Easy DIY zero waste snack bag tutorial

Hey there!  I’ve got an easy, step-by-step tutorial for you to make these cute snack and sandwich bags!  

 

These sew up super fast and easy.  You’ll want to make a bunch for yourself and give them to everyone on your gift list!

These are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags.  Plastic bags are choking our environment!  Use these cuties instead!

 

The smaller bags work great for:

Trail mix

Almonds

Cookies

Goldfish crackers

Pretzels

Crackers

 

Some folks use them for other purposes like:

 

A mini wallet

Dog treats

Holding your essential oil jars

Hair clips & rubberbands

Seaglass and other special treasures

 

Basically anything small.  You get it ;).

 

The larger bags work great for:

A sandwich

A croissant

Lots of popcorn

A big bunch of grapes

A scone

 

Or you could use the larger size in your bag to hold your zero waste kit together.  I like to put a napkin, utensils, straw, and beeswax wrap inside mine and keep it in my purse.  You could also use it in your luggage to hold your hankies or socks or undies together. They work for art supplies too – markers, crayons, colored pencils and a small notebook.  Basically any medium-sized thing.   

 

By now you see that you NEED some of these baggies in your life!  Some in your kitchen. Some in your backpack. Some in your purse.  Some in your luggage. Right??

 

So let me show you how to make them!

 

Materials needed:

 

Fabric: 

All-natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and hemp are the best.  Organic fabrics are even better. Nylon or water-resistant type fabrics are more difficult to deal with at the end of their usable life.  Those synthetic fibers usually end up in the landfill. Plus some aren’t food safe. All-natural fabrics can be composted at the end of their usable life, so they never need to end up in a landfill.

 

I use two layers of organic cotton poplin/quilters weight or one layer of poplin and one layer of canvas for my baggies.

 

For the snack baggies you need 2 pieces that measure 5.5” wide by 9” long.  

 

For the sandwich baggies you need 2 pieces that measure 8” wide by 18” long.

 

Supplies:

Thread, Scissors, ruler or measuring tape, pins, pencil or chopstick, fabric chalk or marker if you have one.

 

Now that you have your supplies gathered… 

 

Step 1: Cut your fabric to size.

 

If your fabric has a pattern with a right and wrong direction (for example, something like this)

 


 

cut it so that 9” corresponds with the length of the pattern, like this:

5.5″ wide and 9″ tall

For the sandwich bag, make sure the pattern length is 18”.

 

That way when your bag is complete, you’ll see the pattern in the right direction.

 

Step 2: Line up your fabric

 

Whether you’re making the snack size or the sandwich size, these steps are the same!

 

Place your two pieces of fabric together with right sides facing each other (so you see the back sides of the fabric).

picture of fabric with right sides facing each other
right sides facing each other

Get some pins and pin them together in a few spots.

 

Mark a 3” opening on one long side with pins or your fabric marker.  This 3” opening is how you turn the bag right side out later. You WON’T be sewing over this 3” opening.  

Pin along sides and mark a 3″ opening on one long side.

Step 3: Sew the two pieces together.

 

Take your two pieces to your machine and start at one side of your 3” opening (remember: you are leaving a 3” opening for later).  Backstitch at the start and then stitch along the edges with a ¼” seam allowance until you get to the other side of your 3” opening.  Backstitch again at the end. 

Finished stitching along all 4 sides, leaving the 3″ opening.

Step 4: Turn your bag right sides out.  

 

Before you turn it right sides out, cut the extra fabric to the right of your seams just at the corners.  This gets rid of the extra fabric at the corners. Make sure not to cut any of your stitches.

Cut off the extra fabric at the corners

 

Use the 3” opening that you didn’t sew over to push the right sides out through the hole.  Use a chopstick or the eraser end of a pencil to pus. Make sure to get the corners poked out with the eraser end of a pencil or a chopstick.  

Pull the fabric right side out through the opening.
Use your chopstick to push out the corners

Press your bag at the iron for nice crisp edges.

 

Step 5 (optional): Topstitch the outer flap of your bag.

 

If you want a more polished look, topstitch the outer flap of the bag with a ⅛” seam allowance.

 

The outer flap of the bag will be the bottom of your fabric if it has a directional print to it.  If the print doesn’t have a right or wrong direction, just pick which edge you want to lay on top of the other flap and top stitch that one.  

Top stitch along this edge of the bag.

 

Step 6: Fold your bag up and pin the sides.

 

For the snack size, you want to fold the bottom up about 3″ (the part that doesn’t have the top stitching). 

Fold the bottom of the bag up by 3″

And fold the top flap (the edge with the top stitching) down about 2 inches.

Top edge is folded about 2″, for total bag height of 4″

This gives you a final bag size of about 4”. Pin along the sides.  

 

For the sandwich size, you want to fold the top flap down about 3 inches and the bottom up about 7”.  This gives you a final bag size of about 8”. Pin along the sides.  

 

Make sure that the unsewn edge/opening is folded in so that it’ll get caught in your seam when you sew.  

 

Pin the flap down to keep it in place as you sew.

 

Step 7: Stitch the sides closed

 

Take the pinned bag back to your machine and stitch up the sides, one at a time, with a ¼” seam allowance.  Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each side. You’re only sewing up the sides of the bag – not the top or bottom folds.  

Stitch along the sides with 1/4″ seam allowance

Afterward, check that you caught all of your fabric in the seams by looking inside your bag. 

  

Step 8: Trim off the loose threads.

 

Cut any loose threads off the sides. 

Carefully trim loose threads from the bag

 

Then you’re done! Repeat and repeat as many times as you need :).  

 

Have you made one of these cuties?  Has it replaced plastic bags for you?  Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you :).

 

p.s. – just want to buy some?  CLICK HERE TO SHOP FOR SNACK & SANDWICH BAGS!

10 reasons to avoid bioplastics

Despite being considered “eco-friendly,” bioplastics might be causing more problems than they solve.  Below are 10 reasons to avoid bioplastics. Each one based on scientific research. But first let’s get to know these materials, shall we?

 

Bioplastics are plastics made from plants instead of fossil fuels.  The two most common and general types of bioplastics are PLAs (which are made from sugars) and PHAs (which are made from microorganisms that are fed plant-based oils).  

 

Bioplastics are often described by manufacturers as “compostable”.  Compostable means it’ll breakdown in a compost at the same rate as other organic material (i.e., food scraps) without any special conditions.  And compostable means they won’t leave any toxins behind. Sometimes bioplastics are described as “biodegradable”. Biodegradable means something will breakdown eventually in the right conditions, but not necessarily in a traditional compost system.

 

Compared to regular plastic, having an alternative like bioplastics that won’t biodegrade into toxins is a huge improvement.  Having an alternative that’s not made from fossil fuels is also a big improvement! The potential to compost food scraps and it’s packaging in the same bin could help cut tons of waste.  And the potential to make bioplastics from organic waste (rather than crops) is also an amazing promise that some companies are working on.

 

With all this good news, lots of businesses have jumped on the bioplastics bandwagon.  Globally, the bioplastics market was worth $17 billion dollars in 2017 and produced over 2 million tons of bioplastic (see this report for details).  Bioplastics are showing up in grocery store aisles, as cups, straws, forks, product packaging, doggie bags, mailers, and more!

Bioplastics are showing up as packaging everywhere.
Bioplastic candy wrapper

But the potential of bioplastics to solve our trash problem isn’t happening.  Right now, bioplastics are creating a slew of problems instead of solving them.

 

Here are 10 reasons that bioplastics are not a solution to plastic pollution.

 

  1. Not always made from plants

To be called a bioplastic, it only needs to contain a minimum of 20% renewable material (i.e, plant-based).  So this means that some could have as much as 80% petroleum-based materials. That means they won’t compost as promised and they create the same plastic pollution problems as regular plastic.  If these bioplastics end up in composts, they have the potential to contaminate organic material.

 

2. Their production is more polluting

One2010 study found that the production of bioplastics results in more pollution than the production of traditional plastics.  This increased pollution comes from the agricultural processes to grow the crops that become bioplastics. Creating bioplastics also led to more ozone depletion and required more land to create than traditional plastics.

 

3. Some have carcinogens

Although they don’t contain BPA (a chemical found in regular plastics that may cause health problems for humans), some bioplastics are associated with increased carcinogens.  The same 2010 study found that bioplastics made with fossil fuels (these are called B-PET plastics) had the highest impact on “carcinogenic health hazards” across its life cycle. 

 

4. They increase pressure on our lands

In order to produce most bioplastics, crops have to be grown.  This creates more demand for farmland. In order to feed the planet without destroying it, we’ll have to take a hard look at how we use our land.  Using land to create packaging instead of food probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.  

 

5. Won’t compost at home

They won’t compost in your yard or worm bin.  Home composting is a super green way to cut waste on lots of levels.  You can turn those organics back into soil. You don’t need any transportation to move them from your house to a facility.  It’s cheap (or even free) to do at home. But bioplastics won’t compost at home. They have to be sent away and processed like all other trash.

 

6. Hard to compost anywhere

Very few cities have facilities to compost bioplastics – i.e., industrial composting facilities.  An industrial composting facility allows “materials to reach 140 degrees F for 10 consecutive days”, according to this report. Although the exact number of facilities that can achieve these conditions isn’t easy to know, there aren’t many.  

 

And even among those facilities that do exist, many of them don’t want any bioplastics because they take longer to breakdown than other materials.  This slows down composting and costs facilities more money. Fastcompany.com reports that less than 90 cities in the US accept compostable packaging.  

 

7. They can contaminate recycling.  

Folks get confused about what to do with their bioplastics, and so they often end up in the recycle bin.  Then they get mixed in with traditional plastics at the recycling plant since they’re hard to tell apart. As a result, our cities can accidentally send loads of traditional plastic that are contaminated with bioplastics to plastic recyclers.  When plastic recyclers see the contamination, they start to reject our entire plastic loads. This puts a major strain on our ability to recycle any plastic. And it’s already become a challenge to recycle traditional plastics across the US.

Bioplastics can contaminate our recycling.
Bioplastics can contaminate our recycling.

8. They release methane

When bioplastics end up in landfills, which is where most of them end up, they release methane.  Methane is a super powerful greenhouse gas.

 

9. They won’t biodegrade on their own

When bioplastics like PLA end up in the ocean or forests or meadows or streams, they won’t biodegrade.  Instead, they become another source of litter, just like traditional plastics.

