Freebies And Give Aways

01.24.2017

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I don’t like to receive freebies and giveaways. I tend to refuse small gift bags and trinkets that are included in them. When I received them from family members and friends, that’s when I came up with a plan that I implemented years ago, when I lived in San Francisco.
Years ago, when I lived in San Francisco, my studio was directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. This park is the largest park in San Francisco and it was approximately 1,017 acres and over 3 miles running West to East and  half a mile running North to South. I would visit my family on the peninsula and always ended up bringing back food. I was given Nutrigrain bars, health bars, and even packaged produce. Because I was starting my zero waste lifestyle in San Francisco, I didn’t want to open these individually packaged items. Instead, I would create care packages for the homeless population, who slept in the park after everyone left.
Let me explain, Golden Gate Park is open from 9am every morning, and closes at 5 pm each evening. Since I lived across the street from the park, I was very aware of the public presence in the park. Each night, after the park closed, the homeless population would move in and set up camp for the night. I used to run along the street that framed the park’s north edge. I would run West and head out to Ocean Beach, then turn around and run back, and I would see them heading into the park.
During that time, I worked the swing shift when I was and EMT, so my hours were strange. But I would put together care packages in which I would hand out to the homeless when I can back from work.
I know that those individually packed items still produced trash but I had a decision to make. The dilemma was, either I refuse the items and inevitably they go into the trash, or I can somehow make good use of it. Not everyone can live a zero waste life and I understood that. Not everyone cares to live a zero waste life and I understood that too.
This was my way of trying to make a positive contribution to a situation I was aware of. When the packages were made, I would hand them out. None of the individual packages were opened so the recipients knew that the food had not been tampered with. Most everyone was open to accepting the food and were thankful for the snacks.
I wrote this post because recently I received a few airline amenity kits from a relative who travels on Delta Airlines for work.  She travels a lot so she had a bunch stocked up. I decided to go out and find recipients to give these kits to.
In the day-to-day rush that we live through, it’s reasonable that not everyone is noticed or acknowledged. But if you slow down and look closely, you’ll notice a population that sits in the shadows; a population made up of many circumstances and perhaps painful past stories. Living in California, has its risks and high stakes to bet on. It takes a lot to survive here, much less start a family and establish yourself here. I accept that anyone can become homeless at anytime and it’s always an unfortunate outcome.

My Composting Procedure

01.12.2017

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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.

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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.

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Zero Waste Closet- Part II

12.29.2016

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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.

Decluttering Sentimental Possessions

 

11.22.2016

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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.

What I Stopped Buying- Garage, Living Room and Holidays

11.10.2016

0800

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My last part in my ongoing list of “Items I’ve stopped buying” focuses on my garage, living room and holiday items. This list is very small in reference to the items I frequently bought. The garage items focus around doing laundry and the items needed to do laundry. The holiday items refer to items I used to buy for wrapping gifts.

Doing my laundry is my least favorite chore and ever since I simplified the amount of clothes I own, it’s not as bad as it used to be. (My capsule wardrobe now consists of 27 items.) But also not needing dryer sheets or dropping my items off at a dry cleaners also make for a simple laundry routine. I have so few items when I do laundry, that I simply hang everything up when I’m done. I used to sit and fold my items for a good amount of time, and had to set aside time to do it.

Admittedly, my simplistic routines have made me slightly lazier, but it’s also saved me time so I’m not packing my days off with things I need to get done. I actually HAVE time to be lazy- it’s weird. But I’ll take it. It’s weird because I’ve been conditioned to constantly be busy or with the tasks I need to get done each weekend or every other weekend. These tasks are supposed to take up a good amount of my day (that way I feel I’ve accomplished something for that day). When you get to the point when you find time to breathe (I mean a lot of time), it’s well worth the zero waste journey.

There’s more planning involved in the beginning and routines to get used to, but honestly….. who doesn’t love naps??

