Tag Archives: zero waste

Another year of blogging, more growth and 12 years to save our world

Hey y’all. Is it too late to wish everyone a happy new year?

2018. Wow. I am not sure if it was a great year, a good year or a bad year.

Personally, I think I had a very good year; what’s there to complain about with a beautiful family, stable job and privilege?

Blog wise, I guess I had quite a “bad” year. Not because I didn’t have visitors, but because I lost some of my inspiration to stay green, clean, shop local and to then write about it. Only 37 published posts!

ideas how to celebrate earth day

In terms of personal development, I had a big year. I had to lay someone off at work – not fun but a good learning experience. I had to redefine what sustainability means to me and define how much I can (and want to) actually participate in personal green efforts (like recycling and not shopping). I had to work through endless colds and sleepless nights with our toddler, leading to serious development of skills in the raising children department. I also had to survive the first few months of pregnancy with a toddler and a job that has been more demanding than ever – yes, we are adding to our carbon footprint and having another little one :)

But hey, let’s focus on the sustainability part. I wrote some posts about my efforts and failures last fall and I haven’t really bounced back since then. I am still kind of in that “ah, I’ll do what I have the energy to do” phase, yet I have to say I am super, duper stoked and EXCITED that media, politicians and regular people are finally talking about climate change!

Hello “Green New Deal”, school strikes for climate and every single car manufacturer getting ready to release their own line of electric car models. Yay to more coal plants closing and more wind and solar being built every day. Thank goodness for the scientists who told the world we only have 12 years to change course or head towards extremely severe weather conditions.

About the “12 years” the world has got left to shape up; I’ve been thinking a lot about my own journey and if I can be “fossil fuel free” in twelve years – or sooner.

So, I actually think I (plus family) can come very close to a green life, if infrastructure keeps moving in the right direction (which to me it seems like it does). I know I work better, faster and harder when I have a set deadline. It will take some effort, but here’s what I have come up with:

  • It requires us to stop flying. That means we need to move closer to family so we can travel by car (EV of course!) or train to see them. It also means we need to visit the places we dream about on this continent in the near future, so we don’t feel like we missed out. In the long run I think there will be hyper-loops, electric high-speed planes and other cool connections between Europe and the East Coast of USA but until then we’ll be putting effort into creating a more sustainable living and travel plan.
  • It requires us to only consume renewable energy. I am not concerned about this at all. We know we’ll need a bigger house with two growing boys eventually and at that point we will install solar panels and batteries to run off the grid 24/7.
  • It requires a low carbon food supply. I plan on maintaining a plant based diet and I do believe that within the next 3-5 years, there will be so much plant based (vegan) food in our stores, schools and restaurants that most animal products will begin to phase out. I believe that scientists and farmers will work together to improve practices and more organic food will be available.
  • It requires container ships (currently running on heavy oil products) to clean up their act. Even though I buy lots of local stuff, there are items – and I believe there’ll always be – we must get from certain far-away countries (assuming we continue this lifestyle with owning electronics and bamboo toothbrushes). I am not sure how this will play out. I am hoping to see some initiatives from the shipping industry but I am not sure they’ll work hard enough to get there in time. Thoughts?
  • It requires a society way less dependent on fossil-fuel-based plastics. Aiyoooo. Will they shape up? Will I be able to buy my fave potato salad in bulk? Will giants like LEGO and Disney move towards bio-based materials in time? Remains to be seen.
  • It requires policy, incentives, infrastructure and opportunities created by fair, decent, hard working governments. Will THEY wake up and do something? If there are more “AOC’s” in the global politics-pipeline, odds are we might start seeing things shift. I am hopeful.

Have you been having similar thoughts?

I think knowing I only have until 2030 has had a positive impact on my long term planning – setting goals way larger and way beyond just “pick the vegan lunch option today”. Maybe this new way of thinking is part of why I haven’t blogged much about my day to day green living style!?

Anyway, as always, thanks for being part of “Sustainable Anna” in 2018! I am not sure what 2019 holds but I will be here and I love hearing from you all.

Much love!

My sustainable (very fun) Christmas gift list!

Is it almost Christmas already? I can’t believe how fast we went from Easter brunch to jingle bells! Time flies.

I am super excited about the holiday season this year; we’re going home to cold and dark Scandinavia to celebrate with our family. For the first time in seven years we’ll wake up to snow (hopefully, or at least frost!) instead of palm trees. Yay. Yes, yes, I know we’re adding more carbon to this year’s footprint but it was what we felt we wanted to do with our 2-year-old and I’m sure it won’t become a habit to travel twice a year!

