Tag Archives: environment

Are we going to clean up our PLANET or continue our toxic relationship with PLASTIC?

In case you didn’t catch it on Instagram yet: National Geographic just rolled-out an impressive campaign called “Planet or Plastic?”. Like the name indicates, this is Nat Geo’s multiyear effort to raise awareness about our global plastic trash crisis.

Three easy ways to reduce plastic waste

Not only are they featuring enlightening articles (with amazing photos) examining all aspects of this problem that we are knee-deep in, they are also encouraging people to take a pledge to reduce personal plastic waste. Considering the fact that all of us have been an active part in causing this crisis, of course we need to be part in solving it.

I am in a situation where I do consume and buy plastic. I love chips. Our kid just got a new ball and a few sets of Duplo Legos. I don’t make my own Cheerios or soy milk (surprised?!).

Because of circumstance, plastic comes in to my life. I am actually pretty ok with that. Living responsibly is about me reducing where I can. Maybe you are in a similar situation? Here are three simple things you can do to reduce your plastic consumption! I can handle all these without stress, being a full time worker bee/blogger/toddler-mom in suburbia. PS. No guilt though y’all. Just inspiration.

Americans toss 500 million

plastic straws every day.

Focus on the big four

Zero waste blogger Kathryn of Going Zero Waste often talks about the “big four” – four items that are key to effectively reducing personal waste. They are:

1) disposable plastic bags

2) disposable plastic water (and soda) bottles

3) disposable to-go mugs

4) one-time-use straws

Start your journey towards less plastic by cutting these four, and you’ll soon discover that there’s very little cost associated with doing so. Refusing straws is as simple as saying “no straw please” and you probably have a water bottle, grocery bag and travel mug at home already, so it’s only a matter of bringing them with you (more often, if not always!)

A trillion plastic bags are used

worldwide every year.

Swap shower gel for bar soap

I love this tip because bar soap is available here, there and everywhere, so you don’t’ need to buy this “eco-friendly thing” online. (Online purchases, even if plastic-free, do come with lots of packaging and miles). Whole Foods has a selection of bulk soap even. Switching to bar soap is easy and family members won’t mind the switch. If someone is worried about “germs” (which is a myth) getting one unique bar for each person works.

Nearly a million plastic beverage

bottles are sold every minute.

Be mindful at the grocery store (and in life)

Buy nut butters, jam and pasta sauce in glass jars – recycle or reuse. Pick pasta, eggs and rice in cardboard boxes – recycle or compost (after removing the tiny plastic film). Skip the produce bags or bring your own. Go for fruits without plastic wrappers. You know, the easy swaps that don’t cost you anything. Also, use trash cans. Don’t dump things randomly outside. EASY.

9 million tons of plastic waste

end up in the ocean every year.

Now that we’re talking about plastic AGAIN (sorry not sorry!), it may be a good thing to actually share some information of what plastic is and how it’s made! Nat Geo is taking care of that with this informative video, a part of the Planet or Plastic campaign.

You can read a LOT more on nationalgeographic.com/environment/planetorplastic and remember to take the pledge to do your best to reduce one-time-use plastic. Honestly, there are so many brilliant articles to read that you can easily spend a whole afternoon just learning and taking your awareness rating to new heights.

More of my personal stories with plastic waste, recycling and such in these Sustainable Anna blog posts and pages:

It’s time to spring in to recycling LESS! (Here’s why)

If you’re not buying recycled products, you’re not really recycling

Five easy ways to reduce grocery store waste – without planning ahead!

My Zero Waste page

Quotes, video and picture above from Nat Geo.

 

 

It’s Earth Month! And here’s what the eco community is up to

It’s Earth Month! All of us earthlings are celebrating our planet a little extra this month by doing different earth-friendly things we don’t normally do. It’s just that time of year; spring is here and we all want to up our game.

So what are people up to?

Renee Peters, model turned activist/model is doing a zero waste month aiming to not produce any trash and to collect what she does despite trying (like rubber bands around organic broccoli – hate that). She’s been doing it green the gorgeous way for a while, but decided she needed to really try zero waste to see if she could give up her (few) beloved packaged foods. You can join her on her challenge via Instagram @renee.elizabethpeters.

Stevie, NYC sustainability hero, has decided to do yoga EVERY DAY in April to get more in tune with her body and to better process the world around her, stress free. Now, it probably goes without saying that she is an experienced yogi so if you want to join her in her challenge listen to your body and don’t injure yourself!  She’s sharing lots of tips and cute videos on Instagram @stevieyaaaay as she goes through the challenge. PS. Shes’s stunning to watch!

Super-blogger and amazing earthling Kathryn is celebrating both Earth Month and the three year anniversary of her blog Going Zero Waste. She’ll be diving into more sustainable, zero waste skincare soon and doubling up on her activism for our planet to name a few things she’s up to. She’s always up to something good though, so I suggest you head on over to her blog to be inspired.

