Zero Waste Hallowen

10.24.2017

0600

Growing up Halloween has always been representative of dressing up and going out at night to trick-or-treat. As a kid, Halloween was a fun holiday for me because if all the free candy we would receive as we went out at night to go trick-or-treating. I didn’t grow up with much candy in my household so Halloween also meant that I would get to stock up on a large amount but I also had to ration my favorite candy pieces to last for awhile.

When I moved towards a zero waste lifestyle this holiday became slightly tricky. A lot of the joy I experienced came with the inevitable result of producing trash. All of the small wrappers of the individually wrapped candy pieces added up to a lot of trash. I wanted to figure out how to celebrate this holiday but still practice my zero waste lifestyle.

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There are three areas of each holiday I like to tackle: decorations, food and entertainment. For Halloween, you can decorate your spaces using

  • Reusable fall and Halloween decorations which you can pull out each year
  • Use dried leaves from trees in a bowl or a jar. I usually string rope across areas of rooms and I’ll hang  up the leaves using clothespins.
  • Use fresh fruit or vegetables as edible decor such as pumpkins and then once the holiday is over, you can even make delicious dishes using thm
  • You can arrange twigs and fall leaves in a vase
  • You can tie pieces of sticks together and create a wreath to decorate with colorful leaves
  • Any decoration that is compostable or reusable is a great option

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Food options can vary due to location, seasonal fruits and vegetables available.

  • Look for seasonal fruits and vegetable to make dishes with
    • Some seasonal vegetables to keep an eye out for:  pumpkins, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, sweet potatoes
    • Some seasonal fruit to look for: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, and grapes
    • Search for recipes available on the internet for this seasonal favorite. Websites such as YouTube , Pinterest , All RecipesFood Network, Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home. If you’re anything like me, my searches always start with “simple” in front of my topic because I tend to lean towards simple ingredients and fewer steps when making dishes.
  • Bulk candy is also a great way to sneak in sweets during this holiday. A lot of bulk candy locations have a variety of options from chocolates to sour candies. The grocery stores I frequent have these options but my local movie theater has the name brand candy in bulk, that I love to eat as well.

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For Trick-Or-Treaters, consider handing out non-candy options. I’m still a big believer in feeding a child’s creativity so some of these items on the list are geared more towards art than just toys. During this season, children are usually in school, so if you hand out items they can use during school, it’ll also benefit the children. Here are some options other than candy, that you can hand out:

  • Crayons
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Play Doh
  • Coloring books
  • Mini notepads
  • Halloween Pencils
  • Mini slinkies
  • Bookmarks Pencils
  • Halloween Erasers
  • Hand out mini packets of herb seeds
  • Loose change such as dimes and quarters
  • Decks of playing cards
  • Compostable packaged snacks (crackers, raisins, pretzels, etc.)

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Entertainment can vary depending on what you have planned during Halloween.

  • Costumes
    • Check out costume rental stores, they always have a lot of variety and sizes to choose from, but remember to to check the stores early so there are more options available
    • Check out thrift stores for options of clothing to create your costume from
    • For families, check if you can swap costumes with neighbors, classmates or friends. You can even set up a costume swap meet if that helps get the word out.
    • Borrow clothes and items from friends, family or neighbors to see if you can assemble your costume and look of your character
  • Movies
  • Karaoke
  • Board Games or Card Games

Check out these other blog posts from some other Eco-Sustainable Bloggers:

I hope this list is helpful in creating a zero waste Halloween. If you choose to adopt only one of these ideas, you’re still helping the environment by creating less waste. It’s a step away from the standard Halloween traditions but it’s a more environmentally friendly outline for this holiday. Have a great Halloween!

Eco-Friendly Christmas

10.15.2017

0600

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Having an Eco-friendly holiday isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It might sound complicated because the concept is different, but it’s actually pretty simple.  So for each holiday there are basic aspects of the holiday celebration I like to check off: decorations, food and entertainment. I don’t always cover all three categories equally and majority of my focus will usually be on the food.

