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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The Zero Waste Lifestyle Commitment

07.22.2019

0600

The zero waste lifestyle is a 24 hour a day commitment. I’m not gonna lie, but you do have to be conscious of it. I’ve slipped up a few times, because I wasn’t aware of how a restaurant packaged their food, or that the restaurant automatically gave me disposable utensils (even after I asked them to not include it). I’ve walked away from restaurants, with a plastic drink container, because I forgot that my water bottle at home. (I hang onto the cups to contain my smaller trash items.) but it is so easy to slip up and make a mistake, so don’t feel bad if you do. There are disposable utensils, cutlery, napkins, sauces, wrapping, etc. at every restaurant in the United States; usually comes in the form of take out. Some of the disposable items do serve a purpose such as, sanitary situations, but more than likely they are used for a very short amount time and then tossed into the landfill.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably carrying around one of these reuseable utensils kits. This kit will likely include a reuseable spoon, fork, knife, chopsticks, a metal straw, a cloth napkin, and perhaps a cloth handkerchief. I will also carry around a water bottle and sometimes my coffee tumbler too. Most of the time, my water bottle is empty in case I want to go get coffee, and then I just use my water bottle to contain my coffee. 

Being aware that the zero waste lifestyle is a constant commitment, means that it influences where you decide to eat, what you decide to eat and even where you decide to go to spend your time. Even though it is a conscious effort, and a lifestyle commitment, it does become easier over time.

I have my favorite restaurants that I go to, and even coffee places that I go to. I also have “go to” food choices that I will pick at certain restaurants, because I know that the food item doesn’t come with packaging. One of the easiest places to go look for zero waste packaged food, is the grocery store; specifically, the deli section. Your menu is the entire deli.

At my local grocery store, I have a variety of different pre-mixed salad options, a variety of meal solutions, sandwiches, sushi rolls and wraps, soups, meat choices and cheese choices. There is also a section for fresh baked bread and fresh donuts, that’s also freshly made each morning. It’s a great place to search for a quick solution for dinner.

The good thing is, as long as you’re aware of this zero waste commitment, and you try to stick to making small changes, you are making a difference. The zero waste community is vast and continues to grow. Around the world, we are presenting our methods and solutions to our every day issues of plastic packaging, wasting resources, and the growing plastic pollution problem.

As long as we are conscious about what we choose, and how we choose to spend every dollar, we are telling our story of our commitment. We are telling our neighbors, our friends, or family that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

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.

Plastics In The Bathroom

07.01.2019

0600

I definitely have plastics in the bathroom. I did try to transition to glass bottles for my bathroom products, but the glass was too slippery and didn’t seem efficient. When it comes to products are used in the bathroom, I do have a set amount of items that I can refill. However, there are items that do come in plastic packaging and plastic bottles, that end up being recycled or go into the landfill.

I have bottles that I refill for my Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, my body lotion, and my conditioner. I use bar soaps a lot, so I buy bar soaps that either don’t have packaging at all, or come in recyclable paper packaging.

For the items that do come in plastic packaging, that includes my sunblock, my face moisturizer as well as dental floss.

My bathroom isn’t completely zero waste. I do use plastic containers and refill them as needed. And for specialty items, they come in plastic containers. I wish sunblock didn’t come in plastic containers, but so far, mine do. I think it’s entirely possible to have zero waste bathroom though; mine just isn’t. When it comes to my conditioner, I will transfer some of it into a larger stainless steel water bottle, and add water to dilute the formula. I’ve noticed that my hair responds better when my hair doesn’t have residue left over from the conditioner. For my other items that come in plastic containers such as dental floss, face moisturizer, I haven’t found a good alternative is for my skin yet. I’ll keep looking though, I think the battle is always on going when it comes to striving for a zero waste lifestyle.

Zero Waste Week 2018

08.12.2018

0600

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

This is my second year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful and proud to be a part of this movement. There are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them at Zero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About Use the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek to show us your progress! 

Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2018, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic

September 3, 2018, DAY 1

We will be discussing the difference between ‘necessary’ and unnecessary plastics. The amount of plastic polluting the ocean is astounding. By 2050,plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Herare a few past blog posts which explain how and why I became very conscientious about my purchases. 

  1. Shopping At Thrift Stores
  2. 5 Questions to ask Before Purchasing
  3. My 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe
  4. Zero Waste Shopping And Why

September 4, 2018, DAY 2

Auditing our daily personal care routine! Plastic containers in the bathroom are nothing new. However, because we use bathroom items so frequently, the amount of plastic containers we go through can be unnerving when you  look at the statistics. As the zero waste movement has caught on, more stores are offering bulk bathroom items and refill stations. If you want to read about some of my zero waste bathroom blog posts, check them out below. 

  1. A Zero Waste Bathroom
  2. Bulk Bathroom Shopping Kit
  3. DIY Simple Face Exfoliant And Facial Mask
  4. Bathroom Update
  5. Toilet Paper Is Not Zero Waste
  6. What I Stopped Buying- Bathroom Items

September 5, 2018, DAY 3

Plastics in the kitchen and food packaging seem to be a huge problem for those starting out on their zero waste journey. To make your kitchen zero waste, can be quite challenging.  Creating a zero waste kitchen took time and trial and error in my own experience. To read more about the challenges I faced, check out the blog posts below. 

  1. Bulk Grocery Shopping Kit
  2. Food And Bath Storage Containers
  3. Zero Waste Shopping And Why
  4. What I Stopped Buying- Kitchen Items
  5. How To Store Fruits And Vegetables Without Plastic Bags

September 6, 2018, DAY 4

Household cleaning seems to be a sensitive subject for many. There are a variety of sanitary concerns and medical concerns. As for me, I use a vinegar and water mix, baking soda and a bristle brush to clean. You can read more about my method in the link below. 

  1. Zero Waste Cleaning

September 7, 2018, DAY 5

Zero Waste is for life, not just a week! Plastic pollution, trash pollution, water and soil pollution is an ongoing battle. A zero waste lifestyle does require an awareness of oneself and decisions. There are parameters that some of us deal with, and that others don’t, such as medical conditions, personal health and financial constraints. As long as the effort and awareness of product consumption is considered on a day to day basis, reducing trash is inevitable. If you want to read about my moments and lessons throughout my zero waste journey, you can check out the links to my previous blog posts below. 

  1. A Zero Waste Lifestyle
  2. Seven Tips To Begin A Zero Waste Lifestyle
  3. Zero Waste And Minimalism
  4. Spreading the Zero Waste Word
  5. Sometimes You’ll Produce Trash

I hope you will want to take the pledge and reduce the amount of trash you consume, and if you want to read about my journey and how I got started, you can read that here in, How I Got StartedAt the end of the week’s festivities, it’s time to take all you’ve learned during the week and start/continue your own plastic free journey. There are a lot of Pinterest boards, Facebook Groups and forums that offer tips to start a zero waste lifestyle or tips for different experiences with the zero waste lifestyle. You can check out my own social media boards and follow me, or you can follow the Zero waste Week community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram

Bathroom Purchases With Packaging

06.05.18

0600

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I’ve talked about what I don’t buy, but I thought I’d tell you about what I do buy in relation to my daily bathroom routine. When I go grocery shopping, there are items I do keep an eye out for. These items are the items I will use on a daily basis and keep stock of at home. So here it is…

What I stock up on:

  1. Baking Soda
  2. Sunscreen
  3. Toothbrush
  4. Face Moisturizer
  5. Eyeliner (used often)
  6. Mascara (used often)
  7. Eye Shadow (used often)
  8. Lip Balm
  9. Dental Floss
  10. Night Cream
  11. Apple Cider Vinegar
  12. Toilet Paper

Not used often:

  • Essential oils
  • Liquid Foundation (Vegan Makeup)
  • Matte Bronzer (Vegan Makeup)
  • Lipstick (Vegan Makeup)
  • Angled Blush Brush

There are other investments that I bought a while back, which did produce some form of trash, but they were only a one time investment.

