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 

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

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 travel tips

Right now it’s summer time, which in my house means family trips!  Traveling opens doors to new experiences and perspectives and I really value our family trips.  It also changes up our routines and takes us from the comforts of home, which creates a few challenges for our zero waste goals.

 

So, to help us all cut down travel waste, I’ve put together my top 4 tips for zero waste travel.  These steps are simple enough for even the busiest families and individuals, so check them out and give them a try!

 

Here are my top four tips for zero waste travel.

 

1. Prep a simple travel kit.

 

If you’re traveling with your family or friends, it’s a great idea to have at least some of these things for each person.  Here’s what we pack in our zero waste travel kits.

 

  1. Water bottle – and fill it up after security if you’re traveling by plane!
  2. Napkin, handkerchief, or both – say ‘no thanks’ to paper napkins and tissues.  You can even wash this in a small sink during your travels if you can’t easily run a load of laundry.  Check out my napkin & hankie offerings here or find some at your local thrift store!
  3. Small fork, knife, and/or spoon (or, my personal fav – a spork)!  Note that you don’t want to bring knives if you’re traveling by plane!  Airport security doesn’t like that :). I got us each a little set at a local camping/outdoor gear store in Santa Cruz.  
  4. Mason jar – perfect for leftovers, a smoothie, juice, you get the idea :).  We usually bring one with us when we go out to eat to avoid the doggie bag/box, which can be made of plastic.  
  5. Sandwich bag or beeswax wrap – great for bringing along a sandwich or picking up a pastry or cookie when your out and about.  You can buy a sandwich bag made by me here and a beeswax wrap here.
  6. Travel coffee mug – if you need some caffeine in the morning like me, this is a great way to get it to go and avoid disposable coffee cups and lids.  Your kids may not need to bring one along, but hey, maybe they’d like some hot cocoa in the morning!
  7. Market bag – again, maybe kids don’t need this, but I would recommend bringing along at least one bag for shopping.   Our market bag often doubles as our kit bag. I’ll ask the kids to carry their own water bottles, and usually I’ll toss a few napkins, utensils, mason jar, etc., into the market bag.  I try to bring this along for our outings in general, and especially if we are going to be out and about for the day or going to eat somewhere. And of course, I make a market tote that you can see here.  
Part of my travel kit from my recent trip to Seattle

2. Bring extra snacks.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to buy some last minute packaged treat because we didn’t have enough snacks!  For example, ever have a morning bike ride that was supposed to end before lunch? And suddenly it’s 1pm and everyone is losing it?  Been there. Or that flight that was delayed now that you’re in the airport surrounded by shiny packaged treats? Been there too. So, I try to bring snacks that travel well (i.e., the opposite of a peach).  Think nuts, granola, carrots, apples, and banana chips. What’s available in your local bulk bins or farmer’s market that will hold up well on a journey? Or, can you squeeze in an hour to make a tin of cookies or granola bars?

 

One more thought about snacks – I try to bring snacks that are a little extra special – good enough to compete with roadside and airport junk food.  I’m sure that’s different for every family, but try to find some options that everyone will get excited about.

 

3.  Check out nearby bulk foods, farmers markets, and natural food stores.

 

Look into bulk shopping options wherever you’re headed!  There might be some fun and unique offerings, and I’m pretty confident that you can find bulk options almost EVERYWHERE.  Bea Johnson of zerowastehome.com has a cool bulk finder app to help you find something wherever you’re headed. Check it out here.

 

If you’ll be visiting somewhere long enough to shop for food, you might want to bring along some reusable bags and jars to avoid waste.  I’ve got some made by me with love for sale here, but you can even use an old pillow case or make your own!

