Tuesday, February 7, 2017

5 Easy Things Kids can Actually do to Help the Environment

Recently, I had the wonderful privilege to speak at my local nature center. I was incredibly humbled that they would invite me to attend one of their biggest events of the year to speak about zero waste. As apart of my yearly goal to reach out more locally - this was a huge step for me!

At the event, kids had the opportunity to learn about animals they may have never seen before. Local organizations brought in various reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and insects that were rescued so kids could see them up close. To see the amount of people who turned out for this event with their children warmed my heart and motivates me even more to continue to teach and inspire people to care for the environment.

My wonderful husband stopped by to give me a break.

I wasn't expecting a huge crowd to swarm my booth considering there were baby goats across the room - I mean come on....they had diapers on! But I was so thankful that I actually had interest! Maybe I don't give people enough credit - maybe there are more out there that really care than I think. Shame on me! By talking to the local news station and speaking with dozens of people about zero waste I'm motivated even more to be that positive change, locally.

While discussing an upcoming event, I was asked if I do presentations for kids. Of course I said yes, despite only talking to a class of 5th graders once since I've started this blog. I said yes because the importance to plant that seed for environmentalism needs to start as early as possible. But doing a possible presentation for kids about zero waste got me thinking...

What can kids - really -  do to help the environment?

There has to be more kids can do on their own besides telling or asking parents to do something like switch the light bulbs to LEDs or drive the car less. I mean, asking parents to do things like that is just not very empowering. Kids need to see that their decisions can really make a difference.

Get Them Outside

Encourage them to put down the screened devices and get kids outside. How can we expect them to love nature and the environment if they never truly experience it while engulfed in Minecraft? And let's not forget the resources that are being saved by kids not being "plugged in." I think being forced (ok, probably not forced) to go outside a lot as a child perpetuated my love for environmentalism and is what eventually led me to zero waste.

Get Kids Involved in Gardening/Growing Food

If they grow it, they'll be more likely to eat it. I guess this covers a couple of areas of waste prevention. If they finish their fruits and veggies on their plates there eliminates the food waste! Teaching them how to grow food doesn't have to be elaborate and intensely involved - I mean, if you have a garden, that's fantastic but a cup of dirt with your seeds of choice on a windowsill works just as well. Bottom line, let them get dirty! Show them that by growing their own food allows them to be sustainable and independent. That's truly empowering!

Give Kids their own Reusables 

Give them their own reusable water bottle, napkin, lunch box, and cutlery. Just like we carry a kit to avoid disposables, allow them to be in control of their waste avoidance, too. Make using reusable items as opposed to tossing the single use items the norm as early in their lives as possible.

Encourage them to Pick up Litter

Ok, this is probably one that many people say but the impact is big. Whether you are at the park as a family, or on a nightly walk, make it a habit to pick up litter. This is something my little family does every single time we go for walks. We even take the aluminum cans that we collect and sell them to a local facility that gives us money by weight. All of the money we collect goes into Ollie's allowance fund - for when he gets older of course.

Involve them in the Kitchen

This is so much more than just teaching your kids to cook. It's about making and baking up memories that will last a lifetime. When we have the skills to cook for ourselves, we become less dependent on fast food and prepackaged items and besides - it's never too early to train them for Chopped Junior! Ok - I'm kidding. :) 

Plant those seeds early. Give your little ones the tools and skills that help them become less dependent on convenience and make memories doing so. It doesn't matter if you're 9 years old or 90, anyone and everyone can make a difference. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Minimalist Diaper Bag

I will admit, I congratulate myself if I can make it to any destination with everything I need. You know purse, cell phone, diaper bag, and of course, the baby. I'm sure you other mamas stand at your front door before leaving going through your mental checklist at least a few dozen times. No? I'm the only one?

Packing too much is such an easy thing to do. I blame it on "first-time-mom-anxiety". We tend to think of nearly every possible and impossible situation that could arise and pack all of the gear. I learned really quickly that in order to keep my sanity and make it anywhere on time, that I needed to consolidate Oliver's things. I surely didn't need to pack his bamboo cutlery for a trip to the grocery store, right?

I'm sure you all want a quick update on Ollie? He's sitting up now! It literally happened overnight. He's almost 8 months, too. Time is going so, so fast! Of course, I'm so happy that he's finally learned to sit up because now he will go longer while playing by himself. That makes things SO much easier when you're trying to juggle work and mothering. All in all, I'm so amazed by him every day - I can hardly believe he's mine.