GARAGE

  1. Dryer Sheets ——————-> N/A
  2. Dry Cleaning ——————-> Hang items in bathroom while showering so they can steam.(I’ll iron if I ABSOLUTELY have to.)
  3. Laundry Soap ——————> Paper Packaged Powder Laundry Soap

LIVING ROOM

  1. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond) ——> Sage leaves
  2. Flower Bouquets —————-> Fresh Flowers from backyard

HOLIDAYS

  1. Wrapping Paper —————-> Colorful Bandanas  [wrap and tuck] & old t-shirts made into reuseable gift bags.

What I Stopped Buying- Kitchen Items

11.08.2016

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So my list of “Items That I No Longer Buy” continues onto the kitchen area. This list will include items I stopped buying for the sink area, cooking and dining area. As well as a short list of items I no longer buy for grocery shopping as well as the refrigerator.

For the kitchen items, switching over to reusable items really cut down time for shopping and running errands. I didn’t have to constantly keep track of what I was running out of or running low on. Plus, looking for sales wasn’t as stressful as before. Since I shop so little now, I actually tend to only look for a sale once, and just stock up on the bulk item in my glass container. The products that I do stock up on now, will last me for a much longer period of time.

It’s interesting when I do go shopping for bulk kitchen items such as soap, vinegar or baking soda, because I know exactly where the items are located in the stores, but I’ll walk around thinking that I’m forgetting an item (also because my basket will ultimately have a total of 4 items in it). When in the end, the total number of items I need is just the four…. for the next 5 months, because that’s how long it lasts. It’s great. You should try it!

SINK

  1. Dishwashing Soap ———————–> Bulk Dr. Bronner’s Liquid soap
  2. Plastic Dish Rack ————————> In-sink Metal Dish Rack
  3. Paper Towels —————————> Fabric Kitchen Towels
  4. Kitchen Cleaning Spray ——————-> Vinegar & water mix,  Baking Soda as an exfoliant
  5. Dish Cleaning Sponges ——————-> Alternative Dish Scrub (Alternative Dish Scrub)

COOKING

  1. Plastic cutting Board —————-> Wooden cutting board
  2. Plastic Kitchen Tools —————-> Metal/Wooden Kitchen Tools
  3. Non-Stick Kitchen Pans ————-> Stainless Steel Kitchen Cookware Set/Cast Iron Pans

DINING

  1. Plastic Water bottles ———————> Reusable water Bottles
  2. Plastic Straws —————————> Metal Reuseable Straws
  3. Coffee Filters —————————> French Press (doesn’t use disposable filters)
  4. Plastic Utensils ————————-> Silverware
  5. Paper Plates —————————->Dishware

GROCERY SHOPPING

  1. Plastic Bags ————————–> Reusable grocery bags
  2. Plastic Produce Bags ——————-> Fabric Produce bags (DIY Produce Bags)

REFRIGERATOR

  1. Plastic Ice Cube Tray ——————-> Metal Ice cube tray
  2. Plastic Tupperware ——————–> Glass Tupperware

What I Stopped Buying- Bathroom Items

 

11.03.2016

0800

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So I thought I would go over what I have actually stopped buying in lieu of alternative zero waste options. A few people have asked me about what I had to give up when I started my journey to a zero waste lifestyle and majority of the time I knew I was forgetting to mention certain items, so I decided to mke a list of what I gave up.

The items listed with “N/A” indicates that I no longer use it and didn’t find a replacement for it. There’s only one item that repeats and the item is the sage leaves which I use in lieu of candles and the scented bathroom spray.  The bathroom and kitchen were the most effected rooms during the change of switching over to zero waste alternatives so this list is one of the more elaborate lists.

This list can give you an idea of what I gave up, but to be honest, I really didn’t have to give up too much. It’s simply a list of items that I simplified and the replacement items are longer lasting and more durable over a longer period of time. If you’re thinking of moving towards this lifestyle, I hope this list helps. If you’re loking for any of the items I listed, take a look at my store on my homepage and skim through the room categories. There, you’ll find the suggestions I recomend for certain areas in your home.