4.  Consider your compost options.

 

Anywhere you travel, you have some compost options.  Some cities have curbside compost pick up, making it super easy (yay, San Francisco!).  Other cities have composting services you can check out. Santa Cruz, for example, has a local business that will come pick up your compost for you – by bike!  How cool is that? Check them out here. The local farmers market might collect compost as well.  If you’re staying with friends or family, maybe they have a little compost pile you can add to, or maybe you can inspire them to start something simple.  You can purchase some compost bins for under $50. Some folks also recommend burying your non-meat, non-dairy food scraps (think eggshells, fruit and veg peels) in the dirt, at least 10 inches deep.  My cautions, though: 1. You need to be aware of possible pest issues – you don’t want to burden your host with an onslaught of new critters in their yard. 2. You need to be careful of nearby plant roots and landscaping.

 

Another option, which we do whenever we camp or road trip, is to collect your scraps in a bin or bag and bring them home to compost.  We’ve done this for up to a week of waste scraps with no issues – no smell, no pests. We’ve used a big cooler as our bin before, or a big plastic tupperware, or even a big plastic bag when we forgot our bin in the past.  Back at home, we just add it to our compost bins and voila! Soil! (months later 🙂 )

compost after a week of vacation with 2 other families

So there you have it – my top 4 tips for zero waste travel.  I hope you found these helpful! Do you have any to add? Have you tried any zero waste travel tips?  I’d love to hear, so share in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Liz

Earth Day is a day to show our love for mother Earth. It’s a day for political action and community organizing. It’s a day to celebrate the environmental movement.

And it’s also a day for small personal actions! If you aren’t taking part in something big on this day, there are TONS of ways to show your support for the environment. These are 5 super easy ideas for actions anyone can fit into their busy lives. Check them out!

My 5 super easy actions for Earth Day!

1. Eat vegan for the day!

This is by far the easiest way to make a BIG impact on the planet. I call this one a win, win, win, win! Because eating vegan does all of this: minimizes greenhouse gas emissions, reduces water pollution, reduces water use, and conserves resources. All of this happens when you eat vegan because you are eliminating animal products and all of the waste and pollution associated with animal-based products and big animal farms. If you are blanking on vegan eating ideas, check out minimalist baker for LOADS of good ideas. I love her stuff. Right now my favorite recipe of hers is Mexican cashew cheese. Yum. My kiddos love it too!

2. Pick up trash on your street.

This is a small step, but can help protect your local waterways and wildlife. Litter gets washed down or blown into small streams, which lead to rivers, which eventually lead to the ocean. Litter also gets accidentally ingested by small critters and birds. Pick it up and dispose of it in the right place instead! You might even get to know some new neighbors in the process, and even inspire others!

 

3. Stay out of your car for the day.

This is another biggie. In the US, transportation is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions. Try to avoid driving for one day. Can those errands wait a day or two? Probably. If it really can’t wait, try taking your bike or the bus instead of driving. You get a little extra movement for the day, and spare the air!

4.  Go for a hike nearby.

Keeping in mind the whole don’t-drive suggestion, is there a hike or walk you can get to without your car? You can also try taking the bus, biking, or just going for a long walk in your neighborhood. I like to call that an urban hike. Getting outside into nature (or nature-ish) is awesome for clearing your head, tuning in to your surroundings, and remembering why this planet is so amazing and deserves our protection!

5. Plant a vegetable

Plant a veggie or an herb in your garden or, if you don’t have a garden – put it in a pot in front of a sunny window.  Not only does this literally make the world and your home a little greener, eating homegrown means eating super fresh, avoiding pesticides, and might even save you from a trip to the store now and then! At my house we have lots of greens like kale and chard growing in our garden. Even when we don’t have veggies in the fridge for lunch or dinner, we have veggies from the yard to eat! So they save us a last minute trip to the store pretty much EVERY WEEK! After you plant it, it can remind you of Earth Day each time you see it and water it, and hopefully bring a smile to your face.

That’s it – 5 super simple things to do on Earth Day. Do you have any to add? Or have you tried any of these? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

All the best,
Liz

Hey friends, Want some Eco-Friendly Products to green your life?

Luckily, there are SO many ways that you can help make the planet a cleaner, greener place.

Today I wanted to share my current Favorite Top 10 eco-friendly products.

super easy to use, easy to find online or in your town, sometimes used!, and all under $25!

