zero waste wednesday

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^^^ my travel bag  i carry in my purse for use when disposables are present ^^^

do you know the number one largest component of american trash? one-time-use restaurant ware. think to-go coffee cups, napkins, disposable fast food wrappings, plastic drink cups, straws, paper linings for tables and trays, take out containers etc. etc. etc.

once you really start to think about it, it gets really scary. just one trip to restaurant can yield up to 20 pieces of trash that were used only once…that were precious resources…and more precious resources were used to get them to your table.

this is been an area of my life that i’ve desired to work on for a while. of course the easiest and our number one way of solving this {mostly for financial reasons} was to curb eating out. making meals at home is healthier for your wallet, waistline and the planet.

but sometimes eating out is unavoidable or rather just plain desirable. i’ve come up with a few strategies for reducing our waste when we choose to eat out. I’ll be sharing them here for this series. here is my first:

1. opt for restaurants that use real napkins & silverware when possible. if you have to choose between going to someplace like steak n shake or burger king for a burger then choose steak n shake. they use real silver ware, reusable cups and some still have cloth napkins. we try to eat places with better quality food but hey, you need these tips when road trips are involved. and maybe plan ahead and research quality food choices ahead of time for road trips. i am not actually very good at this but i know people who do. or skip this altogether by packing a cooler of quality food before you start.

another option is to make a small pack to carry around with you. i regularly carry a few kerchiefs with me so i just added a couples sets of silverware. this goes where I go and we’ve used them several times when some of our favorite eats only offer disposables.

making an effort to be more zero-waste, a little bit at a time.

zero waste home: rotisserie chicken

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i’ve successfully avoided meat with bones in it for most of the 30 years of my life. i’ve had exactly two chicken wings and that was for my 12th grade lit project when i had to construct a diorama of grendel’s lair for beowulf. real bones got me that extra half a grade point, i’m sure of it.

anyway, i’ve been putting off the fact that if i’m not going to go vegetarian then getting a whole rotisserie chicken and putting that to use in our household makes the most economical and ecological sense. i had a coupon this week and thought “if you’re scared of it then that’s how you know you should do it.” so i got it and now know that i find a great deal of delight from picking chicken meat off the bone.

economical sense: this sucker cost me $3.99. so far i’ve made chicken salad, a dumbed down version of chicken schwarma on hummus, and chicken tacos. there is still plenty of meat left so i think i’ll be trying a chicken + bacon pizza and of course using the ‘pickins’ for making my own broth. this is good. literally and figuratively.

ecological sense: well, i think buying chicken breasts 2 at a time at the deli counter is about the worst packaging waste wise so i often opt for a trader joe’s frozen bag with a number of breasts that last us a couple months. this is an ok option but the plastic bag doesn’t normally get recycled because i’m too lazy to wash it out. with the rotisserie chicken it’s fresh and i’m in control of getting the most use possible out of the remains. the packaging of this chicken will be much easier to rinse out and will definitely make it into recycling, or possibly repurposed into a small green house for seedlings.

the long & short of it is that i think i’ll definitely opt for this approach again. i’ve found that i always enjoy being more involved with our food and this helped foster that. or…i might just go vegetarian and cut out the meat budget all together.

now, some taco pics:

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^^^ i always sneak some veggie goodness into our taco meat: carrots, kale and onions get added. ^^^

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^^^ real yum yum ^^^

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^^^darla’s pickle taco ^^^

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^^^ and just for grins, a shot of darla shotgunning milk from a travel cosmetic bottle because that was THE ONLY option for beverage conveyance that she was going to entertain. whatevs dude. ^^^

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i’ll be posting a few more eco-friendly posts this week in honor of being in the running for Circle of Moms Top 25 Most Eco-Friendly Mom Blogs. If you would be so kind as to vote for me, click on through to the badge below. Thanks!

what’s inside your zero waste grocery tote?

Welcome to another installment of zero waste home management. I am your host, Elaine Tucker. 

Today we’re taking a look inside my tote bag. I carry this tote every time we hit the grocery.

Step 1: get a tote to hold totes. 

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^^^ As you can see everything you need will still fit inside the tote bag that you already take with you. you take totes to the grocery, right? ^^^

Step 2: put this stuff in it.

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^^^ so here’s the stash laid out. Various containers, bags & my important erasable crayon ^^^

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^^^ so here we can see two other totes that fold up inside the original tote. in the top left hand corner we have lightweight, plastic containers that come in 3 sizes and fit inside one another nicely when empty. these are my bulk item containers. i’ve used the same ones for at least 6 months now with washings in between store trips.  i procured them at market district because that’s where i do most of my bulk shopping but whole foods also has a bag system if you’d rather go that route. I think the plastic containers are easiest and stack in a pantry nicely. You can also see my produce bags peeking out but we’re not ready for you yet, friends  ^^^

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^^^ now we are! fabric produce bags top right hand corner, a saved produce bag does just as well, a reusable plastic bag delegated to rice items since we buy a lot of that at one time and my saved coffee bag for the self-serve whole bean department ^^^

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^^^ my take-out containers center stage. these are used at the deli for meats and cheeses and occasionally for bulk pasta and OLIVES! Bottom left-hand corner is my refillable liquids container for olive or canola oil or balsamic vinegar. i also have a refillable honey bear that didn’t make it into the pic ^^^

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^^^ and this little guy is my secret weapon. it’s my erasable crayon pen so i can write the PLU #s on the top of each container. I’m often letting others borrow it as there is always a shortage of pens in the bulk items section. Any washable marker would do ^^^

are you thinking this looks like a lot of work? like any other habit, once you’re used to it, it doesn’t take much extra time at all. in fact, i save time in the grocery now because i’m not going into the center aisles. everything i need is in the perimeter.

