Recent [Nearly] Zero Waste Swaps

Recent [Nearly] Zero Waste Swaps

When I first started reducing my waste, I was definitely tempted to toss every piece of plastic in the trash and buy all new wooden toys for my kids, bamboo scrub brushes for my dishes, and cast iron pots and pans for my kitchen…but I knew that was the exact opposite of the zero waste lifestyle I was trying to live. So, instead, I kept using my plastic Tupperware, my kids still play with their cheap plastic toys, and I’ve been scrubbing the toilet with the same plastic toilet brush that we bought nine years ago after we moved in together.

Toilet Brush

But all that changed a few weeks ago when I walked into the bathroom and saw, to my great excitement, that the toilet brush had somehow snapped in half! [Now that I think about it, one of the kids probably broke it, but I don’t even want to know how that happened…]

I’ve never been so happy to see something broken. And since I am unwilling to actually plunge my hand into the toilet to clean it, it was time for a new toilet brush!

This new beechwood brush is a beauty. In this case, eco-friendly is also the most attractive option.

Pull-Ups

I finally conceded that my son needs pull-ups to help with night potty training and my first thought was that we would have to buy disposables. [I know, old habits die hard.] But then I realized there may be a reusable alternative – and of course there is! So I bought a reusable pull-up that works just like our cloth diapers except that my son can pull it up and down to go to the bathroom if he needs to.

This GroVia pull-up works GREAT, but it is very pricey so I only bought one. I should get more so I don’t have to wash it every day. [I also got a set of “pull-ups” that are basically just padded underwear and don’t really prevent leaks AT ALL.]

Reusable 2-Gallon Bags

So, I have a confession. I’ve been using plastic gallon bags for storing and freezing my bread each week.

😱

I know…πŸ₯Ί

I wasn’t buying bags [which is good]. I was reusing them [which is a little iffy]. And let me tell you, they are definitely not made to be reused. But I didn’t have anything else that would keep the bread from drying out or going stale.

I’ve already replaced sandwich bags with wraps and silicone bags, so I decided to see if they have reusable bags in bigger sizes – and of course they do!

I bought these biodegradable two-gallon reusable bags for storing my loaves of bread in the fridge or freezer. I’m very pleased with them!

Handkerchiefs

I haven’t bought tissues in my adult life – other than picking up a box before my dad comes to visit and buying a box this fall for my daughter to take to kindergarten. It is probably unusual, but we use toilet paper for nose blowing. I fully blame my partner for this alternative. We currently compost the make-shift tissues, so I guess it’s not a total waste, but I’ve been dying for handkerchiefs. They are reusable, they are soft, and they kinda have this old-fashioned classy feel to them.

My girlfriend, Megan, made these for me and I could not be happier! I go to her for all of my sewing needs and she never disappoints! Someday I hope to have her teach me how to sew so I can make reusable produce bags from scrap material to hand out for free at my local farmers market like The Zero Waste Chef does.

Ah, well, we all have dreams!

Laundry Detergent Strips

I have spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME trying to find an eco-friendly laundry detergent. I know lots of people DIY this household essential, but I’ve just read too many reasons to trust the experts AND I use cloth diapers so I can’t be messing around with detergent or I’ll end up with unhappy babies.

So, I was SO EXCITED when my amazing cousin, Stacey, told me about these laundry strips by Well Earth Goods!

Half of a square is detergent for one load of laundry. I just put the strip in the drum and run my washer as usual. I think they are great! I was worried that they wouldn’t be strong enough for the diapers, but out of necessity we tried itοΏΌ, and I think it worked fine.

I love that this detergent option has no plastic jug to dispose of and even ships free without any plastic packaging.

This company is great and the store is full of low waste products. While I was there buying the laundry strips, I also picked up toothpaste tablets:

And a laundry stain stick:

I haven’t tried these two things yet. They will each probably warrant their own post with all the details, so stay tuned!


So, basically, what I’m trying to say is, before you go out and buy something that has a single use and will be tossed in the trash and that you have to continue to buy and throw away over and over and over again for the rest of your life….look around for a reusable alternative. There most likely is one. And it will save you loads of cash and Mother Earth loads of trash in the long run.

Reduce. REUSE. And if all else fails, Recycle.