 

10. Still single-use

Here’s the biggest problem of all: they promote a single-use mentality.  Folks see bioplastics as an eco-friendly single-use option. The problem is that there’s no such thing as eco-friendly single-use.  To create anything that will only get used once and then discarded is wasteful. Of course, in some situations single-use is the only option or the best option, like medical settings.  But single-use plastics should be an exception for certain situations, rather than the norm for everything we consume and use.  

 

We need to switch from a single-use mentality to a reusable mentality.  We need to recognize that the world has finite resources. All of these resources should be conserved and protected as much as possible.

 

This isn’t to say that bioplastics are worthless.  If we had better systems in place for capturing and composting bioplastics, and more efficient, less polluting ways of creating bioplastics, that would be awesome.  Bioplastics have the potential to fill an important need in plastics with renewable resources.

 

But at this point in time, with our current resources, bioplastics don’t solve all our problems.  And they have lots of issues that need to be addressed.  

 

The main problem for us to solve is to reduce our dependence on single-use plastic as much as possible.  Bioplastics don’t get us any closer.

 

Do you have thoughts on bioplastics?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the planet,

Liz

P.S. Want more nitty-gritty info on bioplastics?  Check out my sources:

https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2017/12/13/the-truth-about-bioplastics/ 

https://www.fastcompany.com/90393297/will-compostable-packaging-ever-be-able-to-solve-our-waste-problem 

http://ncrarecycles.org/2019/03/oregon-composters-push-back/ 

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-does-biodegradable-mean-2538213 

https://ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/state-of-composting-in-us.pdf

https://greenamerica.org/take-plastics-challenge/bioplastics-benefits-and-pitfalls 

50 small ways to fight climate change 

Because your actions matter!  

(and these can add up!)

 

You care about climate change because you’re a decent human being.  Climate change affects you, me, every person on earth, all living organisms, and future generations.  It can be overwhelming and terrifying to think of where we’re headed over the next 50+ years. But here’s the good news.  There are TONS of ways to fight climate change as an individual. And if everyone did even a few of these, it would really add up.  

 

So here’s my list of 50 small ways to fight climate change!

 

 

 

 

 

50 small ways to fight climate change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1.  Fly less.       

    Transportation is our number one source of greenhouse gas emissions.  And pollution from passenger flights across the US and globe is a HUGE contributor to climate change.  Flights result in massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger. It’s much worse than trains and even long distance car rides, especially if there’s more than one of you per car.  

 

You might have family across the country, or places to see on your bucket list.  I have those too. But if you cut your flights down even a little, the climate will thank you.  Try to combine trips if you need to fly somewhere. Or limit air travel to one really important trip per year.  

 

2. Drive less

Non-electric cars are another MASSIVE source of greenhouse gases.  Try driving less and only when you really need to. Combine your driving trips.  Go to the store a little less often and buy more when you’re there. Or try finding stores and businesses that are closer to your house to make your driving trips shorter.

 

3. Bike more

Yes to biking!  Biking more means less time in your car, which means you aren’t polluting.  And you’re getting to move your body. AND the more bikes on the road, the safer the roads become for bikes. PLUS the more bikes on the road, the more communities have to pay attention to bikes and create better solutions for bike riders.  Imagine safer bike lanes, bike paths/trails, and protected bike ways. Yes, please!

 

And if biking doesn’t come easy to you, consider getting an electric bike.  They take all the sweat out of the ride!

 

4. Ride the bus

I heard an interview with Alan Alda, former actor on M*A*S*H, on how he takes the bus in L.A. as part of his fight against climate change.  If Alan Alda can do it, so can you! Lots of buses will let you take your bike on the bus too, if the bus doesn’t quite get you all the way there.  In Santa Cruz, we also have some great bike lockers downtown. These let you bike to the bus stop and then lock up your bike in a super secure box.  

 

5. Carpool

The more people you get in your car, the more cars you get off the road. And the more efficient your car is in terms of gas per person per mile.  If you can set up some kid carpools, it might also save you some time a couple days a week. (Bonus: maybe you can finish your morning coffee before work!).  Plus, you can ride in the carpool lane if your freeways have those.  

 

6. Take the train

Trains are a more efficient form of travel, regardless of the fuel they use.  So if you can take the extra time to ride by train, DO IT! And as a bonus, you might get to see some awesome scenery along the way.  On the west coast we’ve got Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train ride with AMAZING views of the coast. It’s on my bucket list to ride that train.

 

7. Get an electric vehicle

Have you done it yet?  DO IT!!! Electric vehicles are the future of individual transportation.  No more wars over fossil fuels to fuel our cars. EVs can be charged at home with renewable energy sources like wind and solar.  Get one! Now! Ditch fossil fuels at the pump and never stop for gas again! Also, Tesla has now released their Model 3 which is as affordable as any other new mid-size car.  With a Tesla, you can drive pretty much anywhere in the US and stop to charge about as often as you would stop to pee and get gas. DO IT!

 

8. Install solar panels

Installing solar panels on your house can power your home and put any extra energy into the grid.  It can even earn you money! If you don’t want to purchase and pay for your own solar panels, tons of companies will come and install their own solar panels for you for very little cost.  They’re basically renting out your roof space from you to put solar energy into the grid. This saves you money and puts renewable energy into the grid, although you won’t earn as much money as installing your own panels.  

 

9. Switch to renewable energy with your energy company

In our community, our electricity company (PG&E) has an account option to use renewable energy to power your home.  You can opt in to purchase your household’s energy from renewable power plants. There’s a small fee for using this in our community.  But it’s worth it! Imagine if we all opt-in to renewable energy at home.  

 

10. Switch to LEDs

LEDs, in case you’ve been under a rock for the last decade, are super efficient lightbulbs.  There’s an LED for pretty much every lightbulb in your house. Recycle those old ones and get on the LED bandwagon!  

 

11. Line dry your laundry

Dryers use a TON of energy.  Even the more energy efficient ones.  Lucky for us, there’s this awesome thing called sunlight and fresh air that will do the work of your dryer. For free.  Without any electricity! We even line dry in the wet winters here in Santa Cruz. Just wait for a day with no rain in the forecast and get your laundry outside!  There are also small racks that you can set up in a small space in your home to dry indoors. Smaller racks usually fold up to fit behind a door or under a bed. That lets you dry smaller loads even in the winter.  We’ve been without a dryer for 6 years now! Two grown-ups, two kids, two dogs, and lots of house guests!    

 

12. Conserve your heating

Be scrimpy when it comes to your heating.  Put on a sweater and warm socks before you crank up the heat.  When my kiddos ask us to turn on the heater on a cool fall or winter morning, and all they’re wearing is a tank top, we remind them to put on a sweater!  Do easy, no energy steps before turning up the heat in the winter. An ideal temperature for conserving energy is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.  

 

13. Conserve your air conditioning

Same goes for air conditioning.  Do what you can personally to get comfortable before turning up the AC.  And maybe try feeling a little warmth of the summer air, rather than keeping your space overly cooled.  Aim for 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer (or hotter) to conserve energy.  

 

14. Turn off the juice when not in use

You probably already know this but one of the easiest ways to conserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint is this: Turn off appliances when they aren’t being used.  Put your computer to sleep. Turn off your printer. Turn out the lights when you leave a room. Some older appliances even suck energy when they’re turned off, so you might want to unplug it from the wall.  We have an old microwave that sucks energy even when it’s not being used, so we have it plugged into a power strip that we turn off when we’re not using it.

 

15. Buy efficient appliances. 

If you need a new appliance, lots of times it’s worthwhile to buy a new, energy efficient version than to search around for a used one.  And when you’re picking out the new one, get one that’s energy efficient (do your research online to find the best one!). Buying new, energy efficient is especially important with refrigerators, which are major energy sucks in your home.  

 

16. Switch to electric vs gas appliances.  

If you’re ready to replace your stove or heater or water heater, consider switching to an electric version if you currently have a gas version.  We add more renewable energy sources to the grid every year to power electric appliances. Over time, our electricity has the potential to be completely renewable, but natural gas doesn’t.  

 

17. Tighten up your home.  

Our homes are major energy sucks when we’re heating or cooling.  Laying insulation in your attic and crawl space and sealing up openings can help cut your energy use for heating and cooling and also save you money.  Upgrade to double-paned windows when you can afford it.  

 

18. Conserve water.  

You may not know this but using water at home and in the office uses up energy.  Water gets moved across California and other states by giant pumps. In fact, 12% of California’s statewide electricity use is from pumping and treating water.  When we have power shortages, we’re also asked to conserve water. So why not do it all year? Water itself is a precious resources and costs money.  

 

19. Go vegetarian

Here’s the thing about the meat industry – it is a MAJOR contributor to greenhouse gases and a MAJOR consumer of energy, water, and other resources.  Not only do cows and other farm raised animals emit methane (insert cow fart joke here 😉 ), a greenhouse gas, but the process of farming itself contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.  It also requires lots of land. That means deforestation of natural habitats so that you can eat a burger. Is it worth it? Did you know there’s even vegetarian dog food? Our pups like it just fine.  

 

20. Eat vegetarian sometimes

I know, not everyone wants to go 100% veg.  And that doesn’t always work for everyones’ health needs.  So, if that describes you, consider cutting down your meat consumption.  Maybe make it more of a special occasion food. Or try meatless Mondays. Or one meal a day.  Get creative! Reducing your meat eating just a little benefits the climate.

 

21. Go vegan

The environmental problems that come from the meat industry are the same for the dairy industry.  Lots of greenhouse gas emissions and lots of resources are used to make that cheese or yogurt or milk!  Eating vegan is even more sustainable the vegetarian.

 

22. Eat vegan sometimes

Of course, eating vegan isn’t for everyone!  You might have dietary restrictions that make this hard.  Or maybe you don’t live somewhere that easily supports a vegan diet.  Or maybe you’re just not ready to make that change. That’s okay! Try eating vegan sometimes.  In my house, most of our dinners are vegan. But we might have some eggs at breakfast, or cheese at lunch.  If you’re nowhere near being vegan, you might consider adding one vegan meal to your diet per week just to start.  Go on, you can do it! Give it a try! One of the all time easiest vegan lunches? PB & J sandwich! Did you know Michelle Obama ate one for breakfast everyday growing up?  I LOVE that!

