Tag Archives: green living blog

The green blogger you need to know in the Deep South! (Earth Month special feature)

When most people talk about The South, ice tea, rich foods, hot sunny days and mosquitoes come to mind. Green living bloggers? Not so much.

No offense Southerners, but sustainability isn’t exactly your best trait. Oil lands, high consumption, fast food wrapped in plastic and running the truck’s AC constantly when parked do not sustainable make.

That said, there are always exceptions and good environmental stewards live everywhere, here too, trying to inspire change. I happen to know a woman in Louisiana doing just that. Not only did she invent the most brilliant hashtag ever #resuableisinstagrammable but she also lives green, writes a sustainability blog, bikes (a lot), picks up trash, recycles, composts and hugs trees (they all need some love!).

Meet Caitlin of Eco Cajun

Caitlin

Because it’s Earth Month and us green living bloggers are feeling the love, Caitlin and I decided to do a blog post swap – introducing each other to our respective blog audiences because we are both eco-warriors in The South!

Catlin has been blogging for almost 10 years (so impressive!) and she writes a column for a local newspaper, Times of Acadia, where she discusses environmental issues and promotes a healthy and green lifestyle.

This time, it’s my turn to write, and so I had some questions for the Eco Cajun of course…

When and why did you decide to start a green living blog?

“I originally started writing back in 2009 after getting more involved personally in my green efforts. I wanted to share what I was learning with others, and show them how simple it can be to make green changes in your life. I had bought my first stainless steel water bottle not long before (one which I still have and use today!), and had recently started using cloth grocery bags, and those were kind of the catalysts to me wanting to do more.”

What’s been one important or encouraging change you have seen around you in the south, or in family members and friends, that you know you have inspired them to make?

“I think what I get the most feedback about from family, friends and this online community is about skipping straws or investing in reusable ones! I’ve had a lot of people either say they are more conscious now about refusing straws at restaurants or tell me they purchased their own set for themselves and their families. I see more people using cloth grocery bags these days, but I don’t consider that from my influence, haha. It still makes me happy to see!”

reusable stainless steel straw

I always want to know this from fellow bloggers; Is there anything you miss in your day-to-day life since you became “green”?

“Probably impulse shopping, haha. Although I don’t miss it that much! Especially when it comes to clothing, I’ve gotten into a rhythm of shopping secondhand or eco-friendly brands online, rather than going to the mall.

Sometimes, I also wish it would be easier to dine out without having to worry about single-use containers/utensils/cups. Just recently, I picked up lunch with a coworker, and although my food came in a plastic container that I ended up recycling, I chose to skip the drink because there were only Styrofoam cups – and I was so thirsty while eating! Although it would’ve been easier to just take the cup, I stayed committed.”

(I have done that too! That’s a real struggle!)

If you could give the people reading this, one eco-friendly tip for how they can make a positive impact for Earth Month, what would it be?

“Focus more on ways to reduce your waste, rather than on recycling plastic/glass/cans. Invest in good reusable items for your home – I promise you will get used to toting them around! I’ve got a set of reusable utensils and straws in my purse at all times, and I can always be found with a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug, haha. It does become habit, and it makes SUCH a big impact – even on an individual or family level.”

Catlin shared some exciting news earlier this month on her blog; she and her husband are expecting their first baby! She’ll be diving into cloth diapers, eco-friendly toys and second hand baby fashion soon. I am hoping Sustainable Anna (moí!) can continue to be a good resource as she plans for her little one.

There has been some talk among hardcore environmentalists about how not having kids is the best and most eco-friendly path for one to take, encouraging people to not reproduce to lower the carbon footprints of families. I asked Caitlin what her take on it was, now that she is pregnant, glowing and excited about the upcoming mini Eco Cajun.

“I think that it is true that having children increases your carbon footprint and your amount of waste. But to me, the decision of having or not having children involves a lot more than the environmental aspect. On my blog, I try to focus on the fact that you don’t have to live your life a certain way to be considered eco-friendly or zero-waste (like living off-grid, not having children, growing your own food and making your own clothing). You can make more eco-friendly or responsible decisions in aspects of your life and still have a positive impact on the environment. As I get ready to welcome our little one, it’s important for me to still focus on ways we can reduce waste, be minimalist, and shop secondhand. I am very excited to raise a little environmentalist, as well as grow our little family and keep our legacy going.”