♻️ ♻️ ♻️

Karis

The Only Way to Buy Chocolate

The Only Way to Buy Chocolate

“If you know what’s going on in the beginning of the value chain, it’s not possible to enjoy chocolate.” – Hank Jan Beltran, Chief Chocolate Officer for Tony’s Chocolonely

My partner, being the wonderful man that he is, occasionally brings me home a bar of chocolate.

πŸ₯°

The chocolate he buys me is always dark, delicious, and – most importantly – fair trade [he knows me very well]. But I haven’t always purchased fair trade chocolate. I hadn’t even heard of fair trade products until last year when I started learning about ethical shopping. But over the past year – and especially the past few months – I’ve become aware of the dark side of the chocolate industry to such an extent that [like Beltran says above] I can’t even enjoy chocolate if I can’t guarantee that no humans have been mistreated in order to provide me my little luxury.

For me, chocolate is not worth the suffering it is causing around the world.

So what exactly is the deal with fair trade chocolate?

A while back, Brett brought me my first bar of Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate, which gave me my first glimpse into the chocolate industry.

Turns out, the chocolate we enjoy here in the US comes at a very high price for the farmers in West Africa [and other places around the world] and many other real human beings in the supply chain.

Don’t believe me? Watch one of the newest episodes of Rotten, a documentary series on Netflix.

No, really. Go watch it.

Anyone who consumes chocolate [which is pretty much every human in the developed world] should know the truth about how chocolate is grown and harvested and purchased and produced for us to enjoy from the comfort of our big homes and the extravagance of our fancy kitchens. We should know how this chocolate made its way from Africa all the way to our countless convenient grocery stores filled with aisles upon aisles of every food you can imagine.

And as soon as we know the truth, we need to change our actions to prioritize the humans whose lives depend on this product for their livelihood. Even if we can’t see them and may never meet them – humans all over the world are worthy of being treated with respect and human decency. We, as part of the largest consumer culture on the planet, have a responsibility to demand the ethical treatment of everyone in the supply chain of the products we purchase.

So, how do we do that?

Enter fair trade certifications [Fairtrade, Utz, Whole Trade, etc] which ensure that products are being purchased at fair prices AND that all levels of the supply chain are being treated ethically AND often provides additional funds to support the local industry and economy.

[Look for these symbols when shopping.]

Yeah, it’s gonna cost us more. God forbid I have to pay an extra $2 for my chocolate bar to ensure that the farmers who grew the cocoa beans can feed their children tonight. I mean really, we are the most wealthy country and simultaneously the most concerned about an extra $1.

Fair trade is often criticized as not being effective, being a form of “greenwashing”, and only benefiting rich companies – but these all sound like excuses to me. And if there is anything I’ve learned from growing up in middle class America, it’s that we love making excuses to keep more of our money to ourselves.

You might think that a good solution is to stop buying chocolate altogether, but these farmers rely on income from cocoa farming, so it’s good that we all love chocolate so much. We just have to take more responsibility for the process. We need to prioritize people over our pocketbooks. We need to put our money where our mouths are.

I’ve had several kinds of fair trade chocolate. I like Theo a lot.

But, in my opinion, Tony’s Chocolonely is one of the greatest chocolate companies right now because they are promising that they have accountability at all levels of their supply chain AND they are trying to end slavery in the entire cocoa industry.

Tony’s is a chocolate that I can truly enjoy.

Look around, you may find another great chocolate company doing good things and taking good care of it’s people. If you find some, let me know! I love chocolate!

🍫🍫🍫

Karis

Resolutions Update Q3

Resolutions Update Q3

Time to revisit the New Years resolutions and see how I’m doing.

😬

Everything was rolling along very nicely until I had my baby in June. At that point, the train basically went off the rails entirely. I’ve completely ignored all of my resolutions while in “baby-mode.” I guess I forgot when I made these goals that having a newborn is very time-consuming and exhausting.

But now that my baby is almost four months old [what?!?], she is not quite so demanding and I’ve gained back most of my energy now that she is sleeping through the night [for the most part].

So, I want to go back and evaluate and possible adjust these goals for the last three months of the year.

My original resolutions for the year are posted here.

Health-wise, I want to practice yoga. I did great with this during my pregnancy, but I have no done yoga once since I gave birth. Updated resolution: Add one yoga workout per week to my personal workout schedule [which will be harder than you might think since I already exercise several times a day]. I am also going to do simple yoga poses with the kids in the morning before Eva leaves for school so that we can all benefit from this practice.

Oh, and floss daily. Again, I was going great, but dental hygiene has also gone by the wayside. Updated resolution: Floss every day with my convenient and low-waste water flosser.