 

23. Don’t waste food.  

Did you know that the US wastes about 40% of our food on average?  Lots of greenhouse gas emissions were released to make that food. Plus money and time and water.  So don’t throw it out! Try eating most of what’s in your fridge before cooking or buying more food.  Serve smaller portions and get seconds if needed, rather than serving up more than you and your family can finish.  Serve your guests (especially those pint-sized guests) small portions and let them know there’s lots more of everything if they want more.  

 

24. Compost non-edible foods.  

Once and a while we discover something forgotten in the dark corners of the fridge.  If you have food that’s spoiled, compost it. Compost peels/seeds/pits and other non-edible food scraps.  Food scraps release methane if they end up in the landfill where they can’t breakdown properly. So compost it at home!  If you don’t have a yard, consider a worm bin, which fits in small spaces. There’re also composting services in some cities – curbside pick up with your trash or other compost companies.  And sometimes farmers at the farmers market will take your scraps for their compost. Ask around your community and I’ll bet you’ll find some options if you can’t do it on your own. Santa Cruz has an awesome bike-powered compost collection service called Hard Core Compost.

 

25. Compost other organic material.

Things like wet or food-stained paper, pizza boxes, tissues, all natural fibers like cotton and linen, paper towels, paper napkins, and anything else that’s 100% natural material can be composted.  These will also release methane in the landfill if left there. Be careful about packaging that’s a mixed material. For example, a to-go box with a thin plastic lining. Chinese take-out boxes. Or a paper drinking cup with a waxy coating.  Those materials are generally NOT compostable. The water-resistant material is usually plastic based or a petroleum-wax based material. So leave the mixed materials out of your compost.

 

Also, all those “compostable” plastics WON’T breakdown in your home compost, only in an industrial facility.  Don’t add them to your compost! Chances are you have to send them to the landfill unless your city has something set up to collect those bioplastics.  I hate the problems those have created, BTW. But I’ll save that rant for another day.

 

26. Use a reusable water bottle

Plastic comes from petroleum, a fossil fuel, and takes energy to produce.  Plastic is getting harder and harder to recycle (which also takes energy). And when it ends up in the wild, it becomes a pollutant and a hazard to animals.  Even in the landfill it can pollute our waterways and ecosystems. So bring your own water bottle!

27. Use a reusable coffee cup

Those paper cups and plastic lids take ENERGY and RESOURCES to produce.  And those cups release greenhouse gases when they breakdown. And plastic lids – well, you know the problems with those at the end of their life!

 

28. Bring your cloth grocery bags to the store

Don’t forget your bags!  Switch to reusables to conserve the energy and materials that go into making single use bags.  And if you don’t have a large stash of cloth grocery bags yet, reuse the paper and plastic bags that you have on hand as many times as you can!  But be careful of washing the plastic bags – the more friction and heat they are exposed to, the more potential for releasing microplastics into the waterways.

 

29. Switch to cloth bags for your fruits, veggies, and bulk goods

Those plastic bags are free at the store, but we’re paying the price once you leave.  Shameless plug here – we’ve got lots of veggie bags for sale at No Trace that are made with 100% cotton and all natural materials.  That means you can compost them at home in your own compost when they reach the end of their life. Check them out here.

30. Switch to cloth napkins

We’ve been using cloth napkins since we had our first child in 2008.  We have some that have lasted us that long. We don’t wash them with every use, just once a week (or sooner if they are super soiled).  Go for 100% cotton or linen or hemp napkins that won’t release microfibers when you wash them. Plus cotton and linen and hemp can be composted at home when they reach the end of their life.

 

31. Use a hankie instead of a tissue

It takes a TON of water and energy to produce a box of tissues and ship it to you.  Use handkerchiefs instead! I sell cute ones here but you can also just cut up an old t-shirt!

 

32. Use a dish towel or rag instead of a paper towel

Sorry, this probably feels repetitive to you by now, but there are just SO MANY PLACES in your home where you can ditch single use products for reusable, sustainable products!  Dish towels are a great place to start. And you probably have plenty of rag material in your home already. In our house, we turn stained clothes and household goods into rags.  With 2 kids in the house and lots of playdates and sleepovers, plus 2 dogs, we go through about 1 to 2 rags per day! Plus a few dish towels a week. We toss these in with our regular laundry – no special treatment needed! 

 

33. Use a beeswax or vegan wax wrap instead of plastic wrap.

Okay, another shameless plug for No Trace products, available here.  Wax wraps are more expensive up front than plastic wrap because you’re investing in the planet, not in pollution.  

Remember that cheaper isn’t always better.  Wax wraps can be used again and again to wrap your food, cover a bowl or jar, or cover a plate of leftovers.  Once they’re worn out, you can either compost them or add them to a fire. Even if a wax wrap escapes into nature or the ocean, it’s not going to leave behind a trail of pollution.  It’ll breakdown on its own in just a few months.  

 

34. Buy less stuff

All of our STUFF contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.  Furniture. Clothes. Kitchenware. Tools. Outdoor gear. It takes energy and resources to make and ship stuff to stores near us and to our homes.  Consider borrowing or renting things that you don’t need that often. And loan out your own stuff too!  

35. Buy used stuff instead of new stuff

If you really need something on the regular, try to find it at a second hand store.  We’ve got a few different options in Santa Cruz – Grey Bears, Caroline’s, Thrift Center, Salvation Army, and Goodwill.  Goodwill is my go-to for most kitchen needs or No Trace equipment like pots or table-top display bins or fabric for my veggie bags.  They have a HUGE homewares section. I also buy used clothes whenever I can. There’s no shame in second-hand! It’s the green choice!  Wear thrift store clothes with pride! Listen to “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis if you need more inspiration ;). Check out ThredUp.com if don’t have great thrift stores near you or prefer to shop online!

 

36. Write to the president

You can call, email, or write to the White House at whitehouse.gov.  The chance of your letter actually making it to the president is slim, but staff do generally keep counts of opinions that come in.  Make sure to be respectful, succinct, and use facts! Conservation.org has a great list of 11 facts on climate change.  Maybe pick just a couple to include in your letter, and why you care about this issue, and what you hope the White House would do.  The Union of Concerned Scientists also has great information on what our climate change priorities should be. Check them out here.  And the simplest point to make in any communication with the White House is to remind the president of the importance of SCIENCE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37. Contact your governor

Your state can take action without the federal government’s leadership.  California is a major leader in the fight against climate change by turning towards clean energy, clean energy jobs, electric vehicles, and more.  See how your state stacks up at the Union of Concerned Scientist.  Look for targets to suggest to your governor, and let them know you appreciate any steps they’ve taken!  To find your governor’s address, go to https://www.usa.gov/state-governor.

 

38. Write to your senator and congress member

Senators and congress members can introduce and support important climate change legislation.  So contact them and let them know that climate change legislation matters to you! The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions monitors legislation on climate change.  So check them out for up-to-date information.  One of the most important pieces of legislation that the US needs is a carbon tax.  But there are lots of other steps that Congress can take as well. You can find your representative’s contact info here and your senator’s info here.

 

39. Support candidates that care about the climate

When election time comes around, support those candidates who care about the climate with DONATIONS and SPREADING THE WORD!  Nothing shows support like actual money. But if you can’t spare any, share that candidate’s info with your community and encourage others to VOTE.  

 

40. Support your local climate action organization

In Santa Cruz we’ve got the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network.  Across the US, there’s lots of city member organizations of the US Climate Action Network.  There’s also the Citizen’s Climate Lobby.  Subscribe to their email lists.  Show up to their rallies. And send them a check if you can. 

 

41. Tell your friends and family to support climate legislation

Are your friends taking action?  Tell them what you’re doing and make it easy for them to do the same!  Give them one simple step and show them how you did it!

 

42. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper

The message you’re sharing with your friends and family, and the concerns you’re raising with your representatives and governor, and the president – share these with the media!  Write a letter to your local paper and spread the word. Climate action now!

 

43. Support climate science

Science itself is under attack these days.  One way to fight climate change is to support the science that’s happening behind it.  That means staying educated and getting your science news from reputable news sources.  

 

44. March for the climate 

Santa Cruz marched September 27, 2019, but marches will keep happening all over the US.  When there’s a march, show up! Show your support! You don’t even need a sign. Just go and be a part of the movement. 

march for the climate
march for the climate 2019

 

 

 

 

45. Join organizations that lobby for the environment.

The Nature Conservancy and the Union of Concerned Scientists both work to educate and lobby for climate action.  If you can’t make a donation, join their email list. Support their efforts by responding to their calls for actions.

 

46. Build community

Take the time to organize events with friends and family to rally them around climate action.  It could be as simple as hosting a vegetarian potluck and getting folks excited to eat more plants.  Or maybe you want to invite folks into your home and share how you work towards energy efficiency at your house.  Or give a talk at your church or at your kid’s school on climate change. Get creative!

 

47. Organize a school-wide bike-to-school day.

Santa Cruz has awesome bike-to-work and school events.  But anyone can organize this! Just invite other families to bike with you to school some days.  If the school can sponsor the event, even better!

 

48. Participate in Bike-to-Work Day

If you’re not part of a school community, participate in bike-to-work day.  Even if you can’t do the actual biking part, volunteer your time or donate to the event!  Volunteers run the event so get in there! In Santa Cruz, these days are organized by Ecology Action.

 

49. Write to big businesses

Companies like Tesla changed in our options for the better as consumers.  Tesla made electric vehicles cool. Reach out to other companies and let them know that you care about the environment.  Write letters and also show your support with your dollars for companies that are addressing climate change and working for the environment.

 

50. Plant a tree (and other plants)

Plants help absorb greenhouse gases, so add some green to your life!  Keep in mind that planting trees is not the best way to fight climate change, though.  There was a paper published recently that used its findings to conclude that planting trees is the best way to fight climate change. The authors have since back-pedaled on the conclusions, describing them as the “theoretical potential” for reforestation, rather than suggestions for action.  Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the MOST important way to fight climate change, rather than planting trees to absorb those emissions. But plant trees too! The world could use a little more green.

 

There you have it.  50 small ways to fight climate change.  Which ones are you already doing? Which one will you try next?  What would you add to this list of 50? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the

 

 

 

 planet, 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz

8 zero waste gifts for kids! 

Whatever your budget!

