Here’s the thing – I’m not a chef. I work full-time (and sometimes more), as does my partner. And we have two kiddos with dance or piano lessons every day of the week (except Sunday).
SO, our dinners have to be FAST. Easy. Kid-friendly. Vegan. And low waste. Here’s what we’re eating this week for dinners.
Our low waste vegan meal plan for the week
Fruits & veggies for the week.
We shop for these in our cloth veggie bags that you can buy here. I take them out of their bag for the pic but we keep them in these cloth veggie bags in the fridge or in a hanging fruit basket in the kitchen.
This week we bought:
string beans (still in their bags) – see bottom picture.
And a day or so before we made our big grocery run, we got kale, bananas, lemons, mangos, oranges, apples, avocados, and bread in a paper bag.
This is a pretty typical haul for us. I have lots of green smoothies for breakfasts. We have lots of veggies at each dinner. And the kids take fruits and veggies in their lunches pretty much every day.
Pantry staples from bulk bins
We take our own clean containers like mason jars, old veganaise jars, old olive jars, and others to fill with staples that are a little messier. We weigh the jars before we fill them. Most stores have a scale you can use to get the weight of your container (aka the tare weight). Or you can ask a cashier to weigh it.
This week in jars we bought:
corn flake cereal
We put nutritional yeast on everything – pasta, salads, fancy toast, popcorn, veggies. Nutritional yeast (aka nuty yeast) gives food a little earthy-salty flavor. Plus its got vitamins and minerals.
For foods from bulk that aren’t too messy, we put them straight into the same cloth bags you can purchase here. This week in bags we bought:
We should’ve put the cornmeal in a jar – it got the bag pretty powdery and I’m still finding bits of cornmeal in our grocery bags ;). Next time….
We aren’t perfect and still get a few packaged goods most of the time. We pick foods that are yummy, will simplify meal prep, and are popular with the kids. Or essential for my coffee (COCONUT MILK!). Or when the bulk version is out of stock. This week olive oil was out of stock, so we got it packaged.
So this week’s packaged foods were:
a yummy vegan dip called Bitchin’ Sauce that my kids will put on just about any vegetable in their lunches and on their sandwiches.
Corn and flour tortillas for taco/burrito night and for lunches and snacks.
Coconut milk for my coffee.
Olive oil for everything every day.
Our low waste vegan meal plan for the week
Here’s what we’re eating this week. All low waste vegan meals:
Sushi bowls with sushi rice (I found a recipe online that was yummy and easy – rice wine vinegar and sugar) plus finely sliced carrots, cucumbers, and avocado. Plus local seaweed we get in a paper bag at the Santa Cruz farmers market. A little dab of veganaise. Soy sauce. Pickled ginger from a little glass jar that we’ll reuse. We put all of this into a bowl together. Super yum. Kids asked for this meal this week and they ate it up!
Tacos/burritos with pressure-cooked pinto beans; brown rice cooked with onions and spices; homemade salsa made with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, lemon juice, and salt; shredded cabbage tossed in a little veganaise; super simple homemade guacamole (avocados + lemon juice + salt), and tortillas.
Ramen noodle bowls with
veggie broth (from bulk);
sauteed onions with fresh garlic and ginger;
fresh thinly sliced carrots, zucchinis, and cabbage and cilantro;
beef-style TVP (boiled, drained, and then tossed in a quick and dirty “teriyaki” sauce of soy sauce, powdered ginger, peanut oil, rice vinegar and sugar;
plus roasted cauliflower for the side or with the bowl
And a couple hot sauces in glass jars.
This dinner was super popular with the kiddos and grown-ups. It probably took about an hour from start to finish, but we had leftovers to help out with other meals so I don’t mind the time too much. Plus I love eating lots of veggies at dinner.
ramen bowl dinner
4. Homemade pizza, with quick homemade dough topped with vegan homemade cashew cheese (see Nora Cooks Vegan for her awesome vegan cashew queso!). Plus sauteed bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. And chopped olives. Plus a green salad and probably some popcorn and probably a movie too.
So there you have it – our low waste vegan meal plan for this week. Does this give you any ideas for your upcoming dinners? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
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:
Some folks use them for other purposes like:
A mini wallet
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:
Lots of popcorn
A big bunch of grapes
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!
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
And fold the top flap (the edge with the top stitching) down about 2 inches.
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.
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.
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 :).
You care about climate change because you’re a decent human being. Climate change affects you, me, every person on earth, all living organisms, and future generations. It can be overwhelming and terrifying to think of where we’re headed over the next 50+ years. But here’s the good news. There are TONS of ways to fight climate change as an individual. And if everyone did even a few of these, it would really add up.
So here’s my list of 50 small ways to fight climate change!
Transportation is our number one source of greenhouse gas emissions. And pollution from passenger flights across the US and globe is a HUGE contributor to climate change. Flights result in massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger. It’s much worse than trains and even long distance car rides, especially if there’s more than one of you per car.
You might have family across the country, or places to see on your bucket list. I have those too. But if you cut your flights down even a little, the climate will thank you. Try to combine trips if you need to fly somewhere. Or limit air travel to one really important trip per year.
2. Drive less
Non-electric cars are another MASSIVE source of greenhouse gases. Try driving less and only when you really need to. Combine your driving trips. Go to the store a little less often and buy more when you’re there. Or try finding stores and businesses that are closer to your house to make your driving trips shorter.
