Zero Waste Toothbrushes / DIY Bathroom Remodel

Zero Waste Toothbrushes / DIY Bathroom Remodel

About a month ago, Brett and I [but mostly Brett] finished remodeling our upstairs bathroom.

Before reno:

After demo:

All done [hallelujah!]:

Since then, I’ve been anxious to replace the final eyesore – our toothbrushes.

I’ve been slowly replacing other bathroom items with zero waste, sustainable alternatives. I swapped our plastic shower curtain liner for a cloth one that can be washed and reused. [Since plastic shower curtain liners can’t be recycled, we are “upcycling” it as a tarp over our firewood. Other great ideas for old plastic liners can be found here.]

I’ve also traded the typical containers for cotton balls and q-tips for glass jars that I already had around the house.

I still have some plastic stuff waiting to be used up or worn out before being replaced – brush, comb, lotion and detangler bottles…

But the toothbrushes really bothered me. I finally got to replace them with compostable bamboo brushes. The bristles are nylon and though the biodegradability of some types of nylon are being debated, these bristles can be pulled and recycled.

I chose this company because it is based in the US and [from everything I can tell] committed to ethical and sustainable practices. Also they come in 100% cardboard packaging [double boxed]. It is hard to find toothbrushes that don’t have ANY PLASTIC in the packaging.

And it doesn’t hurt that making the bathroom more eco-friendly also makes it look better.

There are lots of great sustainable toothbrush options available now. Just search for bamboo toothbrushes. Also Preserve is a company that partners with Whole Foods to gather and recycle plastics into new toothbrushes which is the best choice if you want stick with plastic. They make it super easy to recycle the brushes when your done by selling you the brush in a prepaid return pouch!

As for your old plastic toothbrushes, read more about recycling them in this article by Recycle Nation [spoiler alert: it ain’t easy].

And more about sustainable toothbrush options in this post by My Plastic Free Life.

AND order your own sustainable toothbrushes from The Green Root here.

Happy Brushing!

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste at the Chicago Marathon

[Nearly] Zero Waste at the Chicago Marathon

If you’ve ever participated in a race, you probably already know that these events are [typically] very wasteful. Aid stations hand out water and Gatorade in paper or [egad!] plastic cups which get used for all of five seconds before being thrown onto the ground to be trampled by the rest of the runners. Then there are all the energy packets [gels, chews, beans, honey sticks, etc] all in individual wrappers which are also thrown on the ground mid-run. And don’t get me started on all the post-race foods like bananas, apples, protein bars, and water bottles that all create some sort of waste. All of this stuff ends up piled high in tons of trash cans throughout the race course and at the finish line.

I have been participating in running and multi-sport events of all different sizes – from small town 5Ks to the Chicago Marathon this past weekend – for the past seven years and, honestly, I never even considered the waste until this summer. So, I was very excited to find that the Chicago Marathon had so many awesome green initiatives.

“The 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon has been named an Evergreen Inspire event by the Council for Responsible Sport…”

-Participant Guide

Some of my favorite sustainability initiatives were:

1. The race shirt was made of 100% recycled polyester which has fewer environmental impacts.

2. Most aid stations collected organic waste [paper cups and banana peels] to be composted and the soil donated to the Chicago Park District.

3. Recycled Heatsheets will be made into benches which will be donated to the Chicago Park District.

4. Designated Green team volunteers helped to direct waste into separate containers for compost, recycle or landfill at several Zero Waste Stations.

5. The race participant guide encouraged runners to bring their own reusable water bottles and provided refilling stations.

And everyone already knows how much I love the #SheddtheStraw initiative by Shedd Aquarium. I love seeing Chicago work together to become a more sustainable city.

Of course, a lot of these initiatives are only effective if the runners and spectators actually utilize them and changing [or re-training] an entire race culture will not happen overnight.

BUT, I can make a difference. I made sure to sort my waste appropriately at the designated Zero Waste Stations. I recycled my Heatsheet. I stayed on the designated paths to preserve the foliage in Grant Park. I recycled my gear check bag appropriately when I got home [store drop-off].

I realized that I can do more, though – starting with requesting green initiatives at all my races and encouraging fellow runners to support a more sustainable racing environment.

