Friday, September 22, 2017

30 Useful Ideas for Plastic Storage Containers

src: Caroline Atwood
Good news - you can live sustainably and still use your existing plastic containers. It's actually more environmentally friendly to utilize what you already have instead of buying new. But knowing that it isn't in our health's best interest to heat our food in plastic containers, what do we do with them?

Most of us have a cabinet overflowing with mismatched containers and lids that never seem to have a mate. Seriously, why are there always more lids than containers? It has to be some kind of evil magic. 

Instead of throwing out my plastic containers, I've been utilizing them around my house and have found that they make my sustainable lifestyle a little easier. Here are a few ways to utilize those plastic containers.

  1. toiletries in the shower to avoid breaking
  2. toiletry storage during flights to protect from spillage
  3. jewelry
  4. toy blocks
  5. nuts and bolts
  6. seeds
  7. craft supplies
  8. medicine
  9. store dry goods in the pantry
  10. store dry goods while camping
  11. food storage while backpacking
  12. food and water bowls for pets
  13. doggy bag dispenser
  14. pet medicine
  15. treat dispensers
  16. bird seed storage
  17. store frozen produce
  18. office supplies
  19. use containers to organize drawers
  20. leftovers - please do not reheat food in plastic containers
  21. cords
  22. keep memory cards together
  23. snacks on the go
  24. tea storage
  25. baby proofing
  26. use them to gift DIY cookies, brownies, or bread
  27. give them to your kiddos as bath or sandbox toys
  28. make them into repurposed gift boxes
  29. use them to plant seedlings or herbs
  30. rag dispenser
And I'm sure there are dozens of other ingenious ideas to reuse your plastic containers. What do you do with yours?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Camping


I've been camping since before I could walk. As a family, we could never afford lavish vacations or even fly anywhere so camping was every year's family trip. I've camped all across the US and still, those vacations, remain some of my favorite and most cherished childhood memories. Now, as a mom, I get to take my little guy on camping adventures and begin those memories for him. For it was spending so much time in state and national parks that sparked the love I have for the Earth.


This past weekend, we took Oliver to Watkins Mill State Park. We were a little anxious to see how he'd handle it. Well, I'm happy to report, that child had an absolute blast. I don't think I've ever seen him so happy. He played in the dirt, took many bike rides, played on the jungle gym, and even got to sleep in his very own bunk bed. He thought that was pretty fantastic. Oh, and did I mention that he slept entirely through both nights?! Uhhh....WIN!




I hope with all of my experience, I can provide you with a complete guide on how to lower your waste while camping and of course, prevent you from pulling out your hair. 

Ditch the Disposables

I mean, well duh right? Of course, if you want to eliminate some of your waste you'd opt for reusable plates over ones you'd just end up throwing away. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking..."But paper plates make good kindling." Maybe, but they are still disposable.

Now, for camping, I don't recommend glass or porcelain plates. Just because camping isn't necessarily the most dainty of activities. Just to prevent any accidents, I suggest using some reusable secondhand plastic plates like the ones I have pictured. Or even some stainless steel or enamelware. Anything that is durable. 




Beverages

The popular beverage of choice seems to be bottled water. I see it everywhere around other camper's sites. Most parks have safe, drinkable water with hydrants through out the parks. When we tent camp we fill up a water container with a spout that we use throughout the day.

If you grab some soda or beer, just make sure you recycle your containers after use. 


Food

You don't have to eat like a first-year college student when you camp. Fix healthy meals like you would at home. Just simplify them a bit. Keep your meals under 5 ingredients to minimize the number of ingredients you need to pack. Pancakes and skinny biscuits are a staple camping breakfast for us. Sandwiches are also pretty popular. 


Prepping your dry ingredients ahead of time for pancakes saves time and waste.


For your ingredients, consider bringing some of your bulk staples in smaller containers or jars. I use mason jars for rice and quinoa and even use a few of my old plastic containers.

To make managing food waste easy, make sure you do 2 things. 1. Be very mindful of how much food you'll eat and only bring what you will finish. 2. Prep as much as you possibly can at home. Chop, peel, and core your produce ahead of time so that you can utilize your compost at home rather than have to worry about it in the woods. If there's one thing you don't want to have in or around your tent, it's easily accessible food. Raccoons will be in your tent faster than you can say "egg shells." 

Of course, you'll still have the occasional banana peel or orange skins so for compost I recommend using an air tight container to keep it from smelling until you can get home. This would be a good opportunity to reuse some of those plastic containers you're phasing out.




Foods such as spices and condiments don't need to be repurchased in smaller containers. take some of your stash at home a put them into smaller jars or even old pill bottles.

What about ice? Most ice comes in plastic bags so you can do a few things ahead of time to reduce your bagged ice consumption. Fill up water bottles with tap water and freeze to use as ice packs. Once the ice melts, you have water to drink. If there is any food you can freeze ahead of time, that also works. You can also take large containers to gas stations and pay for just ice out of the soda machine. Bottom line, just make sure your food is properly cooled to avoid any potential spoilage.

CAMPING TIP | Please do not bury your compost in state or national parks. It's usually not allowed and can attract unwanted animals to your sites like raccoons, possums, or even bears. Many of these animals that become used to eating human food have to be put down as they are too close to humans and pose a threat.

Gear

You can find about anything and everything secondhand. Heck, you could even just borrow someone's gear. Why buy? Unless camping is something you plan to do several times a year, borrowing would be the best option. Some retailers like REI even do equipment rentals. If you do plan to buy, buy quality. Don't waste your money on cheap versions that will break easily.




Toiletries

Pack your toiletries from home. Keep things plastic free and reusable like bamboo toothbrushes, homemade cosmetics, a safety razor, package free shampoo, natural bug repellent. For more tips on zero waste bathroom items, check out my post HERE.





Activities

Seriously, you're camping, put down the phone. Go on a bike ride, a hike, go kayaking, or just sit by the fire with good book. Reconnect with nature. Trust me, you'll feel SO rejuvenated after a couple of days screen free. 




CAMPING TIP | Do not use non native firewood as this can cause non native species of plants taking over and disrupting local biomes. Use local firewood or just buy a bundle of firewood from the park.






Indulge

Eat the damn S'more. Don't deprive yourself of special moments in order to avoid trash. 




CAMPING TIP | Do NOT under any circumstance, burn your plastic trash in the fire pit. Do I really need to explain why?

Other Misc Tips

PETS | If you have pets, throwing away your dog poop is unavoidable as it is not allowed to leave it on the ground. I use compostable dog poop bags. 




CLEANING | Bring your cleaning supplies from home. I brought rags, baking soda, and my vinegar spray to clean up.




RV | If you have a camper, you could reuse your grey water on your garden once you got home rather than dump it down the sewer. Just make sure you use plant friendly dish soap.

COOKING UTENSILS | Try avoid cooking in foil as it might not be very good for you. Use cast iron skillets or a dutch oven over the camp fire instead. Also, don't buy new. Declutter your kitchen to find necessary camping items.

Well, hopefully that wasn't too much information. I just wanted this to be as thorough as possible. Camping is one of my absolute favorite hobbies and hopefully this guide takes a little bit of stress off of your plate if you are planning your first trip.

Now enjoy this photo of my giving my grandfather, who is a Missouri State Park Volunteer, bunny ears. He's a hoot!




Do you have any questions on zero waste camping that I didn't address? Ask below! 

Happy zero waste camping!



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Zero Waste Week 2017 - I Challenge You!

International Zero Waste Week officially starts September 4th - 8th! Started by Rachelle Strauss, this week is used to bring attention to our ever growing waste issues that have plagued this planet. We make a lot of trash, it's no lie. But what can we do about it? Can one person make a difference?


Yes!



If you're new to zero waste living - welcome! Check out my Beginner's Guide, here



But I'm not here to talk about my 30 days to Zero Waste, I'm here to throw a new challenge at you to commemorate Zero Waste Week! An easy challenge that we will do together throughout the week. Each day will bring a new challenge that, I hope, get your feet wet in zero waste living. Are you ready?


Monday | Meatless Monday


Try going a whole day without eating any animal products. Just by cutting meat out of your diet for 1 single day can save 1100 gallons of water, 45 lbs. of grain, 30 sq. ft. of forested land, and 20 lbs. CO2 equivalent. Isn't that insane?


If you are wanting some delicious plant based meal ideas, check out my page of meal plans!


Want to go longer than just Monday? Go for it - you can do it!




Tuesday | Nature

Have you ever heard of "Nature Therapy"? After a long work day, put down your laptop, your smart phones, turn off the TV and go outside! Are we all just a horde of mindless zombies draining a colossal amount of energy staring at screens? 

Get on your bike, go to the park, go somewhere to enjoy what you are trying to protect. 