Anyway, I am excited about the season and I decided to share some sustainable, support-something-good gift ideas here on the blog! Gifts that fit everyone, no matter gender identification or age.

A handmade mug to hold that hot, winter drink

I got two beautiful mugs earlier this year from RBD pottery. At the time, their studio was based in Alaska but has since moved to Michigan (shorter shipping for most :)).

Commonly, made in USA mugs are just painted or printed here, not really made here. You’ll see made in China pottery showing off a local artists art work. What’s cool with RBD is that everything – the ceramic too – is handmade with love, making each mug 100% unique and local. PS. They’ve got planters too! $30-60

made in usa pottery mug handmade

Virtual Animal adoption

I love the kind act of “adopting” an endangered animal for Christmas as a gift for someone, especially for kids. They’ll get a card to learn more about the animal and a nice picture to keep. Very low consumption yet meaningful and for a great cause. $25

Glass drinking straw

For that person who always wants to zip their drink through a straw but appreciates our need to reduce plastic; I can’t think of a better gift than a reusable straw!

Mine was actually a gift from a colleague who got it in Seattle for me. The one I have is handcrafted in the Pacific Northwest, cute, sustainable and durable. It comes with a protective sleeve, so you can keep it in the car or in a bag, as well as with a tiny cleaning brush. $8-20

reusable glass straw made in usa

Bar soap

The vast majority of folks bathe or shower several times a week, so a nice smelling bar of soap will be appreciated by most!

You’d be surprised how easy it is to find locally made, no plastic wrap soaps at farmers markets, Whole Foods, online, general stores or anywhere they sell beauty/body products. Watch out for goat milk based soaps tho; there’s no need to add the carbon of raising goats just so we can get a good clean! Vegan, paraben-free soaps are a plenty. $10-15

Home-baked crisp bread

I just made a batch of my allergen friendly crisp bread last week and took with me as a hostess gift at a Thanksgiving party. It was super appreciated and everyone loved it (recipe here!). You don’t have to make this particular treat, of course, but stick something home-baked in tin jar and voila you’ve got a perfect gift! $10+time.

fullsizeoutput_4a0

Classic gift of socks

Am I a suuuper lame blogger if I put SOCKS on my Christmas list? Maybe. I apologize.

There are no better socks out there in the world than Smartwool hiking socks though. They’re knitted in USA (most styles at least), have absolutely superb quality and will keep everyone you love so warm all winter.

I love wearing mine even in the office (inside my sneakers or booties!) so I am not slightly cold all day (I have yet to hear from anyone who works in an office building that the temperature isn’t either too hot or too cold all the time. Side note, but hence the need for good socks). Of course for hiking they’re great too, and everyone takes walks. Right? Available lots of places but REI is a co-op I love to support so I get mine there. $20-29

Over the years I’ve posted a few Christmas lists on the blog so you’ll find more ideas here and here for how to totally rock it this year. What are some of yours? I’d love to hear what you’re giving your loved ones this year.

PS. I read that in Sweden, this years “it gift” is second hand clothes! That is pretty awesome I think; very sustainable indeed. I hope it’s true (?). Anything second hand makes for an eco-friendly gift of course :)

Wishing everyone much love and a great start to the last month of 2018!

Am I being green – even when I’m lazy and unmotivated AF?

Hi all.

Just a couple of hours after my last blog post confession was published, a good friend of mine texted me and said “Yes!! I am sooo in the same spot! I’m so tired of being green and looking frumpy – the world is shit anyway.” See, both she and I have been limiting our shopping for years now (in order to reduce) and we are both just ready to look cute. And new. And relevant. And hot. (Yes!)

However, fashion was just one part of our conversation; the chore of rinsing yogurt cups so they can be recycled without contamination was another.

So, she says the world is shit. And she’s not wrong. Recent studies are predicting we’re heading towards as much as 9 degrees F rise in temperature (!!) and up to 200 ft of sea level rise. That’s kind of shit. The world in all feels very turbulent right now. Personally, I think my lack of motivation has been building up for a while [see this post on my unsustainable shoes] and then re-discovering this summer (on vacation) that the general population in Scandinavia (Denmark and Sweden) hardly take any personal responsibility when it comes to sustainable living, added to it. Here in the US we totally think they’re rocking it. More on the state of things in Le Europe in my next post – #teaser.

