Zero Waste Healthy Breakfast

Most people start with groceries when going zero-waste, and where better to start than breakfast? This cereal is my go-to breakfast because it is zero-waste, healthy and versatile. I like to start my mornings with lots of fiber because it keeps you fuller longer and I’m always hungry.
I start off with a base of any cereal (bran flakes, multigrain flakes, corn flakes, millet IMG_5314 (2)flakes). You can buy these pretty easily in bulk or lower-waste packaging. I know bran flakes are not the most exciting thing, but the toppings make this. I’m obsessed with Dr. Greger (author of How Not to Die), and he recommends nuts, seeds and fruit in your breakfast. So I like to add a scoop of ground flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds. I add the same to oatmeal (also a great zero-waste breakfast).  All of these seeds are a great source  of “good” fat and high in omegas and protein.
After that, you need some fruit! A banana is a great way to get potassium, but I usually save them for smoothies and add dried berries IMG_5342(antioxidants!) to my breakfast. I use any combination of golden raisins, cranberries, currents or whatever else I have on hand. Fresh berries are good when they are in season. Fresh fruit can be found in grocery stores and farmers markets package free, and dried fruit can be found in bulk stores.

Lastly add some milk. I love almond milk the best, but anything works (I’ll post some nut milk recipes soon). Just make a coffee or tea and you’re good to go.
I hope this gives you some inspiration for breakfast and to make one meal a little more eco-friendly. Let me know if you try it and what your favourite breakfasts are.

 

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Natural and Organic Labeling

organicFinding food, make-up or clothing that is organic and all natural can be tricky. Some brands use words like natural to trick people into buying their products. Dirt is natural, oil is natural, but you don’t want these on your face, or in your stomach. So how do you figure out what you should be buying?

First learning how to read labels is a good start. There is no regulation of the use “natural” or “100% natural”. Some companies take it seriously and others use it as a marketing technique. If a product says it’s natural than it’s best to do some research on the brand before you buy.

When looking at certified organic products from the USDA or Canadian Organic there are different rules depending on the percentage of organic ingredients.  If a product says it is “made with organic ingredients” than it must have at least 70% organic ingredients. Any product between 70-95% must say what percent of their product is organic in order to use the certification labels. If a product has less than 70% it is not allowed to be certified organic, but is able to list which ingredients are organic on the label.

If a product has 95% organic ingredients than it is able to be labelled as “organic” without listing the percentage of organic ingredients. If you really care about the 5% than you must look for certified products that have “100% organic” written on the label.

Next you need to do some research. Different brands will give you more or less information (I plan on braking down some specific brands in the future). The best way to find organic products easily is looking for the certification stickers. Even with the stickers you can’t be certain. Every form of certification has corruption and loopholes so doing additional research is needed.

Without the sticker products can still claim to be organic when they aren’t, so make sure you know what to look for. Some of these you can trust. At my local farmers market there is a vegetable booth with a sign that says “uncertified organic”. They don’t certify because it’s too expensive for them, but they are very honest about how they grow their veggies.

 

 

Zero Waste Plastic Wrap

 

Plastic wrap is so annoying. Not only is it non recyclable plastic, but I find half the time it doesn’t stick to anything anyways. So I’ve found a zero waste solution: beeswax cloth wraps. You can buy these online, but they’re really easy to make yourself.

The only things you need are:

  • A double boiler (a pot with a metal/glass bowl on top)
  • Cloth (cut into squares)
  • Beeswax

I used old cloths I’ve been holding on to forever. Beeswax is easy for me to get (I’m a beekeeper) but you can buy it online, craft stores, or from honey booths at farmers markets.

First you need to set up your double boiler. All you need is water in the bottom and beeswax in the top. Bring the water to a simmer with the bowl of wax on top. Wait until the wax is melted. You don’t need to check the temperature as long as all the wax is liquid you’re good to go.

double-boiler

Second you’ll want to dip your cloth into the was. Dunk the whole thing in and stir it around. When it’s all covered use tongs/your hands (careful it’s very very hot) to pull it out. Grab two corners and spread it out dripping over the pot. The faster you pull it out of the wax and get it spread out and dripping the better.

