Three Things You Can do Today

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I honestly don’t believe we are in the small steps stage anymore as far as global warming is concerned, however achieving small goals makes way for larger ones so I have compiled a list of a few things you can do today with very little effort that will make a large impact in the future.

Compost

After conversing with the girls in my office I was horrified how few of them compost. We live in Marin County isn’t it illegal not to compost???? I mean the green police in their prius’s will find you and shame you, so watch out! Well apparently not as I was def in the minority. I think they all could feel my WTF glares because I got texts and questions later asking how to start. Composting is seriously so so so easy! And so important for a closed system to function! If you are one of those non-composting types shape up and find a system that works for you. Some people keep a bowl next to the sink and put all of their green waste in it and dump it when it gets full. I do this a lot. I find I have a good amount of compostable materials accumulating that they never sit there and get stinky or bug infested. Another option is to purchase one of those compost tins that sits on your counter or under your sink. This works for a lot of people but I am not one of them. One I am frugal I’d rather spend my money on something that is pretty and two I don’t like the idea of using the same vessel over and over. This is strange and probably comes from my freakishly clean upbringing (today I do not live the way I was raised, ask my mom). I want to be able to toss the bin in the dishwasher and those vessels are meant to sit there, out in the open, for a long period of time. This just doesn’t appeal to me, which is why I utilize my freezer. I admit I buy my bread in a bag….a paper bag. Once or twice a week I buy a loaf of bread from Della Fattoria and save the bags for my long term compost. I keep the bags in the freezer and toss little things here and there that aren’t enough to fill a bowl or have the potential to go south real quick. When the bag is full I toss (or lets be real the hubby tosses) the whole thing in the green bin. So easy and it takes up very little freezer space. If you don’t have a green bin add that to your list to do today!

Use A Water Pitcher

How many times does your child leave a half full water bottle laying about? How many times have you overfilled your pot and poured the excess water down the sink? I know that in Northern California we are overwhelmed with water and rain right now, but it won’t be long before we will be rationing it again. Drought habits are good habits. Some people have no access to clean water, but here we just let it go down the drain. My simple easy solution is an antique iron stone pitcher that belonged to my Great Grandparents. It lives in the corner of my kitchen and when I have water left over from boiling eggs, water bottles, etc. I pour the water in the pitcher. When it gets full I use this water to water inside plants, pots on the porch, or for fresh cut flowers like I did on Sunday with some peach branches from the garden. You don’t have to use a family heirloom or even a pitcher, your kitchen may be modern or eclectic, but choose something that is easy to fill and easy to pour. Not just because I am a designer but I firmly believe that going green will never work if we cannot make it beautiful. Everyone is happier when their surroundings are pleasing to the eye, so take that into consideration and choose something that you love to look at. It sounds superficial, maybe it is, but bottom line its true and it works.


Ditch the Plastic Produce Bags

Doesn’t it feel a little wrong to put your beautiful organic produce all fresh and colorful into a plastic bag that’s laced with harmful chemicals? When the state of California banned plastic bags and retailers starting charging for paper bags we saw a huge change in the way people thought about reusable grocery bags. Now you hang your head in shame when you forget them and have to pay the fee for a bag. What if we took that same concept to produce bags? You could make some reusable bags or buy some, there are so many great ones out there and they sell them at the grocery store so there is no extra trip involved! Imagine if 100 people stopped using bags today? That would save a lot of sea turtles from harm and put a lot less chemicals into our air and our babies. After I unload my groceries I put them inside my shopping bags for the next trip so they are ready to go. Now that I am planning my shopping trips down to the second I don’t forget my bags, but my Mother-in-law puts hers in her car after she unloads the groceries so she can’t forget them. That might be a good solution for you too.

Remember a small step today can lead to a greater leap tomorrow.

Do you have any great ideas for simple ways to make your imprint smaller? Please share!!