And that all help reduce plastic and other pollution. Win, win, win, win!

These eco-friendly products are super easy swaps for polluting plastic and paper waste! Just imagine, If we all used these, there would be so much less plastic pollution in the world. We could save TONS of plastic and paper from landfills, beaches, rivers, and oceans! I don’t know if this happens to you, too, but EVERYTIME I see a sea creature that’s been harmed or killed by plastic pollution, I feel just awful. AND it helps me re-energize and recommit to avoiding plastic wherever I can! Did you know that even paper products create greenhouse gases if they aren’t disposed of properly? Even though they are biodegradable, they won’t biodegrade well in a landfill.

So, here are my top 10 super affordable and eco-friendly products to make the world a greener place.

Plus, some of my tips on incorporating these into your life!

1. Bamboo toothbrush

These are awesome. You can find some that are 100% compostable, and that will easily breakdown in your own home compost (or city compost, if you are one of the lucky few to have this option!). I love them.

My toothbrush tip for you – if you (and any kids of yours) visit the dentist regularly, they’ll probably try to give you a plastic toothbrush. Be prepared! Let them know that you don’t need the freebie plastic toothbrush that they have for you, and tell them you use a bamboo toothbrush. You might even encourage them to start handing out bamboo brushes too! Eco-friendly dentist? Yes, please!

2. Travel coffee mug

I actually have a few of these right now and they are AWESOME. I use mine EVERY. SINGLE. DAY and haven’t used a disposable coffee cup for probably a couple years now. And there are SO many awesome options out there. I love them all. You can probably even find some at your local thrift store!

My kids and I use a travel mug for hot chocolate from the coffee shop too – they are ready for their own! Luckily I have enough to share with them for now. In a pinch, we just bring a regular mug from home. Lots of coffee shops will give you a discount, too, for bringing your own mug! Yay for discounts!

3. Reusable veggie bags

Single use plastic bags are the worst. They aren’t always recyclable, they can be super polluting, and they may even leech toxins into food. Yuck. Introducing: reusable veggie bags! Now, I’m not ashamed to promote my own here – made with upcycled cotton, even! BUT there are lots of options on the market, and these are the types of things you can even sew on your own with very few sewing skills! So, get the ones that work for you, but get some! I use mine to shop with AND I even store my greens and other veggies in them.

Side note tip for you: there are some great ideas for storing veggies without plastic on pinterest – check out some of my favorite boards for tips here for how to keep you goods crisp and fresh, without using plastic.

4. Reusable straw

This feels a little luxurious, but is still so super affordable! If you have kiddos and you like to go out to eat once and a while, it’s fun to whip out your reusable straw and let them feel a little extra fancy with their beverage. They are also great for enjoying a smoothie on the go.

My tip on using a reusable straw and straws in general – you often have to act super fast to avoid getting a plastic straw at a restaurant, cafe, or bar. You might think about setting yours out on the table as soon as you sit down as a visual reminder to yourself and the waitstaff that you don’t need a plastic straw. Always let them know directly too – politely, of course. And be kind if they forget – it happens. One of these days, I think restaurants will start coming around on this issue and will cut down on their own straws, at least plastic straws. But for now, if we can do our part and let them know our values, the earth and all its creatures will benefit. You can find these in glass here and stainless steel here.

5. Reusable napkin

This is a great way to cut down on disposable napkins in your life! I carry one of these in my purse all the time. Bonus – it doubles as a hankie in a pinch. Just remember to wash it (remove all ickies after use). I have a few of these so I can toss one in the wash after we use it, and then grab another clean one from our kitchen drawer.

My tip on napkins – at some restaurants and cafes, let the staff know that you don’t need any napkins, because they may try to give you some with your food. And chances are they aren’t expecting you to have a napkin in your pocket or purse. But – surprise – now you do!

You can see the ones I make with organic cotton here. But you can also just cut up an old shirt – knit cotton won’t fray too much (e.g., t-shirt fabric) – and keep that handy if you want to do the super easy DIY route!

My handstamped napkins and tea towels. On display at the farmers market.

