Zero Waste Tips And Habits

08.19.2019

0600

Committing to a Zero Waste lifestyle, does take a good amount of preparation.  If you look around your kitchen, bathroom and even your bedroom, a lot of our world is made of plastic. 

BEFORE TRANSITIONING TO A ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE:


The easiest way I can instruct someone to go about transitioning to a Zero Waste Lifestyle, is to go room by room, and I would start with the kitchen. It’s not quick, since you have to go through every drawer, cabinet, closet, shelf, and the storage container. I would technically audit each room in this order:

  • Kitchen – We tend to buy the most items for this room, and food items frequently circulate in and out of this room
  • Bathroom(s)- We use quite a bit of personal care items, which have expiration dates, so I think this room also has a slew of products being brought in and thrown out
  • Storage closet(s)- Some households store extra supplies in closets, so I would go through and make a list of items I frequently stock up on. 
  • Bedroom(s)- Specifically, clothing and other disposable items that are bought, used and kept here
  • Living Room & Dining Room- Check cabinets or drawers where you may keep extra supplies of items, and list them 
  • Garage- This might be a big audit, since people use their garages for a variety of things. But I would go through and find all of the single use, disposable items and then find other bottles/jars/canisters that will create waste once the product is used up. 

DURING THE TRANSITION TO A ZERO WASTE LIFE STYLE:

During the process of transitioning to a more zero waste lifestyle, there will be a slew of products or foods, you will end up using up and finishing up. A big part of this section of the process, is a countdown to the day you finish using up that shampoo bottle, bag of rice, toothpaste tube, nail polish, nail polish remover, etc. Although, waiting until the end of the life of a product can feel frustrating, it buys you time to research on products you plan on replacing the action with.

Keep in mind that investing in products made from sustainable materials and have been proven to last a long time, are better investments for your wallet. When I was going through my transition, I came to realize that I don’t really care what zero waste looks like in my home. I’m more concerned about the function of the products I invested in. Some people do care about style and that’s perfectly fine; I am simply the type of person that does not. I don’t have a glass cup for every type of occasion, or have very specific dishes to use for certain occasions, but that’s just how I like to live. I like living a minimalist life and my zero waste lifestyle reflects on it as well.

I like investing in products that I can clean easily, durable and can be used for a multitude of uses. I don’t have glass bottles of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and liquid amnios, but I do have refillable glass mason jars for olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, honey and liquid amnios.

If I can’t clean and reuse the new product easily, it’s a no buy in my opinion.

AFTER THE TRANSITION TO A ZERO WASTE LIFE STYLE:

Remember the FIVE Rs: from Bea Johnson, author of The Zero Waste Home, “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot”. Refuse what you don’t need, reduce what you do need, reuse what you can, recycle what you can and rot (compost) the rest.

Maintaining a zero waste lifestyle takes a great sense of self awareness. Refusing to buy food, products and items you normally purchase, takes restraint and intent. You’re changing the way you live, by altering what you purchase and how you purchase products. To this day, when I walk into new restaurants and drink shops, I will ask if they will accept my water bottle to contain the drink, and sometimes I get turned down. But I respect their policy and simply take my business elsewhere. I still want to know if other restaurants will accept my reusable utensils and Tupperware, because than I know I can return to the establishment.

I also drive around with a “To Go Carry Out Kit“. The kit helps when I stop by a restaurant to pick up food, before I get home. It also comes in handy for impromptu picnics and dropping by family and friends homes to join in on a potluck.

In my day to day routine, I carry around a reusable utensils kit and reuseable water bottle. I tend to buy more vegetables and fruit, than I do with bulk grains and dry food. I occasionally will snack on almonds or pecans, but it’s rare. The majority of how I set up my weekday meal plans, are simply green salads and salmon. I don’t eat much grains anymore, except a bit of brown rice.

So basically the main steps are:

  • Use up everything you purchase that comes in plastic or non recyclable packaging.
  • Find alternatives for the “absolute must need items” you use.
  • Refuse any items you don’t need, such as single use disposable items, freebies, etc.
  • Set up a bulk buying system for your kitchen, bathroom, garage, etc. needs.
  • Carry around a reuseable utensils kit with a reuseable water bottle.
  • SPREAD THE WORD.