 

I’ve been asked what are the best zero waste gifts for kids, so figured it was time to put together a post on our 8 favorite zero waste gifts!  I’ve got easy, thoughtful gift ideas for you that don’t create trash or plastic. The holidays are coming up, after all! Check these out and let me know what you think :).

1. The first zero waste gift for kids is also my favorite: EXPERIENCES! 

 

Instead of a thing, give the young one in your life a special experience.  This could be something as elaborate as a trip to an amusement park (like Universal Studios – thanks, Aunt Olivia!) or something as simple as having your friend over for a special playdate to bake cookies or a cake or a fort or a mud pit (don’t ask me why, but my girls love making mud pits and then smearing the mud from head to toe!). The gift of your time is really the most special, isn’t it?

Here are a few experience gifts, from cheap to pricey:

-playdates to bake, build, or craft something together

-a playdate at a local extra fun park or beach

-a special lunch at your little one’s favorite restaurant

-a trip to a kids bounce house or other fun kids space

-a visit to a local kids museum (Children’s Museum of Discovery in Capitola is super fun for younger kids and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is awesome for all ages!)

-going to a sporting event together (Santa Cruz Warriors, anyone??)

-Amusement parks!  Can’t go wrong with a trip to an awesome amusement park, right?? This is definitely on the pricier end though.

 

2.  A membership to somewhere fun. 

Similar to a shared experience, but something the little one in your life could use over and over again.  These can be pricier than a one-time outing, but also give memorable experiences all year long! In the Santa Cruz area, we’ve got the Museum of Art and History that has kid friendly events all year.  Nearby is the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium.  So much to see that we never get to it all in one day!  We’ve also got the boardwalk that has season passes. And the Children’s Museum of Discovery offers memberships.

 

3.  Something homemade. 

Even if you aren’t super crafty, there’re probably awesome things you know how to make.  Maybe you like to bake? Or sew? Or paint? Or do a little woodworking? The gift doesn’t have to require tons of your time.  I love to make things that will fill a certain need or be consumed, rather than just something to be admired. E.g., an apron for a budding baker.  A veggie bag for a budding zero waster. A homemade mix of powdered hot cocoa. A batch of cookies. A little water bottle holder. A box to hold their toys.  

 

4. An awesome book. 

This is definitely a thing, but I love turning my kids onto some of my favorite books from childhood – especially books they’ll read again and again.  Calvin and Hobbes, for example. Anything by Shel Silverstein. The Farside comics for the older ones in your life. Have they ready Harry Potter yet? Lots of kids (and kids at heart – like me!) will read this series more than once.   You can probably find some of your favorite books at a second hand bookstore. And when your little one is ready to pass it along, it can go back to a second hand bookstore or onto a friend.

 

5.  Paper notebook and colored pencils and other plastic-free art supplies. 

For the budding artists in your life, there are never enough paper notebooks to capture their art.  I wouldn’t get this just to give “something”, but if you know your little friend loves to draw, why not get them a nice pad of paper that can be recycled or composted?  You could also make them a small book from recycled paper. I like this tutorial by Dana of Made Everyday.  And nice new colored pencils are great too.  I tend to steer away from markers, but maybe you can recycle plastic markers in your community.  We have Terracycle at the Art Factory to take old markers and recycle them. Check your area for available Terracycle boxes here.  

 

6.  Lessons or other experiences they’ll enjoy on their own. 

Piano lessons, horseback riding lessons, surf lessons, cooking lessons, sewing lessons  – you get the picture. These can be pricey (unless you can teach yourself) but can be amazing memories for the kiddos and give them skills that they’ll use again and again.  This zero waste gift for kids is one they won’t forget.

 

7. A small plant they can take care of. 

Another thing, I know. But for some kids, it’s a learning experience to have and care for a plant of their own.  My kiddos love getting little potted succulents. And they’re super easy to care for. Some plants help clean the air in their bedrooms, too, to help their little lungs stay healthy at night.  Plants like the rubber plant, peace lily, Boston fern, golden pothos and more help clean the air. Get them something in a nice reusable, plastic free pot to keep the zero waste gift truly zero waste.

 

8.  Zero waste supplies of their very own. 

Of course, these are more “things”. But one way to a brighter future is to get kids caring about the planet from a young age.  Things like reusable straws. Their own small utensil kit. A stainless steel lunch container. An organic cotton lunch bag. Organic cotton napkins and sandwich and snack bags.  These can be fun gifts to receive and also get kids thinking about trash and packaging. These zero waste tools might spark conversations among kids and their buddies about sustainable alternatives.  And of course at No Trace, we’ve got lots of sweet and cheerful options for kids and kids at heart right here.

 

Those are my 8 favorite easy zero waste gift ideas for kids. 

No plastic. No trash. Just special experiences and gifts that kids will remember long after their birthday.

 

What’re some of your favorite gifts for kids?  I’d love to hear so share in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz  

 

Easy low waste picnic dinner

that you (and your kids!) will love!

 

It’s summer time in Santa Cruz and that means SO MANY PICNICS!  We’ve got evening concerts at the beach. Potluck parties at friends’ homes.  Lots of lunches and snacks at the beach. And dinners in the park.

 

In this post I’ll walk you through a low waste, easy picnic dinner that you and your kids will LOVE.  And you can pull it together in an hour or less!

 

Last Friday was a picnic dinner in the park for an awards ceremony for my daughters’ junior lifeguards summer camp.  Lots of families on picnic blankets with their dinners. And LOTS and LOTS of trash. Plastic forks. Plastic cups. Plastic takeout containers.  You get the picture.

 

But a picnic doesn’t have to equal trash!  I fed 9 of us – my family plus another that was visiting – with a super low waste and balanced dinner.  And I spent no more than an hour prepping this simple meal for 9.

So read on and get yer easy low waste picnic started!

 

Here’s what we ate on our easy low waste picnic dinner:

 

-Local fresh BAGELS.  Lots of bagel shops will fill your own bag with bagels.  Our local one doesn’t but they do use paper bags instead of plastic.  We reuse or recycle or compost it afterwards (if the bag gets soiled).  

-Local fresh bread.  Also came in paper bags, but lots of bakeries will let you put a loaf into your own bag!

 

We loaded up the bagels and bread with:

-homemade hummus.  (See my super simple recipe below)

-cream cheese in paper and tinfoil – we don’t normally have this in the fridge, but got it for some special something or other.

-butter in compostable paper.

-tomato slices.

-avocados.

-homemade salsa in a jar.

 

Also, we brought:

-homemade popcorn with butter and nutritional yeast.

-homemade kale salad (recipe below). 

-strawberries with brown sugar for dessert. 

-beer in cans for the grownups 🙂 with cozies.

 

-plus we had some chips in a bag.  You could avoid that trash if you ask for some in your own container from a taqueria!

 

Here’re the supplies we brought for our easy low waste picnic dinner:

 

-cloth napkins for everyone

-camping/small forks and spoons and butter knives

-small camping bowls

-bread knife

-small lightweight cutting board

-water bottles filled with water

 

We cut the bread and bagels while we were at the park on our cutting board.  We also sliced up the tomatoes and avocados at the park. And we ate the bagels and bread without plates – just in our hands.  Same for the popcorn. The bowls were perfect for the kale salad and strawberries. I sliced the strawberries and made the kale salad and dressing at home.  When I slice up strawberries for the kiddos, there’s a lot less wasted fruit. 

 

A dozen bagels and half a loaf of bread plus the popcorn, salad, and strawberries were plenty of food for the 9 of us.  

 

We carried everything in backpacks on a 20 minute walk to the park.  The food was pretty well secured in jars and covered bowls. I’d recommend keeping liquidy foods in a jar to minimize spills.  The kale salad was in a bowl with a beeswax wrap on top, and I put the dressing on once we got to the park. The strawberries were in a jar, and the brown sugar in another small jar.  The kids sprinkled the brown sugar on themselves after they finished their dinner. Popcorn was in a bowl that came with it’s own lid (plastic, but pretty handy!).

 

And here are the easy peasy recipes we used on our picnic:

 

Easy homemade hummus:

-2 cups chickpeas (we cook them in our pressure cooker for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on if we soaked them overnight or not). 

-⅓ cup veg or olive oil.

-⅓ cup water (or less, if your blender is super powerful).

-¼ cup lemon juice.

-¼ cup tahini.

-1 tsp or less of salt.

-optional: garlic, cumin.

 

Blend everything except the water in a blender.  Add the water slowly until you get the consistency you like.  

 

Easy, scrumptious kale salad that EVERYONE likes

-raw kale torn into bite sized pieces (curly or lacinato are our favorite types of kale).

-finely sliced red onion.

-optional:  shredded carrots, slivered almonds.

-dressing is about equal parts veg oil, soy sauce, and lemon juice

-mix dressing, pour it over salad ingredients, and toss.  

 

This salad keeps GREAT for a few days in the fridge with the dressing on.

 

So that’s our easy low waste picnic dinner from the other night.  Are you working on a low waste home? What are you picnicking on these days?  Let me know and thanks for reading!

Liz

Zero waste vegetarian dinners:  

What our family eats in a week (working parents – you can do it!).

 

Yes, I have a job outside being a mom.  And yes – we still eat mostly home cooked, zero waste dinners.  My hubbie and I both work full time (and then some) and aren’t amazingly organized.  But we still get it done. And you can too!

 

Now, I’ll admit that I work from home most days and don’t have a long commute on the days I go into the office.  BUT – and this is important to keep in mind! – I RARELY start on dinner before 5:30pm. We put our kids to bed around 7:30 (they read, wind down, and pass out around 8) so we try to eat dinner around 6:30.

 

BTW, this is part 2 of my series on easy zero waste meal planning for families!  In case you missed part one on zero waste breakfasts, check it out here!

 

Okay, back to easy zero waste, vegetarian dinners.  We aren’t big planners but we know the kinds of foods that we all like to eat.  So we shop for a lot of the same foods each week.

 

Big disclaimer:  These aren’t gourmet dinners.  If you’re looking for fancy, you’re on the wrong site!  BUT – these are healthy, well-balanced, low waste dinners.  And our kids LOVE them!

 

5 easy zero waste vegetarian dinners

 

Monday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner

 

Pasta dinner with TVP and a big green salad

 

We’re lucky enough to have bulk pasta at two shops in Santa Cruz – New Leaf in Capitola and Staff of Life in Santa Cruz.  We usually fill a big bulk bag once a month at Staff and it lasts us a few weeks (depending on how many dinner guests we have!).