3. Bike more
Yes to biking! Biking more means less time in your car, which means you aren’t polluting. And you’re getting to move your body. AND the more bikes on the road, the safer the roads become for bikes. PLUS the more bikes on the road, the more communities have to pay attention to bikes and create better solutions for bike riders. Imagine safer bike lanes, bike paths/trails, and protected bike ways. Yes, please!
And if biking doesn’t come easy to you, consider getting an electric bike. They take all the sweat out of the ride!
4. Ride the bus
I heard an interview with Alan Alda, former actor on M*A*S*H, on how he takes the bus in L.A. as part of his fight against climate change. If Alan Alda can do it, so can you! Lots of buses will let you take your bike on the bus too, if the bus doesn’t quite get you all the way there. In Santa Cruz, we also have some great bike lockers downtown. These let you bike to the bus stop and then lock up your bike in a super secure box.
The more people you get in your car, the more cars you get off the road. And the more efficient your car is in terms of gas per person per mile. If you can set up some kid carpools, it might also save you some time a couple days a week. (Bonus: maybe you can finish your morning coffee before work!). Plus, you can ride in the carpool lane if your freeways have those.
6. Take the train
Trains are a more efficient form of travel, regardless of the fuel they use. So if you can take the extra time to ride by train, DO IT! And as a bonus, you might get to see some awesome scenery along the way. On the west coast we’ve got Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train ride with AMAZING views of the coast. It’s on my bucket list to ride that train.
7. Get an electric vehicle
Have you done it yet? DO IT!!! Electric vehicles are the future of individual transportation. No more wars over fossil fuels to fuel our cars. EVs can be charged at home with renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Get one! Now! Ditch fossil fuels at the pump and never stop for gas again! Also, Tesla has now released their Model 3 which is as affordable as any other new mid-size car. With a Tesla, you can drive pretty much anywhere in the US and stop to charge about as often as you would stop to pee and get gas. DO IT!
8. Install solar panels
Installing solar panels on your house can power your home and put any extra energy into the grid. It can even earn you money! If you don’t want to purchase and pay for your own solar panels, tons of companies will come and install their own solar panels for you for very little cost. They’re basically renting out your roof space from you to put solar energy into the grid. This saves you money and puts renewable energy into the grid, although you won’t earn as much money as installing your own panels.
9. Switch to renewable energy with your energy company
In our community, our electricity company (PG&E) has an account option to use renewable energy to power your home. You can opt in to purchase your household’s energy from renewable power plants. There’s a small fee for using this in our community. But it’s worth it! Imagine if we all opt-in to renewable energy at home.
10. Switch to LEDs
LEDs, in case you’ve been under a rock for the last decade, are super efficient lightbulbs. There’s an LED for pretty much every lightbulb in your house. Recycle those old ones and get on the LED bandwagon!
11. Line dry your laundry
Dryers use a TON of energy. Even the more energy efficient ones. Lucky for us, there’s this awesome thing called sunlight and fresh air that will do the work of your dryer. For free. Without any electricity! We even line dry in the wet winters here in Santa Cruz. Just wait for a day with no rain in the forecast and get your laundry outside! There are also small racks that you can set up in a small space in your home to dry indoors. Smaller racks usually fold up to fit behind a door or under a bed. That lets you dry smaller loads even in the winter. We’ve been without a dryer for 6 years now! Two grown-ups, two kids, two dogs, and lots of house guests!
12. Conserve your heating
Be scrimpy when it comes to your heating. Put on a sweater and warm socks before you crank up the heat. When my kiddos ask us to turn on the heater on a cool fall or winter morning, and all they’re wearing is a tank top, we remind them to put on a sweater! Do easy, no energy steps before turning up the heat in the winter. An ideal temperature for conserving energy is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
13. Conserve your air conditioning
Same goes for air conditioning. Do what you can personally to get comfortable before turning up the AC. And maybe try feeling a little warmth of the summer air, rather than keeping your space overly cooled. Aim for 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer (or hotter) to conserve energy.
14. Turn off the juice when not in use
You probably already know this but one of the easiest ways to conserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint is this: Turn off appliances when they aren’t being used. Put your computer to sleep. Turn off your printer. Turn out the lights when you leave a room. Some older appliances even suck energy when they’re turned off, so you might want to unplug it from the wall. We have an old microwave that sucks energy even when it’s not being used, so we have it plugged into a power strip that we turn off when we’re not using it.
15. Buy efficient appliances.
If you need a new appliance, lots of times it’s worthwhile to buy a new, energy efficient version than to search around for a used one. And when you’re picking out the new one, get one that’s energy efficient (do your research online to find the best one!). Buying new, energy efficient is especially important with refrigerators, which are major energy sucks in your home.
16. Switch to electric vs gas appliances.
If you’re ready to replace your stove or heater or water heater, consider switching to an electric version if you currently have a gas version. We add more renewable energy sources to the grid every year to power electric appliances. Over time, our electricity has the potential to be completely renewable, but natural gas doesn’t.
17. Tighten up your home.
Our homes are major energy sucks when we’re heating or cooling. Laying insulation in your attic and crawl space and sealing up openings can help cut your energy use for heating and cooling and also save you money. Upgrade to double-paned windows when you can afford it.