6. Reusable utensils

I keep some of these in my purse at all times! There’s nothing worse than bringing home yet another set of plastic utensils that we don’t need because we forgot to bring our own. I’ve even shared with friends in the past – I keep extras in my purse for my kiddos, but I’m happy to let anyone use them! And I wash them after each use. I love small camping sized utensils for my purse, since my current purse is more of an oversized wristlet, and space is limited. I got mine at the local camping store, but you could also find some online or at a health food store. Or, super cheap way to do it – get some used utensils at the thrift store! The Goodwill in my town sells used utensils for about 50 cents each. Deal! If you dig around enough, you may even luck out on some small ones, or even a spork! Sporks are awesome, FYI – spoon + fork = spork!

And don’t forget to let the restaurant/cafe know that you have them! Sometimes they won’t want to reuse a plastic utensil that has just barely touched your plate. I know, it seems wasteful, but they are bound by different health codes. So let them know before they are done putting together your food to avoid this altogether.

7. Reusable snack bags

A super easy alternative to a ziplock or plastic baggie is a cotton snack bag. At my house, we use these for EVERYTHING: sandwiches, crackers, plaintain chips, popcorn, granola, chocolate chips (don’t judge!), pretzels, and more. I also use these to keep a hardboiled egg from getting too crushed in my lunch bag, and I’ll put a little tea strainer with tea leaves in there for making tea when I’m out and about. I’ll even put half an apple in there in a pinch – doesn’t keep it as fresh as a beeswax wrap (see below for more on that!) but it’ll keep the apple from picking up too much random stuff and also from getting everything it touches just a little bit damp and sticky.

Tips for you on these little guys: We have about 10 of these in a couple sizes at my house, and often we use one over and over again a few times before we wash it. I’ll turn it inside out, shake out any crumbs, and let it air out a little overnight, and then put it in my bag again. With things that don’t leave any crumbs (ahem, chocolate chips), I’ll just leave it in my lunch bag for the week or even longer and keep refilling it.

Reusable Snack Bag! With chocolate chips!

You can see a range of fabrics in my Etsy shop here.

8. Good old water bottle.

This is probably the easiest. And you can also probably find some at your thrift store! I like stainless steel or glass for mine – minimizes any potential leaching of toxins from plastic or questionable metals. And I LOVE my Swell which I bought from one of my favorite local stores – Jones and Bones in Capitola. It’s great to get a good product and also shop local at the same time, if you are on the market for a certain brand.

Swell water bottle. Love it!

9. Beeswax wrap

Beeswax wraps are a great alternative to plastic wrap, tin foil, and wax paper. Super eco-friendly. You can use them to wrap up your bowls, plates, or a sandwich or burrito. I also use them to wrap up half an apple or cucumber or avocado. They are super versatile, reusable, and fully biodegradable. You can read all about them in one of my blog posts here and you can buy them here.

Okay, that’s another shameless plug for my loving handmade pieces. I can’t help myself! But if you aren’t into beeswax, there are also vegan ones out there! My favorites are made by a woman in Australia and can be found here. See, it’s not all about me!

And you can also find some great tutorials online if you want to DIY it! Tip on DIY, though: unless you plan to make a whole bunch and maybe give some away as gifts, it may not be worth the time, money, and effort to make these. They are a little messy and some of the ingredients can be pricey and hard to find – and may only be available in packaging, which kind-of defeats the point! BUT don’t let that deter you! I actually enjoy making them, and you might too!

10.  Reusable dish towels

My last eco-product plug: say goodbye to paper towels with dish towels! If you can integrate a dish towel or tea towel into your kitchen, you can eliminate SO MUCH paper waste! This also eliminates the water and energy required to make the paper products. We keep ours on the handle of our oven door, but there are lots of cute clips out there to hang it from a cupboard drawer as well. We use it until it’s grubby and needs to be washed. When we just dry clean dishes with it, it might stay clean for well over a week.