Third,  if there are lots of places where the wax is thick redo it. If there are only a few spots carefully scrape them off.

cloth-wrap-drip-dry

Lastly, just let them dry a little bit. You can hold them until they’re no longer dripping than carefully set them on your counter. They dry very fast, but you want to let them sit before you actually use them.

cloth-wrap-done2

They’ll feel really stiff, but the more you use them the more malleable they become. You can use them for sandwich wraps, to hold anything you would normally use parchment paper for (like homemade cough drops), and you can use them as bowl covers.

If you try making these let me know

Four Common Excuses for Not Going Green

I’ve heard a lot of excuses for not going green. I’ve even thought them myself, but I’m here to debunk them. These are common excuses and problems for not going organic, zero-waste and every other shade of green.

It Won’t Make a Difference

Just today I was told that there’s nothing I can do to make a real difference because the problem is too big and my actions are too small. So many people quit before they even begin. The only way you won’t make a difference is if you do literally nothing.

Every small change makes a big difference. If every person who thought they couldn’t make a difference made one zero-waste swap, or switched one grocery item to organic than billions of of changes would be happening. You may be just one person, but one person, plus another person, plus another equals change.

One person changing will inspire others to change. They’ll see you bringing your own grocery bags, or  using a reusable coffee cup and be inspired to do the same. The more people who do something the more normal it becomes, and the more people who want to do it.

There are too Many Things to Change

You’re not wrong! There are a lot of things that need to be changed to have a greener world. Just remember that you don’t have to fix everything, and especially not all at once. If your goal is to become zero-waste change one thing. That’s it! Make one zero-waste swap and once it becomes a habit make another. Change is easier when you start slow.

Slow change is better than no change

If you want to go organic, pick one thing to change. If you pick food as what you want to change, switch to organic only for the “dirty dozen”. If it’s your beauty routine change one product.

What ever your green goal start slow and small. You’ll be better at sticking to your goals this way.

It’s too Expensive

Going green is only as expensive as you want it to be. If you want to go out and buy mason jars than do it, but you could just save the jars that are already in your recycling bin. You can thrift almost anything on a zero-waste essentials list. You only have to buy what you want to to go green, because odds are you already own most of it.

Not only that but what you do buy will save you money in the long run. A safety razor may sound expensive ($30-100CAD) but it’s better to pay that once than pay for new disposable razors every couple of months. Organic produce sounds expensive but I’ve always found it cheaper at the farmers market than conventional produce at a grocery store. It’s even cheaper if you grow your own.

Sustainably made products (especially clothing) is expensive but it almost always lasts longer. Try and invest in green products when you can.

What Will I Do With All My Stuff?

This is one I struggled with. You want to go green but you already own non-organic makeup, tea in bags, toxic candles, paper towel, plastic tuperwear, whatever. Use it up, donate, or give it to a friend. I use only loose leaf tea at home, but I didn’t throw out my tea bags. I gave a lot of tea to my friend, and kept some to leave in my office. You already own it so it’s too late. Don’t waste what you already own in the name of going green. Use it up and use it as much as you can.

10+ Green New Years Resolutions

Here are some easy ways you can green up the new year. Try them all or a handfull. As long as you try something you’ll be making a difference. Every little change you make adds up to something big.

1. Say No to Plastic Grocery and Shopping Bags

plastic-pollution-infographBring your own reusable bags everywhere. I always keep a small cotton bag in my purse, and a couple bigger bags in my car. I also plan ahead to bring a bunch with me when I go grocery shopping or shopping at the farmers market. Not only does this save you money (in most countries they charge 1-25 cents per bag) it’s also more fun and customizable. You can design your own, or just buy some with designs you like. I have bags covered in cactuses, or with logos from sustainable business I support, or from places I’ve traveled. Tote bags are my favourite souvenir.

1.5  Say No to Plastic Produce Bags

 

producebags-wI just got a bunch of reusable produce bags for Christmas and I am excited to start using them. You can just use small canvas/tote/cotton bags, but I like these because they are made for produce. I prefer them to be see-through and light-weight so I have no problems at the cash register.

2. Say No to Plastic Bottles

This means more than just water-bottles. I see stats and infographics on plastic water bottles all the time. I know they are the main culprit but we need to stop using all plastic bottles. My university (like many) is a water bottle free zone. You can’t buy them anywhere, but you can buy pop, juice, and sports drinks in plastic bottles. Bring a reusable plastic bottle with you everywhere. I have a lot of them. It’s best to get them in glass or metal, but BPA free plastic is also good. Use an old jar if you have to.