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Decorations tend to be covered easily being that Christmas is such a huge holiday celebrated. Honestly, any type of decoration that is compostable or reusable is a good idea. Here are some ideas for zero waste holiday.

  1. Decoration Ideas:
    1. Seasonal
      1. Seasonal leaves, fruit, create a centerpiece suing branches and colorful seasonal leaves.
    2. Christmas
      1. Use existing jars filled with some seasonal and colorful leaves to decorate the table
      2. Use branches and leaves from outside to decorate the table surface

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  1. Zero Waste Food
    1. Consider using fresh fruits and vegetables as ingredients in your dishes. You can compost the skin or the non edible pieces after
    2. Buy your ingredients from the bulk aisle or bulk bins
    3. For ingredients that usually come in packaging, consider making your own homemade version or looking for it in paper, aluminum or glass packaging
    4. Share recipes or give the gift of different types of dishes to one another

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Gift ideas can be tricky for this holiday since it’s based around an iconic tree as well as what surrounds it on Christmas Day. However, here are a few ideas for zero waste gifts, you might want to consider. Check social media sites (Groupon, Living Social, Ticketmaster, etc.) for great deals for events and activities for family and friends during the holidays.

  1. Gift Ideas:
    1. Compostable Gifts
      1. Food, snacks, bulk candy wrapped in reusable packaging or compostable packaging
      2. Buy bulk foods and create a recipe kit for a gift
      3. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    2. Gift of Goods and Products
      1. Consider checking out thrift stores to find a gift for the recipient
      2. If you want to give a new gift, look for gifts with no packaging or recyclable paper packaging
    3. Gift of Experiences
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (check for local theme parks near you or near the recipient)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing, etc.)
      4. Gift card or money for food & drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee, tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card or money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining, etc.)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card or money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    4. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
      1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
      2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
      3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

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  1. Gift Wrapping:
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets or bandanas to wrap and tie around gifts
    3. For the larger gifts, I’ll use a pillowcase or really large bed sheets to wrap the gifts
    4. For medium sized gifts, I’ll wrap the gift in an extra t-shirt.

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Entertainment during the holidays can be daunting as well. Usually families have kids around or simply need entertainment playing while the day is happening. 

  1. Entertainment
    1. Movies- if you are able to stream movies, there are a few great resources to stream holiday movies during this time. Check YouTube or other streaming media, they usually have full movies uploaded to watch.
    2. Board Games – Ask your guest if they have any board games to play or would want to bring for the kids to share and play with
    3. Card Games – these games are always fun because a deck of cards can be really versatile

I hope this outline helped to brainstorm ideas for you. This is an overall idea list and if you want to check out other holiday blog posts, check out these holiday blog posts from these websites:

Zero Waste Week 2017

09.05.2017

0600

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

This is my first year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful to be a part of this movement. But there are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them at Zero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About.

Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2017, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic:

  • Tuesday: Trashless Tuesday – Challenging participants to a Zero Waste day to see how little they can accumulate for landfill (considering asking people to carry their rubbish around in a see through bag for the day too!) Look for #trashlesstuesday on other social media sites to see how others utilize their trash.

To follow Zero Waste Week and Rachelle Strauss, here are links to her other social media:  Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

Zero Waste Take Out Food

03.28.2017

0700

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Ordering take out food is the one thing I didn’t want to give up when I started living a zero waste lifestyle. The concept of always going out to eat when I didn’t want to cook, seemed viable when I first started this journey. Of course, going home, not wanting to cook and  finding the energy to go out to eat was also another challenge. So, after some investigating, and research I had to put together a “Food Take Out Kit”. Most of my research was simply through trial and error with this kit, and finding restaurants willing to serve food in my dishes. I’m lucky that I live in a city that is trying to be more environmentally friendly so I did find a lot of restaurants willing to serve my take out food in my own dishes.

