The Problem With Teflon

08.08.2017

0600

2017-07-01 01.39.24

Teflon became popular because it is non-reactive due to its strong carbon–fluorine bonds; it reduces friction and energy consumption of machinery when used as a lubricant. Though it was claimed to be the best-known chemical inventions of the 20th century, today, Teflon has been touted as a serious health hazard to humans as well as animals. When I found out about the dangers of teflon, I transitioned over to cast iron and stainless steel pots and pans. The research behind teflon is dangerous and jarring.

Non-stick cookware may cause cancer

The non-stick coating, used in Dupont Teflon pans, has been found to release one or more (up to 15) different toxic gases when heated to high temperatures. Did you know that non-sick cookware is made with a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been labeled carcinogenic by a scientific review panel that advises the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This is a chemical that is being used in many household products from cookware, coated paper plates and even microwave popcorn bags. The side effects have been known for a long time, and one of the most written about is its effects on pet birds.

The worst issue behind Teflon pots and pans

As careful as we try to be – Teflon pots and pans can easily get scratched at some point. In fact, the truth is many people tend to use battered and scratched Teflon cookware. Teflon is usually used to cover aluminum which in itself is a dangerous metal – implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

What are some of  the health hazards faced?

  1. Male Infertility- The chemicals emitted from the heating of Teflon pans have recently been shown to be linked with higher rates of infertility. A recent Danish study suggested that exposure to PFOAs in fetal or later life accounted for decreased sperm production and morphologically abnormal sperm.
  2. Thyroid disease – A recent study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), goes on to confirm the association of thyroid disease with human exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Also the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that higher concentrations of PFOA in the blood of the surveyed people were linked to the occurrence of thyroid disease.
  3. Childbirth and reproductive problems – PFOA contamination of food, air and water supply has the potential to damage the reproductive systems of a large population of women. Inevitably causing difficulty in childbirth or birth defects. Scientists based at the University of California-Los Angeles, found that women with higher concentrations of PFOA in the blood stream (more than 3.9 ppb) experienced greater difficulty in conceiving than those with lesser PFOA concentrations. Also the chances of them being diagnosed with infertility were greater.
  4. Birth Defects – an individual living near the DuPont factory that produces Teflon products was born with one nostril and other facial defects. He claims that his mother who was working in the factory was exposed to PFOA while pregnant therefore he acquired those birth defects.
  5. Kills bird – when Teflon is heated to a high temperatures toxic fumes are emitted that are known to kill pet birds especially small birds such as budgies, finches, and cockatiels. Considering this the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that cookware and heated appliances comprising of non-stick coatings must carry a label that warns the hazard caused by the coating to pet birds.
  6. Carcinogenic – a recent study showed that when rats were injected with PFOA they developed brain tumors. PFOA the coating material used in Teflon products was also shown to be present in trace amounts in blood samples of people and lasted four years in the blood stream.
  7. Causes other diseases – animal research has shown that liver cancer has propelled with more exposure to PFOA’s and case reports suggest that the PFE fumes emitted by very hot Teflon coated utensils have caused pneumonia and inflammation in the lungs.
  8. Non Biodegradable – PTFE is non-biodegradable as it is made up of strong molecular bonds that make it durable and resistant to natural processes of degradation. Thus it tends to accumulate in the food chain causing sever damage.

How to avoid these circumstances?

The best way to protect you and your family is to use cookware made from: ceramic, stainless steel or glass. There’s clearly no argument as to whether conventional non-stick cookware has a negative impact on human health, so with that in mind, what are the alternatives?

1. Ceramic

Ceramic cookware is gaining popularity fast thanks to its ability to create a non-stick cooking surface while containing no traces of PTFE or PFOA.

Brands such as Neoflam are using the most advanced ceramic technology to produce durable and heat efficient non-stick coatings that are safer and more environmentally friendly than conventional non-stick cookware.

2. Cast Iron

Companies like Solid Teknics are manufacturing some incredibly high quality cast iron products which have a myriad of advantages over conventional non-stick cookware.

Cast iron is extremely rugged, easy to clean, and if properly seasoned, it’s also “non-stick” (minus the toxic cocktail of chemical compounds). Cooking with cast iron is a great way to experience many of the benefits that come with using non-stick cookware while also minimizing your exposure to harmful substances.