I have a plastic bottle that rolls up and takes up no space that I use for travelling, a small metal one I bring in my purse, and many more. I change them depending on where I’m going (will it fit in the cup holder of my car?) and how long I’ll be gone (all day = a bigger bottle). I even have one with a place to put fruit/herbs/cucumber for infusing the water. Just get whatever kind you like and use it instead.

3. Say No to Any Disposable Cup

That means coffee cups, frappachinno cups, pop cups, you name it get rid of it. I always have a reusable coffee cup in my car, as well as a cute mason jar cup with a straw for iced/cold drinks.

4. Bye Bye Straws

We use thousands and thousands of straws, and they’re almost all made out of plastic. It’s such a silly thing to use such a horrible material for. Why on earth should we be digging up dinosaurs and turning them into a plastic straw? They would be upset. Either ask for no straw when you go out, or be super cool and bring your own reusable one. I hate asking for no straw. Sometimes they don’t care, but sometimes you get weird looks. It’s the price we pay for the planet.

When I make my own drinks I use reusable BPA plastic free straws, and I have stainless steel ones coming in the mail. They are easy to clean. I just rinse them out as soon as I’m done (especially with smoothies) and throw them in the dishwasher. Once my new straws and cleaning brush come in the mail it will be even better.

5. Go to the Farmers Market

Find whatever one is closet to you (I’m positive there is one, they’ve been poping up like crazy) and go to it. Even if you have to wake up early on a Saturday or day off. I work at the farmers market so I can tell you not all booths are organic, sustainable or healthy (I sell deep fried Russian food in paper bags or styrofoam, clearly I’m not in charge of the packaging), but there are lots that are. Even if they aren’t the best environmentally no one will stop you from using your own containers or bags (I use a reusable container nearly every Saturday and reusable bags constantly, since my customers are the best).

You’ll find seasonal produce, fresh produce and you can actually see the person who grows your food. You can ask them questions. It’s great. They might even have recipe ideas for you. You can find produce, cooked food, baked goods, meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs, candles, soaps, knitted stuff from sweet old ladies, honey, seamstresses, and it goes on.

Not to mention “go to a farmers market” is on every article listing cool date ideas.

6. Change One Part of Your Routine

This could mean changing your bed time routine so you use an organic toothpaste, getting sulfate free shampoo, using locally made soap, or using zero-waste lipstick. What ever it is, pick one small thing you do everyday and change it for the greener.

7. Buy Something Sustainable and Ethical this Year

One way to convince yourself to become a greener person is with a reward. I know the minimalist zero-wasters wont be a big fan of this one, but it will work. We like new things, and we like getting ourselves treats. Pick one thing like organic fair trade coffee instead of cheap chemical crap, or sustainable and ethically made shoes. If you turn going green into a gift to yourself you might stick to your resolutions this year.

8. Shop Mindfully

I know I just told you to buy something, but you really should be buying less. It’s hard. Try and buy only things you need or really really want. When you do buy something buy the version that is the best for the planet and the people making it. Also buy something that will last.

Follow this handy chart I found:

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9. Eat Less Meat and No Factory Farmed Meat

Eating meat is a tricky subject, but we all know the less of it we eat the healthier we are. If you want to become a vegan or vegetarian, if not just eat less meat. If you do eat meat, make it ethical. Spend more on good quality meat. If it doesn’t cost a lot than you know its from a factory farm that does not treat its animals well. An animal died so you could eat it, so we should at least take care of them well before that. The farmers market or a local butcher can be a good place to start.

This also goes for eggs. You can tell just by looking at an egg yolk if the chicken was treated well. The deeper and orangier the colour the better treatment the chicken had. A happy free-range chicken actually produces an egg with more nutrients! That’s just crazy. So make sure your eggs come from happy chickens, and your meat comes from happy animals.

10. Replace One Item with a Sustainable Version

This means things like switching from a disposable razor to a safety razor, switching from normal printer paper to sustainably sourced paper (certified wood, bamboo or sugar cane). There are a lot of options here so find a need in your life and swap it.

