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

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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!

 

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!