It’s a new year, and time for some zero waste new year’s resolutions!

This year for the first time ever I actually set some goals and WROTE THEM DOWN! Woohoo! I set goals across the important areas of my life, including health, family, friends, money, work, and business. And I ALMOST forgot to set myself some waste-related goals. Whoa. Luckily I caught myself and added some zero waste resolutions for the year. So here they are.

Zero Waste New year’s Resolution #1:
Have at least one 100% freebie-free week with the kids.

Freebies and gifts are one of the major sources of trash in our life still. It’s gotten easier for me to say no to freebies out in the world, but my kids, on the other hand, are still working on this, understandably – it’s freaking hard! Our culture embraces and encourages the act of giving gifts and things, and it can come across as ungrateful or rude to refuse a gift. Unfortunately so many of these freebies are wrapped in plastic or made of plastic or in some other way destined for the landfill. My kids are offered and accept little bits and trinkets pretty much every week from friends, family, school, and outings. Just last week there was a butterfly making project at the library. The butterflies were made of paper (yay!) and wooden laundry clips (yay!) and little pipe cleaners (hmmm…). Not sure what to do with the pipe cleaners – they’re made of metal and synthetic fiber. They can be used over and over again, in theory, but once they break they are landfill foder. A few days before that, my daughter was on an outing with her class and a parent took her and her classmates to Starbucks where everyone got a beverage in a plastic cup with a straw. She’s 9, so it’s hard for her to remember to say no to a straw (heck, I forget to say this still!), and she doesn’t carry around a coffee mug for impromptu visits to Starbucks like me (guilty!). They also got bags of chips at Starbucks, so there’s another source of garbage.

I can’t control my kids every move and I wouldn’t want to. I want them to be able to be in the world making their own decisions. That said, one of my goals for this year is to have a very deliberate week-long period where each of us works to say no freebies, especially freebies with plastic/synthetic/non-recyclable or non-biodegradable pieces.

We’ve already started the conversation, too! In order to try out a full week, we’re going to pick a date, go over our family goals and strategies for polite refusal, and then get started!

2. Have a 100% plastic free week with the kids.

This might sound the same as freebie-free, but there are still some sources of plastic in our life that we buy deliberately on a regular basis. Earth balance (vegan butter), day-old bread from our local bakery, cheese, and tofu. We recycle this packaging, but another goal of mine is avoid all of these for at least one week. My daughters actually brought this idea up! We’ll be picking a week soon (not the same week as the freebie-free week) and going for it! I’ll let you know how it goes.

3. Bike more.

I used to bike ALL THE TIME. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m re-committing myself to biking more! My goal is to use the bike every weekend to take care of a trip or errand. So far in 2018, I’ve managed to use the bike every weekend for something. I took a delivery of No Trace goods downtown just recently. It’s a great way to get a little exercise and reduce my carbon footprint. Over time I’m hoping to do more and more by bike, but I’m starting with weekend rides for now. It feels achievable and would still make a big improvement in my waste reduction.

4. Find zero waste dental options

We go through a lot of floss and toothpaste in our house and we’re a little cavity prone so making our own toothpaste isn’t an option. My goal for this year is to find an affordable biodegradable floss and zero waste toothpaste with flouride online. I haven’t been able to find it in town, so it’s time to take the plunge and look online. I’ve been looking around and I’ll share what I find! Let me know if you have any leads.

So there you have it. My 4 zero waste goals for the year. Do you have any eco-goals for the new year? I’d love to hear about them! Share in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
Liz

Kids & Zero Waste

If you know kids, you know they sometimes leave behind a trail of debris.  Kid detritus comes in many fun forms at my house – popsicle stick sculptures, broken bracelets they made at school, 100+ drawings of the family, valentines cards from 3 years ago, Dollar Store party favors, outgrown clothes they can’t quite part with, and more.  Right now our home is just about bursting at the seams with these things.  

 

Fortunately for me (and the planet), kids are also amazing at getting inspired and enthusiastic about worthy causes.  With a little effort, it’s totally possible to get kids excited about zero waste.  And the more we get kids on board, the brighter our future gets.

My ecokids.

 

Here are my top 10 ways to help kids reduce their waste and go for zero.  Zero waste kids, here we come!