I first called a lot of the restaurants in my downtown area, to see if they were willing to participate in my zero waste effort. A lot of the restaurants were more than willing to participate, but with different methods. Some were willing to take my dishes to the kitchen where they would directly serve my dishes right into my containers, and some were more adamant about bringing the food out on one of their own plates and then transfer it into mine, so to not contaminate their kitchen. Either way, it was fine with me. However, during my research, I did come across some restaurants that were not willing to do either method.

I furthered my research by ordering take out from as many restaurants as I could, when I could. It takes a bit of trial and error, but if you have a Food Take Out Kit, I think it make these trips much smoother. The one thing that seemed a bit tricky was the different types and sizes of side dishes these restaurants offered. Also, I had to slowly gauge what sauces or dips would come along with certain dishes. I didn’t really know what sized to go container each restaurant used, so I used large glass tupperware in hopes that the volume of my tupperware would suffice.

I usually go to the prospective restaurant and order my food with the hostess right then and there, so that I can hand them my glass tupperware dishes to fill up. I had to make a couple of trips to really get this kit down correctly, but here it goes. In my Food Takeout Food Kit, I have:

Food Take Out Kit:

  1. Containers:
    1. Three 54 oz. containers (for main dishes)
    2. Three 35 oz. containers (for smaller portion dishes and side dishes)
    3. Four 1 cup containers (for sauces)
  2. Reusable cloth produce bags
    1. Three medium sized bags
    2. One large bag

I use tupperware by Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6-Piece Rectangular Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 54-Ounce Each for my larger dishes, as well as Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6 Piece Square Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 35-Ounce Each for my smaller dishes, side sides or appetizers. I use Pyrex Simply Store 1-Cup Round Glass Food Storage Dish for sauces or dips that the dishes might come with.

I also will bring my dishes to my local grocery stores, to their deli counter to fill up on whatever I need to. It’s also easy to fill up on cheeses or meats at the deli counter with large rectangular dishes like these. It’s easier for the deli worker to tare the weight of your dish and to fit your choices easily as it’s also easy for them to move around the items to fit more snug.

The downfall of this system is that not every restaurant will allow you to use your own dishes so therefore you either have the choice of eating out at the restaurant or not at all. On the other hand, there is a way to bring that food home which you may have a good selection of restaurants willing to participate in it, and you’re not producing unnecessary trash. I don’t mind that certain restaurants opt out of this participation. They have every right to run their business as they please. However, I’d prefer to buy from restaurants willing to do this though.

If you want to try this Food Take Out Kit, you actually may already have tupperware at home that you could use. If not, I included links to the ones I use. To clear up any confusion, make sure to show the hostess that you already have the 1-cup containers for sauces and dips ready to be filled. I’ve noticed that their concerns are usually associated with the condiments that come with the dishes. The last bonus with creating a zero waste take out food system, is that if you’re not finished with the meals once you bring them home, just place the lids back on and you can save the food for later or eat it the next day. It’s such a simple clean up system!

Yes, I use two bags to carry these dishes around.

Yes, it gets heavy at times.

Yes, it’s worth it, knowing that I’m not contributing to more trash to the landfill.

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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.

Zero Waste Christmas

12.01.2016
0800

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My family has used a fake Christmas tree for the month of December  since I was brought into this world. I’m not sure if we simply did not want to go get a fresh chopped down tree or if it was more that when my family came to the United States, buying a fake Christmas tree was just more convenient. Either way, I’ve never had a real Christmas tree, and as I got older, I understood the extra steps needed to take to keep a real tree in your home for a whole month.

After the Christmas, the sidewalks around my neighborhood had dead Christmas trees laying out on the sidewalks or street curbs for pickup. However, this was not always the proper way of discarding Christmas trees in accordance with each city’s municipal recycling center. (Check with your local city’s municipal recycling center for holiday recycling items) After seeing all of the trees laying out on the street curbs, I was thankful that my family used a fake tree after all these years. In fact, we never seemed to buy new holiday decorations either.