MEDICINE CABINET

  1. Face wash (Clearsil) —————————> Unpackaged organic soap bars
  2. Deodorant (Secret Invisible solid) —————-> Deodorant crystal
  3. Toothpaste (Colgate) ————————–>  Baking Soda
  4. Plastic Toothbrushes  ————————->  Recycleable toothbrushes
  5. Band aids (BAND-AID) ————————>  Gauze and paper tape
  6. Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin) —————->  Bulk honey
  7. Cotton balls (store brand) ———————->  N/A
  8. Cotton swabs to clean my ears (Q-tips) ———–>  N/A
  9. Fancy body lotions from (Victoria’s Secret) ——–>  Bulk body lotion
  10. Face lotion (Neutrogena)  ———————->  Bulk face lotion
  11. Rubbing alcohol ——————————> N/A
  12. Dental Floss (Oral-B SuperFloss Dental Floss) ——> Dental floss (ECO-dent)
    1. ECO-dent is packaged in paper, with a little bit of plastic packaging
  13. Bug spray for your body (OFF) ——————-> Citrus essential oil
  14. Jewelry cleaning liquid (La Sonic Jewelry Cleaner) —> N/A
  15. Makeup————————————-> Organic makeup
  16. Body Sunblock ——————————-> ALBA Sport Sunblock
  17. Face Sunblock  ————————> Mineral Fusion Sunscreen Moisturizer

SHOWER

  1. Shampoo bottles (Pantene Pro-V) —————-> Bulk Hair Shampoo
  2. Conditioner bottles (Pantene Pro-V) ————–> Bulk Hair Conditioner
  3. Disposable razors (Gillette) ———————-> Epilator
  4. Shower Pouf ———————————-> Pumice Stone & Wash rag

SINK

  1. Tampons (Tampax) —————————> Keeper Moon Cup
  2. Scented bedroom spray (Bed Bath & Beyond)  ——> Sage leaves
  3. Nail polish (from wherever) ——————–> N/A
  4. Nail polish remover (store brand) —————-> N/A
  5. Bathroom cleaning sprays (Scrub/409)  ————> Vinegar & Baking Soda
  6. Toilet Paper (Plastic packaged) ——————> Toilet paper (Paper Packaged)
  7. Bathroom Hand Soap ————————–> Unpackaged organic soap bars
  8. Bathroom rags ——————————-> Microfiber cloths
  9. Candles (to make the bathroom smell nice) ——–> Sage
  10. Bathroom sink scrub brush ———————>  100% Sisal Fiber Bath Sponge

TOILET

  1. Toilet cleaner (Scrubbing Bubbles) ————–> Bulk Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap

The Simple Route To Less Trash

11.01.2016

0800

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

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

Zero Waste Gift Options

 

10.27.2016

0800

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The gift of experiences, are, in my opinion- the best kinds. They’re my favorite gifts to give. They’re easy to wrap because no wrapping paper is needed and there’s no gift like it. See, when you give the gift of an experience, no memory can replace it and it’s not generically manufactured somewhere which somehow made it onto the store shelf that caught your attention. Everything about the gift of an experience is unique, from the sounds you hear, the smell in the air, the objects you encounter,  the people you’re surrounded by and perhaps in a split second, you’ll captured a memory that will forever live.

The reason why I own a limited number of possessions is due to the fact that I would rather spend my money on experiences and good  food. I’d rather keep my home clear of clutter and walk down to my downtown area and go out to dinner. I’d rather sit on the beach with friends after a day of surfing and then enjoying a hearty meal with great company. I’d rather go to the movies or go to a sporting event with family and friends. I’ve chosen to live my life by filling it with more experiences and with less stuff in the past 6 years. Although my “living with less” lifestyle became more refined with each passing year, this year, it has finally dwindled down to its most polished version.

I’ve used numerous websites to give gifts and to test out the gift of experiences method and they all seem to work quite smoothly. So  far I’ve used Groupon , Living Social as well as Ticketmaster. These are just the ones I’ve used and I’m sure there are many out on the internet that I’m not familiar with.

I really think the secret to this life is creating memories with one another. I don’t think humans were meant to be isolated or alone. We were always meant to talk and be stimulated my our experiences. We all laugh, love, care, express empathy and even cry. I encourage everyone to invest in giving the gift of experiences, you never know the value of the memories you’re going to create.