Sorry, back to the diaper bag. Here is what I bring on a typical day out with my little guy. I breastfeed so - as you can tell - I don't have a bottle or water. If you formula feed, I recommend putting water in a mason jar and packing a glass baby bottle. Also, I always have my Ergo baby carrier with me but that - obviously - won't fit into the diaper bag. I just keep it in the car.

1. Diaper Bag

Instead of buying a diaper bag, I use an old backpack from high school. Seriously though, backpacks are the best when you have to wrangle a baby. 

Did you know that Jansport has a lifetime warranty on their backpacks? If the backpack ever wears out or gets damaged, I can simply fill out the repair form found HERE and have it fixed and returned to me. Pretty great, huh? 

2. Organic Burp Cloth

I would honestly suggest NOT spending your money on burp cloths and using hand towels or tea towels you already own. I received these as a gift so I make sure they get used! Once Oliver grows past the need to use it as its intended use, I will still pack it for hand wiping, nose blowing, or any other way to avoid single use waste.

3. Wet Bag

Wet bags are an important item you will need if you plan on using cloth diapers and wipes. This bag contains the dirty diapers, wipes, and soiled clothing. 

4. Rubber Pacifier

You can decide whether or not a pacifier is for you and your little. Right now, Ollie uses it to teeth and it brings him some comfort. I opted for a natural rubber pacifier rather than silicone. You can find this particular one HERE

5. Cloth Wipes

I keep these cloth wipes dry. I see no reason for them to be wet - I mean - toilet paper is dry when we wipe. Once the wipes have been dirtied, I throw them into the wet bag. 

6. Homemade Wipe Spray

I'm sure just water would be sufficient but I decided to make a spray that had some extra goodies in it for ultimate bum cleaning. You can find my recipe HERE.

7. Organic Breast Pads

Because I breastfeed, I keep an extra set on me just in case. We don't want any leakage now do we.

8. Toy

Just to keep Oliver occupied while I'm doing not-so-fun things like getting groceries. For most of Oliver's toys I have chosen stimulating, wooden toys. There are so many great companies out there who are making sustainable, plastic free toys. One great company is PlanToys. I've also even gotten a few toys from Etsy that were handmade. 

9. Cloth Diapers

Of course, you'll need extra diapers! I recommend scouring Ebay or joining local cloth diaper swap and shops to get your hands on some secondhand diapers. You'll save a lot more money and I feel that the used diapers work better since they've already been broken in. Also, don't limit yourself to just one brand - try several. Every diaper fits every baby differently.

10. Extra Outfit

So I realized I didn't have the extra outfit pictured because we had to use our spare today and I haven't replaced it yet - major blowout. Need I justify this item any more?

I hope this helps in decluttering your diaper bags. Of course I may have more than you need. ;)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Avoid Food Waste with Carrots

I'm excited to say that this is the first of many posts in a series that I will be dedicating to food waste prevention. Instead of trying to fit everything you'd need to know about the subject in just one post , I'm going to make the topic a little less broad. Many articles I read on food waste prevention seem to be very basic and fail to go in depth on all of the possibilities. There has to be more you can do with veggie scraps than just stock, am I right?

These posts will look at just one food item at a time to completely dissect any and every possible way to use it in its entirety. We spend our hard earn dollars on food so why toss it or compost it when we can get more value out of the things in our pantries and fridges?

The first item on my list is carrots. Aren't they just the best zero waste snack? I mean, I can't think of a better vegetable for hummus transportation. They also make the best dog treats!

So how do you use the entire carrot?

Don't peel!

Seriously, just give the carrots a good scrub and use it as is. There is absolutely no need to peel carrots. 

Eat the scraggly end.

Come on now, it's edible - it tastes the same as the rest of the carrot.

Cook with the tops.

Have you ever thought to eat the tops? A few things you can do with them are:
  • Make carrot top pesto - this is probably the best application for the stems. It's absolutely delicious. 
  • Add the tops to soups
  • Add the leafy parts to salads
  • Saute them and eat them as is
It's funny how we've gotten used to not eating the stems. Give them a try! They are so good!

How to store carrots.

