Monday, July 11, 2016

Plastic Free July Day 10

Plastic Free July Day 10 cleaning with vinegar


We ran out of vinegar for cleaning, so I picked some more up in glass bottles.  Check to see if you have bulk vinegar near you (we don't).

Things I use vinegar to clean:
  • Kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Floors
  • Toilets
  • Dishwasher rinse cycle
  • Mirrors and windows 
  • Pretty much everything
I use a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water in a spray bottle, and usually add a couple of drops of tea tree and lavender essential oils.

What's awesome about cleaning with vinegar (and baking soda):
  • Non-toxic
  • Way cheaper than "conventional" cleaners and expensive greenwashed products
  • They work!

This fall, when we are eating lots of apples again, I would like to try making apple scrap vinegar.  The Zero Waste Chef has a recipe here.

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If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 

My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Plastic Free July Day 9

Plastic Free July Day 9 Shave with a safety razor

The last time I bought razor blades for me or my husband was three years ago.  For $15.

We still have a bunch left--about 2/3 of the box.

A safety razor was one of those plastic-free switches that saved us a whole ton of money.  I bought our safety razors at Life Without Plastic, and found our razor blades on Amazon here.  If you want to know more about shaving with a safety razor, read my post about it here.

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

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If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 

My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Plastic Free July Day 8


 Plastic Free July is really about reducing the disposable plastic in your life.  Things like yogurt cups, and coffee pods and plastic bags.  It's not about replacing every item in your home that happens to be made with plastic.  But sometimes other things that aren't meant to be disposable (or maybe they are?) break.

Here are some things to consider before running out to a big box store to replace something.
  • Do I need to replace the item at all?  Did I really use it a lot?
  • Can it be repaired and still function well?  Am I able to repair it easily, or do I know someone nearby who can?
  • Can I find a used version that is in good condition?
  • If it's something I don't use a lot, can I borrow it from a friend or neighbor?
  • Can I find and afford a sustainably made version of the item? (Produced without sweatshops, made of natural materials, etc.)
Two years ago, my plastic hairbrush broke and I bought a wooden replacement on Life Without Plastic (and one for my husband).  It is still going strong, and will last much longer than the plastic one it replaced, which wasn't even a year old when it broke.

Another smallish thing in our home I've chosen to replace with a new, but ethically made enamel dustpan and brush.  Our plastic one cracked a while ago and was no longer doing its job.  

Ninety-five percent of the furniture in our home is used, either from friends, Goodwill, Craigslist or off the street (save for our coffee table, which is actually locally made!).  Our couch is used from friends, we have a rocking chair from the side of the road, we got a really awesome mid-century record storage cabinet from Craigslist.

As I've said before, it's about finding a balance between not creating and buying a whole bunch of new stuff and supporting local businesses and companies who are doing the right thing and making ethical and well-made products.

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

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If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 

My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Plastic Free July Day 7

Plastic Free July Day 7 Chicken

One of the most frustrating things for me is when a store stops carrying a plastic-free/bulk option I had been relying on.  For instance, a long time ago, our Whole Foods used to have bulk oil and vinegar.  It was wonderful.  No longer :(

Anyway, we get semi-local humanely raised whole chickens from Whole Foods.  They used to be shipped to the store without packaging, but now they come pre-wrapped.  We don't live in an area where there are a lot of other options, and our farmers market has no meat or eggs.  (We do buy other meat at the butcher counter plastic-free).

We buy a chicken about once every two weeks or so, but we try to make it last.  After we have gotten three or so meals out of it, I use the carcass to make homemade chicken stock.
Making homemade chicken stock is super easy:
  • Throw your chicken carcass in the pot.  
  • Put in an onion, a couple of carrots and stalks of celery.  
  • Season with a bay leaf, peppercorns, allspice, etc.  
  • Add a dash of apple cider vinegar.  
  • Cook for several hours (you can even do this in the crock pot, although I usually do it on the stove top)
  • Freeze, or refrigerate and use in the next couple of days.
Here is a picture of the chicken stock being cooked:

Chicken stock

You will never buy store bought chicken stock again.  And even if your chicken comes wrapped in plastic like mine, you will be making enough chicken stock that the waste created by the chicken wrapper is much less than the waste created by the cans or tetra packs of store bought chicken broth. 🐓🐓🐓

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Plastic Free July Day 6

Plastic Free July Day 6 Farmers Market
On Wednesdays, our town has a farmers market.  There is a local organic farmer who has some really nice produce.  (My husband went this week, thanks for bringing back such nice veggies :)

This week we got:
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • White eggplant & regular eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Kale
Farmers markets are a great place to get produce.  You are supporting your local economy, and you can get produce that is grown in a more sustainable way than what you can find at the grocery store.  (And there are no plastic produce stickers or saran wrap to be found!)  Make sure to take your own bags when you go.

