My Trash Doesn’t Fit In A Jar

​06.17.2019

0600

My trash doesn’t fit in a jar anymore. When I started my zero waste journey, my trash did fit in a 16 ounce mason jar. However, int he past few years, I needed to purchase items that had extra packaging in which would not fit in my nice little jar anymore.

A lot of the time, when we shop at bulk bins in grocery stores, although we don’t bring home trash into our homes, products do get shipped to grocery stores in packaging. We as consumers don’t see it, but it doesn’t mean that the packaging doesn’t exist. Now, I’m not saying that every company is wasteful, but truth be told that is how our products are packaged from the manufacturer and then transferred to the distribution companies.

Trash pollution, plastic pollution is hidden in plain sight. We as consumers, do have the choice to not bring trash into our homes, and that’s a privilege. But packaging does exist, it’s not always compostable, and it may not even be sustainable. We as consumers can still vote with our dollar, and we still need to remind manufacturing companies that our trash pollution is at the highest quantity right now. I do think the tide is turning, but with The daily production of trash in the speed at which it is produced, we’re going out to tackle a very, very large problem and that’s with magnified with an unimaginable speed.

I live in the Bay Area, and bulk food items and products are readily available here. There are plenty of other states and areas, which bulk food is not available. If you can fit your trash into a small jar and continue to do so, I think that’s amazing and admirable. If your trash can’t fit into a jar, just keep in mind, the trash you’re producing and keep putting effort towards living a more zero waste lifestyle. I think using the glass jar as a standard is a bit unreasonable, because not all of us are lucky enough to live and afford certain amenities where we are located.

So my trash doesn’t fit in a jar this year, maybe next year it will be less. If not, I’ll keep trying to continue to strive to live a zero waste life.

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How I Got Started

11.07.2017

0600

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San Francisco, it’s a beautiful city with so much history, it’s mesmerizing. This city made a significant impact on my life because my zero waste journey started with this city. I don’t share this story often, but I thought I’d finally give a background to how I started my zero waste journey seven years ago.

I had moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school. It was a big city with so many places, restaurants and activities to explore, I couldn’t even keep track of everything I wanted to do. At the time, I was working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a large, and well know ambulance company.

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Fulton Avenue and Stanyan Avenue path into Golden Gate Park.

I had moved into a studio apartment in the Richmond District and it was on the third floor of a three story building. It was a beautiful studio. With hardwood floors and a cozy interior, I settled in. My building stood directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. It was an interesting location because on the weekends, the park was closed to cars on Saturdays, so the foot traffic was busy. I could also open up my windows on the weekends and I listen to the music performances from inside of the park. Since I was on the top floor, sunlight consistently illuminated my apartment all day and all year long.  I lucked out on that part because San Francisco can become very cold and foggy during certain seasons.

Golden Gate Park Entrance

One of the Golden Gate Park entrances off of Fulton Avenue. (at Fulton Avenue and Arguello Avenue)

I was raised and lived in the suburbs my entire life so living in a condensed large city was quite a new experience. All of my routines including grocery shopping, working out and even parking was new and took a bit of an adjustment. I parked on the street since my apartment didn’t have a parking lot. This is also how I learned to become a stealth car parking spotter. Understanding and knowing which streets you could park on in the city was a must in order to avoid parking tickets. San Francisco streets are each scheduled for street cleaning all week long on different days and at different hours, so you have to be careful of where you park, or you’ll get a ticket for blocking the street cleaner.

Living in San Francisco also introduced me to trash chutes. A trash chute is a smooth, open shaft in a multistory building, used to convey trash from upper floors to a collection room. My building’s trash chute could only be accessed from the exterior wooden staircase on the side of the building. From each floor, there was an door which allowed access to the staircase. The problem was that these doors were very heavy and never stayed open. It took quite a bit of effort to even open these doors and step out on the balcony in order to access the trash chute; it seemed that they were installed to slam shut. It could have been an issue with the spring on the door, but regardless, it took a lot of force to open the door and hold it open.

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San Francisco also separates their trash out into categories: trash, recyclables and compostables. Therefore, I had to separate my disposable items. This is where my problem lay. When I first moved into the apartment, I thought the trash chute was great. It was useful, accessible and being that I was located on the third floor, it seemed convenient for me. However, it only gave access to the trash bin, not the compost bin or the recyclables bin.

When I used the trash chute, my trash bag would bounce around the chute all the way down to the trash bin. It made quite a bit of noise and I thought that wasn’t appropriate since I didn’t know if my neighbors worked night shifts or slept during the day. So I would carry my trash all the way down the narrow exterior stairs. These stairs were very old and were designed to be very narrow. This meant I had to carry my three seperate bags directly in front of me. Some weeks this was not ideal since  my bags would be so full, so I had to take two trips. Taking two trips meant that I would carry two bags down together, let the stairwell door slam shut behind me, walk down the exterior stairs and throw my bags away, exit the side yard in order to enter my building from the front. I would then walk up the inside staircase to my apartment, and grab the last bag to repeat this routine. In order for me to throw away all three bags, I routinely had to exit my building twice and enter it twice; all the meanwhile walking up and down two sets of stairs. I didn’t like taking two trips just to throw out trash, so I decided that I had to eliminate one of the bags.

