Growing Greener: Plastic Free July Challenge

Grow Greener with 25 Plastic Free Swaps

For plastic free July this year I want to make sure I’m keeping up with my past changes and adding some new ones. I wanted to hold myself accountable and what better way to do that than show you all my #growinggreener plans for the month! Instead of doing something everyday I’ve come up with 25 plastic free changes for the month and I’d love it if you guys joined me. If you try out any of these swaps please let me know by commenting below and using the hashtag #growinggreener and tagging me @GrowingGreenGirl on instagram.

1. Use a Water Bottle

We’re starting off easy with the most common plastic free swap. Making sure you remember to bring a resuable bottle with you is a great way to reduce plastic. My tap water is not the greatest so we had to get a brita filter but now I can drink all the tap water I want. I always remember to bring a bottle with me but I think what I need to start doing this year is bringing more than one if I know I’ll be out long. I’ve been out with an empty bottle and no way to refill it and that sucks.

2. Replace your Ziplock Bags

I’ve recently found some great deals on reusable plastic baggies. Now I know I’m replacing disposable plastic with reusable plastic but it still makes an impact. I could use jars and containers but I just love how light weight and easy baggies are. I have some thick silicon Stasher bags and some light weight Russbe bags but I’m not picky on the brand these ones were just on sale. I recommend searching at Winners for stasher bags they don’t have them often but I’ve found two there for half price.

3. Buy Better

When shopping for things like beans, sauces, tomato paste, pesto, really any food, I try and buy the option in the best container. Most of us don’t have access to all of these things in bulk so try and buy things in glass jars instead of plastic, or cans instead of plastic. This way you can reuse the jar or recycle the can. Metal and glass can be recycled forever but plastic has a limited amount of recycles so avoid it when you can.

4. Use Resuable Bags

Another easy one! Swap out plastic bags at all stores with a resuable one. I know most people do this at the grocery store, but try and do it every where. I found when I’m shopping at other stores (like clothing stores) I get some confused looks for not wanting a bag but we need to avoid them at more than the grocery store.

5. Use Resuable Produce Bags

To go one step further from the last tip try and replace all your plastic bags. I buy food at bulk stores with resuable cotton produce bags and I have some mesh (see through) bags for buying fruit and veggies at the grocery store. I recomend leaving the bag open even if it is see through because I find most of the time they open it up to check what it is anyways, and if you leave it open it speads things up.

6. Stop Sucking

Another easy tip is to stop using plastic straws if you can. Try replacing them with stainless steal, reusable plastic or silicon straws, paper straws, bamboo ones or glass. I use stanless steal, plastic and paper straws. I try and keep one in my purse all the times but really you don’t need a straw for most drinks. My city has a straw free initive right now so most resturants won’t give you a straw unless you ask and most have paper straws which is super cool.

7. Switch to Bar Soap

Not to plug my own company but I do make zerowaste plastic free soap. But you don’t need to buy from me! I just really recomend bar soap to everyone. I love it! It’s all I use for my body, face and hand soap.

8. Buy as Big as You Can

This one is more of a reducing than eliminating plastic. I don’t have bulk access to dish soap (and I haven’t perfected my own recipe yet) so I have a resuable small soap pump and I refill it from a giant soap I bought. I found the largest dish soap I could buy and honestly it’s probably the same size that bulk stores use. You can do the same with buying giant things of rice, flour and other foods. If you buy it in a giant bag it really is the same as what the bulk stores buy it in.

9. Bring your Reusable Coffee Cup

A lot fo people do this and most stores give you a discount (Starbucks is 10 cents off) so it’s a pretty easy one to do. What I need to do to step this up is to also do it for my iced coffee. I always have a coffee cup on me but I don’t have a tumbler with a straw on me. So that’s my new goal for this July.

10. No More Sponges

This is one I never really thought of. You just don’t think about sponges being made of plastic but they are and they are disposible. I still have some but I am already replacing them with dish cloths, knit “sponges”, and scrubbing brushes made of wood.

