Ultimate Disaster Evacuation Checklists

10.31.2017

0600

Note: I created 5 downloadable documents in this post, feel free to download.

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Sonoma County, California Wildfires Force Evacuations Near San Francisco, Image of NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com

The Northern California Wildfires that recently occured left a devastating amount of damage. More than 160,000 acres—or 250 square miles—have burned in Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties, just north of San Francisco. Another 36,000 acres have burned farther north in Mendocino county. The fires are still not 100 percent contained. About  8,400 structures have been destroyed, according to Cal Fire, the state’s wildfire-fighting agency. The California insurance commissioner reported that about 5,500 homes were completely destroyed, with an additional 4,000 partially burned. Santa Rosa alone lost 3,000 homes to the fast-spreading Tubbs fire.

At the peak of this catastrophe, 11,000 firefighters across the state—including 3,800 inmate volunteers from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation—battled the flames. Firefighters would work anywhere from 24 to 80 straight hours, dousing active fires and chopping down trees and brush to prevent their spread. About 4,300 still remain on the frontlines as of 10/25/2017.

The devastation from those fires echoed across the state. A lot of residents, business owners lost everything. The fires burned so hot that the foundations of these homes were the only structural elements that survived. It also made me wonder if I was truly prepared for a disaster like this to strike in my own neighborhood. I decided to assemble the disaster evacuation checklists for anyone to download, for such a catastrophic event like these widlfires.

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Aerial view of a Santa Rosa neighborhood, after the wildfires settled. Image from http://www.CBS.com

Now, most people know that you should have Emergency Kits in your home. In California, our most well known natural disaster are earthquakes. If you grew up in California, you would have practiced earthquake drills at school or at home or were simply reminded what to do during an earthquake each year via public service announcements. However, it seems that there is little talk about evacuation disasters, where you have to leave everything behind, to save your life, your family’s lives, in order to survive. There’s a chance you may be alerted to prepare to evacuate, and sometimes you will not get that chance and have minutes to get out of your residence. This is a comprehensive post and I hope it can help someone out there.

 

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Before Disaster Strikes

So before any evacuation disaster strikes, there’s a lot that needs to be done. Take your time, be patient and go through these steps carefully. Since it’s a very detailed process to go through, keep pushing forward and by the end of it all, you’ll feel more prepared for the worst case disaster scenario.

Scanning and Photographing

  1. Transfer all home videos you’d like to keep into a digital file. You can save these on an external hard drive,  in your cloud, or both. If you want a simpler solution, transfer all VHS format videos to DVD format so they will be salvageable later on.
  2. Scan or photograph all photos you would like to keep, and organize them. Save on an external hard drive, cloud or both
  3. Scan or photograph all personal legal documents per person
    1. Diplomas
    2. Birth Certificate
    3. Social Security Card
    4. Immunization Record
    5. Health insurance card
    6. Medical Record & current prescriptions
    7. Car Titles
    8. Passport
    9. Take photos of all cards (front and back). I usually organize mine (face up) on a sheet of paper, then I flip the cards over to take pictures of the back of the cards. You can group 8 cards together on a single sheet of paper or take pictures of them individually. I tend to group cards into three categories.
      1. Membership cards (these cards will not likely change)
      2. Legal and important cards
      3. Cards in my wallet (these cards will likely change due to the expiration dates, so you can group these together and retake the picture as needed)

Create a Home Inventory of all of your belongings

 

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In the event of a fire or other disaster, would you be able to remember all your possessions? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.

I thought I’d tell you how I approached my home inventory list. This Home Inventory project was also the perfect opportunity to declutter and clean up. It’s a lot easier to do this project when your drawers are cleaned up and organized. Since I was going through this project room by room, I first inventoried my first room and subsequently used that first room to store all of the items I planned to donate or not keep. I needed these items out of the way and I also planned on moving these items to my car, when I made the walk through video.

  1. Download a copy of the Household Inventory Checklist
  2. I like to take a picture of each wall of each room, then open up and examine each furniture piece on each wall. I then examine all of the items within each furniture piece. I always inventory items Left –>Right and Top–>Bottom.
  3. You can also do a walk through video to give an overall view of your possessions.