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This is where my zero waste journey began. In order to simplify my weekly “taking out the garbage routine,” I decided that getting rid of my trash bag would be the easiest solution. I had to first start swapping out all of my disposable items and figure out how to either replace the items with more sustainable solutions or eliminate them from my life completely. I decided to tackle all of my disposable items in the kitchen first. I started by swapping out my kitchen sponges for smaller washcloths, and then started buying food without packaging. That took a little bit more planning because I had to purchase glass tupperware and change my diet slightly. Changing my diet included giving up certain foods that came in packaging such as certain types of meat, candy, snacks and cereal. I switched those out for bulk snacks such as nuts, granola mixes, whole vegetables and fruit. I started eating whole grains for breakfast and really took solace in my progress towards a zero waste life.

Although swapping out disposable items meant that my laundry load would increase, it really didn’t increase by a lot. I went through my kitchen items and then moved over to my bathroom items. I paid attention to the materials of the items I was replacing my disposable with. I always tried to choose 100% cotton material, bamboo, stainless steel or glass. I then went through my clothes and started donating everything I didn’t need.

My journey to a zero waste life took about a year and half. It sounds like a significant amount of time, but if you think about auditing your entire life, there’s a lot of stuff to go through and get rid of. During my zero waste journey, I also started minimizing my life where I also implemented a minimalistic lifestyle.

I’m writing about this story of how I got started because truth be told, it started because I was lazy. That’s the honest truth. Each blogger has a story of how they got started and this is mine. A lot of bloggers tend to move towards this lifestyle based on their awareness of their own plastic use and it’s commendable that they started living with less plastic. I wanted to write my experience so that my audience may know that not all zero waste journeys need to start with fighting for the environment. Sometimes it happens on a fluke, a chance encounter, but that it’s very possible to live this way. I did notice the benefits of living a zero waste life as I dove deeper and deeper into it and the environmental impacts  became more evident as I continued on. But my story doesn’t start with an ethically conscious mindset. It started because the exterior stairs at my apartment building was too narrow to carry three bags down to the trash bin.

This is my story of how I got started to living a zero waste life. #truth

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Alternative Screen For Doors

03.16.2016

0830

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Materials:

  • Fabric shower curtain
  • Shoelace
  • Metal rings
  • Binder Clips
  • Nails (thin enough to fit through the holes of the shower curtain)

Tools:

  • Hammer

As Spring is rolling in and Summer is around the bend, I wanted to show a design hack that doesn’t require much commitment. I have a small balcony that leads up to my area and it doesn’t have a screen to keep out pesky bugs. I’m a fan of fabric shower curtains for the fact that I like to toss them into the washing machine and hang them up to dry. I have a few fabric shower curtains that I keep around for design hacks such as these.

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A shower curtain fits almost the height of a standard door frame. For anyone who lives in a space where they cannot impede on the design structure of the space  (ie. due to tenant contracts via landlord), this seems to ease the pain of when your area is overheating during the hotter season. I took 2 tiny nails and hung up one of my fabric shower curtains. Make sure that the nail on the end where the hinge of the door frame is located, is about 6″ from the edge of the frame. This is because when you swing the door open, you have to take in to account the width of the door itself. The curtain must hang easily and without tension as the door is open at 90 degrees. On the door handle side, try to use a binder clip to extend an arm to hook it to any lock hinge with an S hook, or you can simple place a push pin in the wall and hook the binder clip handle to it.

The nail holes are also a simple fix if you decide to move out and need to patch up the holes with caulking. On the open side of the shower curtain I clipped a metal binder clip and on the hinge side of the door, I looped a metal ring. The side with the metal loop tends to wedge perfectly in between the door and the frame on the hinge side. However, when placing the metal ring, try to wedge it horizontally. I actually use a folded up washcloth to wedge under the door to hold it open too.

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On the bottom of the curtain, if you want some weight to the curtain, you can simply attach some metal binder clips with a key chain on each (I know you guys have these key chains lying around somewhere). If you don’t have any key chains, try to find a small weight to hang from the binder clips. The reason why I use binder clips in this design hack, is because I don’t want to sacrifice the integrity of the shower curtain itself.

If you still want the curtain to be lower, you can take some extra shoelace/string/rope/twine and create an extension for the top like this:

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Because the nails are on the top of the door frame, you have about three inches to give in the distance that the curtain starts to hang. If you add these extensions on, the curtain should fit right under the door frame. But if you do add these extensions, you will need to add another nail so that the middle of the curtain isn’t loose. So it will look like this:

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My extensions seem to be enough for me when it comes to hanging my shower curtain and the design on the shower curtain gives a little bit of illuminated art during the day. I don’t add the binder clips or the key chains at the bottom of mine during the summer. I think I like the drastic movement it makes with the wind when it flows through my space. I hope this design hack helps for any of you who may be living in apartments or homes that get uncomfortably hot during the summer. It’s a way to make your own screen without destroying the integrity of the architecture and design or paying for a brand new screen.