Well said Caitlin! And I agree so much with that. Living life here on Earth can’t be 100% centered around lowering our carbon footprints, if it were, we’d all have to end it right now.

Speaking of ending it, let’s end this post by mentioning two of Caitlin’s favorite sustainable clothing brands, because we have to include some fashion :)

Amour Vert is probably my favorite eco brand – they utilize organic cotton and sustainable materials like modal, silk and linen. SSeko Designs is an ethical brand that helps empower women in Uganda!”

Thank you Eco Cajun! I love your blog and your positivity.

Instagram @ecocajun || Ecocajun.com

 

How we created a super green baby space (in the most budget friendly way!)

It’s been 14 months since we welcomed our little August into the world.  Our lives have changed so much (for the better) and I feel like I should talk more about how we are keeping things eco and budget friendly around the house now that we are a family of three! Hence this post :)

We always knew we were the kind of parents that would have our kid sleep in his own room from quite early on. He moved out of our bedroom after about six months and it’s been great for us all. Lots of good sleep. This meant we wanted to create a nice space for him where he’d not only catch some Z’s but also play!

Decorating nurseries and kids rooms can easily get out of hand. Let’s be honest, some parents-to-be spend hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars on rocking chairs, cribs, bedding, wall paper and decorations. Only later do they realize that their kiddo couldn’t care less, all she needed was the basics since she spends all her time in the family room anyway…

Because I don’t like buying things (hmmm) we actually ended up spending only 80 dollars in his room. In total!

I should tell you that August’s diaper station is not in his room, but in our master bathroom, so the cost for building that piece of furniture (which hubby did) is not included. I am not entirely sure how much we spent on the materials needed, maybe 100 dollars (plus time and love). If you want to read more about cost and needs for a diaper station, check out this post.

Now, here’s how we did it eco- and budget friendly:

Bed

I looked around a bit and concluded that there aren’t really any eco-friendly, affordable, must-have cribs on the market. Instead, what makes most sense for a sustainable family is to buy baby’s bed second hand. We got lucky that a friend of ours had just put hers up for sale, including a mattress (made in USA!) so we claimed that one right away. She asked for $75 but we gave her four twenties.

So what about the bedding? Well, we were gifted four blankets, my favorite being the one from SwaddleDesigns (100% cotton, made in USA) which tot sleeps on top of most nights. He does not use blankets very often, however when it’s cold in the house, we have plenty he can use; the four mentioned but also a fluffy warm blanket from when I was a baby. Chances are you will be gifted blankets, so no need to buy in advance.

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My 80’s blanket, second hand crib, reusable stickers, home-made pillow and tot.

For a mattress protector, I had a sheet that had come with our king bed, which we never used, so I cut it into four pieces – perfect size for a crib!

He also has a flat little pillow from Ikea (made in Estonia) that grandma surprised us with, accompanied by three home-made pillowcases sewn from leftover fabric she had at home. [Insert heart emoji here.]

Storage

Storage is crucial! We happened to have two dressers we weren’t really utilizing so we relocated them into baby’s room! Super handy.

For toys and various small items he throws around, he has a toy chest – also known as a diaper box! Buying boxes for baby toys is such a waste of resources and money, because we all have empty boxes at home. Decorate with wrapping paper if you can’t stand to look at the logos on them. If you always buy the same diapers, you’ll have multiple, sturdy, boxes in the same size, which can make storage look great!

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Yeeees. That’s how it’s done.

Toys

He has some of my old stuffed animals and puzzles, second hand trains and gimmicks, hand me down books from friends, and a few new wooden toys his grandma and great grandma got him. He is not bored or neglected; he is just not overwhelmed with new plastic toys.

What I have come to realize is that it’s impossible to know what he will find amusing and actually play with anyway! For example, he has a few cars but only wants to play with trains?! He likes to throw things around (a lot) so any type item works for that activity (read empty plastic containers we would recycle otherwise). He likes to walk around the house and find things in drawers too, so we keep our lower areas safe for him to play with whatever he picks up.