11. Buy Loose Veggies

This one has two meanings. When shopping for produce if you forget your bags you can just buy it loose. I never bring enough bags with me so I always end up buying some of my veggies loose. Just make sure when you give them to the cashier you keep all of the same things together to make it easier for them. Also when shopping at grocery stores or farmers makets pick veggies that are package free. At the market I’ll return a bag if they already have it in one, but at the grocery store I’ll just choose the plastic free option

12. Buy Local or Make Your Own Bread

I love fresh bread and it is made even better by being plastic free. You can make your own fresh bread, or shop somewhere local. My farmers maret has an amazing booth called Hard Winter that has the best bread and bagels. They sell it in a paper bag but have no problem with me putting it in my own reusable bag instead.

13. Swap your Deodorant

You can make your own but honeslty I’m not a fan of any of the recipies I’ve tried. I’ve found a plastic free brand with the cutest little jars that I like alot. These can be expensive so I try and stock up when it’s on sale.

14. Swap your Tooth Paste

This is another one where I’ve found the DIY is not my thing, but I know losts of people love they’re home made tooth paste or powder. I like the one from Lush but I’ve also tried other brands. They all work about the same for me.

15. Reuse Your Jars

Instead of buying new jars or containers just resue the jars you already have. I save jars from peanut butter, tomato sauce, pickels, really anything. They are great for using to buy things in bulk or for storing things you’ve made at home.

16. Bring Your Own Cutlery

This is one I’ve been trying to remember to do. When I go out and I know they’ll be plastic cutlery I try and bring my own. I keep a set of wooden cutlery in one of my resuable plastic baggies but I was just using normal metal cutlery before. You don’t need a fancy kit just use the ones you already have in your kitchen.

17. DIY Cleaning Products

I love making a cleaning spray out of vineger. It is so easy to do just add equal parts water and vineger. I’ll use orange peels to make a scented vineger or just add some essential oils to it. You can also clean with baking soda.

18. Reuse the Plastic you Have

Don’t go crazy with being plastic free and toss all the plastic items you have. It kinda defeats the purpose. Keep your plastic tuperwhere until it dies, reuse plastic baggies over and over. Make sure you get the most life out of the plastic you have before you toss it.

19. Swap Your Tooth Brush and Floss

This is another swap that is pretty popular. I use a bamboo toothbrush with plastic bristles but I think you can get them with better bristles now. I compost the handle when I’m done with it. I found  a silk floss in a glass jar that you can buy refills for and now the company makes floss out of plant materials so my next refill will be a vegan one.

20. Make Your Own Milk

Making your own plant based milk is so easy and saves you from using the tetra packs that store bought comes in. This is one I do in phases. Sometimes I always make my own and sometimes I always buy it. So my goal for this month is to stay on top of making it. I have a recipe for oat milk and nut milk on the blog.

21. Buy at a Bulk Store

If you have one near you take advantage of bulk stores or the bulk sections of stores. I’m lucky to have lots of options nearby. There is a bulk chang in Canada called Bulk Barn, and then I have two local stores called JoAnne’s Place and Country Cupboard. Also lots of grocery stores have bulk sections. If you feel to nervous to bring your own jar just reuse the bags they have at these stores.

22. Use Newspaper for a Garbage Bag

This will be a new one for me. I’m going to try and replace my small bathroom garbage with a DIY newspaper grabage bag. I’ll let you know how that goes.

23. Recycle the Plastic You Do Have

Going plastic free isn’t easy so when you end up with some new plastic in your life make sure you reuse, repurpose or recycle it.

24. Shop Second Hand

Buying things second hand prevents new plastic from being used and created. Buying clothing second hand is one you might not think of as being plastic free. Alot of clothing is made out of plastic and by buying used you aren’t contributing to the demand.

