Tag Archives: reuse

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.

 

How to have an eco-friendly Halloween (sort of)

Halloween is approaching fast and once again stores and empty warehouses are filling up with one time use (plastic) made in China crap. Yes, it’s my least favorite holiday.

Last year I wrote a rant trying to stop America from celebrating, and as you probably guessed, that didn’t work out at all! (Imagine my surprise!) So, I thought this year, instead I should share some eco tips that could help create a little bit less Halloween environmental horror.

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Let’s talk costumes. My hope is that you won’t be part of the above statistic and instead opt to use last year’s costume or borrow one from a friend. If not, the obviously green and budget friendly choice for all is second hand shopping! I promise, it is way less scary than it sounds.

The best time to get Halloween costumes is most likely well in advance so if you’re still looking, here are some ideas for costumes that you will most likely find at the thrift center, second hand shop or even at home (your own or someone else’s!)

1. Tarzan. All you need is a piece of cloth.
2. Crazy cat lady or weird family member. Dig up a bad sweater and fuzzy pants.
3. Represent a decade like 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. Thrift stores are full of good options! I feel like characters from the Stranger Things series would be an awesome choice this year. Works great for families that want to match each other too.
4. Pregnant lady. Get a big dress, fake a belly.
5. Dead person. Wear anything just go wild with dead-looking make up.

You get the idea – just go digging in those piles and racks for inspiration! And if you need more inspiration on what to be, ethical shopping and the costumes you might already have at home, check out Going Zero Waste’s awesome list HERE. (And pssst. Newborns and babies don’t know it’s halloween, so don’t spend money and earthly resources on dressing them up! Get over your need to do this all while saying “the kids love it”. Erm. Below and above certain ages – no they don’t. This also applies to MANY husbands.)

Then there are the treats, the decorations, the parties, the food. Dios mío, so much to do! Maybe it’s because I grew up in Europe that I “just don’t get it” and a good blogger knows when she’s been beat.

I read a great blog post the other day on this exact topic and I decided to share that post with you instead of reinventing the wheel (smart!). Katy’s got tips for an eco-friendly, zero waste Halloween and you can read all about it HERE.

Just look at her fab fall décor ideas! (Yes, collected in her yard)

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If you did decide to not celebrate this year OR managed to buy nothing new, please leave me a comment below (yay!).

Naturally, I will not be celebrating. I’ll spend zero dollars, create zero waste, not contribute to kiddo sugar rushes and be utterly satisfied and happy in my life anyway. But that’s just me.

Five ways to eco-boost your day at the office (every day!)

As the kids are gearing up for school, adults are gearing up for going back to work after our summer vacations. Oh wait, some of us never left. Either way, it’s a great time to kick start some new, sustainable habits along with that new, hopefully better, fall wardrobe you’re about to show off.

Most of us spend just as much time at the office (or other workplace) as we do at home. Therefore, what environmentally friendly choices we make during working hours certainly matters!

Here are five easy ways to eco-boost your day at the office. EVERY day!

1. Ditch the disposables

Using disposable cups for office coffee and water is a nasty habit. There is absolutely no reason to add cups to landfill every day, because you’re too lazy to wash up. If your office has a dishwasher, all the better, if not, there is no shame in taking your cups home now and then to give them a deep clean. If you’re a stir stick fan, use that plastic piece of nonsense multiple times (or how does over 500 years in landfill before it degrades sound?).

Disposable water bottles don’t belong in the office either, since most offices have a water cooler you can use. And if not, ask your employer to invest in one (or maybe water filters for all kitchen faucets).

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Scarf + coffee mug = match made in office

2. Be eco-smart about lunch

Lunch is the one meal a day that you get to control 100%. No boyfriend, wife, family or friends cooking for you or suggesting what’s for dinner. Use this opportunity to eat vegan meals, or at least put beef and dairy on the “forever forbidden lunch food” list. Avoid places that use disposable dishes and cups.

