Freebies And Give Aways

01.24.2017

0800

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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

0800

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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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Proper Disposal Of Razor Blades

 

01.04.2016

0800

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

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

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

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

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

Yea, I’m that guy.

Zero Waste Closet- Part II

12.29.2016

0800

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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.

Use What You Have

 

12.20.2016

0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aloe Vera For Your Skin

 

12.13.2016

0800

Of all of the plants I recommend owning, the aloe vera plant is one of them. However, aloe vera plants can grow up to 39 inches in height but grow outwards as well with their offsets.  There are many benefits to using aloe vera as a topical treatment as well as consuming the plant in a daily diet. Here is a list of benefits of Aloe Vera as a topical treatment:

1. It treats sunburn. 

Aloe Vera helps with sunburn through its powerful healing activity at the epithelial level of the skin, a layer of cells that cover the body. It acts as a protective layer on the skin and helps replenish its moisture. Because of its nutritional qualities and antioxidant properties, the skin heals quicker.

2. It acts as a moisturizer. 

Aloe moisturizes the skin without giving it a greasy feel, so it’s perfect for anyone with an oily skin complexion. For women who use mineral-based makeup, aloe vera acts as a moisturizer and is great for the face prior to the application to prevents skin drying. For men: Aloe vera gel can be used as an aftershave treatment as its healing properties can treat small cuts caused by shaving.

3. It treats acne. 

Aloe vera gel contains two hormones: Auxin and Gibberellins. These two hormones provide wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce skin inflammation. Giberellin in aloe vera acts as a growth hormone stimulating the growth of new cells. It allows the skin to heal quickly and naturally with minimal scarring.

Aloe is soothing and can reduce skin inflammations, blistering and itchiness, while helping the skin to heal more rapidly. Additionally, in Ayurvedic medicine, Aloe is used to effectively heal chronic skin problems, such as psoriasis, acne and eczema.

4. It fights aging. 

As we age, everyone begins to worry about the appearance of fine lines and the loss of elasticity in their skin. Aloe leaves contain a plethora of antioxidants including, beta carotene, vitamin C and E that can help improve the skin’s natural firmness and keep the skin hydrated.

5. It lessens the visibility of stretch marks. 

The skin is like one big piece of elastic that’ll expand and contract as needed to accommodate growth. But if the skin stretches too far, too fast (due to pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss) the elasticity of the skin can be damaged. That’s what leaves those unsightly stretch marks. These marks appear due to minor tears in the layers of the skin caused by sudden and excessive stretching. Aloe vera gel can help hide these stretch marks by healing these wounds.

What I usually do…

I first cut off the leaves of the aloe vera plant and sliced off of the thorns on each side of one of the leaves. I cut the leaf down the centerline through the meat so I could scrap the aloe vera off of each skin section. I gathered the aloe vera I scraped off into a mason jar and then went ahead and scraped the other leaf in the same manner. I composted everything that was left over.

I usually use the aloe vera gel immediately in which I’ll apply it to my skin on my face and body for about an hour and then rinse it off. This is a simple and natural way to moisturize your skin with an organic substance. This plant in addition to my Golden Pothos Ivy air filtering plant are my two favorites that I own. The Golden Pothos filters my indoor air for me and this one provides me with natural moisturizer, win-win.

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Decluttering Sentimental Possessions

 

11.22.2016

0800

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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.

The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the kicker:

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

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

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

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

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.

T-Shirt Quilt Process

 

09.28.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Old Comforter you want to use as the backing for the quilt
  • Enough t-shirts to cover the back of the comforter easily
  • Sewing machine

Tools:

  • Sewing machine

Not everyone in my family is big on donating items as quickly as I do. I don’t mind that, so I wanted to come up with a solution that would satisfy the use of the items but still make more room in the closet. In this case, the clothing item were the cotton t-shirt collections my family had accumulated. My older brother has a small collection of printed shirts from years of working for different companies or they were from different social events. I have kept a small collection for my mother over the years from elementary school t-shirts, to college t-shirts. I kept these because they marked a point in my life history that was significant. It bothered me that my t-shirts were stuffed into a bag in my old closet, so I wanted to make good use of them.

For both collections, I decided to make a t-shirt quilt for each family member. My brother’s shirts filled up one quilt and by combining my t-shirts as well as some of my mom’s, I would be able to create a single quilt for her. I found my brother’s old comforter which had The Transformers print on it and used that as the backing for his. I used my old comforter which had The Wuzzles print on it, for my mom’s quilt.

A few examples of t-shirt quilts that I’ve come across, suggest to cut out perfect squares in which the logo or image is centered in the middle of the square. I didn’t want to use this method because I didn’t want to waste any t-shirt material. I didn’t see the point in having perfect squares when the images varied so much on where they were located on each shirt. Also, I knew I could overlap the rows and create a slightly thicker quilt by leaving the extra material in place.

I decided to make this process in bullet form since a formal post would be too long to read, so here it goes:

  1. Cut off all of the sleeves and collars from each shirt. Put aside the shirt sleeves which have logos printed on them because you will include them in the quilt later on as gap fillers. Keep your scraps when you make this project because you never know when you may need the extra material to fill in gaps.
  2. Lay out the rows to see how you want the over all tile pattern to sit on the quilt and move them around if necessary. (I wanted each color shirt to create a checkered pattern with their base color)
  3. Gather the sets of t-shirt rows and placed them on the blanket in the order from the top of the quilt, to bottom of the quilt. (You can take a picture before you move the tiles from the final layout on the blanket too) dsc_4946
  4. Start pinning the t-shirts together with the shirts all facing upright and face to face. During this time, you may notice that come of the “t-shirt trimming” might be crooked, but that’s fine because that’s why you have the filler pieces. dsc_4950
  5. Sew the tiles together in each row of shirts so that the rows become one piece. dsc_4951
  6. Lay each row on the blanket as you want them to look and start pinning the rows to the blanket. Use as many sewing pins as necessary and be careful, because you may get pricked by those. Keep in mind that these pins may come apart once you move the blanket to the sewing machine, so you may want to pin the fabric together and give extra room on the pin for movement error. dsc_4982
  7. For the areas that I saw were lacking in t-shirt fabric, I added in the t-shirt fillers. This usually happed around the edge of the blanket. dsc_5002dsc_5001
  8. In order for me to fit the comforter into the sewing machine, I rolled it up on one side and sewed it through like this: (you my want to unravel it due to the weight of the blanket and that it may pull against the sewing machine as you feed it through) dsc_4982dsc_4987dsc_4993
  9. Keep sewing, patient and you’ll finish. I sewed these tiles across the blanket. I have seen some people sew in a grid pattern along the tile edges. Since my tiles don’t line up exactly to the row above, I decided to only sew my tiles across the blanket. dsc_4995

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This is a process and it takes time. There were a number of times when my sewing machine stitching backed up and I ended with a clump of thread on the backside of my quilt or when my needle broke twice. Just keep going and you’ll end  up with the final product in no time. It’s an interesting project and you can put a spin on it however you like. This is a completely customized project which makes the intent that much more meaningful. I really am happy about how the blankets turned out and I know that my family is too.

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.

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

2016-09-12

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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