the workability of this systems lies somewhere between turning the car around when you forget the totes and saying “yes, i’ll take paper” when you’ve run out of room in the totes and have some overflow. i’m dedicated enough to make the effort but flexible enough to let it go if i need to use a plastic produce bag every once in a while. plus, you only forget the tote 2 times at the most. after that it’s engrained in your memory FOREVER.

and i didn’t make all these changes at once. i started small and kept adding measures gradually. if you don’t think you can do all of these then focus on the ones you can. I started with the reusable totes and containers for the deli counter and it has progressed from there. it’s about progress not perfection. i personally believe it’s my job as a consumer to make sure i’m making ethical choices. a whole lot of throw away plastic is not ethical for me. so i’ve made progress where and when I can.

have i inspired you yet? please feel free to leave a comment if you do your own zero waste grocery shopping. if anyone has an idea that i’ve left out please leave it in that comment section.

zero waste pantry: cut back on your food packaging waste

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doesn’t it look so shiny and glistening in there? this is my revamped zero-waste pantry. it’s been a gradual progression, but I hit up a glass ware sale while d was out of town and set to some organization.

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i’m awfully proud of that middle shelf but the top needs a little work. still, it makes me feel badass to look in and see so many items i now get in the bulk section without any throw away packaging involved.

here’s a {somewhat} complete list of pantry items i get in bulk:

flour, wheat flour, rice of several sorts, sunflower seeds, cocoa, coconut, chocolate morsels, corn meal, masa, confectioners sugar, bread crumbs, olive oil, canola oil, a great variety of beans, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, pasta varieties, peanut butter, dried cranberries, popcorn, coffee, sugar, brown sugar, oats.

with the help of a dry erase marker, i labeled all the tops for easy sorting.

between these pantry items and the refridgerated items i get with reusable containers or produce bags, our kitchen has greatly cut down on waste. i still can’t break myself of my need for sour cream or other pre-packaged items but i’ve come up with a system of saving the old glass jars to add to the pantry or save for {hopefully} canning some of our garden produce this year.

this system of grocery shopping has greatly simplified my life and the amount of time i spend in the grocery store. i hardly step into the center of the store anymore and mostly stick to the perimeter. it’s much simpler to come up with meals that involve only fresh veggies, fruits and any of the bulk food items listed above. i love simplicity especially when it works out in our monetary favor, as well.

are you interested in zero waste home management? do you have questions? leave a comment or you can email me at heymomjeanz {at} gmail {dot} com. let’s learn more about it together, shall we?

Shop Amazon Earth Day – Green Solutions

a slightly eco-friendly easter

it was so long ago. why bring it up again now? well, i really like bragging about myself so i’m going to tell all of you how much better i was at saving the earth on easter than you were. in fact, the only person better at saving the earth than me on easter was JESUS.

i applied some zero waste principles to easter:

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1. non-individually wrapped easter candy in a jar. forgo the fake grass, tissue paper and other trimmings. the non-individually wrapped is important and i’m planning on using this jar system for future holidays requiring candy but buying the candy from the bulk section. i think this will also help curb the amount of candy bought and brought into the house.

2. a couple pre-loved, spring friendly articles of clothing from the re-sale shop. i’ve made the decision to only get darker shades for pants from now on due to the smudged knees, dirt and grass stains that every kid deserves the freedom to get.

3. pastel, pre-owned popsicle molds. say good-bye to popsicle wrappers, boxes and sticks. our first round of homemade ones included frozen fruit, cherry juice, avocado, a bit of broccoli, flax seed meal and a smidge of honey.

4. these little ladies and the sidewalk chalk were new. i saw them and thought “now those are some princesses that i can embrace in our household.”  i took a few loads of old toys and clothes to goodwill & resale shops while darla was gone.  darla doesn’t like when i do this so naturally i only do it while she is away. my plan for making it fly this time was a note left behind from e. bunny saying he took the old stuff and brought her a few small items as a thank you for passing her old stuff on. he stroked her ego a little bit commending her on what a great thing she did by giving it away. laying some groundwork as i go, folks. it worked like a charm.

i hope this gives some of you ideas for future holiday celebrations in your own homes. progress not perfection!

starting our garden: seedlings

we took advantage of that one spring day this weekend to start our spring planting. i’ve never started plants from seeds before so i’m crossing my fingers and darla gave the dirt special blessings and then turned to the window and prayed for hades to let persephone go back to demeter because “we just can’t have any more winter, you know.”

we’ve been boning up on our greek mythology.

i’ve got a nice plan, packets of seeds and garden materials ready to construct once the weather is done doing its thing. i’m sending out some earthy vibes hoping this little garden of ours comes to fruition and helps us on the way to meeting some zero waste goals for the year.

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1. yeah child labor!  2. repurposed egg trays  3. finally getting to use my cute herb spoons my SIL gifted me years ago  4. a nice little variety of plants, herbs and flowers on that tray.

stock

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i’ve been making my own vegetable stock as part of my zero waste efforts. we eat a lot of soup in the winter months and i’ve cut down on a lot of cardboard veggie stock cartons. we also eat a lot of salad and fresh veggies so i just keep this pot in the fridge and any peelings or stems get tossed in here until the next boiling. soups have been extra yummy thanks to the freshness factor.  veggie peelings then get dumped in the compost after boiling is done. it makes me feel so savvy and smart to get three different uses from our food stuffs.