You can gift tickets to:

  • Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
  • Theme parks (Great America, Raging Waters, Six Flags, Disneyland, etc.)
  • Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing)
  • Gift card/money for food / drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee / tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
  • Gift card/money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining)
  • Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
  • Gift card/money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)

Here are some other Zero Waste Gift Options from other Zero Waste bloggers:

Toilet Paper is Not Zero Waste

 

10.24.2016

0800

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Toilet paper: The average U.S. consumer uses more than 20,805 sheets annually, contributing to a $5.7 billion industry for bathroom tissue. Unfortunately, I do use toilet paper, but I use toilet paper made from 100% recycled paper. It’s the one product that I consistently try to adjust and use less of. I did purchase a bidet that attached to my toilet, so that eases up my use of toilet paper- but I still use it.

When you think of producers of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and resource depletion, toilet paper probably doesn’t join the list of products and industries that come to mind. But the natural resources that go into toilet paper should be taken into account. According to some estimates, approximately 7 million trees are used each year to make up the U.S.’s toilet paper supply.

The Forest

THE NATIONAL RESOURCE DEFENSE COUNCIL (NRDC) ESTIMATES THAT IF EVERY HOUSEHOLD REPLACED JUST ONE 500-SHEET ROLL OF VIRGIN FIBER TOILET PAPER WITH A 100 PERCENT RECYCLED FIBER ROLL, 423,900 TREES WOULD BE SAVED ANNUALLY. IMAGE COURTESY OF ALIAS 0591

Tiny Roll, Big Impact

The idea of using virgin wood for throwaway paper products seems silly, but it happens nearly 99 percent of the time. Toilet paper made of 100 percent recycled paper fiber makes up less than 2 percent of the market in the U.S.

However, toilet paper made of 100 percent recycled paper content, including high percentages of post-consumer recycled fibers, is becoming easier to find as national chain stores now carry major brands like Seventh Generation and Marcal.

It Doesn’t Stop at Toilet Paper

According to the American Forest and Paper Association, tissue-grade papers are generally categorized into three major categories:

  1. At-home (consumer)
    1. Found in the forms of toilet and facial tissue, paper towels, napkins and other sanitary items
  2. Away-from-home (commercial and industry)
  3. Specialty
    1. Decorative and specialty papers such as wrapping tissue, dry cleaning paper and crepe paper

Tissue-grade papers are typically made from virgin fiber rather than recycled fibers and are bleached with chlorine to make them look whiter and brighter. Like toilet paper, these tissue grades are widely available with recycled fiber content and chlorine-free bleach.

The Soiled Paper Dilemma

While tissue-grade paper is made from, well, paper, this particular material is actually not recyclable due to the nature of its usage. When we add grease to a paper towel, food residue to napkins and you-know-what to toilet and facial tissue, these items are typically rendered non-recyclable.

When paper products are recycled, they are mixed with water and turned into a slurry. Grease, oils and other soiling materials form at the top of the slurry and paper fibers cannot separate from the oils during the pulping process, rendering the batch useless.

“The oil causes great problems for the quality of the paper, especially the binding of the fibers,” said Terry Gellenbeck, a solid waste administrative analyst for the City of Phoenix. “It puts in contaminants, so when they do squeeze the water out, it has spots and holes.”

Other products typically found on paper products, like ink, tend to break down fast as they are usually non-petroleum based.

Helpful Guides

Greenpeace’s Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide – Greenpeace has created a guide as well as an iPhone application to help consumers find recycled and responsible paper products. The pocket guide ranks 18 popular toilet paper, paper towel, facial tissue and napkin brands on their use of recycled content, post-consumer recycled content and non-toxic chlorine compounds in the bleaching process.

Some Facts

  • Replaced one 175-sheet box of virgin fiber facial tissues with 100 percent recycled tissues, we’d save 163,000 trees annually.
  • Used 100 percent recycled paper towels rather than one 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towels, we’d save 544,000 trees each year.
  • Replaced one 250-count package of virgin fiber napkins with 100 percent recycled, we’d save 1 million trees annually.

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.

Upcycling Sleeves Into Reusable Gift Bags

09.19.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Leftover t-shirt sleeves from the shirts you planned to make into a t-shirt quilt
  • Sewing kit

Tools:

  • Sewing machine

So I started making a T-shirt quilt for my brother and one for my mother. For my brother, I used his old t-shirts and for my mother, I took a few of my childhood t-shirts as well as some of hers, and combined them into her quilt.

