Monday, December 8, 2014

Simple, plastic-free makeup

Much like everything else that has come along in my plastic free journey, de-plastifying my makeup also meant simplifying. 

Now, instead of worrying about a thousand different things when I am getting ready in the morning, I just worry about two: a little concealer, and a swipe of mascara.  Which takes two minutes instead of ten.

I don't have anything wrong with wearing more makeup (and I do every once and a while for super-formal events!), but simplifying what I wear everyday has been a nice change.  I used to worry that I would not look put together if I did not wear a full face of makeup every day, but I have found that not to be the case.

Reasons why this has been awesome:

1. Much less time spent getting ready in the morning.
2. Much less waste created.  I get my mascara from TWINK beauty, and reused an old mascara wand.  The mascara is cake mascara, which means it's solid (ask your grandma if you've never heard of solid mascara!), and you have to wet the mascara wand to use it.  It also means that you don't have to worry about plastic mascara tubes.  The container can be reused (homemade lip balm?) or it can be recycled.
The concealer comes from RMS beauty, and is packaged in a glass container with an aluminum lid.  Also reusable or recyclable.  The company lists the ingredients on their website, and it is certified organic.
3. Less money. Although the concealer is a little more money than I would spend before (although not by that much, I used to use Bare Minerals, and that was about $30 a pop), the mascara is actually cheaper and those are the ONLY TWO items I am using regularly aside from a little homemade lip balm/hand salve.  With the other foundation I used to use, I would feel like my skin would get oily, and I would have to get the powder, too.  Plus eyeshadow, liner, etc.  So, much less money in total spent, and the money that is spent is spent on higher quality items.

My makeup routine now:

1. Does the mascara work?  Yes!  It gives enough definition, doesn't flake off during the day.  However, it is not going to give you the same "huge lashes" look as a drugstore or department store mascara.
2. Is it waterproof? No.
3. I don't want to give up eyeshadow/blush/my makeup routine, are there any plastic free options? Yes!  Browse through Etsy, and there are tons of people selling makeup with minimal ingredients, and minimal packaging.  RMS also sells lip and cheek stains in glass packaging.  Or you could try your hand at making some of your own :)

Have you found any good plastic free or less wasteful makeup options?  Any good homemade recipes?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Real food staples

Last post, we talked about why preparing your own food is important.  Today, I want to share with you some of the things that have become staples in our kitchen and improved our cooking (and eating :) 

1. Chicken Stock
We usually roast a chicken once a week, and then use the leftover bones to make chicken stock.  While the stock will have to cook for several hours, the amount of hands on time is about two minutes.
  • Throw chicken carcass into your stock pot.
  • Put one to two onions (don't bother peeling, just wash, halve and cut off the ends), carrots (washed, unpeeled) and celery stalks in.
  • Add a bay leaf and a few pepper corns.  And a dash of apple cider vinegar. 
  • Cover with water and simmer for three to four hours (or more if you like).
This is super, super easy and adds tons of flavor to homemade soups and sauces.  If you are a vegetarian, you can make homemade veggie stock.

2. Homemade Applesauce
I like to put applesauce in my oatmeal every morning during the cold months.  This stuff is so much better than the canned variety.
  • Slice/core your apples.  You don't need to peel them.  I usually use about nine apples at a time.
  • Throw them in a pot.
  • Sprinkle in some cinnamon, nutmeg and a couple of cloves.
  • Simmer until the apples are a little mushy, and then throw in a blender or food processor.

3. Whole Wheat Bread
See recipe here.   Whole wheat flour, honey, molasses, salt, water and yeast.  That's it.  Good for sandwiches and spreading jam on.  Once you taste homemade bread, you will never go back.  For those weeks where we are very short on time, we do get bread from the bakery, which is still a much better choice than the prepackaged, preservative-filled breads on the store shelves.

4. Yogurt
Homemade yogurt is very easy to make.  Heat up some milk, add a little bit of pre-made yogurt, let sit overnight.  See recipe here.  Not only is this great with fruit in the morning, it also can be good as a dip (add a little lemon and dill!) and a nice addition to salads.

5. Salad Dressing
Most likely, you have everything you need to make a nice salad dressing already in your pantry. I use the recipe here, except instead of white wine vinegar, I use balsamic.  I recently used this on a kale, beet and barley salad, which was AWESOME.

This week, I challenge you to pick one thing you usually buy prepackaged, and try your hand at making it yourself.  It doesn't have to be complicated (it could even be just soaking and cooking your own dried beans!).

Let me know what you are going to make this week in the comments!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why cook real food?

Making your own food from scratch is probably one of the best things you can do to "go green," reduce packaging and be healthier.  (If you are not familiar with the issues of packaged food, I would strongly suggest reading "Salt, Sugar, Fat" by Michael Moss.  It was an eye opening read). While the other things I have discussed on the blog are important, in my opinion, food tops the list.  What we eat fuels our body and keeps us healthy.

At least in the United States, it seems as if we have been trapped in a mindset where convenience always wins.  Adults are over-scheduled, children are over-scheduled, and suddenly what we eat moves from the back burner to the microwave, and we become completely distanced from where our food comes from and how to prepare it.