 

Sometimes we’ll get a glass jar of tomato sauce (and reuse the jar) or canned tomatoes (and recycle the can – cans are generally valuable to recycle in our town).  Other times we’ll toss the pasta in olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and sauteed veggies. Think mushrooms, sweet peppers, onions, broccoli, zucchini. Or whatever veggies we have lying around in the fridge.

 

For protein, we’ll rehydrate some dried TVP (texturized vegetable protein).  We can get this in bulk bins at Staff of Life and New Leaf. All we do is soak it in hot water for maybe 10 minutes, until it’s tender enough to eat.  You could saute it with some seasoning, but we often just toss it with the pasta. The TVP in bulk at Staff of Life comes in 2 sizes – large chunks and small pieces – like ground-round sizes.  The small pieces you can toss right into pasta sauce without rehydrating for added protein.

 

We make a super simple salad dressing from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper – all available in bulk at Staff of Life.  Or, we swap out the vinegar for fresh squeezed lemon juice (and leave out the pepper) for another super simple and delicious homemade dressing. If we have enough lemons (usually from our tree!), I’ll make extra dressing and put it in a jar to use for other dinners that week, or for lunches.

 

Salad includes whatever veggies and greens we have – usually lettuce, shredded carrots, sweet peppers, and cucumbers.  Toss it with dressing just before you sit down to eat.

 

That, my friend, is our pretty well balanced, easy, zero waste dinner number one!  Moving on…

easy pasta dinner with veggies and TVP

Tuesday night’s low waste veggie dinner

Tuesday night is taco night, amiright???  

 

Here’s what we usually do for taco night:

Homemade pinto beans.  We soak these overnight and then pressure cook them with bay leaves, chopped onions, salt, and cumin in about 30 minutes.  SOOO delicious!

Homemade rice.  Just rice. Sometimes we cook it with chopped tomatoes or onions or canned tomatoes.  Usually we skip the extras and make it plain.

 

Shredded cabbage with a little lemon juice and olive oil or a little mayo

Avocado, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro

Note:  sometimes we have homemade salsa too if hubbie has time to chop tomatoes, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, and lemon juice.  With a little salt. So yummy.  Or we pick up salsa in our own container from a nearby taqueria!

Getting salsa in our own container at a taqueria!

 

Corn tortillas.  As of this writing, we can still recycle the plastic bags that we get our store bought tortillas in, so this is honestly what we usually do.  BUT, there are zero waste options out there. We have a tortilla press and make homemade tortillas too when we have time. It takes us about 20 minutes to make everyone in the family a few tortillas.  You might also be able to find a taqueria that’ll sell you homemade tortillas. Another option is to ditch the tortillas all together and use lettuce as your shell! We don’t do that but I’m sure it’s delicious.  

 

Cheese – we do a few things for cheese.  The fastest homemade vegan cheese I’ve made so far is based on Minimalist Baker’s recipe for Mexican nacho cheese sauce.  We use ingredients from bulk for this – everything straight into the blender and then warm and serve. Super yum.

Another easy homemade vegan cheese calls for nutritional yeast plus flour (chick pea or wheat or whatever flour you have).  This is ready in about 10 minutes. All the ingredients are available in bulk. Check Bob’s Red Mill recipe here. Other times we buy dairy cheese at the store and ask them to cut us a piece off a big block.  We also buy it in plastic wrap that, as of this writing, we can recycle. As fewer and fewer recycling centers take plastic wrap, we’ll probably be opting for store-cut and homemade cheese only in the near future.    

Wednesday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner

Okay, I don’t know what your Wednesday’s are like, but I’m usually feeling the mid-week hump by this day!  So I love a super easy meal we call

 

FANCY TOAST!

 

Yes, it’s toast for dinner.  But we make it extra specially with some homemade hummus.  We might make hummus on the weekend or that night. It’s super fast and easy if we remember to soak chick peas the night before.  Then 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. Then blend with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, a little water, and garlic. I put out cheese slices, olives (Staff of Life has delicious bulk olives), sliced tomatoes, and sliced avocado.  For veggies, we have roasted cauliflower or a big green salad.

 

The bread we get from local bakeries (Gayle’s and Companion) in our own bags usually.  Sometimes we get bagettes in paper bags if we can’t get to the bakeries.  

Super easy and tasty!

 

Thursday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner

If we have extra chick pes aafter making hummus, we’ll often saute them with canned tomatoes, onions, and seasoning (garam masala, tumeric, ginger, a little lemon juice) to make Chana Masala.  Served with with rice and sauteed broccoli or some other fast cooking veggie. We usually have a jar of mango pickle in the fridge for a little tang and heat. The jar gets reused or recycled. We put a little salt or soy sauce (from bulk) on the rice.  Super yummy.

 

Friday night’s easy low waste vegetarian dinner

I usually don’t cook on Friday nights so we usually either have leftovers, go out to eat, or order a pizza.  I know, pizza delivery isn’t the most sustainable option. But sometimes, especially if hubbie is out of town, it’s what I have the energy for.  We ask for it without the little plastic do-hicky and we compost the box at home in our compost. If you want to invent a reusable, plastic-free pizza take-out box, PLEASE DO IT!!!  I will totally buy one from you. The world needs a reusable option!

 

So that’s a pretty typical week of zero waste vegetarian dinners for our family.  Is that helpful for you? What are your favorite low waste weeknight meals?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

The TRUTH about going zero waste with kids

 

Are you thinking of reducing waste in your family but not sure you can do it?  Are you overwhelmed with the idea of reducing your family’s trash to almost nothing?

 

I’m here to give you an honest look at what it’s like to go for zero waste with your family.  

 

This post is for you if YOU:

-got interested in zero waste AFTER you had kids already

-aren’t a minimalist family with very few possessions

-hang out with other families who aren’t super into zero waste

-go to kids birthday parties

-go to potlucks  

-send your kids to school

-let your kids go on field trips

-throw parties  

-go to school fairs and gatherings  

-take road trips and family vacations     

-go to festivals and special events

-let your kids do art camps and piano lessons and other after school activities

 

Does any of that sound like you?  If so, keep reading for the inside scoop on going for zero waste with kids.

 

I’m breaking everything down into two categories.  First, I’ll cover the super challenging stuff. THEN, don’t despair, I’ll get into the super do-able stuff.  So hang in there – it’s not all tough!

 

First, the super challenging part of zero waste with kids.  

Bad news first, right?

 

Let me start by saying –THEIR TRASH IS NOT THEIR FAULT!  We live in a linear economy. AKA – almost everything we come into contact with is designed to end up in the landfill.  Your kids are part of a system they can’t control. Always remember that – kids are reacting to a system that’s designed to make trash.

 

So, the hard truth of it is this:  If you’re kids are gonna be in the world without you by their side, they’re gonna make some trash.  That’s the plain and simple of it. No way around it until they are old enough to really care about this themselves.

 

You can help them prepare to be out there.  Practice being assertive. Practice saying “no thank you”.  Practice polite refusal of those freebies and treats and giveaways and STUFF.  

 

But when your kids are young, there are going to be times when they say “YES, PLEASE!” with excitement.  Times when the goodie is really inviting and they can’t easily resist. They don’t have an inner voice yet reminding them of the bigger picture.  

 

A few examples:  

-A spontaneous stop at Starbucks after a school field trip for treats (courtesy of a chaperone) leads to a plastic frappucino cup, lid, and straw.

-A visit to the craft fair at an eco-minded event and we suddenly have a plastic craft creation that won’t last long.

-Playdate with a friend can lead to trash from a candy bar or hot cocoa cup or popsicle wrapper or some other treat.

-Classroom arts and crafts activity could mean dozens of plastic beaded bracelets.  Or dozens of plastic bead art designs. Or duct tape crafts. All coming home to our house.

-A pinata at a birthday party full of wrapped candy.

-A friend at soccer practice hands them a granola bar.

-A speaker at school passes out free trinkets after a fun talk.

-A relative sends a birthday gift that’ll eventually break and end up as trash

people love to give kids STUFF

You get the idea.  Other grown ups and events and activities in their lives will lead to trash.  And it’ll probably come into your house. I’m not always going to be there to intervene.  Until they have the commitment and maturity to say no thank you to all freebies, they’re gonna bring home some trash.  My preference is to let my kids be in the world even when I can’t be by their side because I value these experiences and relationships for them (not so much the trash).  But I know I can’t make the other people around them aim for zero waste too.

 

That’s the tough part.  That’s the low down dirty truth of going for zero waste with kids.  While your kids are young, you might never get all your family’s trash into a mason jar.  Sorry to bear the bad news.

 

Okay, are you ready for the good news now?

 

There’s SO much you CAN do to help your kids go for zero waste.  

With some thought and energy, you CAN avoid tons of trash with your kids.  Here are my three major strategies for zero waste with kids:

 

My number one tip is PLAN AHEAD!  

If you think temptation will come up (e.g. cake at a birthday party handed out with plastic forks, a stop at the yogurt shop during an after school playdate, lemonade in plastic cups at a potluck) get prepped!  Talk about it in advance with your kiddo and bring that cup/fork/straw/bowl/plate or snack or bulk bin treat or whatever might get between your little one being a part of the activity and sticking to your family goals to cut waste.  

 

Try to find the activity that doesn’t involve plastic at the craft table and encourage your kids to do the same.  Let your kids’ teachers know that you are trying to limit how much plastic comes home with them. Better yet, if you’ve got the time, help your kids teachers with ideas and suggestions for activities that don’t lead to trash or involve plastic (an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bead art?  YES PLEASE!). If you are really organized and don’t feel it would be too imposing, reach out to party or event organizers in advance and let them know your family goals and if you can help with party favors or supplies.

 

And, of course, remind your kiddos of the family goals and what challenges might lay ahead.  Which leads me to my next tip!

 

My number two tip is to inspire them!  

Remind your kids why it’s important to care for the earth and that there are so many ways to do that.  Remind them why you’re avoiding plastic and cutting trash. Show them pictures of the great ocean garbage patches.  Tell them heartwarming stories of human actions leading to environmental changes.