Don’t worry about the naysayers. I started this lifestyle back in 2010, when it wasn’t popular at all. I got the weird looks, comments, jabs from friends, family, co-workers and on social media. Doing something different and starting something new, will always bring more questions. Just stay on the road, and steer straight ahead, you’ll get there.

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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.

What’s In My Purse?

06.12.2018

0600

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Since I’ve written about What’s in My Makeup Bag? and What’s in My Sport Emergency Kit?, I thought I’d show you what I carry around in my purse too. These are the items I use daily and essentially, and these include my zero waste essentials.

So an overall view will reveal that I usually carry my water bottle, my eyeglasses case, purse, keys, sunglasses, my reusable utensils, my cloth napkin and my cloth handkerchief.

Sometimes I will switch out my water bottle with my tumbler, if I’m going to grab coffee. Most of the time I’ll usually carry my water bottle instead of my tumbler because water is more critical for me on a day to day basis.

In my purse, (which is a pencil bag, because pencil bags tend to have more pockets and are washable) I’ll carry my cards and cash, a small bottle of lotion, a comb, my business cards case, a barrette, extra hair ties, my lip balm, lipstick, eyeliner, my mini 3 in 1 stainless steel screwdriver key chain eyeglass repair tool, extra bobby pins (because you can never have enough), and a nail filer.

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The only perishable and wasteful items I carry on a daily basis is my lip balm and my lipstick. I refill my bottle of lotion from my bulk lotion bottles. Anyone who uses hair ties knows that they tend to break and I haven’t yet found a good alternative to tie up my hair. I might lean towards going back to the scrunchie though. With the extra protective fabric around the hair tie, the life of the hair tie can last longer.

So there you have it. My purse is simple, and I don’t carry extra stuff around to the point where I can’t find anything in my bag. I tend to divide my items into smaller bags so that they’re grouped together in a more organized fashion. These are my day to day essential items, what do you carry around in your bag?

Celebrate Earth Day 2018

03.15.2018

0600

Earth-Day

 

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

This year, in the celebration of Earth Day, I thought I’d walk through my process of how to do a plastic audit in your home. But first, let’s take a look at the dangers of plastic and why it is not as recyclable as we are lead to believe.

EDUCATE YOURSELF ON PLASTICS

  • What do you know about plastics? Although it is one of the most common packaging material used worldwide, it ends up in our landfill and our oceans. It eventually makes its way back to us through the foods we consume. There are also a lot of facts that are not widely known, here are some facts from the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
  • Although it was considered one of  the breakthrough materials discovered in 1907, only now are we realizing the damaging consequences of using this material so rapidly. How is it harmful?
  • There is a huge misconception that all plastics can be recycled, however, that is not the case. Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment. They come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.Two classifications of microplastics currently exist: primary microplastics are manufactured and are a direct result of human material and product use, and secondary microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris like the macroscopic parts that make up the bulk of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems.Because plastics do not break down for many years, they can be ingested and incorporated into and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms. The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment is not yet known, but research is currently underway to investigate this issue. Here is more information from the National Ocean Service, What are microplastics?
  • Why is recycling not effective? Learn about the different types of plastics

HOW TO TAKE ACTION TO REDUCE PLASTIC IN YOUR HOME

  • What plastics can you REDUCE or better yet, REFUSE in your home? Track the amount of plastic used in different rooms/areas of your home by using the  Daily And Monthly Plastic Pollution Chart (this chart is a template, feel free to customize it)
    • Keep track of items that are contained in plastic by going through areas such as your: (add or take out any items that are missing or not applicable in the chart)
      • Kitchen
      • Bathroom
      • Bedroom
      • Home interior
      • Home exterior
      • Home etc.
    • Slowly go through and keep track of each item on a daily basis or monthly basis
  • After charting each item, plan how to avoid  purchasing plastics by using the Plastic Pollution Audit Chart. What actions will you take to reduce the amount of plastic being brought into the home? Can you refuse the plastic packaged product by finding an alternative in a non-packaged form? Or would reducing the amount taken in be a better step for you? Maybe consider investing in a sustainable, resuseable product, so you eliminate the single use plastic product.
  • If you choose to keep track of your plastic use on a monthly basis, you can audit each month by recording how much plastic you use and compare your yearly results using the Plastic Pollution Tracker.