25. Switch to Plastic Free Beauty Products

This is one that can take a long time. I still have so many plastic beauty products I need to use up. But replacing items one at a time is so much easier than doing it all at once. Some of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to swap are with lip balms and hand creams. I find these have less of a price difference than eyeshadow or lip stick does. You can also try making your own products which is so much fun.

 

I hope this list gave you some good ideas. Let me know any other plastic free tips you have in the comments or on instagram (@GrowingGreenGirl).

Don’t forget if you’re trying out my Growing Greener Challenge to tag me.

25 plastic free swapsgrowinggreenerchallenge

Want to Detox and Declutter Your Home? Try this Eco-Friendly Trend in Your Bathroom

With most of the products in our homes, we don’t spend much time thinking about what’s in them, but that’s beginning to change. It’s never been easier to learn about what our current bathroom products are doing to the environment, ourselves and our families. One of the best ways you can avoid toxic chemicals and cut down on the number of products you have is to shop for all natural zero waste products.

If you want to avoid clutter and chemicals, switch up your shower routine. The main chemical you want to avoid in soaps, face washes and shaving gels is triclosan an

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Travel size 4-in-1 bars lather up perfectly

antibacterial ingredient originally meant for hospitals, but now it’s in most of the products in your home. According to Slow Death by Rubber Duck, triclosan builds up in human (and animal) bodies and on top of that has made its way into our waterways. Although there haven’t been enough studies on its effects on our bodies, it is helping create antibacterial resistant bacteria from overuse. Even though we may not know precisely what triclosan does to our (and our pets) bodies, we do know we don’t need to to make perfectly good soap. Try and find triclosan-free bathroom products from a local business. It’s easier to ask questions and find out what’s really in a product when you can talk to the person making them face to face. Try visiting small businesses, farmers markets or online business to find the perfect product for you.

To avoid clutter and toxins try a four-in-one bar. Growing Green has four-in-one bars in unscented, lavender and orange. These bars replace your shampoo, conditioner, soap and shaving cream in one plastic free bar. All of Growing Green’s products are triclosan, paraben, and sulphate free. By minimizing to one product, you are saving money, creating less waste, and makes your morning routine easier. The main ingredient of these bars is organic fair trade coconut oil, and they are gentle enough for your face and perfect for children* since these bars eliminate four products at once, they are the perfect first step to a more eco-friendly bathroom.

 

 

*, Of course, all soaps should be tested on a small portion of the skin (such as your wrist) before use

Easy Zerowaste Almond Butter Recipe

One of my favourite things in the world to eat is almond butter. I love it on toast, in oatmeal, on its own, or turned into almond milk. But it is expensive to buy. Even at bulk stores, the price is a bit much for me. The only way to fix this is to make my own.

You can use regular old almonds or roasted. The roasted almonds add more flavour (you can roast them yourself or buy them that way), but sometimes I’m just too lazy to bake them.

What you Need:
-Almonds
-a food processor (or high-speed blender)
-a glass jar
-a spatula

Optional Ingredients:
-oil (coconut, vegetable, peanut, sunflower…)
-honey
-cinnamon
-salt

Step One:IMG_6919
-Add your chosen ingredients to the food processor
-I added almonds and a pinch of pink salt
-At this point, you can add a splash of oil to speed up the blending process

 

Step Two:
-blend starting on a low speed and moving to medium/high once started
IMG_6918-Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the processor
-it will look like it’s never going to blend, but I promise you it will
-If you want to add any additional ingredients nows the time you can add a spoonful of honey or a dash of cinnamon now

 

Step Three:
-Add to your jar and enjoy!IMG_6917
-I store mine in the fridge for freshness, and it prevents the oils from separating

 

Let me know if you try it!

 

Five Free Zero Waste Swaps

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.

5. Refuse

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.

Add any other suggestions below!!

Veggie Scrap Broth

Making broth out of veggie scraps is an easy way to give your veggies one last job before composting (or throwing them out if you don’t have access to a compost). It helps prevent food waste! Food waste is a massive problem and using up scraps that would normally not be used is a great step in helping.

I keep the skins of onions and garlic, the peels of potatoes and carrots, the stems of kale, scrapsreally anything in a container in the freezer until I have enough.  It changes depending on what I’ve been eating that week/month. Sometimes I add herbs in as well which adds to the flavour. I only add a touch of salt to my broth because I never know what I’ll end up using it for and you can always add more salt when your cooking. I like adding the onion and garlic skins because it gives the broth a nice dark colour. If I’m making a specific recipe with the broth I’ll add more than just scraps. For pho I’ll add ginger.

The longer you cook it the better. I bring the pot to a boil, then bring it down to a low simmer for hours. I’ll leave it on all day if I can. The longer it cooks the more flavour you get out of your veggies. Just leave it until it tastes and looks good to you.

As it cooks down it will get nice and dark. After that you can strain it and jar it. If you’re going to freeze it make sure you leave lots of room for it to expand in the freezer.

I strain it through a metal sieve to catch all the little bits but you can use a normal strainingcolander as well. I like to strain it into a measuring cup so it’s easier to poor into the jars.

Let me know if you try it and how it goes. For the longest time I thought stock/broth you made at home wouldn’t taste as good as a grocery store one but I really like it. Now that I know how easy is it I make it allll the time.

Do you make broth yourself?

Oat Milk: Easy Vegan Milk

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 anstudy on impact of milk 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.

 Ingredients:

•1 cup of soaked and rinsed oats
•3-4 cups of water
You can flavour it with: one date, vanilla , cinnamon, or coco powder

Method:

•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

 

Zero waste Dry Shampoo

I love dry shampoos for early mornings. If I have to wake up at 5:00am for work I am not waking up any earlier to shower. My hair is thin and can get greasy so I need dry shampoo. My only problem is that most dry shampoos are in arousal cans, and this is my solution. This recipe can be customized for your hair colour and preference. Any powder will do for a dry shampoo but this combo looks good and smells great. I used baking soda and cornstarch for the base and coco powder for the colour. You can remove the coco powder entirely and add essential oils or cinnamon for scent. For darker or lighter hair adjust the amount of coco powder. I used an empty pill container but you can use what ever you have handy.

Of course this is not the only option. I’ve also used baking soda or baby powder on its own and it worked great. This version is better because it blends into my hair nicely, but if I don’t have time to make it I go simple.

What You Need:

  • Corn Starch/Arrowroot Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Coco Powder (optional)
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • A containerIMG_5607

Recipe:

Mix 1/2 a tablespoon of cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and 1/2 a teaspoon of coco powder together and seal in an air tight container

Instructions:

Sprinkle some powder right onto your hair or into your hand first (or use a make up brush to apply). Apply to the roots of your hair, the ends of your hair won’t need it. Let sit for a minute, and then brush your hair.

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Let me know if you like it! You might need to customize it for your hair type.

Easy Zerowaste Nut Milk

Where I live, nut/seed milk (vegan milk) comes in plastic lined cardboard packaging. This packaging is recyclable but only through a specialized process where the plastic and cardboard are separated. Unlike glass and metal milk cartons cannot be recycled indefinitely. Since this is the case, I’ve tried to make my own nut/seed milks.
Making nut/seed milk typically involves a high speed (very expensive) blender, but this recipe is so easy, and any blender/food processor can handle it. Traditionally you would soak whole raw nuts or seeds (almonds, cashews and sunflower are most common) overnight and throw them in a Vitamix (or another expensive blender) then strain with a nut milk bag or cheesecloth.
For my milks, I choose to make hemp milk because the seeds are soft and therefore easy to blend. For my other milk, I choose cashews because that’s what I had. The cashew recipe can easily use any nut butter you want.