11. Bonus One: Plant Something

Growing something means more CO2 being turned into lovely breathable air, and it’s just fun. Make it a veggtable garden so you really know where your food comes from, a flower bed to make things prettier, an herb garden to spice up your meals, or a houseplant to make some clean inside air. Whatever it is, growing a plant can make you feel closer to nature, which is good for encouraging you to go greener. They’re also just pretty.

Let me know if you’ve tried any or all of these resolutions.

Five Night Time Routine Swaps

The best way to go green is to incorporate it into your everyday routines. One of the first things I changed was my night time routine. It was easy. I’m going to show you a few simple swaps that have made my night time routine better for the planet and better for me.

I wanted to try and switch to organic ingredients and zero-waste alternatives (the more local the better). The hardest part about this was researching what I could change. I decided that washing my face, brushing my teeth and flossing could all be made better.

Before I get into the swaps, the easiest thing to do when making your night time routine greener is obvious: turn off the tap when brushing.

Now into the swaps:

The Teeth

1. Toothbrush

toothbrush-with-packagingOne thing you can do is switch from plastic to bamboo. You can find bamboo toothbrushes at zero-waste stores, health food stores, and online. Mine is from brush naked. I really like it. At first I found it too soft, but I think my gums actually like it better. This company is great if you’re Canadian because it’s one of the few places that ship to Canada for free.

There are lots of different brands you can choose from. There are even ones with traditional nylon bristles, but with a biodegradable body or with replaceable heads, if you don’t like the feeling of bamboo bristles. There are also recyclable plastic toothbrushes. Choose one that’s right for you.

2. Toothpaste/powder/tablets

night-routine-copyI’ve been on a mission to find zero-waste toothpaste. I wanted something that still did the job, tasted good and came in as close to zero-waste packaging as possible. This was hard. I found natural toothpastes at my local health food store but nothing zero-waste. I made zero-waste the priority in this and eventually found Lush. I’ve bought bath bombs and bubble bars from them before but never looked at anything else. They have zero-waste toothy tabs or tooth powders. I read a lot of reviews and a few youtube videos and decided to give it a try. I went with the powder and I’m happy I did (see my full review here).

If you just want something natural than get whatever you want, but I like the zero-waste aspect. There are lots of brands that sell organic and/or natural toothpastes like Radius or Green Beaver. Depending on how I feel at the end of my toothpowder container I might try some of these.

3. Floss

radiusI bought Radius natural silk floss from my local health food store Jo Anne’s Place, but it can be found online. There are other brands but this is what I have. The floss I bought was a little misleading. The box it comes in says 100% biodegradable, but the biodegradable floss is inside a plastic container. This is still better than traditional floss, but I felt mislead. I now know that you can buy them in sachets and therefore can avoid the plastic.

The Face

4. With Make-up

I used to use disposable make-up removing wipes, rather than washing my face. I mostly did it out of laziness. Now, rather than using makeup removing wipes I’ve bought a make-up remover (before I realized I wanted to go plastic-free) with fair trade ingredients. If I can’t have plastic free at least it’s partially fair trade. I also cut up an old plaid shirt to use as my new make-up wipes. I pour the make-up remover on them. I just throw them in my laundry basket after I wipe my face off. Another alternative is coconut oil. When I finish my bottle that’s what I plan to use next.

I still own disposable wipes so I cut them up into smaller wipes (so I use a quarter or half instead of a whole sheet) in order to make them last longer. Now I only use them when I’m not at home. I think this is better than throwing them out. Throwing away an unused product in the name of zero-waste is crazy.

5. Without Make-up

kalamazoo2-2I use a zero-waste face wash from Lush called Kalamazoo (to see my review of it click here). I love the packaging and the product. I use this on its own if I haven’t worn any makeup, or use it after using my makeup remover. When I’m done washing my face I use a face-cloth to dry off. I know some people use paper towel for “cleanliness”, but if you wash your cloth often than you don’t need to worry about that.

I used to hate washing  my face at night but now I treat it more like a pampering/self-care part of my day. Now that I put thought into my routine I enjoy it more. After getting new products I put research into I was actually excited to get ready for bed (just the first couple times).

I hope you found these swaps helpful. You don’t need to do them all but making one change in your routine can make a difference over time.