18. Conserve water.
You may not know this but using water at home and in the office uses up energy. Water gets moved across California and other states by giant pumps. In fact, 12% of California’s statewide electricity use is from pumping and treating water. When we have power shortages, we’re also asked to conserve water. So why not do it all year? Water itself is a precious resources and costs money.
19. Go vegetarian
Here’s the thing about the meat industry – it is a MAJOR contributor to greenhouse gases and a MAJOR consumer of energy, water, and other resources. Not only do cows and other farm raised animals emit methane (insert cow fart joke here 😉 ), a greenhouse gas, but the process of farming itself contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. It also requires lots of land. That means deforestation of natural habitats so that you can eat a burger. Is it worth it? Did you know there’s even vegetarian dog food? Our pups like it just fine.
20. Eat vegetarian sometimes
I know, not everyone wants to go 100% veg. And that doesn’t always work for everyones’ health needs. So, if that describes you, consider cutting down your meat consumption. Maybe make it more of a special occasion food. Or try meatless Mondays. Or one meal a day. Get creative! Reducing your meat eating just a little benefits the climate.
21. Go vegan
The environmental problems that come from the meat industry are the same for the dairy industry. Lots of greenhouse gas emissions and lots of resources are used to make that cheese or yogurt or milk! Eating vegan is even more sustainable the vegetarian.
22. Eat vegan sometimes
Of course, eating vegan isn’t for everyone! You might have dietary restrictions that make this hard. Or maybe you don’t live somewhere that easily supports a vegan diet. Or maybe you’re just not ready to make that change. That’s okay! Try eating vegan sometimes. In my house, most of our dinners are vegan. But we might have some eggs at breakfast, or cheese at lunch. If you’re nowhere near being vegan, you might consider adding one vegan meal to your diet per week just to start. Go on, you can do it! Give it a try! One of the all time easiest vegan lunches? PB & J sandwich! Did you know Michelle Obama ate one for breakfast everyday growing up? I LOVE that!
23. Don’t waste food.
Did you know that the US wastes about 40% of our food on average? Lots of greenhouse gas emissions were released to make that food. Plus money and time and water. So don’t throw it out! Try eating most of what’s in your fridge before cooking or buying more food. Serve smaller portions and get seconds if needed, rather than serving up more than you and your family can finish. Serve your guests (especially those pint-sized guests) small portions and let them know there’s lots more of everything if they want more.
24. Compost non-edible foods.
Once and a while we discover something forgotten in the dark corners of the fridge. If you have food that’s spoiled, compost it. Compost peels/seeds/pits and other non-edible food scraps. Food scraps release methane if they end up in the landfill where they can’t breakdown properly. So compost it at home! If you don’t have a yard, consider a worm bin, which fits in small spaces. There’re also composting services in some cities – curbside pick up with your trash or other compost companies. And sometimes farmers at the farmers market will take your scraps for their compost. Ask around your community and I’ll bet you’ll find some options if you can’t do it on your own. Santa Cruz has an awesome bike-powered compost collection service called Hard Core Compost.
25. Compost other organic material.
Things like wet or food-stained paper, pizza boxes, tissues, all natural fibers like cotton and linen, paper towels, paper napkins, and anything else that’s 100% natural material can be composted. These will also release methane in the landfill if left there. Be careful about packaging that’s a mixed material. For example, a to-go box with a thin plastic lining. Chinese take-out boxes. Or a paper drinking cup with a waxy coating. Those materials are generally NOT compostable. The water-resistant material is usually plastic based or a petroleum-wax based material. So leave the mixed materials out of your compost.
Also, all those “compostable” plastics WON’T breakdown in your home compost, only in an industrial facility. Don’t add them to your compost! Chances are you have to send them to the landfill unless your city has something set up to collect those bioplastics. I hate the problems those have created, BTW. But I’ll save that rant for another day.
26. Use a reusable water bottle
Plastic comes from petroleum, a fossil fuel, and takes energy to produce. Plastic is getting harder and harder to recycle (which also takes energy). And when it ends up in the wild, it becomes a pollutant and a hazard to animals. Even in the landfill it can pollute our waterways and ecosystems. So bring your own water bottle!
27. Use a reusable coffee cup
Those paper cups and plastic lids take ENERGY and RESOURCES to produce. And those cups release greenhouse gases when they breakdown. And plastic lids – well, you know the problems with those at the end of their life!
28. Bring your cloth grocery bags to the store
Don’t forget your bags! Switch to reusables to conserve the energy and materials that go into making single use bags. And if you don’t have a large stash of cloth grocery bags yet, reuse the paper and plastic bags that you have on hand as many times as you can! But be careful of washing the plastic bags – the more friction and heat they are exposed to, the more potential for releasing microplastics into the waterways.
29. Switch to cloth bags for your fruits, veggies, and bulk goods
Those plastic bags are free at the store, but we’re paying the price once you leave. Shameless plug here – we’ve got lots of veggie bags for sale at No Trace that are made with 100% cotton and all natural materials. That means you can compost them at home in your own compost when they reach the end of their life. Check them out here.
30. Switch to cloth napkins
We’ve been using cloth napkins since we had our first child in 2008. We have some that have lasted us that long. We don’t wash them with every use, just once a week (or sooner if they are super soiled). Go for 100% cotton or linen or hemp napkins that won’t release microfibers when you wash them. Plus cotton and linen and hemp can be composted at home when they reach the end of their life.