SOME OTHER ACTIVITIES TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY

  1. Around your home
    1. Change out all of your light bulbs to energy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs. The energy savings of cooler-burning bulbs, including CFL and LED, can have a significant impact on your utility bills and on making your home greener. An Energy Star light bulb replaces about six incandescent light bulbs because it lasts six times longer than the average light bulb.
    2. Change out your dangerous household cleaners with safer versions or make your own from vinegar/apple cider vinegar and water. Vinegar is a mild acid, which makes it a great multi-purpose cleaner for around the house. As a household cleaner, vinegar can be used to do anything from removing stains, to unclogging drains, to disinfecting, to deodorizing, and it can even be used to remove stickers. You can use it undiluted, combined with baking soda, or as an ingredient in a homemade household cleaner, and every room in your house can benefit from vinegar in some way. Check out 45 Uses For Vinegar.
    3. If you have the option of drinking tap water, switch to tap water or buy a attachment filter if needed.
    4. Stop catalogs and junk mail by signing up with Data and Marketing Association
    5. Opt out of credit card solicitations with Opt Out PreScreen
    6. Pack your car with reusable grocery bags so you won’t forget them on the next shopping trip
    7. Watch environmental documentaries to learn more about what has been researched and discovered through these films. Here is a list of some movies I found on Youtube in which you can watch for free.
      1. Home (2009 film)
      2. A Fragile World (Climate Change). Full Documentary
      3. Plastic: the Real Sea Monster (Full Environmental Documentary) I Spark
      4. China’s Wealth, Growth, and Environmental Nightmare (full Documentary) 
      5. Zero Waste in Business: Documentary on Business and Environmental Waste (Full Documentary) 
      6. A World Without Water (Environmental Catastrophe Documentary) 
      7. The World in 2050 [The Real Future of Earth] – Full BBC Documentary 2018
      8. The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning
      9. Years of Living Dangerously Premiere Full Episode 
      10. Plasticized – Feature Documentary Film 
  2. With your community
    1. Bike or take public transportation instead of driving. Instead of driving everywhere, try taking public transportation, biking or even walking to places.
    2. Schedule a visit your local recycling center and tour the facilities to understand where your trash goes and how it gets sorted. It sounds strange but every piece of trash we throw away has a different route towards recycling or on its way to the landfill.  Each county and each state has different recycling processes and so learning about your local recycling process is always helpful. You’ll be more informed and more aware of what REALLY happens when you recycle your trash.
    3. Join a local park, river or beach clean up.
    4. Plant a tree, herb garden, or even flowers!
    5. Check out your local city’s or county’s Earth Day activities

Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22, 2018 this year, so you still have over a month to decide what you want to do! Check out the Earth Day Network to find out more information. They have an extensive website that has a list of campaigns and activities for participants.

In the honor of Earth Day, check out some of these  blog posts from other fellow bloggers:

Upcycling Denim Jeans

01.30.2018

0600

Materials:

  • One pair of denim jeans

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

So recently I started going auditing my traveling items such as my bath bag, travel accessories as well as my sport bags. I wanted to find 3 pieces of clothing to donate, but I also noticed that my bath bag wasn’t containing my bath items comfortably.

So I had the choice to go buy/find a new bath bag or find another solution. Out of the items I decided to donate, I found a tank top, sweater and a pair of jeans. Denim is one of my favorite materials to work with. I love upcycling denim into new items. The idea of donating the pair of jeans wasn’t exactly what I thought I would do, so I decided to make a stand up bath bag for myself, or at least a few stand up bags.

I’ve owned bath bags before, but the material was with a polyester or nylon blend. Over time, my bath bags would have soap or toothpaste residue stains. I figured that with a denim bath bag, I could simply throw it into the washing machine and it would clean easily.

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I divided each leg in half by folding it in half. I then cut the legs off from the pair of jeans and then divided each piece in half.

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I turned each of them inside out and designated the wider end of the pieces as the bottom of the bag and the smaller ends as the top of the bag.  I folded the top of the bags down to create the drawstring tube. This is where I wanted to install the drawstring later.