New skill is knitting. I haven’t knitted anything since January, and I think I’ve kind of lost interest in it altogether. Updated resolution: Find a new home for the knitting needles and let it go.

At home, I want to start making my own cleaning products. I am now making homemade dish soap and homemade deodorizer and homemade multi purpose cleaner. πŸ‘πŸ» I think that’s really all the homemade cleaners I need as I don’t use homemade detergents.

I hope to reduce our trash [and recycling] even more. After a brief relapse after the baby was born, the trash is back down to a small grocery bag per week. Recycling is also down. I’ve been making a lot more from scratch and our CSA really helps to reduce our waste. πŸ‘πŸ»

Personally, I would like to read two books per month: one fiction and one non-fiction. Until last month I was reading way more than two books a month, but now that my exercise schedule is so demanding, I don’t have as much time to read. I tried listening to audiobooks while exercising, but it’s too distracting for me to have fully effective workouts. Updated resolution: Read one book per month for the last three months by reading a chapter before bed.

For my family, I want to spend more time outside. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder to get out with so many kids at such young ages, but now that the baby is older and is happy in a baby carrier [for the most part], I am hoping to spend a lot of time outside with the kids. Updated resolution: Spend 30 hours outside each month for the next three months.

We started out October by spending three hours at the pumpkin farm.

I’m so excited for fall!!! And, for getting back to normal life.

πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

Karis

The Whole Point of Zero Waste [spoiler alert: it’s not about the waste]

The Whole Point of Zero Waste [spoiler alert: it’s not about the waste]

You heard it here first, folks. Zero Waste is not actually about the waste.

When I first hopped on the waste-less bandwagon around a year ago, I kept seeing all these articles by negative Nancys basically calling the zero waste movement a fraud.

“It’s not actually zero waste,” they said.

“It’s not even going to make a dent in the waste problem.”

“The only way to save the planet is get big business and government legislation involved.”

Ok, so I hear all of this angsty, “why bother” business and I realize that they have all missed the entire point of the zero waste movement.

It’s not about the waste.

Technically it is about waste, but in reality, this way of life is MUCH MUCH bigger than just how much garbage you personally produce. It’s about more than reusable shopping bags and stainless steel straws and cooking from scratch and BYORC [bring your own reusable container – I bet you couldn’t tell I made that up…]. It’s not about storing all your trash in a jar, or in anything at all. None of that matters if we’re missing the whole point.

So what is the whole point?

Are you ready for it?

Zero waste is about affecting social change.

In other words, zero waste is less about how much actual waste you are producing and is much more about how you are influencing other people’s understanding of the waste problem. Sure, you can store five years worth of rubbish in a can, but if you are the only one doing it – I’m sorry – it’s just not going to help.

On trash pickup day, I see so many trash cans in my neighborhood filled to the brim. Some houses have several cans out. Some have whole piles of extra crap next to their cans. I would have to be certifiably insane to think that I am helping the cause by not contributing trash to the weekly pickup. That’s just nonsense. The quantity of trash is just plain enormous.

But I’m not trying to discourage zero wasters [or potential converts]. On the contrary, I’m trying to encourage everyone by saying that you ARE making a difference. Just by participating in the zero waste movement and living the zero waste lifestyle [and it doesn’t have to be perfectly, by the way] we are influencing those around us.

The whole reason the zero waste movement became defined by the trash in the jar stuff is because it is shocking. When someone holds a pint jar and says that all of the trash they have produced in the past year is inside, well, people notice. Because that is just plain not normal in our society. And that catches people’s attention. That plants a seed of curiosity, which we all hope will lead to research and then enlightenment and then changed behavior.

After all, that is the journey that we all went on before going zero waste, right?

My favorite zero waste blogger, Anne-Marie Bonneau at The Zero Waste Chef, says,

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Those millions of people aren’t just going to wake up one morning and start refusing plastic straws. But maybe if they see us doing it, if they hear us talking about it, then maybe the millions will join us.

It seems like a daunting problem from the perspective of the individual – and, yes, we do need corporate and government support to create significant and systemic change. But we shouldn’t let that discourage us either. All of the businesses and governments in the world are made up of people like you and me. It may seem like corporations and governments are huge insurmountable obstacles in the fight for the planet, but when you look closely, they are just people – people who have friends and families, who like to vacation at the beach or hike in the mountains, who also put their trash cans by the road each week. These people are not unreachable and all it takes is for us to set an example of sustainable living that spreads until it reaches the companies and government agencies that can create the biggest impact.

Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. We can create a positive change. All we have to do is set the example.

This is our purpose. This is the whole point.

❀️❀️❀️

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste Shoes

[Nearly] Zero Waste Shoes

Do you know how badly I wish there were such a thing as truly zero waste shoes????

Like, really badly.

And I’m not even a shoe person. But when I committed to sourcing my clothes through ethical, sustainable means I just kinda assumed that it would be possible to find shoes the same way.

Turns out, I was mistaken.

Of course, this post is not ALL bad news. There ARE some sustainable shoe brands out there – Made Trade, Everlane, Rothy’s, Allbirds [among others]. But none are totally zero waste [that I have found]. And more importantly, none of them make performance running shoes – which is, of course, what I need.

Eco-Friendly Running Shoes

The issue with finding sustainable running shoes is that they have to be able to perform well. They need to have cushion and support or my running [and feet and knees and legs and hips] will suffer. They also need to be replaced every 300-500 miles because the soles wear down and then, once again, my running will suffer. This also means that I can’t buy them used.

My dream is to find a running shoe that is comfortable and lightweight and can handle 500 miles of pavement pounding AND is 100% biodegradable.

I’m telling you right now, that is a total pipe dream.

At best, I’m hoping for a brand to someday take back worn out running shoes to recycle into new shoes. That would be the second best option. If we could close the loop on the running shoes, I would consider that zero waste. But, unfortunately, no such shoe exists [at least not that I know of, but I have my eye on the new Adidas project called Futurecraft.Loop].

So, while I’m waiting for the perfect zero waste shoe, I had to find the best alternative.

And this is where my new Adidas UltraBOOST Parley running shoes come in.

Meet My Adidas UltraBOOSTs

These are a collaboration between Adidas [the athletic shoe giant] and Parley for the Oceans [a nonprofit that is trying to save our oceans]. The top of the shoe is made [of some undefined percentage] of recycled plastic from the ocean.

Well that’s pretty cool.

And, honestly, the shoes are pretty cool with or without the ocean plastic. They aren’t kidding when they call them UltraBOOSTs…

Eco-Friendly Non-Running Running Shoes

While I was researching sustainable running shoes – and by the way, I did A TON of research – I came across these beautiful runners by Allbirds.

Meet my Allbirds Tree Runners

Unfortunately, despite being called runners, they are not actually for running. But they are so beautiful and from such a great eco-friendly company that I bought a pair for casual wear.

You can wear these without socks!!! THEY ARE SO COMFORTABLE!!! And they are machine washable [which is important because I went with white].

These are sparking some serious joy, folks…

Even the packaging they came in was totally waste free. πŸ‘πŸ»

In Conclusion

So, basically shoes are still tough to find zero waste – especially athletic shoes – but it’s important to me to do my homework and make the most ethical and most sustainable choice I can.

All I can do is give my consumer dollars to the companies that are doing their best for people and planet and hope that others follow.

If you have sustainable shoe brands to share, let me know!

🌍 🌎 🌏

Karis

Lessons in Motherhood and rewarding good behavior

Lessons in Motherhood and rewarding good behavior

As a [mostly] stay-at-home mom, these four kids are my whole world…and they require TONS of my time and energy, which is bad because I’ve been sleep-deprived and short-tempered for the past two months.

Now that I’ve had my fourth baby, I can confirm that my favorite Jim Gaffigan quote is 100% correct…

I’m not kidding, folks. It’s been rough.

The Parenting Problem

Specifically, I’ve been struggling with correcting bad behavior [or in other words, getting my kids to do what I want them to do].

Until recently, our method was simple: disobedience or other bad behaviors resulted in a time-out or the loss of a privilege [treat after dinner, screen time, special activity, etc]. But it has turned into me constantly threatening the kids with consequences that end up being consequences for me too – which only makes me more upset.

I began to feel like I needed to switch to motivating with positive reinforcement. Otherwise, it feels like I am constantly taking things away from them – or threatening to do so.

But I didn’t know how to make the switch. It wasn’t like I could give my kid a cookie every time he or she did something kind or obeyed right away.

This just a random recent picture of the kids being cute – DON’T BUY IT! πŸ˜‚

The A-Ha Moment

It suddenly occurred to me one night as I was trying to get my kids to lay quietly in their beds that by changing my wording, I could turn the consequence into a reward.