How to Survive the Grocery Store Zero Waste Style

Kermit said “its not easy being green”, but what I think he actually meant was “its not easy going green”. At least not at first. By nature human beings are really adaptable, but we don’t really love change. If you ask our French friends they might say that Americans are really good at adapting to change, its one of the only things they admire about us. Zero waste requires change, serious change, in your thinking, your planning, your vision. Its feasible change though!! Once you get through your first shopping trip the sense of empowerment sets in. You can do it, you can change. Its certainly not smooth sailing going forward, but that is because our society has not yet adapted to make it smooth for us. We’ll get there, its already happening all over the world.

Muster up the strength, fill up a cart with an orchestra of jars, clang your way to the customer service counter and weight those puppies away. Then make your way around the perimeter of the store. You will find enthusiastic types and nay sayers, its the nature of the “change” beast, just ask your stubborn elder (you know who you are) they’ll tell you about the good ol’ days. Cheese sans wrapping please, fill my jar with as many drumettes as you can squeeze in there. The bulk section was made for jars and reusable bags! When they give you trouble you mutter that you gave up your trash can for 2017 or like I did today “my daughter really loves sea turtles and so we have given up the plastic that hurts them”. The kids in the race-car cart where very perplexed. While in line stand with pride as others look your way and cower as they realize that everything in your cart is gorgeous displayed in jars while theirs is full of plastic soon to fill the oceans. My Vegan Aunt said she would swing her hand basket in pride, singing to herself a little rhyme about how her basket was full of healthy, fresh items while others were filled with dead carcasses. You have change in your cart how many people can say that?

To get through the grocery store not only do you have to have a strong spine and thick skin but you also need the right supplies! I have collected the following to make my shopping adventures easier. If you have any brilliant ideas PLEASE share! There is always room for improvement.

My kit includes:

  • Reusable Bags – I really love this one that I used as a diaper bag with Marilyn. I wanted something I would use again and wasn’t covered in some sickly cute print, so my sister surprised me with it for my baby shower. I loved that it stood up on its own, was made in the USA, and was open on the top so in emergencies everything was immediately available. All of these qualities also make it great for zero waste shopping! It lives in the pantry and I fill it will jars as I empty them throughout the week. I also have a mishmash of free, cloth options, which honestly annoy me most of the time. They work so I can’t really justify replacing them with something else right now. As they fall apart (which they have been doing) I’ll replace with something similar to my favorite one.
  • A Lot of Jars – I have a ton of Ball jars I have used for canning in the past, some oversized ones, some glass tupperware for things like meat and cheese, and some metal hinged ones that I recently bought. I bought mine through Anchor Hocking because they have this nice statement on their website about how their products are made in the USA and have been since forever. Well when I received my box of jars they were surrounded by plastic despite my request to not be, and when I flipped them over I was horrified. Not only does the tag say made in China, but the words are imprinted on the glass. Imprinted. When I called to initiate a return and express horrification the lady and her supervisor basically told me too damn bad and if I wanted to return them I would have to pay for the shipping and pay a 30% restocking fee. WOW. Those jerks!! Needless to say I won’t be buying their products anymore, nor should you. Maybe I should sick Trump after them…..that is one thing he seems to be good at….
  • Cloth Bags – I mostly use these for produce and some bulk items flour, sugar, rice, laundry soap etc.  I have a few mesh ones that were given to me by my mother in law, but the others I made from a linen shower curtain I purchased in the wrong size. It was such beautiful linen I couldn’t bear to donate it, its been taking up room in my closet for years! The other night I sat down and sewed some drawstring bags and used scraps of colorful vintage linen. I was apprehensive about the mishmash of colors, but it ends up being really helpful. The navy one I have been using for laundry soap and even though it gets washed between uses I don’t tend to choose that one for flour or sugar just to be safe.
  • Canning Funnel – This will make your bulk grocers very happy and it makes filling your jars so much easier! No mess all over the floor. I picked an extra one up at the hardware store after searching for a used one left me empty handed. I keep one in my favorite shopping bag.
  • Crayon – At my whole foods they only offer pens and pencils and that doesn’t write on a glass jar very well. I borrowed a red crayon from Marilyn’s set, its a sea rock non-toxic crayon that I believe is sold only in a plastic bag but there are lots of options out there that are plastic free. Good Earth market offers refillable crayons, it might be worth purchasing down the road but for now Marilyn’s crayon is working.
  • Glass Jug – This is for Orange juice, I bought a glass jug made in the USA from my grocery store that holds 64oz . You could find something else or utilize a used option. I like this because its easy to handle and they know it is 64oz so there are no second glances. I love the juicing machine, it reminds me of Starbucks in France, yes I went to Starbucks in France (my husband, ugh) and yes they offered fresh squeezed juice!
  • My List – When shopping once a week and via zero waste it is ABSOLUTELY necessary to have a list. Absolutely. I am a notorious leave my list on the counter type, but since my shopping trips have become “planned” I find its making its way with me every time . I have adopted Bea Johnson’s list idea. Its made of scrap papers folded and cut in to fourths and fastened together with a binder clip that also works as a hook to hang inside our go to cabinet (near the car keys). It has two columns one for food and one for everything else. This list is great because everyone writes what they need on there, well except Marilyn who shouts out her requests as I am writing notes on it, and I can utilize my day of errands based on the list.