31. Use a hankie instead of a tissue
It takes a TON of water and energy to produce a box of tissues and ship it to you. Use handkerchiefs instead! I sell cute ones here but you can also just cut up an old t-shirt!
32. Use a dish towel or rag instead of a paper towel
Sorry, this probably feels repetitive to you by now, but there are just SO MANY PLACES in your home where you can ditch single use products for reusable, sustainable products! Dish towels are a great place to start. And you probably have plenty of rag material in your home already. In our house, we turn stained clothes and household goods into rags. With 2 kids in the house and lots of playdates and sleepovers, plus 2 dogs, we go through about 1 to 2 rags per day! Plus a few dish towels a week. We toss these in with our regular laundry – no special treatment needed!
33. Use a beeswax or vegan wax wrap instead of plastic wrap.
Okay, another shameless plug for No Trace products, available here. Wax wraps are more expensive up front than plastic wrap because you’re investing in the planet, not in pollution.
Remember that cheaper isn’t always better. Wax wraps can be used again and again to wrap your food, cover a bowl or jar, or cover a plate of leftovers. Once they’re worn out, you can either compost them or add them to a fire. Even if a wax wrap escapes into nature or the ocean, it’s not going to leave behind a trail of pollution. It’ll breakdown on its own in just a few months.
34. Buy less stuff
All of our STUFF contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Furniture. Clothes. Kitchenware. Tools. Outdoor gear. It takes energy and resources to make and ship stuff to stores near us and to our homes. Consider borrowing or renting things that you don’t need that often. And loan out your own stuff too!
35. Buy used stuff instead of new stuff
If you really need something on the regular, try to find it at a second hand store. We’ve got a few different options in Santa Cruz – Grey Bears, Caroline’s, Thrift Center, Salvation Army, and Goodwill. Goodwill is my go-to for most kitchen needs or No Trace equipment like pots or table-top display bins or fabric for my veggie bags. They have a HUGE homewares section. I also buy used clothes whenever I can. There’s no shame in second-hand! It’s the green choice! Wear thrift store clothes with pride! Listen to “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis if you need more inspiration ;). Check out ThredUp.com if don’t have great thrift stores near you or prefer to shop online!
36. Write to the president
You can call, email, or write to the White House at whitehouse.gov. The chance of your letter actually making it to the president is slim, but staff do generally keep counts of opinions that come in. Make sure to be respectful, succinct, and use facts! Conservation.org has a great list of 11 facts on climate change. Maybe pick just a couple to include in your letter, and why you care about this issue, and what you hope the White House would do. The Union of Concerned Scientists also has great information on what our climate change priorities should be. Check them out here. And the simplest point to make in any communication with the White House is to remind the president of the importance of SCIENCE!
37. Contact your governor
Your state can take action without the federal government’s leadership. California is a major leader in the fight against climate change by turning towards clean energy, clean energy jobs, electric vehicles, and more. See how your state stacks up at the Union of Concerned Scientist. Look for targets to suggest to your governor, and let them know you appreciate any steps they’ve taken! To find your governor’s address, go to https://www.usa.gov/state-governor.
38. Write to your senator and congress member
Senators and congress members can introduce and support important climate change legislation. So contact them and let them know that climate change legislation matters to you! The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions monitors legislation on climate change. So check them out for up-to-date information. One of the most important pieces of legislation that the US needs is a carbon tax. But there are lots of other steps that Congress can take as well. You can find your representative’s contact info here and your senator’s info here.
39. Support candidates that care about the climate
When election time comes around, support those candidates who care about the climate with DONATIONS and SPREADING THE WORD! Nothing shows support like actual money. But if you can’t spare any, share that candidate’s info with your community and encourage others to VOTE.
40. Support your local climate action organization
41. Tell your friends and family to support climate legislation
Are your friends taking action? Tell them what you’re doing and make it easy for them to do the same! Give them one simple step and show them how you did it!
42. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper
The message you’re sharing with your friends and family, and the concerns you’re raising with your representatives and governor, and the president – share these with the media! Write a letter to your local paper and spread the word. Climate action now!
43. Support climate science
Science itself is under attack these days. One way to fight climate change is to support the science that’s happening behind it. That means staying educated and getting your science news from reputable news sources.
44. March for the climate
Santa Cruz marched September 27, 2019, but marches will keep happening all over the US. When there’s a march, show up! Show your support! You don’t even need a sign. Just go and be a part of the movement.
45. Join organizations that lobby for the environment.
Take the time to organize events with friends and family to rally them around climate action. It could be as simple as hosting a vegetarian potluck and getting folks excited to eat more plants. Or maybe you want to invite folks into your home and share how you work towards energy efficiency at your house. Or give a talk at your church or at your kid’s school on climate change. Get creative!
47. Organize a school-wide bike-to-school day.
Santa Cruz has awesome bike-to-work and school events. But anyone can organize this! Just invite other families to bike with you to school some days. If the school can sponsor the event, even better!
48. Participate in Bike-to-Work Day
If you’re not part of a school community, participate in bike-to-work day. Even if you can’t do the actual biking part, volunteer your time or donate to the event! Volunteers run the event so get in there! In Santa Cruz, these days are organized by Ecology Action.