I make mine in upcycled cotton whenever possible for maximum eco-friendly-ness. I also use organic cotton. You can check out my offerings here. You can probably find some at the thrift store too, if you’re not too particular about what’s on it :).

Tip: If you use paper towels for cleaning up spills, let me suggest using rags instead! Turn those old clothes, too old to give away, into rags by cutting them up. We keep a stack in our closet and grab them anytime there’s a spill in the house. Cotton knits are less likely to fray.

Okay, there you have it. My  top 10 eco-friendly products towards a greener, zero waste life. Did I leave out your favorite? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.
Liz

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The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

 

Food packaging is probably a significant source of waste for you, like it was for me too!  Going zero waste does NOT happen overnight! Instead, think of this as a process that takes time.  Each change you make is a small step in a positive direction.

Below I’ve outlined a step-by-step guide for getting started in zero waste grocery shopping.  

 

 

Step 1: Make your usual grocery list.

 

In step 1, make a list of everything that you might normally purchase for the week (or however often you go).  Be thorough! List everything to your heart’s desire. If you need to add another category, go for it!

 

Here are some common categories that can help you put together your list.

 

CategoryYour regulars (examples)
VeggiesLettuce, carrots, kale, tomatoes, cauliflower
FruitsOranges, apples, bananas
Proteins (dairy, dried beans, meats)Cheese, pinto beans, chic peas, tofu
Carbs/GrainsBread, rice, pasta, quinoa
Snacks & SweetsChips, cookies
Oils/FatsOlive oil, vegetable oil, balsamic vinegar, butter
Baking/SpicesFlour, salt, cumin
CondimentsMayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, jam, soy sauce, maple syrup
BeveragesTea, coffee, juice, beer, wine
Bathroom SuppliesToilet paper, toothpaste
Household SuppliesLaundry soap, dish soap

 

 

Step 2: Try to distinguish between your grocery “must-haves” vs. your “wants”

 

Get two different colored pencils or crayons and take a look at your list.  Pick one color to indicate your “must-haves” and the other color to indicate your “wants”.  For example, coffee for me is a MUST HAVE. Cheese, eggs, and bread are family MUST HAVES. Either Earth Balance (vegan butter) or regular butter are MUST HAVES – one or the other.  Fruits we are pretty flexible on – we can work with what’s available at the farmer’s market or what’s served loose at the store. Veggies we are also pretty flexible on. We prefer to have lettuce, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, cauliflower, squash, and greens on a pretty regular basis, but as long as we get some variety, we are happy.  We also get some veggies that work well in the kids lunches (think carrots, sweet peppers, cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes). We also have dried beans, but again we are flexible on the type of dried beans – pintos, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, etc. We love them all. Within condiments, we are actually pretty flexible! We like hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup.  

 

Step 3:  Assess the bulk situation near you.  

 

What is available to you and where?   Check out the bulk finder app (Bea Johnson has one on her website here) to see what’s available near you!  If nothing pops up, you might want to try stores you don’t normally go to – call ahead and ask if they have any bulk bins!  Health food stores often have bulk bins. Whole Foods is a definite option. Also, don’t forget to look closely at what IS available at your favorite store.  There might be more than you realize when you take a closer look!

 

Step 4: Check for a local farmer’s market.

 

The farmers market is an awesome spot to get fresh local veggies – often without stickers or packaging!  There might even be fresh bread and other staples that you can purchase plastic free. Some staples you might be able to get in a glass jar that you can return to the farmer (at our market, that includes honey and hot sauce).  So, try to determine if there’s a farmer’s market near you this time of year, and if you can fit a visit into your schedule. If you’ve got a family, it might be a fun weekend event for the whole crew! Some weekday markets are after work – maybe you can swing by one day after work!  Check out LocalHarvest.org for markets near you.

 

Step 5: Compare your waste-free options with your grocery list

 

How many of your must-haves are available in bulk?  If everything is, say hip-hip HOORAY! And then skip ahead to step 7!  But, chances are there are some items you can’t find in bulk. Make a note of all of those must-haves that you can’t find in bulk.  Next, make a list of all of the wants that you can’t find in bulk either.