 

With a little gumption you can adopt zero waste shopping in your house too! Remember you can vote with your dollars every day!!

 

Green ways to get your Preschooler Beat Up

A tongue in cheek title. I don’t actually want anyone to beat anyone or be beaten. There’s my honest disclaimer!! But in our house, we recognize the mindful departure from the conventional ways and have a sense of humor about it! We joke how our push toward the more sustainable would eventually get our kids teased and embarrassed. It was one of the main reasons why we purchased a mini van. Our kids LOVE our mini van now, but they, like both my husband and I, will grow to know better and that it isn’t a hip car and want to be dropped off a block before school.

Here is a list of ways I’ve adopted to raise my family with a lighter footprint and embarrass them shamelessly.

Knit them their own custom pair of wool pants (or hats or sweaters)

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, extreme global explorer stated,

“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

He should know, he’s been to both poles of the Earth.

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Epithet wooly pants

In an attempt to instill the love of the outdoors in my daughter, I began knitting a pair of woolies that I admittedly did not bind off until I had already created a second child and exhausted my vocabulary of profanity in both English and Spanish.

Wool, being a natural fiber, sustainable, renewable, and the byproduct of cute little sheep raised by farmers and ranchers both backyard and worldwide, possesses the unique property of keeping you warm, even when wet. A knitting group compadre suggested

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Wooly cap and cowl a la Ms. Lily make cherished gifts for winter fun

I make the legs a bit long, as I could always roll them up, which I did, and with the stretchiness of the yarn I selected, have been very forgiving to accommodate my children as they have grown and otherwise stretched the seams of their baby clothes every three months. Admittedly, wool tends
to be a bit itchy, but these knickers pull right over their existing pants for a layered onion effect and off we go camping, splashing in puddles, sledding down mountains or to sleep in a snow-covered cabin sans electricity.

I hope by promoting the love of the outdoors will evolve into the love of our planet and thus a more mindful generation. Dress them for success!

Handwrite “lunchable” on their bento box (pack their lunches zero-waste)

As a kid, I recall loving those plastic formed containers with the plastic peel back lid. Now, you can even buy a pack of them, further bound together by a band of plastic. Sigh. But don’t despair! No need to skip the joy of perfectly portioned and partitioned food with a reusable bento-style box! Swap the traditionally highly processed foods (filled with rainforest-land produced palm oil) for healthier and more frugal whole fruits, veggies, seeds, meats, cheeses, and dinner leftovers.

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Handmade grass baskets- use for lunch, Easter egg hunts, market runs, trick or treating, and more.

Garnish with a delightful cloth napkin and stainless silverware from the kitchen drawer and there is nothing to send to the landfill. I take it a step further by putting the bento in a hand woven grass basket… its multi purpose and we use the baskets for other activities on non-school days.

Bring roasted mushrooms to the school potluck (and bring your own silverware while you are at it)

Something tasty from your local farmer’s market is sure to delight adults, but what about those picky kids? We eat seasonal, local produce year round grown by hard working nearby farmers in our community. That means not all of their favorite foods are in season all of the time! I have waged my very fair share of food wars with my kids but that hasn’t stopped me from encouraging them to have an open mind and an open palate when it comes to food. A watermelon in January where I live just isn’t possible, so it likely hopped on a fuel-guzzling ship from Chile. I’ve noticed that when I feed them seasonally, they get really excited about a certain food, and by the end of the season, they get so sick of it they turn it away. But by the time the season comes back round again, they are giddy. In other words, it all works out.