3. Heatproof Glass

Glass isn’t the most dynamic cooking material and it’s somewhat limited in the styles of cooking that it can accommodate, however, for oven baked dishes there aren’t many materials more safe and affordable than heatproof glass.

When choosing glassware for cooking, be sure to check that the glass is heatproof and of high quality construction. Pyrex has a great range of kitchen glassware for all sorts of different applications, including cooking.

4. Stonewear

Similar to ceramic, stonewear cooking equipment is a non-toxic alternative that usually involves a combination of crushed stone and a PTFE-free coating in order to achieve similar results to those of typical non-stick cookware.

Brands such as Stoneline, Swiss Diamond & Ozeri all provide good products in this range.

5. Stainless Steel

Tried and tested, stainless steel is one of the safest cookware materials in existence and is an excellent non-stick alternative for many forms of cooking. It’s worth noting that using frying pans and skillets that are made from stainless steel will sometimes result in ingredients sticking to the surface of the cookware when exposed to high temperatures. However, if you use ample amounts of a high quality cooking oil, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

Upcycling Shelves

06.13.2017

0600

Materials:

Tools:

  • Miter saw
  • Electric drill  and drill bits

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_6193

 

DSC_5564

DSC_5571

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

DSC_5629

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

DSC_5634

 

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

Make-Up Brush Bag Hack

05.09.2017

0700

Materials:

  • Plastic store bought brush bag

Tools:

  • Razor Blade or scissors (Please be careful when using the razor blade)

So I bought an e.l.f. Angled Blush Brush from Target back in 2016 and it came in a clear plastic bag such as the ones in the pictured below. I didn’t want to add it to my trash collection, so I set out on trying to figure out how to convert it into a product that would be useful in mylife.

Elf_Brushes

I knew I wanted to create a holder for all of my brushes (luckily I only use two types of brushes) So I came up with this design to hold my vertical make up tools, such as my mascara, eyeliner pencil, angled blush brush and my EcoTools, Bamboo Smudge Eyeliner Brush.

I sewed the flap that covered the holder to the bag itself. I did this because, I didn’t want to remove the flap to access a clean opening but to also reinforce the bottom of the holder. (At this point I had decided to hang this object as a vertical brush holder).

I opened the other end of the holder by cutting a small slit across the top side of the bag and hold punched a hole on the opposite side. I only put one hole punch on one side because I would be using that side to hang the bag and I didn’t want anything blocking the opening of the bag. Lets call the hole punch end the “Top” and the sewed end of the bag, the “Bottom”. (you kinda have to picture this bag vertically hanging like that)

I used a permanent marker to show you where I placed my cuts on each side of the bag. On the same side as the hold punched hole, I sliced a longer slit on the bottom third of the bag. On the opposite side of the bag, I sliced a shorter cut closer to the top. These cuts do not cut through both walls, please keep that in mind. This design will only work if both walls of the holder are not cut at the same spot.

dsc_5428dsc_5431

For the taller brushes, I am able to insert both of my brushes through the opening at the top, however, I can also slide the brush I tend to use through the slit towards the top.

dsc_5432

The same rule applies for the slit towards the bottom third of the bag. I can use the slit I had created to hold my mascara and eyeliner but be able to access them from the outside. The next few images demonstrate the versatility of the cuts better than how I’m describing them.

dsc_5433dsc_5435

Here is what the bag looks like when it’s hanging up and being utilized. You can see that my EcoTools, Bamboo Smudge Eyeliner Brush is inserted through the opening I had created (towards the top of the bag) and that my angled blush brush is actually on the inside of the bag. I use my Eyeliner brush more than my angled brush so this is why I keep it on the outside, for easy access. On the opposite side of the bag, you can see my small eyeliner and mascara sticking out from the small opening I had created towards the bottom. I also use my mascara and eyeliner often so I like to have access to them easily.

dsc_5439dsc_5440

DSC_5652DSC_5654

When I travel or move around with my makeup brushes, I can easily tuck everything inside the bag and nothing with get caught during transportation. I actually do have a bag for my toiletries when I travel and this brush holder goes into that bag as well.  The last image shows what the brush holder looks like once everything is tucked inside the entire bag. I know that this bag with eventually fall apart and I will end up adding it to my trash pile, but as long as I don’t stretch the plastic by putting too many items into this holder, it might hold up well.

