How To Reduce Waste In Your Home

08.12.2019

0600

Reducing the amount of trash that comes into your home is not as hard as it sounds. It might sound like a daunting task because we as consumers, buy a lot of packaged items that we bring into our home. However, it’s a simple process of elimination.

For instance, if you evaluate your kitchen items and everything you buy weekly, monthly, and yearly- that’s pretty much your entire list. For the yearly items, if you can find reusable alternatives, you can essentially eliminate your yearly inventory shopping.

Then, list all your weekly items that you tend to buy, and find reusable, non-toxic alternatives for those items. Your weekly and daily items are most likely the trash culprits. Half of the time, we don’t realize how many coffee cups we buy every day or even plastic packaged lunch items that we purchase daily. Eliminating the daily trash will help greatly reduce the amount of trash that enters your home. There are a lot of reasonable alternatives when it comes to kitchen items. Using cloth napkins in lieu of paper napkins, and using real dishware instead of paper plates can help eliminate the disposable trash output. You can also use real utensils instead of disposable utensils. You can bring a reusable coffee Tumbler when you go to get tea or coffee, so you don’t end up with a disposable cup.

A lot of people don’t know that the paper containers provided for us at grocery stores, and food establishments are lined with plastic, and those containers do not compost or bio degrade. The plastic layer, prevents it from composting completely. It’s a little bit like green washing because you may think your container is completely made of cardboard but it really isn’t. Using reusable items is a much better alternative, because you are in control of how much trash you are producing.

For your bathroom items, it’s the same process as evaluating your kitchen items. Go through your items and figure out which products you use and purchase, yearly, weekly and daily. Slowly replace the yearly items with reusable and sustainable options, as well as a weekly and daily items.

When it comes to medications or anything medical, I suggest that you consult with a doctor before you decide to eliminate certain products. I purchase sunscreen consistently. I live in California, where the sun is strong, and skin cancer is a real concern. I’m very aware that I am producing plastic trash with my sunscreen bottles. However, I would never want to put my health at risk just so I can proclaim that “My lifestyle is absolutely zero waste!”, and I wouldn’t want you to do that either.

Health concerns are very personal, so you know your own limit. If you can eliminate a plastic contained product and opt for a reusable version, than I think that’s great. Right now, I buy my conditioner, body lotion, bar soap, liquid soap, and tooth powder, in bulk. When it comes to sunscreen, face moisturizer and dental floss, those come in packaging.

You can use this evaluation process for the other rooms in your home. The biggest trash producers are the kitchen and the bathrooms. Some people have other rooms where they tend to buy a lot of items for, and those can be also evaluated in the same fashion.

This process takes time, and it takes self awareness to be consistent. Start slow and just work on an area or room in a certain amount of time. If you give yourself a time limit, staying consistent and motivated, becomes easier.

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Plastic Packaging In The Kitchen

07.08.2019

0600

Even when I buy items in glass jars because I can’t find a refillable version of it, I always end up with these plastic shrink bands. It seems that zero waste is never an absolute. Sometimes when I do buy produce that is free plastic packaging, I’ll still end up with rubber bands or twist ties. The good thing is I can actually reuse those items, but it’s preferred that I don’t have to.

Most of my dry goods are sold in bulk bins, so I am lucky that I have the privilege to buy package free dry goods from bulk items.

During the process of transitioning over to a zero waste lifestyle, I knew that I would end up giving up a lot of foods that I enjoyed. I personally love potato chips to snack on, but it was one thing I knew I had to give up, since the packaging wouldn’t fit my zero waste lifestyle. I gave up a lot of snacks such as packaged cookies, packaged crackers and packaged candy. There were alternatives to these packaged items, such as certain bulk options.

When I realized I had to give up certain foods, I also sought out alternative food substitutes. There are good substitutes out there, but sometimes, seeking out the alternatives require more work than expected. Once in awhile I will indulge in a packaged food, and then that packaging will get added to my pile of trash for that year. During my journey, I did come across a company called TerraCycle. They team up with certain companies who participate in different recycling programs with TerraCycle. These companies offer recycling programs through TerraCycle, in which customers who purchase their products, can join their recycling program, and send back the packaging to the company for free. It’s an option, and the program change frequently, so checking their website updates is helpful.

