A lot of people see the perfect pictures on Instagram and think they can’t be zero waste or low waste. The stainless steel containers, the perfectly matching glass jars, it all seems to good to be true. So I came up with a list of zero waste swaps that don’t cost a thing.
1. Save your jars
This is the best tip because saved jars can be used for so many things. When you buy tomato sauce, peanut butter or anything in a glass jar keep it. Just wash it out, take the label off and you have a great zero waste tool. You can use them to freeze soups/veggies/fruit in, pack your lunches in, as a reusable water bottle, as a reusable coffee cup, it’s endless what you can do with it.
2. Save your veggie scraps
You might have seen my post a couple weeks ago on making your own vegetable scraps, but if you haven’t and you want to try check it out. It is a great way to reduce food waste. Instead of tossing your scraps out right away you get to use them.
3. Bring Your Own
Bring your own jar and cutlery with you to festivals, markets, whatever to avoid disposables. Just use the cutlery you already have in your home and bam you have a zero waste kit. It’s better to use what you have than buy a fancy set online.
4. Make your own
Making your own lunches for work, or your own dinners saves a lot of trash (and money). Take out at its best involves cardboard, and worst Styrofoam. You produce less waste by making your own and it’s probably better for you too.
When you’re offered free samples of food or drinks in plastic cups or paper plates try and refuse it (I know it’s hard to say no to free food). When you go to an event with free things you wont use refuse them. Don’t take the free pen, pencil, magnet if you don’t need them.
If you follow me on Instagram you know I made some oat milk a couple weeks ago and absolutely loved it! It’s probably as easy to make as my easy nut milk. Oat milk can be made without a high speed blender. As someone who doesn’t have a couple hundred dollars to spend on a blender (I assume most of you are in the same boat) that’s important to me.
In addition to being tasty oat milk also has a low environment impact. According to an ESU services study oat milk is the winner of environmental impact. The chart is based on making the milks in Switzerland. In Canada we can grow oats, soy and hemp easily which means they have less travelling to do. Almonds can be grown in Niagara but most almonds (80% of the worlds) are grown in California, and need more water. Coconuts and rice have to be imported.
When you make your own milk you can lower the impact more by going plastic free and keeping the “pulp” that’s left over. I always use it in overnight oats but there’s lots you can do.
•1 cup of soaked and rinsed oats
•3-4 cups of water •You can flavour it with: one date, vanilla , cinnamon, or coco powder
•soak your oats in water for 10ish minutes
•if using dates pit and soak one overnight (or use boiling water to cut the time)
•add all ingredients to a blender
•blend on low until smooth
•strain once using a mesh filter
•strain twice using a mesh filter lined with a nut milk bag, a mesh produce bag, or a cheese cloth
I got a ton of soap molds for Christmas and my birthday last year and haven’t used them! So I decided to give it a go. I wanted my first soap making experience to be so easy a child could do it so I used a soap base. I found a natural honey soap base at my local farming supplies store by chance and bought it. For only a couple dollars of soap base, some dyes and essential oils I made fifteen soaps so I was happy. The soap base was wrapped in plastic but it is still less packaging than fifteen soaps individually wrapped would have had.
I originally made uncoloured soaps but I found that boring and melted them again to add colouring. To add some texture I added some dried lavender from my garden to some, and coffee to an other. I think dried citrus zest would work great too.
All you have to do is melt the soap base. I did so using a double boiler (a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water). I have a specific metal bowl I use for all DIY things so that I don’t have to worry about it being soapy or beeswaz covered and then using it for food.
Once you melt the base pour it into your molds and add whatever you want to it. If you don’t have a mold you can use a silicon icecube tray or make a mold using a box/baking dish and line it completely with parchment paper ( I havn’t tried that yet so if it doesn’t work I’m sorry) and then cut them into squares after.
I’ve been using the Avocado Co-wash from Lush for a couple of weeks now, and it’s not bad. Before we get to reviewing the product, I have a little problem with the shipping. Part of reducing our waste is reducing the distance products travel to get to us. I ordered from Lush online assuming that the bar (and other products) would be coming from the factory in Toronto (which I am a two-hour drive from), but it came from British Columbia! That is a huge difference in the size of the carbon footprint made. But other than that the packaging was completely zero waste, so I guess you have to pick your battles.
I’ve been trying to make my hair care zero waste, but I just can’t get on the #nopoo movement (showers are life). My hair is thin, very straight, and gets gross fast. I love the way the shampoo bar smells, and I find the scent stays all day, but I can’t use it every day. I find the bar to be very moisturising, but for me, this leads to greasy hair.
