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

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

July Clothing Donation

July Clothing Donation

Reducing my wardrobe feels like it’s going SO SLOWLY with only 26 items per month, so this month I was going to “re-home” 78 pieces of clothing to cover the next three months.

OMG, WHO WAS I KIDDING?

I could barely find 26. I guess slow and steady is the best approach after all.

I’ve also learned that I have some emotional attachments to my clothing – which is so strange to me because I don’t have emotional attachments to ANY of my other belongings. And since I’m not particularly fond of shopping for clothing or buying new clothing, I can’t believe that I’m having a hard time letting go of some of these things.

When I did my original clothing inventory in May, my biggest category was [of all things] tank tops. I had a whopping 57 tank tops! That’s about the same number of warm weather days in Chicagoland each summer! Each month, I look through my entire drawer dedicated to tank tops and try to pick the ones I don’t need…and I can never seem to let any of them go! It’s like my love of summer has me hanging on to these items I will never even get the chance to wear.

Anyway, this month I’m [FINALLY] letting go of 10 tank tops. [Yay! I did it!]

The other clothing items in the donation bin this month are five t-shirts, two workout pants, three scarves, two pajama sets, a blazer, one pair of sweatpants, and two pairs of shorts.

Good thing I have thirty days to find the next 26 clothing pieces to purge!

Karis

Why I decided not to DIY laundry detergent

Why I decided not to DIY laundry detergent

Since we began reducing our waste, I’ve been changing the products that we purchase, but I’ve also been changing the way that we make purchases and even the reasons that we make purchases. So, when our laundry detergent ran out, I didn’t just head to Walmart to replace the bottle as I may have done in the past. I also didn’t scour the couponing world to see if I could find some for super cheap.

Instead, I thought about how to find [or make] an effective and no waste alternative. I read recipes. I read reviews. I read tips and tricks. I read pros and cons. [Geez, trying to be a responsible consumer is time-consuming!] But, in the end, I realized there is no purely waste-free option available to me [outside of growing and harvesting my own soap nuts]. Even if I make my own detergent, I will have to buy washing soda and borax and citric acid or whatever else – and it will all come in packaging. So, I would be making my own detergent [yay, me! I’m so crunchy and thrifty] but still creating waste from the packaging of several different ingredients that I need to make the detergent in the first place.

So instead of making my own, I decided to purchase my detergent from an eco-friendly, responsible company who cares about our planet and also about getting my clothes clean.

Turns out, this brought to light an even greater need than just my own waste reduction: the need to support businesses that are reducing waste.

Environmentally-friendly, ethical companies NEED our consumer dollars. We need to support businesses that protect and preserve natural resources, that value quality and sustainability, and that treat their employees right. And we should EXPECT to pay more for these products because it costs more money to produce a product ethically and responsibly. If we do not support these businesses then they will not be able to stay in business. And I won’t be able to buy ethically sourced, environmentally-friendly laundry detergent.

So then the choice becomes what organization do I want to support with my business?

I decided to go with the company that I am already using for my cloth diaper laundering. I’m not sure why I had a separate detergent for diapers, as if the “natural” detergent was not good enough for my regular clothes. But, regardless, I’m consolidating down to one brand, one detergent, purchased in as big a box as I can find and paying whatever they want me to pay, because my priority is the earth, not money. Which feels great, by the way. It is an honor to support companies that share my values – even if they cost more.

I love that Biokleen is family owned and operated, that their products are made in the USA [guaranteeing a fair wage for their employees and supporting the American economy], and that they are producing “natural and effective cleaners…with a passion for innovation, dedication to performance and a guiding commitment to our planet.”

These folks are right up my alley.

I also chose them because I have already been using their products and think they are great.

[No, I’m not making money off this advertising – you’re welcome, Biokleen!]

In fact, the only thing that would make them better would be if they were local to me [rather than in Vancouver, WA] because I really like supporting local businesses.

Of course, there are plenty of other eco-friendly companies out there to support. I also really like Charlie’s Soap and will probably purchase their detergent in the future too.

I’m not ONLY trying to reduce my personal waste. I want to reduce ALL waste. So by supporting the businesses that are being responsible with our natural resources, I am doing a much greater thing than just buying a product without packaging. While I think both are important, the former will change the way products are made and the latter is only going to change how the product is packaged.

Anyway, time to do some laundry!

Karis