Wednesday | Minimalism

Are you drowning in stuff or would you like to just get rid of a few things? Take today to assess a room, drawer, or cupboard and declutter. Take those items and donate or sell them on Swap and Shop pages for some extra moola!

**Check out my article "5 Beginner Steps to a Decluttered Life" for some help.



Thursday | Disposables

What do you currently use that would be considered disposable? Find some of these items around your house and replace them with a reusable alternative. You may already have a reusable alternative in your home! Paper towels? Make some rags with some old sheets or t-shirts. Paper plates? Get out your real dishes. Plastic bottled water? Use a mason jar and fill it with tap water.



Friday | Trash, Trash, it's Everywhere!

We can't reduce trash without doing our part to clean up the litter around us. Take ownership of your block or local park by picking up trash. When others see you pick up litter - they too might be motivated to pick up as well or at least think twice if they are litter offenders. Make this a fun event. Invite your friends or family to help! 

The day we pledged to go zero waste. Because of a simple neighborhood trash pickup.


I hope you have fun this week and continue these easy challenges beyond Zero Waste Week. A few greener habits can result in a big impact and make us healthier and happier. 

Happy Zero Wasting!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Grandma's Pasta Sauce


So who's ready for this eclipse? It's been quite the anticipated event here in St. Joseph MO considering we are on the line of complete totality for over 2 minutes and 38 seconds! (Check my Instagram account for the video!) I'm kind of excited. But not too excited about the expected crowds they are projecting. Last I heard they think we will go with a population of 80,000 to 500,000 in just a day. I hope they are wrong. Either way, I'm going to enjoy the spectacle in the comfort of my own yard with a bowl of pasta. Ok - I was just trying to tie my eclipse rambling to this recipe but I probably will have pasta tomorrow because it's Monday and that's typically what we eat on Mondays. 

Tomatoes are bountiful right now. We've had a generous amount of rain this last month making the tomato crop big, juicy, and oh so sweet. Farmer's markets are overflowing with every size, shape, and color of tomato you can imagine. When we got our CSA box this week I was excited to see the giant Big Boys that were screaming to be turned into my Grandmother's Pasta Sauce. 


My Great Grandmother didn't have a large catalog of recipes. She stuck to a handful that she circulated every week and spaghetti was on the list. She would have Grandpa bring in tomatoes and other produce from the garden that she'd use in the sauce and let it simmer for a long time. She'd then always serve it with sautéed spinach only because I was obsessed with Popeye the Sailor Man.

I've been making her recipe for years. I now even make it in very large batches so I can preserve it for later in the year.  I can't even tell you how amazing it is to open up a jar of pasta sauce in the middle of winter from summer produce. Who says you have to deprive yourself in order to be a little more environmentally friendly?


ZERO WASTE TALK | How is this recipe zero waste? All produce can be purchased in season and package free. Use homegrown herbs or purchase spices in bulk with your own containers to eliminate any unnecessary packaging.

Grandma's Pasta Sauce

Author: Megean Weldon
Prep and Cook Time: 60 minutes
Serving Size: Feeds 6

Ingredients:

  • 5 large tomatoes 
  • 1 red bell pepper - sometimes I use a few cherry peppers instead
  • 5 cloves of garlic - I mean, can you have too much garlic?
  • 1/2 cup of celery
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste - or homemade
  • 3 TB of fresh chopped parsley or 2 TB of dried parsley 
  • 2 TB of Italian seasoning
  • 2 TB of chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flake
  • 2 TB of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt or season to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Chop tomatoes and pepper and put onto a cookie sheet with the garlic. Drizzle olive oil over everything and lightly sprinkle with salt. 
  2. Roast the tomatoes - including skins, pepper, and garlic in a 400 degree F oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until tomatoes are slightly wilted.
  3. In a stockpot, sauté celery and onions with a little bit of olive oil until translucent.
  4. Add tomatoes, pepper, and garlic to the stockpot along with the tomato paste, parsley, Italian seasoning, basil, red pepper flake, sugar, salt, and pepper. 
  5. Simmer until all flavors have had time to build - about 30 minutes.
  6. Use an emersion blender to blend into a smooth sauce. 
  7. Serve immediately or can for later.
Enjoy!


Monday, August 14, 2017

Toddler Friendly Breakfast Cookies


Why does summer have to be nearing its end? Waaaahhhhhh! That's me throwing an adult tantrum. I don't even know why. It's not like I go to school in the fall even though I still get that beginning-of-semester anxiety. Anyone else still experience that? Maybe it's because I've been playing around with the idea of going back to school to get my Master's degree. I might be a little insane. I just like piling it on.

One thing I will always make time for, though, is ensuring my little guy has wholesome, healthy, home made meals and snacks. I've said this many times before - meal prepping on Sundays is a must to making that happen. I've also been pretty fortunate to have a child who will pretty much eat anything. Fruit, veg, mushrooms, spicy, sour - you name it, he'll consume it. At his day care, as a fun opportunity to get some hilarious photos of the babies, the teachers gave them limes to taste. All of the littles made the most hilarious, scrunched up faces except my child. He sat there and happily ate his ENTIRE lime. His teachers told me that they've never seen that happen before. Sometimes I question whether or not that kid has taste buds. Of course, he's just like his father whom I've seen eat burnt cake out of the trash. Like father - like son, I guess.

However, you don't need a child who eats everything to eat these breakfast cookies. Shoot, you don't even need to be a child to eat and enjoy these. They are deliciously simple, easy to make ahead of time, and good for you. Oh and just 4 ingredients. These cookies are perfect for busy mornings. I always grab a couple on my way out of the door when I've forgotten to eat along with the rest of the family. 


These cookies are also very versatile as you can add and swap things out making them perfect for your munchkin. Peanut allergy? Use another nut butter like almond or cashew. Doesn't like raisins? Use some dried cranberries or chocolate chips.

ZERO WASTE TALK | How are these cookies "zero waste"? All ingredients can be purchased in the bulk bins with your own containers or can be found in the produce section. You could even make your own peanut butter like my SIMPLE recipe Here! If you don't have bulk, look for food packaged in something other than plastic like paper, glass, or metal.




Enjoy! For more plant based recipes check out my recipe page HERE!






Saturday, July 22, 2017

Zero Waste Sun Protection



Summertime is the best! It's time for picnics, pool time, vacations, watermelon, lightening bugs, camping, popsicles, and being outside in the sun way more than usual. I burn very easily so when it comes to summer sun protection, I have to slather on sunscreen. Of course, now that I have all of this new knowledge of what goes into these products and the packaging they come in, I've had to rethink how I protect myself from those harsh summer rays.

But first, let me make myself very clear. Your health and protection from skin cancer is way more important than if you avoid one single plastic tube of sunscreen but you should consider a better brand. Be concerned about ingredients first, then the packaging. I urge all of you to look at mineral based sunscreens rather than the cheaper brands that contain Homosalate, Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, and Octinoxate. Like chemicals found in plastic, these have been known to cause some serious health issues.

And let's not forget how those chemicals in sunscreen are affecting the environment. According to a study conducted by a team of international scientists, the chemicals in sunscreen pose an alarming risk to coral reefs. We've lost a significant amount of our coral reefs in the Caribbean, already. A lot due to the bleaching phenomena that has started occurring. The study found that Oxybenzone does in fact leach coral of its nutrients and bleach it white and with over 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions winding up in coral reefs around the world each year, it's no wonder sunscreen has been deemed a threat to the level of other environmental issues such as pollution and over fishing.

But what can you do?

Cover Up


Instead of excessively covering yourself in sunscreen, try covering up instead. Wear a hat, shirt, or a cover up while in the sun and stay under an umbrella or in the shade when not covered.

Eat more foods that naturally help prevent sunburns


Up your intake of foods that help your body protect itself from burning. There many nutrients, like Vitamin C, found in some fruits and vegetables that work to protect our skin.
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Guava
  • Green Tea
  • Oatmeal
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumbers
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Carrots
  • Pomegranate
  • Red Wine
  • Sweet Potato
  • Olive Oil 
  • Avocado
  • and the list goes on...


Opt for a true mineral sunscreen


At the very least, swap out those chemically laden bottles of name brand sunscreen and switch to a mineral sunscreen. **See detrimental affects those have above**

Sadly, because the "natural" product trend is getting ever so popular, we are bombarded with green-washing and natural product impostors. We have to be very careful when selecting products these days.

Below, I've comprised a list of natural and sustainable sunscreens, that also come in plastic free packaging that I highly recommend.

Avasol

A post shared by Avasol.com (@loveavasol) on

Raw Elements



Laguna Herbals



Solistick (Vegan)



A post shared by SOLISTICK (@solistick) on

Balm Baby (Vegan)




Make Your Own Sunscreen

There are several recipes out there that teach you how to make your own sunscreen. Please do lots of research, though. You want to make complete sure that the recipe is affective. Just Google DIY sunscreen. 

All in all, just be smart when you are exposing yourself to heavy amounts of sun. Even with the best sunscreens, we are all still susceptible to harsh UV exposure.

What is your go to method for sustainable sun protection?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Meal Plan and Grocery Haul #5: Nachos and Sesame Cauliflower

Being a one person IT team for a mid sized company is very demanding and overwhelming. I'm always curious as to how many calories I burn in a day - maybe I should buy me one of those fit bits (secondhand, of course). Once, I'm off of work, I hurriedly get to Oliver's daycare to pick him up before 5:30 since they start charging extra after that, then quickly get home where I have to do chores, tend the garden/flowers, take care of the animals, cook dinner, and handle a very agitated one year old who's screaming "NANA NANA NANA" (banana) at the top of his lungs until I give him a snack. Life is crazy right now. I seriously wish I could say it was slow and relaxing and I had no worries what so ever. But that's just not my reality right now. What makes these nights a little easier, is having a meal plan with easy, put together meals that are also low to no waste and plant based. It also makes life a lot more manageable to get as much prep done as possible with our nightly dinners. So like chopping, roasting, making rice in advance, muffins, bread, etc.


Sundays are usually our day to stock up on produce from the farmer's markets, dried goods from Sprouts, and meal prep as much as possible. It's actually our favorite day of the week considering we treat it as a family day. We always get canolis in our own container on our way out of the market and always try to sneak in a trip to the park.


 After we meal prep, we just relax. We sit outside and watch Ollie as he plays with his trucks and eat dirt (I try to stop him but I figure he'll eventually realize it doesn't taste that great). We let that kid get as dirty as he possibly can on Sunday afternoons. We let him help pick weeds in the garden - while sneaking some strawberries of course, we let him wrestle with the dogs outside, and sometimes he finds his way to mud. It's perfect - it's our perfect. It's a much needed recharge before the craziness ensues again on Monday morning.


So what's planned for this week?


Monday: Pasta with a Lentil Bolognese, Roasted Garlic Bread, and Kale/Carrot Top Pesto (I use my   homemade, canned pasta sauce. You can also use jarred. Just add 1/2 cup to a cup of lentils and simmer until cooked through) Very easy, ya'll!

Tuesday: Sesame Cauliflower over Rice

Wednesday: Nachos with Black Beans, Lettuce, Salsa, Green Pepper,  Radishes, Avocado, and                                 Cilantro


Thursday: Homemade Pizzas with Pesto, Broccoli, Yellow Squash, and a Balsamic Glaze (Make a     simple pizza dough then add whatever toppings you desire. Pesto makes a great sauce!)

Friday: We go out (Usually for....FAJITA FRIDAYS!)

Saturday: We eat with friends or family (Being social is good for the soul!)


Sunday: We clean out the fridge and pantry to use up any older food. (Kitchen Sink meals...right?)

Breakfasts: Granola over Almond Milk, Banana Muffins, and Fruit. Oh - and Pancakes on the Weekends!

Lunches: Leftovers from dinners the night before

Baby Meals: I steamed some broccoli and carrots, heated up some black beans and mixed it with seasoned rice for daycare. We also send him with fruit. For dinners, he eats what we have.



There are some food items not pictured for the following reasons:

  • Pasta sauce comes from my canned stash. I make up a several quart jars worth in the late summer when our tomatoes are ripe.
  • We make the pizza dough from scratch the night before and let it set in the fridge until the next day. You could also check your local pizzerias to purchase dough or you could get premade dough kits in cardboard.
  • The yellow squash is coming from my garden along with the peppers.
  • Almond milk we made last week. It's seriously just almonds soaked in water, blended once soft, and strained. We add dates to ours for sweetness. Recipe soon, I promise!
  • The nacho chips we get from our local Mexican restaurant. They are so, SO good. I bring in a larger cloth produce bag and they fill it up for me. We get them right before we make dinner so they are fresh. It's on my way home from work. If you are looking for a waste free way to get chips, you should try out this method!
  • Blueberries from the market - Ollie was eating them.

At that's it! All for around $50! Can you believe that?!

Have you saved my Pantry List? This list will help you only stock items that can be made into multiple, versatile meals.



You can find all of my previous meal plans here.

Have a great week, everyone!