 

Top 10 tips for inspiring zero waste kids

  1. Inspire them!  Share success stories from zero waste heroes.  Those year’s-waste-in-a-jar pictures can be really inspiring to kids.  I love Bea Johnson’s zerowastehome.com.
  2. Get them involved in your grocery shopping!  Showing them how to shop in bulk and what’s available in your store helps them wrap their heads around what you’re doing at home.  I let them pick a couple of snacks from bulk bins. Bonus: These snacks go into jars in the cupboards, so we can all easily see what’s available and how much.  They also love helping me take pictures of our groceries – all that arranging and color sorting.  Fun times for their busy brains.
    One week’s groceries, in rainbow order :).

     

  3. Give them the tools – their own napkin, utensils, water bottle, jar, containers, lunch box, etc.  If kids feel ownership and responsibility over their own tools, they’re more likely to enjoy and use them.  No Trace has lots of options here.

    Their own stainless steel mugs, and beeswax wraps
  4. Role model!  Actions speak louder than words.  When kids see you carrying your own water bottle and napkin, that’ll inspire the same from them!
  5. Find zero waste alternatives for their favorite foods.  Can you find a package-free alternative to one or two of their favorites?  Homemade everything is really hard – but maybe there is one really special swap you could do for your kiddos.  Homemade crackers or granola bars, maybe?  Homemade chocolate chip cookies?  Bonus: it’s a great way to get them helping in the kitchen – if they help you, you’ll make it!
  6. Anticipate the challenging moments, and prepare them!  Birthday parties, Halloween, air travel, dentist and doctor’s doctor’s offices, free samples at the grocery store.  Are they allowed to bring anything home?  Are there limits or restrictions?  Talk about it so they know what to expect BEFORE you’re in the moment.  We were going through a phase of being invited with friends to frozen yogurt after school every week.  I finally got my act together and brought jars and spoons to avoid the waste and say YES to the invite.

    Happy about some frozen yogurt and fresh fruit!
  7. No guilt, only encouragement!  It is really hard to avoid waste in today’s society.  They may not have any buddies whose families are going for zero.  Make sure they know that what’s most important is doing their best.  We’re trying to tread lightly on the planet so we can share it with others for generations to come.  
  8. Educate them!  Take them to the landfill or the recycling plant (Santa Cruz recycling does a great tour – and it’s kid friendly), show them kid friendly videos on landfills and plastic pollution.   There are some great things on youtube like this one on landfills and this one on plastic bottles!
  9. Encourage them to think about how much stuff (i.e., toys and clothes) they need, and whether they could share some things with others.  Sometimes helping them cut down on how much they own can help them cut down on how much they want to consume.  Is there a shelter nearby where you can donate some excess?  Or a thrift store with a cause you can all get behind?  In Aptos has Caroline’s thrift store, which donates it proceeds to worthy non-profits in the community.  If kids know where some of their things are going, it makes it easier to say goodbye to stuff.  
  10. Try to make things together, instead of buy.  I know, who has the time for that?  I had to make a promise to myself and my kiddos on this one – I gave them each a gift this past Christmas of a coupon for making something together.  Evenings and weekends are full of dance, soccer, birthday parties, dinner, homework, and reading.  There isn’t always a ton of spare time for extra projects on top of that.  But, if there are a couple of special items your kiddo really wants, you can both squeeze in the time over the course of a few months.  Especially if you’ve already committed yourself.

 

Bonus tips!  

  1.  Explain that every family has different ideas, values, goals, and projects.  Not every family can aim for zero waste, and that’s okay.  It’s important that they know that not all their friends will be able to or interested in cutting down their waste.  And that’s okay.   

 

  1.  I remember that we still make waste as a family, and I go easy on us.  We are doing a lot, but we aren’t perfect.  I try to learn from what we throw away and think about new habits to help us reduce our waste on a regular basis.  That feels like success in my home, and my kids are engaged and interested instead of overwhelmed.

 

There you have it.  My top 10 ways to inspire the zero waste kids in your life.  Is zero waste a family value at your house?  I’d love to hear about your family practices.

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

What is zero waste?

 

In simple terms, zero waste is a goal of maximizing our planet’s resources by keeping resources in the life cycle and out of the landfill.  The ideas behind the zero waste movement center around redesigning our lives and environments so that our resources remain in a cycle of creation, use, and recycling.

 

What is a zero waste business?

 

A zero waste business embraces this philosophy of maximizing and reusing resources throughout every stage of design, production, distribution, use, and recycling or reuse.  In addition to considering the life cycle of all materials used in a business, zero waste philosophy means working with sustainable resources, such as recycled or all natural, biodegradable materials.

 

No Trace is a zero waste business.

