lifestyle reflects on it as well.

I like investing in products that I can clean easily, durable and can be used for a multitude of uses. I don’t have glass bottles of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and liquid amnios, but I do have refillable glass mason jars for olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, honey and liquid amnios.

If I can’t clean and reuse the new product easily, it’s a no buy in my opinion.

AFTER THE TRANSITION TO A ZERO WASTE LIFE STYLE:

Remember the FIVE Rs: from Bea Johnson, author of The Zero Waste Home, “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot”. Refuse what you don’t need, reduce what you do need, reuse what you can, recycle what you can and rot (compost) the rest.

Maintaining a zero waste lifestyle takes a great sense of self awareness. Refusing to buy food, products and items you normally purchase, takes restraint and intent. You’re changing the way you live, by altering what you purchase and how you purchase products. To this day, when I walk into new restaurants and drink shops, I will ask if they will accept my water bottle to contain the drink, and sometimes I get turned down. But I respect their policy and simply take my business elsewhere. I still want to know if other restaurants will accept my reusable utensils and Tupperware, because than I know I can return to the establishment.

I also drive around with a “To Go Carry Out Kit“. The kit helps when I stop by a restaurant to pick up food, before I get home. It also comes in handy for impromptu picnics and dropping by family and friends homes to join in on a potluck.

In my day to day routine, I carry around a reusable utensils kit and reuseable water bottle. I tend to buy more vegetables and fruit, than I do with bulk grains and dry food. I occasionally will snack on almonds or pecans, but it’s rare. The majority of how I set up my weekday meal plans, are simply green salads and salmon. I don’t eat much grains anymore, except a bit of brown rice.

So basically the main steps are:

  • Use up everything you purchase that comes in plastic or non recyclable packaging.
  • Find alternatives for the “absolute must need items” you use.
  • Refuse any items you don’t need, such as single use disposable items, freebies, etc.
  • Set up a bulk buying system for your kitchen, bathroom, garage, etc. needs.
  • Carry around a reuseable utensils kit with a reuseable water bottle.
  • SPREAD THE WORD.

Don’t worry about the naysayers. I started this lifestyle back in 2010, when it wasn’t popular at all. I got the weird looks, comments, jabs from friends, family, co-workers and on social media. Doing something different and starting something new, will always bring more questions. Just stay on the road, and steer straight ahead, you’ll get there.

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The Zero Waste Lifestyle Commitment

07.22.2019

0600

The zero waste lifestyle is a 24 hour a day commitment. I’m not gonna lie, but you do have to be conscious of it. I’ve slipped up a few times, because I wasn’t aware of how a restaurant packaged their food, or that the restaurant automatically gave me disposable utensils (even after I asked them to not include it). I’ve walked away from restaurants, with a plastic drink container, because I forgot that my water bottle at home. (I hang onto the cups to contain my smaller trash items.) but it is so easy to slip up and make a mistake, so don’t feel bad if you do. There are disposable utensils, cutlery, napkins, sauces, wrapping, etc. at every restaurant in the United States; usually comes in the form of take out. Some of the disposable items do serve a purpose such as, sanitary situations, but more than likely they are used for a very short amount time and then tossed into the landfill.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably carrying around one of these reuseable utensils kits. This kit will likely include a reuseable spoon, fork, knife, chopsticks, a metal straw, a cloth napkin, and perhaps a cloth handkerchief. I will also carry around a water bottle and sometimes my coffee tumbler too. Most of the time, my water bottle is empty in case I want to go get coffee, and then I just use my water bottle to contain my coffee. 

Being aware that the zero waste lifestyle is a constant commitment, means that it influences where you decide to eat, what you decide to eat and even where you decide to go to spend your time. Even though it is a conscious effort, and a lifestyle commitment, it does become easier over time.

I have my favorite restaurants that I go to, and even coffee places that I go to. I also have “go to” food choices that I will pick at certain restaurants, because I know that the food item doesn’t come with packaging. One of the easiest places to go look for zero waste packaged food, is the grocery store; specifically, the deli section. Your menu is the entire deli.

At my local grocery store, I have a variety of different pre-mixed salad options, a variety of meal solutions, sandwiches, sushi rolls and wraps, soups, meat choices and cheese choices. There is also a section for fresh baked bread and fresh donuts, that’s also freshly made each morning. It’s a great place to search for a quick solution for dinner.

The good thing is, as long as you’re aware of this zero waste commitment, and you try to stick to making small changes, you are making a difference. The zero waste community is vast and continues to grow. Around the world, we are presenting our methods and solutions to our every day issues of plastic packaging, wasting resources, and the growing plastic pollution problem.

