[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

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