One time investments:

  • Cornstarch
  • Cacao Powder
  • Crystal Deodorant
  • Pumice Stone
  • Set of Dental picks
  • Set of stainless steel ear pick tools

Morning: Before Workout Routine: In the morning I will wash my face with soap and brush my teeth with baking soda. I’ll then apply sunscreen before heading out, because skin cancer is real and the exposure to the sun’s rays can be very dangerous, so I take precautions.

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Morning: After Workout Routine: After working out, I’ll wash my face again and apply some dry shampoo (combination of equal parts cornstarch and Hershey’s Cocoa, here is the link to my blog post about DIY Dry Shampoo). I’ll then apply my makeup, and depending on the occasion, it might be more or less. My makeup is cruelty free and not tested on animals, but it does come in packaging that is not recyclable. The good part about my makeup routine is that I don’t use excessive amounts of it so I don’t use up my makeup quickly.

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When I do decide to get more dressed up, my makeup packaging includes all of the following packaging below. All of my makeup will come with the makeup container as well as the makeup packaging as well.

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Evening Routine: My evening routine mimics my morning routine, where I will floss my teeth, brush my teeth, wash my face with soap, and then apply my evening cream.

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Non-Daily Use Items: There are a few “one time purchase” items that I did invest in, which did produce some form of trash that was not recyclable. However, these were one time purchases and they’ve lasted a very long time. These items include my deodorant crystal, pumice stone, dental pick set and my set of stainless steel ear pick tools. (The Visine is rarely used and I doubt I’ll ever purchase it again.)

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For the Bathroom: Products I use to clean my bathroom or need to stock up on, include Apple Cider Vinegar, paper wrapped toilet paper and essential oils. The essential oils does get used, but not often. I always buy toilet paper wrapped in paper so that I don’t produce any extra plastic trash.

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Living a zero waste lifestyle can never truly be completely zero waste. Trash will be produced at one point or another; whether it’s in the beginning of the production line or at the very end where the consumer is left with it. When you purchase products in bulk, a lot of the packaging is left for the distributor to deal with.

This post was a transparent view of the reality of my own bathroom trash. Even though I do still produce a bit of trash, I have significantly reduced the amount of my bathroom trash since I began this zero waste journey. Still, to this day, I know I can reduce it even more, but that means I have to give up using certain products or try to find alternative products.

 

How I Got Started

11.07.2017

0600

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

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

Golden Gate Park

Fulton Avenue and Stanyan Avenue path into Golden Gate Park.

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

Golden Gate Park Entrance

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

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

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

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

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

San+Francisco+Passes+Toughest+Recycling+Law

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

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

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

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

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

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Garbage Patches of Our Oceans

08.29.2017

0600

 

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Our trash never goes away. What we produce, purchase and consume, never really goes away. Unless we truly understand the consequences of our actions, we won’t understand the trap we’ve set up for ourselves. Our relationship with plastic bags only started in 1950 and now it’s increased 620% since 1975.

There are five main ocean gyres on our earth. These gyres follow a circular path which converge ocean pollution. This isn’t a solid convergence being that plastics go through photodegradation and bits and pieces are strewn about around the patches. But there is an estimated size for each garbage ocean patch.