Why real food matters | Cellist Goes Green

1. By making your own food from whole ingredients (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, eggs, dairy, etc.), you avoid additives like food dye, preservatives, anti-caking agents, and artificial sweeteners and flavorings in packaged and processed food.

2. When you make your own food, you control the amount of salt, sugar and fat that goes in to it (and what kinds).  Processed foods often make up for lack of flavor by increasing these ingredients to unhealthy levels.  And while your body will still process all sugar as sugar (so it should be enjoyed in moderation!), I would rather eat raw honey than processed corn syrup. 

3. Real food tastes better.  If nothing else convinces you, this should.  Real food tastes like food.  Compare something you would normally buy packaged at the store to a time when you had that food homemade.  Did they taste the same?  Probably not.  Canned or boxed chicken stock just can't compare to the kind you make on your stove with real chicken and vegetables.  Homemade roasted tomato sauce with extra virgin olive oil is not the same as what you buy in the jar.  And that bread wrapped in plastic on the shelf is miles behind homemade or what you can get at the bakery.

4. It does not take that much time.  One of the biggest excuses for not preparing home cooked food is lack of time (I often used this one myself as a college student--I am not pointing fingers!).  Yes, it will take more time than throwing a box in the microwave, but not that much more.  And that added time is not always "active time." While chicken stock technically takes several hours to cook, those hours are not spent slaving over the stove.  Just throw everything in the pot and walk away.

5. Cooking brings us together.  Passing down recipes, techniques and sharing them with friends and family.  Taking pride in something you made and sharing it with others. All things that are invaluable and shouldn't be underestimated.

So, if you're up for a challenge: this week, pick one thing you would normally buy in a box or can and try making it yourself.  It does not have to be a big thing, it could be as simple as pumpkin puree (yum!) or soaking your own beans.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wine in a plastic cup, a new Facebook page, and sending my broken charger back to Apple

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So, a new piece of plastic has migrated into my plastic tally this month--a plastic wine cup.  Sadly, I do not have a picture, but nonetheless, it's part of the tally.  We were in an outside deck portion of a restaurant with my husband's family, and I saw they were serving drinks in plastic cups, but there were a few people with wine in real glasses, so I naively assumed that would be a safe choice.  Unfortunately not.  I asked for a real glass as soon as it was served (not too keen on enjoying wine in a plastic cup, waste aside), but the cup still went to the landfill.  I always find these things so hard to navigate, as I try to not always be the crazy plastic lady and annoy the poor waiters and waitresses, but often times when I don't say anything, I end up with unwanted plastic.

In other news, I will definitely be sending back my broken power cord to Apple, at the suggestion of Lindsay from Treading my Own Path.  If you have a broken power cord or charger from Apple, I encourage you to do the same.  We shouldn't have to accept (expensive!) products that break down so quickly, or the waste they produce.
My broken power cord, if you missed it :(
I will update you when it gets sent out.  Here is their address, if you are planning to send back your own broken charger:

1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Just started a Facebook page for the blog, like us over there if you're on Facebook :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Plastic Free July update: Week 2

Sorry this update didn't come sooner, I've been busy cello-ing (I am playing in a musical that runs pretty much every day through the rest of July).  I will try to get this week's update out a little sooner :)

Plastic dilemma:

As you can see, the cord to my computer is completely shot.  It's not just the cord itself, but the magnetic adapter that actually goes into the computer (so no electrical tape fix here).  I bought a used one off of ebay, but it was unfortunately bubble wrapped.

But what to do with the old cord?  The broken cord was a REPLACEMENT for the original that came with my computer, and was probably about 1 1/2 years old.  I am really frustrated about how short the lifespan is on these things.  Is there somewhere to send it to get repaired?  Can I send it back to Apple for them to refurbish?  Anyone have any experience with this? (I saw PlasticFreeTuesday had a similar dilemma...)

So, outside of the bubble wrap and broken cord, plastic collected since last time consists of:

5 milk tops
4 milk rings (my husband threw one out before I got a hold of it, so only three in the picture)
3 produce stickers
1 olive oil top and foil
1 vinegar top
1 spice jar seal (no bulk spices near me)

How is everyone else's Plastic Free July going?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Plastic Free July: Days #1 and #2

Yesterday was a successful day.  We went to a friend's house for (a delicious) dinner, and were asked to provide some dessert.  My lovely husband bought these from a local bakery:

No plastic!  Hooray!  And they were excellent.

But today, I ended up with a bottle cap from a glass bottle of vinegar (for cleaning).  Boo.  Our Whole Foods used to have bulk olive oil and vinegar, but no more.  I wouldn't have been able to afford that vinegar for cleaning anyway.  So plastic caps it is.

Plastic Tally: 1

Also on the agenda today is some homemade hummus from scratch.  I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Getting Ready for Plastic Free July

I can't believe it's July already.  Tomorrow, we start the Plastic Free July challenge.

Plastic Free July

If you haven't heard about it, Plastic Free July is all about eliminating disposable plastic (i.e. plastic that is meant to be used once, or very little, and then thrown away) from our lives for an entire month.

