Friday, June 12, 2015

Plastic Free July--take the challenge!

It is approaching my favorite time of year--Plastic Free July!  This will be the third time I am participating.

What is Plastic Free July, you ask?

From their website: "Plastic Free July aims to raise awareness of the amount of single-use disposable plastic in our lives and challenges people to do something about it."

Basically, it asks us to examine the amount of disposable plastic (any plastic that is meant to be used once or very little and thrown away) we are using and encourages to find alternatives.

 Some things you can do:

1. Bring your own bag
2. Bring your own water bottle
3. Refuse a straw when you go out to restaurants, or bring your own glass straw
4. Bring your own utensils
5. Bring your own travel mug for tea and coffee
6. Say no to coffee pods!
7. Shop from the bulk bins for dry goods (rice, beans, grains, etc.) using your own cloth bag or mason jar
8. Use vinegar, baking soda and bar soap for cleaning
9. Compost your food scraps
10. DIY personal care products
11. Shave with a safety razor 
12. Use glass storage in the kitchen--Pyrex, mason jars, etc.

Some posts to get you started:

How to shop the bulk bins
Plastic-free shaving: using a safety razor
DIY deodorant
De-plastify the bathroom
Less-toxic & plastic free laundry
General plastic free ideas

I will be posting some helpful tips in the coming weeks for those of you who are going to go plastic free with me :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bring your own to go zero waste

Happy Earth Day!  In honor of the occasion, here are some things you can do to reduce your waste today.

Bring your own to go zero-waste today:

Bring a bag for groceries, produce, the bulk section, shopping for anything!
Water Bottle
 Bring your own glass or stainless steel water bottle.
Coffee mug
Or make your own at home (just don't use those pesky pods :)!
Keep some real utensils in your bag or car so you don't get stuck with the disposable plastic variety.
Or ask for no straw.
Cutting down trees for disposable napkins is silly.
You'll end up using much less packaging if you bring lunch from home.  And get a more satisfying meal.
Take-out container
Going out to eat? Avoid the styrofoam, and bring a container for the leftovers.
Hand towel
No more decisions between using perfectly good trees for a one-use disposable product or a hand dryer that never really gets your hands dry.  Bring your own pocket-sized towel.

One last super-important thing you can do: Compost!  Composting drastically reduces the amount of waste you will be putting in the landfill, and takes pretty much zero extra time.

If you have even a tiny backyard, you can do it!  Also, many municipalities now have city-wide composting if you are an apartment dweller.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How to use less paper in the bathroom

Cutting down new trees for things we will use once and throw away seems pretty silly.  Here are some ideas to reduce your paper use in the bathroom.

Get some handkerchiefs.  And put them where you'll use them.
No more tissues.  No more tissue box, with the plastic inside.  I found a small basket from Goodwill and stuck some in there.

Buy recycled toilet paper.
Seventh generation has some that is not sold in plastic packaging.  I get mine at a local store, but you can also find it on Amazon.  (Also, look for something with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled paper content).

Use reusable cotton rounds instead of cotton balls.
You can either try your hand at making them, or Etsy has a pretty large selection (these and these, for example).

Use a real hand towel.
This should go without saying, but I have seen those horrible disposable-paper-towels-in-a-box that are marketed to families keep making appearances, so I'm going to say it--there is nothing wrong with cloth hand towels.  You will not get germs from using a hand towel in your own house.  Throw them in your wash when they get dirty (or if someone is sick)!!

Clean with reusable cloths.
Instead of disinfecting wipes or paper towels to wipe down the counter, use reusable cloths and a spray bottle of homemade cleaner.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Olive oil hand salve

My hands always get so dry during the winter, so I make a simple three-ingredient salve to keep them moisturized.  It works so much better than lotion in a plastic bottle, creates a lot less waste and is less expensive.  

(Side note: Has anyone else noticed that some commercial lotions will tout things like "Made with real shea butter!" or "Soothing oatmeal!", when the actual amount of those ingredients in the product
is minimal?)

How to make olive oil hand salve

Small pot
Glass measuring cup
Measuring spoon
Cheese grater
Small glass jar 

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon grated beeswax
15-20 drops lavender essential oil

Measuring beeswax

1. Measure a 1/4 cup of oil in your glass measuring cup.
2. Grate your beeswax. You'll need about one heaping tablespoon. Put it in the measuring cup with the olive oil.
3. Heat a small amount of water in your pot, and put your glass measuring cup inside creating a double boiler.
4. Heat the olive oil and beeswax gently until combined. Stir.
5. Take the olive oil-beeswax mixture off the heat, and add several drops of the essential oil. Pour into glass jars and let cool.

Note: For a firmer salve, use more beeswax, for a softer salve, use less beeswax.
         This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Other things I have used this salve for:
Lip balm
My husband uses it on his face after he shaves
To protect/condition my leather boots
I exchange walnut oil for olive oil, and use it to condition butcher block counters
As gifts for family and friends

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Want to reduce your plastic in 2015?

Do you want to reduce the amount of plastic (especially disposable!) that you use in 2015?

Good first steps to take:
Bring your own bag when you shop.
Bring your own containers for drinks (waterbottle, coffee thermos).
Refuse a straw for your drink.
Don't use coffee pods! (Use a Chemex or French press--your coffee will taste better and cost less!)

Ok, so I did that.  What's next?  Try to pick one area at a time to change.  It will be easier, less overwhelming, and the changes will be more likely to stick.  Cleaning was where I started, and I found that to be an easy place to make changes, and also something that immediately saved me money.

How to use less plastic this year

Clean with vinegar, baking soda, Castile bar soap and lemons.
Replace paper towels with cloth rags (cotton or hemp--microfiber is plastic!) that can be washed and reused.
Try soap nuts for your laundry.  Replace dryer sheets with wool dryer balls.
Get a mop with reusable pads that you can fill with a vinegar and water solution.

Replace plastic tupperware and takeout containers with glass or stainless steel.
Buy your dry goods from the bulk bin.  Cut out the boxed and bagged processed food.
Shop from local farmers when possible (and in season) for veggies and fruit.
Look for milk in returnable glass bottles.
Swap out non-stick pots and pans for healthier alternatives like stainless or cast iron.  If you are on a budget, or a college student, start out with just a cast iron pan--they are naturally non-stick and good for almost everything!
Use cloth napkins that can be washed and reused instead of paper ones.

Personal care:
Use a shampoo bar instead of shampoo in plastic bottles.
Use bar soap in the shower.
Get a safety razor.
Coconut oil and homemade olive oil/beeswax salve for moisturizing.
Bamboo toothbrushes.
Baking soda/cornstarch as deodorant.
Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.
Find makeup with recyclable glass or aluminum packaging.

Look for clothes made from natural materials (wool, linen, cotton, silk, hemp).  Buy used when you can.
When household items need to be replaced (dustpan, broom, brushes, etc.), choose well-made items made of wood, stainless steel, enamel, etc.
Write with a refillable fountain pen instead of disposable pens. (This is on my list for this year!!)
If you need a new piece of furniture, try looking for a pre-owned item made of solid wood.