This is a simple and interesting design manipulation of what we receive along with products we buy and how to re-design them to accommodate to our own needs.  I really like this design manipulation because I tend to hang things a lot and I didn’t have to throw any packaging away.  I hang things a lot because I like to keep my surfaces clean. Maybe this design might accommodate you somehow, I hope it will.

How to Store Vegetables And Fruit Without Plastic Bags

04.25.2017

0700

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

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

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

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

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

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags

3d illustration of empty cupboard

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags- Countertop

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags- Refridgerator

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

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

The Dangers Of Microfiber Cloths

03.07.2017

0600

dsc_5334

dsc_5404

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

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

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

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

Uses for microfiber cloths

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

Cleaning microfiber cloths

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Revisiting Design Hacks

02.28.2017

1200

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.

dsc_5388dsc_5391dsc_5392

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.

dsc_5393dsc_5395

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.

DSC_4835

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.

dsc_4837

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.

dsc_4838

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.

Seeking Simplicity

02.07.2017

0800

DSC_4549

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

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

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

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

My Composting Procedure

01.12.2017

0800

DSC_4700

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

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

DSC_4771

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT TO COMPOST:

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

WHAT NOT TO COMPOST:

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

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

DSC_4702
DSC_4703

Proper Disposal Of Razor Blades

 

01.04.2016

0800

DSC_4890

DSC_4902DSC_4905

Razor blades are made from recyclable metals,  but you cannot recycle them. In fact, in some places it’s actually illegal to recycle razor blades!This is because razors can harm the sanitation workers and animals that come into contact with them. They are also very thin, so they easily get caught in recycling equipment and cause damage.

You can’t recycle razor blades, but you can’t just toss them in the regular trash either. So how do you dispose of them safely?

Find an empty glass jar with a lid and when you’re done with your razor blades, keep them in there. Check with your local recycling center about how to dispose of blades properly, perhaps they have a “sharps disposal program” for your county. I’m lucky enough that in my county, my recycling center actually has a medical waste disposal bin so I usually will drop it off in there.

Most of my blades are replacement blades for my Economy Cutter H-595 by Uline, my Fromm Shaper Replacement Blades and my Astra Platinum Double Edge Safety Razor Blades. I use a glass jar because it’s easier to see among the trash pile and the blades will definitely not penetrate the glass jar. This is a simple solution to what can become a disastrous situation for sanitation workers. Please, please take proper precautions and dispose of your blades in a safe manner, for all of the people involved in the long and complicated process of  discarding your trash.

I have yet to fill up an entire glass jar. Oh and if your county doesn’t have a ‘sharps recycling program’ just pawn it off on someone else who lives in a county which does have one. As for me, I’ve become a razor blade mule among my acquaintances… but you know… I don’t actually carry them IN me. I’m more like the mule who carries around a shopping bag and a sign around my neck. (Mules don’t have arms- stop it.)

Yea, I’m that guy.

Zero Waste Closet- Part II

12.29.2016

0800

dsc_4897
DSC_4769

My final capsule wardrobe inventory now consists of 27 pieces of clothing. This does not include my running gear, snowboarding or surfing clothing. However, I thought I would share what those pieces are as well . I had posted an earlier version of my capsule wardrobe here My 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe but this is a more refined version of that wardrobe. In order to finalize this capsule wardrobe, I actually took pictures of each clothing item and compared them side by side on my computer screen. I know that sounds extreme, but when I looked at my color palette up close, it looked fine, like it actually matched. Yet, when I took pictures of each piece, I could see clearly on my computer screen that there were obvious pieces that were no longer fitting my style. Ironically these same pieces were the same pieces that I had not worn in a very long time.  I also selected a very neutral and minimal color palette to work with my wardrobe. The only thing left was to find the pieces that would fit into this 27 piece puzzle. So here it goes…

In my Capsule Wardrobe:

  1. Blouse- Light Blue
  2. Blouse- Blue
  3. Blouse- Wht
  4. Jacket- Casual- Tan
  5. Jacket- Dressy- Black
  6. Long Sleeve- Grey
  7. Short Sleeve- Grey
  8. Short Sleeve- White
  9. Sweater- Light Grey
  10. Tank- Casual- Grey
  11. Gown- Convertible- Blk
  12. Pants- Black
  13. Pants- Casual- Denim Dk
  14. Pants- Casual- Denim Med
  15. Shorts- Casual- Denim
  16. Skirt- Mini- Black & Leopard Print 
  17. Boots- Casual- Brown
  18. Boots- Tall- Blk
  19. Flats- Closed- Blk
  20. Heels- Ankle Boots- Black
  21. Sandals- Black
  22. Three Jewelry Sets (1 set = 1 necklace, 1 ring, 1 bracelet, 1 set of earrings)
  23. Purse- Navy Blue
  24. Sunglasses- Black
  25. Scarf- Grey