Talk to the farmers there to find out their growing practices.  Organic certification can be expensive, and there may be farms that follow sustainable practices but just don't have the certification.  Avoid vendors who just bring in produce from all over the country or different parts of the world (having out of season produce is a red flag).  To find a farmers market near you, you can go to Local Harvest.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Plastic Free July Day 5


Yesterday I got some shampoo bars in the mail from Aquarian Bath.  I've been using shampoo bars since my first Plastic Free July in 2013, and I couldn't be happier.  They have replaced both shampoo and conditioner, and the larger amounts of waste created with their plastic bottles.

We don't have any shampoo bars sold locally where I live, and I also like the natural ingredients Aquarian Bath uses in their bars, as well as their plastic-free shipping materials.

If you haven't tried a shampoo bar yet, I would highly recommend it!!

(I was not paid or compensated in any way for this post, all opinions are 100% my own! :)

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If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 

My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Plastic Free July Day 4


I needed a new cake of rosin for my cello bow, so I ordered some on Amazon.  This was the result.

Sadly, we have no music stores in our area that carry the rosin I use, so I am stuck ordering online, or driving close to two hours+.

Usually, if I need to order something online, I try to buy from Etsy or a smaller company who will take requests for what packing materials are used, but this time I was stuck.  Oh well.

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If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 

My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Plastic Free July Day 3

Happy 4th of July!  I wanted to do this post today because I know there are a lot of people who have outdoor parties and barbecues today, which often come with plastic utensils and dinnerware.

Plastic Free July Day 3 Bring your own dinnerware

Refusing plastic dinnerware at parties and other people's houses (without being a jerk!)
  • Be grateful you were invited, and enjoy the company of your friends and family!
  • Bring your own reusable utensils, jar and plate.  That way, you do not need to dig through your host's cabinets to find a plate or a fork or a mug.
  • If you are offered dinnerware from the host when the rest of the guests are using disposable items (maybe because your friend knows how much of a weirdo you are :), make sure you wash it and put it away when you are done.  Do not make more work for your host.
  • Do not make your host feel bad about using disposable stuff.  It will not make them change, and will just make you look like an ungracious person. 
  • If someone asks why you are using your own silverware, you can talk about it.  People are curious, and it opens up a good discussion!  But again, don't make people feel bad.
Pictured above is what I usually bring (minus the cactus, of course 🌵) when we are invited to a party that I know is going to be outside or catered or has a lot of people.  You can get the stainless steel plate and spork from Life Without Plastic.

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

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If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 

My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Plastic Free July Day 2



Plastic Free July Day 2 bulk shopping


I do most of my shopping at our local-ish Whole Foods (it's about 25 minutes away), because they have the best selection locally of humanely-raised meat, milk in returnable glass bottles and dry bulk goods.

How I do my shopping:
  • I bring my own canvas grocery bags
  • I use small cloth draw-string bags for bulk dry goods (dried beans, oats, lentils, etc.)
  • I bring a glass Pyrex container to the butcher, deli and cheese counter
  • I buy milk in returnable glass bottles, and bring them back to the store when they are empty

How to make bulk shopping easy for you, and the people who work at the store
  • Know the tare weight of your containers (For example, my cloth bulk bags weight .06 lbs, so when I go to the cashier, I make sure to tell them that).
  • Keep a list of PLU numbers of dry bulk items on your phone, so you can tell the cashier when you check out.  They will thank you.
  • When you go to the meat and cheese counter to fill your container, be confident.   If you sound unsure, the person behind the counter will be unsure, too.  If you feel funny asking at first, try this: "Hi!  I'd like ____ pounds of ________ in my container please!  I'm participating in Plastic Free July, which is a challenge to use less disposable plastic.  Thank you so much!"

(There is also a small health foods store near the Whole Foods which carries bulk spices and tea which we also go too.  In the summer, I try to buy the bulk of our produce from our farmers market, but they don't have much in the way of organic or low-pesticide fruit, so it's a balancing act.  Everybody's local situation is different, in terms of what is available.  Do the best you can! :)

Now, what if you don't have a store that carries bulk near you?  The Whole Foods we go to now is new, and we used to have to travel 40 minutes away--we just bought more at a time, and made fewer trips.  But I fully recognize that is not an option for everyone.

Here are some suggestions you can put in place even if your local store doesn't have any bulk:
  • Bring your own bags (Canvas bags made out of a natural material are a better choice than the plastic ones sold at the check-out lanes.  If you don't have any, I like the ones Eco Bags makes.)
  • Don't put your fruits and veggies in the plastic bags the store provides.  I promise they will be fine in your cart without a bag.  
  • Try to make whole foods (vegetables and fruits) the center of your meals.  They will obviously have less packaging than the processed food in the middle of the store.
  • You can still ask the deli to put food in your container at a conventional store. 
  •  When buying grains and beans that you use regularly, buy the biggest bag or container you think you can reasonably use before it goes bad to reduce packaging.  When you go home, empty into a glass jar or container, and it will keep longer.
If you want to know more about shopping in bulk, read my post about it here.


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If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 

My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Plastic Free July! (Day 1)

If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at my last post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.

My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing.

So, today, I will share my plastic-free breakfast:

Plastic Free July Day 1 breakfast

Coffee: Beans bought in bulk and ground at home, Chemex and reusable filter
Oatmeal: Oats bought in bulk, milk in returnable glass bottle, homemade strawberry freezer jam

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Plastic Free July

It is quickly approaching my favorite time of year again--Plastic Free July!

If you don't know what Plastic Free July is, it's a challenge to stop using disposable plastic for the entire month of July.

Plastic Free July


This will be my fourth Plastic Free July (but now I have Plastic Free Augusts, and Septembers, and...).  In 2013, I took the challenge for the first time.  From there, I was hooked, and I felt so much better and my life felt simpler for having removed so many of the disposable products from our life.

So, I encourage everyone to give it a try!  You don't need to be perfect.  You don't have to find a solution for everything all at once.  But you might be surprised how much disposable plastic waste you are actually able to reduce!

Register here to participate!

Some suggestions to get started:

EASY
1. Bring your own bag.  (Try to use ones made out of natural fibers.  If you don't have any, EcoBags makes some nice ones made out of organic or recycled cotton, and Life Without Plastic has a portable one that folds up).
2. Bring your own water bottle (glass or stainless).
3. Say no to straws--ask for "no straw, please!" when you eat out or go to a bar.
4. Use a French press or a Chemex to make coffee--it will taste better (and is cheaper!) than disposable coffee pods, anyway.
5. Bring your own mug or mason jar for coffee or tea out.
6. Bring your own utensils.

NEXT STEPS

FOOD
1. Bring your own cloth bags and shop the bulk bins in your local store.  Bring your own container for meat and cheese.
2. Shop the farmers market!
3. Buy milk in returnable glass bottles.
4. Find ways to make kitchen staples instead of buying them in a plastic lined tin.  Try soaking and cooking dried beans (it's really easy, I promise!), make your own yogurt, tomato sauce, salad dressing, etc.  Even try just one of those things.
5. Use glass storage containers in the kitchen.  Mason jars work, so do old pasta sauce jars.  Take a look in your local thrift store.
5. Compost!

BATH
1. Replace your bottles of shampoo and conditioner with a shampoo bar.
2. Use bar soap instead of body wash.  Look for a soap with natural ingredients.
3. Use coconut oil instead of lotion.
4. Find toilet paper wrapped in paper instead of plastic.  In the U.S., Seventh Generation makes some.
5. Shave with a safety razor.
6. Use a bamboo toothbrush.
7. Make your own deodorant.

HOUSEHOLD
1. Use vinegar, baking soda and bar soap to clean.
2. Soap nuts to do laundry.  Try dryer balls instead of fabric softener.
3. Use bar soap to wash dishes.
4. Make your own dishwasher detergent.

A small (but important) note: Before buying something new, see if you can find something you already have or check your local thrift store.  It is a balancing act--it is important to not contribute to the massive amount of "stuff" that already exists, but it is also important to support small businesses who are doing the right thing and producing long-lasting products in a sustainable way!


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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Preserving summer food to reduce packaging in the winter

My recycling bin changes with the seasons.  In the late fall and winter, it is fuller than I would like.  And that has to do with the lack of local produce in the colder months.  I live in an area with four distinct seasons, and our farmer's market is only open from the end of May through early November.