 

For example, did you hear the story of Ryan, a 7 year old in southern California, who started his own recycling company to help the earth and save for college?  One child has recycled thousands of dollars worth of cans and bottles from his neighbors. Or did you hear that a camera trap in Gabon’s Bateke Plateau national park captured a photo of a spotted hyena?  They thought the animal was extinct in that area! But the work of rangers and other partners to protect animals in this park has led to big game surviving and thriving. And there’s the story of a classmate of one of my daughters who organized a beach clean up at a local beach.  So cool! Stories like this are everywhere, and show kids (and grown ups!) that our actions can make a positive impact. Share them with your kids and help them stay motivated toward zero waste!  And I have another post just on inspiring zero waste kids – you can read it here.  

 

And my third tip is to keep a positive attitude when you talk with folks outside the family about your goals.  

My personal approach is to use our zero waste supplies without any hub bub. We don’t wave around that we brought our own forks to a picnic.  We don’t try to make anyone else feel bad about their trash. In our two plus years of doing this, people sometimes notice and comment positively, or don’t notice at all, but I’ve yet to encounter anyone freaked out or upset by the goals we’re reaching for.  So don’t worry too much about how others might react. If they notice and want to talk about it, that’s great! It’s your chance to share what you care about without making someone else feel bad. Your kids will catch on to your attitude, so keep it positive!

 

To sum up the truth about going zero waste with kids:

  1. If you want your young kids to move through the world and make their own decisions, there’ll be some trash. And that’s not their fault.
  2. A little planning and prepping can cut out LOTS of your kid’s waste.
  3. Inspiring your kids can help them stay motivated.
  4. Bring a positive attitude to the non-zero wasters in your life.

 

So there’s my truth about zero waste with kids.  We participate in the world around us and still make some trash.  But with some energy and planning, we’ve cut back our waste DRAMATICALLY (aka – putting out our small 20 gallon trash can once a month or less) and you can too.  

 

What’s been your experience in aiming for zero waste with kids?  Any tips to share? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

Easy zero waste breakfast ideas

for busy families

 

Do you feel overwhelmed by going for zero waste or low waste living?  Not sure how to make the switch? I’ve got a few posts for you on easy zero waste meals to help you cut your waste.  

 

How about we start with zero waste breakfast?!

 

Beginning your day with a belly full of whole foods – easy to prep, easy to find in bulk, and good for you – is a win-win-win!  Maybe we should call it a win cubed? To the third? You get the point here…

 

Going for zero waste means eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods.  Lots of packaged food is also processed food. So when you cut out packaging, you cut out some less than awesome food choices too.  

 

But packaged food is so convenient – I get it!  And there are lots of healthy packaged options out there too.  Your mornings are probably busy and maybe even a little hectic, without loads of time to spare.  So how do you get a nutritious breakfast without reaching for something packaged?

 

I’m here to help! Check out these top 5 zero waste breakfasts that whip up super fast.  Bonus: total kid-pleasers! Vegan options! And gluten free options! You ready?  Zero waste breakfast, here you come!

1. Ugly smoothie

 

This is one of my favorites and I crave these some mornings!  If you have kids, you have food scraps. (BTW – if you have kids and you don’t have food scraps, please call me right away and tell me how you do this).  Okay, so those scraps – carrot sticks, cucumber slices, half an apple, orange slices, etc.  You know the ones. At our house, they sit in the fridge. Pulled from lunch bags at the end of the day, shoved into the dark corners of the fridge. And forgotten. I beg the kids to eat them but it doesn’t always happen.

 

So here’s the solution: pop those forgotten fruits and veggies in the blender for an ugly smoothie!  I add a spoonful of coconut butter, a little sweetener, a little water, a little ice.  Blend it up and pour! So easy. And super refreshing. And vegan and gluten free! Another option – add cocoa or cacao powder for a richer flavor with added iron.  

 

2. Toast

 

Okay, it might sound dull, but we LOVE toast in our house.  LOVE IT! We usually buy bread straight from the bakery – either Gayle’s or Companion Bakeshop.  They’ll put it in our own bag (check these bags out here). If we can’t make it to the bakery, we’ll get bread in paper bags – bagettes come in paper bags at most of the big grocery store chains.  We recycle the paper if it isn’t stained.  Otherwise, we add it to our compost.  Not ideal, but better than landfill or plastic!

 

Lately we’ve been eating toast with Miyoko’s vegan butter – it comes in 100% compostable packaging.  0% plastic or bio-plastic. And it’s DELICOUS! But some other awesome toast ideas: peanut butter from bulk and sliced bananas on top.  Avocado with tomato and cucumbers, and a little salt and pepper. Almond butter with sliced apples. Or homemade cashew cheese (check out my post on that here) with tomato slices.  And homemade jam (I admit, I don’t make this, but I’m lucky enough to have a mother in law who does 🙂 ).

 

So fast and easy.  The kids make their own toast.  Actually, they make most of these recipes on their own!

 

3. Oatmeal with the works

 

This has been another go-to for me lately.  I make oats with the works and all of it can be found in bulk!  We get gluten free rolled oats at Staff of Life. The ratio is easy – cook 1 part oats to 2 parts water.  These cook super fast – about 5 minutes for 1 to 3 servings (½ cup dry oats per serving). I add ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 to 3 tablespoons of raisins (1 T per serving) at the start of cooking.  I like the way the raisins plump up and add natural sweetness to the oats. And the cinnamon gives it a nice flavor.

 

Once the oats are cooked, I add peanut butter, shredded coconut, chia seeds, chopped fruit, a little sweetener, and sometimes coconut milk or water (from a can of coconut milk.  Although not totally zero waste, cans from the coconut milk are relatively valuable to recycle, so I don’t worry too much about the can ending up in the landfill). Or you can leave the coconut milk/water out.  

 

These oats are super filling and full of awesome fiber.  

vegan gluten free oatmeal – zero waste breakfast idea #3

 

 

4. Vegan pancakes

 

Okay, before you skip ahead, let me say that you CAN whip up pancakes from scratch and FAST.  We love the pancake recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance (and can find all the ingredients in bulk).  The recipe says to let the batter sit for 10 minutes before cooking (or even overnight, covered with a beeswax wrap), but skip that step if you’re in a hurry.  

 

Here’s what you need for 6 big or 10 medium pancakes:

1 ¼ c flour

2 t baking powder

½ t salt

1 t cinnamon (optional)

 

2 T veg oil (we use safflower oil)

⅓ c water – or less, if you use water instead of non-dairy milk (see below)

1 to 1 ¼ c non-dairy milk OR water (we always use water because we never have milk on hand)

1 t vanilla extract

2 T maple syrup or sugar (if you use agave syrup or beet syrup, you’ll need less than 2 T – probably 1 T only).

 

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the wet ingredients.  DON’T OVER MIX! Mix just enough so that most of the lumps are gone.

 

Cook on a hot skillet until you see bubbles form on the top, then flip it over and cook a little longer.

 

We love these vegan pancakes with Miyoko’s butter on top and either brown sugar, fruit, jam, agave syrup, or maple syrup (which we can’t find in bulk, unfortunately, so don’t get that often).

 

5. Eggs

 

If you eat ’em, you know that eggs cook up sooo fast.  Sometimes we make omelettes with leftover veggies from the night before.  Or omelettes with cashew cheese – yum! Or real cheese, if you can get that without too much waste wrapped around it.  We love them soft-boiled, fried, and scrambled at our house. They seriously only take a little time to cook – fried eggs especially can be done in about 5 minutes.  And you get some protein for the day!  We save our egg cartons and return them to either Staff of Life in Santa Cruz or direct to egg farmers at the farmers market, and they get reused again and again.  Love that!

 

soft boiled eggs in a beeswax wrap – zero waste breakfast idea #5

That’s what we usually eat at our house – fast, easy, (mostly) zero waste breakfasts.  And our kids love these zero waste breakfasts!

 

If you can spare 10 minutes in the morning, you can make any one of these (or all of them!) and avoid packaging waste.  

 

What do you eat for breakfast?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

Zero waste advent calendar

 

Okay, you are in LUCK because today I’m spilling the beans on our awesome zero waste advent calendar so that YOU can have a low waste holiday too!

 

Rather than focusing on things, we use the holidays to focus on experiences together and soaking up all the holiday awesomeness as a family.  

 

My kids get SO excited for the advent calendar – they’ve been talking and asking about it for weeks.  They remember these mini-adventures more than any gifts.

 

Our actual advent calendar is a hanging fabric tree with 24 pockets.  We write the activity on a little slip of paper and put it in the pocket.  But you could use anything that lets the kids track the days and read the event for each day.  Check pinterest for loads of cute ideas.

 

So, if you want to make the holidays more memorable for you and your kiddos, and focus on experiences rather than things, here’s my guide for you.

A zero waste advent calendar – experiences, not things

A couple of the easiest ones are:

1. Decorate the Christmas tree

Whether you buy one or have an artificial one, or hang something simple on the wall, this is a great family activity.  We have a couple big bins of ornaments that we put up every year.

2. Decorate the house.

Mixed in with our tree ornaments are a few other decorations – gifts from my mom – including a nativity scene, mini Christmas carousel trees with candles, and some nutcrackers.  We’ve made a few garlands too that we hang.

3.  Make a wreath.

We have this awesome spot in town to make wreaths called Rancho Del Oso.  But you could make one with scraps from a Christmas tree yard, or go onto Pinterest for ideas that don’t involve real tree scraps.  

4. Family Christmas carol night

I’m not sure about you guys, but we love singing in our house.  We get the lyrics to a few popular songs and light up our Christmas carousel trees and sing a few together.  We even recorded ourselves singing one song and shared it with close family (ONLY!).

5. Make paper snowflakes

All this takes is a few sheets of paper and scissors.  We love to hang them in the windows once we’re done. If you’re ambitious, make enough for a strand of snowflakes.  So cute.

6. Write a letter to Santa

We still do gifts and ask our kiddos to pick one thing to ask Santa for.  Something within reason, of course. We get veto power (Apple watch? I don’t think so).

7. Family movie night

We don’t watch a ton of movies so this still feels special for us – Elf is one of our holiday favs.  

8. Hot chocolate for breakfast!

We don’t normally make hot chocolate, so it feels special.  AND it’s easy to do before school. Win Win Win.

9. A teeny tiny gift

Okay, this is another thing, but it’s awesome for busy school mornings to just slip a little something in the calendar.  We’ve done bulk candy before and little hair barrettes. Maybe a tiny glitter crayon, a tiny notecard, or necklace charm.  Or a tiny succulent cutting (they’ll need something or somewhere to plant it, of course). Or a tiny eraser. Or a tiny magnet.  Or a little homemade chapstick in a tiny jar. I try to think of stuff that isn’t just going to collect dust in their room, but might actually get used.  Also, google tiny gift ideas for some of the CUTEST things you’ve ever seen.

