#PlasticFreeJuly – Day 31

This whole month has been dedicated to Plastic Free July. All that means is that I’ve been making a special effort to avoid plastic this month. I’ve been sharing some of my wins and fails here on the blog, and on instagram. The point of the #plasticfreejuly challenge is to find out if there are places in your life where you can make a change, and keep making that change long after July. You can read more about why going plastic free is important for our planet along with some really basic tips for reducing your plastic consumption on my post from day one.

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For most people, starting out going plastic free is an endeavor in eliminating the big four:  single use coffee cups, plastic grocery bags, single use water bottles, and plastic straws. In my post from day one I showed you how I’ve worked to find reusable options to combat all of these things. It’s easy, and you can too!

The Top Four

Honestly though, I don’t live a lifestyle that involves the big four on a daily basis. Partly because I’ve worked to build habits around bringing my own (#bringyourown – it’s a thing) water bottle, shopping bags, and coffee cups. Straws are getting a lot of attention right now, and I was excited to learn that lots of people are refusing straws all of the time! Because I’ve got the big four mostly eliminated from my personal life already, I focused my plastic-free-ing on something else this month.

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My biggest focus was on our grocery shopping and where I could work to reduce plastic waste from the grocery store. I explored our bulk options more thoroughly, shopped around at different stores, tried new brands – it was a great experiment! It took a lot of effort at the store to branch out and try new staples. Don’t you always buy the same peanut butter? We get stuck in a rhythm of buying the same brands over and over because it makes grocery shopping easier. But it only took a month of exploring the grocery stores for me to make some easy changes to our usual purchases. I found three plastic free things that I buy on a regular basis (normally in plastic). Now that I’ve found the plastic free way to buy these things, I’m going to be sticking with it! They are: coffee, peanut butter, and yogurt.

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Coffee is a big deal at our house. We don’t drink it at home every day, but when we do we like fancy local stuff. We were buying coffee that comes in small plastic bags, as most coffee does. Instead this month we tried a couple of types of coffee from our bulk section at our nearest grocery store. Some wasn’t great, but we lucked out and found Mountain Bird Coffee (local and amazing) at our local co-op. I bring my own container, get what we’ll need for the next couple of weeks, and save $$ (it just happens to be cheaper in bulk).

Peanut Butter is another thing we always keep on hand (who doesn’t?). I was super into the Natural Grocer’s in-store made peanut butter. It has a great texture that falls somewhere between creamy and crunchy. Unfortunately, it also comes in a plastic container. I do reuse them as tupperware, but in an effort to truly go plastic free we switched to a peanut butter that’s available in bulk at Ozark Natural Foods. Most natural food stores have some kind of bulk peanut butter. The stuff we’ve started buying is extremely creamy and extremely delicious. They have crunchy, almond, etc. and we haven’t tried those yet, but I expect that they are all delicious. This is not cheaper, it’s expensive peanut butter – but it’s also high quality (no added sugar or anything weird).

Yogurt is notorious in our neck of the woods as a sad plastic package because you can’t recycle a plastic container that’s opening is bigger than it’s base even if it’s the right number. Finding yogurt in a recyclable container has been a mission of mine for a while. I lucked out big time on this one because in mid-July yoplait launched their new french yogurt line that comes in adorable little glass jars. Glass jars you guys! I’ve only tried the plain (I don’t eat refined sugar which can be found in all of the fruity ones) but I really like it. I already have a line of the jars on my kitchen windowsill holding little plants. Silly that I wanted something recyclable only to hold on to it! Eventually though, I’ll recycle them.

Comment below and let me know how you buy your coffee, peanut butter, and yogurt! I’m super curious. Would you be up for trying a switch to buying it from the bulk section? Coffee is actually something that most grocery stores have in bulk even if they don’t have dedicated bulk sections. Check the coffee area and you should be able to find it! Have you ever bought that peanut butter that you grind in the store? Is it good? Have you ever made your own yogurt? Is that as intense as it sounds? Tell me all about your stuff!