Workout Clothes:

  • BEACH- BLUE BAG
    • BEACH- Bottoms- 2
    • BEACH- Tops- 2
  • RUN- GREY BACKPACK
    • RUN- Intimates- 2
    • RUN- Bottoms- 3
    • RUN- Tops- 3
    • RUN- Sneakers- 1
  • SNOW- STAR SPANGLED BAG
    • SNOW- Boarding- Outfits- 2
    • SNOW- Intimates- 2
    • SNOW- Tops- 2
  • TRAVEL BAG- BLUE NORTHFACE HIKING BAG

My capsule wardrobe doesn’t include intimates or nightwear. This is because when it comes down to those categories, personal preference is how most decide on those items. I also don’t think counting each underwear or sock is reasonable for this system; you would run out of clothing options quickly. With this style of capsule wardrobe planning, deciding on outfits is a simple task and even deciding on outfits to go to special events are just as easy. I actually have 3 items that are nightwear items, so in total I technically have 30 pieces hanging in my closet (a few pieces hang off of the same hanger since the pieces are smaller and lighter). I don’t include them because of the fact that a capsule wardrobe is considered capsule due to its ability to interchange with one another to create a variety of outfits. Some people have more pieces in their capsule wardrobes and some have even less, it’s all in how comfortable you are with the amount of items.

I really do recommend this system, it is simple and easy to make, and keeping track of each piece of clothing is easy. You’ll love every piece of clothing you own and you still can create a lot of outfits. If minimizing your wardrobe down to 30 pieces seems too extreme, try hiding half of your wardrobe and see if you are comfortable using what you have left, on a day to day basis. Then go hide half of your spouse’s/partner’s/family members’ clothing too; you can call it “The time when you got into the shower and when you got out, half your stuff had disappeared.” AKA “Involuntary Capsule Wardrobe”. It totally works. You should try it.

Use What You Have

 

12.20.2016

0800

dsc_5217

dsc_5263dsc_5265

“Why I don’t recommend a lot of separate items…”

You’re looking at everything I own in my kitchen. That’s all of it, although my silverware and kitchen tools aren’t pictured. Some kitchen items are marketed to have specific uses, but you’d be surprised at how many kitchen items can have multiple uses and how some kitchen tools really aren’t necessary at all. Even when it coms to bathroom items, I don’t have a separate soap for my body and my face (I use separate bars… but it’s still the same bar soap brand). I use baking soda as toothpaste and I don’t use band aids (I use paper tape with gauze).

For those of you who are moving into this lifestyle, I understand the need to buy compostable cotton swabs or a bamboo set of utensils to carry around, instead of grabbing a set from your existing silverware. In order to transition to this zero waste lifestyle, you’re altering your behavior that you’d developed for however many years you’ve existed on Earth.

However, I don’t recommend buying into the “buy all new things because nothing else can substitute it” mantra. The likelihood is that you already have items that you can use, but for different purposes and the transition is simply altering your behavior and mindset. I understand the novelty behind this zero waste movement, but a lot of the times, I’ve noticed that a few bloggers will recommend a lot of new items. Part of this movement is to try to NOT create waste and when you buy more stuff, more than likely you’re producing some form of waste.

For kids, I understand that it make take a few colors and some ownership of their personal products so they can personally take part in this movement or to break away from what they already like and know. Also, a lot of glass and stainless steel items  may be to heavy for them to carry around, or that they may not be careful enough to take care of such items. For adults however, I think we should really try to  create as many uses for a single product, as much as possible. Products that are designed for a specific use and a certain function, will likely not be as versatile for any other use.