I’m extremely lucky to have local bulk grocery stores, who provide the option of bulk shopping, so I can continue this lifestyle. Only once in awhile, I’ll need an item and the glass jar will have the plastic shrink band on it. If I can, I try to only need and use items that are only sold in bulk.

How I Remove Labels On Glass Jars

04.23.2019

0600

Tools:

  1. Stove/microwave to heat up water
  2. Extra old toothbrush
  3. Extra cup wider than your jar/ stove top pot

Materials:

  1. One jar with label glue still stuck to it
  2. Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap
  3. Baking Soda
  4. Water

So I’ve read online about a few tricks of how people remove sticky labels off of glass jars. I’ve read about the method of using olive oil along with baking soda, and then there’s the method of heating up the glass and peeling off the label. I don’t like to use excess oil to clean, because when you wash off the jar, the oil can clog up your plumbing pipes, over time. I have tried to heat up my glass to peel off the label, but it doesn’t always peel off completely. There is one method I’ve stuck to for awhile, but I don’t see people posting about it. My method is pretty simple and it seems to work for me.

I will first peel off the label so that the only film left is the paper and glue. Some jars use a plastic/nylon label and some use paper labels. I like to get rid of the excess label before I start to remove the glue and label. By removing the extra thick layer of label, the jar cleaning process goes by quicker, without any hangups during the process.

After that, I find an extra cup that my jar will fit into. If you can’t find a jar, at least find a pot wide enough, where the jar can be placed horizontally, inside the pot and completely submerged under the water.

I then heat up water in my stove top kettle. I heat it up where the water is pretty hot to the touch, but not scalding hot. The water doesn’t need to be scalding hot to be honest. The idea here is that the water, mixed with the soap, will loosen up the glue.

I’ll then pour the heated water into the larger cup, in between the larger cup and the jar, and a little bit inside the jar. The heated water around the jar is to help loosen the glue off of the jar and the water inside the jar is to weigh it down. I pour enough water into the cup, so that the label and glue are submerged under the surface of the water.

I’ll then drop a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint soap into the water around the jar. I’ll usually spin the jar in the cup a few times, so the liquid soap is distributed more evenly. The soap, mixed with the hot water will loosen up the glue.

After about 30 minutes, I’ll take the jar out of the soapy water. Please be careful, because your jar might still be very hot from being submerged in the water. If it is still too hot to handle, let it sit for a bit longer so the temperature of the water cools off . DO NOT run the hot glass jar under cold water to cool it down. This will likely lead to your glass jar cracking or exploding under the drastic temperature change.

NOTE: Glass expands when hot, contracts when cold. If the exterior surface of your glass jar cools, while the inside surface of your jar is still hot, that creates an uneven thermal profile.  As a result, the surface of your jar is trying to shrink, but the hot inner glass prevents the surface glass from shrinking. This creates a powerful stress profile through the glass — the surface is trying to shrink, but can’t, so it is forced into tension. The hot core is trying to stay the same volume, but the surface is squeezing in, so the core undergoes compression. It’s not hard to figure out which section of glass wins the tug-of-war — the surface fails first. And a crack grows out of some microscopic scratch or flaw, growing and spreading until the stress is sufficiently relieved or the glass is broken clean through. 

SO PLEASE DO NOT RUN COLD/COOL WATER OVER YOUR HOT JAR.

Once it is a bit cooler to the touch, I’ll use baking soda to scrub off the glue, using an old toothbrush. I’ll scrub in circular motion, and periodically dip the jar in the soapy water to rise it off as I scrub my way around the jar.

This method has worked for me, when I’ve needed to remove sticky labels off of glass jars.

Also remember, glue is not permanent on glass. So if you’re patient and allow the glue loosen up, and continue to scrub using the baking soda, than you’ll end up with a clean surface. Sometimes there might be a little bit of glue left, but just continue to scrub it off with the baking soda and soapy water.

This was a simple post, but it was a method that I realized I had never talked about, but always used. It’s just glue; it’s not permanent and it’ll come off.

Emergency Oil Candles

01.23.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Olive Oil
  • One Shoelace (fairly long)
  • 2 Glass jars with metal lids
  • 2 Paper Clips

Tools:

  • Hammer
  • Punch tool or Long nail
  • Extra pieces of wood to work on

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I first flipped the lid so that it was flipped upwards on top of the extra piece of wood. So basically I faced the inside of the lid upwards. I punctured a hole through the top using the punch tool. You can create a hole using a long nail too.