 

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Plastic Free July – Day 17


Chicken broth/stock always comes in tetra packs here. I always thought they were just cardboard, and recyclable – but that is not the case! They have layers of other stuff and most recycling facilities do not accept them because separating the materials is too difficult. So, the best solution is to make your own!

Whenever we roast a whole chicken, we either freeze the bones or put stock on that day. I planned this week’s menu around having a whole roasted chicken and then a soup that called for chicken broth. The broth can be made in a crock pot, so its super low maintenance.

All you have to do is add water, cook on low for several hours, and strain it when it’s done! We added a bit of onion and celery that we happened to have on hand to the stock, but just the chicken carcass will do. For a vegetable version, you can simply freeze useful bits of vegetables until you’ve got enough to start some stock!

Do you ever make your own stock? What do you put in it? Have you ever found it in a glass container in stores? If so, where?!

#PlasticFreeJuly -day 4

For #plasticfreejuly day four (a bit belated due to the holiday!) I bring you the #trashbag dilemma.


If trash isn’t bagged in the bin it runs the risk of spilling out everywhere and becoming #accidentallitter. But, trash bags are made of plastic which is bad in of itself. They are made out of a material that lasts forever and are simply thrown away. So, I’ve been buying these bags made of recycled plastic. But that was when my focus was on #zerowaste. This month we’re focusing not on less waste, but less plastic.

The plastic seals up your trash, giving it less of a chance of biodegrading. It’s all around a big plastic bummer. So for this month we are trying out paper bags. I skipped bringing my own bags to the grocery stores that offer paper bags and saved those to bag our trash (so the super best part is that they’re free!). They are smaller, but that’s ok because we don’t produce that much trash, and I don’t mind emptying it more often.  We compost our food scraps, so there’s no need for a leak free bin liner, but some layers of newspaper might help if you’re concerned with that. It’s been working great so far. I feel like this is a change we will stick with. Yay for stepping out of my comfort zone, yay for this challenge!

#plasticfreejuly – Day 3

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For the past few months I’ve been tackling my weekly cleaning every Monday. I have a pretty standard list of things like cleaning my stove, bathrooms, and floors that I try to get done during the day on Mondays. I’ve gotten my cleaning routine to be pretty zero waste. I do still buy cleaning products in recyclable plastic containers, but I do have three very zero waste accessories to those products that I want to share with you today.

The first is an alternative to the ever so convenient Clorox wipe. I cut a bunch of squares of fabric, put them in a container with some concentrated all purpose cleaner and water, and they’re good to go. I clean my counters, spills on the floor, dining room table, cabinets, stove, microwave, refrigerator, bathroom counters and sinks, outside of the toilets, and anything else you might use a clorox wipe on with these things. Then they get thrown in the laundry, and used again and again! You can make your own, it’s super easy.

The other reusable cleaning product that I use constantly are unpaper towels. These are larger rectangles of flannel that are serged around the edges. They are super absorbent and durable – way more than any paper towel I’ve ever used. We use these for cleaning, as napkins, to wipe the baby’s drool away, and more. They are also super easy to make, or there’s some cute ones on etsy! I roll them around an old paper towel tube and put them on our paper towel holder, but they can also just be folded and put in a drawer or container on the counter. We do still have some paper towels for situations that we really want something disposable for (think dog poop in the house kind of situations), but we almost never use them. (I know that paper towels aren’t plastic – they do come wrapped in plastic though.)

Lastly is the sponge. I was a die hard blue wavy edged sponge with the scrubby and soft sides user. I changed my sponge out at least once a month. It was made of plastic – a material that lasts literally forever, and I was throwing away at least a dozen each year. They would fall apart, or get gross, so out they went. Weirdly, I was kind of attached to those sponges though, switching to something different was really hard for me. I found some super cute animal shaped crochet cotton sponges at my favorite kitchen store. Since they are 100% cotton, they are compostable. So once they start to fall apart, I just drop them in my kitchen compost and start using a new one. They are also machine washable, so if I feel like they get something super gross on them I can stick them in my washing machine. I have since replaced the animal shaped ones with some that I crocheted myself. They are easy to make if you know how to crochet, or you can buy some! You can also find wooden and natural fiber dish brushes easily, or use a loofah (did you know loofahs are plant-based?).