Pack your lunch now and then too (in reusable containers) to save the car trip, napkins, unwanted straws, receipts and cash.

3. Trash belongs in the common area (not your office!)

If you have a personal trash can in your office or cubicle, ever notice how the trash bag is changed almost every night? Throw a banana peel in there and I guarantee you the cleaning crew will change the bag. This behavior wastes so much plastic! 100 employees, 220 workdays, that’s 22,000 (half empty) plastic bags going to landfill every year! Take your trash to a common area, like the kitchen. Bonus! You’re less likely to sit on your butt all day.

4. Turn that light off

Just because you aren’t footing the electricity bill doesn’t mean Mother Nature isn’t. Unless you’re working in a building powered 100% by solar panels – a turbine, coal plant or nuclear reactor somewhere is making energy for you. Turn off your office lights, bathroom lights, fans, heaters and electronics when you leave a space. Help your forgetful colleagues by turning off their lights too (hey, only when they’re not there!).

If you have access to the A/C thermostat, great, set it to a comfortable (higher) level to save the building electricity! Plus you and your colleagues don’t have to use personal space heaters (to warm those cold feet). [Reader tip!]

5. Reduce, reuse and recycle

80% of office waste is paper, so being mindful about paper use is key. Only print when you need to, use both sides of the paper and collect all paper for recycling. I bet your office has a secure shredder bin or recycle collection bin, and if not, encourage (hmm, more like demand) that your employer gets one. Help your colleagues remember to recycle by setting up local paper collection trays in your specific work area. If you see a piece of paper in a personal office trash can (see point 3) give the person the evil eye. It’s effective.

recycling tray
Three people at work use my collection bin :)

That’s my list! I do these things every day and I promise it’s so easy! We can all make a difference while we’re on the clock. Quite the win-win.

Do you have more ideas on how to maximize our eco-friendliness at work?! Leave me a comment :)

Recycled aluminum? That (bottle) works for me!

It’s been a busy month and although I haven’t had time to blog as much as I would have like too, I’ve still found the time to buy one new item for myself. Amazing how that happens!

Actually, it was Hubs who discovered these amazingly artsy water bottles, we simply had to have, while reading an outdoors magazine. We could definitely use a few more bottles too, since we always bring water from home on the go. Why we bring? Because single use plastic sucks and it takes minimum effort to fill a bottle at home. The total volume of bottled-water sales exceeded 11.7 billion gallons in 2015, a statistic we will be no part of (and neither should you!)

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Liberty BottleWorks is the brand and Washington State is the manufacturing place. Each bottle is made from recycled aluminum and is therefore lightweight and super durable. (It’s very important to support products made from recycled materials to show the industry that recycling makes sense, pays off and we want it!) In fact, it’s the only American made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.

The formed plastic mouthpiece seals with only a quarter turn and is spill free (even when purse riding) and BPA-free. We are actually really impressed with how easily the water comes up (with the sports version cap and straw). Quenching!

Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and I can confirm the packaging was completely plastic free as well. We bought our bottles over the phone and they came in the smallest box possible with no “extra stuffing”. The straws and caps we had selected shipped loose.

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Liberty BottleWorks Earth Day 2016 Bottle :)

They give back by allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services and their policy of hiring US veterans first is what they call “positive discrimination” – I am ok with that!

Talk about following all my 2016 eco-friendly shopping rules!

Last but not least, our bottles hold 24 ounces of water and still fit in our cars’ cup holders. It doesn’t get any better than that.

16oz bottles start at $20, 24oz at $23.

How many cows in one burger patty? How many barrels of oil does one EV save? What is FRACKING? (Watch a video and find out)

Ok, this is a cheat post from “Anna the writer”, as this post will have very few words. I just have to share some amazing videos with you that, personally, I can watch over and over.

Yes, they’re all about the environment and our future, so naturally I am super interested. But they are also super easy to watch – good animation does that to a video.