Here are some of the items you don’t necessarily have to buy:

  1. Handkerchief –> Use existing fabric napkin or you can make your own from old pillowcases (just try to make sure the material is 100% cotton)
  2. Cloth napkin in  your “To Go Lunch Kit” –> Use existing fabric napkin
  3. Silverware in  your “To Go Lunch Kit”–> Use existing silverware (unless you’re going to pass through TSA [Transportation Security Administration] at the airport or some kind of security metal detector, then carry around a set of bamboo utensils)
  4. Eco lunchbox –> Use existing Tupperware
  5. Placemats –> Make your own from old bed sheets or pillowcases (Just remember to layer them up so it’s a thicker pile)
  6. Re-useable Produce Bags –> Make our own re-useable produce bags from old bed sheets and pillow cases (just make sure it’s cotton, with a decent thread count so it won’t fall apart as easily.)
  7. Spice Jars –> Just re-use the space jars you already own (remember to tare the weight before you refill it up. I usually carve the weight into the lid so I never forget)

This list could go on and on, but I’m keeping in mind that each person has a different journey on this path of zero waste. But if you can, reuse what you already own, there’s no point to wasting your money if it’s not necessary. Also, the more stuff you buy and if you’re not purging items in your home, you’re essentially just adding to the amount of possessions you’ll now be responsible for. So don’t give yourself more work, seriously… life will do that down the line… apparently it’s plentiful.. like pens.. stupid free pens.

Keep Life Simple

11.29.2016

0800

DSC_4779

So we’ve officially moved into the season between ‘fighting over products while shopping’ and ‘opening said products in one swift move’. I usually don’t go buy physical objects for this season, I tend to buy gifts in the form of experiences, however, I do understand that not everyone approaches this season the same way. 

The holiday season tends to bring on another level of stress, with the year rounding out and the pressures from the holidays added to the pressures from work and family, it can be an overall anxiety driven few months. With these additional stresses, I wanted to post some tips to help everyone to remind them to take care of themselves first and foremost. and perhaps to help keep the home front a little more simplified.

Life will always get more chaotic and complicated, but as long as we recognize it, we can counter it with with a well thought out defense.  I practice a lot of these tips, so even if you can try just one tip and simplify your life, you might be pleasantly surprised. So here it goes, I hope you guys enjoy it!

For Your Mental Health:

  1. Stop multitasking – Give your attention and focus to one thing at a time to complete a long list of to-do items.
  2. Stop driving aggressively – Take the steps to stop aggressive driving habits by getting enough sleep, planning ahead and using etiquette and kindness to other drivers. Remember that if children are in the car, they learn from watching you.
  3. Stop going crazy for holidays – Stop stressing to bake/cook a huge holiday meal. If you host during the holidays, ask everyone to bring a dish for a potluck style dinner and there will be less work for you. Stop over-shopping for the holidays. Try the 4-gift rule for Christmas: something you want, something you need, something to play with, something to read.
  4. Accept that change is in order – Acceptance is the first step to changing bad habits. Once you have accepted that you need to change your life, take the next step toward a simplified life.
  5. Program your mobile photos/videos to auto-upload to a cloud account – Never worry about uploading photos again – Try Google, Amazon, Picasa, YouTube.
  6. Use a combined social media app (Instagram)– Try Hootsuite – it combines your social media accounts and shares a post on all sites at the same time.

For Your Home:

  1. Create a command center in your home – a command center is the ultimate hub to keep your family organized. For tips to create your own, see this post.  My favorite command center item is this dry erase calendar.
  2. Create a cleaning routine and schedule it on your calendar – Schedule laundry day’s, trash days, housecleaning days, etc.
  3. Downsize – Get rid of items you don’t need or move into a smaller home.
  4. Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions – Read articles for free online instead.
  5. Stop buying trending clothes – Purchase classic, high-quality items in neutral colors and you will rarely need to update your wardrobe.
  6. Eat simple meals – Less thinking means faster, easier meals. Keep it simple with simple ingredients and meals that are fail-proof. Be sure to check out our post Clean Eating for Less Than $70 a Week for a family of 4 (Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks included with a shopping list!).
  7. Make freezer meals – Double your dinner recipe and freeze the rest for later. If you do this every night, then you will have 7 additional dinners in the freezer for next month.  Here are 365 days of freezer meals for more ideas.
  8. Use your leftovers – Pack them for lunch the next day or use them to make another meal – many leftovers can easily be made into a soup.
  9. Use simple recipe ingredients – Stop buying spices/ingredients for one meal. Purchase basic spices and ingredients to minimize items in your pantry.
  10. Make one-pot meals – Reduce clean up by making an entire meal in one pot.  Here are 120 one pot meals for some ideas.
  11. Unsubscribe from junk emails – Try unroll.me for bulk removal.  I did this and was able to unsubscribe from 110 subscriptions in just a few minutes!
  12. Cancel cable – Try on-demand options like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Video.
  13. Print as little as possible – Read documents, books and recipes online. Save these items online or as a document to your computer. Less paper lying around means less to organize later.