 

Step 6: Make some decisions

 

Assuming you can’t find everything in bulk that is on your must-have or want lists, now is the time to make some decisions!  Ask yourself a few questions. First, are there any must-have groceries that aren’t really must haves? If not, and you stand behind each must-have, that’s fine!  But it’s always good to check what you might be willing to forgo, if even for a short time, to see how that feels. Here’s another question: is there even one must-have that you would be willing to try making on your own?  I am assuming you do NOT have the time to make everything yourself. Very few people do! But is there one item that you might try? Again, just food for thought. Could you set aside a little time on the weekend to make it?  At my house, that’s hummus and sometimes cashew cheese. We try to make it about once a week.

 

Now turn to your wants.  Here you get to decide how badly you want those wants.  You might consider an experiment of forgoing all of them, at least for a little while.  The great thing about grocery shopping is that you get another chance to do it again soon and change your mind!

 

After you’ve made your decisions, revise your list so you know exactly what you are shopping for.

 

Step 7: Gather your supplies!

 

Before you shop, collect your supplies!  You probably have some of these items already, and can make them yourself, find them at a thrift store, and there are veggie and bulk bags for sale here as well.  I always make sure that my supplies are sparkling clean before I take them. I want the stores to feel confident that I’m not mucking up their bulk goods! This helps stores continue to support folks bringing in their own containers.

 

Here are the items I take with me:

 

  • Cotton bags for fruits and veggies
  • Cotton bags for bulk goods
  • Jars for any liquids
  • Jars for any fine, powdery, or sticky bulk goods (think raisins, flour)
  • Beeswax wrap for bulk cheese
  • A marker or wax pencil for writing on jars
  • A scrap of paper and pen for writing down all the codes from the bulk bins (unless you can write on your bag -that works too!) or a smartphone!
  • Reusable shopping bags.  I.e., a bag for all your bags and jars!
  • Your list that you painstakingly put together!
  • A reusable coffee mug (hey, you deserve a treat after all of this!)

 

Let me take a moment to explain about TARE WEIGHT.

 

What is tare weight, you might ask?

The tare weight, at least in the U.S., is often the number of ounces that your container weighs divided by 16.  So, if your jar weighs 8 ounces, simply divide 8 by 16 to get 0.5. That is your tare weight. It means your jar weighs about half a pound.  The cashiers will deduct this weight from the total weight of the item when you pay. That way you don’t pay for the weight of the jar in addition to the weight of whatever’s inside.  If the store sells bulk, they should understand this process and be able to deduct the tare weight at the register.

 

If you have a scale at home, you can go ahead and weigh your jars at home and mark down the tare weight!  If you don’t have a scale at home, you can take your jars to the store and ask them to weigh them, or look for scales in the aisles that are for customers to use.  I use my marker or wax pencil to then write the tare down on my jar.

 

Step 8: Shop with confidence – and just ask!

 

Okay, once you are at the store, now’s the time to stick to your list!  Get only what is on your list, including your needs and wants. Write down the codes for each item, either on the container or on your grocery list/scrap paper.  I often use my phone to track the codes, and since we get the same things over and over again, I have the codes saved already!

 

For any deli items, ask them if they can hand it straight to you or put it into a container for you.  I’ve asked them to cut cheese for me and put it into my beeswax wrap, and they’ve been happy to do it at a couple of stores!  Don’t be shy about asking for help, even if no one is working the counter when you get there.

 

For all those needs that you can’t find in bulk, try to find it in the lowest-impact packaging possible.  Here’s how I would prioritize based on preserving our resources, avoiding landfill waste, and avoiding plastic:

 

  1. First choice: packaging that you will reuse (like a jar)
  2. Second choice: packaging made from recycled materials like recycled paper
  3. Third choice: paper packaging
  4. Fourth choice: metal/canned packaging – this is more valuable for recycling centers than glass
  5. Fifth choice: glass packaging (that you wouldn’t normally want to reuse)
  6. Sixth choice: recyclable plastic packaging – what type of plastic can you recycle in your town?
  7. Seventh choice: non-recyclable materials.  This often includes mixed materials.

