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

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Fresh Thyme

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Fresh Thyme

Today we took a long drive to a grocery store that sounded [from everything I read online] like a bulk bin paradise. I first heard of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market a month or so ago during one of my many searches for local zero waste shopping options, but was sad to find that the closest store was forty minutes from my home. Since then, however, I learned that a new location is opening in January 2019 only ten minutes away!!!

So, today we decided to make the drive and check out the location nearest us. I was pleasantly surprised by the bulk bin options which, though not quite as many as Whole Foods, include bulk coffee beans and bulk liquids like oils, vinegars, and honey! And the prices are more reasonable than any other bulk sections I have found. The grocery store also runs good deals that offer meat and produce for prices similar to what our local grocer, Jewel-Osco, does, which is why I picked up a package of blackberries [my only purchase today with any plastic waste].

Here’s our grocery haul:

We even got some package-free bars of soap.

I put the bulk bin numbers into my phone for checkout so we didn’t even bother with any papers or pens or twisty ties or anything. The only other waste [besides the blackberry package] was the stickers on the bananas and avocados and the receipt.

Also, since going [nearly] zero waste and not buying any processed foods, we’ve reduced our grocery budget by $100 per month – from $400 to $300 for our family of five [being mostly vegan also really helps with saving money]. I think it is pretty clear that buying healthy, organic, local and fair trade food does not have to break the bank.

Quite frankly, I don’t know why more people aren’t doing it…

Karis

Zero Waste: Beeswax Wraps

Zero Waste: Beeswax Wraps

In January of 2017, I made a New Years resolution to stop using all disposable products [i.e. paper towels, plastic bags, disposable cups, paper plates, paper napkins, etc] and switch everything in the house to reusable. At the time, I didn’t even know that zero waste was an actual thing and I certainly didn’t suspect that I would fall this far down the rabbit hole…but here we are.

It has been a long process [obviously] as we have slowly eliminated different disposable items from our lives as we’ve run out of them.

And today, I started using beeswax wraps.

Truthfully, I don’t use plastic wrap very much any more because I store pretty much everything in mason jars or plastic storage containers or reusable baggies. BUT on a few occasions [such as when making jam or prepping a salad ahead], I need something to cover a bowl. Today, I did both – so I used my beeswax wraps for the first time.

When I make jam [which I do every time strawberries go on sale for less than $1/lb], I follow Martha Stewart’s no-pectin recipe and soak the strawberries in sugar and lemon juice overnight. I usually cover the bowl with plastic wrap – but last night I covered the bowl with my beeswax wrap and it worked great.

Afterward, I just washed gently in the sink and hung to dry.

I also made a cabbage salad [that is a lot like an oil based coleslaw] that gets better as it sits in the fridge, so I covered the bowl with a beeswax wrap.

These wraps are also good for storing sandwiches or anything that can be fully wrapped – but like I said, I typically use containers for those things. The tackiness goes away over time, but these are supposed to last for at least a year.

Another disposable product GONE! Yay!

Karis

Decluttering: Junk Mail

Decluttering: Junk Mail

Did you know that in Canada [and apparently other places around the world], you can put a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your mail box and effectively avoid about 80% of unwanted flyers, mailers, and the like?

Of course, it’s not that easy in America.

Today I had a bit of time since I’ve been stuck home with sick kiddos, so I decided to go through the pile of junk mail to start unsubscribing.

Turns out, it’s quite challenging to stop unwanted mail.

I was able to unsubscribe from some mailers that had a web address or phone number listed and also some catalogs that I accidentally subscribed to at some point when I bought a product.

I also switched all my bills to paperless. 👍🏻

In Zero Waste by Shia Su [pick up your copy HERE, or borrow it from the library like I did], she lists a few online resources to help reduce junk mail.

DMA Choice ($2 fee)

Catalog Choice (free service, but in my experience, often just directs you to the catalog’s website to unsubscribe)

Opt-Out Prescreen (free service that provides 5yr or permanent option to opt-out of insurance and credit card mailings)

And the app PaperKarma (4 free unsubscribes for new members, then a subscription [ironic] fee of $1.99/month or $19.99/year)

For the most part, I think a simple call or email to customer service asking to be removed from the mailing list is an effective way to stop a lot of unwanted mail. Besides that, DMA Choice and Opt-Out Prescreen should take care of a lot of the junk mail that’s left – although I won’t know for a while because it apparently takes up to 90 days for the mail to stop coming.

So, while I’m waiting, I’ll be unsubscribing from the mailers as they arrive.

Oh, joy…

I also found this article from Eco-cycle helpful: How to stop junk mail in 6 easy steps.

Happy decluttering!

Karis