Tag Archives: zero waste

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, Saturday 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 be 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.

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)

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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.

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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.

New scarf, leftover fabric: A beautiful (birthday) combination

My husband got me this beautiful scarf for my birthday. A little bird had told him that I really, really wanted it. (Guess who!).

Birthdays are awesome. Especially so if you are on a one item per month shopping challenge, since a well chosen gift just doubled your monthly fun. (That’s me.)

Now, this scarf is very special. Not only is the New York designer who made it committed to American manufacturing, but most garments Tabii Just offers is sewn from scrap fabrics. Yes!  The most beautiful discarded yardage from American mills and designers that would otherwise end up in landfill (or maybe once in a blue moon be recycled/downcycled). A great way to reduce a garment’s carbon footprint!

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Due to the fact that fabrics are “leftovers”, quantities of some styles are limited and the exact fabric content is not always known. The most common threads made locally are rayon, polyester and conventionally grown cotton, so one or more of those most likely. I actually shot Tabii an email and asked, and the owner replied that my scarf is some sort of rayon blend. The ball hem is “new” and made ethically by artisans in Mexico.

As we’re talking about a piece of clothing made from scrap material, the rayon’s biggest eco-issue in this case becomes the microfibers released when washing, but I don’t really wash my scarfs a whole lot ;)

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Another way Tabii Just is focusing on zero waste is by making patterns and designs with minimal scrap and cut-outs. And of course, a scarf is actually the ultimate zero waste item since, well, it’s basically just a square of fabric!

I am super excited to spend colder fall and winter days in this scarf. Happy birthday to me indeed.

Tabii Just is a member of the Made in America Movement.