Nadine, a German in Canada (a kindred euro spirit!) who just had her first eco-baby, decided to get into the earthy mood by sharing stories about other greenliving bloggers who inspire her. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to search for inspiration in order to keep going in our quest for sustainability.

“I have decided I want to focus on the positive change happening across the globe in environmental awareness, education, and activism.  I want to commend those who act out positive change instead of just talking about it because they are the hope that I seek!”

It so happens that one of her inspiring features is yours truly – mega yay! I was so honored and excited about all the reasons Nadine loves my blog. Great start to Earth Month for me for sure. You should check out her blog; she’s got some great tips on zero waste living and cool, easy DIYs.

zero journey feature sustainable anna

So what am I up to?

Lately I’ve decided to be more zen in my day to day life – I think that benefits earth and us all. It doesn’t just reduce my own stress levels but colleagues, friends and family get to enjoy the laid back, funny Anna, which makes their days better! I am doing this by taking issues at work less personally, leaving at earlier hours, accepting that having sandwiches for dinner is grand (‘cos it is, let’s be honest) and by getting regular massages. (If you want the contact for a great massage therapist in League City Houston, holler at me!) This is step two, you could say, in my effort to detox my life, like I decided I would last year.

Also, I will be sharing tips here on the blog on what you can do for Earth Day April 22nd (like always ;)) and I have an exciting feature coming up on a yogi green blogger living in, wait for it, the Deep South! There’s not many of us around these parts and this chick is super cool so I am thrilled. Stay tuned.

Any plans for Earth Month?

It’s time to spring in to recycling LESS! (Here’s why)

It is that time of year again when nature bursts out blooms, bikes start rolling, we shut off our lights for Earth Hour and gear up to celebrate Earth Day April 22nd. Let’s just say, spring is in the air and with that, it’s time to talk environmental issues.

On the agenda? Recycling plastic.

Oh no! Not again!? Yes, again.

Here’s why; as per January 1, 2018, China stopped importing recyclable plastic from the USA.

Maybe you missed the news, and maybe you are wondering why that is worth blogging about. Well, before this year, China took the majority of our plastic waste (16 million tons in 2016), recycled it, and turned it into plastic goods made in China. Even though most of those plastic items I am sure were unnecessary, this procedure meant that at least some our discarded plastic jugs, lids, boxes and wrappers got used for something.

When you add the fact that so many container ships sail half-empty back to Asia because of the huge trade deficit, filling containers with plastic scrap made even more sense from an environmental standpoint.

So, why did China decide to stop accepting “free” raw material? You probably think that sounds like a bad idea, especially since they already have the facilities and manufacturing equipment to recycle huge amounts of plastic.

The reason why China is saying “no more” is they are cleaning up their act and marketing themselves that way. That term includes more than implementing carbon taxes and reducing air pollution by shutting down coal plants; it includes looking good and clean. They are tired of drowning in plastic and having messy factories full of bins of materials; sometimes contaminated and always needing sorting. They want to buy newly made raw materials; neat, streamlined, no need for warehouses full of “stuff”.

I’d like to argue that the clean “green” thing to do would be to keep accepting discarded plastic for recycling and to use less virgin plastic materials in their manufacturing of goods. They’re helping us ALL recycle! (That’s good marketing too.) The decision to stop imports is upsetting the market and undoing decades of progress in handling scraps. That said, it’s not exactly fair to put the recycling responsibility on one country alone either.

The west coast is now drowning in the plastic that China used to pick up. We don’t have the facilities to deal with it and let’s not forget, the biggest pushers for consuming virgin plastic are American chemical companies working against local recycling infrastructure (laughing all the way to the bank when they heard China’s big news).

It should also be noted that China is one of the top polluters when it comes to plastic in our oceans. Turns out, they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with plastic either. So what’s worse? Our “recycled yoghurt cup” being shipped to China, maybe falling into the river and flowing into the ocean or it being buried alive in an American landfill, spewing methane?

Can we all just agree as a society in whole we SUCK at taking responsibility for used plastic? (Yes.)

Now we are at the “So what can we do?” part of this blog post!

Whooop! My favorite part.

recycling plastic

1. We must STOP thinking that throwing plastic in the recycling bin is an eco-friendly thing to do. Our goal should always be to look down our recycling bin and see mostly carton, metal and glass (if accepted in your area or you might have to drive to a station to recycle) in a half-empty bin. We should leave as much packaging in the store as possible. Now, I love chips just as much as the next person, but I am not pretending that the bag will end up anywhere but landfill. I know that is where it’s going and I have to decide how much I want quinoa puffs today based on that fact. Let’s no longer pretend that an item that doesn’t get recycled, magically does (“wishcycling”). Knowing what really happens, helps us make better choices. Studies have shown that people who believe items are recycled, consume MORE. Read about plastic and its recyclability here.

