Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Waste Free Lunches

The School Year is about to begin (or has begun for some families).  Make sure this year you plan for Zero Waste Lunches.  Mighty Nest (http://mightynest.com) is a great site where you can buy all you need to ensure your kids have a Zero Waste Lunch.  And the best part is your purchases can earn money for your school (15% of your purchase price).  This is a WIN-WIN people!!  The site also calculates how many water bottles and ziplock baggies you can keep out of landfills each year by taking the pledge to go waste free.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

10 Tips for Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day is just around the corner.  And what a better excuse for me to finally get back on the horse and start inspiring people with tips and ideas for living a zero waste lifestyle.  Here are 10 fantastic tips for celebrating Earth Day that Bea Johnson (I take no credit whatsoever), the pioneer of the Zero Waste movement, recently posted on her Facebook page.  These truly relate to Spring and fresh starts.  I have touched on many of these before, but we can always use a friendly reminder, right?  One film I would add to #1 is "The Story of Stuff," which you can find on YouTube.  It's short and kid-friendly, and really helps you understand how we got to where we are today.  Having a better understanding of the cause/issues can help us be more mindful of how we live our lives.  With a little thought, we can break the mold!

1.             Educate your kids about environmental issues. Watch documentaries such asDisneyNature’s Ocean and movies such as The Lorax with an underlying green theme. The more they know, the more they’ll understand the need to reduce waste. For more suggestions, including books, take a look at my kid friendly selection.
2.             Turn down freebies. In our consumerist society we’re pounded with free goods. But every time we accept a freebie, such as a plastic party favor from a birthday celebration, we create a demand to rig more oil and make more plastic party favors. Once home, these items quickly break (making kids cry) and clutter our space and then landfills. Teach your kids to think twice about bringing things into your home and graciously say no to favors that they don't need and won’t last.
3.             Declutter their wardrobes and toy chests. It seems natural to want to spoil our kids with stuff. Yet, decluttering their space is a more environmentally sound thing to do, as it puts precious resources back on the market for others to enjoy while decreasing the depletion of natural resources. Teach them the benefits of decluttering vs. accumulating. Living with less allows them to pick up their room quickly so they have more time to play!
4.             Give them the gift of experiences. Experiences don’t break and last forever. They also teach our kids that being is more important than having. Consider activities instead of stuff as presents. Examples include tickets to a movie, a show or a museum, gift certificates to the local ice cream or pizza parlor, registration to a skateboarding or dancing class etc. 
5.             Shop the bulk aisle with them. Eliminating food packaging does not just make obvious environmental sense, it makes financial sense (Did you know that when you purchase a packaged good 15% of the price covers the packaging? That money could be used to fund an experience). And it’s better for our kids’ health too -reducing their exposure to processed foods and plastic packaging's toxic leaching. Let your kids fall in love with unpackaged food by letting them explore the bulk aisles and choose their favorite cereal and snack with you. 
6.             Pack Zero Waste lunches. Disposables are not only a waste of resources; they’re a waste of your time and money shopping for them. Keep your money out of the landfill (save it for a family trip) and pack a waste free lunch for them: You probably already have all the reusables you need! A reusable bottle and container, and a dish towel to wrap them in Furoshiki style. The cloth becomes a carrier, a placemat, and a napkin all in one!
7.             Take them on a tour of your local sorting center. Not only will they learn about what happens to their recyclables once they leave the curb, but so will you. You’ll get to see firsthand why plastic bags and shredded paper are a sorting facility’s nightmare.
8.             Include them in composting activities.  There is a composting system out there for every family’s living condition (whether you are an urban, suburban, or rural dweller) and diet (whether you produce meat or veggies scraps). The worm bin in particular, is a great way for kids to witness the cycle of nature: feed the worms and watch them transform scraps into a rich soil amendment, which they can then feed to your plants.
9.             Get out. What better way to teach the importance of conservation than going outside to enjoy nature and understand the reason behind being green! Let your kids connect with the outdoors through hiking, biking, picnicking, camping, etc. They can also participate in litter picking events or habitat restoration projects: Their energy is always welcome!