  • The Indian Ocean Garbage Patch and was discovered in 2010, is a gyre of marine litter suspended in the upper water column of the central Indian Ocean, specifically the Indian Ocean Gyre, one of the five major oceanic gyres.The patch does not appear as a continuous debris field. As with other patches in each of the five oceanic gyres, the plastics in it break down to even smaller particles, and to constituent polymers. As with the other patches, the field constitutes an elevated level of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris; primarily particles that are invisible to the naked eye.
  • North Atlantic Gyre, which contains the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, equal to the North Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of man-made marine debris found floating within the North Atlantic Gyre, originally documented in 1972.The patch is estimated to be hundreds of kilometres across in size, with a density of over 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer. The debris zone shifts by as much as 1,600 km (990 mi) north and south seasonally, and drifts even farther south during the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.
  • North Pacific Gyre, which contains The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, which was discovered between 1985 and 1988. It is located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N. The patch extends over an indeterminate area of widely varying range depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.
    • The Great Pacific garbage patch has one of the highest levels known of plastic particulate suspended in the upper water column. As a result, it is one of several oceanic regions where researchers have studied the effects and impact of plastic photodegradation in the neustonic layer of water. Unlike organic debris, which biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level. As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean’s surface. In this way, plastic may become concentrated in neuston, thereby entering the food chain.
    • The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Its low density (4 particles per cubic meter) prevents detection by satellite photography, or even by casual boaters or divers in the area. It consists primarily of a small increase in suspended, often microscopic, particles in the upper water column.
  • South Atlantic Gyre,  which  is the subtropical gyre in the south Atlantic Ocean. In the southern portion of the gyre, northwesterly (or southeastward-flowing) winds drive eastward-flowing currents that are difficult to distinguish from the northern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Like other oceanic gyres, it collects vast amounts of floating debris.
  • South Pacific Gyre, which is part of the Earth’s system of rotating ocean currents, bounded by the Equator to the north, Australia to the west, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to the south, and South America to the east. The center of the South Pacific Gyre is the site on Earth farthest from any continents and productive ocean regions and is regarded as Earth’s largest oceanic desert.

Consequences

Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine animals, and their young, including sea turtles and the black-footed albatross. Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the patch. Of the 1.5 million Laysan albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are likely to have plastic in their digestive system. Approximately one-third of their chicks die, and many of those deaths are due to being fed plastic from their parents. Twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons of that debris being fed to albatross chicks.

Besides the particles’ danger to wildlife, on the microscopic level the floating debris can absorb organic pollutants from seawater, including PCBs, DDT, and PAHs. Aside from toxic effects, when ingested, some of these are mistaken by the endocrine system as estradiol, causing hormone disruption in the affected animal. These toxin-containing plastic pieces are also eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by fish.

Many of these fish are then consumed by humans, resulting in their ingestion of toxic chemicals. While eating their normal sources of food, plastic ingestion can be unavoidable or the animal may mistake the plastic as a food source.

Marine plastics also facilitate the spread of invasive species that attach to floating plastic in one region and drift long distances to colonize other ecosystems. Research has shown that this plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide.

Research

Charles J. Moore is an oceanographer and racing boat captain known for articles that recently brought attention to the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. He founded the Algalita Marine Research and Education and in 2008, the foundation organized the JUNK Raft project, to “creatively raise awareness about plastic debris and pollution in the ocean”, and specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trapped in the North Pacific Gyre, by sailing 2,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean on a 30-foot-long (9.1 m) raft made from an old Cessna 310 aircraft fuselage and six pontoons filled with 15,000 old plastic bottles.

The JUNK Raft Project was organized by Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Joel Paschal and Anna Cummins in Long Beach, California in 2008, to bring attention to the issue of plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The project was launched with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, after founder Charles J. Moore encountered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997. Organizers hoped to “creatively raise awareness about plastic debris and pollution in the ocean,” specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trapped in the North Pacific Gyre.

There are many more organizations set up doing research to solve the plastic pollution problem in our oceans, but the main solution starts at the top with the banning of plastics from large corporate companies. When you make a purchase, you are voting with your consumer goods. Corporations do listen, we just need to tell them what we will not tolerate and what we need from them.