2. We must purchase and support local makers who use recycled material. You can read more about recycling and get ideas for brands in this post. If you are buying Chinese, or other imported goods, look for recycled content! Our goal is to let the market know that we care about where the raw materials used in a product comes from.

3. Even though we live in a plastic polluted world, companies who use recycled plastic still have an issue getting enough of it for their production lines. Like I said, we don’t have the infrastructure in place. We can help by asking specific companies what they need and provide it directly to them. For example US based, eco-company Preserve accepts number 5 plastics (yogurt cups, hummus jars) back via their Gimme 5 program (bins available at certain Whole Foods). American Oka-B and Canadian Kamik footwear companies accept and recycle worn-out styles as well.

4. Write to your favorite politicians and inform active members in your community about this issue. Volunteer in a recycling and waste handling committee where you live if you have time :)

Those are my ideas for doing something about this issue! What are some of yours?

I am definitely not the “perfect plastic free citizen” but every action to reduce matters. Do you think about plastic when you go about your day? Have you made progress in reducing your plastic consumption this year so far? Let me know :)

Thoughts and ramblings about raising plant based children

I was brought up eating meat like most children are.

The first time I went fishing with my dad, a friend of his and my sister, I started crying when we caught the first fish. I couldn’t believe we were going to kill it and that I had contributed to its death. It broke my heart. The little mermaid was my favorite movie after all. I was told I was a party-pooper.

The first time I fried bacon at my mom’s house I almost fainted. The memory is so vivid. What was puttering in the pan looked incredibly gross to me. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t and that no one else faints when frying bacon! I did eat bacon when someone else cooked it. I got through it, resting on a chair during the frying and of course was later told I was being ridiculous. “It’s bacon.”

So I toughened up.

10 years later I had learned to distance myself from what I was cooking and dealing with enough to even roll meatballs. I became a pretty good cook.

Most people eat meat because most people eat meat. I don’t judge my parents (or any other parents) for raising omnivore kids; society shapes us and our actions. Nevertheless, now a mom myself I’ve given this a lot of thought and come to the conclusion that I’m not really okey with us serving flesh to children.

A child’s natural instinct is to love animals. To play with them and cuddle them. Young children, who hasn’t been taught differently yet, don’t differentiate between a dog and a pig – who’s the friend and who’s dinner – they’re both worthy of the same love. Who wants Babe to be eaten anyway? Raise you hand!

veganstreet
Borrowed this picture from Veganstreet.com 

I never thought I’d “go vegan”. I quit (most) meat due to environmental reasons but had never before “Cowspiracy”, seen any reason to do that or to be vegetarian either; the vegetarians I knew did not appear healthy with diets based on sugar, carbs, dairy and popcorn. I finally went 100% plant based due to health reasons and now as an adult knowing it was the right thing to do with the information I had at hand. Honestly though, I still struggle with truly finding empathy for the billions of animals that are being killed every year and understanding the actual horror of slaughter. Society has shaped me to be a hypocrite, no doubt. Maybe you feel the same way.

However, when I ask myself the hard questions and really take the time to consider them, the only answer I can come up with is the ethical one. Would I be okey with killing a pig myself to eat it? No. Is it fair to take baby cows away from their mothers at birth so I can consume dairy? No. Should beings of earth be tortured for profit? No. Do I support an ocean depleted of sea creatures? No. Yet, there is a brain-heart-disconnect. I wish to not give my child the same.

When he is old enough to understand that chicken nuggets are fluffy 7 week old chicks with breading, he can make the decision if he want to eat them. Babies don’t understand what meat is and if they did they’d say “What the fuck mom!? Are we eating Nemo/Babe/Sebastian/Donald!? Why??” Parents don’t have an answer. Anyone looking forward to explaining where sausage comes from?

Because most people eat meat and society has taught us that protein, calcium and iron must come from animals, some publications and folks believe that a plant based kid is malnourished. I don’t believe that at all; in fact it I know it is not true.

I am not an expert or a nutritionist (though in this day and age that doesn’t guarantee anything either!) but I’ve read a good book on optimizing baby’s nutrition and I follow several blogs on plant based family living. Common sense tells me that the “regular” American kid who is brought up on Mac and cheese, nuggets, pb&j, hot dogs and the occasional fruit and carrot is not a well-nourished kid. Yet, society appears to be fine with that diet!?! Ever read the kids menu at a restaurant? Nothing but fat, animal protein and white bread.

B12 is the only vitamin a vegan truly must add to their diet. Animals get it added to their food or they absorb it while consuming bacteria (dirt) if they roam free. So we basically need to do the same: supplement in food or eat dirt! (That’s a joke, we supplement.) Baby will take vitamin D and B12 (after he quits formula all together, which has it) and he just started loving our unsweetened, organic, fortified soy milk with calcium and B12.