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Christmas gift from grandma. I love this one – so cute.

The important thing I learned was that having an infant is somewhat boring and no matter how much gear you have, the first three months of babies life aren’t going to go by any faster. Don’t get a bunch of baby chairs, swings and rattle toys – baby just wants to be with YOU. Baby gym? You mean a strap with hanging objects you tie up between two chairs?

Yes, I am that mom.

I did get him a pushcart so he could practice walking. It also came with a bunch of colorful, wooden building blocks too! He uses it in the family room so I haven’t included the cost of that. Read more about it in this blog post. (What I am also hinting at here is that babies don’t need sit-in walkers in plastic to learn how to walk. Actually, they become better crawlers without high-tech walking tools. Crawling helps develop baby’s eye to hand coordination. Yay.)

Wall art and decor

We moved baby into the previous office space where walls are white; a blank canvas, perfect for a baby room. We ended up getting some wall stickers (made in Germany) from my mom, which adds some fun and color. They stick and peel off without damage so that’s perfect. I also had an old picture of an elephant we hung (I had used the frame for other pictures over the years but the original art was still in it!)

The main piece of art in his room is a beautiful growth chart ruler, a gift from a dear friend, which we love and treasure. It’s handmade in New Hampshire by Headwaters Studio.

It’s printed on the highest grade of CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant Baltic birch plywood with solvent-free, low/no-VOC inks.

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We have two chairs in his room as well, for us to sit on (or him to play on?) because we had no other place to put them when we moved the computer out of the “office” to take their place in the family room. Zero dollars spent though – again!

I feel great about his room and what else does a baby, or toddler, need anyway?

If you are getting ready to decorate a nursery or a revamp a toddler room and have specific questions on how we did it eco, let me know in the comments :)

 

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?

How quitting Facebook made me a better and more successful blogger

As part of my efforts to detox my life, I quit Facebook last year.

I didn’t have a blog account, just a regular, personal Facebook page, where I would share my blog posts and a select few other updates. I was worried about leaving it behind, as it did drive some traffic to the blog. (And by “some” I mean like 15 views per post, not 200.) Still, I decided that a few blog views wasn’t enough to justify me “being on Facebook”.

What I have found since I left, is that it has made me a better blogger. Maybe you haven’t noticed, maybe you have; it has made it easier to write honest, more personal posts with my own thoughts and, sometimes, strong opinions. Turns out, I was experiencing negativity and judgment from Facebook “friends”!

Who here can say that your friends from high school actually LIKE you and want you to succeed? Aha. That’s what I thought; two friends do. The rest of them remember how [insert personality trait here] you were, and kind of resent how confident you are now. Also, how keen would you be to show them pictures of yourself with a skin rash all over your face? Right.

Another part that I realized had even more of a negative effect on me was that good friends didn’t support me. They knew I wanted to build a successful blog (most bloggers do!) yet they rarely (or never) shared a single post or even took the time to give me a thumbs up.

Many of my posts dealt/deal with climate change, protecting our environment and being more aware of our actions here in the rich part of the world, which I would think are posts worthy of liking, thus it must be they either 1. Found me so annoying that even spreading good messages was appalling or 2. They were afraid of being judged by their “friends” for being stewards of the environment or 3. Just thought it was too much work to help a friend out (which kind of implies that we are not friends) or 4. Never actually had time to read or even push like (or sad emoji or whatever) 5. Had no idea I was blogging.

Whatever their reasons were, I realized that constantly sharing blog posts and not getting much of a response from people I hold dear had been affecting me negatively. (That might sound silly, to base your value on other’s opinions/engagement, but I think we need to admit that this is what social media does to (most of) us.)

I can also share that quitting Facebook has made me a more successful blogger! I define success as being proud of what I write, getting a text or two about the content I just published, increasing traffic (compared to previous month) and gaining a few followers. I run a very small blog and I don’t have hopes of becoming the next “big thing” but I want to spread the good word, help earth and help people feel better – obviously I need somebody to read ;) Happiness is success!

The few (spectacular) friends that used to follow and support my blog on Facebook have signed up to follow the blog via email and/or we follow each other on Instagram – which works so much better and is a much more positive space.