What makes single-use plastic so bad?  
It is destroying our oceans.
It is harmful to wildlife.
It is harmful to us.

The "convenience" is not worth it.

Ten Eleven things you can do:

1. Take reusable shopping bags.
2. Bring your own water bottle.
3. Say no to straws, or bring your own glass straw.
4. Bring your own travel mug for tea and coffee.
5. Don't use coffee pods.
6. Buy dry goods (beans, rice, etc.) from the bulk bins in your own container.
7. Use vinegar, baking soda and bar soap for cleaning.
8. Bring your own utensils.
9. Shave with a safety razor.
10. DIY personal care products.
11. Compost your food scraps.

Some posts to get you started:

How to Shop in the Bulk Bins
Deplastify Your Bathroom
Plastic-Free Shaving: Using a Safety Razor
DIY Deodorant
Less Toxic and Plastic-Free Laundry Routine

Plastic Free July's website has even more ideas.  So does Beth Terry's.

I am a U.S. blogger, but if you are in the U.K., check out Plastic is Rubbish, she has a whole list of wonderful bloggers over there who are also participating in Plastic Free July.

What will I be doing?
As I mentioned in the lead up to Zero Plastic Week, I sometimes fell victim to the convenience of tea bags.  Although the tea bags themselves were compostable (Not all of them are! Be careful, most are made with plastic in the bag itself!), the wrappers were not.  I have been buying tea in bulk since then, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Meat is the biggie.  Sometimes they will put it in a container for me, sometimes not.  And to be honest, I get sick of asking, so I settle for the plastic-wrapped variety.  I kind of just avoided it during Zero Plastic Week, but I won't for Plastic Free July.  The butcher paper they use is plastic lined, so that won't work, either.  Any tips?

Most metal jar lids are lined with a little bit of plastic, and while I can't say that I will be entirely giving up glass jar food items, I will make an attempt to make some homemade strawberry jam and tomato sauce this month.

I will also be more specific with WHY I am refusing items.  I have been at times handed straws (already in my drink), bags, etc. while eating out, even when I specifically ask for none.  I think if I say "No straw please, I try not to use any single-use plastic," it might be a little more effective.  Hopefully this will not come off as rude, as I know the waitstaff is just trying to do their job, and do not want to listen to me tell them about dying sea turtles.  What do you say when refusing a straw when eating out?  Is there a better way to get your request across?  Or do you just ask for no straw and hope for the best?

Sign up for Plastic Free July here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Plastic (and synthetic fragrance) free deodorant

Before I begin this post, let me say I am not a dirty hippie (not that there is anything wrong with that!).  I am a clean person, I take showers and I do not smell.

But while I did not smell dirty, I was sick of smelling like synthetic fragrance. (Read about some of the issues with synthetic fragrance here).

So last year, in the spirit of Plastic Free July, I tried out making my own deodorant.  And it worked better than any store bought deodorant that I had ever used.

Here's what I do:

1 part baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda for those of you not in the US:)
1 part organic corn starch or arrowroot powder
Optional: A few drops of essential oil (I like lavender)

The baking soda is what fights the odor, and the cornstarch is absorbent.  Some people find the baking soda slightly irritating (I haven't had a problem with it!), and if that's you, just up the ratio of cornstarch.  Alternatively, you can put a little coconut oil on before you apply the deodorant.

This is just one option, there are many others, but this is effective for me (and my husband).  What do you do for deodorant?  Have you tried this?  Let me know how it works!  Let's simplify our bathrooms!

Sign up for Plastic Free July here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to get clean without making the environment filthy: Plastic free shampoo and soap

How many plastic bottles do you have hanging around in the shower?  Right now, I have none, but the answer used to be pretty different, probably around seven or eight.  And I probably would have told you that they were all absolutely necessary.  They're not.

And when I started thinking more carefully about the ingredients in the personal care products I was using, I tried to find replacements for all of those bottles.  "Eco-friendly shampoo!" a bottle would exclaim.  But the ingredients were still harsh, and it was expensive.

When I committed to going plastic-free last July, I tried something else.  Soap.

Soap.  Imagine that.  Could it be so simple?  Yes, it was.  Soap with paper (or no) wrapping and no plastic waste.  Soap with simple, gentle ingredients.

What's in our shower now?  Two bars of soap.  A moisturizing lavender olive oil soap and a solid shampoo bar (a.k.a. soap) that uses a blend of oils and herbs that is good for hair.

Besides the fact I am no longer disposing of plastic bottle after plastic bottle, my bathroom is no longer cluttered and no longer feels like a giant advertisement.  Simplify.

There are tons of places that sell homemade soaps.  You may be able to find some at your farmers' market.  I get my shampoo bars from Aquarian Bath (I like the Lavender/Sesame/Aloe bar).  They give you the option to have your bars shipped without individual packaging, which is great! Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve also sells shampoo bars that come in paper packaging.  And Lush also sells solid shampoo, although with more ingredients.  I buy our regular bar soap from Dr. Dandelion, their soap is so moisturizing.  Making my own soap is on my list of things to try this summer, if that sounds like something you are interested in, The Nerdy Farm Wife has some great tutorials.  And as I mentioned in my last post, my husband gets his shave soap from Simmons, and they also sell bars of regular soap as well.