Checklists

 

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The American Red Cross Mile High Chapter put together a very useful American Red Cross_Emergency Preparedness Checklist (Edited)  in which, they listed out Who you should contact for information regarding the emergency, Creating an emergency plan, Preparing a Disaster Supplies Kit, Emergency contacts and physician contact numbers, Floor plan evacuation sheets, Home hazard awareness and an Emergency Kit for your car. I actually edited this PDF to accommodate two contacts per category, so that you could include a back up contact.  I placed a few symbols for reference to be used on the Floor Plan sheets like these below. The other items on the list are easily identifiable, so I didn’t include symbols for those, but you can add those in.

Floor Plan Key Sample- From Doc Hub

Create an Emergency Go Bag Checklist per member in the household. I combined an Emergency Kit and a Go Bag Checklist to create this Emergency Go Bag Checklist. This bag will have legal paperwork, pertaining to your health, home and finances. It’ll include some electronics and emergency items. Depending on what you take for sentimental items and valuable jewelry, this bag may become bulky and heavy. The bulkiest items on this checklist is clothes, food and water. I keep these bulk items outside of the Emergency Go Bag, so I know to grab those items on the way out. If you have to evacuate quickly, you may have to leave some of the bulk items behind. I would try to grab some water and food though. The highlighted rows are documents, so these should take up little space, or at least be able to lay flat.

If you want extra safe keeping, I created a Keep Away From Home Checklist so that certain legal documents can be kept in a separate safe location. If you choose to not have a separate location to keep these documents, this checklist will be combined with your Emergency Go Bag documents.

During an evacuation, there is very little time to organize what to do and where to go. In these stressful situations, saving yourself and your family is the primary focus. I put together another checklist of what to do Before, During and After An Evacuation Checklists. Keep this list along with your other checklists. These checklists will only be used upon evacuation. If you have already scanned and photographed your legal documents, you’ve already done half of the work. The other half of preparing for such a disaster is completing the home inventory.

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Ideally, the Emergency Go Bag will be light and easy to evacuate with. Because majority of the items listed on all three lists are documents, these items should be able to transport easily. Once you record these documents into digital files, you can back these digital documents up with cloud storage or with an external hard drive. I do both to cover my tracks.

I really wanted to make these checklists because I never realized how much goes into being prepared to evacuate. Even putting these documents together was a lot of work. If you declutter as you go, the work will be less. When you list out your room inventory, just go room by room so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. You’re literally going through every single item you own, so go at a comfortable pace. Set goals for each part of the project so at least you complete this project in sections. At the end of the day, stuff is really just stuff. Your life and your loves ones are priceless. I hope this post helps organize your home and help you become more prepared for disaster evacuations. Stay safe out there!

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Zero Waste Hallowen

10.24.2017

0600

Growing up Halloween has always been representative of dressing up and going out at night to trick-or-treat. As a kid, Halloween was a fun holiday for me because if all the free candy we would receive as we went out at night to go trick-or-treating. I didn’t grow up with much candy in my household so Halloween also meant that I would get to stock up on a large amount but I also had to ration my favorite candy pieces to last for awhile.

When I moved towards a zero waste lifestyle this holiday became slightly tricky. A lot of the joy I experienced came with the inevitable result of producing trash. All of the small wrappers of the individually wrapped candy pieces added up to a lot of trash. I wanted to figure out how to celebrate this holiday but still practice my zero waste lifestyle.

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There are three areas of each holiday I like to tackle: decorations, food and entertainment. For Halloween, you can decorate your spaces using

  • Reusable fall and Halloween decorations which you can pull out each year
  • Use dried leaves from trees in a bowl or a jar. I usually string rope across areas of rooms and I’ll hang  up the leaves using clothespins.
  • Use fresh fruit or vegetables as edible decor such as pumpkins and then once the holiday is over, you can even make delicious dishes using thm
  • You can arrange twigs and fall leaves in a vase
  • You can tie pieces of sticks together and create a wreath to decorate with colorful leaves
  • Any decoration that is compostable or reusable is a great option

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Food options can vary due to location, seasonal fruits and vegetables available.