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I hemmed the bottoms of the bags by simply sewing a sew line across the bottom. I then sewed the drawstring tube. I measured 2″x2″ squares on the corners on bottom.

I marked these white dots on BOTH SIDES OF THE BAG, near the bottom section of the bag. These white dots will be used as guides of where you will sew in the next step.

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I then flipped the bag upside down, and so that the right side seam was facing up. I then folded the bottom of the bag to create a diamond shape. You should be able to locate all four dots that were created in the last step, when molding the diamond shape.

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The dots are guides to sew where you will sew horizontally across the diamond. After sewing the two lines, the diamond should look like this.

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Since I was initially thinking of making a new bath bag, I wanted to sew a small pocket inside of that bag. I had this extra pocket left over from my Handmade Handkerchiefs project, so I added it on the inside. To find the opposing edges of the box, you can locate it by finding the perpendicular lines of the top and bottom hemmed lines.

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If you want to make a small pocket inside, you can sew a piece of material to the inside of the bag, as long as you leave to top of the material open.

In this case, because the pocket was more than half of the height of the bag, I placed the pocket towards the bottom of the bag. I also knew that I would be folding the bag down when in use, so placing it towards the bottom gave me room for the top to be folded down.

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Once I pulled the drawstrings through the bags, this is what they looked like. They stand up pretty well, and I can fold them down to create a top frame for the boxes.

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This is what my bath bag looks like now.

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I like the fact that I can simply fold my bag down and be able to access everything I need inside. I also have the habit of attaching a ring to the interior of any bag. So I attached a metal ring to the inside seam of the bag, because I wanted to hang small bath items for easy access.

So there you have it. This was my solution to my travel bath bag issue. I genuinely love denim and to make these stand up drawstring bags with this material is one of my favorite kinds of sewing projects that I like to get involved in.

I used my other bags for some camera gear and for another bag I use for traveling. The denim creates a nice thickness for the bottom of these bags, which is why I like to use them for electronics.

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As a bonus…

I made a bag out of the top part of my denim jeans. I simply flipped the top inside out and hemmed the pant leg openings.  Due to the nature of how the jeans were cut and sewed, I folded the outer edges of the jeans inward when I hemmed them.

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I then sewed a zipper to the top opening of the jeans using sewing pins to hold the zipper in place and then sewing it to my pants. I used the same sewing steps to attach the zipper as to when I  Created Slim Hanging Organizers.

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Since my zipper wasn’t quite long enough for the length of the jeans, I closed off the jeans by sewing the top together.

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I used an extra tie to create the handles of this bag. This was a simple choice but some people may prefer to use a belt or something more to their taste. I chose the tie because I wanted to be able to throw everything into the washing machine.

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And as always, I attached a metal ring to my zipper for a slightly easier access.

I use this bag to hold some smaller items that need a bit of cushion like camera gear or smaller electronics.

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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.

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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.

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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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Tank Top Bags

09.12.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Two Tank Tops
  • Sewing Kit

Tools:

  • Sewing Machine

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This hack has been published before, but I made these years ago and I thought I would share it. Depending on the type of material the tank tops are made out of, the bags may be better used for carrying smaller and lighter items. These tank top bags stretch well, so a lot of items can fit into these bags.

First I turned the tank tops inside out and hemmed the bottom of the tank tops. I pinned the hemmed edge using sewing pins and tied off the thread ends.

I turned the tank tops inside out and that’s about it. Using the straps of the tank tops as the handles, the tank tops become small bags.
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These are really simple and quick solutions if you have extra tank tops or shirts that you may not want to get rid of. For t-shirts, just remove the sleeves, and hem the existing openings of the shirts and you can use the collar opening to fill up the t-shirt bags. You can always repurpose items into useful items. Living a zero waste life doesn’t necessarily mean to live with only glass or aluminum items, it also means to repurpose items so that you won’t purchase unnecessary items as well. Considering where materials are foraged for the products we use, and how much clothing is donated each year, sometimes repurposing clothing just seems to fit better for some memorable pieces. It’s the reason why I tend to repurpose clothing items when I can.

For the clothing items that mean more to you than others, consider making it part of a quilt or a bag or even a pillow cover. You’ll be able to hold onto the items, and they will also serve another purpose as its initial purpose may have expired.