Other  products are being tested on the market such as biodegradable plastics and even plastics made from food, so that when they enter back into nature, the animals won’t suffer when accidentally consuming them. I hope that this post helps in the understanding of why being consciously aware and responsible for our trash is a crucial role for the future of our planet. It can feel overwhelming and although a small change in your daily routine may not feel like an impact among the current issues we have, it does help. Make small changes first, then move towards bigger changes. It all adds up.

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Beach Clean Up Day

07.11.2017

0600

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017-06-27

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!

Understanding Recycling Plastics

 

09.26.2016

0800

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Know Your Plastics

The Plastic Recycling Process

The plastic recycling process begins with sorting the various items by their resin content. The chart above shows the seven different plastic recycling symbols marked on the bottoms of plastic containers. The recycling mill sorts the used plastics by these symbols and may perform an additional sort based on the color of the plastic.

Once sorted, the plastics are chopped up into small pieces and chunks. These pieces are then cleaned to further remove debris like paper labels, residue from what was inside the plastic, dirt, dust, and other small contaminants.

Once cleaned, certain plastic pieces are melted down and compressed into tiny pellets called nurdles. Once in this state, the recycled plastic pellets are now ready to reuse and fashion into new and completely different products, as recycled plastic is hardly ever used to create the same or identical plastic item of its former self.

Does Recycling Plastics Work?

In a nutshell: yes and no. The plastic recycling process is fraught with flaws. Some of the dyes used in creating the plastic can be contaminated and cause an entire batch of potential recycling material to be scrapped. Additionally, there are still a large percentage of people who refuse to recycle, thus the actual numbers of plastics being returned for reuse is roughly 10% of what is purchased as new by consumers.

Another issue at stake is the fact that producing recycled plastic does not reduce the need for virgin plastic. However, plastic recycling can and does reduce the consumption of other natural resources like timber, due to its use in making composite lumber and many other products.

The 5-Step Process for Plastic Recycling

1. Collection – The recycling facilities gather available recyclable plastic material in their area, such as from roadside collections, special recycling bins, or even directly from industries. In this way, both post-consumer and post-industrial plastic items are collected.
2. Manual sorting – All plastic items that are collected are then sorted according to the various plastic types indicated by the plastic recycling symbols and codes on them. Unwanted non-plastic materials found in the piles are promptly taken out.
3. Chipping – After sorting, the sorted plastic products are prepared for melting by being cut into small pieces. The plastic items are fed into a machine which has sets of blades that slice through the material and break the plastic into tiny bits.
4. Washing – At this step in the process of recycling plastic, all residue of products originally contained in the plastic items and various other ‘contaminants’ (e.g. paper labels, dirt) are removed. A particular wash solution consisting of an alkaline, cationic detergent and water are used to effectively get rid of all the contaminants on the plastic material, making sure that all the plastic bits are clean and ready for the final step.
During washing, the wash tank agitator serves as an abrasive, stripping the adhesive off any labels and shredding any paper mixed in with the plastics. The alkaline, cationic detergent (which is similar to the formulas used in shampoos and fabric softeners) is used because plastic materials have a positive surface charge, and only positively-charged chemical compounds (which in this case are cationic detergents) can properly clean them, and effectively remove dirt and grease from the positively charged plastic surfaces.

5. Pelleting – The cleaned and chipped pieces of plastic are then melted down and put through a machine called an ‘extruder’ in this stage of the recycling plastic process. The extruder shapes the melted plastic into thin noodle-like tubes. The plastic tubes are then cut into small pellets by a set of rotating knives. The pellets are then ready to be reused and remade into new items.

What About the Bag?

Plastic bags go through the same five-step process as other plastic products. They too are sorted into their various plastic types, washed and rinsed. However, in the case of plastic bags, they are chopped rather than chipped. The chopped shreds of plastic bags are then melted down during the pelleting stage.
What’s Next?

The plastic pellets derived from the recycling plastic process are usually sold by the recycling company to other businesses which would then mold the plastic pellets into an assortment of plastic products for various uses. Some products use a combination of recycled plastic pellets and virgin plastic ones.