10.           Have Fun! Environmental awareness should not make our kids feel scared about their future, but give them the strength to want to do their bit for the Earth. Kids respond best to our “lessons” through humor and play. We found that experiences provide a great opportunity for both. Stay tuned for upcoming posts about our family most recent adventures. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Zero Waste Halloween

I have to admit, eliminating waste when it comes to holidays and entertaining is really a challenge for me.  I LOVE to throw parties and have tended to go all out (borderline crazy) planning and hosting them.  But, I am trying to retrain my brain to be less wasteful and remind myself that what people remember most isn't the decorations and all those short lived things, it's the fun, food and company that matters.  So, in the next few months, be on the look out for posts that contain tips on how to reduce your waste during the holidays without sacrificing the thrill of it all.

First up: Halloween.

What to Give: This is by far one of my favorite holidays.  I love the costumes, pumpkin carving and the official onset of Fall (my favorite season).  I think the biggest challenge this year is what to give for trick-or-treating when you are striving for a Zero Waste home.  In the past, I have given mini Play-Doh isntead of candy, but now I am trying to steer clear of plastics, if possible.  So, this year I decided to go with Halloween-themed decorated fruit.  First, this is going to be a fun art project for my daughter and me decorating these things.  Second, it's a healthy, yet tasty treat.  And finally, it's Zero Waste!  No packaging and peels are compostable.  If kids aren't interested, they can simply say "no thank you," which means I am not giving someone something they don't want = no waste.  I am sure many of you are thinking this is lame as it is not as exciting as a Tootsy Roll, but to me it makes a lot of sense.  And I have to think there are other parents out there that would be happy to have their kids get something guilt-free. 

What You Get: I haven't gone so far as to not let my kids trick-or-treat.  But we make a deal: In exchange for giving away the candy they collect I let them pick out an assortment of bulk bin candy that they can keep in their own jar to have in the future (in small quantities here and there).  This way, they still get to have the exciting delicious candy, but I have the peace of mind that they are choosing waste free items that don't include artificial ingredients, preservatives and other toxins.  You would be amazed at the selection of candies in bulk bins these days (candy drops (i.e., M&M equivalents), jelly beans, gummy bears, toffee, chocolate and yogurt covered you-name-it, etc.) but without all the artificial ingredients.  My 2-year-old knows where the candy section is in our pantry and hits me up just about every day for a jelly bean or 2.  

Costumes: This is, in my opinion, the least restrictive in terms of the effort to be zero waste.  You can still get a new costume, but consider getting one second hand (like a family hand me down) or as part of a costume exchange before getting a new one.  And if you do get a new one, make sure you save to hand down to someone else or donate.  In LA, many of the farmers markets have costume exchanges.  Don't hesitate to check them out.  It's also a great money saver!  Another option is to rent a costume.  

Decorations: Get things that you can use over and over, year after year, as opposed to single use items.  And try to find fun ways to incorporate compostable items into your decor, like pumpkins, corn stalks, paper, cardboard and hay.  Also, choose things that you can use for more than one holiday.  

Pumpkins: Last, but not least, don't forget to compost those jack-o-lanterns (which means your green bin Angelinos)!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Junk Mail Opt Outs & Going Paperless

Hopefully, this topic causes your ears to perk up because who doesn't abhor junk mail?  It truly makes me ill at how much paper is wasted every day on junk mail, not to mention the needless paper monthly statements that payees can easily access online.  The paper literally gets moved from your a box/slot to the recycling bin and is such a waste!  Given today's technology, why do we even need catalogs, flyers, paper advertisements or statements, when everything we need and want is right at our fingertips online.  If you are not sure how to tackle this problem, here are some quick, easy and free solutions:

Catalog Choice (https://www.catalogchoice.org/) is a great place to start and covers a huge chunk of unwanted mail, not to mention it's easy and free. You simply register and then start selecting the catalogs, phone books, credit card and other advertisements, etc. that you no longer want to receive.  This company works directly with merchants to ensure that the opt-outs are being honored.  So, it has proven to be highly effective.  They also have a unique tracking feature that shows you how much water and trees you are saving based on your opt-out selections, which I find to be rewarding.  It's nice to get a little pat on the back for your efforts, right?