As with all Utopian scenarios or ideals, our kid’s diet won’t be perfect. I won’t be that parent who denies my child birthday cake or pizza at a party because it has milk in/on it. He will eat the occasional pancake made with eggs and ice cream I’m sure. (Meat might happen on some occasion as well. I don’t know.) I do think that animal products like dairy and eggs are easier to explain to a child. I know there is A LOT of killing and suffering in these industries as well (maybe more) and it’s not healthy foods, but if people ate cheese only a few times a year we wouldn’t have the money to fund an industry of abuse and exploitation. We’d get the cheese from a local farmer who had a few grazing cows to maintain open landscape. (That’s land meant to be open not former rain forest mind you.) Idealistic and Utopian – I know – but explainable to my kid and makes life SO MUCH EASIER.

Daycare has worked with us and knows “August doesn’t get the meat”. In fact it was recently reveled that some of the teachers had had a taste of baby’s lunch box because it looks so delicious every day! They told my husband “he eats such good food!”

I don’t judge anyone’s eating habits (except the constant use of straws in people’s drinks, but that’s another subject) and I don’t blame myself or my parents for eating the way I did for 34 years.

Read this post with an open mind and remember:

Most people eat meat because most people eat meat.

Aside from culture and society’s dietary norms: Did Anna just drink the vegan kool-aid or what do you really think about it?

A final note. I am aware of rural communities and tribes who raise and consume animals for survival, who teach children respect and the circle of life. I love the Alaska homestead shows and “Naked and Afraid” where hunting equals survival; an only source for protein and fat. Just like I know there are Americans living in “food deserts” with only McDonald’s and gas station food available; they can’t go get the lentils and the multivitamins. I’m writing about me and the BILLIONS of other people who shop at the grocery store every week. What do we really think?

[Picture from Veganstreet.com – go support them in their efforts to educate!]

30 SUPER SIMPLE eco-friendly ways to combat climate change (for the average Joe!)

Super storms Harvey and Irma have shook the nation. And with that, no one active on social media has been able to avoid articles about how climate change (in other words we) may have caused these storms.

Though we haven’t exactly caused them, the warmer water in the ocean – a result of man-made climate change – has made these storms stronger and bigger.

Some people pretend money is what is holding them back from living a greener life, however eco-bloggers have again and again proven that that is not a valid excuse. Others claim they  “don’t have the time to make an effort”. (I think what is really holding people back is they don’t want to make an effort, also known as laziness.)

A wise man once said it’s not about having time, it’s about taking time. And these resent storms may have changed people’s attitude a little, making this the time to start thinking about taking the time to kick start some new habits which prevent further climate change. We can’t take back the warming that’s already been done, but we can slow down. Hopefully setting our children up for a better starting point when they are ready to come up with awesome ways to carbon capture and make salt water into fresh water without using too much energy.

Now, without further ado,

Here are my 30 SUPER SIMPLE budget-friendly and time-friendly green habits!

1. Buy organic food when it’s sitting right in front of you at the grocery store.

2. Use reusable produce bags and check out bags (keep them in your car!).

3. Never bag produce that don’t need to be bagged – see this post for more tips.

4. REFUSE straws when you’re eating and drinking out – every time.

5. Buy recycled batteriestoilet paper, kitchen towels and trash bags.

6. Use bio-based, all natural washing liquid and dishwasher soap/detergent.

7. Switch your plastic bottled shower gel for bar soap.

8. Use cloth kitchen towels to clean messes as much as possible.

9. Switch ground beef for turkey or better yet pea protein for ALL ground beef recipes.

10. Switch beef burgers for delicious black bean burgers.

11. Order a proper amount of food at restaurants so you don’t need to-go boxes, yet don’t waste food.

12. Never get cheesecake to go.

13. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, do dishes or wash your face.

14. Don’t buy clothes you don’t need (especially made in China). You do NOT need a new dress for every occasion. No one will remember what you wore.

15. Don’t buy home decorations you don’t need (especially made in China) including Christmas and Halloween junk.

16. Shop toys and baby items second hand. Babies and young kids don’t know where their things come from.

17. Buy eggs from locally pasture-raised hens (packed in cardboard not Styrofoam).

18. Vote for politicians who care about the environment and support a future based on only renewable energy.

19. Support an environmental charity via a monthly auto-draft. Most organizations let you start as low as $5 per month if funds are tight. Set it up once, then forget :)

20. Stop buying soda, reduce the amount you buy or get a soda stream to make your own.

21. Follow my blog and instagram @sustainableanna for more tips :)

22. Stop buying bottled water at the store for your family to just “drink at home”.

23. Order chicken or veggies instead of steak at restaurants.

24. Bring a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug from home with you every day!

25. Wash and reuse aluminum foil. No reason not to!

26. Switch your dairy yoghurt for coconut yoghurt.

27. Recycle!

28. Skip one phone upgrade, for example go from the I-phone 5 straight to the 7.

29. Avoid buying, wearing and washing polyester clothing  (or get a fiber-catcher.)

30. Switch your make-up remover and body lotion (plastic bottles) to coconut oil (glass).

There are more things you can do, like go vegan, go zero waste, buy an electric car, stop travelling, bike more, get solar panels, yada, yada, yada. But today I am not asking you to change anything major in your life for the eco-cause. My goal is not to scare you off. That’s why I love that this list is about simplicity.