One of the things I love most about running is how simple it is. It doesn’t require any fancy equipment or gym or dress code or anything other than a pair of legs and a stretch of earth. Running also connects us to nature by getting us outside to enjoy fresh air and appreciate the beauty around us. We don’t want to ruin that, right?

So if and when you happen to participate in a racing event – it never hurts to encourage race directors to provide sustainable options…and at the very least, look for the recycle bin. 👍🏻

Happy [Zero Waste] Running!

Karis

Josephine’s [Nearly] Zero Waste 1st Birthday Party

Josephine’s [Nearly] Zero Waste 1st Birthday Party

My sweet baby girl turned one this month so yesterday we threw a small [nearly] zero waste dinner party to celebrate.

For my older two kids, I threw big themed parties for their first birthdays. For Evangeline’s ice cream themed party, I made a ton of paper decorations including huge ice cream cones that hung from the ceiling and a “Sweet Shoppe” banner. I also catered the food from a grocery store. For Theo’s Cubs baseball party, I hung a huge stadium backdrop and ordered a photo booth prop package. For both of those parties I served everything in disposable dishes with disposable cutlery and disposable napkins.

Still, I wanted Josephine to have a party that was just as special – but without all the waste. I tried to marry our new “simple living” philosophy with our goal to reduce our waste and what we ended up with was a beautiful party that was inexpensive and elegant.

Here’s how it went:

The Food

I made three roasted vegetable lasagnas, Brett baked two batches of rosemary focaccia [his specialty], and we also served a yellow watermelon we got from the farm share [or CSA, if you’re just now joining us].

Since I made the lasagnas myself, including the noodles, tomato sauce, and ricotta cheese, there was very little waste. The only waste was the plastic bags from the mozzarella and parmesan, which we will recycle. Brett made the focaccia from scratch using the yeast and flour I bought at Walmart a while back [more about that zero waste trip here] and the rosemary from our herb garden on our deck.

Waste: cheese bags [recycled]

The Cakes

I also made all the cakes and frosting from scratch – a total of four different kinds of cake with three different types of buttercream. [Before you go thinking I’m absolutely insane, I had to make a special vegan cake for the birthday girl and my cousin who is on a special diet for health reasons. Then I wanted to make two small special cakes for two other family members who also have birthdays in the same week. And then a big cake for everyone else.]

The butter wrappers cannot be recycled so they ended up in the trash before I found this amazing article about all the brilliant ways to use the butter wrappers [spoiler alert, they still end up in the trash] BUT I probably need to just make my own going forward. The most waste was actually from the piping bags, which were not necessary but made the cakes so pretty. Next time I am going to invest in a reusable option since I am out of disposable piping bags now anyway.

Waste: butter wrappers and piping bags [trash], butter carton and whipping cream carton [recycled]

The Tableware

We used all of our regular tableware. With a guest count of twelve adults and eight kids, we had enough dinner plates to feed everyone, but we didn’t have enough dessert plates for the cake so some people ate their cake out of bowls. But, really, cake is cake no matter what it’s served on, right?

We served the drinks [cucumber lemon water and sweet tea lemonade] from big glass beverage dispensers [one of which we borrowed] and everyone used cloth napkins [well, I don’t know how many people actually used them…why are people so afraid of cloth napkins???].

After dinner, my sweet auntie rinsed the dishes and loaded the dishwasher and we gathered all the dirty napkins and put them in the laundry room.

We even fed the scraps to the dog who was in heaven – but there were very few scraps. Oh, and the watermelon seeds and rinds were composted.

Waste: None!

The Decorations

I decorated with a pallet from my backyard [don’t judge me from having pallets randomly lying around my back yard] and signs from Josephine’s nursery [the flowery “J” and the painted sign with her name that I made for her before she was born and the floral bunting that hangs in her room].

I printed the photos for the typical monthly timeline, but I needed these photos for her baby book anyway, so they will not be wasted. I up-cycled old wine bottles and used mason jars as vases for flowers. I even used some of the small buds that had fallen off the flowers and carnations as “confetti” on the table.