  • Look for seasonal fruits and vegetable to make dishes with
    • Some seasonal vegetables to keep an eye out for:  pumpkins, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, sweet potatoes
    • Some seasonal fruit to look for: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, and grapes
    • Search for recipes available on the internet for this seasonal favorite. Websites such as YouTube , Pinterest , All RecipesFood Network, Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home. If you’re anything like me, my searches always start with “simple” in front of my topic because I tend to lean towards simple ingredients and fewer steps when making dishes.
  • Bulk candy is also a great way to sneak in sweets during this holiday. A lot of bulk candy locations have a variety of options from chocolates to sour candies. The grocery stores I frequent have these options but my local movie theater has the name brand candy in bulk, that I love to eat as well.

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For Trick-Or-Treaters, consider handing out non-candy options. I’m still a big believer in feeding a child’s creativity so some of these items on the list are geared more towards art than just toys. During this season, children are usually in school, so if you hand out items they can use during school, it’ll also benefit the children. Here are some options other than candy, that you can hand out:

  • Crayons
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Play Doh
  • Coloring books
  • Mini notepads
  • Halloween Pencils
  • Mini slinkies
  • Bookmarks Pencils
  • Halloween Erasers
  • Hand out mini packets of herb seeds
  • Loose change such as dimes and quarters
  • Decks of playing cards
  • Compostable packaged snacks (crackers, raisins, pretzels, etc.)

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Entertainment can vary depending on what you have planned during Halloween.

  • Costumes
    • Check out costume rental stores, they always have a lot of variety and sizes to choose from, but remember to to check the stores early so there are more options available
    • Check out thrift stores for options of clothing to create your costume from
    • For families, check if you can swap costumes with neighbors, classmates or friends. You can even set up a costume swap meet if that helps get the word out.
    • Borrow clothes and items from friends, family or neighbors to see if you can assemble your costume and look of your character
  • Movies
  • Karaoke
  • Board Games or Card Games

Check out these other blog posts from some other Eco-Sustainable Bloggers:

I hope this list is helpful in creating a zero waste Halloween. If you choose to adopt only one of these ideas, you’re still helping the environment by creating less waste. It’s a step away from the standard Halloween traditions but it’s a more environmentally friendly outline for this holiday. Have a great Halloween!

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:

What’s My Carbon Footprint?

10.10.2017

0600

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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 

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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.

 

 

Zero Waste Week 2017

09.05.2017

0600

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Rachelle Strauss is the creator and director behind Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign since 2008. It takes place in the first full week in September each year, and promotes awareness in producing rash and the disposal of trash. Zero Waste Week encourages the public to be more aware of how much trash they produce as well has encouraging people and businesses to live and work more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. She has been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic and The Sun for her efforts in promoting awareness for a more sustainable future.

This is my first year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful to be a part of this movement. But there are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them at Zero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About.

Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2017, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic:

  1. Monday: Make it mend it Monday – Repairing / learning new skills to extend product life. Look for #makeitmendmonday and you’ll find other resources and tips on repairing clothes and fabric products.
    1. Hand Sewn Repairs
    2. Clothing Edits
    3. Reusing Fabric and Thread
    4. Repairing vs Buying
  2. Tuesday: Trashless Tuesday – Challenging participants to a Zero Waste day to see how little they can accumulate for landfill (considering asking people to carry their rubbish around in a see through bag for the day too!) Look for #trashlesstuesday on other social media sites to see how others utilize their trash.
    1. Sometimes You’ll Produce Trash
  3. Wednesday: Working with Waste Wednesday – Upcycling. Look for #wastelesswednesday to find out how other people upcycle their extra waste items.
    1. Functionality Above All Else
    2. Reuse Items
    3. Upcycling Sleeves Into Reuseable Gift Bags
    4. DIY Produce Bags
    5. DIY Footrest Solution
  4. Thursday: Top Tips Thursday – Tips for making Zero Waste living easy and quick. Look for #toptipsthursday on Twitter, Instagram and even Pinterest to find other tips for living a zero waste lifestyle.
    1. Bulk Grocery shopping Kit
    2. Bulk Bathroom Shopping Kit
    3. Zero Waste Take Out Food
  5. Friday: Food waste Friday – How to utilize all your food scraps so there’s less waste produced. Look for #foodwastefriday on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to find other ways to utilize food waste from making compost to creating your own homemade vegetable broth.
    1. Ethylene Producing Fruits
    2. How to Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags

To follow Zero Waste Week and Rachelle Strauss, here are links to her other social media:  Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

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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Beach Clean Up Day

07.11.2017

0600

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Whenever I go and do a beach cleanup, it’s never really a formal event. I use large fabric bags that I had sewed awhile back and I gather what I can. I use old running gloves to pick up the items because I don’t own a pair of rubber gloves anymore. I can easily also toss these gloves into the laundry when I’m done. With fabric gloves, I’m still very cautious about what I pick up and how I pick items up.

Most of the time, I’ll find anything and everything discarded on the beach. I usually walk along the shoreline and carefully look through the seaweed and debris that gets washed up from the ocean. A lot of ocean trash gets tangled up in the seaweed which then gets washed up on the beach.

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I went to Roosevelt Beach this time for the beach clean up, and this beach looks fairly clean overall, but when you slow down and walk slowly, you can see little bits and pieces of trash everywhere like this:

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On the surface the beach looks clean, but once I examined and shoreline and walked further and further, I kept finding more and more trash. At one point, it felt overwhelming because I knew I probably missed a bunch of pieces of trash due to the angle I was standing at or maybe my eyes simply couldn’t see the trash clearly. The reason why I like to do beach cleanups is because of the amount of trash that now occupies our ocean. There are different garbage patches that exist in five different ocean gyres in the world. With the ocean currents and the trash that’s discarded into the ocean, the combination creates different garbage patches which subsequently, kills the ocean wildlife. Since I live alone the Pacific Coast, the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is the closest garbage patch to me.

Here are the basic facts about the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch;

  • 7 million tons of weight
  • Twice the size of Texas
  • Up to 9 feet deep
  • In the Great Pacific Ocean Gyre there is 6 times more plastic than plankton, which the main food for many  ocean animals
  • By estimation 80% of the plastic originates from land; floating in rivers to the ocean or blew by the wind into the ocean
  • The remaining 20% of the plastic originates from oil platforms and ships
  • According scientist it is the largest plastic dump on earth; so plastic patches are larger than waste dumps on land
  • Trash patches consist for 80 percent out of plastic
  • Scientific research from the Scrips Institution of Oceanography in California U.S. shows that 5 to 10% of the fish contain small pieces of plastic.

There are many reasons why I choose to live a zero waste life, or at least as close as I can to a completely zero waste life. Knowing that the trash we discard into the ocean is killing wildlife weighs on me. Although there are many concerns in the world that I do care about, this one hits close to home. We did this. Humans did this and are still doing this to wildlife.

There’s a program called Take 3 For the Sea, where they encourage that when you visit any location and pick up at least 3 pieces of trash, you too can help with reducing the amount of trash floating out in wildlife. This non-profit organization delivers education programs to inspire our global community to help create a cleaner planet for wildlife and future generations. You can pick up 3 pieces of trash wherever you go and that would make an impact on the environment.

I encourage you to do this. Please help clean up your local beaches. You can even download the app by Ocean Conservancy called Clean Swell. It’s a global movement to keep beaches, waterways and the ocean trash free. Head out to your favorite beach and use the app to easily record each item of trash you collect. Then share your effort with family and friends.

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You can also find local beach clean up organizations near you. I have been a member of the Surfrider Foundation and they hold monthly beach clean ups.

2017-06-27

Happy Independence Day 2017

07.04.2017

0600

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Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

Independence day was always a special holiday for me. It marked the existence of summer and it came with barbecued food, swimming and fun with friends and family. The days were longer and the nights were warm. As a kid, July was a particularly a fond month for me to remember, the smell of summer in the air and the empty school playgrounds allowed us to use the basketball courts and soccer fields freely. School life had come to a halt for a few months and you knew you would run into your classmates outside of school. It was a chance to interact with them in a different environment. It was a welcomed break for a daily school routine.

Although now that I’m an adult, the smell of summer still brings back great memories, but there is no break in the daily work routine. I still love the smell of summer but it passes by quickly. I still go and watch fireworks, and I reflect on how lucky I am.