BUT there are a lot of good initiatives out there too. Progress in renewable energy systems (to name one area) and hope for change. As a climate optimist with a son who will inherit the earth, I need to believe in the greater good and keep myself motivated. (I should regularly share more good news on the blog actually, so other’s who may feel demotivated like me get a little boost too.)

Time for a list. A pep-talk. A readjustment of expectations. Not expectations from other people, but the ones I have for myself to be this eco-champion.

I am not trying to brag or seem better than anyone (I’m not in that mindset at all believe me!) in listing what I am actually doing; I am reminding myself that I do enough, despite being lazy and unmotivated AF right now.

unpopular

  1. I compost.  The occasional banana peel goes in the trash though. Composting is easy and I love the smell of healthy soil.
  2. I eat a plant-based diet and serve my family the same. The most eco-friendly diet as it stands. Happens to also benefit my health.
  3. My kid uses cloth diapers (many of them hand-me-downs) about 50% of the time.
  4. One of two cars we own is electric, and we drive very few miles for living in a large city like Houston.
  5. I use only reusable bags (and reusable produce bags) for all shopping.
  6. I recycle (all though most of that curb-side waste is probably land-filled).
  7. All my kid’s clothes (and most toys) are second (or third) hand thanks to my sister having a couple of kids before I did. Thanks sis!
  8. We use a 100% renewable energy provider.
  9. I buy (almost only) organic food.
  10. I donate monthly to environmental groups and Democrats up for election this year like fantastic Texan Beto O’Rourke.
  11. I blog and tweet about environmental issues. YAY! This might be one of the more important things because this is spreading the eco message.
  12. Our house uses bar soap, natural body products and I don’t use make-up.
  13. I re-use a lot of containers. My husband says I’m a pack rat… (I realize that is not very sexy in this blogger world full of minimalists.)
  14. I never consume water in plastic water bottles.
  15. I have a to-go cup with me every day and refuse straws. Sometimes they happen but mistakes are inevitable.
  16. I try to only shop ethical and local brands.

When I first started looking into living greener, I was only doing number 6, 10 and 5 (partly). So thinking of it that way, I really have made huge positive changes!

Which ones of these do you do?

Now. Here’s expectations I have decided to let go of, or rather things I allow myself to do during this phase (life time?) of being more of a regular person.

  1. Throw away dirty plastic containers. Let’s be honest, since China is no longer accepting our recyclables, most of it is going to be land-filled anyway. Why bother the recycling people with sorting it all? Potato salad tub – consider yourself tossed.
  2. Buy things online that we need as a family, not knowing exactly where they’re from. Sometimes we need a tool or a battery. Our kid needed a made in China booster seat. I’ll just get these type items online. Not sweat it.
  3. Buy clothes when I feel like it. Mind you, I don’t very often! I will allow myself to browse and buy something new when I feel it’s right. I’ll always check tags for China and polyester – that’s in my blood now – but I might get that cotton tee from Turkey (or whatever).
  4. Donate and throw away things our family doesn’t need that disturbs peace at home because we don’t have enough storage. No pressure to find uses for it all or donate to the”right cause”. If I need to toss, I will toss. Freedom!
  5. Post eco things when I feel like it on Instagram. But if I feel like sharing a picture of my toe that has nothing to do with being sustainable, I will.
  6. Any other things/actions as I see fit.

Doesn’t sound so bad… right?

Finally, should eco-bloggers lead by that “perfect example” (also known as “It’s so EASY and FUN and budget friendly to be zero-waste-vegan!!!) or do we need to have real conversations about effort and demotivation?

Much love and ramblings, my friends!

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.

 

 

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

 

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 :)

Time to Detox and balance my life! (The green way)

Sometimes in life you just know you have to make a change. You can feel it and see the signs.

That’s what happened almost four years ago when I decided to end my relationship with over consumption and start the Not Made in China Challenge. I was falling down the rabbit hole; starting to consume more than I ever had before I moved to the States.

Now, here I am again. Making changes. This time the “signs” that I must do so are on my face.

perioral dermatitis

After having a baby, breastfeeding and not eating near as well as I was before baby, my face decided to flaunt a bit of perioral dermatitis. This is a rash like skin condition around the month and nose, found mostly in women, and dermatologists are unsure why it happens. Beauty products too harsh for the skin, hormonal changes, allergy or acne medicines may be to blame. Either way, I don’t like looking “not good” and after trying a bunch of topical remedies (that didn’t work), I came to the conclusion that only way to help my body heal is to go vegan, clean and balanced. (And I must tell you that a dermatologist I went to see, immediately gave me antibiotics! All they want to do is sell medicines! I did not take it.)