We aren’t just creating a lot less waste with all of these alternatives, we are also saving a lot of money! Have you tried any of these alternatives? What other plastic free cleaning supplies do you use?

#PlasticFreeJuly – Day 1

On this first day of Plastic Free July, I’m going to talk about the four biggest offenders in the land of disposable plastics that many people use on a daily basis. But before we dive in to all of that, let’s talk about why I’m going plastic free this month, and why you should too.

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Most of the plastic that we use gets disposed of within minutes. Plastic bags, bottles, containers – they’re all made for the short term and yet they are made out of a material that lasts the long term, the way long term, as in forever. Plastic doesn’t break down, it just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces becoming permanent pollution. So where does it go if it’s not breaking down? A lot of it ends up in waterways. Scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more tons of plastic than tons of fish in our waterways and oceans (plasticfreejuly.org). That’s a problem.

One of your big takeaways from this month should be that it’s not all about recycling anymore. Only 33% of recyclable materials actually get recycled (National Geographic), and when they do fossil fuels are used to pick them up and make it happen. The zero waste movement and initiatives like the Plastic Free July campaign are recognizing that when plastic is recycled – if it actually makes it to a recycling facility – it’s just turned into a low grade product (this is called downcycling). Recycling is a great alternative to the landfill – absolutely – but it’s not the answer to our waste problems.

Whew, I’m glad you’re still with me. All of that is kind of a downer. But don’t worry, we’re here to have fun. All of the plastic free alternatives are super cool, you’re going to love this!

Ok, remember how we were going to talk about the big four plastic things that we can give up this month, easy peasy? Right, these four things are: single use plastic shopping bags, plastic drinking straws, plastic disposable coffee cup lids, and single use plastic water bottles. If you can avoid these four things, you can make a huge difference in the amount of plastic waste that is created on a daily basis. Over the next few weeks I’ll be going into a lot of detail about some of these things, but for today – let’s just get the basics down.

IMG_4142Single use plastic shopping bags. If you’re not bringing your own bags to the grocery store, you’re behind the times! Even big ole Walmart sells and encourages the use of reusable shopping bags! I just got some smaller reusable bags that I love taking to the store. They don’t get as full and heavy as the set I was using. Whatever kind you’re into, go for it! I’ll admit, most of mine are made of some kind of plastic-y material, so they aren’t totally plastic free – but at least they are reusable! (I’m going to talk more about this on Wednesday – my grocery shopping day!)

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Plastic drinking straws. This is one that a lot of people are getting behind right now. It’s no longer totally weird to add “no straw please” to your drink order at a bar or restaurant. Many restaurants are even switching to a policy where customers may ask for a straw, but aren’t automatically provided one. If you aren’t sure if your drink is going to come with a straw, I recommend preemptively turning the straw down. There are lots of reusable straw options out there for those who just can’t live without one. I have stainless steel and glass, and love both! If you’re still not on board, just watch this.

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Plastic disposable coffee cups with lids. If you are someone who drinks to-go coffee, you probably do it once a day. Just think about how much plastic waste that is creating over the course of your coffee drinking life! I encourage you all to seek out a reusable coffee cup that you like enough to use daily. Some really excellent options are the cuppow mason jar lid and the yeti rambler (this is great if serious insulation is your thing). Most coffee shops will provide your coffee in your to go cup with a discount, and some forward thinking places don’t even offer single use cups any more. You guys, it’s the future bring your own cup!