As long as we are conscious about what we choose, and how we choose to spend every dollar, we are telling our story of our commitment. We are telling our neighbors, our friends, or family that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Eco-Friendly Christmas

10.15.2017

0600

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Having an Eco-friendly holiday isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It might sound complicated because the concept is different, but it’s actually pretty simple.  So for each holiday there are basic aspects of the holiday celebration I like to check off: decorations, food and entertainment. I don’t always cover all three categories equally and majority of my focus will usually be on the food.

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Decorations tend to be covered easily being that Christmas is such a huge holiday celebrated. Honestly, any type of decoration that is compostable or reusable is a good idea. Here are some ideas for zero waste holiday.

  1. Decoration Ideas:
    1. Seasonal
      1. Seasonal leaves, fruit, create a centerpiece suing branches and colorful seasonal leaves.
    2. Christmas
      1. Use existing jars filled with some seasonal and colorful leaves to decorate the table
      2. Use branches and leaves from outside to decorate the table surface

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  1. Zero Waste Food
    1. Consider using fresh fruits and vegetables as ingredients in your dishes. You can compost the skin or the non edible pieces after
    2. Buy your ingredients from the bulk aisle or bulk bins
    3. For ingredients that usually come in packaging, consider making your own homemade version or looking for it in paper, aluminum or glass packaging
    4. Share recipes or give the gift of different types of dishes to one another

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Gift ideas can be tricky for this holiday since it’s based around an iconic tree as well as what surrounds it on Christmas Day. However, here are a few ideas for zero waste gifts, you might want to consider. Check social media sites (Groupon, Living Social, Ticketmaster, etc.) for great deals for events and activities for family and friends during the holidays.

  1. Gift Ideas:
    1. Compostable Gifts
      1. Food, snacks, bulk candy wrapped in reusable packaging or compostable packaging
      2. Buy bulk foods and create a recipe kit for a gift
      3. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    2. Gift of Goods and Products
      1. Consider checking out thrift stores to find a gift for the recipient
      2. If you want to give a new gift, look for gifts with no packaging or recyclable paper packaging
    3. Gift of Experiences
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (check for local theme parks near you or near the recipient)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing, etc.)
      4. Gift card or money for food & drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee, tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card or money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining, etc.)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card or money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    4. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
      1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
      2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
      3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

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  1. Gift Wrapping:
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets or bandanas to wrap and tie around gifts
    3. For the larger gifts, I’ll use a pillowcase or really large bed sheets to wrap the gifts
    4. For medium sized gifts, I’ll wrap the gift in an extra t-shirt.

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Entertainment during the holidays can be daunting as well. Usually families have kids around or simply need entertainment playing while the day is happening. 

  1. Entertainment
    1. Movies- if you are able to stream movies, there are a few great resources to stream holiday movies during this time. Check YouTube or other streaming media, they usually have full movies uploaded to watch.
    2. Board Games – Ask your guest if they have any board games to play or would want to bring for the kids to share and play with
    3. Card Games – these games are always fun because a deck of cards can be really versatile

I hope this outline helped to brainstorm ideas for you. This is an overall idea list and if you want to check out other holiday blog posts, check out these holiday blog posts from these websites:

Minimalist Cooking Hacks

09.26.2017

0600

As someone who likes to make my routines as simple as possible, I also try to create simple cooking habit routines as well. This approach simplifies the ingredients I buy and my grocery shopping haul trips. Here are seven simple tips and tricks for cooking hacks.

 

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1. Focus on Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods

  • Whole, single-ingredient foods are the key to good health.
  • Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, poultry and eggs are great examples. These foods are incredibly nutritious and satisfying.
  • When you focus on whole foods and high-quality ingredients, you will automatically start to eat less processed junk foods.
  • Processed foods often come with misleading health claims and long lists of ingredients, many of which you can’t even pronounce. However, truly healthy foods don’t even need an ingredients list. They are the ingredient.

Bottom Line: Eating healthy can be quite simple. Stick to whole foods and avoid processed foods made with refined ingredients and artificial chemicals.

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2. Use Simple Flavorings

  • If you buy high-quality ingredients, you don’t need to add a lot of flavoring. Olive oil, salt and pepper may be enough.
  • Fresh herbs can also do wonders for a meal.
  • Try to avoid buying new flavorings unless they are something you think you will use often.
  • If a new recipe requires hard-to-find spices and condiments, you can most likely replace them with something you already have.
  • A rare ingredient that you will end up using only once is a waste of money and space in your kitchen. Most of the time, you can stick to common ingredients that you already own and know how to use.

Bottom Line: You don’t need to own a lot of rare ingredients in order to add flavor to your food. Simple ingredients like high-quality olive oil, salt and pepper can be used in almost anything you make.