 

When I go to pay, I line up my bags on the conveyor belt in order of my codes, just to speed up the process for the cashier.  You don’t need to do that at all! But if you’re motivated, it helps move things along a little bit. Especially for items you can’t see through the bag – eliminates the guessing game.

 

Step 9: Take your food home and transfer it to storage containers (if needed)

 

I like to move my bulk goods into jars and other air-tight containers once I’m are home.  I do try to take a picture first – if you want to capture the moment, do that first! I love those flat-lay grocery pics of a week in food.  

Zero waste groceries

 

But then I put stuff away. Things like chips, oats, and pasta keep better in a jar or tupperware, so I’ll take them out of the bag and put them into a different container at home.  I usually keep my veggies in their bags and put them straight into the fridge. I usually take the fruit out of bags and set them on the countertop. Potatoes, onions, and garlic too – just into a bowl on the countertop.  This takes about 10 minutes, but it’s a nice chance to tidy up the cupboards a little and feel stocked up for the week ahead.

Bulk goods in jars

Step 10: Congratulate yourself!

 

Phew!  You did it!  I hope you are feeling proud of yourself for any small changes you were able to implement towards a zero waste home.  I know it isn’t always easy to try doing things differently, and your family might not be completely on board yet, but give it time and it becomes second nature.  

 

There you have it!  My 10 step beginner’s guide to zero waste grocery shopping.  To recap:

Step 1:  Make your usual list – be thorough!

Step 2:  Distinguish between your grocery “must-haves” and grocery “wants”

Step 3: Assess the local bulk options

Step 4:  Look into a local farmers market

Step 5:  Compare your local waste-free options with your grocery list

Step 6:  Make some decisions & revise your shopping list

Step 7:  Gather your supplies!

Step 8:  Shop with confidence and don’t be afraid to ask!

Step 9:  Bring your food home and transfer it to storage containers.

Step 10: Last but not least, congratulate yourself!

 

There you have it.   My ultimate beginner’s guide to zero waste grocery shopping. Was this helpful for you?  I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

 

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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

How to Have a Zero Waste Halloween

What’s October’s challenge for ecoFamilies? Halloween!  

I can still picture last year’s wreckage: the massive pile of trick-or-treat candy in the cupboard that literally lasted for months.  The steady stream of candy wrappers in the tiny kitchen trash can that would show up every few days, foiling my zero waste attempts for the day or week yet again.  Is there anyway to enjoy the fun of halloween without leaving a trail of trash?   I wanted to know how to have a zero waste Halloween.

 

This year, I had a different vision of halloween:  a fun night of trick-or-treating with the kids and friends, followed by a teeny-tiny pile of trash and mildly sugared-up kids.  Could it be done?  I set out to test the waters.  

 

And I was armed with a plan!  Let me share my strategy.  As to whether it worked…You’ll have to read to the end for the exciting conclusion :).  

 

First, I knew I would have to get the kids on board WAY in advance, way before the shiny loot was in their eager hands.  Second, I knew I’d have to share my vision with my hubby, make sure he was on board, and also fill in any friends that were coming trick-or-treating with us.

 

You might ask – why even bother with trick or treating?  Candy is awful for them, why even tempt them?  That is an excellent question.  You, obviously, are a much stronger person than I am.  I decided not even to try to go there this year.  Maybe, in the future, I can convince my girls that passing out candy is more fun than eating it.  But they sure are cute going door to door and asking for candy.  So, here’s what I did.

 

 

Zero Waste Trick or Treaters

The very first step was to talk about it with my kiddos VERY early.  The very first mention of halloween, I told them that I had an idea I wanted to share with them.  In my least bossy voice, I told them I was thinking it would be nice to go trick or treating, but then to trade in their pre-wrapped candy for some bulk candy.  I told them we could go to the candy shop in town and they could get the same amount, by weight, as they’d get on halloween.  But this way, we wouldn’t make as much trash.  So, same amount of candy, no trash.  Then I asked them what they thought about it.