Doing (some of) these super simple, minimal effort things, actually mean you care about plastic free oceans, clean air, climate change and preventing future EVEN BIGGER storms.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming or hard! And you’ll feel great getting started :)

Harvey who?

Hurricane Harvey, a whole lotta rain, and how you can chip in

Hi all!

Please excuse the silence here on the blog while we are dealing with and following along with Tropical Storm Harvey and the devastating flooding situation in Houston. My family is doing great. We are dry, safe, and without a drop of water inside.

I have friends who’s houses have flooded, are completely stranded in their homes or have been separated from family. So yes, we’re doing great.

IMG_3244

Caitlin, who lives in Lafayette, LA, and writes the great blog EcoCajun, put together a great list of how you can help the people of Houston and surrounding areas, affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“Being so close to Texas, and with Louisiana potentially in Harvey’s crosshairs this week, the devastation is all I can think about. After the historic flooding in Lafayette and Baton Rouge last August, it’s even more heartbreaking to watch Texas go through the same thing. The emotions are still so raw for so many in South Louisiana who have recovered and are still recovering from last year.”

Here’s HOW TO HELP THOSE AFFECTED BY HARVEY.

Thank you Caitlin for putting together a list when I am too distracted to get to blog work!

Stay safe out there! And here’s to hoping you all stay dry too.

xo Anna

If you’re not buying recycled products, you’re not really recycling

If you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.

I read this statement the other day, and it stuck with me because it’s so true (and people forget).

Recycling is an energy consuming process. It is not the solution to our waste issues, our plastic oceans and high consumption of resources, but a last resort that can minimize the carbon footprint of our modern, on-the-go, lives. IF we use the materials that come out of recycling, that is.

Here’s the twist; most of USA’s plastic “recyclables” are exported to China. There, they are used to make everything from fleece jackets to stadium seats. China imports around 40% of the world’s plastic scrap, so if you buy “recycled plastic products” from China, chances are the material came from your curb. It’s a crazy world (and sadly, China is drowning in western trash).

Another twist to the plastic recycling business is that many processing centers actually don’t have the funds to recycle low grade plastics anymore, like plastic bags and produce containers (think cherry tomatoes and strawberries) so they end up in landfill or being incinerated (dioxin pollution!) anyway.

Why? Because there is NO DEMAND for the products that can be made from low grade plastic.

So yes, we must stop consuming plastic like it is “recyclable”. We need to avoid it like the plague! Plus, whenever possible, we must choose recycled products.

In a perfect world we should not be shipping off our “trash” to other countries but recycle it locally, so in an effort to get there, we should buy locally manufactured products made from recycled materials.

Of course not just plastic, the other recyclables too; paper, glass, metals, clothes.

Need ideas? Ok!

Reusable water bottles

Liberty BottleWorks make lightweight and durable bottles from recycled aluminum in Washington State. In fact, it’s the only US-made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.

Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services.

Did you know that recycling aluminum saves a lot of waste? While 2.2 lbs of aluminum extracted from the earth creates almost 200 lbs of waste in the process, 2.2 lbs of recycled aluminum creates only 7.5.

Batteries

Can an environmentalist live without using “disposable batteries”? Almost. Smoke detectors, wireless keyboards and baby gear use them though.

Energizer now has batteries made from 4% recycled batteries. I know that sounds low, but it’s a start! By voting with our dollars and buying these instead of regular batteries, hopefully that percentage will go up, up, up. (Always check where batteries are made. There is absolutely no reason to buy made in Asia, when made in USA costs the same.)

Toilet paper, kitchen towels, trash bags

We actually really like Seventh Generation’s paper products and I encourage everyone to make the switch to 100% recycled paper. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use less paper, by opting for cloth napkins and cotton towels 99% of the time. We keep paper kitchen towels around for picking up the occasional dead cockroach or wiping greasy pans (then compost).

Did you know that if every household in the USA switched just one packet of eight kitchen towels to recycled paper we’d collectively save 3,400,000 trees in a year?

Seventh Generation’s large trash bags is a better choice as well, as they are made from 65% post-consumer recycled plastic. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use fewer bags by creating less trash. Avoid one-time-use items and start a compost for food scraps.

Did you know that if every household in the USA replaced just one package of 14 count trash bags made from virgin plastic with 65% recycled ones, we could save 221,000 barrels of oil?