I think someone with curly hair would love this bar, but I’m currently using it as more of a moisturising treatment. I have an organic, sulphate free, phosphate free, vegan, made in Canada… shampoo that I love but it comes in plastic. I have been using the bar and shampoo alternately, and that is keeping my hair soft and clean. Maybe I’ll try another bar next time. I love the stainless steal container I bought though!
My First Zero Waste Tea Shopping: David’s Tea and Bulk Barn
I love tea. I drink several (minimum five) cups a day. I have always drank loose leaf tea but it’s only recently that I have completely switched to loose leaf. The only time I don’t drink loose leaf is when I’m at my grandpas house and he makes us a pot of tea after dinner. I find that I don’t really like black teas in loose leaf. Maybe I’m just not used to anything but Tetley’s orange pekoe, but I just can’t do orange pekoe, earl grey or really any black tea in loose leaf. I will do the odd chai tea though.
My favourite tea is green tea. This I will happily drink in loose leaf or matcha form. I also like herbal teas. Lucky for me these are easy to get in zero waste form.
Even if loose leaf tea comes in a non-zero waste container it is still producing much less waste than individual tea bags. Some people say you can compost tea bags and others say no, but if you don’t have a compost (I’ll be getting one this summer) than it’s best to skip the bag anyways. I’ve talked about this a bit before in my kitchen swaps article, but I wanted to touch on it more now.
I’ve recently bought zero waste loose leaf tea from the Bulk Barn and David’s Tea. Bulk Barn is only in Canada, but similar bulk stores exist in most places. David’s Tea is available widely in Canada and some locations in the United States. To see more about Bulk Barn check out my last post.
The tea I choose from Bulk Barn is fair trade Chinese green tea. I bought .25 pounds of tea (or so the jar says, I don’t remember what the scale said). I am sad because their tea selection has shrunk over the years. They had many green teas, some black teas, and a few herbal teas. The green was the only one I was interested in. I sadly had to choose between a fair trade tea and an organic tea. They didn’t have any green teas that were both. I like the tea I choose. It was around $10 and will last me quite a long time. I use less than one tablespoon (maybe even less than half) for each cup of tea so such a large jar will last a long time and save me money compared to tea bags and cafes.
David’s Tea is one of my favourite places to buy tea (for any Americans reading this it’s similar to Teavana which has many more US locations than David’s tea). They have a wide variety of tea. You can buy it in packaging or you can buy it in metal tins (with labels and sometimes plastic lids), but you are always allowed to bring them in (no matter how small) and have them refilled. I used two containers from a chia tea kit I got as a birthday gift years ago for my tea today. I love that they have lots of organic teas. They also organize everything by colour (all the herbal teas are in a yellow container). So it’s very easy to find a tea you like in store.
When you look online they have a filter for kosher, organic and fair trade so you can see all the teas that fit which ever category(ies) you choose. I haven’t ordered tea online so I don’t know if you can get zero-waste friendly packaging. I use the online to decide what kind of tea I want because it takes me forever for me to make decisions.
Once I’ve decided what I want I bring my containers with me to the store. They have a membership card so you can earn free drinks. They make tea for you (with no bag) and you can bring your own mug. I ended up getting organic chamomile, and organic serenity now. I find that both (especially chamomile) are strong so I don’t use too much for a cup. I bought $5 of each tea and it should last me ages. I only drink these kinds of tea in the evening, and not every evening.
I think the quality of tea I buy has improved since going (mostly) zero waste. I take more time to decide on what tea I want, and why, than I used to. This ends up in more ethical and environmental choices.
Let me know where you get your loose leaf from, and what your favourite tea is below.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is probably one of the most exciting things to happen in my zero waste journey. I have been struggling without having a bulk store to go to, and as of February 24, 2017 Bulk Barn’s across Canada will be allowing customers to bring their own containers. This is a great day for zero wasters and environmentally conscious people across the country. In Canada zero waste options are rather limited, primarily being in Vancouver (probably the “greenest” part of Canada shopping wise).
When Bulk Barn agreed to have a test store in October for zero waste, I still had my doubts. Bulk Barn has been well known in the Canadian zero waste scene for being very much against bringing your own containers. When the pilot store was announced I was hopeful but assumed it would take much longer for a zero waste Bulk Barn to arrive near me.
There are 260 Bulk Barn’s across the country so it will be far easier for Canadians to get there zero waste on. There are two stores in my town and I plan on being there bright and early Febuary 24th to show my support for this great change. This is also a great way to make zero waste more affordable; their website always has tons of coupons, and sales in store.
The best thing you can do to encourage change is vote with your dollars. The test stores did really well and because of that the company made national changes! This shows the power of voting with your dollar. If you want more zero waste, and/or ethical options you have to choose as many of them as you can. The more popular it becomes the more likely a business is to follow through.