What You’ll Need

-a blender or food processor IMG_5477

-nut butter and/or hemp seeds

-a metal sieve, cheese cloth, or filter

-water

-a jar or container

 

The Steps

Step One:
Add one to two tablespoons of nut butter OR add two to three tablespoons of hemp seeds to a blender or food processor
Step Two:
Add one cup (see notes) of cold/room temperature water
Step Three:
Blend until creamy

IMG_5472IMG_5473

Step Four:
Pour through a metal sieve (you can use a nut milk bag or cheese cloth) IMG_5476
Step Four:
Store in an airtight jar or container for up to a week in the fridge

If you try this let me know how you like it!

Note: you’ll want to taste adjust the water to nut/seed ratio.
The more nuts/seeds to water the creamer it will taste so think about what you want this for. If you want a coffee creamer try lowering the water content, and if you’re trying to replicate skim milk add more water.

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.

 

How to be Zero-Waste at Restaurants and Bars

My experience as both the customer and server

This January will mark one year that I have been trying to “officially” reduce my waste, but it’s not always easy. There are a lot of #zerowastefails going on. My main problem is with restaurants and bars. I can control what I buy and from where but I can’t stop restaurants and bars from putting a straw in a cup of water before even asking us what we want to drink, or stop them from putting dips in paper cups. You can ask and suggest, but that’s not always fun.

One thing that has helped me feel better about asking for things without a straw, in my own cup, or for it to be in my containers is that my customers are starting to ask. I work at the Peterborough Saturday Farmers Market (yes the one with the Marketplace episode and lots of drama). I work for a local business that sells food, most often in paper bags but sometimes in styrofoam or plastic containers. Peterborough has stopped recycling styrofoam (I have no idea why I assume it costs too much) so many of my lovely customers started bringing their own containers/jars to get food put in. I love these customers! Every time someone uses the styrofoam or asks for a plastic bag I die inside. Knowing how easy it is for me as an employee to use a customer’s zero-waste container makes me more comfortable asking others to do the same.

I’ve even had customers try to talk my boss into a discount for bringing your own containers (not gonna happen) and ask why we even have styrofoam, which is great. She explained that she buys in bulk and has to wait until they run out of the styrofoam before buying a different type of container. I wonder if that’s true or not, but we’ll see.

Even if you ask there are some things you can’t stop. One battle I’ve been loosing is with straws because I’ve been given so many straws at restaurants and bars this year. This fail is partially my fault, I often forget straws exist, but I have asked for no straw and then been given one, or given a drink with other plastic junk in it. One time I ordered water (no straw), and they gave me a lemon with a plastic stick in it. I didn’t say that I wanted it without straw for zero waste purposes so it does make sense that they wouldn’t think just to give me a lemon wedge. My real question is why does a lemon wedge need a plastic stick. It just doesn’t make sense to me. 

Many restaurants also bring waters with a straw to a table immediately before asking what a customer would like to drink, and this drives me nuts because often someone will ask for another drink (like a pop) which results in another straw and the water doesn’t get touched.

The best thing you can do is ask. It seems awkward at first but as long as you act like you always do this no one will question you. Make sure you pick your battles! If you ask for a drink with no straw and they bring you a straw don’t argue with your server, especially if its busy. If it’s not busy nicely, say you didn’t want a straw or just forget about it. I ordered a drink at Starbucks with my cup, but they had a mix-up and made it into a disposable coffee cup. There was no point in getting mad at them, so I just took the drink (and my empty cup) and left. The cup was already used and would need to be thrown out anyways.

You can always ask after. If you get a drink with a straw in it (and it’s not busy) you can ask them why they don’t do straws on request. Even just saying that it would save them money might have a bigger impact than you think.

All you can do is your best. No one will ever be fully and perfectly zero-waste (at least not anytime soon) we just don’t live in a society with a zero-waste infrastructure.

Let me know how your experiences are going below!