 

We have a few fun outings too:

10. Breakfast at Gayles –  before school!

I know this might feel a little crazy.  But if you can get up a little extra early, maybe pack lunches the night before, you might be able to get a nice quick bakery breakfast before school.  It feels extra special this way.

11.  Donut breakfast!

Another before school treat, if you can fit it in.  Or bring it home to them. Either way, we don’t get a lot of donuts around here, so it’s an indulgence.

12.  The Nutcracker ballet

13.  The symphony

14.  The holiday lights train

These can be a little pricey, but it is super memorable for them kids.  And it could be a great gift from grandparents, if they need ideas. (Hint hint, mom 😉 ).  We don’t do all of these each year – usually just one.

 

And we get the family and friends involved too:

15.  Make Christmas cookies with Grandma

An annual tradition that they look forward to each year.  I look forward to the cookies.

16.  Special playdates with family friends

We have grown-up friends who are like aunts to the kiddos.  We make a special effort to schedule something with them during this time – a little tea party or making ornaments together.

17.  Picking out an ornament with the grandparents

Okay, this is a thing but it’s also an experience.  They each get to pick out one ornament a year.  The kiddos get super excited about this. I think it’s not about the actual ornament, but really about looking at all the shiny and creative options at different stores – surfing pink flamingo for the tree?  Yes, please.

18. Craft date with momma

I try to come up with a few simple craft ideas that we could do in an hour after school (a simple necklace, sculpey ornaments,  popcorn garland, or other simple garland) and then let the kids pick one for us to do.

19.  Holiday party

Any holiday parties?  Put ‘em on the calendar!  We have a family birthday during this time, so that party counts as one of our advent calendar events.  

 

And we try to think of others who are in need during this time.

20.  Get gifts for a family in need and wrap them.

Their school often adopts a family, and a lot of churches do this too.   Rather than making this an errand for MOM or DAD, this is a family affair – we go together to pick it out and the kids wrap it up themselves.

21.  Volunteer for a few hours

Last year the kids spent a morning volunteering at an organization that was wrapping gifts to donate to families in need.  This one is a little tricky because it might not be easy to find something to volunteer for if you aren’t already involved with the group.  And finding something that’s age-appropriate can be challenging too, so call around to find some options. And scheduling this can also be tricky when weekends are already jam packed.  So plan it out in advance!

22.  Donate a toy

We ask the kids to pick one of their gently used toys to donate.  Last year this ended up being a major toy closet clean-out, which was awesome.  But in other years, when they were younger, picking just one toy was a good goal.

 

And finally, I think our all time favorites are these:

23.  Night time Light walk .

We bundle up and grab an umbrella if it’s rainy.  We usually walk over to Depot Hill in Capitola for an awesome view of the town and all the lights at night.  It’s fun walking in the dark and cold together. And this is an easy after-dinner activity too for those busy weeknights.

24.  Tea party for dinner

This does require a little planning and effort, but it is so worth it.  We make a ton of finger foods including mini sandwiches (cream cheese and cucumber, peanut butter and jelly), deviled eggs, hummus and veggies, fancy olives from the bulk bar, popcorn, maybe some cookies or other baked goods and tea, of course.  We sit on the floor in the living room and eat around the coffee table. I love this dinner so much.

 

There you have it!  

easy zero waste advent calendar ideas. 

Do you have any to add?  I’d love to hear about them!  Share in the comments!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

We all have our reasons to go for zero waste.

 

Your reasons might include:

 

-fighting plastic pollution

-reducing exposure to plastics

-cutting waste

-worry over landfills

-simplifying your home

-beautifying your kitchen

-shrinking your carbon footprint

-keeping our oceans healthy

-making the world a more beautiful place

-preserving the planet for generations to come

 

It might feel really overwhelming to get a year of your trash into a mason jar – and might be impossible, depending on where you live and what you can recycle.

 

But there are actually TONS of easy ways to cut down your waste.

 

Think beyond the mason jar!  

 

 

 

Here’s a roundup of 75 ways small ways to cut your waste.

1. Bike more

Did you know that transportation (i.e., cars) is one of the top sources of pollution and contributors to global warming?  Driving less is an amazing way to reduce your waste and have a positive impact on the planet. Check out local bike resources for bike paths and bike-friendly routes near you.  In Santa Cruz we’ve got www.bikesantacruzcounty.org for loads of awesome resources on biking safely in our community.  And don’t forget to wear a helmet!

2. Fly less

Each flight you take is a major resource drain.  Just like cars, planes are a major source of greenhouse gases.  Try some local travel and explore your own part of the country. Or, if you have to fly, offset your flights with carbon credits.  And try to limit flights to those that you really want or need to take. If you live in California, we have so many amazing state parks that you can drive to.  Check them out here.

3. Eat vegetarian

This is a MASSIVE way to reduce your waste WAY beyond the mason jar.  The meat industry is a MAJOR source of pollution. Even if you can’t do this all the time, try swapping out a couple meals a week for vegetarian.  Good for you, good for the planet! And there are so many great resources out there. I love Minimalist Baker for vegetarian recipes.

4. Eat vegan

Going vegan has even more benefits for the planet than vegetarian.  All those animal products really have a negative impact on the climate – especially the dairy industry.  Try swapping some vegan meals or vegan substitutes when you can. Or go all the way! Join the millions of others in the world who do it every day.  My favorite vegan blog is by my friend and favorite yoga teacher, Amey. Check it out here!

5. Compost at home

This is also a GREAT way to cut down your waste.  All those fruit peels, veggie skins, egg shells, and more can go into your compost.  No yard? No problem! Try a worm bin that fits under your sink. And if you live locally, check out the Santa Cruz Compost service, which collects your compost by bike!  They are here.  

6. Line dry your laundry

Dryers use loads of electricity (pun – ha!).  You can line dry all year too – some racks are easy to set up in even the smallest space and then fold up to be tucked away behind a door or under a bed.  We’ve been dryer free for about 4 years and it’s still working great for our family of four. If we can do it, so can you! We even were mostly dryer free during the cloth diapering days!

7. Use hankies

Tissues be damned!  Switch to reusable hankies.  I say buy mine here or make your own or look for some in the thrift store.  When all of ours are in the wash, I start in on our rag stash for hankies – hey, they’re clean!  Any ol’ rag will do.

8. Use dishtowels instead of paper towels

Paper towels can be composted, but why not preserve those resources for more essential goods?  We have a stack of about 20 dish towels. We use each dish towel until it gets soiled and then we toss it in the wash.  I make some here, you could make your own, or look for them at the thrift store!  Try finding all natural fibers – much better for the earth.

9. Use your own coffee mug

Those disposable coffee cups are the worst!  Some super progressive coffee shops have even stopped handing them out because they are such massive polluters.  Bring your own! Buy one from a locally owned business to support the locals. I got mine from Wild Roots in Felton.  Love that shop.  And you can buy No Trace goods there (another shameless plug!!).

10. Keep a napkin in your purse.  

How many times have you needed a napkin when you are out and about?  This still happens to me sometimes but I almost always have a little napkin in my purse.  I make really cute ones here but make your own or find one in a thrift store super easily.

11.  Bring a water bottle.

You are already doing this, I’m sure.  We’ve got to get rid of plastic water bottles!  Even though often times you can recycle those, our recycling days might be numbered and these are ending up in the landfill more and more often.  Just bring your own. I got mine at Jones and Bones in Capitola.  I love supporting local business.  

12. Shop in bulk.

Look for what you need in the bulk section of your grocery store.  I’ve got a whole post about zero waste grocery shopping that you can see here.  Also, i make these gorgeous bulk bags here.  Made from recycled cotton.  If you can’t get something in a bulk bin, try getting something with as little packaging as possible or in the largest amount possible that won’t also spoil.  

13. Shop at the farmers market.

Again, check my post here for resources to find farmers markets near you.  You can often buy loose produce here that come without those pesky stickers.

14. Stop buying those prepackaged treats.

I know they are super convenient.  You can do it, though! Just say no.  Fruit, anyone?

15. Try making it yourself.

Is there something you really miss?  Crackers? Granola bars? Hummus? Pesto?  Pick a few of those prepackaged treats and try making your own. Read about my favorite easy homemade zero waste snacks here and you can start having snacks on hand whenever you need them!

16. Get your beer in a growler or just enjoy a pint in person.

You might not want to pay micro-brewery prices, but you can treat yourself and the planet once a while with something fresh and local.  Although you can recycle glass and cans almost everywhere, recycling is not the solution to our problems – reuse is way better.

17. Get your wine from a local winery.  

They might let you bring your own container for refills.  Some wineries even have harvest or tapping parties where you can fill up loads of bottles to get you through the year.  Or at least the week ;).

18. Buy your clothes from a local thrift store.

Fast fashion is a MAJOR polluter.  Think twice before buying new and see if you can find it used.

19. Get your shoes repaired at a shoe shop.

Do you have a cobbler or shoe repair person in your town?  Buy shoes that are built to last and be repaired.

20. Go to a repair cafe to mend your worn clothes or small appliances or other household items.  

If you live in Santa Cruz, reach out about repair cafes in town!  No Trace has hosted this!

21. Grow your own food.

Even if all you have is a sunny window, you can grow fresh herbs like basil from home.  If you have more space than that, consider planting some trees and growing what you can. In northern California, we can grow some veggies all year like kale, chard and lettuce.  

22. Compost worn out, all natural textiles

These are good for the soil!  Fibers like cotton, hemp, and linen can be composted at home.  I wrote a post about keeping fabric out of the landfill here, so check it out for more tips.

23. Recycle synthetic, worn fibers

If something is beyond repair, not useful as a rag, and not compostable, find a fabric recycler.  Some cities have curbside fabric recycling (San Francisco! I’m so jealous).

24. Try sashiko stitching

If something has a small stain or tear, don’t toss it – mend it with sashiko stitching.  This is a beautiful way to fix something. I get loads of inspiration from Miniature Rhino.  Check her out here.