 

At No Trace, I think about what it means to be a zero waste business everyday, and about where my raw materials are coming from, and where they will end up.  I also think about how my pieces are made and the overall impact of their creation.  I ask myself: what good will this product have on the planet and for the people who use it?  Here are the steps I take towards zero waste.  Note that I don’t claim to be perfect or to have all the anwers, but I am doing my best to be sustainable.  If you have ideas or suggestions for me, please share!  I am always open to improvement.

  1. Use of raw materials that are sustainable  
    • I use only 100% natural, biodegradable materials in all of my production.  This includes 100% cotton thread, 100% natural fiber fabric, and 100% natural and biodegradable fabric paint (which I make).

      My homemade paint in jars.
    • I use only use organic cotton or recycled cotton fabric.  The production of organic cotton does not pollute our soil or water with toxic chemicals as does conventional cotton.  Whenever possible, I source fabrics from second-hand sources (i.e., thrift stores) and repurpose them into functional pieces for the zero waste home.   
    • My racks are made by me with untreated wood.  This keeps them free of toxins and means that they can easily be composted or used in the occasional bonfire :). 

      One of my DIY racks. No finish required.
    • I’ve started using old corks and transforming them into buttons.
      Action shot! Making buttons. Don’t worry, I am very careful with the knife.

      .

  • Raw materials are obtained with minimal packaging.
    • This means avoiding plastic bags or any unnecessary packaging.  I buy my beeswax from local bee farmers free of packaging whenever possible.  I buy with recyclable packaging when I can’t get things package-free.  I always consider the type of packaging before purchasing, and make purchasing decisions based on the packaging.  
  • Tools and equipment are obtained second-hand whenever possible.
    • Most of the equipment used in making my beeswax wraps, for example, is from second hand stores.  Used tools and equipment are my first choice for all required No Trace equipment.
    • Equipment used in markets and fairs is mostly second hand or borrowed.  In fact, I may have overstayed my borrowing welcome with some friends on a few pieces 🙂 …

      Another DIY rack.
  • No waste is made in the creation of No Trace pieces.
    • Every scrap bit of thread and fabric is saved and repurposed into something else.  For example, I’ve made paper from thread bits and cell phone cases from fabric bits.  I’ve made twine and drawstring ties from long thin pieces of fabric scraps, including the selvage edge.

      Twine and pom poms
    • Every bit of paper is saved and turned into handmade paper.  I incorporate bits and strands of thread into this paper.

      Handmade paper from Farm Day at Terra Prana farm.
    • Patterns are designed with a minimizing of scraps in mind.
    • Right now, after about a year of production, I have less than one jar of waste from No Trace.  It is almost all stickers.  I’ve considered trying to turn them into a collage…I’m not sure how appealing this collage would be, though.  For now they are snug in my jar under my.    

      Weaving scraps into a potholder.
  • No Trace packaging is eco-friendly.
    • I use recycled paper and paper twine to package my pieces.  Both of these can be composted or recycled.  I recently learned that it’s better to compost small pieces of paper that otherwise get lost in the recycling process.  My recommendation is to compost the twine and paper unless your recycling plant has a specific paper pick up that minimizes loss.
    • I use recycled mailing materials whenever possible, and print directly onto my envelopes when possible.  I have had to print mailing labels on a few occasions, which results in these small squares of waxed paper.  These have several uses, apparentely, so I’m saving them for a TBD project or to pass on to another artist.  Contact me if you have any interest.
  • No Trace pieces are designed to stay out of the landfill.
    • Don’t throw it out!  No Trace pieces are designed to last a very long time.  When the fabric starts to wear out after a number of years, it can be repurposed into a cleaning rag and eventually composted, or, in the case of beeswax wraps, re-waxed after a year or more.  
    • I am always here and available for any end-of-life needs around your No Trace products – just ask!  Think of me as hospice for your pieces 🙂 .  Depending on the supply of aged No Trace products, I’d love to incorporate these scraps into new designs where possible.

      A larger weaving from scraps.
  • No Trace is solar powered!  
    • No Trace is still based out of my home, but my home is solar powered!   Well, to be technical, my family pays extra to the electric company so that we can subsidize solar and other green sources of energy to the grid, in an amount that offsets the electricity that we use each month.  Does that make sense?  I didn’t think so.  It doesn’t to me, either.  But there you have it.  No Trace uses green energy.
  • No Trace is bicycle powered!
    • Okay, this is a stretch for me, but whenever possible I DO make local deliveries by bike, especially to the shops in the Capitola area that carry my goods.
  • No Trace is Prius powered!
    • That’s more like it.  I roll-up to the farmer’s market in the Prius.  Yes, it all fits.  I can even squeeze two kids and a grown up in the car with me.  BOOM.

