13 Earth Day Tips!

For my absolute favorite day of the year, Earth Day, I decided to hop on the list bandwagon and write my top easy tips for going green. These are things that I feel are pretty easy to implement into your daily life and can make a lot of impact.

1. Stop using K-cups

Seriously stop using these even the guy who invented K-cups regrets inventing them.  They are unrecyclable and are rapidly filling up landfills everywhere. And they’re excessively expensive. Buy one of these reusable ones: http://www.amazon.com/Keurig-Reusable-Coffee-Filter-Single/dp/B000DLB2FI

2. Bring a reusable mug/cup with you all the time.

    You never know when you’ll want coffee or tea or a smoothie or anything that comes in a paper or plastic cup. Doing this makes such a huge difference.  Most people buy a couple cups a day, so if you drink 2 cups of coffee you save around 700 cups a year from the landfill (because no one can tell me they actually recycle their coffee cups)

3. Bring a reusable straw and silverware with you all the time.

     So many straws and plastic utensils are thrown around everyday just to be thrown out, never recycled. Bringing a little case of a foldable spork and a stainless steel straw takes up no space and saves so much plastic.  Or if you’re at a restaurant where you can drink out of the cups without the straw reject straw offers. I have these straws: http://www.amazon.com/Stainless-Steel-Drinking-Straws-Strongest/dp/B00O92HN3C/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1429653540&sr=8-7&keywords=Stainless+steel+straw and this utensil set: https://store-jfohpy.mybigcommerce.com/repeat-utensil-set-avocado/ and the straw fits right in there and I just throw it in my purse or backpack.

4. Turn off your lights, water and car.

This is the oldest rule in the book but it’s always worth reiterating. Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, turn off the lights when you leave the room and in your kitchen when you’re not in there, never sit in your idling car.  These things add up and always help.

5. Bring reusable shopping bags

      Plastic shopping bags are the worst! They blow around and get stuck in trees and blow into the ocean to get eaten by sea turtles. Just think about the turtles next time you buy groceries. Bags are given out all the time and cost very little, there’s really no excuse to not use them anymore. And you can get cute ones like these!  

6. When you go grocery shopping, try to pick out the food that has the least amount of packaging. 

Instead of buying carrots in plastic, buy loose carrots and put them right in your cart.  Buy the reusable produce bags that are on sale everywhere and put your veggies in those instead of those horrible thin green bags. Buy bunches of leafy greens instead of buying the bags or boxes and wrap it in a dish towel to keep in your fridge.  If you never used any of those green produce bags it would keep a lot of plastic out of the landfill! Store your veggies in the reusable produce bags right in your fridge, or keep certain veggies like carrots in a cup of water to keep them crisp.

 7. Bring your own Tupperware when you go out to dinner for leftovers and bring them if you’re picking up food to go. 

   Styrofoam or those hard plastic to go containers are just going to end up in the landfill, and who doesn’t have a billion pieces of Tupperware lying around? Buying stainless steel is even better because they will last forever, especially these ones from life without plastic: https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/stainless-steel-airtight-watertight-food-storage-container-12-cm-4-75.html

8. Use bar soap instead of bottled

     Use bars for hand soap instead of the (proven to be bad) antibacterial soap that comes in plastic bottles. Use bar body soaps in the shower instead of body wash and if your hair can handle it, shampoo bars.  Soap bottles are usually always thrown out and end up in a landfill, and they’re used up so quickly. You’ll save a lot of money by switching! Try to buy soap bars that are unpackaged or only packaged in paper. Or save an old shampoo bottle and refill it with bulk shampoo and conditioner!