25. Try canning your own food.

Zero waste chef has loads of great resources on this topic.  When tomatoes are in season, you can stock up and then make some awesome canned tomatoes for all your cooking needs during the year.  Or make some fresh fruit preserves. Yum yum. Read her amazing blog here for loads of home canning and preserving tips.  

26. Make your own Kombucha.

Another zero waste chef specialty.  Eliminate all those bottles you might recycle and make your own.  Save money, too! Check her out here.

27. Think about the household goods and furnishings you buy

Try to avoid synthetic fibers and toxic resins in the furnishings that surround you.  Buy high quality pieces that can be repaired rather than tossed out. I wrote a piece about building a simple bench at home that you can read here.  It’s important that we think about the full life cycle of what we bring into our homes.

28. Don’t print it!

Might be obvious, but try getting comfy with your laptop rather than a print out whenever you can.  All those papers can be recycled, of course, but why not preserve those resources for things we really need?  Need a break from the desk? Move your laptop around and try reading in a different spot before thinking you have to print something.

29. Give experiences, not things

I love this one for kids.  We try to avoid “filler” gifts – little things just for the sake of giving something – unless it’s meaningful and sustainable.

30. Plan a zero waste halloween

I’ve got another post on that here.

31. Plan for zero waste travel

Be prepared and bring a kit to help you avoid trash on your travels.  Read my post here about that here.  

32. Plan for a zero waste Christmas.

We give lots of gifts, but we avoid plastic.  We also wrap in fabric that we can reuse, rather than in paper.  I make these adorable furoshiki wraps here but any old fabric will do.

33. Host zero waste birthday parties

Keep the food and drinks simple and you can avoid all that trash!

34. Loan utensils, plates, cups, napkins to friends for their parties or borrow some for your own.

Some communities have lending libraries for big events.  Ask around to see if yours does.

35. Bring your own utensils, plate, cup, napkin

If you’re going to a party and you’re not sure what they’ll serve on, bring your own stuff.  

Also, don’t leave it in the car and forget to bring it into the party like I sometimes do!

36. Recycle broken, unrepairable electronics

We’ve got awesome Grey Bears in town for this amazing service but check your local waste management agency for ideas.

37. Make your own deodorant.

I use the recipe by Trash is for Tossers, but you can find loads of free resources online.

38. Swap out some beauty products for what you can find in bulk.

For example, you might try some light body oils or even lotions in bulk.  Sunscreen even if you’re lucky enough to have it in your town!

39. Make your own household cleaning products

Lots of folks make citrus vinegars with citrus peels and use this for cleaning instead of packaged cleaning products.  And isn’t it nice to know what’s in your cleaning products?

40. Buy sustainable art and school supplies for you and/or your kiddos

Can you swap in some colored pencils and all natural crayons?  Use recycled paper? Get your school supplies at the thrift store?  A little effort can help cut down on trash from school.

41. Recycle old markers with TerraCycle.

At The Art Factory in Aptos you can drop your worn out markers off to get recycled!  Hooray! Check around for TerraCycle options near you.

42. Make your own cough drops!

Okay, I found a pin for this on Pinterest and admit – I haven’t tried it yet – but I’m sooo excited to try it out.  It’s on my board here.

43. Get a pressure cooker

No more canned beans.  Seriously. We don’t buy these any more.  Hip hip hooray! Save yourself time and money by making these at home.  You really can cook beans in a flash with one of these. Works great for rice, artichokes, and other food that can take a little time.  

44. Try meal planning.  

If you can prep out some meals and snacks on Sunday afternoon, it’ll make the week go more smoothly.  I love doing a bunch of salads in a mason jar, or making a pot of beans, rice, and some roasted veggies to last for a few days.  And I try to plan for quick snacks to have on hand for after school and other busy times.

45. Get a safety razor

No more disposable razors!  The Zero Shop SC sells them – check them out here.  And there are loads of resources online for how to shave with a safety razor too, so get some help and make it easy for yourself.  

46. Buy shampoo and soap in bulk.

We bring our own containers and refill them at our local bulk store – Staff of Life in Santa Cruz.  We weigh the jars, but some stores will ask how many ounces your container holds, so it’s good to know that too.  Also, you might be able to find unpackaged bars of shampoo, conditioner, and soap in your town. Lush offers these too.

47. Switch to reusable menstrual products.  

I found reusable pads on Etsy that I love.  There are loads of others on the market now too.  Reusable menstrual cups are also available in lots of natural food and bulk stores – maybe in your local pharmacy too.  I found mine at CVS!

48. Recycle your toothpaste tubes

In Santa Cruz, New Leaf Market on 41st Avenue has a TerraCycle box for recycling Tom’s packaging!  Yay! You can call around to see if there is some place near you as well – schools sometimes have TerraCycle boxes.

49. Use compostable floss

I haven’t found the perfect solution for compostable floss yet, but Dental Lace will breakdown in your home compost.  Unfortunately, it does come in a plant-based plastic bag, which may or may not breakdown in your home compost. But it does create less waste than a big plastic box full of plastic floss.

50. Use a bamboo toothbrush

Easy peasy!  Usually you’ll have to pull out the nylon bristles before you can compost it, but it beats throwing out a whole plastic toothbrush!

51. Make your own mouthwash

Seriously, this is so easy and will save you loads of money, too!  I make mine with 1 cup water, 4 tsp baking soda, and a few drops of essential oils (4 of tea tree and 4 of peppermint).  

52. Make your sunscreen or find it in a reusable container.

I’ve got a recipe from PareDownhome.com that is super easy to make, although the ingredients might be hard to find, especially not in plastic.  I’ve also found sunscreen in reusable, plastic-free containers from Raw Love and Elevated Sun. I personally preferred Raw Love to Elevated Sun – I found the latter a little gritty when putting it on.  But I LOVE what they are doing.

53. Make your own lotion.

Have you made your own body cream before?  It’s an awesome chance to make something just the way you like it – adding in whatever scents you’re drawn to.  Check out my Pinterest boards for recipes!  

54. Make your own shaving cream.

Or just use conditioner!  One less packaged thing to buy.

55. Buy zero waste makeup or make your own.  

I found this shop on Etsy and LOVE the lipstick we bought.  Highly recommend for vegan, zero waste, all natural make up.

56. Switch to metal and fabric hair accessories.

Another area of your life to cut down on plastics and trash.  But use up what you have first! Kooshoo makes biodegradable hair ties, but have shipped in plastic bags in the past.

57. Use a wooden hair brush.

When it’s time for a new brush, trying getting one that’s plastic free.  

58. Compost your hair!  

Yes, sounds gross, but it composts!  Nails do too. Is that TMI? Sorry not sorry ;).

59. Shop less.

You don’t have to be a minimalist, but the less stuff you have, the less waste you’ll make.  This is so true for kiddos. So many of their things – especially those freebies and party favors – end up as trash.  

60. Buy the bruised veggies and fruits at the store.

If you know you’ll eat them soon, you can save them from the landfill!  Lots of stores will toss out old looking produce, even if it’s still edible.

61. Finish the old before buying new.

I’m talking about the food in your fridge – you can toss less food out if you just put in a little more effort to finish what’s there first.  Bonus – save yourself $$$.

62. Eat old before new food.

Same idea as above – if you do need to shop before your fridge is empty, try getting through the old food first.

63. Give the uneatable to your animals.  

Have you had kids or friends over, and one of them doesn’t finish the food on their plate?  If your dogs or chickens tolerate human food, pass the leftovers on to them. I’ll finish my own kids’ food or ask them to at another time, but I’m not going to eat outside the family.  I’m sorry, that’s just not my style.

64. Compost that pizza box.  

Yes, we still order pizza sometimes in a pinch or when we are just too pooped to cook or go out.  But you generally can’t recycle a pizza box because of food contamination. So tear it up and add it to your compost.

65. Bring a container for leftovers whenever you eat out.

Have you ever ordered a little too much, and then been torn about tossing the food vs getting a to-go container?  Try packing a jar or tupperware in your bag so you can pop those leftovers in your own container.

66. Get take out in your own container.

Ask your favorite place if they are open to this – you might be surprised.  Our favorite Thai restaurant in Soquel (Sawasdee’s) let’s us bring our own containers.  Let them know on the phone and then get there early enough so they can put it right into your bins after they cook it.

67. Remind folks – NO STRAW! – when you eat out.

If you have a reusable straw, put it on the table to remind you to say No Thanks to the straw.

68. Have a low water lawn.

Water is a precious resource too, and if you care about reducing your waste, you care about preserving water.  Succulents are gorgeous little water savers and I love this website for loads of good succulent info – sunshineandsucculents.com.  But there are tons of other awesome low water lawn ideas out there in the world.    

69. Drive a low emission car.

Tesla?  Yes, please.  I’d love one of those.  But for the average person, a Nissan Leaf is great electric car.  Seat warmers! Back up camera! That quiet, quiet engine. I highly recommend one – it doesn’t go long distances, but works for closer ranges.

70. Conserve energy in your house.

Energy can be a massive polluter as well, depending on the source.  We try to be mindful of our energy use in lots of ways – using LED lightbulbs, wearing layers in the winter to reduce our heating requirements, turning off lights when we leave a room and the home, and having energy efficient appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, and microwaves.

71. Try to follow recommended energy conservation hours in your town.  

For most places in the U.S. (and elsewhere) energy requirements are greatest during the day, when we’re all up and about and doing stuff.  So daytime hours put the greatest strain on our power plants, and certain peak hours require the use of some of our less efficient, more polluting power plants to keep up with energy demand.  So, to help out, we run the dishwasher late at night and try to run the washing machine early in the morning, outside of these peak energy use hours.

72. Order it plastic free.

Online shopping is so convenient, right?  Especially when you’ve got a job, a family, and all those other life obligations.  So when you order online, always ask them ship your order without plastic packaging.

73. When businesses mess up, let them know.  

On the same note, if you are trying to order plastic free and the business doesn’t follow-through, write to them and encourage them to cut down on packaging.  Try tagging them in social media or commenting on their own posts. A little encouragement can go a long way.

74. Say no to freebies.  

Free sample in a plastic cup?  Free packet of energy goop at the store?  Free bag of crackers? Just say no. You don’t need it.  The more we all say No Thanks, the more businesses will think twice about these practices.

75. Get your kids or partner or roomies involved.

You can ready my post all about getting kids into zero waste here.

 

There you have it – 75 small ways to cut your waste.  What’s easiest for you? Which is the most challenging? Share in the comments below!  

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz