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!
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 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.
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
I recently did a three day bike tour in Big Sur with my partner and a couple of dear friends. At the writing of this post, about 30 miles of Highway 1, which winds along stunning mountain cliffs above the ocean, is very difficult to access due to a mudslide on the south end and a broken bridge on the north end. This makes it an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bike with very few cars on the road. So we did! And I am so grateful to have done it. Special shout out to my in-laws and my friends’ parents for watching our kids during this time and letting us experience this beautiful ride.
One of my goals, other than enjoying the amazing views, good food, and cold beers, was to tour without creating waste. I was pretty close, but had a couple of “I’m starving!” moments and some of my planning was off, which led to some waste.
Here Are my zero waste successes
and failures from this awesome trip.
We started in Carmel, CA, and biked about 30 miles to Fernwood Resort in northern Big Sur (before the first road closure). Here are our stops along the way:
DIY Bike Tour Stop #1:
We started with lunch in Carmel at a taqueria. They served us on real plates with real serving ware and my partner and I used our own reusable napkins. Zero waste success! The tacos were awesome, of course. And we were full and ready to bike!
Stop 2: We biked several miles down the coast, stopped briefly in Point Lobos State Reserve, and for a photo here and there. Our main second stop was the Rocky Point Restaurant. We had to get a cocktail it was – the only stop for the rest of our day along this beautiful coastline, and it has gorgeous views and famous bloody mary’s 🙂 . We decided to get a round of bloody mary’s to help power us up the hills 🙂 and I forgot to say “no straw, please”! Ack! I don’t get drinks out too often, but you’d think I’d remember this by now! So, here’s my reminder when I place my order (say it with me): No straw, please. No straw, please. No straw, please.
Stop 3: We biked several more miles (who’s counting??), up to the top of Hurricane Point and then back down again. Although far from a hurricane, Hurricane Point is quite a little micro-climate of fog and strong winds. We felt a little like we might get blown off the hillside. We stopped for a quick photo and snacks from New Leaf bulk bins (cacao energy nibs, fancy nut mix, and sesame sticks). Nothing to buy, nothing to throw away!
Stop 4: After another several miles we were nearing our destination! But we had to stop and check out one of our favorite state parks – Andrew Molera – before calling it a day. We visited Andrew Molera Beach by walking and riding our bikes over a wooden bridge and about a mile along a dirt path. We shared some the same snacks from bulk. We also had a beer that we recycled AND we picked up some garbage on the beach. Leaving things a little cleaner feels great.
Stop 5: At the end of the day we made it to Fernwood Resort and checked into our room. We were all starving and a little desperate for showers, so we got a bag of chips to hold us over while we all showered and let our little ones/grandparents know we had made it safely the first day. Why do potato chips have to be so delicious??? In hindsight, it would have been smart to plan a special treat for the end of each day so we could have resisted the delicious potato chips calling our name at the resort mini-market. After chips and showers, we ate dinner at the Fernwood Resort restaurant, which uses real plates, cutlery, and napkins. Yes.
Day 2 of our DIY, Low Waste, Big Sur Bike Tour
The second day we biked from Fernwood just a few miles to the northern road closure on Highway 1, which is the result of a broken bridge. We carried our bikes and gear about a ½ mile and 150 steps UP to the other side of Hwy 1. Phew. Then we biked about 30 miles along the most gorgeous, jaw-dropping part of Hwy 1 to a cabin. Here are the stops we made on day 2:
Stop 1: I thought we’d be able to eat breakfast at the Fernwood, which was a silly thought because Fernwood doesn’t serve breakfast. So we checked out Fernwood’s mini-market again. They had breakfast muffins, which came in a paper wrapper and coffee, which only came in a disposable cup. Doh! Reusable coffee mugs are zero waste 101! I can’t believe I failed on that one. But I did. If I’d done a little more research I could have figured this out. We didn’t bring coffee mugs since we were trying to travel light. But maybe I could have squeezed one on board just in case. Heck, it’d keep beer cold too! This also made me wish we had some sort of traveling composter…some way to transport and start the breakdown process when you travel. That’s a project for another day. Back to our journey…
Stop 2: So, we had to get a real breakfast. A quarter of a store-bought muffin was never going to get us over those mountains. We headed to the closest spot, the Lodge at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I have to share, and I do hate to complain much about service since I was a waitress once and I know it’s a tough job, but this was literally the worst service I’ve ever had. EVER. In my LIFE. The four of us never received silverware or a napkin. We shared one fork, one knife, and one napkin between the four of us. Seriously. I am not joking. We got creative and used toast as a utensil, but it was pretty pathetic. And I can’t blame the crowd since there were probably 4 other tables seated at the time. I would not recommend the lodge for dining to anyone. But, on the plus side, we had one napkin and it was fabric, and fewer utensils to wash – so I guess it was a super eco way to eat :).
