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:

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Cooking & 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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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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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.