We use the same holiday decorations and the same tree that we’ve used for years. Unfortunately, there was a time when we had family staying with us (let’s just say that they’re not the brightest bulb in the family) who had decided to take it upon themselves to throw away all of my family’s Christmas ornaments and replace them with brand new ornaments. They didn’t comprehend the concept that ornaments hold sentimental value and also mark a point in time when it was brought into the home. They saw our nineteen years of old ornaments as ugly and had no value, so why show it off. All of my brother’s and my childhood ornaments were tossed out, that included ornaments from when my parents first came to the United States too. For years after that, we slowly built up our ornament collection again.

This was when I started making ornaments from my family’s sentimental items that included small memorabilia we had collected over the years. (My next post will give you instructions on how I make key chains into ornaments- it’s actually very simple). Our tree is now covered in memories of  vacation trips, landmark life events, graduations, jobs and companies we were once a part of, and so much more.

For gifts, we actually don’t give gifts to one another as much anymore. Counting the birthdays, mother’s day and Tet (Vietnamese New Years) celebrations, Christmas is just a time for our family to get together, watch movies and indulge in delicious holiday food. During the year, the items that each family member may need usually gets purchased throughout the year. We don’t really ever save up a wish list and make it known for the holiday. So here are some of the gift ideas as well as some gift wrapping ideas that I’ll go through to give as gifts…

  1. Gift ideas- Zero waste ideas
    1. Experience ideas
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (Great America, Raging Waters, Six Flags, Disneyland, etc.)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing)
      4. Gift card/money for food / drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee / tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card/money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card/money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    2. Food gift ideas
      1. Main dishes, side dishes, trade food/drink recipes
    3. Fruit gift ideas
      1. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    4. Zero waste shopping starter kits
      1. Cloth produce bags, shopping bags, reusable jars, water soluble crayons to write PLU codes onto the bags and jars
      2. Help tare the weight on all of the reusable items
    5. Bulk bathroom gifts
      1. Soap bars, bulk soap, bulk bath salts, recipes for homemade makeup
    6. Bulk kitchen gifts
      1. Bulk staple foods, bulk spices, combination of some bulk spices, create a meal kit from bulk items for  a loved one
  2. Wrapping Ideas
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets/bandanas to wrap and tuck around gifts
  3. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
    1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
    2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
    3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

Here are links to some more Zero Waste Christmas ideas from other bloggers:

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.

My Cat Is Not Zero Waste

09.21.2016

0800

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Trying to create zero trash for my cat is almost impossible. I’ve tried, but due to some medical conditions, it’s virtually impossible. I have a male cat and he was neutered when he was younger. Unfortunately, male cats who are neutered, are more prone to urinary tract infections and therefore, require special diet food that has a low sodium content. Also, in order for him to not develop another urinary tract infection, he needed fresh water constantly. We bought him a small drinking fountain which he helped himself to. These two requirements produced empty tin cans of cat UTI management food as well as charcoal filters.

As he aged, he developed Diabetes and requires insulin shots twice a day. This required insulin medication as well as insulin needles. He’s a large cat, but he’s always been a large cat so weight gain was his genetic default. Lucky for us, he’s always been an indoor and outdoor cat, so he always used the backyard as his giant toilet. But with him being an indoor and outdoor cat, he required flea medication. I’ve been asked “Why don’t you just make him an indoor cat? It would cut back on the flea medication trash that you produce.” But forcing an animal to stay inside when we clearly have outdoor roaming space for him seemed unnatural to me. I wanted him to roam free and go play outside when we weren’t home. So the diabetes and flea medication produced tin cans of glucose management food, insulin needles, insulin medication and the flea applicators.

Over the years, he also got into a few fights with other cats or raccoons that roamed the neighborhood. For those special occasions, he required medication and sometimes even surgery which produced trash as well. I usually return the pill bottles and jars to the veterinarian so they can dispose of it. I’m lucky that I live in an area that allows free medical waste dumping, and even if I didn’t, I know my veterinarian will collect the medical waste from his patients for a small fee.