 

There is always room for improvement in growing a zero waste business.  I’m hoping to find more sources of package free raw materials.  I’d love to extend my bicycle deliveries around town.  And I know there are steps towards sustainability that aren’t even on my radar.  But the efforts I’m making so far feel like a strong start.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Liz @ No Trace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kids Lunches!

It’s back to school again for my kids and I thought I’d share a little about how we send them off with package-free lunches.  Packaged items are all about convenience, and I completely understand their appeal.  On a busy morning when families are trying to get out the door on time for work and school (and maybe squeeze in a dog walk or some exercise), there isn’t a lot of spare time.  So having food that you can grab and throw in a lunch bag is really helpful.  And it’s possible to do it without any waste!  

 

Our kids (aged 6 and 9) make their own lunches with a little help from us.  We encourage them to pack a fruit, vegetable, protein, and carbohydrate in each lunch, and try to make this process easy for them.  

 

These kids know how to make some food – pizza time!


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here’s our top TEN package-free Alternatives for Kids lunches.

 

Packaged baby carrots?  Swap them for:

  1. Easy to cut carrot rounds.  Our kids can safely cut carrot rounds, even with a butter knife.  We don’t peel the carrots usually, just rinse and slice.  
  2. Cucumber slices.  Our kids can peel these if they want, or they slice them unpeeled.
  3. Chopped sweet pepper – kids can slice them chunky and they are still delicious.  
  4. Cherry tomatoes are great too – no chopping necessary.

Granola bars?  Try switching them out for:

  1. Homemade granola bars.  I tried a recipe from Pinterest and the verdict was:  Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola Bars . Kitchen Explorers . PBS Parents | PBS
  2. No time for homemade granola bars?  Try a cute container full of loose granola from bulk bins.
  3. Try energy chunks or nibs from bulk bins.  We love cacao energy nibs – available at New Leaf and Staff of Life in Santa Cruz.  DELICIOUS!

Pre-packaged fruit snacks?  Try swapping for:

  1. Dried fruit!  My kids love dried mangoes, dried apricots, and raisins.  Plus, there’s generally no added sugar.  
  2. A small piece of whole fruit or half a fruit.  Apples, bananas, pears, berries, oranges, tangerines – these are easy to grab.  If the piece of fruit is really large, we might help them make a quick slice down the middle so they are less likely to waste the other half.  We also love all kinds of berries in our family!

 

 

Packaged nuts or chips?

  1. Check your local bulk bins for healthy, savory alternatives!  We can get pretzels, corn chips, sesame sticks, and more in bulk at New Leaf and Staff of Life.  Nuts are usually a staple as well.  

There you have it – easy zero waste options for kids lunches.  

I’d love to hear from other busy families – what’s in your kid’s lunches?

Thanks for reading!

 

Liz

ps – stay tuned for an upcoming post all about lunch containers

Kiddos out with grandma for lunch.

 


 

 

One of the bestsellers at No Trace is beeswax wraps – it’s also the one item that needs an explanation for many folks. So, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about the wonders of beeswax wraps.

Beeswax wraps are an all natural, reusable, biodegradable alternative to plastic wrap. They can be used throughout your kitchen and lunch bag in the same way that plastic wrap and plastic bags might be used. Beeswax wraps are washable and last a year or longer.  They are great for fruits, veggies, sandwiches, burritos, cheeses, and more.  

Here’s a list of the ways you might want to use a beeswax wrap:

  • wrap half of a lemon
  • wrap the cut end of a cucumber
  • cover a bowl for extra freshness
  • wrap apple slices in your kid’s lunch
  • wrap your sandwich
  • wrap your burrito
  • wrap fresh carrots from the market to keep them crisp
  • wrap your carrot sticks in your lunch
  • wrap cheese from the store
  • wrap cheese slices for your snack
  • cover a jar that’s missing a lid
  • wrap your cookie dough 
  • wrap your pizza dough
  • wrap a cut melon

The wraps keep your food fresh, just like plastic wrap, without sending plastic to the landfill.  They are functional and economical for you and green for the earth.  And they add color and cheer to your kitchen!  

How to use it

Using your wrap is simple – just wrap it around your food or bowl.  The warmth of your hands will help the wax soften slightly and mold into the corresponding shape.  The wraps aren’t sticky but can be folded into a tight seal.  Each wrap also comes with a matching tie made from fabric scraps.  You can use your tie for an extra strong seal if you are taking your food on the go or just want an extra firm closure.