A Zero Waste Bathroom

01.16.2016

1650

So I filled out the “About” section of my website yesterday and I know I wrote that I’m trying to live a zero waste lifestyle. I use the word trying because the system isn’t perfect. As we all change and get older, our needs change, whether it be mental needs, health needs or the needs of our loved ones. So this is the trash I’ve accumulated so far in 2016:

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I started trying to live a zero waste lifestyle in 2010 and over the years my system became more refined. I found better alternatives for current products I use and even had to opt out of certain products. To give you a better perspective of what I gave up, I made a list: (of what I could remember)

Bathroom In The Past:

  1. Tampons (Tampax)
  2. Scented bedroom spray (Bed Bath & Beyond)
  3. Bug spray for your body (OFF)
  4. Face wash (Clearsil)
  5. Deodorant (Secret Invisible solid)
  6. Toothpaste (Colgate)
  7. Toothbrushes (made of plastic that would end up in the landfill)
  8. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond)
  9. Band aids (BAND-AID)
  10. Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin)
  11. Nail polish (from wherever)
  12. Nail polish remover (store brand)
  13. Shampoo bottles (Garnier)
  14. Conditioner bottles (Garnier)
  15. Harmful bathroom cleaning sprays (Scrub/409)
  16. Toilet cleaner (Scrubbing Bubbles)
  17. Jewlery cleaning liquid (La Sonic Jewelery Cleaner Concentrate)
  18. Cotton balls (store brand)
  19. Cotton swabs to clean my ears (Q-tips)
  20. Candles (to make the bathrom smell nice)
  21. Fancy body lotions from (Victoria’s Secret)
  22. Face lotion (Neutrogena)
  23. Rubbing alcohol (store brand)
  24. Toilet Paper (Store brand- packaged in plastic)
  25. Make-up (chap stick/lipstick/eye shadow/eyeliner/mascara)
  26. Disposable razors (Gillette)
  27. Dental Floss (Oral-B SuperFloss Dental Floss)

Bathroom During the Present: (Product details can be found under: Store> Store Link)

  1. Vinegar
  2. Toilet paper (wrapped in paper)
  3. Dr. Bronner’s soap bars (which I use for 6 different household cleaning tasks)
  4. Deodorant crystal
  5. Baking Soda
  6. Stainless steel seasoning container (to contain my baking soda)
  7. Compostable toothbrushes
  8. Citrus essential oil
  9. Keeper Moon Cup
  10. Dental floss (ECO-dent)
  11. Bulk lotion
  12. Gauze and paper tape
  13. ALBA Sunblock
  14. Pumice Stone & Wash rag
  15. Sage leaves (I burn sage to release the aroma and use it as a cleansing method )

I think that’s pretty much the entire list. If I’ve left out anything I’ll come back to edit it. This is what my bathroom looks like now:

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From the list of items I used to buy, the one criteria I needed each product to pass was the plastic packaging issue. Now I buy items packaged in glass or stainless steel OR paper (and not the glossy kind of paper- just raw paper). I have seen bulk soap sold in stores, but they always have a sticker price tag attached to them, which is not recyclable. I use my Dr. Bronner’s soap for cleaning my bathroom, as a body wash, as a face wash, pet shampoo, laundry detergent, and dish washing soap. With the amount of use I get from one bar of soap, I think this investment pays for itself. I now only use candles in my emergency kit in case of a power outage. My list also was tested with the help of another blog called “The Zero Waste Home” with Bea Johnson and her family. I followed a majority of what she suggested but there were a few that I did not agree with. If you want to check them out, here is the link The Zero Waste Home

There are a few hang ups with this system that still doesn’t make it completely 100% zero waste, such as sunblock and make up. However I did discover a company called TerraCycle who will let you mail them certain trash to be reused into other items as long as you join one of their brigades. Check them out here TerraCycle- Outsmart Waste Currently I’m on their wait list for their Personal Care and Beauty Brigade.