Healing comes from within.

First, when it comes to eating plant-based food, that means ZERO cheating. No sprinkles of cheese. No “fine I’ll have the chicken rather than eating rabbit food”. No coffee and no alcohol either (that’s the detox part). I’ve been cooking up a storm these past two weeks (I’m sharing many of the dishes on my instagram account @sustainableanna if you want to see the yumminess!) and my skin is improving. Tuscon spicy lentil tacos anyone?

Second, clean means a vanity clean from junk. I spent last Saturday getting rid of everything toxic. Products containing parabens, SLS, alcohols and such. I’ve been using “mostly” clean products for a while so why keep the old nasties lying around disturbing my bathroom piece? I did get a kick out of how ridiculously few pieces of make-up I own (no need to toss anything!) though. Meredith Tested inspired me further when she published a new blog post on skin care, recommending simply washing my face with raw honey (I know, not vegan!) which is calming, soothing and tastes good. Love it. (Check out Meredith’s zero waste routine here.) I also added some beautiful, all natural, vegan, American-made, compostable products to my cabinet from Meow Meow Tweet.

Make up sustainable life
A pic of the make-up I own (except my mascara and eyeliner)

Third, a balanced life is a life with inner peace. Now, I’ve never been happier than I am right now with our little love-bug-baby, a safe home and a great work-life balance, but I needed to rid more toxins out of my life. Like what?

Like seeing stupid, dumb-ass posts on Facebook from below average IQ people. Facebook just HAD to go. I’ve been hesitant about deleting my profile for a while now, convincing myself I need it to “stay in touch with friends” and “promote my blog”. The truth is FB wasn’t driving very much traffic anyway and the people I really care about have my number. Off. It. Went. (I took the plunge and deleted the whole thing, deactivating it felt like Facebook still had some sort of hold on my personal information.)

Slowly, I am seeing my face clear up. It’s still red in areas and I still have my dermatitis but it’s moving in the right direction. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Though I am not ready for an “after picture” yet, I am feeling optimistic about this clearing for the first time in months (yes, months!) and really good inside. I lost almost all the baby weight I had left to lose in the last two weeks too. Bonus!

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, I want to promote a plant-based, healthy, toxic-free lifestyle.

It doesn’t only benefit us as humans but it helps the environment too. Go green!

AND I want to let you all know what I am up to. Making lifestyle changes takes a lot of time, time away from writing, blogging and sharing.

Are you making any lifestyle changes? Would love to hear your success stories!

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!

Is green living even possible with a baby in the house?

It’s a good question. Right?

One I asked myself before we had our baby and one I am still thinking about. Hardcore environmentalists actually argue that having a baby is so bad for the environment that none of us should have any. Articles promoting not having kids have circulated the green community for a while, been enthusiastically shared and, of course, I see their point; an average American’s carbon footprint exceeds 20 tonnes each year so don’t add another one. That number is calculated with today’s consumption behavior and technology – it can most certainly decrease as these improve.

So, a baby is bad for the environment. But what if he’s the new Elon Musk or Bernie Sanders? What if he invents the best carbon trapping technology ever, one that solves our climate issues forever? Yes, this is how we (and other green parents) are justifying our actions.

On that note meet baby August, our little love bug, who turns two months today.

img_0337
One month old August!

Now, despite the carbon footprint of a new (western) life – Is it possible to make mindful, eco-friendly, low carbon choices to soften the blow? All amidst intense emotions, new routines and a strange little person to keep alive?

For us, yes and no. We’re trying our best. Let me start by confessing some of our less successful undertakings.

Failure # 1: Trash, trash, trash

I will admit that there was not much cooking going on during the first month of baby’s life. Yes, we ate pre-made food, ordered take out (some of it packaged in Styrofoam!) and lived off of Cliff energy bars. We even had Starbucks (twice!) in their disposable cups. Honestly, I think we created more waste in that first month than we had in the previous six! I felt bad about it, but at the same time I knew it wasn’t a big deal to live like most Americans do all year, since it would be for a very short time. Either way, a green living fail.

Failure # 2: Baby gifts

Baby August has been spoiled with gifts from neighbors and colleagues, people we know but aren’t aware of our lifestyle, thus these gifts have included quite a few sweatshop-made, Asian imports. We took a few things back but kept many of them as they were usable (and we didn’t have gift receipts). Our close friends and family have been super thoughtful and only given us baby gear made in USA, second hand items, handmade crafts or brought us food. I’d say we’ve managed to stay as minimalist as one can hope, having a new baby and being surrounded by kind, generous people who want to congratulate us (and how lucky are we that people feel that way!). All in all, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure, despite some “Made in China” tags sneaking into our home.