The biggest waste [which I had not even thought about] was the plastic wrapping from the flowers [along with the rubber bands and the flower food packets]. I’m not sure how to get flowers without the plastic besides cutting them from your own garden. At least the film can be recycled by dropping it off at the store, so not a total waste.

Everything else I used to decorate [like the paper and burlap runners] are compostable or recycleable or reusable AND everything was already in my home and therefore technically already wasted.

Waste: plastic sleeves for flowers and paper decorations [recycled]

The Gifts

I asked for no gifts, but I knew that the chances of not receiving any gifts was slim. And I was right. But it was SIGNIFICANTLY reduced compared to what it would ordinarily be. [Also, I have noticed that when I request no gifts, which I always do, people tend to give us practical, useful gifts]. Josephine got two baby board books, a helium birthday balloon, and an elephant bath towel and homemade soap.

Waste: gift bag and tissue paper [which I will reuse] and balloon [which will end up in the trash but will entertain my kids for the next week, so I’m not upset about it at all].

All in all, it was a good party – not because of the small amount of waste, but because we spent time with family celebrating our sweet baby girl being so grown up!

Of course, the lack of waste makes me happy. We didn’t even have to empty our little trash can under the sink. Come to think of it, I don’t think a single thing was thrown away the entire party. [It helps to hide the trash can – and the paper towels.]

That’s a success in my book!

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Walmart

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Walmart

To be honest, this shopping trip was pretty far from “zero waste.” I’m admittedly using “nearly” very loosely here. The good news is that all of the waste, with the exception of the produce stickers, can be recycled or composted.

I don’t typically shop at Walmart, but when the closest bulk store is 30 minutes away and I have all three kids with me and we just spent the morning at the doctor and we really need some basics for baking and produce for snacks…well, sometimes I end up going to Walmart.

[This is actually the first time such a thing has happened because I try my best to always plan ahead and therefore avoid this problem.]

I don’t even have the time or energy to sort through my varied and complex feelings about Walmart in general. So, I had to do what I could, and I’m happy to report that, at the very least, I didn’t bring very much waste home.

Here’s a breakdown of what I got:

Flour and Sugar

I usually buy these from the bulk bins at Whole Foods or [recently] Fresh Thyme, but I just couldn’t get all the way to one of those stores. But, the good news is that these bags are compostable and I bought the largest bags I have space to store. My biggest bummer is actually that I’m not certain that the sugar is fair trade.

Extra virgin olive oil

We usually buy it at Walmart because it is a good price for a big jug [even though the jug is unfortunately plastic], BUT I will be buying my EVOO from Fresh Thyme from now on since they have it in bulk and I can bring my own container.

Toilet paper

I haven’t found a source of unpackaged toilet paper yet, so I buy the rolls in large packages and recycle the plastic wrap [grocery store drop off] and all of the cardboard rolls [curbside pickup].

I wish we were to the point of not using any toilet paper, but my husband is not a fan of the make-shift bidet [aka diaper sprayer].

Yeast

I buy my yeast in glass jars because I use a lot of yeast and glass is a sustainable material and good for reusing [like storing homemade baby food or making homemade candles] or recycling.

Milk

Ah, milk – the bane of my zero waste existence. I see why it is so much easier to be truly “zero waste” as a vegan. But my husband cannot live without milk. We could buy it in glass bottles, but I just can’t bring myself to do it yet. So, the downside is three plastic jugs to be recycled. BUT, on the upside, one gallon is for making homemade yogurt, and the other is for making homemade ricotta…so I’m saving the waste I would have if I bought those things.

[I’m trying to convince my family to switch over to the cashew milk I make and think is delicious – but change takes time…]

Produce

I picked up loose produce and put it in my own bags. The only regret is that the bananas are not fair trade – but I don’t even know where to find fair trade bananas. [Suggestions, anyone?]

Ironically, the produce is the only place where I brought home something actually bound for the trash can – the stickers.

But, I guess if this is all that goes to the landfill, that’s not too bad after all.

Karis

Zero Waste or Fair Trade

Zero Waste or Fair Trade

A while back, we ran out of brown sugar [which, it turns out, my children MUST HAVE in their oatmeal each morning]. So, I figured I would just grab a bag at Aldi while I was there for the avocado sale.