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Single use plastic water bottles. Get yourself a cool reusable water bottle, there’s so many kinds and I already talked about the cuppow and yeti so I’m not going to bother linking anything here. I think that the disposable water bottle must appeal to folks who are anti-tap-water. I get it, the water in my city is pretty funky smelling when the lake turns and that’s super gross. Our fridge has a built in filter, so we use that to refill our reusable water bottles. Some other options are: brita filters (or something similar) or buying big containers of water for a water dispenser. Make your water bottle something that’s as glued to you as your cell phone and you’ll be a more hydrated zero waste water drinker who is never without a reusable cup.

Ok, so I feel like I need to address the fact that a lot of my alternative suggestions are still made out of plastic or have plastic components to them. I think that it’s great if you find and use plastic free alternatives to these big four. But, just making the changes listed here keeps a lot of plastic out of landfills (and recycling centers).

As the month goes on we’re going to get more in depth. I’ll dive into every plastic thing I use throughout July and you can learn right along with me. Stay tuned on instagram (@paigelorrabeth) and here on the blog. I can’t wait! Are you ready?

 

dear trash, thank you

I’ve been practicing showing gratitude toward my trash. I like to think I’m mashing up a bit of the KonMari method with my zero-waste-ness. It’s helping me get a better understanding of what kinds of things we are throwing away and how valuable those things were. Saying thank you to each item makes me question, “was it worth the waste?” Of course the answer to that is up to each person and how much value they find in any given piece of trash. If you’ve ventured into any kinds of thought about working toward a more zero waste home, you should try thanking your trash.

In the KonMari method of tidying up it is a part of the practice to thank each item that you give away. You had that thing for a reason at some point, and it may have served you well in one way or another, so it only seems right to show gratitude for it’s existence. I think that this practice is meaningful because it helps us assign more value to our things. We live in a world of consumerism, and we are surrounded by things – often too many things. If we slow down and give thanks for each of those things, perhaps we will take note of what is actually of value to us.

0076293500442_AIn my home I have made a significant decrease in the amount of trash that we produce over the past year or so. We are a family of two adults (and one big dog) and now fill a tall kitchen trash bag every two weeks. Sometimes we have big projects that create lots of waste (like home renovations or big packaged purchases), but usually it’s just half a bag a week. We recycle a lot (most of our waste is paper, paperboard, and cardboard), and we also compost. When I started trying to reduce our waste a year or so ago, I made an effort to pay more attention to what was going in the garbage can. How could I work on having less of it, if I didn’t even know what it was? That turned out to be really effective. It was hard at first because there was a lot of stuff going in there, but as I focused and researched I found that there were a lot of things we were throwing away that we could replace with reusable alternatives or live without.

While that is still a part of my practice, I feel like our waste production has kind of leveled out. There are few alternative solutions to the things we throw away, and/or I’m just not ready to make the jump to eliminate those things from our lifestyle. So, instead of feeling guilty for having that waste – I am thanking it for it’s service.

thank_you_bubble-resized-600Thanking your trash is easy, you just pause at the trash can while you’re still holding whatever you were about to throw away and thank it for doing whatever it did. For example, I just threw away the bag that our dog food comes in, so I said, “Thank you for keeping Betty’s food fresh.” Easy. And, there’s more than that going on in my head. I’m thinking about that bag and how it is worth the waste for me. I want to buy my dog food in bulk every month or two because it’s convenient and good for my dog. There is nowhere that I know of where I can buy her food in my own container or in something recyclable, so that’s that. I’m happy with the piece of trash and how it served our family and off it goes.

The extra moment of gratitude is helping me develop a better sense of what kinds of waste we are producing. It’s also helping me understand what kinds of things are really worth the waste to me, and which things I need to work harder to eliminate from our lifestyle. What do you think? Would you thank your trash?

four snacks that are grain-free and sugar-free

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that I recently gave up sugar and am avoiding carbs in my snacks. So I’m here today with four of the snacks that have been keeping me going over these past few weeks without grains or sugar.

First for a substantial snack, I’ve been reaching for hummus and bell pepper. Instead of chips/crackers, I have been chopping red bell pepper and stashing it in the fridge (convenience is an important part of healthy snacking, having some pre-chopped is key). Then, I dip them in the excellent hummus that I found at our natural foods store (way better than sabra, though that would do) and enjoy.