Ultimately, leaving Facebook behind allowed me to become “Sustainable Anna” which in turn has made me super excited about blogging again! (Pretty darn fantastic, if you ask me, that I feel that way about blogging almost four years, a pregnancy and a baby later.) In order to live a balanced life in which I can be good to earth and people, I need to be good to me.

To all of you who read, follow and keep this a positive space – thank you! I always welcome your comments, opinions and questions – stirring up conversation is why bloggers blog! We don’t always have all the answers, but we like to think that we do ;)

I would love to know if anyone else has cut the chords with social media in any way, shape or form and what happened after. Or maybe you just need a push to push that “delete” button? Also, do you think a blogger should stay on a social media platform that impacts their personal life negatively just for the potential to, maybe, “reach” people that wouldn’t normally read a green living blog? Let me know.

Xoxo Anna

Anniversary post: Four years since I went “green” and changed my world (and maybe yours!)

Hi!

I’m Anna and I’m on a Not Made in China Challenge. Today happens to be my challenge anniversary! That’s right, four years ago today I pledged to stop over-consuming, stop supporting unethical fashion brands and to buy as much (%wise) made in USA items as possible.

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Hi there! This is me :)

This pledge started my journey towards green living. Before that, I thought recycling, bringing bags to the grocery store and supporting World Wildlife Foundation with a bit of cash each month was the definition of being “eco friendly”. Yes, we all start somewhere. (If you’re not even doing those things, take a minute and reflect.)

Every year since I started the challenge, I’ve taken different steps to lower my carbon footprint like starting a compost, switching cars, limiting my shopping, quitting beef, to name a few and this year is no different.

More specifically, in 2017 I have:

  • Gone plant based for real. Hardly any cheating, guys! My husband has joined in on it too – like 90% joined in. I am so proud and impressed by his actions.
  • Kept up with cloth diapering our bundle of cuteness and poop. (Update post coming soon!)
  • Joined the Sierra Club and Planet Parenthood as a monthly donor. So easy.
  • Shopped even less (for myself) than last year. How is that even possible?!
  • Seriously revamped my bathroom/beauty routine meaning fewer, only all natural products in mostly zero waste packaging. Daily make-up no more.

I’m proud of all my efforts but going plant based has been the best decision ever. It takes a lot of thought and motivation and I did cheat during the holidays because gingerbread and cheese. However, I recognize that going vegan is a work in progress just like the not made in China challenge was (and is), so I’m not too hard on myself. I’ll get there :)

So, have I failed my Not Made in China Challenge at all?

YES. Oh my god, yes.

Keeping a baby happy and healthy takes time and thought which leads to shortcuts. There’s been take out in styrofoam, some unnecessary driving around to keep baby asleep in the car, baby things I didn’t need (erhm, sorry not sorry) and also a few items MADE IN CHINA! [Insert panic emoji here.] Namely a high chair, a robot vacuum, backsplash tile, a rain cover for the car seat, a pack and go stroller and a new pod-free coffee maker (hallelujah Ninja!).

I know, I know. I’ve gotten more China items this year than I did for the past three combined!

I guess some years you “need” things and some years you don’t. Having a new baby I think automatically classifies 2017 as a year we did need stuff. (A coffee maker and a robot vacuum fall in that baby-category! They do! Both were Christmas gifts for ourselves.) I actually think we’ve done really well acquiring very, very few things of which most were made in USA, Fair Trade or second hand. Go us.

Best Nine 2017 Sustainableanna
Best nine on Instagram 2017. I absolutely love all these pictures!

2017. It’s been an interesting year. (Don’t get me started on Trump.) It’s been a busy year too for me; not just at home with baby but at work as well. I haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to (wrote 45 posts compared to 60 in 2016) but that’s ok. This green mama/manager/newly crowned vegan cook can’t do it all. (Hint, neither can you.)

I’m thankful for everyone reading, commenting, engaging, and sharing! Also, I am so happy and grateful that I get to inspire you and be a small part of your journey towards a greener life with less consumption, better choices, less meat and most importantly: increased awareness.

Stick around for 2018 why don’t you!? I promise to do my best to make you think, smile and learn.

Happy new year guys.

Here’s to another year on the challenge.

PS. Please, pretty please, share your small or big eco-successes you had in 2017 in the comments. That would make me and everyone reading super thrilled and pumped for the new year :)

What is Climate Change? 17 questions answered.

My husband just sent me this AMAZING article from the New York Times:

Climate change questions answered

I don’t normally just share an article without putting my own words to it, however this one just NEEDS TO BE READ. And shared.

Please share it. Send it on to the “doubters” (who act like this is religion to be “believed in” when in fact, it is fact).

This article covers brilliantly what climate change actually is, how it works, what the repercussions are and provides the proof behind each answer.

Of course, they also answer the question: What can we do?

Read their tips and also find lots of inspiration here on the blog. So often, after we’ve talked about switching our light bulbs and travelling less, we forget to mention a “little” problem I like to call overconsumption of goods. That’s where many my tips and posts come in handy :)

*****

Here is the direct link:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/climate/what-is-climate-change.html

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.

 

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!

Rocking a compost (when your thumbs don’t know green!)

We’re finally composting!

Anyone who knows me, knows that my thumbs are a color not even remotely related to green. Just ask my mom if I’ve ever watered her plants correctly or ask my dad if I did a “great job” mowing the lawn, summer of 2000. That’s why I am so excited and proud to be rocking my backyard compost!

I decided that a proper compost was the next thing we needed to implement in our daily routine in order to handle our family’s waste better and living a greener life. Reading zero waste blogs, by people who are like experts in the matter, inspired me so much to get this done!

For the longest time we’ve been all about reusables, recycling, bulk buying and BYO bags so my husband and I hardly ever took out the trash (I’m also an expert at turning leftovers into new meals). We were also letting living in Houston hold us back – so humid, so many possums we feared – would a compost work? But it was just us being lazy, dragging our feet, and making excuses! Fall 2016 – we got down to business.

Here it is. My soil factory!

Made in USA Envirocycle tumbler composter
Made in USA Envirocycle composter

What do we compost?

A compost should consist of about 75% green material and 25% brown. The green is ALL the food scraps and grass (except meat and bones if we ever have that) and the brown is the paper towels, toilet rolls and dry leaves. I don’t pay too much attention to my compost “mix” at the moment. I am just filling it with kitchen scraps and watching it all decompose. If your compost seems “wet” you need to add more browns.

Why do we compost?

It’s important to compost because even the “natural” waste we throw in our kitchen bins cannot decompose in a landfill. All bio products need oxygen (air) to do so, and if none present, which is the case in landfills, all you’ll have is trash build up (that’ll last forever) causing methane emissions. Even if you use bio-degradable bags, food scraps will NEVER become soil in a landfill. About 20% of human methane (powerful greenhouse gas) emissions in USA come from waste decomposition!

The CO2 created in a compost is negligible in comparison and is part of a natural system of turning food into soil. After you’ve had a compost for a while, you end up with fertile, rich soil you can sprinkle in your yard or use to plant flowers or veggies. (Or even sell to hobby-gardeners who don’t compost themselves!)

How do we compost?

I am lazy. I need pre-made comfort. So, we use two tumbler type compost bins from Envirocycle. These little guys come pre-assembled, in a box, so the effort is minimal (hurray!). I got them online and yes, off course they’re made in the USA!

The Envirocycle compost is rust-protected, BPA free, and comes with a five-year warranty. Most importantly the design is small, modern-looking, possum free and easy to use, even for a garden disaster like me. We fill one up (for about 2-3 months), rotate the drum every 3-4 days, and then watch the trash turn to black soil, while we fill up the other. It came as a total surprise to me how fast the smell inside the tumbler goes from “trash” to the smell of the rich dirt I remember from playing outside in my childhood. Black gold. Thumbs up.

We also collect compost tea in the bottom of the compost, which we use as fertilizer for indoor plants. The large tumbler is $229 and the small is $169.(We bought the small one first to try the system, then added a second one when I figured out how I wanted to do it. The larger tumbler does roll a lot better than the small one does. Read more at Envirocycle.com.)

Inside, we use an air-tight Tupperware for collecting the greens and a large open bowl for the browns. We decided to just use containers we already had at home. Every few days, or up to a week sometimes, I empty them outside in the compost.

There are lots of ways to rock an eco-friendly compost bin and reduce kitchen waste; anything from fancy indoor compost systems like the Zera Food Recycler to classic outside worm bins. Search online, check zero waste blogs, and I am sure you’ll find a system that works for your family too.

If we can do it – you can do it!

Checklist: Five easy steps to becoming a conscious consumer

Ever wondered what goes on inside the head of a conscious consumer? Maybe you consider yourself to be one or maybe you are well aware that you’re quite the impulse shopper, buying things without really thinking it through. 

No matter which group of people you belong to, let me tell you that conscious shopping is quite the process!

I consider myself an extremely conscious consumer. I may be taking it a bit too far sometimes. Anyway, I decided I should write a post about what happens inside my head when I shop. Write down all the steps, for your entertainment ;).

One purchase that I am particularly excited about is our new thermometer! Since it’s a must to have one when you have a new baby (so we read) we figured we better get one sooner rather than later. It so happened that I had been given a Babies R’ Us $25 gift card, so I decided I’d go there first. What else would I possibly be buying at Babies R’ Us? (Also known as China-central.)

Here we go. Here are all the steps I went through at the store, picking out our PERFECT thermometer. My brain works overtime. Just to be clear, these five steps apply to all items I buy!

Step one: Check which options are not made in China.

This is a great start because it normally eliminates nine out of ten options! (Sometimes it eliminates all options, in which case we are entering the “challenge” part of the concious consumer thing). No different this time, I did the tag-check and it eliminated all but two thermometers. Great!

Step two: Contemplate the origin of manufacture for the remaining options.

After the China-check, the choice came down to a Braun in-ear thermometer “Made in Mexico” or an Exergen temporal artery thermometer “Assembled in USA”.

First I considered the transport; it’s a big deal to me how far my purchases travel. Since I’m in Texas, the Mexican one could in fact be more locally made than the US one, but my guess would be they’re about the same. (I looked up Exergen when I got home and I think it came from Massachusetts.)

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What about the “assembled” in USA versus “made” in Mexico part? Well, it doesn’t actually tell us that one is more local than the other; it’s just a matter of label laws! The Mexican one can very well be made of the same imported (Asian) parts as the one assembled in USA was. Here stateside, companies must use the phrase “assembled” when foreign pieces are used as part of the product. The Mexican thermometer on the other hand, because it was exported here, may very well be labeled “made” in Mexico even if many parts were imported to Mexico before assembly. Make sense?

What I do know is that the Exergen thermometer was assembled, packaged and tested in USA, which means that this product has provided some various level jobs here. I like that. In 2015 the US trade deficit with Mexico was over $60 billion, as we imported over $296 billion’s worth in Mexican-made products. No real need for me to “add” to that number either.

Step three: Decide which item has the most eco-friendly packaging.

Here’s where I got super excited! The Exergen thermometer was packaged completely without plastic! All cardboard! Yes, plastic-free! That practically NEVER happens. The Braun on the other hand came in a clear, hard molded plastic packet. Easy peasy choice!

Step four: Consider if the products are equal when it comes to functionality.

I didn’t have a clear preference when it came to function, I figured they would both get the job done. Both also proudly showed off similar “recommended by pediatricians” statements. The in-ear thermometer did come with disposable plastic in-ear shields (not sure what to call them or if they need to be used) which seemed wasteful to me while the other one had no disposable parts. Both had a common type battery; one we can buy partly recycled and also recycle after.

Step five: Figure out which is the better deal.

Yes, price is often the last thing I consider when shopping! In this case, the Braun, the one already losing this race, was actually more expensive! It was around $55, while the Exergen cost only $35. Slam dunk!

That’s it! Selection done.

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Exergen thermometer – assembled, tested, packaged right here.

The clear winner was the Exergen. I bought it and we’re so happy with it – although we haven’t actually tested it on a baby yet (only on hubs!) ;)

Conscious consumption takes a bit of thought, but when you succeed and feel content you made the BEST possible choice for the environment and yourself, there’s NO better reward.

Now, if you made it through this entire post; are you a conscious consumer or an impulse shopper?