Aldi carries two types of brown sugar [that I have found]:

Baker’s Corner light brown sugar,

and SimplyNature organic fair trade light brown sugar.

I was about to throw the fair trade sugar in my cart when I thought to check whether the bag is recyclable.

Hmm…it is not.

So I checked the Baker’s Corner bag.

Yes, it is.

Seriously?

I have to choose now between waste and a fair wage?

Well, I didn’t have time to ponder the deep philosophical consequences at the moment, so I chose not to buy either and my kids spent two weeks eating oatmeal with maple syrup until I had a chance to get to Whole Foods where I bought brown sugar from the bulk bins.

I’m sure the correct choice is a matter of opinion, but seriously?! Why do I have to choose? Why can’t the fair trade brown sugar be in a recyclable bag?

What would you have done?

Karis

Recycling Plastic Bags

Recycling Plastic Bags

How awesome are these new How2Recycle labels that help you know how to recycle the item!

When we first began recycling, the whole thing was so foreign to me that I actually printed a visual reference guide for what could be recycled curbside and posted it on our fridge. I had no idea what the rules were. [Side note: I did the same thing for the compost bin.] Turns out, there’s a lot that can’t go in the curbside recycling bin. [Check this article out: 18 Things You Should NOT Recycle Curbside] But, the good news is, there is a convenient drop-off for plastic bags and films at grocery stores.

Of course, we use our canvas bags for grocery shopping so we never [or very rarely] have plastic bags, but there are other plastics that need to be dropped off this way, such as: produce bags and films, sandwich or freezer bags [yes, I still have a few of these lying around], plastic wraps [like what the toilet paper comes in], and the plastic packaging or plastic envelopes that you get with shipments. [Read a complete list and find a location here.]

We are working on getting rid of these types of plastics altogether, but in the meantime, I want to recycle them. Just because something can’t go in my can for pickup, doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled at all. It might take a little more effort, but not much since the drop box is literally right at the entrance of places I regularly go.

So at any given time, I’ve got a small collection of these plastics waiting by the door so that I can easily drop them off on my next trip to Jewel or Caputo’s.

Just another easy way to be good to the earth.

Who else is dropping off their plastic bags??? Must be somebody else out there because the bins are usually pretty full. 👍🏻

Karis

Buh-Bye to Plastic Straws

Buh-Bye to Plastic Straws

My daughter, Evangeline, ran the Safari Stampede at the Lincoln Park Zoo [the amazing free zoo in the heart of Chicago, for those who don’t know] as part of the Run for the Zoo event that Brett and I also ran to support this summer. In her swag bag was a lot of plastic stuff – but also this awesome reusable bamboo straw from The Shedd Aquarium [#SheddTheStraw].

While we rarely order fast food [we actually have a family ban on fast food going on right now] or takeout beverages, I carry this straw in the diaper bag in case we have the opportunity to refuse a plastic straw. But it sounds like the reign of the plastic straw is coming to an end [a very, very slowly – but still].

Last month, Seattle put their plastic straw and utensil ban into full effect [read about it in this Seattle Times article] and it looks like other cities are following suit.

And so they should. There are SO MANY better options – compostable, reusable, or no straws at all [what an idea!]

According to this article by CNN, 79% of plastic ends up in the environment and only 9% is being recycled. [The article cites this report by Science Advances, which you can read if you are ever very bored…or just interested in the “Production, use, and fate of all plastics” like I am.]

Only 9%?!? Seriously?

C’mon, guys! We can do better than that!

I wish Chicago would join the movement, but just because my city isn’t banning their use, doesn’t mean I can’t stop using disposable plastic products. AND I can recycle more [and hopefully bump up that 9%]!

Hence the bamboo straw.

If you haven’t gotten your hands on reusable straws [along with reusable water bottles, coffee cups, shopping bags, etc], then do it! Save the planet!

I know my measly efforts to reduce the ENORMOUS amount of plastic in our oceans and landfills is not going to make a big dent – BUT if we all were to take a stand and make a change… that might do something.

Don’t wait for change. Be the change!

Karis