Fact:

In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, or an astounding 80 pounds per person. The EPA estimates that diverting all of those often-toxic trashed textiles into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road. Trashing the clothes is also a huge waste of money. Nationwide, a municipality pays $45 per ton of waste sent to a landfill.

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Returning To The Beach

06.06.2017

0700

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On my journey to a more minimalistic life, I donated items and slowly learned to not live without others. I didn’t donate everything to donation stations, but I also tried to donate to organizations that I knew, could use my items. For my college textbooks, I donated some of them back to the school libraries so perhaps other students could use them. For my alumni collegiate programs, I donated my scanner and other art materials to the materials library for future students.

When it came to items that I had collected from camping trips or even small rocks I collected throughout my childhood, I knew I had to return those items back to their rightful spots.

The beach was always a place where I still have fond memories of, along with my family. The smell of the air and the sand between our toes, and watching the ebb and flow of the tide coming in, all form a significant part of my childhood memories. We never lived by the beach, but it certainly impacted me enough to this day.

Among my “items to donate,” I found a bag of sea shells that my brother and I collected when we were young. I knew I had to return them to the beach, because that’s where they belonged. As a kid, I was so fond of the beach, I always wanted to take it home with me. I remember being excited to create a small sea shell collection and that all of these smaller items were mine. I wanted to know why I felt this way, and why I approached collecting items the way I did.

Our sense of ownership emerges at a very early age. Growing up, we learn to become attached to items, and the feelings of ownership over our possessions is a part of our culture. In psychology and behavioral economics, the endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion and related to the mere ownership effect in social psychology), is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. This means, that we value items more more highly as soon as we own them. Part of this reason is tied to how quickly we form connections between our sense of self and the items we consider ours. Even as children, we believe that our objects have a unique essence and prefer to not have a duplicate of the same item.

Looking back on my collection of sea shells, I never separated the idea of owning an object, and keeping the memories that the object produced. It seemed that having an object from that event, could and would bring forth the memory of that event. Even so, if I had to attach an object to the event, I think I would only choose to attach a photo to it now. But with all of the social media and everyone seemingly documenting their lives, even photographing events wears on me.

So I’m returning the sea shells. I’m returning them to their rightful home and where they belong. I return a lot of items that I know have homes other than my own. I’ve returned dry cleaner hangers to my local dry cleaners, I’ve donated my books to the library,  and I’ve donated my old records to Rasputin Music & Movies. (Most of the records were not in good condition, but I knew the store would dispose of them properly). This list could go on and on, but I really do try to return items to appropriate locations and organizations.

There is a home for every object in our lives. If we take a little time out, and do a little bit of research on your own, perhaps you can find the best home for it.

Sewed Fabric Bags For My Makeup Tools

05.23.2017

0600

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So originally, I had created these bags for my Utensil To-Go Kit, and I realized that I could create smaller bags for my make-up tools. So I tested it out and this is what I came up with.

I had some old zippers from awhile back that I never used and these were a great fit. I first undid and removed the drawstring from the bag. Then I cut the original bag in half and sewed the sides of each to create two smaller bags. Because I cut straight thorough the original drawstring hem, I took the string and also cut that in half.

I measured each zipper and made appropriate cuts on the front of each bag for each zipper. Using small sewing pins, I attached each zipper to each bag and then I hand sewed the zippers to the bags. I inserted the smaller drawstrings through the new drawstring hems and tied them off.

The end product were bags that could be accessed through the zipper or through the top where the drawstring closed the bag. This was an interesting solution because when I place items in these type of bag designs, I never have items of all the same height. This bag allows me to access the taller items from the top opening and the smaller items from the front where the zipper is located. I’ve used this for make up tools, writing utensils and also my “Take Out Silverware Kit” that I keep in my purse.

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Earth Day 2017

04.18.2017

0700

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Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 193 countries each year.

On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement is scheduled to be signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfies a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces.