So how do you store carrots to ensure that they will last a long time. If just left in the crisper drawer, they seem to go limp within a few days - and no-one wants a limp carrot. After you have removed the stems and scrubbed them, place carrots in a container with water. The cool water will keep the crisp for quite awhile. However, don't forget the change out the water periodically as it could start to turn.

How do you use the entire carrot?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ditching Paper Towels - Answering your Questions

Photo credit: pni via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Don't get me wrong, I love a good "quicker picker upper." With pets, a baby, and a tendency to spill things often, having something easily accessible to clean up messes is a must for me. And how great are paper towels? Just tear off what you need, clean up your mess, and toss - oh so - effortlessly. Many other people think so too considering the average person uses 45 lbs. of paper towels per year.

We love our disposable paper products. Paper waste accounts for over 25% of total landfill waste. 

When I ran my "30 Days to Zero Waste" Challenge on Instagram and Facebook, I was surprised to see that overall, that tip raised the most resistance and had the most questions. So many in fact, that I felt that a dedicated post was due to answer everything and give everyone some reference material.

What was the number one hurdle? 

Significant Others

Many of you stressed that you'd love to kick the paper towel obsession but your SOs wouldn't do it. I can help you with this one - for the record, I'm asking my own husband's advice! 
  • Show them the money savings. From personal experience, our household saves $100-$200 a year now that we do not purchase paper towels. And no, adding small rags to your existing loads of laundry isn't going to cost you more money in water - I've compared our usages.
  • Stop buying them. Everyone in the house will have to use cloth if the paper towels have disappeared.
  • Simply communicate that you'd like to give this a try and that cutting waste is important to you. Come on now, couple support! :) At the very least, ask them to just give it a try.

Here were some additional questions that you had...

"I live with roommates who will not switch - but I have"

Try making the rags more conveniently located than the paper towels. If the clean rags are conveniently on the counters and the paper towels are in the pantry - hidden somewhere -  you might get some converters! 

"What about cleaning the bathroom and wiping up all that gross hair?"

I personally sweep all of the bits with a small hand broom, then spray down my bathroom with my homemade cleaning solution and wipe clean. 

"Do I have to purchase additional rags or make my own?"

That is completely up to you but I would suggest saving your money - I mean - they're just rags. I personally use old wash rags because they are very absorbent. You can also take holey socks or rip up stained or torn t-shirts.

"What do you do when you are at work or in a public restroom?"

I always have a cloth napkin on me on the go. Avoiding waste is all about being prepared. If I don't have a cloth on me I simply shake them dry.

"What do you do for cleaning up greasy or oily messes?"

I first sprinkle baking soda on the mess so that it absorbs the liquid, then I wipe clean.

"How many rags do I need for a family of 2 and a puppy?"

My rule of thumb is 3-5 per person/pet. Including pets I have a household of 10 so about 30 rags. Just a personal preference - it works perfectly for us.

"But cleaning up pet vomit - with cloth?"

Absolutely! And here's why - not even a waste reason - with paper towels, my fingers always seemed to poke through to the dark side. Yuck. With cloth, that doesn't happen. I wipe up the mess, my fingers stay clean, I shake off the particulates outside, and throw the rag into the wash. Easy.

"How do you drain oily food?"

On a baking rack that is on top of a baking sheet. Drains more oil that paper towels - and you know what that means - crispier potato chips!

Did I cover everything? I promise you, switching to cloth isn't so scary. Just try it for little bit to test it out. I bet a lot of you will never switch back!

Do you have other questions regarding switching to paper towels? If so, comment below!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

How to Avoid Waste at Restaurants - and Nearly Everywhere

With a little preparation, you can still enjoy your favorite restaurants without producing any waste. Many places use real plates, cups, and utensils but some still use the disposables. Oh yes, and those dreadful Styrofoam take out boxes. There are many reasons why we've gotten to this point, and it usually ends up at convenience.

Then there's portion sizes. Is it only in America that we get portion sizes SO big that we are forced to either take home the excess or toss it? Maybe I just eat like a bird? Any time we go out I usually end up with an additional two meals. I guess that's a good money savings for me.

Anyway, in a perfect world, all restaurants would offer food on real plates, use real utensils, and real cups and we'd all just slow down and eat once in awhile but that just isn't going to happen or work in some cases. Like for food trucks (using all compostable/plastic free items would be a good step for them). Well, this is where we come in. Because the food industry isn't a completely circular model, we as the patron, have to make up for that by bringing our own. Seems cumbersome, yes, but it's what has to be done at this moment in time if you want to eat out and avoid waste.