49. Write to big businesses
Companies like Tesla changed in our options for the better as consumers. Tesla made electric vehicles cool. Reach out to other companies and let them know that you care about the environment. Write letters and also show your support with your dollars for companies that are addressing climate change and working for the environment.
50. Plant a tree (and other plants)
Plants help absorb greenhouse gases, so add some green to your life! Keep in mind that planting trees is not the best way to fight climate change, though. There was a paper published recently that used its findings to conclude that planting trees is the best way to fight climate change. The authors have since back-pedaled on the conclusions, describing them as the “theoretical potential” for reforestation, rather than suggestions for action. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the MOST important way to fight climate change, rather than planting trees to absorb those emissions. But plant trees too! The world could use a little more green.
There you have it. 50 small ways to fight climate change. Which ones are you already doing? Which one will you try next? What would you add to this list of 50? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the
I’ve been asked what are the best zero waste gifts for kids, so figured it was time to put together a post on our 8 favorite zero waste gifts! I’ve got easy, thoughtful gift ideas for you that don’t create trash or plastic. The holidays are coming up, after all! Check these out and let me know what you think :).
1. The first zero waste gift for kids is also my favorite: EXPERIENCES!
Instead of a thing, give the young one in your life a special experience. This could be something as elaborate as a trip to an amusement park (like Universal Studios – thanks, Aunt Olivia!) or something as simple as having your friend over for a special playdate to bake cookies or a cake or a fort or a mud pit (don’t ask me why, but my girls love making mud pits and then smearing the mud from head to toe!). The gift of your time is really the most special, isn’t it?
Here are a few experience gifts, from cheap to pricey:
-playdates to bake, build, or craft something together
-a playdate at a local extra fun park or beach
-a special lunch at your little one’s favorite restaurant
-a trip to a kids bounce house or other fun kids space
-a visit to a local kids museum (Children’s Museum of Discovery in Capitola is super fun for younger kids and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is awesome for all ages!)
-going to a sporting event together (Santa Cruz Warriors, anyone??)
-Amusement parks! Can’t go wrong with a trip to an awesome amusement park, right?? This is definitely on the pricier end though.
2. A membership to somewhere fun.
Similar to a shared experience, but something the little one in your life could use over and over again. These can be pricier than a one-time outing, but also give memorable experiences all year long! In the Santa Cruz area, we’ve got the Museum of Art and History that has kid friendly events all year. Nearby is the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium. So much to see that we never get to it all in one day! We’ve also got the boardwalk that has season passes. And the Children’s Museum of Discovery offers memberships.
3. Something homemade.
Even if you aren’t super crafty, there’re probably awesome things you know how to make. Maybe you like to bake? Or sew? Or paint? Or do a little woodworking? The gift doesn’t have to require tons of your time. I love to make things that will fill a certain need or be consumed, rather than just something to be admired. E.g., an apron for a budding baker. A veggie bag for a budding zero waster. A homemade mix of powdered hot cocoa. A batch of cookies. A little water bottle holder. A box to hold their toys.
4. An awesome book.
This is definitely a thing, but I love turning my kids onto some of my favorite books from childhood – especially books they’ll read again and again. Calvin and Hobbes, for example. Anything by Shel Silverstein. The Farside comics for the older ones in your life. Have they ready Harry Potter yet? Lots of kids (and kids at heart – like me!) will read this series more than once. You can probably find some of your favorite books at a second hand bookstore. And when your little one is ready to pass it along, it can go back to a second hand bookstore or onto a friend.
5. Paper notebook and colored pencils and other plastic-free art supplies.
For the budding artists in your life, there are never enough paper notebooks to capture their art. I wouldn’t get this just to give “something”, but if you know your little friend loves to draw, why not get them a nice pad of paper that can be recycled or composted? You could also make them a small book from recycled paper. I like this tutorial by Dana of Made Everyday. And nice new colored pencils are great too. I tend to steer away from markers, but maybe you can recycle plastic markers in your community. We have Terracycle at the Art Factory to take old markers and recycle them. Check your area for available Terracycle boxes here.
6. Lessons or other experiences they’ll enjoy on their own.
Piano lessons, horseback riding lessons, surf lessons, cooking lessons, sewing lessons – you get the picture. These can be pricey (unless you can teach yourself) but can be amazing memories for the kiddos and give them skills that they’ll use again and again. This zero waste gift for kids is one they won’t forget.
7. A small plant they can take care of.
Another thing, I know. But for some kids, it’s a learning experience to have and care for a plant of their own. My kiddos love getting little potted succulents. And they’re super easy to care for. Some plants help clean the air in their bedrooms, too, to help their little lungs stay healthy at night. Plants like the rubber plant, peace lily, Boston fern, golden pothos and more help clean the air. Get them something in a nice reusable, plastic free pot to keep the zero waste gift truly zero waste.
8. Zero waste supplies of their very own.
Of course, these are more “things”. But one way to a brighter future is to get kids caring about the planet from a young age. Things like reusable straws. Their own small utensil kit. A stainless steel lunch container. An organic cotton lunch bag. Organic cotton napkins and sandwich and snack bags. These can be fun gifts to receive and also get kids thinking about trash and packaging. These zero waste tools might spark conversations among kids and their buddies about sustainable alternatives. And of course at No Trace, we’ve got lots of sweet and cheerful options for kids and kids at heart right here.
Those are my 8 favorite easy zero waste gift ideas for kids.