As for conditioner, I rinse my hair with apple cider vinegar about once every one to two weeks, and use just a touch (super small amount!) of coconut oil to control any frizz.

One more thing-you've probably been reading about micro beads in the news.  They are in a surprising amount of our personal care products, and before I made the switch to more natural products, I was absolutely guilty of using them, too.  Please find an alternative.  If that's the only thing you can commit to, do that.  Because they are ending up in our lakes and waterways.  And they are in a surprising number of products, from things you'd expect like face scrub, to things you wouldn't like hand soap and toothpaste.

(Just one more side note, I promise!:)  Recycling is an imperfect solution for these plastic bottles.  "Downcycling" is a big issue-your plastic bottle isn't turning into another plastic bottle, it's turning into a carpet or some other item that can't be recycled again.  Some great articles about recycling here, here, and hereREDUCE should be first on the list, not recycle.)

Do you have any great places to get soap?  Have any of you tried your hand at making your own?  Are you going to try bar shampoo for Plastic Free July?

Sign up for Plastic Free July here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Plastic-free shaving: using a Safety Razor

Before I began this plastic-free, environmentally conscious journey, I had no idea what a safety razor was.  I used one of those multi-bladed disposable cartridge razors that are on the TV commercials.  And kind of assumed that people always used some version of a disposable razor.

There is another (much better) option.

Your dad or grandfather might know what it is.

A safety razor.

Plastic free shaving: Using a Safety Razor

It works just about the same as the razor you already have.  Except with a whole lot less waste.  (Environmentally and financially).

You get a reusable, stainless steel handle, which you place a metal razor blade into.  The handle will last you forever.  And the blades usually come in boxes of 100.  We are not even 3/4 of the way through the box I bought last year.  (And that's with two people using it). You know how much that box of razor blades cost?  Thirteen dollars.  Do you know how much FOUR CARTRIDGES cost for one of those other disposable razors?  Sixteen dollars.  For four. 

I have found the safety razor to work just as well, if not better than the disposable razor/cartridge that I was using before.  Razor burn is no longer a problem.  My husband is also impressed with the shave he gets.

Safety razor FAQ's (or at least some questions I had last year):

1. The razor blades look scary.  And sharp.  Will I cut myself more often?  No.  I have not cut myself any more than with the multi-blade cartridge I was using before.  Make sure you use less pressure when shaving and you will be fine.

2. Is there any difference between using a safety razor versus the disposable I was using before?  No, I found it to be very similar.  Just use less pressure when shaving, and you'll be fine.

3. Can I use this to shave my legs, etc., etc.?  Yes.

4. What do I do with the used blades? I poked a slit on top of a can of broth and stick the used blades in there.  When it is full, I will take it to my recycling center.  Do not just dump used blades in your recycling bin, as they are obviously sharp, and could hurt someone.  There are also used "blade banks" that sell on ebay.

5. I am still using shaving cream with harsh ingredients.  Is there a better option?  Yes.  I use regular bar soap, but my husband uses shaving soap and a brush to get a good lather.  He likes the soap from Simmons and we got him a shaving brush here.  You put the shaving soap into a mug, wet the brush and work the soap into a lather.

6. You've convinced me.  Where can I buy a safety razor?  I bought mine on Life Without Plastic, link here.  They also sell them on Amazon, mine is a Merkur.  (Edit: A commenter pointed out that they also sell tons of used safety razors on ebay, make sure you click "used" if that's what you're looking for!  They have some nice ones on there, too!)  I got my razor blades on Amazon here (the brand is Persona, they are packaged without plastic, but unfortunately Amazon does ship with a little plastic.  If someone has a better source for them, please let me know!)

This has been one of the best changes we have made since going plastic free.  I am no longer forced into buying an expensive, wasteful product.  The razor was an initial investment, but has already paid for itself, and I can use it forever.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and I will do my best to answer them!

2016 Update: We are still on the first box of razor blades I bought in August of 2013!!!!  

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Life Without Plastic, a company whose mission and products I fully support.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Deplastify your bathroom

Leading up to Zero Plastic Week, I wrote a lot about how to reduce plastic and waste while shopping for food and avoiding disposables.  Since the event only lasted a week, I felt that was the best way to focus, as those are everyday activities.

Now, as Plastic Free July is swiftly approaching, I wanted to talk more about more sustainable personal care choices.  Before I made the commitment to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, I had TONS of different products in the bathroom.  Lotion (usually at least two or three different kinds), bodywash, shampoo, conditioner, hair smoother, etc., etc., etc.  Besides the concern about the enormous amount of plastic trash I was generating, it became tiring.  My morning routine was getting longer and longer.  And my bathroom felt cluttered.  So when Plastic Free July came around last year, I jumped on the chance to simplify, and I haven't looked back since.

(Side note: since we are using simpler products with less ingredients, my husband's eczema, which he has struggled with for years, disappeared completely.  Food for thought.)