Plastic bottles (when/if we must)

If you’re buying shampoo or drinks in plastic bottles, look for the symbol that tells you part of the bottle was made from recycled plastic. Every bit of fossil fuel saving helps.

recycling USA recycled material

For the kids

Green Toys Inc. have a bunch of different products likes buckets, water toys, kitchen play sets, cars, airplanes and an awesome green recycling truck. All their toys are non-toxic, safe, BPA- and phalate-free, and made in USA from curbside collected recyclables.

Re-Play make their products using only recycled milk jugs. While Green Toys focus on play, Re-Play has all the essentials for baby dinner time.  Eco-friendly and made in USA.

Did you know that for every pound of recycled milk jugs used to make products, enough energy is saved to power a TV for three weeks straight?

Cookware

SCANPAN utilizes 100% recycled aluminum – aluminum that might previously have served as beer cans, bicycle frames or something else. These pans are made in Denmark though (from aluminum consumed over there naturally!).

Did you know that 75% of the world’s produced aluminum is still being used, over and over, thanks to recycling efforts?

There are countless products using recycled materials! We just need to make it a habit to read labels so we can pick them out from the rest. Remember, if you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.

Got a favorite “recycling” brand? Please share it in the comments! :)

Read more about recycling and material’s recyclability here, at Going Zero Waste.

 

My ultimate guide: The WHY and the HOW of cloth diapering a newborn

For all the moms and dads who successfully cloth diapered, the ones that might with future kiddos and all the others who decided not to, I hope this will be an interesting post!

When you decide to use cloth or reusable diapers for your baby, the first thing people will say to you is how hard it is going to be. How much work you’ll have washing them. How they’d never do it. How brave you are. Most of the folks telling you this have either never attempted to cloth diaper their kids OR are the kind of people that think bringing bags to the grocery store is lots of work. I took it with a grain of salt.

The eco-community, on the other hand, sang a different tune and was a great inspiration to me before I even had my cloth diaper baby. Blogger Meredith simply said “You need to find a way to use them, wash them and dry them”. Great advice as it turned out. (Read her take on diapering here.)

how to use and wash cloth diapers
Brand new baby – brand new diaper

There are many reasons to go with reusable diapers such as saving money, that they’re so darn cute and the fact that they’re easier on the environment than disposables are. As an environmentalist you may think the third reason was my biggest motivator to do this (and more on why it is eco-better later in the post!), but the truth is, it was “all of the above” as well as the “do to others what you’d want done to yourself” thing. I cannot, I swear to god, think of anything worse than for two (or more) years straight wear petroluem-based, toxic, sweaty, itchy, disposable undergarments.

Buying ’em

Now, we went with all made in USA diapers and wipes for eco-baby (more brands here) because made right here is my thing!

We’ve been using Thirstes’ all-in-one natural diapers (easy, organic and stylish) and Blueberry Simplex (super absorbent) all-in-one. I’ve gotten pretty much everything I needed at Nicki’s Diapers, but there are plenty of websites.

PRO TIP: Buy a few diapers you believe in, in advance, try them on baby when she gets here and then order more of the brand/style that works for you. (We needed the newborn sizing for our baby, because he was small, not all babies do.)

I knew I wasn’t comfortable buying diapers second hand for my son, but I did feel comfortable accepting hand-me-dows from a friend who’s daughter had used cloth for about a year. It might be silly, but it felt different when I knew who’d been washing and using the diapers. So, I have a stash of BumGenius pocket diapers (made in USA of imported parts) in a larger size for later.

You’ll need about 22-25 diapers to comfortably maintain a routine of washing every other day. An organic, made in USA diaper costs about $20, though there are sales, bundles and tons of other, imported, cheaper options out there.

PRO TIP: If your budget requires you to later sell your diapers, to get some of that cash back, know that baby poo can stain natural materials like cotton and hemp (even though diaper is clean!) whereas synthetics wash completely clean and white again (without bleach).

Using ’em

How to use diapers might seem self-explanatory to some, but it’s not for a new parent looking into cloth. Here’s the deal; there are lots of options for diaper styles. All-in-one, pocket diapers, wraps. I read this blog post from Homegrown Heaven and found it helpful.

You’ll need wipes and inserts too. Inserts, or boosters, help with absorbency and you’ll need them for night time. Again, organic cotton works great.

Cloth diaper velcro open close
Doesn’t this picture make it look so simple?

PRO TIP: For a simple wipes-solution, use 1.5 cups filtered water, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (liquid) and a splash of organic baby soap for scent. Moisten wipes and keep in an airtight container. Keep coconut oil around for dry skin and rashes too.

You’ll also need a wet bag or some sort of container for keeping wet diapers until your next laundry day. For us, two large wet bags from Planet Wise work great. We fill one, empty it into the washer (no touch!) and fill the other while the first one is drying.

PRO TIP: Cloth diapers add inches to the length of your baby’s torso (fluffy butt!) meaning she’ll grow out of those onesies faster than her buddies in disposables will. Look for long and lean instead of short and wide clothes.