This holiday also marks that the year is halfway over. Time passes by so fast when you’re busy, although being unproductive is also not a good habit. Finding that balance as an adult is critical. We work our entire lives to go to school so that we can be successful in our careers, so we can have enough income that would support a comfortable life, and before we know it were inching towards retirement.

That reality is why I make it a routine to enjoy my evenings each night. Even if it’s only an hour, I work at shaping my daily routine around a simplistic schedule. This leaves time for me to just sit back and relax for the evening. Even on the weekends I have routines that help me enjoy each morning. During these mornings I usually reflect on what I’ve accomplished during the year and what I still want to accomplish.
Even though July marks the halfway point of the year, it also means that we can all take advantage of the rest of the year.

I think about what goals I’d still like to accomplish and set up a plan to follow though. Goals are like meetings, prepare for the meeting, be on time and be ready to interact and engage. You can’t postpone these meetings, set up those goals and get them done- no more excuses.

So my questions to you are:

What goals did you set out for yourself that you haven’t started or finished?
What projects do you have left to do?

What have you been “meaning to get done, but haven’t had the time”?

 

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 Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

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Asian cuisine is one of the most popular types of food in the world.  With China alone feeding a population of over 1 billion people, it’s important to consider how the utensils commonly used are impacting the environment.  Throwaway chopsticks that are commonly used in most Asian restaurants are mostly made of wood, not plastic, and the statistics behind them are staggering:

  • In China, about 57 billion (that’s “billion”!) pairs of wooden disposable chopsticks are made each year. Cottonwood, birch, spruce and bamboo are the main sources of these one-use chopsticks.
  • Half of these disposables are used within China itself. Of the other half, 77 percent are exported to Japan, with South Korea taking most of the remainder.
  • About 24 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are used in Japan each year. This is equivalent to nearly 200 pairs per person per year.
  • 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.

“We must change our consumption habits and encourage people to carry their own tableware,” said Bo Guangxin recently at a gathering of China’s National People’s Congress. 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. Even more radically, Bo Guangxin suggested that restaurants might have to offer metal knives and forks instead of traditional chopsticks.

Deforestation caused by so much wood use not only harms the local environment – leading to mudslides and weakened resilience against flooding – but also affects global warming by the removal of trees which capture and store CO2.

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 diner at times, but then again, making waves is always odd in the beginning.

The Simple Route To Less Trash

11.01.2016

0800

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The route to the zero waste lifestyle is quite simple. As you can see from the illustration above, this route can have nine stops along the way. Even with nine stops, some of these steps can be combined with one another being as the actions follow one another quite closely. The beginning of the journey is a little difficult because you’re still unprepared to get rid of your wasteful items and you haven’t bought items to replace the functional use. To prepare for this, I do suggest you examine what you ABSOLUTELY NEED in your daily routines and then find/purchase products that will compensate easily. Here is a simple outline of how you can get started:

  1. Simplify:
    Edit your belongings. Understand your true wants and needs. This can be in a list form or simply going through each day and examining each routine you go through.
  2. Refuse:
    Refuse single-use disposable items. That’s anything you use once and then dispose of it. This can easily be done because all you really have to do is say no.
  3. Bring your own:
    Have durables to keep single-use plastics away. Items like a reusable bag, straw, tumbler and water bottle. Always bring these items items wherever you go. I’ve been stuck a few times in situations where I did not pack all of my utensils (reusable cup, fork, spoon and metal straw) because I didn’t think I’d run into situations where I would need them.
  4. Whole Foods:
    Become resourceful with food by learning to make easy & quick meals from unprocessed and unpackaged foods. I like to make simple meals from whole produce combined with food I buy from the bulk bins. I don’t like spending a lot of time cooking, so my grocery list is pretty repetitive and simple.
  5. Compost:
    Separate your food waste! From backyard to warm composting, don’t let your food scraps go to the landfill! Composting is a great way to divert your foods waste and also create better soil for your garden.
  6. Buy Better & Repair:
    Buy less, buy better. Seek multifunctional, repairable, and lasting products.If you can learn one or two stitches with a needle and thread, you’d be surprised how much longer you can extend the life of your possessions.
  7. Recycle well:
    Recycling is good, but it’s not the solution. Reduce the amount you recycle by reducing  the amount you consume. This is a really good rule because although “recycling” seems like a solution, there’s still energy and resources being put into the recycling plants and not all “recyclable items” are 100% recyclable. Some items cannot be broken down and others have to be picked apart in order to extract the recyclable materials, which means the rest of the materials that made up the item will subsequently go to the landfill. The best solution here is to simply not rely on recycling alone.
  8. Use your voice:
    Kindly use your voice to express how you want products designed and recovered. Give companies businesses and manufacturers incentive to make the change! If you speak up, companies will listen. It may not feel like it or seem like it, but as a consumer, you have the choice to make each time you purchase any item. You’re voice speaks through your actions and that’s pretty loud.
  9. Support the community:
    Get to know your community. Shop local or start a community garden. You can walk, bike, bus, as a means of transportation too. I tend to shop at local stores because I don’t want to purchase items that are simple cookie cutter products. At times, yes, I will need a cookie cutter item such as a power strip or power cord, but majority of the time I don’t. Local businesses do need our support and voice to continue to let them thrive and flourish. Create a change- be the change.