9. Never buy drinks in plastic bottles.

Chemicals leak into your drinks, and these bottles are bought and then thrown in the trash 20 minutes later.  If you want to buy a drink at a store stick with drinks in glass or cans and then recycle it or take it to a return station at a grocery store.  I can’t begin to tell you how stupid water bottles are! Water is free right out of your sink! And water in America is very safe, and can be even more delicious if you invest in a water filter like brita or preferably this sweet company: https://www.drinksoma.com/?ref_id=adwords_brand_product_soma_filter_bm&gclid=Cj0KEQjw6tepBRDLqLnxouaY_pkBEiQAPIOiBkknQNvWw08VebaXesxOev7EukYLt-CLJ8OLPFjfRdEaAnhN8P8HAQ

10. Plan your meals and food shopping trips

This is important to reduce your food waste, keeping food out of landfills reduces a lot of weight and reduces the amount of methane (greenhouse gas) that gets released when it rots in the landfill.  If you plan out your meals you’ll let less food go bad because you forgot to eat it and youll be able to send less trash out! And your kitchen will smell better and you won’t have to do nasty fridge clean outs.

11. Compost food scraps with a backyard compost bin or vermicompost if you live in an apartment. Or if you live in a city with compost curbside pick up, get a bin! Or find compost drop off sites near you and keep your compost in the freezer.

See above for why it’s important to never throw away food scraps!

12. Walk or bike as many places as you can.

     Walking or biking to the post office or store will keep the air clean and you happier and in better shape than driving! The costs of this will really add up over time.

13. Always keep the environment in mind.

     Our throwaway culture has trained people to use what they want and not think about the environmental consequences.  If you had to breathe the air that comes right out of your car or keep all of your garbage in your home forever you’d think twice about buying so much single use packaging or driving your car so much. Next time you buy a coffee or use a plastic bag, think about where that cup is going to end up, or where that bag could fly off to.  The oceans are completely filled with plastic, our landfills are quickly reaching capacity, and our weather is getting more out of control because of climate change.  Just don’t go through life not thinking about the environmental consequences of your actions.  Individuals can change more than you think!

Enjoy earth day, appreciate the earth! It’s our only home! And it’s really beautiful!

Zero Waste Overhaul: Kitchen Edition

Starting to go zero waste can certainly be daunting, but I think that starting with the kitchen is the easiest way to get started because there’s so much waste that you can eliminate just by altering the way that you shop for food. Since I currently live with my parents I cook in a VERY non zero waste kitchen. It is full of disposable plastic and unnecessary packaging, but that’s how it’s always been, and according to my parents will always be. (One day I’ll convince them!)

I decided to go through everything in my kitchen to see for myself, and try to prove to them, how much of the items in the kitchen can be easily bought without packaging.

Warning: these pictures have SO MUCH PACKAGING in them.

Starting with the pantry, since my Mom wanted to clean it out and organize it anyways:

I took everything out and made it into three piles: can be bought in bulk easily, can sort of be bought in bulk but you would have to prepare it, and cannot be bought in bulk

Can be bought in bulk:

 

  • Pasta, multiple kinds (though I haven’t found spaghetti in bulk yet)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Multiple kinds of rice
  • Couscous, Israeli couscous
  • Sliced almonds
  • Dried fruit
  • Quinoa
  • Peanut butter
  • Coffee beans
  • Granola
  • Tea

This stuff is the majority of the pantry. So easy to replace and we would get rid of most of the packaging we bring into the house just by buying these items in bulk.

Things that can be bought in bulk but would have to be prepared:

 

Things in this picture include

  • Canned soups
  • Bottled soups (in the cartons)
  • Canned beans and canned tomatoes
  • Unsure if you could make evaporated milk? So ignore that one for now
  • Soup packets
  • Macaroni & cheese
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Lasagna noodles (I can’t imagine people sell these in bulk)
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Rice pilaf

Everything here has the ingredients available in bulk (vegetables, cheese, flour for lasagna noodles, oats, rice and spices, popcorn kernels) but would take some extra time to prepare them exactly how they come in packaging. Maybe these things could be a phase 2 of going zero waste

Cannot be bought in bulk:

  

Ignore the left side of the second picture, all of that can be bought in bulk!

  • Certain types of cereal
  • Girl Scout cookies (these will never be given up)
  • Cheezits
  • Triscuits
  • Ritz crackers
  • Soy sauce, sesame oil, etc
  • Goldfish
  • Tortilla chips
  • Pita chips
  • Cape cod potato chips (a Wiggin family necessity)
  • Plastic bags, aluminum foil, wax paper, parchment paper
  • Apple sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pickles
  • Powdered sugar (but I just blogged about this, check it out!)