For Your Organization:

  1. Consider signing up for an Elfster account or create an Amazon Wish List feature or giving Groupon experience gifts  
  2. Keep reusable bags in your car – These bags always come in handy for stores that give you money back for bringing your own bag (like Target) or those that charge for their plastic bags (like Aldi).
  3. Telecommute, carpool, bike, jog or walk to work instead of driving – take the stress of commuting with one of these options.
  4. Stop using credit cards and pay cash for everything – Get rid of the stress of paying interest for that T-shirt. Freeze your credit cards, pay them off and start using cash only – unless you are able to pay off credit cards in full every month.
  5. If you need a credit card, consider one with rewards benefits – If you absolutely need a credit card, choose one with big rewards. Pay the balance in full every month to reap the full reward benefits – otherwise the reward is not beneficial if you are paying interest.
  6. Upload/Download DVDs/digital copies to the cloud – Try Vudo/Ultraviolet to upload DVDs, digital copies to access movies on-the-go. Download/purchase movies online and store them in your cloud account, try Amazon Video.
  7. Share cloud files with family – Share your budget spreadsheet or contact list with your spouse.
  8. Write canned emails – Try the canned email feature in Gmail and save emails that you regularly send out with the same verbiage.

Decluttering Sentimental Possessions

 

11.22.2016

0800

DSC_4886

DSC_4883

For my sentimental possessions, I own a 3″x 12″x 6″ box, which holds just about every sentimental object in my life. A couple of years ago, I scanned all of my photos, drawings from my childhood, awards I got in school, just all of the paper I held onto. I scanned them and uploaded them to my cloud and also backed it up into my external hard drive. I did this because I had the notion in my mind that wherever I was in the world, I could access all of my photos via the internet. I actually tossed out many of my photos after I scanned them, I kept the ones which I knew were important to me.

My sentimental box includes my collection of elongated pennies from different places I visited or vacationed, a few letters from relatives who have passed on, pins from different events during my lifetime, items from important people in my life, etc. Ironically, I did purge quite a bit of my sentimental items before I started writing this post. I had never purged this collection before and I kept only 1 sentimental items from certain points in my life. However, this is how I approached the situation for decluttering my sentimental items.

In the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, she guides readers through tidying up each section of their home; sentimental items are the last to be dealt with. Her method, which is called The Konmarie Method, tells readers to hold each item and decide if the item brings you joy or no longer does. Then, with the items that no longer bring joy, bid adieu to the item, thank it for being in your life for that period of time and then place it in the trash pile, donate pile or sell pile. This is a great way to approach sentimental clutter because of the dynamic relationship we each have with our items. I don’t have enough stuff to go through the Konmarie Method where there would be a significant volume difference, but I did consider why I wanted to keep each of my sentimental items as I went through and purged.

If you’re thinking of purging your sentimental items, you can check out her book or simply follow some guidelines that I listed below. There are many books on decluttering, however with the Konmaire Method, you examine what you want to keep verses what you want to donate.

Here are some helpful tips to help you declutter your sentimental items:

  1. Keepsakes
    1. The key is to keep only mementos that are meaningful for us and for future generations. I tend to keep photos (which I digitize as well), and smaller pieces of keepsakes. I will keep a single handwritten letter or card from people who I hold close to my inner circle. I digitize everything else though, even those paper items, in case anything were to happen to them.
  2. The Quick Purge: Big Stuff
    1. I will purge the bigger items first. Part of the reason why I do that is because bigger items usually give me more room to save more stuff. If I don’t have the extra space, the purge has tighter parameters for me to work within.
  3.  Why Did I Keep That?
    1. This question comes up a lot when I start going through my items. It’s the first question I ask myself. You’re likely to find some things you have no idea why you saved.
  4.  Display Your Keepsakes
    1. If you want to keep the rocks, shells or spoons you collected from vacations over the years, create a place to keep them where you’ll see them and enjoy them instead of boxed up. Or if you can upcycle some of the items you can’t let go of, at least the clothing/fabric/item will be displayed somehow and integrated into your life.
  5. Stuff Your Kids Made and Other Gifts
    1. This category is a little harder to purge. Too bad all schools don’t make all small project items out of compostable materials. This category varies greatly in how or what small items you want to keep. Personally, if you can take a picture of the item and discard the physical item, that would be the ideal situation.  Requesting no gifts is always a good start.
  6. Letters, Cards, Kids’ Paintings and Other Papers
    1. With schoolwork, paper items, awards, etc., I would scan or take a picture of these items and only keep the more important documents. You can create a small binder for each school that they go to so for instance, one binder could be for elementary school, one for middle school and one for high school. Ideally, as kids get older, paper keepsake items become less so the binders tend to be thinner. However, the binder will also give you a limitation of how much you can keep from each school as well.