Having a kit of reusables on you for when you go out will keep you organized and on top of the trash situation. Keep in mind, that when you choose to eliminate waste, there will be several new habits that you'll have to develop. So don't beat yourself up if you forget your kit 1 - 2 - or 10 times. Because it will happen.

First, take a quick roll call on who will be joining you for the meal. Say for instance, it's you and a friend. In your kit - which is usually a canvas bag for me but anything is fine - you will put enough items to compensate for two people's waste.

Here is what my husband and I have on us for when we go out. What you pack can change depending on where you plan to go.


This will contain all of your reusable items

Cloth Napkins

Cloth napkins are multipurpose - multipurpose items are great considering that means you won't have to carry as many items on you. Cloth napkins can....
  • Help to avoid paper napkins
  • Wrap up leftover sandwiches to take home
  • Be used as a place mat
  • Be folded into origami swans when you've been waiting on your food for days.


At some point, you'll be tempted to grab a plastic fork, spoon, or knife, but if you're prepared you'll be able to avoid them all together.

My husband and I carry bamboo utensils, including chopsticks, with us at all times. They come in handy at least on a weekly basis.

If you don't want to go out and purchase anything additional, simply grab some cutlery from your kitchen and stick it into your kit.

Refuse the Straw

Or use a reusable one. Do we really need them?

Reusable Water Bottle - or a "Dual Purpose" Jar

We just always keep our water bottles - or even just a mason jar - on us so if we decide to go to a place that doesn't offer actual glasses, we just refuse the drink and drink our own that we brought. Water is what we would have ordered any way. Some places will even fill your bottle back up for you.

Leftovers Container

Say you went out for pasta and have quite a bit leftover. I don't think the cloth napkin would do a very good job and containing the excess for the trip home. In that case, this is the biggest item I keep on me for when we go out. I use to keep a quart sized mason jar in my car for leftovers but now I've upgraded to a two tiered tiffin which always contains my food and my husbands'. I just love it.

Some restaurants have now graduated to compostable take out containers. I use these as a last resort - if I have forgotten a container - to save the resources that would go into replenishing these containers.

Stick all of those items in your bag and you're good to go. In the grand scheme of things, those items don't really take up that much space. If this just seems too much to worry about - then refuse to go to places that don't use the real stuff. Make it easy on yourself.

What tips or tricks do you have to preventing waste at restaurants?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 Goals!

Ok, ok, ok! It's all about the goals I have set for Zero Waste Nerd in this post! I'm super pumped!

Since last year was full of new motherhood - this year I will have more time  - or better organize my time - to focus on pushing the Zero Waste cause a little farther! First of all, from day 1, the goal of this blog was to inspire as many people I possibly could and to spread the word about our waste and consumption issues. I was tired of hearing that one person couldn't make a difference and I was determined to prove those nay-sayers wrong. 

I see so many of you fighting for this cause and making a HUGE difference! The zero waste community is the most inspiring group of people I've ever had the privilege to be apart of and I thank you! I mean, look how far we pushed Zero Waste! A few short years ago, it was barely a topic any one knew anything about and now there are thousands of people transitioning their lives to line up with the wasteless mindset. It's truly amazing. The future is looking bright, my friends!

Here's a look of the things I hope to accomplish in 2017!

Organize My Social Media

I would like to start a "theme" for each day of the week on my social media pages - I think it would be fun. For instance:

  • Motivation Mondays - inspirational quotes, blogs, videos, stories, etc to keep us all going!
  • Tip Tuesday - a clever tip to help others with the Zero Waste transition
  • Food Fridays - a delicious recipe that can be easily made with zero waste ingredients
You get the idea. What do you think? These are subject to change - just brainstorming here.

Post More

I absolutely feel I need to get more content out to you! I might even have a "30 MORE Days to Zero Waste" in the works! ;)

You've probably seen the Poll on my site asking what you'd like to see more of. I've compiled the stats and will work on getting more posts including:
  • DIYS
  • Recipes
  • Minimalism Tips
  • and more posts looking into my personal life


Design Refresh

I think it's time for a more updated and streamlined look. As I post more content, I would like to make it easier and more efficient for you to navigate through the site and find exactly what you need, quickly. With that being said....I'm looking for a Graphic Designer to collaborate with! If you are interested, please contact me via my contact page!