No plastic. No trash. Just special experiences and gifts that kids will remember long after their birthday.
What’re some of your favorite gifts for kids? I’d love to hear so share in the comments below!
Are you thinking of reducing waste in your family but not sure you can do it? Are you overwhelmed with the idea of reducing your family’s trash to almost nothing?
I’m here to give you an honest look at what it’s like to go for zero waste with your family.
This post is for you if YOU:
-got interested in zero waste AFTER you had kids already
-aren’t a minimalist family with very few possessions
-hang out with other families who aren’t super into zero waste
-go to kids birthday parties
-go to potlucks
-send your kids to school
-let your kids go on field trips
-go to school fairs and gatherings
-take road trips and family vacations
-go to festivals and special events
-let your kids do art camps and piano lessons and other after school activities
Does any of that sound like you? If so, keep reading for the inside scoop on going for zero waste with kids.
I’m breaking everything down into two categories. First, I’ll cover the super challenging stuff. THEN, don’t despair, I’ll get into the super do-able stuff. So hang in there – it’s not all tough!
First, the super challenging part of zero waste with kids.
Bad news first, right?
Let me start by saying –THEIR TRASH IS NOT THEIR FAULT! We live in a linear economy. AKA – almost everything we come into contact with is designed to end up in the landfill. Your kids are part of a system they can’t control. Always remember that – kids are reacting to a system that’s designed to make trash.
So, the hard truth of it is this: If you’re kids are gonna be in the world without you by their side, they’re gonna make some trash. That’s the plain and simple of it. No way around it until they are old enough to really care about this themselves.
You can help them prepare to be out there. Practice being assertive. Practice saying “no thank you”. Practice polite refusal of those freebies and treats and giveaways and STUFF.
But when your kids are young, there are going to be times when they say “YES, PLEASE!” with excitement. Times when the goodie is really inviting and they can’t easily resist. They don’t have an inner voice yet reminding them of the bigger picture.
A few examples:
-A spontaneous stop at Starbucks after a school field trip for treats (courtesy of a chaperone) leads to a plastic frappucino cup, lid, and straw.
-A visit to the craft fair at an eco-minded event and we suddenly have a plastic craft creation that won’t last long.
-Playdate with a friend can lead to trash from a candy bar or hot cocoa cup or popsicle wrapper or some other treat.
-Classroom arts and crafts activity could mean dozens of plastic beaded bracelets. Or dozens of plastic bead art designs. Or duct tape crafts. All coming home to our house.
-A pinata at a birthday party full of wrapped candy.
-A friend at soccer practice hands them a granola bar.
-A speaker at school passes out free trinkets after a fun talk.
-A relative sends a birthday gift that’ll eventually break and end up as trash
You get the idea. Other grown ups and events and activities in their lives will lead to trash. And it’ll probably come into your house. I’m not always going to be there to intervene. Until they have the commitment and maturity to say no thank you to all freebies, they’re gonna bring home some trash. My preference is to let my kids be in the world even when I can’t be by their side because I value these experiences and relationships for them (not so much the trash). But I know I can’t make the other people around them aim for zero waste too.
That’s the tough part. That’s the low down dirty truth of going for zero waste with kids. While your kids are young, you might never get all your family’s trash into a mason jar. Sorry to bear the bad news.
Okay, are you ready for the good news now?
There’s SO much you CAN do to help your kids go for zero waste.
With some thought and energy, you CAN avoid tons of trash with your kids. Here are my three major strategies for zero waste with kids:
My number one tip is PLAN AHEAD!
If you think temptation will come up (e.g. cake at a birthday party handed out with plastic forks, a stop at the yogurt shop during an after school playdate, lemonade in plastic cups at a potluck) get prepped! Talk about it in advance with your kiddo and bring that cup/fork/straw/bowl/plate or snack or bulk bin treat or whatever might get between your little one being a part of the activity and sticking to your family goals to cut waste.
Try to find the activity that doesn’t involve plastic at the craft table and encourage your kids to do the same. Let your kids’ teachers know that you are trying to limit how much plastic comes home with them. Better yet, if you’ve got the time, help your kids teachers with ideas and suggestions for activities that don’t lead to trash or involve plastic (an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bead art? YES PLEASE!). If you are really organized and don’t feel it would be too imposing, reach out to party or event organizers in advance and let them know your family goals and if you can help with party favors or supplies.
And, of course, remind your kiddos of the family goals and what challenges might lay ahead. Which leads me to my next tip!
My number two tip is to inspire them!
Remind your kids why it’s important to care for the earth and that there are so many ways to do that. Remind them why you’re avoiding plastic and cutting trash. Show them pictures of the great ocean garbage patches. Tell them heartwarming stories of human actions leading to environmental changes.
For example, did you hear the story of Ryan, a 7 year old in southern California, who started his own recycling company to help the earth and save for college? One child has recycled thousands of dollars worth of cans and bottles from his neighbors. Or did you hear that a camera trap in Gabon’s Bateke Plateau national park captured a photo of a spotted hyena? They thought the animal was extinct in that area! But the work of rangers and other partners to protect animals in this park has led to big game surviving and thriving. And there’s the story of a classmate of one of my daughters who organized a beach clean up at a local beach. So cool! Stories like this are everywhere, and show kids (and grown ups!) that our actions can make a positive impact. Share them with your kids and help them stay motivated toward zero waste! And I have another post just on inspiring zero waste kids – you can read it here.