We have a tendency to equate our memories with stuff, but when you carry so much stuff with you, and you never see it- how valuable is it really? Your memories will always be there; the event did happen. Although, if you have alzheimer’s or dementia- this point in my post would fall flat…

My point is that it’s really up to you.  The question is, what are you willing to keep and why. Don’t think of this process as being forced to get rid of everything all at once. Just imagine if you had to fit the most important sentimental items into a 56 quart storage container, what would you keep?

If you want, start out with two 56 quart storage containers, or whatever size container you can handle. Some people are more attached to their items and it will take some time to go through it all. As long as there’s progress, you’re headed in the right direction.

So go… go assemble your Alzheimer’s storage containers, full of memories that you chose to keep. Actually I don’t call my container my Alzheimer’s storage container, it’s just a box, but I do have an external hard drive that I call “My Ut-Oh HD”. It contains everything I ever took a picture of or scanned. It’s my life as a photographic archive. I have yet to screw up the hard drive, and if I do, and everything is erased from the hard drive AND I subsequently have some form of memory loss… maybe I’ll just be a cat. They seem happy and angry- it’s perfect.

The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the kicker:

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

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

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

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

Alternative Dish Scrub

11.15.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Two Laundry Mesh Bags
  • Sewing Kit

There are a few things that I struggled with replacing in the zero waste lifestyle realm. The dreaded dish scrub was always one that I consistently tried to tackle with different alternative solutions. So breaking away from the traditional dish sponge was an issue I constantly had to re-visit.

At first, I tried to use cotton dishrags, but I wasn’t a fan of the oil and stains that would show up, even after throwing it into the washing machine. I then moved to the stainless steel sponge, but at times, this material was unnecessary and a little harsh on my dishes.  I needed something that fell between these two materials. I needed a zero waste solution that was durable, breathable, washable and readily accessible.

So I finally decided to tackle this issue once and for all, and I came up with a solution. I made my own dish washing srubs from laundry mesh bags. So this is what I did…

  1. I took a delicates, laundry mesh bag with small holes and one with large holes, and took them apart. I separated all the pieces that assembled it. I choose the two different sized holes so there would be more grit during scrubbing and more variety in the uses.
  2. I unstitched the bags to remove zippers and separate the individual pieces.
  3. I then folded the large pieces of material so it would end up as a rectangle shape and sewed the edges of the rectangle to keep its shape. I then sewed the two shorter edges together but left the center of the rectangle to form a loop . (You can shape your scrubs however you like, mine just happen to fold into square shapes.) I used a dark thread on the heavier grit scrubbers so that if the thread stained or became discolored, you wouldn’t see it as easily. I also used lighter thread just to see how much it would stain. I did this because I wanted to hang the scrubbing pads on the neck of my sink spout. This way, it can air dry and it has a place to be hung up when not in use. It will also drip into the sink when it is air drying. I know that this part of the design concept may not apply to everyone, but you can still hang it up wherever you want or hang it off of whatever you want in your sink area.
  4. These can be hand washed and rinsed or thrown into the washing machine.

For my own use, this dish scrub has helped me solve my dish sponge/stainless steel wool pad/dish washing rag issue. My scrubs dry pretty fast so this design had worked out well for me. They seem to lather well and rinse off even faster. I actually enjoy hanging them on my sink’s spout neck because I know it’s the last step in the design of this product. I hope this post helps for those of you who would like an alternative to the dish scrubbing sponge issue.

dsc_5074dsc_5075dsc_5077