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Farmer’s market run

Now, if I am going somewhere that you have a good hunch will serve food with plastic utensils and paper napkins, I now try to bring my own. We recently attended an event at our local community center: Pancake breakfast with Santa. We wrapped our silverware in cloth napkins, and no one said boo about it. It was easy, hurt no one, and produced less waste. Santa still delivered presents on Christmas, ate our cookies, and wiped his beard on a cloth napkin. As the silverware was wrapped, though, we had a good laugh that in a few years, this practice would undoubtedly mortify our kids. Next, we will have a boy and name him Sue.

Teach them, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if its brown flush it down”

After several downpours, the drought was recently declared abated in our northern California. Let me tell you what, it was PAINFUL to potty train my kid during a drought. All of those times the potty was flushed with nary a drop of urine or with only a square of toilet paper caused me to grind my teeth smooth with anxiety at the resulting levels of our local reservoir. Then the hand washing that follows… water running constantly, with seemingly little actual washing of those sticky little digits. Or when they sneak off to the bathroom for some sink play. Gah!

Its all innocent and precious, but this mama worries about how undoubtedly the drought will be back, and clean, potable drinking water is a luxury, and that I need to be doing more to teach them the importance of conserving water. We need it to grow food! It comes from the ground, damned valleys, and runoff, all of which have a cost and impact on our environment and the habitats of all species. Its not much in the grand scheme of things, but using a little more elbow grease to clean my toilet bowl makes me feel better and serves as an easy lead in for an age-appropriate discussion about water conservation.

Also, tell them it will kill Baby Beluga.

Teach them how to refuse

I love this diagram from Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home.img_7548

Lily gave me this book, and while I find it to be a bit extreme in areas, “Refusing” gave me much cause for reflection, and quite frankly, caused much relief for this mama frustrated with a house filled with STUFF. Johnson states,

“We might be able to recycle [the handouts and marketing materials that creep into our lives], but Zero Waste is not about recycling more; it’s about acting on needless waste and stopping it from coming into our homes in the first place” (16).

This practice is new to me and I’m still figuring it out. But imagine not having a bunch of cute themed but plastic single use tchotchkes after every child’s birthday party? Not having as much STUFF to sort through and pitch or donate weeks or months after an event with free swag that you do not need but seemingly cannot help but take? Less STUFF to accommodate in your home, find a place for, step on, and pick up.

In a recent trip to the grocery store with the kids, I was full-force refusing plastic. I shopped with my glass jars, reusable bags, even had the butcher pack chicken in Pyrex (He was SO THRILLED). As I steered my little love bugs to the cheese area, my heart sank. “Mommy, can I have a cheese stick?” Big doe eyes filled with excitement. So innocent. Gulp. “No sweetie, its wrapped in plastic.” Followed by a less than adorable but totally understandable, “Whyyyyy?”

Luckily, the cheese lady asked permission before offering a sample, to which I am so grateful. I swallowed my pride and decided to flex my ‘refuse’ powers and echoed what I had rehearsed and plagiarized from a conversation with Lily, “No thank you. We gave up our garbage can for the new year.” My mommy guilt was at cosmic red high levels. I was the soon to be crowned queen of bad-mommy hell.

But something amazing happened. That cheesy goddess replied, “Oh great! Can I cut them a sample instead?” I wanted to hug her. Not all of my opportunities to refuse have gone this well, but with practice, its gotten easier. Not easy. Easier. Not perfect. Progress.

Bea Johnson comforts me with her justification of this practice:

“you might find that refusing is the most difficult to achieve socially, especially for household with children. Nobody wants to go against the grain or be rude when something is offered with no ill will…. Refusing is not aimed at making us feel inadequate in social situations; it is intended to cause us to reflect on our everyday decisions, the indirect consumption in which we partake, and the power that we hold as a collective community,” (18).

This reflection should comfort your wee one as they brace for the inevitable wedgy.

Thank you for reading.