So instead of saying, “lie down and be quiet or you’ll lose your video tomorrow,” I said “if you lie down and stay quiet, then you’ll get to watch a video tomorrow!”

Strangely enough, it worked.

So now, instead of saying, “pick up your room, or you can’t go outside,” I say, “everyone who helps to pick up their room will get to go outside to ride bikes!”

Instead of saying, “if you don’t finish your dinner, you won’t get ice cream,” I say, “if you eat your last three bites, then you’ll get to have ice cream!”

I’m not sure why we always resorted to threatening a punishment when we could have just changed our phrasing and offered a reward. Nothing we are doing has changed. We have just changed the way we present the choice to them.

It’s too early to tell whether I’m actually getting more consistent good behavior from the kids, but it’s already making me less crabby.

Rewarding feels so much better than handing out [and enforcing] consequences. Now I don’t always have to be the bad guy.

Another one of the kids looking all innocent…

The One Caveat

Of course, this doesn’t work after a bad behavior has already happened. There are definitely times when a consequence is necessary, but a lot of parenting is trying to motivate kids to behave better and I don’t know about you, but my kids are much more motivated by rewards than by threats.

In general, my kids are great. Of course, they have their moments, but I’m not trying to make it sound like they are always terribly behaved. But as they grow older, I am facing new behavioral challenges and I often feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

Any and all advice in this area is appreciated!

😁😁😁

Karis

Plastic Free July 2019: My Failures [and Successes]

Plastic Free July 2019: My Failures [and Successes]

No one is perfect, right? πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

Seriously, though, I’m glad this plastic free business is not about perfection. Our take-and-toss society makes living without any plastic nearly impossible [especially if you have kids] and single-use plastics are EVERYWHERE.

Image from UN Environment

And old habits die hard, folks. But I am slowly making new, more sustainable habits.

Overall, I’ve been doing great with my zero waste goals. I went so far as to not buy anything at all on my entire 12 hour drive to New York…WITH FOUR KIDS! If you have ever taken a road trip with children, you know how tempting those drive through nuggets are so you can toss them into the back seat to keep the kids quiet. But I just couldn’t face the waste.

My three-week-old baby on her first road trip. ❀️

As far as Plastic Free July went, I did pretty well for the month – but, to my embarrassment, I made some rookie mistakes.

These were my commitments for the month:

Refuse plastic straws and disposable beverage cups. For the aforementioned “New York or Bust” road trip, we didn’t buy any drinks. Our one stop for dinner on the way home was at Panera where we brought in everyone’s water bottles and refilled them. We ate out of real dishes with real utensils [one of several reasons that I am a Panera fan]. We also took our own water bottles when we went to Chuck E. Cheese for Evangeline’s 5th birthday.

[Failure #1] BUT when Brett and I went out for a date night and ended up at a local ice cream chain, Brett’s sundae came in a big glass bowl with a real spoon and my low-calorie smoothie came in a plastic cup with [egad!] a plastic straw. I was literally half way through the smoothie before Brett pointed out that I was drinking out of a plastic. I was so concerned about the healthfulness of my choice, I totally forgot to think about the plastic.

πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Bring my own reusable container for restaurant leftovers. The only restaurants we ate at all month were Panera and Chuck E. Cheese, as I mentioned above. For Panera, we had no leftovers, but at Chuck E. Cheese we had about a whole pizza leftover [Failure #2] and, of course, I forgot to bring a container. We ended up carrying the pizza home in styrofoam.

πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Since then, however, I did remember to bring a few reusable containers when we went to Red Robin…but of course we had no leftovers. There must be a Murphy’s Law about this…

Buy only plastic-free groceries. Oh man, this was tough – especially when blackberries went on sale for $.88! But I stuck to my commitment and didn’t buy a single thing in plastic packaging all month. [My husband might have – but let’s not discuss it.] I even stopped an employee at the grocery store who was putting handfuls of loose green beans into plastic bags and asked if he could just put them straight into my reusable bag. He looked at me like I was crazy, but he did it! Which made me very happy because I LOVE green beans and my grocer always sells them in plastic bags.

Well, everyone already knows how much I care about this stuff [and I still end up using plastic sometimes] but for all you “no-big-deal” folks out there, here’s why single-use plastics are a big deal.

So that’s how my month went. Anyone else have confessions to make???

Karis