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3. Clean Out Your Spice Cabinet

  • Most people keep a lot of herbs and spices on hand. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you use them regularly and don’t have duplicates.
  • If your spice cabinet is disorganized and overflowing with spices you never use, you might want to tidy it up a bit.
  • Try to combine duplicates into one container and donate spices you never use. Throw away/compost spices that are old or bland.
  • Having a tidy spice drawer will help you cook faster because it will be easier to find the spices you’re looking for.
  • A good rule of thumb is to go through your spices at least once per year.

Bottom Line: Having a tidy spice cabinet will make you more efficient in the kitchen. Keep spices you use regularly within reach and combine duplicates. Throw out old spices and donate the ones you never use.

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4. Keep an Organized, Minimalist Pantry

  • Keep a clutter-free pantry stocked with quality foods you use regularly. Preparing healthy meals will become much easier.
  • A clutter-free pantry also makes your food less likely to spoil, since you’ll be able to see all your food items neatly organized.
  • You’ll find it easier to navigate your pantry and locate the items you’re looking for when cooking. Here are a few tips to help you organize your pantry:
    • Optimize storage: Store items you often use on the bottom shelves or near the front. Items you use less often can be stored in the back or a little higher.
    • Sort and group: Designate shelves for similar items, such as keeping your canned foods on one shelf and your breakfast foods on another.
    • Label everything: Label all of your pantry items and store them in clear, well-sealed containers so that your foods don’t spoil.
    • Increase accessibility: Try to place items so they are either directly accessible or you can reach them after moving just one item.

Bottom Line: Taking the time to plan and organize your pantry will make both shopping and cooking easier and more enjoyable.

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5. Simplify Your Kitchen Tools

  • There are tons of clever gadgets you can purchase for your kitchen.
  • Yet many are nonessential, single-purpose appliances.
  • You don’t need fancy kitchenware to cook a great, healthy meal. Simple meals require just a few basics.
  • If your kitchen is cluttered with items you rarely use, consider selling or donating them. Focus on keeping the functional items you use on a regular basis — it’s a plus if they serve multiple purposes.
  • However, figuring out what’s essential is entirely up to you. This varies, and something you regularly use may seem unnecessary to someone else. What you use depends on your lifestyle, how you cook and what kinds of foods you like to eat.
  • Try storing the items you rarely use in a box. If you haven’t opened it in six months, then it’s probably safe to sell or donate those things.

Bottom Line: You don’t need highly specialized, fancy tools for most tasks in the kitchen. Consider selling or donating kitchenware you don’t use often and keeping only the most useful kitchen items.

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6. Think Before You Shop

  • You should think carefully before you purchase a new kitchen gadget.
  • Start by asking yourself if you really need it. If you’re not sure, think it over for one week before you decide to buy it.
  • Setting yourself a rule of “one in, one out” may also help. So for any new item you bring into the kitchen, another needs to go.
  • Think creatively and you might even be able to use something you already own in a different way than you’re used to.

Bottom Line: When it comes to kitchen appliances, less is more. Think carefully before you decide to add another item to your kitchen, especially if it’s an item that’s designed to perform just one specific task.

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7. Clear Your Kitchen Counter

  • It’s time to de-clutter your kitchen counter.
  • Store kitchenware you use less frequently in your cabinets and drawers instead of on the countertop.
  • This is especially important if you live in a small apartment with limited counter space.
  • You’ll have more room to prepare meals and you’ll probably enjoy cooking more if there is less clutter around you.
  • This will also allow you to be more organized and focused while cooking.
  • If you need to keep items on the kitchen counters because of limited cabinet space then make sure they’re frequently used and essential for food preparation.
  • If you like to store items like keys, mail and wallets on your kitchen counter, make sure everything has a place where it belongs.

Bottom Line: Kitchen counters tend to attract clutter. Keeping them clear will give you more space to prepare meals and enjoy your time in the kitchen.

 

 

Cooking And Serving Preparation Hacks

07.18.2017

0600

Quick, easy and simple are always my goals when I do any type of task. If I can hack a procedure to simplify steps in any task, then I will. I find more value and satisfaction in saving time and energy when I do tasks. I’m simply not the type to make extravagant dinners or parties. There are always ways to simplify life and that is always a goal in life for me. My personal hacks might cut out one extra step but one less step is still saving time.

Cooking Preparation Hacks

When you’re in a hurry, and you need to eat or prepare food fast, here are some hacks that I use so I can speed up the preparation process.

  • Using a spoon to scoop and round produce or vegetable that fits in the palm of your hands
    • Hard boiled eggs, avocados, kiwis or any other small round produce that will fit in the palm of your hand

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    • Dicing or Cutting on a cutting board
      • To change the direction of the cuts, rotate the cutting board or move your own position towards the board. Don’t move the produce on the cutting board.

 

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  • Sliding produce to pan from cutting board
    • Once done with dicing or slicing your vegetables on the cutting board, use the opposite side of the knife blade to slide the chopped items the pot or larger container. This way, you don’t ruin the blade of the knife.