A lot of these things can be made of course, but it’s not going to be the same as store bought, so these things will either have to be eliminated or substituted. But it’s not bad! Eliminating these things will probably make you feel a lot better and you won’t miss them after a while. There are so many delicious zero waste snacks! And of course these things can certainly be made at home and they’ll probably be even more delicious.

I would say about 75% of our pantry could be replaced with unpackaged foods, and 85% if you add in easy to make items!

Moving on to the refrigerator. This is harder than the pantry because there is a lot more that cannot be purchased package free.

   

Can be bought in bulk:

  • Onions
  • Leafy greens
  • Green beans
  • Lemons
  • Carrots
  • Blood oranges, regular oranges
  • Apples
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Baby yellow tomatoes
  • Deli items like sliced ham, turkey, cheese
  • Berries (though not in winter 😦 )
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic
  • Other veggies
  • Other fruits

Can be bought in bulk but would have to be made

  • Cheese sticks (cut mozzarella)
  • Jams
  • Orange juice
  • Almond milk

Cannot be bought in bulk (some items not pictured, in door!)

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Apple juice
  • Veggie stock
  • Butter
  • Seltzer
  • Wine
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Other condiments
  • Salsa
  • Pickles

All of these things can be made! (Probably not wine for most of you).  A lot of them (dairy items) would need a supply of milk in glass that can be refilled, which I haven’t looked for near me cause I don’t drink milk, but is available to a lot of people. But the non dairy items can certainly be made easily like salsa, Apple sauce, veggie stock, ketchup etc)

I would say about 50% of the refrigerator can be easily replaced with unpackaged foods!

I didn’t add the freezer because everything in there is packaged and that will be a post for another day.

Onto the bread/snack drawer:

 

Things that can be bought in bulk:

  • So many different types of bread from bakeries/whole foods
  • Bagels from bagel shops
  • Cookies
  • Nuts
  • Candy

Things in bulk but have to be prepared

  • English muffins
  • Pita bread
  • Granola bars
  • Cookies
  • Candy

Things that cannot be bought in bulk

  • TJs edamame crackers (yum)
  • Pita chips
  • Certain Easter candy
  • Real Oreos

I would say about 75% of the drawer can be bought in bulk or made easily! Easy switch right here.

And lastly, the spice cabinet!

 

Things that can be bought in bulk:

  • Peanut butter
  • Honey
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegars
  • Canola oil
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • All spices
  • Chocolate
  • Bread crumbs
  • Maple syrup
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Corn starch
  • Corn meal
  • Brown sugar (if not can be easily made)

Things in bulk that have to be made:

  • Vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Lemon juice

Things that cannot be bought in bulk:

  • Vinegar
  • Crisco
  • Sprinkles
  • Toothpicks
  • Gravymaster/bullion cubes

The things that would have to be made are all very easily made and vinegar can be bought in glass which is much better than plastic! Toothpicks generally come in cardboard or can be replaced.

I would say about 95% of this cabinet can be easily bought in bulk or easily made. Easy peasy!

Going through the kitchen this way is really eye opening. In each case the vast majority of food in each place comes in packaging that could easily be eliminated. It makes the task of reducing waste seem that much easier when you lay it all out this way. It’s really not a huge change from your normal habits, just the way you shop will change, and it’s really not that hard! I’ll be posting about the way I zero waste shop soon.

Good luck! Happy cooking!

Herb-tastic

Herbs are great and what’s even better is when you don’t have to buy them! Fresh herbs can be pricey and something that is not pricey is pots from my parents shed and some dirt from the backyard!

I set out on this rare amazing sunny April day to plant some herbs for the summer! Since I’ve moved back to the suburbs as a poor college graduate its come with some perks aka a backyard. I found 8 pots in our shed and went to our compost but not really compost pile to get some healthy dirt.

I shoveled out a big pile and put it on top of our big sieve over the wheelbarrow to get out all of the big rocks and sticks. 