Create your own act of green here, Create Your Own Act of Green. You can:

  1. Write letters to the President about climate change.
  2. Give up smoking
  3. Plant trees
  4. Give up plastic bags
  5. Reduce eating meat
  6. Carpool, bike, or take transit more than normal this week
  7. Have a conversation with a close friend about what they do to green their day-to-day life
  8. Organize a beach clean up
  9. Challenge yourself to recycle more or produce less trash
  10. Install the Nest thermostat you have been putting off at home
  11. Switch your home (and office breakroom) cleaning products to eco-friendly across the board and use micro-fiber cloths and mop heads
  12. Go digital – especially more virtual meetings at your business
  13. Use less paper towels or no more paper towels at all

You can choose to reduce your carbon footprint, give up certain habits that contribute to greenhouse gases or even start with a small herb garden. This day is to remind all of us that we have one Earth, and we must care for it before we destroy it any further. I’ve been a member of the Surfrider Foundation for many years and I follow many wildlife conservation organizations on Twitter. You can find these organizations on Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram. There are many organizations out there that help protect the environment and protect wildlife habitats. Please consider joining one or contributing to one.

Resources:

Earth Day Network

United States Environmental Protection Agency- Earth Day

A Minimalist’s Short Business Trip

12.15.2016

0800

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So once in awhile, I will take business trips, usually short ones, so that makes me happy. I prefer to leave the long trips associated with personal vacations. Because it’s a short business trip, I thought I would share what I packed. Here is my list:

  1. Clothes:
    1. Day (Business):
      • Tops: 2 dress shirts, 1 jacket
      • Bottoms: 1 pair of black pants
      • Shoes: 1 pair of low heels
    2. Day (Casual):
      • Tops: 1 shirt
      • Bottoms: 1 pair of jeans
    3. Sleepwear & Intimates:
      • Tops: 1 shirt
      • Intimates: 2 changes of intimates
  2. Daily Tools:
    1. Dining:
      1. Reuseable Water bottle, Coffee tumbler
      2. Straw, bamboo fork + spoon (to get through the security check at the airport), napkin
    2. Bathroom:
      1. Travel bath bag
        1. For the sink space area, I pack my:
          • Bamboo toothbrush
          • Dental pick
          • Dental floss (packaged in a paper container)
          • 1/2 bar of soap (I cut my normal sized bars and bring it along)
          • Deodorant crystal
          • Collapsible stainless steel cup
          • 2.0 oz. bottle of lotion
          • 2.0 oz. bottle of baking soda
        2. For the shower area, I pack my:
          • 3.0 oz bottle of concentrated Shampoo/conditioner
          • Pumice stone
          • Empty stainless steel water bottle (not pictured)
        3. For the “Just In Case” situations, I pack my:
          • Diva Cup
          • Shewee With Extension
      2. Make-Up bag
    3. Entertainment:
      1. iPad, Cell phone and charger cord
      2. Workout Stuff
        • Running Shoes, shirt, sports bra
        • Armband

I tend to pack multiple tops and wear the same bottoms for most outfits. My bottoms don’t get very dirty so I don’t mind wearing them for a few days. This list is for a short trip to a warm area so I don’t have many long sleeved items. Also, since I have such a small wardrobe and very few possessions, I tend to already use what I’ll need to pack. I have to grab certain items right before I leave such as my:

  1. Make-up bag
  2. iPad and charging cord
  3. Running shoes, clothes, accessories

I keep my wet items out of my travel bag in case they dry up, or if i don’t travel often enough during time periods, the products won’t expire. I keep these item containers in my bathroom  grouped together, this way, I know where to look to find them when I do need to travel again. These items include:

  1. Body sunscreen
  2. Face Sunscreen Moisturizer
  3. Body Lotion
  4. Shampoo/Conditioner

These items are also the items that I’ll probably use on the same day as I leave so I keep them by the door so I can pack them really quick before I jet off. Also, this pile by the door also varies in items depending on the time in which I’m scheduled to leave. If I leave straight from work, I’ll usually wear at least half of my business clothes that I count in my business attire for the trip. If I leave from my home, to jet off, I’ll wear my casual clothes during the trip there.

This is a simple overview of what I pack based on my 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe. Admittedly, having a capsule wardrobe makes packing for trips much easier as well. There is a select handful of options for me to wear business attire and casual attire and even what I’ll wear to go workout. I hope this post helps in giving you ideas of how you may pack if you have a capsule wardrobe or want to pack lightly as well.

Check out these post from some other bloggers about traveling:

Alternative Dish Scrub

11.15.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Two Laundry Mesh Bags
  • Sewing Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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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