 

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  • Cutting oranges
    • Cut oranges in half by cutting the first slice horizontally, and then create the divides from there. That way you create small triangles when you peel bech each individual slice.

 

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  • When cutting long vegetables
    • When cutting long vegetables, always cut the produce in half for each cut, so it takes less cuts to reach the desired length.
    • When I cut carrots it’s in a similar manner. I cut them in half and then split the halves into halves. I pretty much use this method for most any vegetable I cut.

 

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  • Extracting garlic
    • Gently extract garlic out of its skin by using the side of a large knife and simply pressing on it, on the counter. The garlic will loosen from its skin and simply cutting off the end of the garlic will release the skin from the garlic meat

 

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Serving Food Hacks

A lot of my workday consists of time management so my hacks really stem from my desire to save time.

  1. Serving Food
    1. I use glass tupperware bowls when I eat, that way, if I have leftover food, I throw on the tupperware lid and I’ll have leftovers for a snack or for another meal. Also, there are less dishes to wash after the meal.
    2. Mugs with handles are our friends for foods that have temperature issues such as hot soups, or cold ice cream.

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The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

The world’s fast growing appetite for Asian food has a lot to do with both population growth and economic development on the continent. Demand has soared in China, where GDP per capita has increased more than ten fold since 2000, and also in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The long-standing myth that disposable chopsticks are produced with scrap wood products just isn’t true. In fact, an estimated 25+ million mature tree (each usually over 20 years old) are logged each year just to make chopsticks that are used once and then thrown away. The statistics behind disposable chopsticks are surprising:

  • In China, about 57 billion pairs of wooden disposable chopsticks are made each year. They’re made from cottonwood, birch, spruce and bamboo.
  • Half of these disposables are used within China itself. Of the other half, 77 percent are exported to Japan, and South Korea.
  • With China’s 1.3 billion people, in one year, they go through roughly 45 billion pairs of the throwaway utensils; that averages out to nearly 130 million pairs of chopsticks a day. (The export market accounts for 18 billion pairs annually.
  • Globally, about 1.4 billion people throw away 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year
  • In the U.S., Americans threw out 31 million tons of plastic — including plastic utensils — in 2010, making up 12.4 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8 percent of that plastic waste was recovered from recycling.

The impact of so many discarded chopsticks is of course unsustainable. With China now the world’s largest importer of wood, governmental organizations are aware that the nation cannot sustain the level of deforestation needed to manufacture so many throwaway products. In 2006 China imposed a 5% tax on disposable chopsticks, a move which resulted in a drop in manufacturing.

Greenpeace China has estimated that to keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees need to be felled every 24 hours. Think here of a forest larger than Tiananmen Square — or 100 American football fields — being sacrificed every day. That works out to roughly 16 million to 25 million felled trees a year.

The chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group noted that only 4,000 chopsticks can be created from a 20-year-old tree, 2 million of which were being cut down each year to produce them.

Then there are the restaurants. The alternative to wooden disposables is sterilizing the tableware (plastic, metal or durable wood chopsticks) after each use. But the cost differential is significant: Disposables run about a penny apiece, while sterilization ranges from 15 to 70 cents. Restaurants, especially the low-end ones, worry about passing the costs on to customers. And the worry would seem to be warranted: Consumer advocacy groups from 21 Chinese cities published an open letter in March arguing that the costs of sterilization should not be passed on to consumers as the food safety law obligates restaurants to provide free, clean and safe tableware.

Here’s the kicker:

Disposable chopsticks are made by boiling them in toxic chemicals. Disposable chopsticks tend to be consistent in color. The exact same color. This is due to the manufacturing process. Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative on the wood. It’s used to create a consistent color and texture throughout the products.

In 2005, a Chinese consumer council warned that sulfur dioxide from throwaway chopsticks was connected with an increase in asthma and respiratory problems. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas and source of air pollution. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide can be used in the wine making process, sometimes even in preserving dried fruits. Technically, you’re not consuming your wood chopsticks, so it doesn’t count?

The most environmentally friendly option is to stick with metal chopsticks — Korea’s preference in utensils — but they can be quite weighty and slippery to use for beginners. You can also buy a set of formal chopsticks with a carrying case, and use those.

Out of all the animal protein options available, I tend to favor fish. My friends and family are also big sushi fans. Whenever we go out we tend to chose sushi diners to indulge ourselves with. (Good thing is that sushi fills us up quickly.) Almost every sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to, uses disposable wooden chopsticks. I always felt bad for using these chopsticks because I know that all of these chopsticks will end up in the landfill. For this reason, I added a pair of chopsticks to my travel utensil bag. It is a bit odd to pull it out during dinner at times, but then again, making waves is always odd in the beginning. Maybe I’ll just invest in a set of metal chopsticks instead. Also…. don’t eat your chopsticks.