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I then poured the olive oil into the jar so it was filled one quarter of the height of the jar.

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I slid the shoelace through the lid, going in from the bottom and only leaving a bit exposed on the other side.

I placed the lid back on tha jar and let the shoelace soak up the olive oil.

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These types of candles are used for EMERGENCY ONLY. If you use the cotton shoelace method, it’ll burn fast if it is burning well above the oil level. If the shoelace is very saturated with the oil, it should burn slow.

However…. I wasn’t satisfied with this design because I wanted the flame to burn right up against the surface of the oil.

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So I took a paperclip and bent it open at the Mars Loop to open it up. I wanted to hold up the shoelace at The Hemicircular Returner, but I had to swing the Abbott Point over the Thunder Straight. (Yea I didn’t know that paper clips were comprised of ten different sections either. The internet is awesome.)

Paperclip Parts

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This design was more efficient and the flame was able to burn much slower. I prefer to burn the wick much closer to the level of the oil so that it won’t burn the wick as fast.

With this design, the flame is protected by the glass from any gust of air from the sides. However, it’s very important to keep the wick in the center of the container. I can still use the lid to cover the candle during storage, so it won’t go to waste.

*NOTE: Please be careful when handling this type of candle, keep it in a location with no flammable materials around it. If it spills onto a flammable material and that ALSO catches on fire, you’ll have a really big light source that you never intended in the first place.

I hope this blog post helps you in an emergency. This is a really easy hack for a candle and it should burn at least six hours or so. It won’t smell very pleasant, but it will definitely fulfill its function.

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Vegetables That Regrow Themselves

04.11.2017

0700

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

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

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

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

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

Happy regrowing!

Revisiting Design Hacks

02.28.2017

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Design is ever changing. It evolves, grows up, mutates and sometimes dies. As someone who consistently designs functions for different objects, and re-designs those function issues, I’ll come across methods that are better for the product itself. It never stops. As people grow in the sense of mentally, physically, emotionally, we will change our habits and routines. Sometimes it’s based on a simple scheduling issue, sometimes it’s a physical disability that we all the sudden need to integrate into our routines. Maybe our routines change due to new people coming into our lives and that includes children and adults.

For these many reasons, I re-visit many of my design ideas. I re-visit them as often as I can.  know that I’m designing from my own perspective and from what I know, but I also know that there’s a whole different world out there who may not have the same resources or the same materials readily available.

So let us take a walk down memory lane… and we’ll re-visit some of my old blog posts and some updates I have for this one.

In addition to my Car Hacks blog post, I had to add one small change. I actually learned this from my mom, but since it made sense, I started doing this as well. It’s very simple. IF you have the room, it’s easy to organize you’re items using boxes in your truck. I have two different sized boxes so that when I go grocery shopping, I can place my bulk liquid items in the smaller box and I know that they won’t spill on the drive home. I use the bigger box for larger bulk items and even for my take out food containers. It’s nice that the smaller box fits well inside of the larger box and I can limit the movement of the objects when in motion.

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For the front of the car, I actually looped an S-Hook through the rope that I exists from that original Car Hacks post. The S-Hook allows me to hang my purse when I need to as well as smaller bags that may roll around. When I brought my lunch to work, I would hang my bag from this hook, and (thank goodness for the consistency of gravity) my food never spilled or toppled over. I really like this hack.

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At my work desk, which I wrote here, Work Desk Essentials, I now changed items out and the final setup is a jar of bulk green tea, and a jar of raw almonds and dried cranberries. I have one extra jar in case I run to a grocery store to grab some hot food from the hot foods bar. My coffee tumbler is by Contigo and it has a 20 oz capacity.

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On my desk… I now keep a set of utensils, tea infuser, lip balm and hair bracket in a bag. In the other bag I keep my earphones and phone charger together too. I carry  a handkerchief now and store it along with my napkin. I use my leftover Aquaphor to help me moisturize my skin during the winter.

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In my shoulder bag, I now carry a pair of chopsticks and a handkerchief along with my set of utensils and cloth napkin. Although when I air travel, I will replace the metal utensils for my bamboo set (knife, fork, spoon). My coffee tumbler is also by Contigo who has an excellent spill proof lock.

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These are only a few design hacks that I keep revisiting. As a designer, your perception of a good design always changes and it take a few trial designs to settle one final design. also, as life moves on and time marches on, your routines and needs will change- so your designs will have to adapt.