The first one contemplates this: what happens when electrical cars become mainstream? Can the oil industry ever bounce back from a crash created by pure lack of demand? How many barrels of oil per year does one electrical car replace? Hint; it’s more than 10.

The second one is all about them burgers and those sad feedlots. But this video is actually kind of cute, awesome and very informative. Did you know that eating corn makes the cows fart and burp MORE than they do eating grass? And how many different cows are mixed into one hamburger patty? Many more than you think. (Gross.)

The third one, I’ve watched so many times; it’s about fracking. As the people in Porter Ranch, California have left their homes due to the health risks associated with the largest methane leak in history, the energy companies keep doing this, and call it “50% cleaner energy”. Have a watch, there ain’t nothing clean about it. (And only one berning presidential candidate wants to stop it…)

It’s amazing what you can learn from three five-minute animated videos! If only more people would actually listen to the messages. (Be honest; did you watch them?)

Three videos, three important things we need to do to keep planet earth healthy:

  1. Drive electrical cars
  2. Reduce beef and dairy consumption drastically
  3. Stop using fossil fuels for energy*

I’m in – are you?

*Start today by switching to a 100% renewable energy provider, like Green Mountain Energy

Wipe that stuff off your face – organically and reusably

I don’t know about you, but mascara and eyeliner make my life a little bit more beautiful. On average, I use eye make-up six days a week, typically skipping it on either Saturday or Sunday, depending on our plans.

With a bit of make-up, comes a bit of make-up remover and, naturally, quite a few cotton rounds. All bought, used once and discarded in the process. As I have been looking into simple ways to reduce my waste lately, I decided to target cotton rounds – there must be reusable ones somewhere to be found!

By chance, when reading another sustainability blog, I stumbled across exactly what I was looking for. The solution to my waste problem: organic cotton, reusable eye make-up remover pads by Skin Deep Naturals. Where’s the purchase button?

As I am on a mission to shop local, I asked the company about origin, and I can confirm that these pads are American-made of fabric milled in the USA!

Now, let’s look at some of the benefits of the reusable rounds (I’ll be using acronym SDN), compared to conventional ones (like what you’d pick up at Target or ULTA).

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Reusable make-up remover wipes: Soft, fluffy & eco

SDN are made of organic cotton, where conventional ones are normally not. Organic cotton means fewer pesticides, fertilizers, happier soil and happier farmers. Overall, a better choice.

SDN don’t create any landfill waste, which means less methane emissions.

SDN saves energy. I’m not going to estimate how much energy it takes to wash the rounds in the washing machine. I mean, I just throw them in with the rest of the load. I’ve been washing them warm, hot, or in sanitize mode, depending on what else I am washing. The conventional rounds take a lot of energy to produce as the cotton is grown, harvested, formed and packaged for use in a disposable product.

SDN saves plastic! The store-bought rounds come in a plastic tube, whereas SDN came in a recycled cardboard envelope without any additional packaging. If you, like me, use make-up an average of six days a week, amounting to 312 cotton rounds used per year. 312 rounds not bought, means at least three plastic tubes saved, as they are packaged 100 rounds per tube normally. Every time you say no to one-time-use plastic you are helping the environment and making oil-moguls miss out on making another buck. This is a GREAT cause folks.

By buying SDN you are supporting a local, small, eco-friendly business.

SDN saves you money! Conventional cotton rounds cost between $1.50 and 4 dollars for a tube of 100, depending on the brand and quality. Let’s use $2.50 as the price for this comparison. SDN cost me $12 for eight rounds – that’s more than enough to sustain me between washes – versus a yearly cost of $7.80 for regular ones. Now, if you keep your SDN rounds longer than a year and half (which seems VERY likely), you’re starting to save money every time you wipe that junk off your face. Keep them for five years; you’ve saved almost 30 dollars. Ok, that’s not a fortune, but it proves a point that eco-friendly products can benefit both the environment and your wallet.