Dining Out- Zero Waste Leftovers

08.29.2016

0800

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When I go out to eat, I will bring along a 3-tier Tiffin Carrier or a 2-tier Tiffin Carrier, depending on the type of restaurant I’m going to. If the dishes at the restaurant tend to contain large portions or give a variety in the meal, I’ll take the larger carrier. If the restaurant serves very simple and small dishes, or if I know that there will be a small amount to take home, due to habits, then I’ll bring along the smaller carrier. These carriers are very useful for separating different flavors of foods when desired and it also helps if you’re bringing home leftovers from different people, that way, no one gets their dishes mixed up and there’s no need for separate boxes.

When I first started using the tiffin carrier, I would hide it in my large shoulder bag, and at the end of the meal, I’d basically bust it out. There was a level of awkwardness to this action, but my family understood my intentions. It’s not necessary to use a box JUST for transport from the restaurant to home. I think that’s a waste, because you don’t need that extra box in the first place. You can always move the food from the carrier tray, onto tupperware and heat up later to eat. That extra disposable box from the restaurant to our home is only use for transportation. Granted, you may find a use for the disposable box later, but overall, trash is still being produced and manufactured for this simple step.

I do have two small separate sauce containers that came with the tiffin carriers, but I rarely use them. They’re also made of metal and the lid doesn’t have a tight seal, but I don’t really “bring home sauces”. I usually just pour whatever sauce from my meal right onto the food I’m bringing home. It’s one extra piece of the carrier set that I’d rather use for containing spices or other items at home.

I think these tiffin carriers are a great way of transporting leftover dishes anywhere. You can even pack lunches or small sets of meals in these if you wanted to. You can technically use these carriers for just about everything that involves a lot of smaller pieces. I actually use one as my sewing kit, which I’ll give you the link to right here, My Sewing Kit.
You may feel awkward in the beginning when using these, I certainly did. But it’s all for a good cause and you won’t produce that extra piece of trash (which can’t be recycled due to the oils and food particles stuck to it). You’ll save one less item to throw away which will end up in the landfill.

Zero Waste Picnic

 

08.24.2016

0800

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The weather had been nice lately so I thought a picnic was in order before the summer ended. I didn’t pack too much, just enough to fill us up for a bit, but here is what I packed:

  1. Dish: Bean Salad
  2. Side Dish: Boiled potatoes with Nutritional Yeast
  3. Snacks: Wasabi Peas, Smoked Almonds, Olives
  4. Dessert: Peaches
  5. Drinks: Water

Whenever I go out on an outing, I like to pack some snacks so I won’t get hungry later on. Picnics are always a fun way to spend with family, friends, or new friends. Picnics are great when the weather is sunny and cool in temperature and there’s a clean area to set up camp. On this day, I packed a bean salad and boiled potatoes sprinkled with nutritional yeast as the main dishes. I also had some olives from the olive bar from Whole Foods. For snacks we had wasabi peas and smoked almonds and for dessert, we had some peaches.