Stop 3: After our leisurely breakfast we carried our bikes up about 150 steps and some very steep hillside to the other side of the downed bridge. It. was. hard. Luckily, we helped each other out and made it happen.
At the top of the hill was a pub with fresh made sandwiches and cold beer on tap. Of course we had to stop for both. The one bummer about this stop was that the pub used plastic cups instead of glass. What the heck? Who wants to drink cold, fancy, $6-a-pint beer on tap out of a plastic cup? Well, we did, apparently. We left the cups there to get “recycled”. I’m not sure what the fate of those cups was, truthfully. This and coffee-gate, above, are making a strong case for bringing a travel mug on all future bike tours. I think they come in pint sizes too. Drat! Next time…
Stop 4: We made it about 1 mile to our next stop. Note that we stopped 4 times in the first 5 miles or so. We weren’t making any speed records, here, people. But don’t worry, we made it to our ultimate destination before dark (that was my main concern) and were having a lot of fun. Back to stop 4. There was a cute, random, road side taco stand 1 mile down the road from the pub. We HAD to stop and check it out and get some tacos. These came on paper plates. Ugh. This gets me thinking about folding, lightweight, travel plates. Another project for another day…
Stop 5: There was basically nowhere left to spend any money after the taco stand. Just miles of open, beautiful road. We stopped at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and ate the sandwiches we bought at the pub while we overlooked the most magical beach and waterfall. It was stunning. The sandwiches were awesome. We had another beer, of course.
Stop 6: There was a look-out spot further down Hwy 1 where we stopped briefly to enjoy the view, but at this point we were also hoping that the cabin was close and the ladies in the group were getting a little antsy to press on, so we did.
Stop 7: The cabin! It was super beautiful, with a small creek and beach, amazing views, and a full kitchen.
We came prepared to make our own dinner – pasta (from bulk) and pasta sauce in a jar (which we recycled) and nutritional yeast (from bulk) and texturized vegetable protein (also from bulk). The pasta was delicious. We slept hard that night.
Zero waste dinner success!
Day 3 of our DIY Bike Tour
On our last day of biking, we went from the cabin back north toward Carmel through Pfeiffer Big Sur State park again, where friends left our car (funny/not funny story about that in a bit). We woke up in the cabin and made breakfast. I’d brought fixings for fancy oatmeal: oats, raisins, chia seeds, chopped walnuts, coconut cream and apples (all of it from bulk except the can of coconut cream). I also brought coffee and the cabin had compost! Zero waste breakfast success. We had some leftover coconut cream, which we put in our coffee; and leftover oats, which we carried with us. We still had a good number of snacks for our last day: cacoa energy nibs (our FAVS), sesame sticks (second favs), fancy nuts (third favs), and plaintain chips (least favs. Sorry plaintain chips). So we set off on our journey. Our goal for the morning was to make it to Post Ranch Inn by 1pm for a fancy lunch reservation, an anniversary treat to all four of us who were married within about 10 days of each other, 11 years ago. It is a spendy kind of lunch, so it’s got to be a special celebration. And it meant we didn’t need to pack a lunch – just continue working on our tasty snacks. So, here are the stops on day 3.
Stop 1: We were a little nervous about making it to our reservation on time, so we hustled quite a ways before making a mandatory snack stop, somewhere near Esalen Institute (an amazing place, everyone should go!). We ate some of the leftover oats on the side of road and then pushed on through. Another zero waste pit-stop success!
Stop 2: We were making some pretty good time, eager and a little desperate to make our lunch reservation. We stopped again after another hour or so of biking. No businesses in site, so we just enjoyed our snacks on the side of the road again, enjoying the amazing views. We probably shared a beer too. 🙂
Stop 3: That super cute taco stand called to us again! Despite the fact that it is only a mile from our destination/lunch reservation, we had to stop and check it out. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on whose side you were on), it was still closed since it wasn’t quite noon. We took a couple photos and pushed on up the hill toward Post Ranch. We realized we were still pretty early, so we went to a spot a little further up with a great view of the coast and sat on the side of road again (so many amazing views on this trip, it was absurd).