Now on to the greener side if things.

Success story # 1: Baby’s food

Going back to the topic of food; we have continued to shop local, vegan, bulk and organic to the same extent we were before, and we have kept up with the compost. August is eating (or should I say “drinking”?) the most eco-friendly, zero waste and natural food possible: mama’s milk! I am thankful that after some practice, baby and I got the hang of breastfeeding. Green living win (and all around nutritiously awesome!)

Success story # 2: Cloth diapers

Though trash was initially piling up in the kitchen, we were (and are) mastering almost zero waste in the bathroom! I was determined to cloth diaper the baby from the very beginning and I am happy to say we started doing so after only one week. We were sent home from the hospital with a packet of Huggies newborn diapers, but about five days in, both my husband and I were ready to switch to cloth – Huggies don’t hold shit (literally) and that gets tired very fast. I definitely have to do a blog post on cloth diapers, the environment and our routine when I have more experience with it! I will tell you now that it is not hard to do if you own a washer and dryer. Cloth diapers and wipes: another green living win.

Now that we’ve settled in and things are becoming less chaotic, we’re back to old habits of me cooking (from scratch) and the gifts have stopped coming (phew!).

My conclusion is that living green with a brand new baby can certainly be done with a little help and superman/woman type motivation. We needed about five weeks before we could get back to being “green” and each week it gets easier to maintain healthy, eco-friendly, low carbon habits. That said, no matter how much we try, August cannot produce zero carbon, just like we, you and I, are contributing to climate change every day.

I am sure there’ll be more eco-compromises as we go along, finding ourselves in new and unexpected “we have a kid” situations! But, I am ok with that, as long as I feel we are doing our very best – for us, the baby and the environment.

What do you know about methane? (A quick intro and what YOU can do)

A couple of weeks ago in reference to our compost bin, I told you that 20% of human methane emissions come from waste decomposition. I know, I know, you have probably been thinking a lot about that, maybe even stayed awake at night, and wondered, what about the other 80%?

Wonder no more. Here’s the breakdown.

Methane's impact on climate change

Why is methane an important greenhouse gas?

Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted from human activities. In 2014, it accounted for about 11 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane’s lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but it is much more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2 is. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of methane on climate change is more than 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.

The government has an important role to play in reducing our methane emissions, especially when it comes to the fossil fuel piece of the pie (42%). The majority of these emissions are leakages from fracking and processing of oil and natural gas. Fracking is a nasty technology, and no one has exact numbers on how much methane is released every year, as the fossil fuel companies conveniently hide that information from the authorities. Remember the Aliso Canyon leak in California last year? It spewed enough methane into the atmosphere to equal the greenhouse gases emitted by more than 440,000 cars in a year. Scary stuff.

Driving an electrical vehicle, reducing plastic consumption and installing solar panels are actions consumers can take to help reduce emissions from fossil fuel.

Speaking of consumers, I don’t think I need to tell you how to reduce the methane emissions (30%) from ruminants, do I?

Ruminants are the farm animals who eat and digest grass (called enteric fermentation), mainly cows raised for beef or dairy, but also buffalo, sheep and goats. So hey, just to be clear; CUT BACK your consumption. Choose chicken over beef if you insist on meat and replace dairy with plant-based options. (Cattle also contributes large amounts of CO2, through transports, processing and the clearing of forests to make room for more livestock.)

The easiest way to reduce methane emissions from landfill (20%), is to lower your total trash production! Yes, we humans produce trash like never before. Start a compost and stop using one time use items. Like what? Like plastic bags, straws, cutlery, paper plates, napkins, disposable diapers, Starbucks cups, wrapping paper. You know, all the things you only use ONCE but last in landfills forever.

In the “other” piece of the pie we find all the natural sources of methane (6%). Wetlands are the biggest emitter, but also volcanoes, wildfires and sediment play a part. Our wonderful planet is designed for handling the gases from these sources, and we don’t have to do anything about them. Phew!

I read somewhere that a reduction of global emissions by just 22 Million tons per year would result in stabilization of methane concentrations in the atmosphere. I don’t know if that’s still true (the article was several years old), however, such a reduction represents just about 5% of total methane emissions; a small reduction which should be more than doable. The problem is, with the world’s hunger for beef, corrupt governments who favor fossil fuel, and cheap coal becoming available to burn in areas of the developing world (hoping they won’t use it!), we could easily be moving the trend in the opposite (wrong) direction.