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Next, a replacement of a usual go-to for a rushed morning at work, individual yogurt cups. Instead of the sugar-laden yogurts that we used to keep our fridge stocked with, I have been mixing frozen fruit, plain yogurt, and a little shredded coconut (optional) in small mason jars at the beginning of the week. You could also add a little honey for extra sweetness, but I’m being especially careful about my sugar intake and find that the fruit offers enough sweetness for me.

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Third, something that helps me with my sweet-tooth / sugar cravings. Frozen berries, shredded coconut, and whole milk. It’s like ice cream because the berries freeze the milk. There’s a lot of sweetness in all three of the ingredients (if you can’t taste that, your tastebuds are still numb from refined sugar). This one’s kind of weird, but I really like it.

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Finally, a snack for those times when there’s snacks out somewhere and you can’t eat any of them because those things are all full of sugar: mixed raw nuts. I have been keeping a small jar of nuts in my purse at all times. At work there are often sweet treats for all of the staff, and when I’m at a party there’s rarely anything with substance that I can eat. So these are a helpful backup.

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Any other snack recommendations? I’m still exploring, and will keep you updated with what works!

no gluten, no sugar, no snack time carbs.

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Feb. 1st marked my 3 year anniversary of eating a gluten free diet. I do not have celiac disease, so not eating gluten is a choice for me. I do however, have a thyroid disorder called Hashimoto’s. Strangely, eating gluten makes my arms break out in weird little dry patches. Three years ago, I read that there may be a link between that skin allergy, Hashimoto’s thyroid disorder, and gluten intolerance. So that’s where going gluten free started for me – I thought, “why not try and see if the arm thing goes away.” It worked, and here I am three years later, still avoiding gluten – for the most part.

I’m lucky enough that I don’t have celiac disease, and can eat gluten when I really want to or feel like it’s worth it. For instance, at the Indian place down the street, they serve the most amazing naan with garlic on it that I always have at least a bite of. Or when I’m out somewhere and get caught at a meal time with no gluten free options, I can eat what’s available to me. And, as a result, my arms will break out a day or two later with a weird little dry sore or two. If I’m really heavy on the gluten, my stomach gets upset – but I suppose that’s just from not having eaten it and not being acclimated to it anymore. Does kind of make you think though, maybe we’re not meant to eat something if we have to acclimate to it? That’s a whole rabbit hole school of thought that I try to avoid though.

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Now I’m trying something new. I am pregnant, and so I had a routine test for gestational diabetes that I did not pass. When I got the call with those results, I was extremely upset. I felt like I had let my baby, and his father down. I wasn’t the epitome of health that I was supposed to be. I read a little bit about gestational diabetes from some reliable sources, and learned a lot. It’s something that usually goes away when your baby is born, and can be treated with a careful diet and exercise regimen. So I read about what that diet looks like, and decided to make some changes. The next day I gave up refined sugar, and decided to avoid carbs as snacks. I had two weeks before I went in for the follow up test to ensure that I did indeed have gestational diabetes, but I didn’t feel like with just months left in the pregnancy, I could spare two weeks risking my baby’s and my health. The follow up test is a more fail-safe test that involves fasting and getting your blood tested four times over the course of three hours. Luckily, I passed that test. Am I sticking with the new diet anyway? Absolutely.

Until this time I had never really confronted my sugar intake, and it was high. I was eating a bowl of sugary cereal (usually Lucky Charms – damn that gluten free seal on the box) at least once a day. And I tended to have a consume all of the chips in the bag or no chips at all problem. Hence the new, no carbs for snacks rule. I have a family with a history of diabetes, and have just watched my mom make some major changes in her diet (she eats no grains and no refined sugar) for preventative reasons over the past 6+ months. So, I feel good about sticking with these choices for the long run.