After a bit, we decided we had time to also go to Nepenthe, which was just above us, and have a drink before our fancy lunch. It seemed like a great idea at the time :). It was though, really. We had a lovely cocktail on their beautiful outdoor patio. They used paper napkins and no straws in our drinks. No waste! Then it was time to go.
Stop 4: Only about 15 minutes late, we rolled in to the Post Ranch Inn – Sierra Mar restaurant – for our lunch reservation. This place is awesome. The ranch land itself is just gorgeous and makes you want to spend a week (and your retirement savings) there at the ranch. Then you get to the restaurant, which is ridiculous – beautiful views of the ocean and coast, and the building itself is build into the cliff, which makes you feel like you are standing above the ocean. Just incredible. You feel like you are up in the clouds when you eat there. The water below is just stunning – black rocks edged in white sea foam jutting out of the turquoise Pacific, with patches of cinnamon-colored kelp swaying just under the surface. Seriously, deliciousness for your eyes. So wonderful. Actually, that is the water all along the Big Sur coast. If you’ve never been, you need to go. Anyway, this little restaurant has been cut off from its regular suppliers due to the road damage, but they are doing a great job of maintaining awesome offerings and a wonderful atmosphere. We had wonderful meals and fancy cocktails and just an all around lovely, leisurely, well-earned lunch 🙂 . And, this place is way too classy for any sort of disposables. Another zero waste success!!! Way to go team!!!
Stop 5: Okay, here is where the end of trip got a little discombobulated (remember I talked about the car being in the parking lot?). So, for some BIZARRE reason, I got it stuck in my head that the car would be at the Andrew Molera State Park parking lot, which is about 5 miles north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. So, we biked through the park, and another 5 miles to the wrong place. Ugh, Liz, read your dang emails!! Luckily, there was a shuttle back to the park AND the dudes had the energy to bike back down and didn’t even want to take the shuttle. So, that’s what they did. And they finally found the car. And we finally got it in it. Phew. Sorry, guys.
Stop 6: I’m not sure if this counts as a stop or not but we slept our last night together at our friend’s cousin’s house. She is a professional chef and let’s just say it was an AMAZING dinner. It was like eating at home, if you were married to a professional chef. And way to classy for disposables. Is that classist? Well, you know what I mean. Another zero waste meal, with wonderful company.
So that’s it. Such a wonderful experience. I am so glad we took advantage of this rare time in Big Sur history to have the road to ourselves. It was just jaw-dropping view after jaw-dropping view. So much beauty. And the time with friends and hubby was so rejuvenating. To all you parents of young ones out there: if you can make it happen to slip away for a night or two, go for it! And to my last goal – I did a pretty good job of minimal waste on the trip. Other than a couple of oversights, I kept my carbon footprint to a minimum. Did I mention we drove 4 people and 4 bikes in a Toyota Prius? It’s do-able.
Can you Go for zero waste with a busy family life? Yes!
You’ve come to the right place! Read further for my top 10 hacks!
Going for zero waste means trying to avoid pre-packaged food and instead cooking from scratch more often. This means not buying disposable, processed foods that are easy to grab and go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, which can pose a challenge if you work 9 to 5, like me, and need to feed your kids and get them ready for bed in a couple of hours time. So, how can we get it all done in our crazy hectic lives? Here are some tips that have helped me in transitioning our home to zero waste.
My Top 10 Zero Waste Kitchen Hacks (for busy families!)
Pressure Cooker! Get a pressure cooker! You can cook beans from dry to delicious in 1 hour or less! You don’t even have to remember to soak them overnight! It’s a bonus if you do – they’ll cook even faster :). So, if you are like me and are home around 5:30 and wanting to eat by 6:30, this is do-able! I got one for Christmas (thanks, honey!). Oh, and did you know that if you soak your rice, it cooks faster too? My mind was a little blown when I learned that trick :).
Bulk Bin Snacks! Keep your cupboards full of bulk bin snacks like granola, cereal, and plaintain chips that you can buy in bulk. Snacks can still be fast and easy without packaging. Our favorites right now are pretzels, sesame sticks, and cacao nibs. Delicious!
Snack Baggies! Buy or make reusable, washable snack baggies for lunches and snacks. Fill one with something before you head out into the world if you think you or the kids might get hungry. If you’ve got something on hand, you avoid having to buy whatever you can find, which may not be healthy or package free.
Fruit! Keep your fruit baskets full! This is the ultimate zero waste snack. Right now we’ve got apples from grandma and grandpa’s trees. I know, we are spoiled!