After trimming the shirts for the quilts, I had leftover fabric which I sewed into gift bags, however, I ran out of shoelace to use as the drawstrings. These gift bags are for giving away to those who may want them, and I don’t suggest to use these bags for bulk grocery shopping due to the elasticity of the way t-shirts are sewn together. I usually use bedsheets to make the reusable bulk shopping bags because their thread count is higher and it’s a denser assembly. The left over fabric included the t-shirt collars, the sleeves of the shirts and extra fabric from certain shirts which only had print on one side.

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Bags:

I hadn’t figured out what to do with the collar portions, so I set them aside. However, with the pile of sleeves, I thought I would make odd shaped reusable gift bags out of them. I knew that even if I sewed the pairs of sleeves together, the gift bags would be lopsided. Then again, with the odd shape to the gift bags, maybe it would be easier to hide the shape of the gift inside. So I basically paired up the sleeves and sewed the wide ends together, and closed off one of the open ends.

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Once I finished sewing the gift bags made from the sleeves, I ended up with pentagon shaped gift bags. These bags were not expected but they didn’t turn out too bad, I actually like the odd shape that they ended up becoming. I’ve never used this type of fabric for this kind of use, so this was all a new journey for me. However, if you don’t have shoelaces available or have extra t-shirts lying around, you can make your own drawstrings to use.

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Drawstring for the bags:

Since I ran out of the shoelace that I usually use, I had to figure out a way to still create a drawstring for these bags. So I took a sleeve piece and started creating a cut line that spiraled around the sleeve. I started at the seam edge of the sleeve (which usually is located on the bottom of the sleeve), and started cutting upwards. I started here because as I spiraled around the sleeve, I knew I would cut through the thread that held the shirt sleeve together and by starting at the seam, it would look like a cleaner cut.  I wanted the width of each string to be about 1/2″ so I just continued to cut around around the sleeve, keeping in mind the width of the fabric until I ran out of sleeve to cut . With t-shirt fabric, when the fabric is cut, it tends to curl in on itself so that was the goal behind choosing the 1/2″ width. The fabric piece would curl in just enough to fit through the sleeve cuff to create a drawstring.

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(sorry for the blurry picture, but you get the idea)

Final Product:

So with the different parts of the t-shirts and long sleeve shirt I had used to create the t-shirt quilts. I ended up with a few long and tall gift bags, a bunch of square/rectangular bags and a handful of pentagon shaped gift bags. I actually really like the pentagon shaped bags, I didn’t know they’d turn out like that. It was a nice surprise after all the work was done. I hope this post might inspire or help those who might embark on the same journey.

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If you want to check out some other options for eco-friendly gift wrapping, check out these gift wrapping ideas from these other bloggers:

 

Weekly And Daily Errands To Run

 

09.14.2016

0800

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When it comes to errands, I actually don’t have to0 do much. I don’t have daily errands, mostly because I work long hours and prefer to go home and relax. For my weekly errands, I do buy groceries each week, but mostly the fresh produce items. I’ll stock up on my bulk dry foods maybe once every 3 weeks. I prefer to completely run out of my bulk foods before I go and buy more- this way, I can refill my jars completely.
For fresh produce, I’ll buy local and seasonal items because I know that I’m supporting local businesses, and that the produce didn’t have to travel far to get its destination.
When it comes to my bathroom bulk items, I tend to buy those items once every three months. Because I buy large quantities when I go on each run, I don’t need to make frequent trips. The task of running out of bathroom items is an issue I absolutely dislike dealing with. It’s the reason why I would stock up on items in the past, which also ended up producing even more trash. Now, I simply look under my  bathroom sink and my jars are already full and waiting to be used. My jars also tend to hold more product compared to the bottles I used to buy, so each time I pull out a jar to use, I know that it will last awhile.

This is a simple list of what my typical weekly grocery run might look like:

  1. Breakfast: Oatmeal, cranberries, flaxseed, almonds, cinnamon, green tea, coffee, cane sugar, Straus Half & Half
  2. Lunch: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions, balsamic vinegar
  3. Dinner: bread, mustard, potatoes, green onions, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower
  4. Snacks: Bulk bins, Seasonal Fruit (eat skin if possible.)