All of the foods were purchased from the bulk section of the grocery store or in the non-packaged vegetables and fruit area. We used beach towels to sit on and to use the picnic blanket and because I forgot the plates, we ate off of the lids. Of course we ate all of the food so the ‘no plate’ rule wasn’t so bad.

Food And Bath Storage Containers

04.11.2016

0800

When it comes to using reusable containers to buy or store food in, it became a challenge due to the fact that bulk foods come in a variety of textures and consistencies. After a few trials, I finally found what work and did not work and I came up with these solutions.

32 oz Ball Quart Jar, Wide Mouth:

I use these jars to store my liquids in, and when I say “liquid”, I’m talking about Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint liquid soap. Because those liquids are quite viscous, these jars are easy to fill and clean out when needed.

 

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Ball mason Jars:

I use ’16 oz, Ball Canning Jars, Regular Mouth with Lids’ for bulk seasonings such as sea salt, peppercorn, flax seed, honey and almond butter. I  also use these jars for my bulk bathroom products such as my face lotion and body lotion. These jars are great due to the fact that they’re designed to handle wet ingredients over time, and they can also be used for canning as well. You can read more about Ball and the history of the company and their products, click HERE.

I also fill up my mason jars with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh almond butter. In the beginning of this journey when I first started buying bulk liquids, I noticed it was easier to just fill up the mason jars and then just put them away when I got home. I know it doesn’t “look” ideal, but to transfer the liquids into tall and skinny bottles like my Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap, is one extra step I prefer not to take.

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I also love using Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars for containing my other bulk foods. I use the 1 Liter jars for bulk teas and a variety of snacks and the 1.5 Liter jars for larger supplies of bulk ingredients such as nuts, whole wheat flour, cane sugar, cranberries, mini peanut butter cups and other bulk snacks. I use the 2 Liter jars for dried beans, baking soda and coffee. For my largest bulk items such as brown rice and oatmeal, I use the 4 Liter jars. One of the websites I follow suggests to use these types of jars for wet ingredients, but I’ve noticed that the gasket that comes with these types of jars, absorbs odors and stains easily. If you prefer to stick to only one type of jar design, then I say go for it. However, odors are a nitpicky tick of mine. It just seems strange to me to open a jar almonds and smell lotion, or when you open the jar with cane sugar and you smell balsamic vinegar. By using the jars for dry ingredients, I can switch out my bulk supplies and not worry about leftover odor from a previous use.

When I first researched on different types of canning jars with hermetic seals, a few different brand names popped up such as Le Parfait, Kilner and Bormioli. The reason why I chose Bormioli was because of their design structure for their jars. Most of the jars I researched on are designed with a round base, which actually wastes space. Bormioli uses a square shape base which utilizes shelf space and will organize easily next to one another. Bormioli has a long history of creating quality glassware while using high quality materials. You can read more about their history here Bormioli Rocco USA.

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I also use PYREX tupperware to contain items I find at the grocery store salad bar, but I also use these to store my lunches to bring to work. I did bring the 1 cup, 2 cup and 4 cup bowls to the grocery store to carve their tare weight into the lids, because I knew I would use them eventually. It did feel a little strange at first, lugging around glass tupperware, but using the PYREX bowls was essentially the same as using one of the grocery store disposable paper containers. I knew that my extra effort would count in a small way- in the long run. At the salad bar, I’ll fill up my PYREX bowls with olives from the olive bar, hummus, potato salad and anything else I feel like indulging in.

I really like PYREX because it’s made of tempered glass and it’s easy to clean, store and you can use these to cook in toaster ovens as well as larger ovens.

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For my spices, it is a collection of many types of seasoning jars I’ve collected over time. I did buy a set of seasoning jars, and those are on the bottom row. I initially did this to test out how to go about recording the tare weight as well as how to fill them up. However, it did seem simpler to just reuse the rest of my seasoning jars. They do all have different tare weights and I carved each tare into each lid. I do suggest to use screw cap seasoning bottles as they are quite secure when closed correctly.

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I hope this post clears up how I go about organizing and designating my bulk items per container. I honestly wished I had read about some type of reasoning and method before I started my journey because a few mistakes were made along my journey. However, now that I have figured out my system, I wanted to share it with you. So happy bulk shopping and I hope trips to the bulk sections are more efficient for you.