Menu plan! Menu plan before you grocery shop. I don’t always have an exact menu in mind, but I think of what we’ll have for protein (tofu, beans, TVP, nuts, dairy or eggs) and veggies for most of our dinners, what the kids will pack for lunches, and what are our popular breakfast items. The carbs seem to take less planning – there’s usually rice, quinoa, or pasta in our cupboards. And I always make sure to stock the snack cupboard! I generally go once a week, but sometimes less if life gets too crazy. In those days we just coast on fumes until I can make it to my local shop with lots of bulk bins.
Leftovers! Cook enough so you’ll have leftovers. Leftovers are the best, right? We put in our lunches and have another dinner ready to go too sometimes.
Your arsenal! Carry extra cutlery, napkins, and jars when you are out and about with the kiddos. Great for getting frozen yogurt, or food from the hot bar at your favorite natural food store. I keep meaning to leave some in the car too.
Soak those nuts! Always keep nuts soaking in the fridge for last minute nut milk! We’ve been doing almond milk lately, but any nut will do!
Popcorn! Have some popcorn kernels on hand for feeding kids who show up for impromptu play dates at the house. We love nutritional yeast on our popcorn. Sometimes I make them eat it outside, though ;), to cut down on the clean up process – nuty yeast flakes end up all over the place. Popcorn tends to be a popular bulk item, so hopefully you can find it near you!
Water Bottles! Help your kids remember to always take their water bottles out with them when they are on the go! We are still working on this in our home, but usually at least one of us has a bottle to share in a pinch. We still have plenty of kiddo germs, though, so I try to avoid sharing when possible.
And two bonus tips!
11. This is cheating but, know where you can grab a quick dinner that won’t result in waste. One of our defaults is a local taqueria. Occasionally there is a piece of paper on the plate (e.g., chips in a paper-lined basket), and we’ll bring that home and compost it.
12. Last one: Don’t be too hard on yourself! Life happens. Waste happens. We are all just doing our best to make things a little better around here 🙂 .
Those are my tips! Do you have some? I’d love to hear! Share in the comments below!
One of the bestsellers at No Trace is beeswax wraps – it’s also the one item that needs an explanation for many folks. So, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about the wonders of beeswax wraps.
Beeswax wraps are an all natural, reusable, biodegradable alternative to plastic wrap. They can be used throughout your kitchen and lunch bag in the same way that plastic wrap and plastic bags might be used. Beeswax wraps are washable and last a year or longer. They are great for fruits, veggies, sandwiches, burritos, cheeses, and more.
Here’s a list of the ways you might want to use a beeswax wrap:
wrap half of a lemon
wrap the cut end of a cucumber
cover a bowl for extra freshness
wrap apple slices in your kid’s lunch
wrap your sandwich
wrap your burrito
wrap fresh carrots from the market to keep them crisp
wrap your carrot sticks in your lunch
wrap cheese from the store
wrap cheese slices for your snack
cover a jar that’s missing a lid
wrap your cookie dough
wrap your pizza dough
wrap a cut melon
The wraps keep your food fresh, just like plastic wrap, without sending plastic to the landfill. They are functional and economical for you and green for the earth. And they add color and cheer to your kitchen!
How to use it
Using your wrap is simple – just wrap it around your food or bowl. The warmth of your hands will help the wax soften slightly and mold into the corresponding shape. The wraps aren’t sticky but can be folded into a tight seal. Each wrap also comes with a matching tie made from fabric scraps. You can use your tie for an extra strong seal if you are taking your food on the go or just want an extra firm closure.
How it’s made
Each beeswax wrap is handmade with organic cotton and beeswax – nothing else. Wax is melted onto the cotton to create a breathable, moisture tight barrier for your food. Each wrap comes with a handmade tie, made from scraps of the matching fabric.
Beeswax wraps should be handwashed in cold water with gentle soap. You can let your wrap air dry or wipe it dry with a hand towel. Beeswax wraps should not be used in the microwave or oven. The wraps should be kept out of direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. The matching ties can be washed in washing machines. If you care for your wrap, it should last a year or longer. But over time the wax will wear off and your wrap will no longer be moisture tight. Once this occurs, you can simple compost your wrap in your home compost bin – cutting into smaller pieces will help it break down more quickly.
Purchasing a wrap
No Trace currently carries two sizes, 12 X 12 and 8 X 8 inches, and two fabrics – Pears and Pink/Gold Lines. All beeswax wraps come with a matching made from fabric scraps. Given that the ties are made from scraps, the lengths vary slightly.
Give them a try – they are an awesome addition to any kitchen!