For less frequent bulk bathroom shopping list, I tend to buy:

  1. Bulk soap bars
  2. Bulk face lotion
  3. Bulk body lotion
  4. Bulk Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint Soap
  5. Baking soda
  6. White Vinegar

For my more frequent bulk bathroom shopping items, I’ll buy

  1. Toothbrushes
  2. Dental Floss
  3. Face Sunscreen Lotion

Zero Waste Cleaning

09.12.2016

0800

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My cleaning routine is fairly simple. I use a mixture of water and vinegar to wipe down surfaces (in the water bottle) and I use Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint soap for washing dishes and even cleaning my sink and bathtub (in the wide mouthed Ball Mason Jar). I use baking soda if I want to exfoliate a surface if necessary. I’ve even used the soap to wash my cat when he needed a bath. This soap is so useful in my life and Dr. Bronner’s soap has a long legacy of producing quality soaps.

This is how the Dr. Bronner’s All-In-One soap company explains their quality: Other Ways Dr. Bronner’s Makes Higher-Quality Soaps

  • Unlike most commercial soapmakers, who distill the glycerin out of their soaps to sell separately, we retain it in our soaps for its superb moisturizing qualities.
  • We super-fat our bar soaps for a milder, smoother lather.
  • We use natural vitamin E from sunflower seeds and citric acid from fermented tapioca to protect freshness.
  • We do not add any chelating agents, dyes, whiteners or synthetic fragrances.
  • We use pure and powerful high-quality certified organic essential oils.
  • Our liquid soaps are three times more concentrated than most so-called “liquid soaps” on the market, and they are only a few percent away from being a solid, which saves on packaging materials.
  • Our soaps are a superb value, costing less than less-concentrated, inferior detergent body-wash “liquid soaps.”
  • Our soaps are most popular for at-home washing, but they are also the soap of choice for many campers and hikers, as they are biodegradable and nature-friendly.
  • We also use better packaging; our plastic cylinder bottles are made from 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic.

You can check out the rest of their story and legacy here,Dr. Bronner’s Legacy , and you can check out their website here: Dr. Bronner’s All-In-One .

I haven’t used store bought chemical cleaners for the past five years, and as I discovered alternative ways to clean, I was much happier knowing I wasn’t inhaling the fumes from my cleaning products. Although cleaning can be a touchy subject, due to how people view “dirty” or “clean”, I think it boils down to what you’re willing to sacrifice and risk. Some people are more comfortable with the chemicals, but I am not.

My soap is environmentally friendly and because it’s such a good soap, even when I dilute it with water, it still lathers really well! Due to the fact that I’m constantly diluting this soap, I never have to stock up each week. I make a bathroom bulk grocery run probably once every three months. Honestly, my lotions and soaps last me a long time.

It’s not a bad idea to eliminate the more harmful chemicals from your home. In fact, I’m an advocate for natural and organic cleaning products. Some people have commented that perhaps my way of cleaning isn’t sanitary, but unless I put my home through an autoclave, I don’t’ think it could ever be 100% clean. We as humans do retain a certain amount of bacteria in our bodies and if you’re THAT afraid of what comes out of your bodies, shouldn’t you be more concerned with what goes into it?

*UPDATE- 06.16.2017- I no longer use Olive Oil Dispenser – Square Tall Glass Oil Bottle and Stainless Steel Pourer Spout to contain my bulk liquid soap, but instead I now I refill my  32 oz, Dr. Bronner’s Organic Peppermint Pure-Castile Liquid Soap container. These containers are easier to clean and they have a much more durable design. I use a water bottle that was gifted to me, for my vinegar and water mix for cleaning.

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Why Plant Based And No Packaging

 

09.07.2016

0800

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There are a  lot of benefits to a plant based diet. Creating less waste or no waste is beneficial to the planet and our atmosphere for many other reasons. There have been many controversies about plant based diets in regards to protein sufficiency, Vitamin B12 deficiency, and even calcium sufficient intake arguments. By eating a plant based diet, you can avoid plaque buildup in your blood vessels and lower your risk of heart disease, and you benefit from a multitude of health reasons such as:

  • Diabetes prevention
  • Hypertension control
  • Heart health
  • Weight Loss
  • Fiber Intake
  • Vision Value
  • Skin Care

The list of reasons to start or even try to a plant based diet outweighs the other side of that argument. Here is a list of 9 great reasons why you should start one.