And my third tip is to keep a positive attitude when you talk with folks outside the family about your goals.
My personal approach is to use our zero waste supplies without any hub bub. We don’t wave around that we brought our own forks to a picnic. We don’t try to make anyone else feel bad about their trash. In our two plus years of doing this, people sometimes notice and comment positively, or don’t notice at all, but I’ve yet to encounter anyone freaked out or upset by the goals we’re reaching for. So don’t worry too much about how others might react. If they notice and want to talk about it, that’s great! It’s your chance to share what you care about without making someone else feel bad. Your kids will catch on to your attitude, so keep it positive!
To sum up the truth about going zero waste with kids:
If you want your young kids to move through the world and make their own decisions, there’ll be some trash. And that’s not their fault.
A little planning and prepping can cut out LOTS of your kid’s waste.
Inspiring your kidscan help them stay motivated.
Bring a positive attitudeto the non-zero wasters in your life.
So there’s my truth about zero waste with kids. We participate in the world around us and still make some trash. But with some energy and planning, we’ve cut back our waste DRAMATICALLY (aka – putting out our small 20 gallon trash can once a month or less) and you can too.
What’s been your experience in aiming for zero waste with kids? Any tips to share? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Okay, you are in LUCK because today I’m spilling the beans on our awesome zero waste advent calendar so that YOU can have a low waste holiday too!
Rather than focusing on things, we use the holidays to focus on experiences together and soaking up all the holiday awesomeness as a family.
My kids get SO excited for the advent calendar – they’ve been talking and asking about it for weeks. They remember these mini-adventures more than any gifts.
Our actual advent calendar is a hanging fabric tree with 24 pockets. We write the activity on a little slip of paper and put it in the pocket. But you could use anything that lets the kids track the days and read the event for each day. Check pinterest for loads of cute ideas.
So, if you want to make the holidays more memorable for you and your kiddos, and focus on experiences rather than things, here’s my guide for you.
A zero waste advent calendar – experiences, not things
A couple of the easiest ones are:
1. Decorate the Christmas tree
Whether you buy one or have an artificial one, or hang something simple on the wall, this is a great family activity. We have a couple big bins of ornaments that we put up every year.
2. Decorate the house.
Mixed in with our tree ornaments are a few other decorations – gifts from my mom – including a nativity scene, mini Christmas carousel trees with candles, and some nutcrackers. We’ve made a few garlands too that we hang.
3. Make a wreath.
We have this awesome spot in town to make wreaths called Rancho Del Oso. But you could make one with scraps from a Christmas tree yard, or go onto Pinterest for ideas that don’t involve real tree scraps.
4. Family Christmas carol night
I’m not sure about you guys, but we love singing in our house. We get the lyrics to a few popular songs and light up our Christmas carousel trees and sing a few together. We even recorded ourselves singing one song and shared it with close family (ONLY!).
5. Make paper snowflakes
All this takes is a few sheets of paper and scissors. We love to hang them in the windows once we’re done. If you’re ambitious, make enough for a strand of snowflakes. So cute.
6. Write a letter to Santa
We still do gifts and ask our kiddos to pick one thing to ask Santa for. Something within reason, of course. We get veto power (Apple watch? I don’t think so).
7. Family movie night
We don’t watch a ton of movies so this still feels special for us – Elf is one of our holiday favs.
8. Hot chocolate for breakfast!
We don’t normally make hot chocolate, so it feels special. AND it’s easy to do before school. Win Win Win.
9. A teeny tiny gift
Okay, this is another thing, but it’s awesome for busy school mornings to just slip a little something in the calendar. We’ve done bulk candy before and little hair barrettes. Maybe a tiny glitter crayon, a tiny notecard, or necklace charm. Or a tiny succulent cutting (they’ll need something or somewhere to plant it, of course). Or a tiny eraser. Or a tiny magnet. Or a little homemade chapstick in a tiny jar. I try to think of stuff that isn’t just going to collect dust in their room, but might actually get used. Also, google tiny gift ideas for some of the CUTEST things you’ve ever seen.
We have a few fun outings too:
10. Breakfast at Gayles – before school!
I know this might feel a little crazy. But if you can get up a little extra early, maybe pack lunches the night before, you might be able to get a nice quick bakery breakfast before school. It feels extra special this way.
11. Donut breakfast!
Another before school treat, if you can fit it in. Or bring it home to them. Either way, we don’t get a lot of donuts around here, so it’s an indulgence.
12. The Nutcracker ballet
13. The symphony
14. The holiday lights train
These can be a little pricey, but it is super memorable for the kids. And it could be a great gift from grandparents, if they need ideas. (Hint hint, mom 😉 ). We don’t do all of these each year – usually just one.
And we get the family and friends involved too:
15. Make Christmas cookies with Grandma
An annual tradition that they look forward to each year. I look forward to the cookies.
16. Special playdates with family friends
We have grown-up friends who are like aunts to the kiddos. We make a special effort to schedule something with them during this time – a little tea party or making ornaments together.
17. Picking out an ornament with the grandparents
Okay, this is a thing but it’s also an experience. They each get to pick out one ornament a year. The kiddos get super excited about this. I think it’s not about the actual ornament, but really about looking at all the shiny and creative options at different stores – surfing pink flamingo for the tree? Yes, please.