Preserving summer food to reduce waste in the winter


Some things I end up buying at the store off-season which are not zero-waste:
  • Salsa
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Jam

To prevent some of this waste, I would like to take advantage of my farmer's market this summer and preserve some of the wonderful locally grown, organic veggies I can get there.  Even if I can't preserve enough food to get me through the winter :), I can at least reduce how much I rely on some of these grocery store items.

On my list:
  • Fermented salsa (recipe from Zero Waste Chef) (I tried this already with some out-of-season tomatoes, and it was delicious! I can't wait to use the local tomatoes.  This isn't canned, but can keep for several months in the fridge.)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Strawberry Jam (The canned recipes use a lot of sugar, so I think I am going to stick with freezer jam)
  • Fermented pickles
 What are some things you like to preserve? Any tips for someone new to canning?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Shaving without plastic: using a safety razor

One of the best things we have done to reduce waste in our personal care routines was to start using a safety razor.  We are still on the same box of metal blades that we bought almost three years ago!  If you are curious about making the switch to shaving with a safety razor, click here to go to my post for more information and answers to some frequently asked questions!

Plastic free shaving: Using a safety razor

Friday, April 22, 2016

Five things you can do for Earth Day

Five things you can do for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!  Looking for some ways to celebrate outside of the usual "use the recycling"?

1. Refuse disposable plastic
Bring your own bag, water bottle, coffee mug or jar, reusable utensils.  Refuse plastic straws.

2. Get outside!
Instead of shopping, spend the day outside with friends or family.  Take a hike or a bike ride.  Picnic.

3. Check what your town actually recycles
Putting things in your recycling bin doesn't mean they will magically get recycled if it is not something your town or city takes.  Check your town's website or give them a call to find a list of items that are recyclable.
Some things our town doesn't take:
  • Bottle caps (plastic AND metal)
  • Cereal boxes
  • Cardboard egg cartons
  • Aluminum foil
  • Toilet paper tubes
4. Start composting
A great way to reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill is to start a compost pile for food scraps and paper products that can't be recycled.
Some things to compost:
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Egg shells
  • Coffee grinds
  • Used loose leaf tea (no teabags, as most of them contain plastic!)
  • Paper products the recycling does not take (dirty part of the pizza box, toilet paper tubes, etc.)
  • Parchment paper

5.  Choose personal care products that are more natural and have less packaging
Try a shampoo barReplace your disposable razor (that costs a bajillion dollars in replacement cartridges) with a stainless steel safety razor. Use a bamboo toothbrush and make your own tooth powder.  Make your own deodorant.  Replace lotion with coconut oil.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Washing the dishes without plastic

How to wash dishes without plastic


Use a wooden dish brush with natural bristles that can be composted when it has reached the end of its life.
I use this one from Life Without Plastic.  It has replacement heads, which I compost when they are worn out.

Use dish cloths.
My sister knitted me some dish cloths from organic cotton yarn that I also use to wash dishes.

Use a copper scrubber to get off tough spots.
We use this one from Life Without Plastic.  They can be recycled after they are worn out.

Use bar soap instead of liquid dish detergent.
I buy bar soap made for cleaning dishes off of Etsy.  You do not need a plastic bottle of detergent to get your dishes clean!  It is a natural bar soap (no artificial ingredients, fragrances or dyes) that is not super moisturizing so it can cut through the grease.  Early on, we had been using Doctor Bronners, but this soap works much better, just as well as conventional liquid dish soap! (I also use this bar soap when I have clothes that need to be hand washed:)

Make your own dishwasher detergent.
I use this recipe, which requires baking soda, salt and citric acid.  The citric acid came in a large plastic bag, but we still have not finished it over a year later, so I consider it a success.  I might try this recipe when we run out, because it uses just lemons, salt and vinegar.

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Life Without Plastic, a company whose mission and products I fully support. - See more at: http://www.cellistgoesgreen.com/2014/06/plastic-free-shaving-using-safety-razor.html#sthash.BUS6DeLY.dpuf
 Note: This post contains affiliate links to Life Without Plastic, a company whose mission and products I fully support.
Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Life Without Plastic, a company whose mission and products I fully support. - See more at: http://www.cellistgoesgreen.com/2014/06/plastic-free-shaving-using-safety-razor.html#sthash.BUS6DeLY.dpuf