Natural Air Filtering Plants

02.17.2016

0800

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Plants are great for indoor decor as well as connecting humans with a little bit of nature. Even better is when you can choose a plant that will benefit you and your family.

I have a Golden Pothos (Scindapsus aures) plant indoor and I’ve had it since May 2013. Golden Pothos are great for filtering formaldehyde and it stays green even when kept in the dark. It’s great for rooms near garages. It needs indirect, bright light and only needs watering once a week or once every week and a half. Originally, when I bought the plant, it looked like this:

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When the plant started cascading over the edge of the hanging flower pot, I found an old metal chain and used it to hang up the plant. I used an S-Hook to adjust the height of the chain over time. S-Hooks are great for making almost any ledge more versatile. As this plant continues to grow, I’ll readjust the height of the chain, but so far it seems happy where it is.

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Some other plants that can be used as natural indoor air filters are:

  1. Aloe (aloe Vera) aloe-vera-plant-1
    1. Great for kitchens &bathrooms
    2. Battles formaldehyde and benzene, which can be a byproduct of chemical-based cleaners, paints and more.
  2. Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)Chlorophytum-comosum-zebra-spider-plant-620x412
    1. Great for all residential rooms
    2. Battles benezene, formaldehyde, carbon momoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries. This plant is very easy to grow and maintain being that it prefers cool to average temperatures and dry soil. It needs bright indirect light to keep growing.
  3. Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)Gerbera jamesonii
    1. Great for laundry room & bedroom
    2. Can remove trichloroethylene and benzene from pollutants that come home with dry cleaning and inks . This plant needs lots of light and well drained soil.
  4. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’) Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii'
    1. Great for the bathroom, kitchen & bedroom
    2. Filters formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products and carbon monoxide, which is common in toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. It also releases oxygen at night. These thrive in low light and steamy humid conditions.
  5. Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium) chrysanthemum_morifolium
    1. Great for bedrooms, office, kitchen and laundry room
    2. This plant not only brightens up a room with it’s unique colors, but it filters benzene, which is commonly found in glue, paint, plastics and detergent. It needs bright light in order for the buds to open, but not direct sunlight.
  6. Red-edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata) RedEdgedDrac
    1. Great for living rooms, dining rooms &kitchens
    2. This plant removes xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, which can seep into indoor air through lacquers, varnishes and gasoline. It grows slowly, but can reach up to 15 feet in height, so it’s suggested that this plant be placed in a area with a high ceiling, but with moderate sunlight.
  7. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)   download
    1. Great for living rooms
    2. Can filter out formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene, which come from pollutants that typically accompany carpeting and furniture. This plant is a little tricky to take care of with but with the right amount of light, water and temperature, it can grow into a beautiful sculpture.
  8. Azalea (Rhododendron simsii) Rhododendron-simsii-2
    1. Great for living rooms, dining rooms, basements
    2. This shrub can battle formaldehyde from sources such as plywood or foam insulation. These plants strive in temperatures that range between 60-65 °F.
  9. Warneck Dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’) dracaena-warneckiei-plant
    1. Great for living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens.
    2. This plant can combat pollutants associated with varnishes and oils. Keep in mind that this plant has the potential to reach 12 feet high and grows easily in an indoor environment, even without direct sunlight.
  10. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema Crispum ‘Deborah’) Chinese-evergreen-Aglaonema-crispum-Deborah
    1. Great for all residential rooms
    2. Filters a number of pollutants and will remove more toxins over time with more exposure. This plant has been nicknamed “the easiest houseplant” because it will thrive in low light and can survive in places other plants cannot. These plants like humid air so misting the leaves occasionally will keep them happy.
  11. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Sefritzii) bamboo-palm-tree-chamaedorea-seifrizii-20-01-b-realpalmtrees.com
    1. Great for living rooms, dinging rooms and kitchens
    2. This plant filters out both benzene and trichloroethylene. It should be placed around furniture that could be off-gassing formaldehyde. It prefers humidity and bright indirect sunlight.
  12. Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium) Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium
    1. Great for all residential rooms
    2. Can remove all kinds of VOCs (Volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde from sources like particleboard. However, it is toxic when eaten so keep out of reach of children and pets. This plant is very low maintenance and needs indirect light with room for its vines to grow.

Consider using an indoor plant that filters air naturally. Make sure you check the maximum height at which the plant will inevitably grow to and if they need to be re-potted into a larger pot . It’s better to not be surprised a few months into this investment. These plants can help clean indoor air on Earth, which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air and the benefits also include creating a more sustainable indoor environment.