Washing ’em

Before I started doing this, I read a lot online about washing diapers. Everyone seemed to make it a big deal; you need to “strip them”, have them out in the sun to dry, yada yada yada. No, it’s simple. First, cold rinse cycle to get all the junk out. Second, hot wash with detergent and an extra rinse (to make sure all suds from detergent is gone!). Third, throw them in the dryer on low heat or hang try. DONE!

You do need a detergent without any type of softener in it. Softeners will make the diapers less absorbent, which we don’t want. I have been using Allen’s Naturally in my Samsung, front loaded, HE washer, and occasionally I add their special “Stink Out” liquid to make sure the diapers don’t smell. Apparently, regular, powder Tide works great for diapers too (a good choice if you don’t obsess about biodegradable detergents). Don’t go cheap on the amount of detergent, use plenty, get them clean, extra rinse.

PRO TIP: Don’t wait to start cloth diapering. The washing routine will NEVER be simpler than when baby only eats milk and poo is water-soluble and doesn’t need flushing in the toilet. 

All-in-one diapers have lots of layers and fabric, so they do need an hour at least in my dryer. We have a few (less eco-friendly) synthetic ones that dry super fast.

Cloth diapers and the environment
Love the different designs from Thirsties!

Diapers and the environment

Some parents may feel judged because they didn’t do the eco-thing and use reusables but they shouldn’t. Our society promotes a use and toss lifestyle so don’t feel bad about using disposables if your kids are done with diapers already. Some other parents may feel defensive and tell you that the water used in the wash is WORSE for Mother Earth than filling landfill with their kids’ poopy diapers. This is simply not true.

When it comes to water, my HE (High Efficiency) front loaded washer from Samsung uses 13 gallons of water for a FULL load (two days worth of diapers are not exactly that but I do add a rinse cycle). If you wash diapers every other day for a year, that adds up to about 2,400 gallons of water. Basically the same amount of water is takes to produce cotton for one pair of jeans or produce one pound of steak. The water use with today’s washers is negligible in our water intensive society. A baby will go thru about 6000-8000 disposable diapers before he is potty trained, while 30-50 reusables will do the same job. How much water is used to produce 8000 disposable diapers? I have no idea, but I know the amount is nowhere near zero.

Some might argue that there are eco-friendly disposables (oxymoron!) now like Honest, Babyganics and Seventh Generation on the market and I agree they are a better choice than the leading big-box brands. However, even if these “eco-friendly diapers” use FSC stamped cellulose as the base material, they still contain oil based polypropylene, glues, polyester, polyurethane, ink and are packed in plastic wrap. Diapers are not recyclable because of their mix of materials and will always be landfilled.

Landfills are already full of diapers that won’t biodegrade (500+ years) and their contents (poo!) contaminates our lands and rivers. (Landfills are responsible for about 20% of our country’s methane emissions.)

What’s next?

When our baby starts childcare at six months, we will have to provide disposables for him to wear, simply because care centers in Texas won’t accept reusables. I will go with something plant-based, and I’m sure it will be just fine.

At that time, baby will also start eating solid foods, meaning poop will change (ugh!) and I’ll have to figure that situation out and write an update to this post! We do already have a (second hand) sprayer for getting contents into the toilet (oh my, this is getting serious!) we just haven’t used it yet.

Finally, let me say that any routine that involves reusables is a good routine. No time to wash that one day that got crazy? Use a disposable. Traveling and no washers at the hotel? Use a disposable. (This happened to us!) The world will not end, and we are not failures just because we can’t be 100% cloth. Every saved diaper counts!

That’s it. But please, read Meredith’s post too.

Now, hit me with ALL your questions!!

Five “help the planet” ways to celebrate Earth Day!

Earth day 2017 is this week; April 22nd!

Our lovely and diverse planet certainly deserves some extra attention and helpful hands during these strange times (leaving the Paris Climate Agreement? Come on! Is he for real?) – what better day to provide just that than Earth Day?

And, yes, this is a repost from last year’s Earth Day post; I have a newborn in the house and reusing is a good thing ;)

Now, here are five earth-friendly ideas for Earth Day, that’ll make a difference and hopefully kickstart some healthy and sustainable habits! 

Earth Day action items

1. Do a “Zero Waste” day

Create awareness about our dependency on single-use-plastic and packaging by attempting to do a “zero waste” day! (That means you shouldn’t create any trash all day.)

Bring your reusable water bottle, coffee mug, a fabric towel and a set of utensils everywhere you go. Say no to the receipt, buy in bulk and bring your own shopping bags, produce bags and containers to the store if you need to go grocery shopping. No need for anything fancy, as long as it’s all reusable!

(If you must buy something packaged, pick metal or cardboard containers which you, of course, must recycle. Plastic is strictly forbidden. More tips here)

2. Go Vegan

That’s no dairy, no eggs and no meat for the day. Discover how nutritious and great plant-based foods taste and make you feel! 

Keep in mind that butter and milk are in a lot of processed or cooked foods so read all the tags, ask questions at restaurants and dare to be “difficult” if you need to be. Indian, Thai and Mediterranean restaurants often offer good vegan choices.

(Yes, thank goodness wine is vegan, so go ahead and have that glass!)

3. Share transport, bike or walk 

Leave your car at home and take a ride with a colleague, friend or the local bus. Or better yet; walk or bike if distance and bike lanes allow.

4. Skip the shower 

Save some water and lots of chemicals from going down the drain by skipping the shower. I’m sure you can “make it” another day without… You might end up getting a new creative hairdo out of it! ;)

5. Plant a Tree 

If you’re feeling lazy and the four above are daunting – start with something simple like supporting a non-profit that benefits the planet! My favorite is Stand for Trees. For every 10 dollars you spend, you compensate 1 tonne of CO2, support a forest community and they won’t offer a tacky gift or ask for your home address – no risk for spammy snail mail. (The average American emits 20 tonnes of CO2 per year.)

You can get involved and do good at EarthDay.org as well.

If we all did these thing everyday, imagine the cooling effect it would have on our climate! But for now, I am just challenging you to attempt them all, as well as you can, on Saturday – I know y’all like small steps.

How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Five easy ways to reduce grocery store waste – without planning ahead!

Ever found yourself at the grocery store or market completely unprepared? 

“It’s just so hard to remember the reusable bags when I go to the store! And sometimes I have them in my car but leave them out there and don’t remember until I’m almost done!”

I’ve heard this statement a few times. I am not really sure why it’s a big deal to go get the bags in the car, but apparently it is. Probably because the kids are DONE with shopping at that point, and the freezer section items are already in cart (do enlighten me, lazy bunch!)

Let’s leave the car-bags scenario off the table for now and consider if you’ve come to the grocery store completely unprepared: no reusable (shopping and produce) bags to be seen. Maybe you just stopped on your way home from work or an outing. How annoying!

But, are there ways you can reduce your waste output anyway? 

Yes!

Here’s my quick guide to bringing home less packaging, waste and fewer plastic bags, even when you are completely unprepared.

1. Most produce don’t need a bag!

Pineapple, melon, kiwi, carrots, potatoes, oranges, onions, avocados, eggplant; anything protected by a peel does not need a bag, so skip the produce bag altogether. Tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers (most veggies) actually have a protective layer and the dirt you bring upon them from riding the cart is minimal compared to what they’ve already been through before you picked them up. However, I get that it can seem strange to let them go bare. Start with produce with peels and work up the courage to never bag anything – except tiny things like mushrooms and berries that could literally fall through the bottom of the cart if you don’t. (Reuse any bags you do take!)

While you are in the produce department, ask if you can have the lid of a banana box – you’ll use this to pack in later.

Zero waste plastic free grocery shopping
“We don’t want plastic covers – we want to ride bare!”

2. Go for paper cartons, glass containers or metal cans

Rice, beans, eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda and other items will provide you with the choice between paper cartons and plastic packaging like bags or styrofoam (yuck!). Always go for carton, it’s recyclable (and/or compostable).

So is glass and metal, which makes these two materials good choices as well when selecting items like sauces, oils, PB and jams. Of course, you have to remember to recycle them!

3. Place the things you don’t absolutely need on hold

I’m sure you’ve got a few items on your list (or on your mind) that you planned on buying this time, which you could actually do without another couple of days. Leave them at the store until your next shopping trip, one when you hopefully remember your reusable produce, bread, bulkbin and check out bags. 

4. If all else fails – Skip the dairy

If your cart is filling up with plastic anyway, maybe you need some pre-made foods to get you through the week ( NO judging here!) you might feel bad about all the waste you’re creating. Lessen the blow by skipping the dairy aisle! Yes, dairy is a waste nightmare: a farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people. There are many good alternatives to diary, just a browse away (in the dairy section).

5. Be alert at check out

No time to snooze! Tell the crew to not use any plastic bags, you have a banana box in your cart! Big, bulky items like juice jugs, six packs of beer, paper towels and such, can go straight in the cart since you’ll be driving the cart to your car.

In order to encourage stores to stop printing receipts remember to say “no thank you” to receipts and printed coupons too. Did you know that the material that makes receipts “shiny” to the touch is actually BPA – a dangerous plastic coating PROVEN to be hormone disrupting? Knowing that, you don’t want to touch that receipt anyway, on a waste saving mission or not. 

(If your favorite foods in the whole world come in plastic or simply has too much packing, email the maker. Tell them to rethink their packaging: reduce or switch. If we all reach out when we see bad eco-habits, we can make a change!)

Do you have any other tips and tricks for the unprepared when it comes to avoiding waste at the grocery store? Let me know!