As for toys, he never loved to play with a lot of toys. In fact, he really only likes his catnip pillow, shoelaces and metal chain necklaces . I had a catnip plant that I grew for him awhile back and once in awhile, I would dry the catnip leaves and compost the old catnip. I would then refill his pillow with new dry catnip. Unfortunately he liked it so much that he would lay on it and eventually crushed the life out of it. That too went into the compost bin. I’m lucky that he’s easily entertained. He also never wanted his own bed, he always just adopted any place in the house to sleep.

Facts:

  1. Urinary Tract Infection Medical History = Prescription Diet c/d canned food & Filtered water with charcoal filters
  2. Diabetes II Medical History= Glucose Management m/d canned food, insulin needles, insulin medication
  3. Indoor & Outdoor cat = Advantage Flea Medication BUT no litter box
  4. Entertainment = Catnip pillow, but I refill the catnip pillow with fresh catnip. He just likes to play with shoelaces and metal chain necklaces.

So the recyclable items that I do produce are the tin cans of UTI food and diabetic food. His insulin medication, insulin needles and other medications are also recycleable, but considered medical waste recycling. The charcoal filters and advantage flea medication are the items that do end up in the landfill. I actually have a separate jar of trash that comes from owning a cat. He also no longer uses the water fountain that used the charcoal filters, he requests fresh water from the faucet when he’s thirsty with a drawn out meow.

Trying to own a pet and not produce trash from them is quite difficult. I know this much, to take on a pet is a great amount of responsibility and it is not a simple responsibility to ignore. I am not a veterinarian and I do not know what nutrients he needs and the sufficient amount of each nutrient and vitamin, therefore I do not attempt to make cat food on my own. He has very few toys, only wants his catnip pillow, which I will stuff with fresh catnip and compost the old catnip.

I started this journey almost five years ago, so I’ve compiled a nice amount of Advantage Flea Medication applicators for cats as well as charcoal filters. He stopped using the water fountain about three years ago, so he hasn’t produced anymore trash from that. He probably won’t last through the end of this year, but it’s amazing to see how much owning a pet can add to your trash collection. Once you lay it all out and calculate the amount of trash that’s produced, it’s an eye opening realization of what you’re contributing to the landfill.

Zero Waste Cleaning

09.12.2016

0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Plant Based And No Packaging

 

09.07.2016

0800

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

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

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

1. Plants Have Less Saturated Fat

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

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

2. You Can Cut Fatty Meats From Your Diet

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

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

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

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

3. Plants Increase Fiber in Your Diet

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

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

4. Eating Less Meat Lowers Diabetes and Obesity Risks

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

5. Fruits and Veggies Lower Blood Pressure

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

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

6. Plants Enrich Your Diet With Omega-3s

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

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

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

7. A Vegan Diet Adds Beneficial Nutrients

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

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

8. You Can Avoid Unhealthy Components of Meat

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

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

Zero Waste Coffee Routine

 

09.05.2016

0800

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I have a morning routine of drinking coffee and I enjoy it even more knowing that I buy my items in bulk without producing trash. I buy bulk coffee from Sprout’s Farmers Market, Whole Foods or Philz Coffee. I also buy bulk cane sugar from either Sprouts Market or Whole Foods as well. I then will purchase Organic Half & Half from Straus Family Creamery from Whole Foods Market, which I clean out and return to receive a voucher.

It’s a simple routine, but I do enjoy the simplicity of it. It’s also an easy clean up job which afterwards, I add the coffee grounds to my compost pile.

Dining Out- Zero Waste Leftovers

08.29.2016

0800

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When I go out to eat, I will bring along a 3-tier Tiffin Carrier or a 2-tier Tiffin Carrier, depending on the type of restaurant I’m going to. If the dishes at the restaurant tend to contain large portions or give a variety in the meal, I’ll take the larger carrier. If the restaurant serves very simple and small dishes, or if I know that there will be a small amount to take home, due to habits, then I’ll bring along the smaller carrier. These carriers are very useful for separating different flavors of foods when desired and it also helps if you’re bringing home leftovers from different people, that way, no one gets their dishes mixed up and there’s no need for separate boxes.

When I first started using the tiffin carrier, I would hide it in my large shoulder bag, and at the end of the meal, I’d basically bust it out. There was a level of awkwardness to this action, but my family understood my intentions. It’s not necessary to use a box JUST for transport from the restaurant to home. I think that’s a waste, because you don’t need that extra box in the first place. You can always move the food from the carrier tray, onto tupperware and heat up later to eat. That extra disposable box from the restaurant to our home is only use for transportation. Granted, you may find a use for the disposable box later, but overall, trash is still being produced and manufactured for this simple step.

I do have two small separate sauce containers that came with the tiffin carriers, but I rarely use them. They’re also made of metal and the lid doesn’t have a tight seal, but I don’t really “bring home sauces”. I usually just pour whatever sauce from my meal right onto the food I’m bringing home. It’s one extra piece of the carrier set that I’d rather use for containing spices or other items at home.

I think these tiffin carriers are a great way of transporting leftover dishes anywhere. You can even pack lunches or small sets of meals in these if you wanted to. You can technically use these carriers for just about everything that involves a lot of smaller pieces. I actually use one as my sewing kit, which I’ll give you the link to right here, My Sewing Kit.
You may feel awkward in the beginning when using these, I certainly did. But it’s all for a good cause and you won’t produce that extra piece of trash (which can’t be recycled due to the oils and food particles stuck to it). You’ll save one less item to throw away which will end up in the landfill.

Zero Waste Picnic

 

08.24.2016

0800

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The weather had been nice lately so I thought a picnic was in order before the summer ended. I didn’t pack too much, just enough to fill us up for a bit, but here is what I packed:

  1. Dish: Bean Salad
  2. Side Dish: Boiled potatoes with Nutritional Yeast
  3. Snacks: Wasabi Peas, Smoked Almonds, Olives
  4. Dessert: Peaches
  5. Drinks: Water

Whenever I go out on an outing, I like to pack some snacks so I won’t get hungry later on. Picnics are always a fun way to spend with family, friends, or new friends. Picnics are great when the weather is sunny and cool in temperature and there’s a clean area to set up camp. On this day, I packed a bean salad and boiled potatoes sprinkled with nutritional yeast as the main dishes. I also had some olives from the olive bar from Whole Foods. For snacks we had wasabi peas and smoked almonds and for dessert, we had some peaches.

All of the foods were purchased from the bulk section of the grocery store or in the non-packaged vegetables and fruit area. We used beach towels to sit on and to use the picnic blanket and because I forgot the plates, we ate off of the lids. Of course we ate all of the food so the ‘no plate’ rule wasn’t so bad.

Zero Waste Gifts

08.17.2016

0800

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I enjoy talking to people about the benefits of living a zero waste life. I enjoy it even more when they are also interested in transitioning to a zero waste life. When I do talk about this change, I like to help people jump-start their momentum into the routine of zero waste grocery shopping, so I usually gift jars with handmade produce bags. This is the reason why I sew so many, so I can give them away.

Talking about the lifestyle and the transition is a lot for one conversation. There a lot of areas in life to tackle and to hope that a stranger will pick up on all of the details in one conversation is unreasonable.  This is why my gift of the handmade produce bags and jars specifically pertain to the grocery shopping task. It’s much easier to help them jump start their zero waste life with examples of what I use than to list a bunch of tasks to do- all at once. Tackling each area and room is going to be a big enough task, this is my way of easing them into the bulk grocery shopping.

And some people will not transition completely for a long time. Some may only be able to bulk grocery shop with certain items and may have to produce trash. This maybe due to medical reasons, physical location or perhaps resources aren’t available. Either way, a small change is still a change. As long as each person continues to move forward with their transition, it’s a point for the win column.

If you want some other Zero Waste Gift Options to get conversations started, check these out: