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.

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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!

 

Shampoo Bar Review

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!

 

myshampoobar
my bar in the stainless steal container, and the compostable wrapper it came in

 

 

 

Zero Waste Tea: Journey and How to

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.

davids-tea
I really love the filter. It lets you pick the tea that fits your taste and values.

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.

 

My First Zero Waste Bulk Barn Haul

I was nervous about bringing my own jars because Bulk Barn has just allowed stores across the country to accept them. Luckily the wonderful staff eased that right away. It was not only my first time bringing jars but the first time anybody has brought jars to that store! The staff were so excited to try it out and make sure it works. They had to watch training videos on how to tare the weight and inspect the jars, and they were really excited to finally put their training into action. I wasn’t expecting that at all. So if you’re nervous like I was just do it. It will be fine, and your cute jars might even get a compliment or two.

img_3475I didn’t bring many jars because it was my first time, but I will bring much more next time. They only accept glass jars so if you don’t drive, or live really close, this could get a bit heavy for you. First you go to the cash and they inspect your jars for rust, water, or any food residue. If it passes they will weigh it and put a sticker on with the tare weight. Then you just fill them up on your own, and bring them to the cash like usual.

My cashier was so excited she almost forgot to give me my change. Make sure you remember, write down, or photograph the name and number of the product. They are usually very good at recognizing everything but a lot of things look the same. I had to tell them which green tea I chose, and because I had a photo on my phone I was prepared.

img_3474I ended up getting some mixed nuts (on sale!), honey roasted peanuts, fair trade green tea, organic pea penne, and organic green lentil and kale penne. I was worried bringing lots of jars (especially small ones) would bother the staff but it caused no problems. I like small jars so I can test things. They often have new kinds of grain free noodles and I like to buy enough for one or two bowls of pasta to test them out.

Overall it was a great experience and I’m so happy Bulk Barn has listened to their customers and allowed zero waste jars.

I insta storied the whole shopping experience, so if you’re into that kinda thing please follow me @amanda_edgley

To see my past article on Bulk Barn go here.

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.