Here are some things you can do to reduce your personal care plastic use:

1. Shave with a safety razor (This not only stops the disposable plastic waste, but it is SO MUCH CHEAPER. And works just as well.  I got my razor here and blades here.)

2. Use bar shampoo. (I buy mine from Aquarian Bath, but Chagrin Valley and Lush also have solid shampoo)

3. Use bar soap instead of body wash. (Dr. Dandelion has awesome olive oil soap.  Or you could make your own if you are super crafty.)

4. Make your own deodorant. (I promise this is not as crazy as it sounds :)

5.  Use a bamboo toothbrush.

6. Use toothpowder instead of toothpaste or make your own.  (Lush sells some here).

7. Coconut oil for lotion and hair de-frizzer.

8. Make your own olive oil and beeswax hand salve.

9. Choose makeup with better ingredients and recyclable packaging.

I will be covering a few of these topics this week in detail.  Are there any specifically that you would like to know more about?

What are some ways you have found to reduce packaging in your personal care routine?  Anything I missed?

Register for Plastic Free July here

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Un-plastiversary: Plastic Free July

Last July, I took up the Plastic Free July challenge.  I had been making small changes before that, choosing less harmful cleaning products and reusable cloth napkins and towels instead of their disposable counterparts, but last July was when I really made the decision to reduce the (large) amount of packaging I had been consuming.

It has been a great journey.  It has helped me simplify.  Not having a thousand different products in the bathroom, not having boxes and boxes of close to expiring (or expired!) processed food in the pantry.  Speaking as someone who is not always naturally organized, this has made a difference when not much else has in the past.  Being able to see all of our food clearly in glass jars.  Being able to reach the back of our bathroom cabinet.  Things are easier.

But most importantly, using less disposable plastic greatly lessens our environmental impact.  Plastic trash is a  big problem, and using a product that lasts so long for such an ephemeral purpose as single-serving food wrapping seems illogical.  There are uses for plastic.  Our modern technology depends on it.  My cello case is plastic, which makes it lighter to carry, yet still protects the instrument.  But things that get thrown away instantaneously?

Wherever we are in this journey, we can all be a little more mindful of what we are throwing away.  This July, I will again be participating in Plastic Free July.  I challenge you to come along on this journey with me!  There are two ways to participate:

1. Giving up ALL single-use plastic for the month of July (food packaging, shampoo bottles, personal care products, etc.).


2. Refusing the TOP 4 disposable plastic items: straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles and coffee cup lids.

I will be continuing along with what I did for Zero Plastic Week, and refusing all single-use plastic.  How will you be participating? :)  Are there any disposable plastic things you aren't sure you have an alternative for?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Zero Plastic Week: The Results

So, as I am sure you have all been waiting for, here is all of the plastic I have collected during Zero Plastic Week:

  • 1 magazine bag
  • 1 piece of packing tape
  • 2 envelope windows
  • 3 produce stickers
  • 4 milk caps
  • 5 milk rings

Note: cat not included in plastic tally

I also have two stickers from Whole Foods (bread and cheese) that haven't gotten thrown out yet.  So they should probably be counted in the tally.

This was eye opening, because even though I have been pretty diligent about my plastic consumption, I still created waste.  More than I thought I would.

But it wasn't hard.  If you get into a routine, and plan just a little in advance, it is pretty easy.  If you didn't participate in Zero Plastic Week, don't worry, Plastic Free July is right around the corner! :)

How was your Zero Plastic Week?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Zero Plastic Week: Day 5

Sorry this post was a little late getting up.  Last night I went to go see my husband play with his jazz trio (he's a bassist) at a nice restaurant.  I was happy to see that they had their olives and peanuts in a ceramic dish, rather that those disposable cups.  Hooray for plastic-free snacking!

I've accumulated two more milk caps and rings, but that's about it so far.  We are going out to eat with my husband's parents and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend tonight.  I've been to the restaurant before, and it doesn't use any plastic ware (utensils, straws, or otherwise), so I should be safe.

If you are going to a restaurant, and you're not sure if they use disposable plastic items, here are some things that you can bring with you to help you avoid creating a ton of waste:

1. Reusable utensils.  You can bring some metal utensils from home, or you can keep some bamboo ones in your car or bag so you're always prepared.

2. Water bottle. If you're going somewhere that just sells plastic bottled water, you can bring your own bottle and ask them to fill it.

3. Glass or stainless straw. Please always tell your servers when they take your drink order that you DO NOT want a straw. And if you like drinking out of a straw, bring your own reusable one.

4. Travel mug. If you're going to a coffee place, and want your drink to-go (or they only serve in disposable cups), bring your own stainless travel mug. Even paper cups are coated with plastic (which means they won't break down for a looonng time).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Zero Plastic Week: Day 4

Yesterday, I went to the farmers' market.  We have one lovely organic farmer who sells veggies, and dutifully honors my request to put the spinach in my cloth bag instead of the plastic wrapping they usually use.  When I made my request, they smiled and said, "Oh! Your husband stopped by last week!" (I sent my poor husband last week, with said bag and instructions for spinach).