DMA Choice (https://www.dmachoice.org/) is very similar to Catalog Choice and is an alternative service that does the work for you.

PaperKarma (https://www.paperkarma.com/) is by far my favorite.  I had opted out of receiving catalogs long ago, so the stuff I get is more related to credit card applications, local realtor and restaurant advertisements, and the like.  This type of stuff isn't always covered in the online services like Catalog Choice and DMA Choice because the merchants aren't large enough to be identified.  PaperKarma is a free Apple (at the iTunes App store) or Google (Google Play) mobile device app.  Once you download the app, you simply take a picture of the piece of mail you received using the app, and it does the work for you.  PaperKarma contacts the sender and sees to the opt-out.  My husband and I have come to love this app for it's ease and effectiveness.

Yellow Pages Opt-Out (https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com/) is a site dedicated to opting out of receiving phone books.  While Catalog Choice offers this option too, I found this site to be really quick and effective.  Phone Books are the monsters of junk mail in that they use so much paper.  Given the online resources we have nowadays, they are all but rendered useless.

The next time you get a paper statement, look it over to find out how to go paperless.  Most merchants offer this option nowadays.  And if the statement doesn't tell you how, just go to the website.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Simple Solutions - Rubber Bands

As hard as I try to prevent bringing things into my home that will have to been thrown away or for which I have more than I can possibly use, sometimes it seems unavoidable.  One example is rubber bands.  Even when shopping at a local farmers market for organic produce, you're still likely to bring home rubber bands because they are often necessary to hold your asparagus bundle together.  But don't give up.  There are alternatives to throwing them away.  Here's one idea...

But for a simpler more practical, simpler solution is simply to return them.  I give them back to my grocery store cashiers and farmers market vendors.  I find they are happy to take them back for reuse, particularly the organic stands.  They get it!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Simple Solutions - Corks

Since deciding to hit the road to Zero Waste, I have still been trying to work out a solution with what to do with all of my corks.  For the longest time, it was a non-issue, as I gave them to my dad to make trivets he would then gave away as gifts like this one below.  But, when the need for gift giving waned, I was faced with a challenge.

Since then, I have been research the issue.  I looked into composting and assumed that they would be given they are tree bark/plant based.  While they are compostable, it's hit or miss as to whether a municipality curbside composting program will take them because they take much longer to decompose than normal compostable food waste.  In one article, I read that you could put them in your compost if you grind them up into small pieces in your food processor.  I didn't really like that option because I am certain it will seriously dull the blade.

So, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across a cork return bin in Whole Foods.  Someone will gather and recycle/reuse the corks for me without any inconvenience.  Problem solved!

So be sure to check in at your local store (whether it be Whole Foods or even a wine store) to see if they too have a collection bin for reuse.  Funny enough, one of the guys working there saw me put the corks in the bin and thanked me!!  No, thank YOU!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Simple Solutions:Old T-Shirt Turned into Reusable Bag

I recently saw this posted on Facebook (I can't remember where) and felt compelled to share.  Who doesn't have old T-shirts that they no longer wear?  Before you toss into your rag pile (as I know none of you throw them in the trash any longer), here's another use.  Turn it into a cloth bag for your shopping pleasure.  Kids tees make great produce bags and the best part is that they are free!  How cool to be able to show off your favorite team/school, etc.?  This would make a great weekend craft project with your kids too.  You can teach them to reuse, sew and have fun!