The crazy big takeaway that I have from these new dietary changes though? It’s that sugar is absolutely, without question, a drug. And that I was addicted to it. Giving up gluten was hard, but as it became trendier, more alternative options appeared and now I can eat pretty much anywhere with all of the gluten free options that are available in not just grocery stores but also in restaurants. Giving up sugar was completely different. I absolutely felt like an addict coming off of some kind of hard drug. I craved lucky charms, and sugary treats in a way that I had never craved food before. I went through withdrawals that made me a crazy person for at least two or three days. One night I couldn’t sleep because I was crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason. (Just ask my boyfriend who got to have a screaming fight with me in public because of it. He’ll tell you, it was bad.) I would attribute the craziness to having reached the notoriously hormonal third trimester of my pregnancy, except that it leveled out after about five days and I feel totally better now. I wholly believe that it was the sugar, or lack thereof.

If you’re still with me, either you’re oddly curious about my personal diet – or you are relating in some way. If the later’s the case, stay tuned tomorrow for some excellent tips on gluten free, sugar free snacks that I’ve been enjoying over the past several weeks.

I don’t really get on the everyone should avoid gluten bandwagon, it works for me but I think that’s because of some really specific stuff about my makeup. Sugar though? I believe it’s poison. You should stop eating it. Just try giving it up for a week. See how that makes you feel, I think you’ll be shocked to find that you were addicted. Then stick with it because you’ll be better for it. And really, if you make it through the withdrawals, you might as well stick with it!

DIY Reusable Cloth Cleaning Wipes

In my ever-growing desire to be more and more waste free, I have found an excellent reusable solution for yet another disposable that I thought I couldn’t live without. The disposable was: the clorox wipe. They are so extremely convenient and good at what they do! I used them all over the house to wipe up small messes. But then, I threw them away! Ugh. For a month or so, we’ve been trying out using reusable cloth wipes instead. And it turns out, they aren’t just as good – they’re even better!

the containerHere’s how it works; I’ve got a clear plastic container with a watertight seal. I really wanted something that it wasn’t gross to reach down into the bottom of. Clorox wipes that lost their little catcher to hold them up at the top were always a nuisance, and these cloth wipes wouldn’t work that way anyway, so I knew I’d need something I could put my hand in to the bottom of comfortably. We just had one of these around already, but I am making a set for my mom and found the same container at Walmart.

DIY Cloth Cleaning WipesIn the container, I fold up a bunch of squares of fabric that I’ve hemmed the edges of. I used an old painters cloth that I had laying around because I thought the durability would be nice when scrubbing the counters or sink. It’s turned out to be excellent fabric for the job, but if you peruse the rest of the blogosphere you’ll find people who use old t-shirts, cotton, and all kinds of other fabrics. The squares are cut to about 8 or 9 inches. It was important to me that the square be at least as big as my spread flat hand so when I’m wiping up sticky messes I don’t have to touch the sticky-ness. I used a serger to hem the edges of mine, but any kind of hem will do. If you do go with a regular zig-zag stitch on this kind of fabric, make sure it’s tight. These tended to fray a lot before I gave them a proper hem.

DIY Reusable Cleaning Wipes

With the wipes in the container, I add a small amount of a multi-surface cleaning concentrate. Right now I have Mrs. Meyers Clean Day in honeysuckle scent, but Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap would work, as would plain old white vinegar. It just takes a little, and then I add enough water to moisten all of the wipes and dilute the soap.

Now the wipes are ready to be used! They are especially nice because you can shake crumbs out in the sink and give them a rinse and keep going. Once you’re done with a wipe, just add it to your laundry pile. I wash mine along with my towels, but they could go in any load. As they come out of the wash, I’ve been stacking them in a little container. It turns out they are kind of nice to have on hand dry too! You can use them to dust, or wash windows, and for other stuff you might do with other kinds of cleaners. When the wet ones are all used up, I throw the stack of what’s clean in the plastic container and start over. You could also just put the clean ones right in the container and keep it going that way, adding water and surface cleaner as needed.

 

Do you have reusable cleaning wipes in your home? Any pro-tips? Are you dead set on clorox wipes? Would you give these a try?