Reach Out Locally

I really want to reach more people locally. I will be contacting local avenues to do zero waste talks and demonstrations. I'm even talking with a local business to do a city e-waste recycling event. Organizing local trash clean ups is also on my list!

Organize Local Crop Swap

Crop Swaps are organized events where local growers can get together and trade their excess produce to prevent food waste. Whatever is left over would be donated to the local food pantries.  

Turn "30 Days to Zero Waste" into an Ebook

I would love to make 30 Days to Zero Waste downloadable so that everyone has the ability to take it on the go in a condensed, easy to read Ebook with lots of pictures and ideas to accomplish zero waste no matter where you live.

Zero Waste Market

I've decided that I want to make zero waste items accessible to people who weren't aware of the movement. I want to start a zero waste market where I sell waste preventing items at fairs, festivals, and possibly online. This has been on my list for quite some time. In addition to selling waste preventing items, I will also be setting up a drop of location for compost at my local farmer's market and do interactive learning demonstrations. 


And a secret project that I'm SO EXCITED about but can't talk about yet until the legal stuff has been taken care of! 

My theme this year is definitely "local".  The reason for this is due to the fact that I have noticed a real lack of knowledge around environmentalism and consumption issues within my city limits. I feel that I should take ownership and responsibility to get my city up to speed with Zero Waste. I challenge all of you to do the same! Once my local footprint has been made, I'll start bleeding into other nearby cities until the mission is complete. 

I hope you have some great goals set for this year as well! Stay tuned for my quarterly updates - I'm going to be bus-Y! I figured the best way to hold myself accountable and to stay on track was to post this list. ;)

Here's to 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 - Looking Back

And just like that, 2016 is over. Boy, was this an interesting year full of ups and downs. I thought it would be fun to give you a little peak into our lives this past year.

It will definitely be a memorable year for me considering my husband and I welcomed our first little one this past May. 

Our whole world changed in an instant. He has truly been amazing. He's so inquisitive, gentle, humorous, and lovable - I just can't get enough of the little squirt! Aside from the 24/7 baby snuggles, there were a lot of waste issues I had to tackle with a baby. Cloth diapering, cloth wipes, copious amounts of baby clothing, plastic toys, baby food. Trust me, there are many draft posts still to be finished! But you know, raising little humans takes up ALL of your time!

Of course, that's not all that happened this year!

I was able to reach more people locally by getting interviewed by the local University as well as local news station - you can find that article HERE

We went on a lot of walks - taking in the beautiful weather. Picking up trash along the way of course!

There were many sleepless nights. But who cares right? <3 

There was a lot of laundry! Thank goodness for my easy Zero Waste Laundry Powder for those sensitive baby bums!

We did a lot of camping! Spending time in mother nature has always been our favorite thing to do. Ollie had to get started early.

I turned 30!

There were many hours nursing - a good zero waste meal, right? ;)

 A lot of produce from our garden was canned - seemed like way more than normal.

There were more walks!

There was a lot of bulk chocolate consumed and a lot of single use disposable bags avoided!

We toured a sustainable, zero waste brewery for my husband's birthday. Seriously, if you are ever in KC - check Boulevard Brewery out!

My husband and I celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary on 10-10.

Fall was extra beautiful this year.

We celebrated  Oliver's first Halloween - he was a parrot.

I discovered some new bulk stores. It's all about the hunt!

 We were all bombarded with a ton of useless, wasteful election flyers. Ugh...

We took our first family vacation to Branson - baby steps. 

I taught Ollie how to take selfies. He's a natural. Oh, and I got my braces off!

We reflected after the election results and realized that no government is going to make a difference - we are.

My husband got into a 4 car pile up and totaled his car. Thank goodness he was ok!

I took Ollie on many zero waste grocery trips! Good thing he loves veggies!

My brother graduated from University with a mechanical engineering degree! So proud!

We celebrated our first Christmas as a family of 3! 

And tonight, we are celebrating my Dad's 49th birthday.

What a year. 

I hope you had an amazing year as well. Remember to always focus on the positive, don't dwell on the negative. 2017 may seem scary but let that drive us to prove it otherwise. It's in our hands.

Here's to another great year.