18. Craft date with momma
I try to come up with a few simple craft ideas that we could do in an hour after school (a simple necklace, sculpey ornaments, popcorn garland, or other simple garland) and then let the kids pick one for us to do.
19. Holiday party
Any holiday parties? Put ‘em on the calendar! We have a family birthday during this time, so that party counts as one of our advent calendar events.
And we try to think of others who are in need during this time.
20. Get gifts for a family in need and wrap them.
Their school often adopts a family, and a lot of churches do this too. Rather than making this an errand for MOM or DAD, this is a family affair – we go together to pick it out and the kids wrap it up themselves.
21. Volunteer for a few hours
Last year the kids spent a morning volunteering at an organization that was wrapping gifts to donate to families in need. This one is a little tricky because it might not be easy to find something to volunteer for if you aren’t already involved with the group. And finding something that’s age-appropriate can be challenging too, so call around to find some options. And scheduling this can also be tricky when weekends are already jam packed. So plan it out in advance!
22. Donate a toy
We ask the kids to pick one of their gently used toys to donate. Last year this ended up being a major toy closet clean-out, which was awesome. But in other years, when they were younger, picking just one toy was a good goal.
And finally, I think our all time favorites are these:
23. Night time Light walk .
We bundle up and grab an umbrella if it’s rainy. We usually walk over to Depot Hill in Capitola for an awesome view of the town and all the lights at night. It’s fun walking in the dark and cold together. And this is an easy after-dinner activity too for those busy weeknights.
24. Tea party for dinner
This does require a little planning and effort, but it is so worth it. We make a ton of finger foods including mini sandwiches (cream cheese and cucumber, peanut butter and jelly), deviled eggs, hummus and veggies, fancy olives from the bulk bar, popcorn, maybe some cookies or other baked goods and tea, of course. We sit on the floor in the living room and eat around the coffee table. I love this dinner so much.
There you have it!
easy zero waste advent calendar ideas.
Do you have any to add? I’d love to hear about them! Share in the comments!
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.
Water bottle – and fill it up after security if you’re traveling by plane!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 🙂 )
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!
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.
Mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, jam, soy sauce, maple syrup
Tea, coffee, juice, beer, wine
Toilet paper, toothpaste
Laundry 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:
First choice: packaging that you will reuse (like a jar)
Second choice: packaging made from recycled materials like recycled paper
Third choice: paper packaging
Fourth choice: metal/canned packaging – this is more valuable for recycling centers than glass
Fifth choice: glass packaging (that you wouldn’t normally want to reuse)
Sixth choice: recyclable plastic packaging – what type of plastic can you recycle in your town?
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 at 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.
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.
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.
AKA: How to keep fabric scraps out of the landfill and upcycle fabric scraps.
I love to sew stuff for me, my family, my friends, and my customers! That’s probably obvious. The only bummer of this is that there are almost ALWAYS little scraps and bits leftover from pretty much everything I make. I try my best to design pieces that minimize this, but some of it is inevitable. So I’ve been doing some poking around on the interwebs and testing out different ideas to keep these scraps out of the waste stream. Here is my list of my 10 favorite ways to upcycle fabric scraps.
This is just the cutest little pin cushion you ever did see. A square pin cushion is perfect for using up small squares of fabric (or corners if you do any boxed corners on bags like I do). I’ve stuffed it with tiny fabric and thread scraps! No poly-fill necessary!
We use cloth napkins in our house, so it’s lovely to have each one marked whose-is-whose. Each napkin ring is in a different fabric, so we never get them mixed up! Confession: we use our napkins a few times until they need a wash.
I was getting so tired of constantly having to untangle my headphones. Ugh. I finally took a minute (no, make that 3) to sew up this cord keeper with a snap closure. Be gone, tangles!
This stuff just looks so pretty. I used it to wrap Christmas presents this year. Twine is a great way to use up long, thin strips of fabric, like selvage edges. The pieces don’t need to be the same thickness or length, and you can keep adding in more pieces as you go!
This is a great craft for a little one. I made this little guy on my daughter’s loom, and now she’s made one too. If you don’t have a loom, they are SUPER easy to make – you can do it out of cardboard! I weaved my long skinny pieces (like a selvage edge or other strips) and just overlapped them a couple of inches, rather than sewing them together. You could also knot them together. Lots of options. If you want to go bigger, make a placemat!
Also perfect for long thin strips. I made a bunch of these for my kiddos and also gave them out to kids at the farmer’s market. Super easy – another great craft for little ones.
Patches for clothes
I turned an old stained skirt into hearts for my daughter’s leggings. Super fun. Super cute.
This is great for rectangles of fabric. I modeled them after my snack bags, only much tinier and not always lined. So fun.
I love quilts, but let’s be honest – I ain’t got time to make a whole dang quilt. That’s where quilted napkins come in! These are perfect for any shaped scrap. I’ve used squares to make a simple 4-square napkin design. But it works great for rectangles or triangles or strips! The world is your oyster with this one!
Yes, the world needs more pom poms. Especially upcycled, handmade, biodegradable ones. I made these tiny ones by wrapping long thing strips around a fork. You could use super thin scraps for these. Aren’t they adorable??
Those are my favorite 10 things to do with scraps right now. Do you work with fabric scraps? Do tell! Would you like to learn more about how to make any of these? I’d love to hear that too!
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