I am now the crazy bag lady.  (The Whole Foods people also know who I am).

But in all seriousness, they were happy to use my bag for the spinach, and it didn't hold up the line, and people didn't look at me funny.  If you go to the farmers' market, bring your own bag. :)

Last month I was wondering what to do about hydrogen peroxide, which I like to use in the laundry for whites.  My bottle ran out, and I was hesitant to buy another plastic bottle of it.  There are no glass bottles of peroxide in the U.S.  Annmieke of Plastic Free Tuesday suggested I try lemon, and that is what I've been using since!  I put on a load of white sheets today, and squeezed half a lemon in with the laundry.  It works just as well as the peroxide.  And Martha recommends it.

Although I have not accumulated any more plastic trash since yesterday (still at six items), I should probably mention that I have refused a receipt from filling up my car (one of those thermal paper ones), so I don't know if that should technically count in this tally or not...(And I have to go shopping tomorrow, so probably another receipt on the way...)

Three more days of Zero Plastic Week to go, hope everyone else is doing well!  Any unexpected challenges?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Zero Plastic Week: Day 3

Last night I enjoyed some mint tea picked straight from the garden.  No tea bags for me!

Homemade mint tea!
And this morning, I made some coffee in our Chemex.  It was delicious.  If you haven't heard of them, the Chemex coffee maker is great!  We had a french press, which our cat broke, and we were gifted this by a friend.  We've been very happy with it.  (We use reusable filters, which you can find here).  

Unfortunately, I created my largest piece of plastic trash today:

Plastic from Day #3 of Zero Plastic Week
I subscribe to Taproot magazine, which I enjoy, but it unfortunately comes wrapped in a plastic bag.  The company actually addresses the issue in a post, but I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I only subscribe to two magazines, Taproot and Martha Stewart.  And I'm not a fan of e-readers.  And I enjoy reading the magazines.  Our library does not carry Taproot.  So, another conundrum.

Jar of shame :)

Here is all of the plastic I have accumulated over three days.  I know it's not a lot (6 pieces so far), but it still feels like a lot, especially since I am going out of my way to really avoid it.  

Anyway, after I finish posting this, I will be heading out to the farmers market to enjoy some plastic free produce :-)

What plastic has everybody else been struggling with this week?  Any awesome plastic-free solutions?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Zero Plastic Week: Day 2

So far, I have accumulated three pieces of plastic over the past two days of Zero Plastic Week.

1. Plastic packing tape.
I ordered some foundation from RMS beauty, as I was running low on my regular stuff, and since their foundation is packaged in glass and aluminum I thought it would be a good choice.  They did ship it without plastic, which I was very happy about, but there was plastic packaging tape to seal the envelope.

2. Plastic milk ring from yesterday.
This one is unavoidable, as I mentioned in my last post.  I am lucky they carry milk in returnable bottles in my area at all.  One step at a time, I suppose. Someone suggested I check with local schools to see if they could use the caps for art projects.  And a commenter said that some Whole Foods or Aveda salons might take them???  Any more thoughts???

3. Produce sticker from a kiwi.
I try to buy a lot of local, in season produce, but the organic farmer at our farmers' market doesn't sell fruit, so I usually buy what's at Whole Foods.  And most of the fruit there has produce stickers.  Later in the season, they have locally grown berries that aren't in plastic, but they don't have anything now.

What single-use plastic have you struggled with this week?

P.S.--If you want to win the four reusable bulk bags from The High Fiber, the giveaway ends tonight!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Zero Plastic Week: Day 1

If you have been reading recently, then you know that this week is Zero Plastic Week.  The goal is to not use any new single-use plastic for the whole week (i.e. plastic wrap, shopping bags, coffee cups, etc.)  Since the challenge is only a week, they say that you can use plastic you already have (i.e. bottles of shampoo).  (Plastic Free July will certainly help you take care of those things :)

So I started out my morning with oatmeal and tea, both of which were bought in bulk with my own containers last week.  I'm always pretty good with grains and oats, but I have been a little lazy with the tea, as I have to make another stop because the Whole Foods near us does not carry it.  Which is not an excuse, so I made sure to pick some up.

We are very lucky to have returnable, glass-bottled milk (that is bottled on the farm!) available to us.  However, they do use plastic caps, which is how I ended up with this piece of plastic this morning:

Any thoughts on how to recycle the caps?  Our municipal recycling does not take them...

I will be updating everyday this week with our plastic-free solutions and any more plastic trash we manage to accumulate.  And that's what this is really about-garbage.  Garbage that is ending up in our oceans and polluting our natural resources.  There are uses for plastic (like the keyboard I'm typing on, for instance), but we need to re-think how we are using the material as a disposable commodity.  Here is a great piece from the BBC on plastic pollution in our oceans.

Also, if you haven't seen it yet, I am giving away four bulk bags from The High Fiber so you can shop plastic free, too!  The giveaway is over on Wednesday, so enter now! :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bulk Bag Giveaway! (So you can shop plastic free, too)

One of the biggest things I have been doing to combat my plastic use is buying all of my dry groceries in bulk (lentils, pasta, oats, coffee, etc.).  Food packaging, especially at the grocery store, really adds up to a lot of trash.  Think about all of those plastic produce bags, the plastic bags your organic quinoa or rice are wrapped in, the plastic packaging around your pasta...

If you missed my last post, it explains how to shop the bulk aisle of your grocery store.  You will need some kind of bag or jar to put your bulk items in (you don't want to use the plastic bags they provide, right? :)

Since I started on my journey to reducing my plastic and the amount of waste I create, I have been using these bulk bags I purchased off of Etsy.  They are light, have held up extremely well (I've had them for over a year), and hold a ton of food.

Unfortunately, the stores near me have not caught on with this plastic free thing, and do not sell ANY bulk bags, they just give you the free plastic disposable ones.  So, if you live somewhere like I do that does not sell them locally, you are in luck!  I have four bulk bags from The High Fiber to giveaway to a lucky, future plastic-free person!

You'll get two of each color :)

To enter, please let me know what disposable plastic item you are going to give up for Zero Plastic Week
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Note: I purchased these myself, and was in no way compensated for this post.  I found these bulk bags to be extremely useful and well made, and that's why I'm sharing them. :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Zero Plastic Week is next week!

So, Zero Plastic Week is fast approaching (one week away!), and I need to get serious about things that I'm going to work on eliminating (i.e.-not being lazy). 

Things that sometimes sneak into our house:
Tea bags (although I try to buy a brand which does not use plastic for the teabag itself, the bags are still individually wrapped)
Cheese with plastic wrap
Meat wrapped in plastic
Packing material from things ordered online

Ninety-nine percent of this comes down to pure laziness on my part.  

Can I get cheese at the Whole Foods cheese counter? Yes, I can.
Can I use loose leaf tea ALL THE TIME, not just in the morning? Yes.
Can I ask stores/people that I order online from to ship without plastic packaging? Yes.

The meat counter is the trickiest.  Sometimes they are willing to use my container, and other times not.  I will just have to be persistent and find the right employees.  Perhaps I will try bringing in my own wax paper for them to wrap it in...

So why am I doing Zero Plastic Week?  Because plastic doesn't go away.  Because it doesn't biodegrade like other materials.  Because we have an ocean full of plastic refuse.  Because sea turtles eat it.  Because there are better alternatives most of the time.

Some food-related suggestions to get you started for Zero Plastic Week:

1. Bring your own shopping bags, produce bags, and shop in the bulk bins.
2. Say no to straws at restaurants.  Bring a glass or stainless steel one if you want.
3. Bring your own mug for coffee, or fill it up at home.
4. Use a French Press or Chemex for making your coffee at home. (No more horrible disposable coffee pods!)
5. Buy loose leaf tea.
6. Cook your own beans instead of buying canned.
7. Buy your bread from a bakery or make your own.
8. Make your own yogurt.
9. Use cloth napkins.
10. If you are eating out at a restaurant and likely to have leftovers, bring a container with you, instead of using their styrofoam one. 
11. Bring your own metal or bamboo utensils so you don't get stuck with plastic forks.

What disposable plastic do you struggle with??  I will be saving any plastic that I accumulate next week to keep myself accountable.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Getting ready for Zero Plastic Week: How do I shop for food???

Zero Plastic Week is fast approaching (June 9!), and one of the biggest changes I faced when removing plastic from my life was shopping for food.  So much of what is found in a conventional supermarket is packaged with plastic. So what can you eat??

The first thing you need to do is a find a store near your area that sells food in bulk bins. (Bea Johnson, from Zero Waste Home has a great app that will help you find bulk stores in your area) Whole Foods usually has a good selection, but often times small, local stores will also sell bulk foods.

After you find a store, you will need to put together supplies for your shopping trip.  Some suggestions, depending on what your local store sells and what you like to eat:
  • Grocery bags
  • Cloth bulk bags (These are the ones I have, but there are a ton on Etsy if you just search "bulk bags." Ecobags also has some)
  • Pint sized mason jar for freshly ground peanut butter (or almond/nut butter)
  • Bottle for bulk olive oil/vinegar (sadly they got rid of this at our store, but you may have it in yours)
  • Pyrex containers for cheese and meat
  • Paper and pencil or note application on phone to write down tare numbers and PLU's for food
Once you get to the store, the first thing you should do is go to customer service or the checkout and have them give you the weight for each of your containers and bulk bags so you are not charged extra.  Write this down so you don't have to do it each time you go to the store.

Fill your bulk bags up.  If you are going to the meat or cheese counter, make sure you are confident and straightforward with your request.  Ask for no additional paper if you can, because most of the time it is coated in plastic.

My list of bulk food PLU's on my phone
When you get to the check out, make sure you have your list of PLU numbers and tare weights handy so you are not holding up the line.  I think it's important to show that being plastic free doesn't have to be a hassle to you OR other people around you.  And that means being prepared.  I also try to group all of the things in bulk bags together on the belt so the cashier can do them all at once.

One other plastic free (or less-plastic) thing you may be able to find is milk.  Our Whole Foods sells milk in returnable glass bottles (the lids are plastic, but that's a lot less than a whole plastic gallon).  I bring a cooler with me for the bottles, and as we use them up during the week, I put the empties back in the cooler to go back to the store for next time.

At home, you can empty your bags into glass jars or containers.  Reuse empty jars that food came in, or use mason jars (the le parfait ones work well and are sturdy, if you find them on sale!).

Also, please don't forget about your local farmers market for plastic free produce.  The quality is usually better, there aren't any pesky produce stickers, and you'll get to know your local farmers.

Sign up for Zero Plastic Week here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Zero Plastic Week: June 9th - 15th (Get a jumpstart on Plastic Free July?)

I just heard about some awesome people in the Netherlands who are hosting a Plastic-Free Week in June. The premise?  Use no new disposable plastic for an entire week. (No plastic shopping bags, produce bags, throw away coffee cups, etc.)  If you are up for the challenge, here is their website and you can join the event on Facebook.

Not sure where to start?

  • Bring your own bags to the supermarket
  • Shop your farmers market for produce that has less packaging (I've found this especially helpful for finding spinach and cherry tomatoes)
  • Bring your own water bottle and coffee mug
  • Say no to straws, or bring your own glass or stainless steel one
  • Bring your own lunch to work or school
  • Make your own yogurt and beans (dried beans are cheaper anyway!)
  • Buy your bread from a bakery or make your own
  • Shop the bulk bins and use your own bags
  • Say no to disposable coffee pods!
  • Make your own cleaning supplies (and how to do laundry without plastic)
  • Use bar soap instead of liquid
(Martha's directions on making yogurt, which are super easy; a great recipe for homemade bread, I make this all the time; how to cook dried beans in the crockpot)

For more ideas, visit Zero Plastic Week's website, or Beth Terry's, or Plastic Free July's

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Spring!

Hope everyone enjoys this first weekend in spring!  Here are some interesting articles/links:

A wonderful study by Mother Jones on the toxicity of BPA-free plastic.

More reasons to avoid Keurig and single-brew coffee pods.

How to green your spring cleaning.

5 spring gardening tips. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Green your laundry routine

What is clean supposed to smell like?

For most of my life, clean meant synthetic fragrances like "Mountain Fresh" or "Spring Rain."  Fragrances that lasted a long, long time and were pretty strong.  I became sensitized to them.  Two dryer sheets must be better than one!

Now, clean just smells like clean.

Instead of dryer sheets...

The synthetic fragrances in dryer sheets are overwhelming.  And potentially toxic.  A University of Washington study found that a total of 25 volatile organic compounds, two of which are highly carcinogenic, were released from a dryer vent in which synthetic dryer sheets were used.  And what else are most dryer sheets coated in?  Tallow, or animal fat.  Why don't these ingredients have to be listed on the label? Because they are protected as "trade secrets" of the companies that make them.

...try dryer balls

So how can you make your clothes less static-y?  Personally, I use wool dryer balls, and they're great!  Not only do they cut down on static, they cut down on drying time.  Etsy has many good options, but my favorite are the ones from Bog Berry.  If you still miss the fragrance from the dryer sheets (but not the toxicity), then you can put a few drops of essential oil on your dryer balls before you thrown them in the dryer.

Another benefit to not using dryer sheets is less waste.  Most dryer sheets are not biodegradable, and contribute to landfill waste and pollution in our environment.

Instead of detergent in a plastic bottle...

Detergents also have a slew of synthetic fragrances, and even the "fragrance free" versions aren't innocent.  See articles here, here and here 

(Personal sidenote about fragrances: While going through old clothes, I found some that I haven't worn in over a year, and I wanted to wash them before donating.  When they were in the wash, the whole laundry room stunk from the detergent I had washed them with MORE THAN A YEAR AND A HALF AGO).

...try soap nuts

My favorite detergent is not a detergent, it's a berry!  Soap nuts (which are berries, not nuts) contain natural saponin, which works to break the surface tension of water and clean your clothes. (Here's where I get mine) There is no plastic packaging, which is another benefit.

How do you use them?

1. Throw 4-5 soap nuts in the little cloth bag that comes with your box of soap nuts.

2. Put it in with your laundry.

3. When you take your laundry out of the wash, take out the little bag (don't worry if you accidentally throw it in the dryer, it won't hurt anything!), and reuse the soap nuts up to 10 times.  It's pretty easy to tell when the soap nuts are used up, they are dry looking, and shriveled, and no longer have the faint "fruity" smell that they do in the beginning.

4. When the soap nuts are used up, throw them in the compost.

Instead of chlorine bleach...

This is more about the plastic for me.  At household concentrations, bleach is generally considered safe. (Though you should make sure never to mix it with ammonia or vinegar!)  But in an effort to create less waste, I have found another solution to keeping our whites white.

...try lemons

I squeeze one lemon into a load of whites, and let it soak in the washing machine on hot or warm water for 30 minutes to an hour.  Afterwards, I wash normally.  This has worked well for us, and keeps all of our whites looking how they should.