I do have one tip: wash them before your first use, as they tend to lint a little bit before they’ve had their first go-around in the machine.

Sold on this product yet, ladies? Maybe you want some organic facial cloths or reusable diaper wipes too? This is the time to wipe disposable wipes off the table!

Buy it ALL at SkinDeepNaturals.com

(You might be wondering how this purchase fits in with my 2016 shopping challenge? Well, these rounds were my only purchase in February! So far, I have spent $36 this year on two eco-friendly items, one per month, as planned. Yay.)

I first read about these at SustainableDaisy.com

Ignorant things people say to environmentalists – and why it’s bullshit

Many people seem to have an issue with anyone they meet, who is fighting to end any type of injustice. Ridicule of such fighters and denial of the issues are common traits for the ignorant bunch. Normally, I just smile and shrug my shoulders, but since it bugs me, I decided to compile the best advice and comments I’ve gotten as an environmentalist, into this blog post.

It may make you feel defensive, if you’re the type of person handing out this kind of “advice”, or maybe you’ll read and nod because this happens to you too! Either way, here it goes:

1.“Much good recycling will do when you drive THAT car”

First, let me make this clear; I don’t drive MORE miles in my car in order to recycle or bring my reusable bottle. That means that by minimizing landfill waste, I am doing a good thing for the environment and the climate (reducing methane emissions and saving energy), which has absolutely NOTHING to do with my car.

Second, since I am an environmentalist, I’m against all fuel-burning activities and I am planning to get away from it as soon as technology and means align. In the meantime, I do all I can to compensate for my using of fuel. Such actions include, but are not limited to: recycling, attempting zero waste, no one-time-use plastic, CO2 compensating, walking or biking when I can, reduced consumption, shopping local, buying organic produce, supporting environmental organizations, saving water and last but not least, eating mostly plants. What are you actually doing in order to carbon compensate for your burgers, your imported sweatshop shirts and your car?

To make a point of just how stupid this comment is, here are similar statements: “Much good turning off the lights will do when you have a refrigerator” or “Much good working-out will do when you had lunch today”.

I rest my case.

ignoramt

2.”Shouldn’t you be driving a Prius?”

Oh, the beloved Prius comment. And, no, I find them slow, not great looking and I happen to have another car for now. Hybrid cars still use fossil fuel and motor oil and have twice as many engine components as conventional cars. Maybe a Prius won’t work for my family’s camping trips or maybe I need to drive off-road when I’m saving wild animals from plastic waste you threw away. Maybe I can’t afford to change cars right now. Whatever reason there is for me not having a Prius, please stop assuming I should. If you think driving a hybrid alone equals being eco-friendly, you have a long way to go. On another note, shouldn’t you be getting out of my face?

3.“Leonardo DiCaprio says he’s an environmentalist, but he travels in his personal jet”

Here’s something that might baffle the ignorant: all conservation efforts take tools and transport. No matter how hard we try to not travel, in order to make an impact we need to be at the right place at the right time, show up for meetings, debate and participate. Leo can’t orb and he is a public figure, so he flies in his jet.

I read an interview recently, where Leo said that what inspires him most in his work for the environment, is when he travels and gets to see beautiful places, yet untouched by man. It gives him hope and inspires him to do things like, invest 45 million dollars in conservation projects.

Last time I checked, you took a flight for no better reason than going on vacation, so why are you judging someone else for flying?

And maybe Leo’s jet runs on bio-fuels (estimated to reduce flight emissions by up to 80%) and transports a team of 20+ people. You don’t know his deal, so shut the beep up.

4.“The fossil-fuel-protesters showed up in kayaks made of fossil fuel. Stupid!”

Wow. You know what? I’m pretty sure some of them wore North Face fleece sweaters and had sneakers on with plastic soles too. They may also have been wearing life vests and glasses with plastic frames. Matter much?

Sounds like you don’t understand why they were protesting (in their emission-free transportation). Let me tell you.