    

I filled the pots with rocks from our ridiculously rocky not yet planted anything garden:

And filled the bottom of the pots for extra drainage

Then filled them up with dirt, placed the seeds either right under the surface of the soil or 1/4 in deep whichever the directions on the back of the seed packet said, and labelled them with old clothes pins

  

And watered them!

I planted oregano, chives, basil, lavender, spearmint, rosemary, and another I can’t remember right now, will update later.

This is in contrast to last year when I urban farmed in my windowsill and planted my herbs in Mason jars with dirt I bought from the hardware store down the street. It worked well for sprouting them but I soon needed to replant them in bigger pots because they stopped growing any bigger.

Oh the difference!

Happy growing!

Homemade Iced Tea

My favorite thing ever is iced tea, it’s so refreshing and delicious, and it’s really healthy if you don’t load it with sugar.

UPDATE I’ve switched brewing methods:

Use 3x the normal amount of tea you would if you were brewing a liter of tea (one tea pot or about 4 cups) (I use from 2-3 tbsp of tea in my teapot depending on what kind I’m making).  Then brew normally and pour over one liter of ice water (mostly ice works best). I think pouring it over ice seals in the flavor well and you can drink it right away! Note from experience, does not work as well if you pour ice water into the hot tea. I have no idea why. Also if you’re going to do this in glass pour the hot tea in slowly or your jar will explode (really it will just crack)

Tea is one of the easiest things to buy zero waste, there are tea stores all over the place now and the ones I’ve been to have been very nice about letting me use my own containers. I like to keep my tea in tins because they will block out the light and air and so loose tea will last for up to a year, instead of a week or so if you keep it in the bags that some stores gives you.  The tea doesn’t go bad of course but it loses its flavor and intensity the longer you keep it out. Which is why tea in bags isn’t as good!

My favorite place to get tea is Upton Tea. They sell the best tea I’ve ever had. It’s an online/catalog company so unfortunately you can only get it mailed, but you can pay a little extra for your tea to come in a tin instead of a bag, and the next time I order tea I’m going to call them and see if there is a low waste way for them to send me my tea. Usually it comes in silver sealed plastic bags. My favorite teas from upton are their super grade rooibos, it’s incredible and makes really good iced tea as well as hot.  All of their black teas are amazing and they have a really good hibiscus tea.  They have a deal where you can buy sample packs of any of the teas for about a dollar so it’s great for trying teas you wouldn’t normally order, since most stores won’t sell you anything less than 2 ounces which is a lot.

I found a place called David’s Tea in Chestnut Hill and I really like the shop! They have a lot of variety of herbal teas. I bought a tea called magic dragon to mix with my hibiscus, and this is how I made it!

I have a teapot from Teavana that I use to make 1 liter of tea at a time.  I put in about 2 tbsp of the magic dragon into the pot and pour a liter of boiling water over it. I don’t pour the water directly over the tea for any other tea besides herbal teas because it will make them bitter and release too many tannins.


 

After I’ve let that sit in the boiling water for about 10 minutes I add in 1 tsp of hibiscus flowers


And I let that sit for another 7 minutes or so and swirl the metal basket around a little

And then I pour it over a pitcher of ice water, and that’s it!

Yay iced tea! I also sometimes mix this with some good apple juice from whole foods, or you can add some lemonade! But it’s also pretty amazing solo.

Happy tea making!

Zero Waste Powdered Sugar 

I love to bake and one thing that I haven’t been able to find zero waste yet is powdered sugar.  I use it to make frosting and icing.  So I figured out how to make it myself! It’s actually ridiculously easy.

One cup of sugar makes one cup of powdered sugar, and since I was using it for frosting I added 1tbsp of corn starch to each cup of sugar. If using powdered sugar for dusting or covering donuts or something, you don’t need the corn starch unless you are going to store the sugar. The corn starch keeps it from clumping.

I put one cup of organic cane sugar that I bought from whole foods into my blender cup with one tbsp of corn starch


I screwed on the big blade and let it run for 30 seconds at a time until it looked powdery enough.


Here’s the final result! I stuck my finger in so you could see how fine it is.