How it’s made

Each beeswax wrap is handmade with organic cotton and beeswax – nothing else.  Wax is melted onto the cotton to create a breathable, moisture tight barrier for your food.  Each wrap comes with a handmade tie, made from scraps of the matching fabric.

Care information

Beeswax wraps should be handwashed in cold water with gentle soap.  You can let your wrap air dry or wipe it dry with a hand towel.  Beeswax wraps should not be used in the microwave or oven.  The wraps should be kept out of direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.  The matching ties can be washed in washing machines.  If you care for your wrap, it should last a year or longer.  But over time the wax will wear off and your wrap will no longer be moisture tight.  Once this occurs, you can simple compost your wrap in your home compost bin – cutting into smaller pieces will help it break down more quickly.

Purchasing a wrap

No Trace currently carries two sizes, 12 X 12 and 8 X 8 inches, and two fabrics – Pears and Pink/Gold Lines. All beeswax wraps come with a matching made from fabric scraps.  Given that the ties are made from scraps, the lengths vary slightly.  

Give them a try – they are an awesome addition to any kitchen!

I built a bench. Two, actually, so that I can cram more people around our dining table for dinners and parties. This is a very simple bench – 2 X 4s, 2 X 3s, 1 X 12s, nails, screws, nothing else. Friends and family have been asking me when I’m going to stain it – it does look kind of naked as is. But since starting No Trace, I’ve started to really think about the life cycle of my things. For example, what will happen to my couch when it reaches the end of its useful life? How about my shoes? My mattress? Many of our non-recyclable possessions will be around on this planet long after we are gone, most likely in a landfill. Manufacturers don’t usually consider the death of their products. Once it’s out of their hands, they lose interest in its fate. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Interface is one of the first companies I learned of that creates truly sustainable products (carpet tiles). Patagonia is also a leader in sustainability, from their sources for raw materials to repairing and eventually recycling worn clothes. Both companies are truly inspiring.

So, this brings me to my new benches. If you keep wood, a renewable resource, unstained and naked, it can be returned to the earth one day. Once it is beyond reuse, you can either compost it in your yard waste bin, your home compost pile, or use it for a fire. If you paint it or stain it, though, it becomes destined for the landfill. Some paints and stains on the market are all natural and biodegradable, but you probably won’t be able to put it in your yard waste bin for curb pick up, and you probably won’t want to burn it either. So I’ve decided to keep the benches naked. The absence of a stain won’t impact how long they last. While they aren’t as easy to clean as a painted or stained bench, I can easily sand down any smudges or smears. Or just sit on the smudges and smears, which is what we currently do (hey, they are reminders of the fun meals we’ve had together). Plus, we have one less bucket of stuff in the garage that isn’t empty enough to recycle. Although these benches are only two of the many pieces of furniture in our home, they are a nice reminder to me and anyone who notices that all of our possessions have a life and a death. If we can plan for their eventual demise, we can help minimize the resources we consume and the footprint we leave behind.

Tell me – do you have any sustainable furniture in your home? Or other products you love for their sustainability? I’d love to hear about it!

Inspired by role models from the zero waste movement, in 2015 I started to consider what it would take to achieve a zero waste life and household.  Although I have recycled and composted the vast majority of my waste for the past 10 years, I still produce waste destined for the landfill, and the majority  of this waste is food packaging.  

Since my effort to reduce waste in my home, I purchase most of my groceries from bulk bins and the produce section.   I’ve also changed the way my family takes food on the go.  I’ve made simple changes in the way we move through the world to reduce our footprint, inspired by the zero waste movement.  This includes using washable bulk bags, snack bags, and beeswax wrap.  These three types of products help us reduce a huge portion of plastics and other destined-for-landfill materials from our everyday lives.  

In making this shift, however, I found that many of the products for purchase would eventually end up in the landfill.  

Reusable bulk bags with silk screen images, plastic tags, velcro, plastic buttons, polyester thread, or nylon lining (among others)  – these will all eventually end up in the landfill.  I found a need for reusable, washable products that, after their usable life is up, could be recycled or composted without introducing chemicals or other pollutants into the soil.  I decided to start making products that would leave no trace.

The manufacturing process also has the potential to create waste and contribute to pollution.  No Trace’s manufacturing process includes using raw materials with minimal packaging, recycling any plastic packaging, and using fabric and paper scraps for handmade paper.  No Trace products are handmade in Capitola, CA with zero waste and made with all natural, renewable materials.