They were protesting against a large corporation being allowed to drill for MORE oil, inside of an important eco-system. You see, what they’re saying is this: “We realize there has been oil for a long time, we just don’t want to endanger more species and habitats by drilling for more. Further, we want to stop new drilling sites all together so that industries and inventors have to come up with smarter ways to make material for our kayaks, fleeces and glasses. Preferably something non-toxic this time that doesn’t make a corrupt industry richer.”

By judging their kayaks, you are proving your ignorance and how little you understand about the environmental importance of the protest. Focusing on the method of protest, is just a cheap trick to divert attention from the topic of protest (everyone knows that). And, again, conservation efforts take transport and tools. And I promise you, they didn’t buy new kayaks for that ONE protest. They had them already, borrowed them from friends or rented them. I’m sure there was zero consumption related to their protest.

ignoramt2

5.“You’re an idealist. It doesn’t make economic sense to change”

Now that’s a lie. Are you telling me that it doesn’t make economic sense for restaurants and coffee shops to not provide one-time-use to-go cups? That it doesn’t make economic sense to bring my own shopping bags to the store? That is doesn’t make economic sense to stop polluting the oceans so we still have marine life in 100 years?

The technology needed for us to transition to 100% green energy is already here, and as it gets bigger and better it will provide millions of jobs. We have to re-think, re-build and re-plan everything. Sure, for crude loving companies like Exxon and Koch Industries it doesn’t make economic sense. But are you seriously routing for the polluting billionaires?

Point is; I’m not idealistic. But you, dear, are lazy and conservative, and probably very scared of change. Mostly I think you are worried that people like me are right (why else would you put me down?) and sooner or later you will have to admit that. If not because you realize it on your own, but because rules and regulations will force you to change your consumption driven, fossil dependent, one-time-use behavior. But don’t worry; I’m not going to criticize your choices in front of all your friends or colleagues, like you do mine. I’m just leading by example, knowing I’m right, while you’re, honestly, simply being ignorant (isn’t it blissful?!).

I’ll let you in on a little secret; all living humans, including environmentalists, have a carbon footprint. An environmentalist in the west’s footprint is most definitely larger than that of a person in a third world country; we consume more food, have more possessions, use electricity and most of us have private transport. The only way to not have a carbon footprint is to end one’s stay here on the planet. But since we are having a good time, we want to hang around for a while. What we are trying to do is to minimize our footprints, work for change and encourage awareness so collectively the whole world can minimize their footprints too.

Now to end this rant. I wrote this blog post on a computer; a device that contains rare earth metals and plastic, consumes energy and was made unethically in China. (I also drank some tea.) So go ahead ignorant bunch, say it. “Much good blogging will do when you have a computer”.

Yeah, that one is on me.

 

*Phrases in pink are from the song “Step off” by Kacey Musgraves.

Zero waste trip: Minimizing trash on the (business) go

I don’t consider myself a frequent flyer of any sorts. I avoid flying if I can; it’s boring, time consuming and adds to my carbon footprint, but sometimes duty calls.

In order to make the best out of a recent business trip and not just co2 compensate (which I always do at Stand for Trees – 1 ton per 1 domestic flight) I decided to attempt a zero waste trip.

Only about 56 hours of trip-time to handle, I figured this would be a great little zero waste outing. It’s a gamble on business trips because you cannot pick the restaurants or activities yourself, so it can be a waste trap, thus an exciting challenge. I brought these items with me, to help me out:

With my travel buddy in the terminal - ready to do this!
With my travel buddy in the terminal – ready to do this!

It started well, got my boarding pass on my phone and checked in at the parking garage with my credit card. Peets coffee in the terminal filled both my bottle with water and my mug with coffee. I did get a bran-muffin, which was baked inside of a paper type form. I took it with me on the plane, hoping to find a compost in LA.