Finally, we should all be aware that this beef-loving, fracking-addicted nation, plays a HUGE part in the world’s total methane emissions. There are no exact numbers but it’s estimated that up to 60% of all methane emissions are because of the USA’s activities alone.

It’s HERE that change must take place.

At least we, you and I, can do our part. If we all take small measures to reduce our impact, a significant reduction will be in the bag.

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!

‘Tis the season to be GIVING

And not some random notebook or scented candle.

It’s the season for giving to non-profit organizations. To trustworthy human rights advocates and local community initiatives, but more importantly to the groups and organizations fighting for our planet.

This year, maybe more so than ever, we have to step up and vote with our dollars. With the political climate and the uncertainties 2017 brings, this is the time to look at how and where you can find a few dollars per month to give to non-government organizations fighting for YOUR cause. Be creative; skipping just two take-out lattes per month equals 10 dollars for donations.

Now, how can one incorporate a charity gift into an actual Christmas present?

Below are just a few ideas I have on how to do it. All ways are grand when it comes to supporting a greener planet (or other cause) and giving meaningful gifts.

1. Make an agreement with your family

Instead of purchasing physical gifts to each other, make a pledge that all adults donate for example 100 dollars to an environmental organization of their choice. Don’t know any? Here are some I like.

Stand for Trees

This organization’s focus is to plant, restore and protect forests and forest communities in areas subject to deforestation and big money interests. The cool thing about their site is that you know the amount of carbon you prevent per donation, and you don’t have to give them personal details, like your address. I donate to them every year to offset my carbon footprint. (Link)

Rainforest Action Network

They fight for all types of environmental justice, such as saving rain forests, campaigning against fracking, standing up to the Dakota Access Pipeline. They recently took part in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie Before The Flood (which I recommend you see if you haven’t). They run a lot of petitions too, where all you donate is your name. Yes, free impact! I suggest you follow them on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss any. (Link)

National Park Foundation

Is there anything more amazing about America than her National Parks? I think not. America without them would be a disaster. Speaking of which, make a plan to go visit some next year, and while there, support the park by shopping for merchandise at the park shops. We like to bring home a refrigerator magnet from each park; made in USA and package free. (Link)

Sierra Club

If anyone can fight Trump it’s them. These guys stand up to corruption, take on big oil, and produce some kick-butt informative videos. They’re the most influential environmental organization we have. (Recently they actually sued the EPA for having too lax regulations in the Ohio valley, causing air pollution in Washington State.) Sierra Club is the organization that all environmental thugs hate (and fear) the most. That’s why we love them. (Link)

img_8048

2. Make a personal gift card

Did out that paper, that glue stick and those old stickers you never used. Make a little card of your own and inform the recipient that you’ve donated X amount of dollars to an organization in their name (include the emailed tax receipt of the donation if you feel the need). Pick an organization you feel strongly about and encourage the recipient to make monthly donations to the same. (Monthly, steady donations make the most impact even if low.)

3. Pick something from a gift shop

Now this is my least favorite since it’s bordering on “unnecessary consumption”, but I realize some people prefer to give an actual item (especially to the young Christmas guests). If so, you might as well support a cause with your purchase!

World Wildlife Foundation (WWF)

Adopt a species and get an information kit, or build a bucket of fluffy, endangered animals for a little one. Your symbolic adoption supports WWF’s global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats. (Link)

Wolf Conservation Center (WCC)

Wolves are cool! Kids think wolves are cool, right? Adopt a wolf and pick something in the gift shop to wrap. WCC’s mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. (Link)

Standing Rock T-shirt (#NoDAPL)

Get THE statement t-shirt of the season: supporting the water protectors at Standing Rock! The initiative is started by actress Shailene Woodley and all proceeds benefit the people protesting and fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tees are made by Bella and Canvas (known for fair and ethical production) and 100% cotton (eco-friendly!). Bernie already got his. Watch out for t-shirt scams on Amazon. (Link)

Not so hard to pick something, is it?! If for some reason, you’re not keen on any of these, search and you shall find!

‘Tis the season to make good choices. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

** Share this post tomorrow on the Global day of Giving 11/29/16 using hashtag GivingTuesday. **

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.

frd_stats_halloween8

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)

skip-the-bag

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.