With this powdered sugar I made a blackberry buttercream frosting!

Except I did not blend the sugar enough and it was a little crunchy, still ridiculously delicious but definitely not smooth so make sure you really blend the crap out of it.

The recipe I used (I kind of made it up based on a couple other recipes):

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (softened a little but it’s not hot here so it was still pretty solid, I melted it enough so I could push it into the measuring cup)
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), room temp (trick to softening butter quickly: put wrapped stick in microwave for 5 seconds, the turn it over and repeat until it feels soft
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tbsp blended blackberries (estimation)
  • A little bit of water if it’s still not soft enough
  • Blend the coconut oil and the butter until mixed and smooth
  • Add vanilla extract and blend until mixed
  • Sift the powdered sugar into the blender 1/2 cup at a time and mix on slow until blended (powdered sugar will poof into the air!)
  • Take about 5 frozen blackberries and microwave them until thawed and juices have released. Put them in the magic bullet in the small cup and blend. Pour into bowl and blend.
  • If still not a frosting-like consistency add about a teaspoon of water into the blender cup and swish it around to get the rest of the juice and pour in a little at a time until desired consistency.
  • Place in the fridge to set for about 5 minutes and frost!

I used this recipe for the cupcakes and for the idea for the frosting (but not the frosting recipe) the cupcakes were AMAZING and I highly recommend everyone makes them because I feel like a world class baker

http://bakerbynature.com/lemon-cupcakes-blackberry-buttercream/

Happy baking!

Zero Waste Stores in Boston

Today I went on a Zero Waste adventure to find zero waste shopping in the city of Boston (not greater Boston) and I found so many things!

I went into Harvest Coop in central square in Cambridge and it was a bulk dream!! Besides the normal bulk foods (rice, grains, flours, etc) I found some really exciting things:

  • Vanilla beans for 2.99 each. Of course I found them the day after I spent the whole afternoon stressing about buying vanilla beans in plastic and writing a post about it. Go figure.
  • Animal crackers, adorable
  • Baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot powder, finally!
  • Brown sugar
  • Vegetable broth powder. I have no idea how to use this and the bottle didn’t have proportions of how much water to use but I’m pretty excited to not homemake broth (ain’t nobody got time for that)
  • Olive oil and canola oil
  • Multiple kinds of chocolate chips
  • Shampoo/body wash (I guess an all purpose soap…)
  • Israeli couscous, it’s so good and I’ve never seen it in bulk before
  • So many types of granola, who knew
  • Black quinoa (apparently this is good?)
  • Vegetable protein (seriously what is this)

I then went to a local kitchen shop in Jamaica Plain called Kitchenwitch, I’d been in here a lot they have the cutest most colorful and unique kitchen stuff, and I wish I could own the whole store, but some exciting things I found there:

  • Unbleached cupcake liners in a cardboard box!! I am so excited about this I’ve only ever found liners in plastic bags or a plastic tube
  • Bambu tongs, I found these online and I had been meaning to buy a pair! They were only 4.98 too which is awesome and had two sizes
  • Beeswax wrappers, like the abeego wraps, I was gonna buy some but at 20 bucks for one large one I think I’ll pass for now, that is in no way something I can afford. The abeego ones are a lot cheaper!
  • Stainless steel lunchbots lunchboxes
  • Bamboo kitchen utensils and large utensils
  • Stainless steel funnels (but no large mouth funnels)
  • Dish scrubbers shaped like fish (I can’t resist fish shaped anything)
  • Loose metal cookie cutters
  • Ecobags small cotton drawstring bags like the ones I made. But at 5 bucks a bag it’s a little pricey. I made 23 for about 11 dollars (I think only around 6 dollars for the fabric alone)

My last stop was the other Harvest Coop location.  I had been to one Harvest location in Jamaica Plain where I remember finding shampoo and chocolate chips and spices but not as much as I found at the Harvest in Cambridge.  However this one recently closed so I went to the only other location, farther south in JP, and there was definitely less than the Cambridge location, especially no brown sugar and they were out of shampoo. They did have though