I asked for my bottle to be filled with water once in air, and guess how they did that? By emptying a 12 oz aluminum can into it. What! Rumor has it that Southwest recycles, but I am not sure. I always see them throwing everything in the same trash bag. I decided to take the can with me so I could recycle it in the terminal. (Metal takes less energy than plastic to recycle, and can be recycled unlimited times, so at least not the worst material that could happen.)

From that point on, I was on a roll! Lucky for me, during the two dinners and one lunch I ate with my colleagues (all had good vegan or vegetarian options), I only “produced” one paper napkin of waste (wrapped around the utensils – no choice).

When it comes to hotels, I realized that if you take the time to consider your options carefully before you book, you can make your low waste life easier by staying at a place that serves breakfast instead of the classic continental (wasteful) breakfast buffet. I lucked out again as my manager had decided we should stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, where they served breakfast on porcelain and offered bulk coffee, juice in glass jars and made-to-order food. Of course I had to skip yogurt and individually wrapped baked goods, which wouldn’t have been great choices anyway – dairy and sugar – so no loss!

Another hotel-tip would be to use the “Do not disturb sign” at all times! It saves energy, cleaning supplies, time for the crew, water and trash bags. Easy!

I've had this "ziplock replacer" for my liquids for 7 years. Now that's reusing.
I’ve had this “ziplock replacer” for my liquids for 7 years. Now that’s reusing.

I kept my bottle with me at all times and filled the mug with coffee in the hotel lobby. When my colleagues wanted Starbucks, I opted for ice tea in my water bottle. I also stopped at a gas station and filled it with water from a soda machine while on the road.

The trip was going so well, but took a sour turn at LAX airport, where I couldn’t find a single proper restaurant and all the food came pre-packaged or was served on paper plates! (I panicked a bit when I saw apples wrapped in plastic. Yuck.) I had to rely on coffee to fill me up (Starbucks in my to-go mug) and a banana. There were no compost bins in the terminal and the banana was non-organic but I thought it was better than something processed and plastic-wrapped.

Despite the LAX despair, this trip turned out to be a fun zero waste adventure! It totaled only 1 paper napkin, a banana peel, one muffin form and some receipts (needed for my company to cover my expenses anyway) for the whole trip. This was despite trying really hard to produce zero waste.

It is truly astounding how much our society promotes waste and one time packaging! Gross!

Bringing your own water bottle and to-go mug on trips in the United States (as everyone is so nice letting you fill up with free water here) is super easy, convenient, cost effective and saves so many one-time-use cups and bottles! Next time I’ll pack some emergency nuts and fruits – just incase another LAX situation happens.

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Two heroes in the middle, surrounded by the one-time-use losers

You don’t have to be a zero waste hero to make a positive trash impact! Every small change you make matters. Saving straws and cups when you’re out and about, never buying bottled water, always opting for carton instead of plastic (eggs, milk, juice, rice, pasta etc.) and bringing bags (also for produce) to the grocery store is a great start to help reduce plastic waste. The average American uses 300 to 700 one-time-use plastic bags per year! You don’t have to be part of those statistics. Take control of your environmental impact.

As for the WHY in all of this. I read lots of zero waste blogs and I am trying to live low waste. There is simply no excuse for single-use plastic. Our oceans are full of it, animals die with it in their tummies, BPA found in it is hormone-disrupting, it’s made from non-renewable fossil fuel (again you are making the fossil guys richer by buying) and practically never degrades.

Here are some good pictures from The Two Hands Project, to inspire you to go reusable!

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Read more here about how they encourage everyone to “take 30 Minutes and two hands to clean up YOUR world anytime, anywhere” to deal with the plastic pollution. Love that idea!

Read up on Zero Waste and find blogs here, at the Zero Waste Bloggers Network.

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got (it’s not what you think)

This is the forth post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring pictures of my beautiful friend Mary Beth. This week jewelry is on the agenda.

It is interesting because jewelry is both a sustainability hero and a sustainability zero if you ask me.

The cool (hero) part about the bling we own and wear is that it rarely goes out of style, and if it does, it is likely to come back in a few years, allowing us to wear it with confidence again. Jewelry lasts forever and no one can tell if a piece is old or brand new, making it a very sustainable and eco-friendly accessory to be worn over and over again, and passed down thru generations. Buying second hand clothing can be very intimidating, but thrifting for jewelry, I find is much easier. It is by far my favorite way to add new pieces to my accessories wardrobe. Not only is it the best eco-choice, but there are endless bargains to be made!

Jewelry is such a great way to complete an outfit, to make it feel more festive and put together. For the Made in USA style series, Mary Beth has been wearing artisan pieces she loves, in timeless designs.

Supporting small vendors, local artisans and craftsmen is definitely the next best option to buying second-hand jewelry in my opinion. The Purple Toadstool earrings ($20) we introduced in the first post are crafted in Texas, and the Gleeful Peacock necklace ($32) from the second post is handmade in Oklahoma. Two great quality, made in USA options with incredibly cheerful brand names!

The Purple Toadstool, Texas (left) & The Gleeful Peacock, Oklahoma (right)
The Purple Toadstool, Texas (left) & The Gleeful Peacock, Oklahoma (right)

Moving on to the not so great (zero) list of jewelry; at the top spot are diamonds (they’re not this girl’s best friends).

Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from Central and Southern Africa. Some of the politically unstable countries there are dealing with revolutionary groups who have taken control of the diamond mines, using proceeds from diamond sales to finance their operations. This is what is referred to as “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds”, which I am sure you’ve heard about (and maybe you’ve seen the movie with my eco-hero Leo DiCaprio).

According to what I have read, blood diamonds only constitute as low as 1% of all diamonds traded (2014 numbers), so buying a blood diamond by mistake is unlikely to happen. The problem still remains though, as it is of relative ease to smuggle diamonds across African borders and there are always buyers.

Diamonds are also considered clean when mined in nations that are not in a state of war or conflict, but whose diamonds have been mined using violent, unethical methods. Every day, more than a million diamond diggers in Africa endure dangerous and unfair working conditions, earning less than $1 a day, which is not enough to feed their families or sustain a healthy lifestyle. That sounds like “conflict diamonds” to me!

vintage
Vintage jewelry shopping: eco-friendly and 100% conflict free!

With 49% of diamonds being from Africa, it is safe to assume that about half of the diamonds we see at the jewelers in the west are “clean”, but nonetheless unethical, slave labor stones. (Canada is a big producer as well, where I am sure better employment standards are used for diamond mining.)

With the help of Fairtrade International, a fair trade diamond standard is in the early stages of development, but not in place yet. (A Fair Trade (US), or Fairtrade (Europe) Certification ensures that the producers in developing countries get a fair price for their products. The goal of fair trade is to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.)

Most of the silver in the world is produced in Mexico, and China ranks third largest supplier, after Peru. When it comes to gold, China is the biggest consumer AND the biggest producer in the world. Which brings us to the next zero on this list: gold.

According to Fairtrade International, ninety percent of the labor force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce between 200-300 tons of gold each year. Around 70% of this is used to make jewelry, which consumers across the globe spend a whopping $135 billion a year on buying! (Don’t get me started on our overconsumption issues now! Jewelry will NEVER be a “need to have”.)

I do worry about the miners, in terms of fair wages and working conditions, but also about the environmental impact of gold mining. According to Brilliant Earth, by the use of dirty practices such as open pit mining and cyanide heap leaching, gold mining companies generate about 20 tons of toxic waste for every gold ring made (0.333 ounce of gold). And of course, there are also serious health risks associated with improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide.

Small-scale miners and artisans, are at the end of a long and complex supply chain and for those working in remote locations, it can be difficult to sell their gold at a fair price. Fairtrade Certified Gold  is the world’s first independent ethical certification system for gold. The Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labor and protection of the environment.

fair trade jewlery
Whole Earth Provision Co. sells handmade, fair trade jewelry from World Finds!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t run into Fair Trade gold very often. And, most of the time, it is impossible to tell by the tag, how and where the raw materials of a piece of jewelry were made. Facts such as these are important to know, and should be kept in mind when one shops for jewelry. Maybe you don’t need another 20 tons of toxic waste on your finger, huh? Everything has an environmental footprint. 

Do you have a favorite handmade, artisan, eco-friendly, locally produced jewelry brand? Please leave a comment with a link to it, so we all can get inspired!

There’ll be a necklace again in next week’s post, I assure you, but mostly we’ll be talking shopping and smart outfits for busy moms. Come back and see us!

Read more about Fair Trade at Fair Trade USA

2 years on the challenge: Not made in China GURU – c’est moi!

2015 has been an amazing year! Not because anything particularly amazing has happened, on the contrary, but I have learned so much this year; by dealing with life’s ups and downs, making mistakes and frankly by researching a hell of a lot, looking for answers and watching documentaries.

2014 was all about “surviving” this challenge of mine, just avoiding the made in China traps and looking long and hard at what I actually needed to buy vs. what I wanted to buy. 2015, on the other hand, has taken me and the challenge so much further, turning me into a shop local champ and close to living somewhat sustainably (still have a long way to go!). Shopping not made in China is actually easy now!

During the entire year of 2015, I have participated in buying only these (very) few items made in China:

  1. Plastic frames for prescription eye-glasses for my husband (one pair of sunglasses, one regular pair)
  2. Two pairs of foot-friendly Merrell sneakers for my husband.

Isn’t that an amazingly short list?! Hurray! Glasses and footwear are two of few items, I consider “need to have” so I don’t feel too bad about my felonies! About the sneakers, he got two pairs from China and I got three pairs from Vietnam… so we both went sweatshop there. Anyone else come close to that low number? Take a look around your home, just for fun, to see where your new purchases were made!

I’ve had a lot of people read my blog this year, mostly because I have shared it on social media and people with curious minds have clicked my links. Nothing is more awesome than having someone say “You have made me think of that” or “Because of you I did this”. It means so much to me. I believe that most people want to do right, by each other and by the planet; they just don’t have the simple tools or the knowledge to do so – yet. I am really just trying to inspire while I’m constantly learning more!

2015 lookback

There was a time when mankind thought the earth was flat. There was a time when some people said Climate Change wasn’t due to human actions. Wait, oops, that’s now…

So that said, here’s a list of a few easy eco-changes I’ve made this year in addition to shopping made right (here):

  1. I’m now pretty much vegan and some days vegitarian (but I’m not putting a label on it). I made this change in order to save water, CO2, methane emissions, forests, and energy. Basically save the planet! (Yes, I saw the Cowspiracy movie!)
  2. Our household now has 10% solar & 90% wind powered electricity. Finally found a provider serving our area offering only renewable energy! Whooo!
  3. Cut my hair to shoulder length! I’d like to think I did it to save water, shampoo, and products, but I did it to look cute. Still, the savings are a bonus :)
  4. Stopped using my trashcan at work. I noticed the cleaning crew changed the bag every day, even if there was just a tiny thing in it. Now I walk 20 steps to the kitchen. Exercise! And that is 240 plastic bags saved, per year, for ONE person.

It’s 2016! I will keep blogging, keep bugging you all (yay) and keep my optimism and passion for the environment because I believe passion is contagious!

Remember; The Not Made in China Challenge is not just about China. It’s about knowing where your possessions came from, how they were made and how they affect our planet. We all need to process that knowledge and take it seriously. What you choose to buy or not to buy is your vote and your impact on the world market.

This is the NOT MADE IN CHINA CHALLENGE 2016! I am psyched for this year – is this the year I will have ZERO items on my China-felonies count?

Thanks for reading! Come back and visit :)