1. Plants Have Less Saturated Fat

Saturated fats, or fats that are saturated with hydrogen, are typically solid at room temperature and are found in meat and animal products like beef, lamb, butter, cheese, and high-fat dairy products. They’re also found in coconut oil, cocoa butter, and palm oil.

According to medical experts at the American Heart Association (AHA), eating saturated fats increases the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which in turn raises your risk for heart disease and stroke. The organization recommends that people on a 2,000-calorie diet have only about 13 grams (g) of saturated fat per day.

2. You Can Cut Fatty Meats From Your Diet

Our bodies need a small amount of cholesterol to function, but most of us make enough on our own without adding it to our diets through fatty meats. Cholesterol is only found in animal-derived food products, not plants.

Why does excessive cholesterol matter? According to the American Heart Association, having high cholesterol in your blood is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

The bad form of cholesterol (LDL) is one of the products that makes up atherosclerotic plaque. Other fats, waste products, and calcium can also contribute to this buildup of plaque in the arteries (which carry blood away from the heart), causing them to become blocked and hardened, and potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke.

Low blood cholesterol levels can be achieved by replacing saturated fats and oils with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, found in foods like avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Less then 10 percent of daily calories should come from saturated fats.

3. Plants Increase Fiber in Your Diet

A well-rounded, plant-based diet should also increase the amount of fiber you get. And increasing fiber is one way to reduce the bad cholesterol circulating in your body, says Joan Salge Blake, RD, clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Fiber interacts with the bad cholesterol in your digestive tract and helps remove it more quickly from your body, Salge Blake says. This decreases the overall amount of bad cholesterol absorbed in your body. Fiber is found in foods like beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, so she recommends making healthy food swaps, like reducing or cutting meat out of chili and adding beans to the pot instead.

4. Eating Less Meat Lowers Diabetes and Obesity Risks

Eating meat, or consuming higher amounts of saturated fat, is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Having diabetes, in turn, is thought to make you twice as likely to experience heart disease and stroke, notes the AHA. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), having diabetes increases your risk of having heart disease or stroke at an earlier age.

5. Fruits and Veggies Lower Blood Pressure

One well-known and often recommended diet for people with hypertension is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. While this diet is focused on reducing the amount of sodium in the diet, it also aims to lower meat intake.

The DASH diet calls for you to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, and to eat only 5 ounces (oz) of protein-based foods daily. You should have no more than 26 oz of meat, poultry, and eggs each week.

6. Plants Enrich Your Diet With Omega-3s

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, eating omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and it can also lower your cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are not made in the body, so the only way to get them is through your diet.

Some kinds of omega-3s, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna. DHA and EPA are converted into usable omega-3s more readily than is the plant-based alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). For this reason, many dietary guidelines that recommend lowering the amount of meat and poultry are increasingly including the regular consumption of fish.

ALA is found in many plant-based foods, including pumpkin seeds, canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, and flaxseeds.

7. A Vegan Diet Adds Beneficial Nutrients

A host of nutrients in a vegan diet are heart-protective, Salge Blake says. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, plant sterols, phytochemicals, and potassium, which are all thought to reduce the risk of heart disease.

According to the AHA, potassium helps to reduce the effects of sodium, which is known to raise blood pressure in the body. Potassium is found in a wide range of plant-based foods, including sweet potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, soybeans, almonds, bananas, apricots, tomatoes, and cantaloupe.

8. You Can Avoid Unhealthy Components of Meat

When you replace animal products with plant-based ones, you’re not only adding beneficial nutrients, but you’re taking harmful ones out, too. Along with cholesterol and saturated fats, for example, meat also has heme iron, which comes from the blood in meat and can create reactive oxygen — a contributor to heart attacks, Williams says.

9.  With a plant based diet and shopping for these ingredients without packaging, achieving a zero waste lifestyle is quite easy. If you shop in the fresh vegetables and fresh fruit section of the grocery store, it’s easy to find the ones that you like for your daily dietary needs.