  • Jojoba oil
  • Fig newton like cookies
  • Sesame sticks in multiple flavors
  • Even more types of granola

Some things I’m still trying to find:

  • Conditioner. What the heck why does no one sell this in bulk.
  • Cocoa powder. Strange since the bulk shops so far have had every single spice on the planet and a lot of baking things including multiple types of yeast
  • Coconut oil

On some other days I have gone on adventures to a couple other places to check out their selection. The first trip I took was to my local whole foods. They just built a massive whole foods a town over from me and my family doesn’t shop there because it seriously is the most expensive place on the planet. So I went one day to check out their new huge bulk section and it’s interesting for sure. It’s strange because it has so so much but also not even close to everything I would need. Cool stuff it does have

  • Dried dates (definitely a hard to find item)
  • So many spices
  • Beans on beans on beans
  • Bulk pasta shaped like dinosaurs named with the amazing pun Apastasaurus. Delicious and scientifically accurate!
  • Really big rotini (love)
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Honey roasted peanut butter (what)
  • Grade A maple syrup (a New England necessity)
  • Wildflower honey
  • Trail mixes
  • Lots of dried fruit options (which are not at the harvest coops)
  • So many nuts
  • Quinoa corn elbow pasta (i haven’t decided if I like it yet)
  • Honey vanilla granola that looks delicious
  • Awesome candy like juju stars

But other than that it’s missing pretty much all things you would need for baking except flour and sugar, not too many rice/couscous/pasta options, and no bulk cleaning products like castille soaps or shampoos, no oils

I also visited Boston Olive Oil company on Newbury St and they have so many different types of amazing olive oils and balsamic vinegars all in big stainless jugs that you can sample (paper sampling cups instead of plastic!) I’m not sure if you can fill your own containers I wasn’t able to talk to the guy there but I’m sure you can bring back your purchased bottle to get it refilled for a discount.

That’s all there is in Boston. Obviously you can find loose veggies and go to delis for unpackaged meat and sliced cheese, but for goodies always found in packaging these are the only places in the greater Boston area that have bulk sections. This is really sad because Boston does not have world class public transportation. The only two grocery stores in the city for bulk is the two harvest coops, and one whole foods in JP. Cambridge and Jamaica plain are not easy places to get to if you live anywhere else. I spent my college years living in the Fenway area and it would take at least 20-30 minutes on the train (a lot for Boston) to get to the JP location and even more for the Cambridge location because you have to switch trains. Not even counting the fact that the trains have barely been running all winter. This would be even worse if you lived in other areas of the city. Accessibility to these stores is key because with so many grocery stores at your doorstep downtown, not a lot of people are willing to put in the extra effort to go all the way across the city to ones where they can buy in bulk, especially in Boston’s ridiculous winters where everyone just orders delivery.

Maybe more stores will catch on, but for now I’m happy I live in the suburbs near a whole foods with lots of options, and my boyfriend lives in JP so if I need castille soap or other things I can get it there!

Happy shopping!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Warning: this is not a 100% zero waste recipe

Thanks to my Mom I have been baking my entire life and it brings me so much joy. Zero waste baking is not easy! Bulk baking materials (baking powder, baking soda, butter) are not easy to find (well you can’t find zero waste butter anywhere I’m pretty sure).  And I’m also still struggling with how to give my baked goods to other people without using packaging or giving away all my tins and jars (any advice would be appreciated!).

One thing that you’ll always find in packaging is vanilla extract, and finding organic vanilla beans (reasonably priced) not in plastic has been really difficult. I found a glass jar with one small vanilla bean in it at a local market for 13 dollars which is not something I was willing to do on my limited budget. And everything online is packaged in shrink wrapped plastic. Also, im really not so sure about the origin of most of the beans you can find online.  These are certified organic and fair trade. So, I settled. At an organic market in somewhere Maine on my way home this weekend I found two large bourbon vanilla beans in shrink wrapped plastic. (More on this market later).  The two beans cost me 6 dollars and I couldn’t resist the price.  I am going to recycle the plastic and hopefully it can be recycled properly. However, I live in Massachusetts so I doubt it.

 These vanilla beans are huge, so I cut them lengthwise, opened them up to free the beans a little, cut them in half and put one bean in each flip top bottle.  

Look at those beans!  

 My parents had a bottle of sky vodka they never opened in the cabinet they let me use (glass bottle, plastic top) and I filled the bottles up. (Whoops used most of the bottle!) I gave them a shake and put them in a drawer. I’ll shake them every couple of days and hopefully it will be delicious vanilla in about 3 months! I’ll post an update when it looks more like vanilla. Homemade iced tea as my companion

I’m bummed that I resorted to using plastic, however even if I did manage to find unpackaged vanilla beans online, my individual order would have to be shipped to me, and that takes a toll on the environment. Let alone the packaging that would have come with it. Is this tiny piece of plastic going to pose more of an environmental cost than the cost of shipping it from the factory to my local post office and then having that be driven to my house? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this, which one is better? In this case I think choosing the packaging was the better solution. If vanilla beans are something that could be bought locally it would be one thing, but they would have to be shipped no matter what. And I chose to choose the packaging over the further shipping it would have to go through to reach my house.  I am going to do more research on this question in the next couple of months, and I will write a post on it when I have more answers.
Should I give up vanilla in favor of a zero waste lifestyle? Since this is clearly a product with a lot of environmental cost? Eh probably not. Baking is too great!

Happy baking!

Homemade bags!

To get my zero waste shopping goals underway I set out to make some reusable drawstring bags. Here they are!  

I used organic unbleached cotton muslin that I got from Joann fabrics. I wanted to use any old fabric that we had around the house but the only extra unused sheet set we had was a really stretchy tshirt fabric from my freshman year.  Super comfy sheets but would be really hard to sew and crumbs would stick to that fabric like crazy, so I settled for new. However the fabric comes in bolts and they just cut you a piece off, so I got it totally zero waste except for the receipt! Which I recycled.

I used 2 yards of fabric and probably around 10 yards of the rope, and I used different thread colors to make them prettier and got 23 bags. I made 3 sizes

Small (9)

The medium is shown above (7)

And the large (6):

And I accidentally made 2 large ones that are shallower but it will be perfect for veggies.  I wanted to make mesh bags but I haven’t found a fabric I like yet so I’ll keep you updated! For now these will fit about everything I would want to  buy and I’ve written the tares right on the bag (on some of them, not shown)

I’ve already put them through the wash, I just pull them inside out and throw them in with the rest of the laundry!

  Juju stars from whole foods (my favorite)

 With the tare (this is just temporary with the pen at whole foods) 

If you buy small foods you can tie it off to make the closure more sealed

Happy zero waste shopping!

Getting Started

I am psyched to start going zero waste, it’s something I have been researching for about 5 months now, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve really started to transition over.  However, this is going to be a slow process because 1. I’m poor 2. I live with my parents so I don’t control what comes into the house and 3. I don’t want to do everything all at once because that is overwhelming and I don’t want to stress myself out (important).

I want to make a list of the things I want to do in the next 5 months before I move to Denver.  Once I move I will be going zero waste crazy but there’s only so much I can do now.  Especially since I will be moving with one car load of stuff so I don’t want to buy a million jars and such right now as I won’t be able to easily move those across the country.

– Make my boyfriend watch every plastic-centered documentary with me to get him on board with plastic hating (and do it in a way that doesn’t make him want to break up with me)

– Figure out a food shopping system that works for me

– Make/buy/acquire in some way various types of reusable bags

– Explore all zero waste options in the greater Boston area, see whats available, be equal parts encouraged and discouraged

– Make a list of all zero waste cleaning product recipes, personal care product recipes, etc

– Test/experiment with personal care/cleaning products (science!)

– Find alternatives to non food products always found in packaging (phone cases, calendars, light bulbs, markers etc)

– Acquire/make plans to get random other zero waste things (lunch boxes/sandwich bags, abeego wraps or other type of beeswax cloth, cookie tins, brushes, etc)

– Find other zero wasters!

– Convince friends I’m not crazy and to try to reduce their plastic intake too

I’ll probably update this list, but here we go!