 

Gulp.

 

Here’s the thing – they were so fine with this idea that it shocked me.  Now, to be honest, I did promise that they could each eat 5 pieces on halloween before handing me the rest.  But I didn’t have to do any convincing.  

 

Hip Hip HOORAY!  That was awesome.

 

Now, the big question: Would this cooperation last?  Stay tuned!

 

Zero Waste Halloween Treats

Okay, the next step was to plan for the trick-or-treaters coming to our house.  We don’t get too many (the heavy action is one block away, for better or worse).  But we usually get some, so I wanted to have treats to pass out.  But of course I was hoping for something without wrappers.  I know, why not just pass out fruit?  No.  I just couldn’t.  Again, if that is your idea of a treat, you are a much better person than me.  Maybe some kids like getting fruit, but I’m pretty sure most don’t.  And I’m not interested in letting down happy trick-or-treaters on Halloween. No thank you!

 

So, zero waste treats to give away:  My original goal was to get candy in bulk and some cute paper bags to put it in.  I figured that the bags could be recycled and, if they don’t get recycled, they at least release fewer toxins in the landfill than plastic.  So, I got some bulk bin candy at Staff of Life (actually, hubby picked it up – thanks, honey!).  Then I drove around town in circles trying to find small, cute paper bags.  They. Do. Not. Exist.  If I’d planned in advance, I could’ve ordered some online, but then you have all the unclear shipping and packaging, probably some plastic wrapping thrown in there just to piss me off.  You know.  So, I never did find those cute bags in Santa Cruz or Capitola, and instead used some plain brown paper bags that I’ve had since before going for zero.  The big kind for lunches.  Sigh.  

Zero waste halloween candy from bulk!

Anyway, back to my treats.  Passing out loose, package-free candy to kids can feel a little…creepy.  It shouldn’t, but we’re all a little brainwashed to be afraid of anything that isn’t shrink-wrapped and sealed.  (this is part of why we have such a trash problem to begin with!  I know, preaching to the choir here).  So, what’s the best way to handle this?  Simple:  just let each trick-or-treater know that I’m doing a zero waste halloween.  I told the few that came that they could take a bag and a couple scoops of candy, or just dump the candy straight into their bags/pumpkins.  

 

The verdict?  None of the trick-or-treaters who came to our door had any issues!  They all opted for a bag.  It probably helped that I was surrounded by my own kids and friends’ kids when I passed out the candy – they make me seem less creepy and more mom-like :).     

 

Zero Waste Halloween Gathering

Alright, the last part of our zero waste halloween – the gathering!  Our neighborhood goes a little crazy during Halloween, so we had friends come over for a quick bite before hitting the streets.  A few friends offered to bring something, so I made suggestions that I knew could be zero waste (pasta salad, hummus and veggies).  I made an awesome black bean and corn salad, if I do say so myself :), served with chips from bulk bins.  I also let the other moms know my plan for zero waste, not to pressure them to follow suit, but so they could be supportive of my kiddos.  I’ve found that parents these days are pretty good about being respectful of other families food choices, and my friends are super awesome that way :).  Thanks ladies.  Now, here’s a little shocker – I used paper plates!  I know, I know, WHY?  Here’s why – they were a gift from a friend and the kids were excited to use them (they were Halloween themed).  And I knew they could be composted in our compost.  So, that’s what I did.  Once those were gone, we busted out the real deal plates.

 

Back to my kiddos….

You’re probably wondering how it went after we got home loaded with candy.  Let me tell you – it was GREAT!  They enjoyed a few pieces of candy, more time with friends, and were fine to put their candy away for the eventual trade in.  My older daughter actually gave all of hers to a friend after she had her pieces.

 

AH-MAZING!

 

There you have it: a (near) zero waste Halloween.  These kids constantly blow my mind!  I think they can tell that the true fun of halloween is not the candy.  It is every other thing – the costumes, the friends, the wildness of the night, the decorations, the excitement.  Really, with all of that, who needs candy?

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz