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

Advertisements

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

 

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!

 

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

Zero-Waste Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

It feels like the holidays just ended, but we only get a short break because Valentines Day is just around the corner (one month to be exact). I like to start planning for gift giving well in advance. Valentine’s Day is easier than Christmas or a birthday, but I still like to plan. To help everyone out I’ve decided to put this list of gift ideas together. These are mostly zero-waste, but some have small amounts of waste but are organic, sustainable or “not virgin” (made out of recycled materials).

1. Bulk Bin Goodies

This is the easiest option if you have a zero-waste bulk store near you. You can buy the traditional chocolates for your friend or partner and put them in a cute jar. The best thing about this is you can decorate the jar to personalize the gift from the packaged boring heart shaped boxes everyone else is getting.

You can move further from just chocolate. Give them a set of jars one sweet and one spicy. You can even give them a jar of their favourite loose leaf tea. One good idea is buying that expensive chocolate/candy/tea/coffee that they won’t treat themselves with but have always wanted to try.

Personalize the inside and outside to fit perfectly.

2. No Bulk Store No Problem

If you don’t have a zero-waste store near you, you don’t have to say no to chocolates.  It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without them. But you do need to find good chocolate. Try and find brands that organic, and more importantly ethical or sustainable. Like Theo, Alter Eco, or Green and Black. These are all fair trade. I especially like that Alter Eco and Theo use cardboard packaging (with foil inside) rather than plastic.

 In addition you can look for local chocolate shops. They may cost more but you can often use your own packaging. The best part is you’ll be supporting a local business.

3. Love Notes/Date Ideas

You see notes and think paper, but you can use scrap paper, old copy paper, or sustainable paper (made out of bamboo or sugar cane). Grab a mason jar and fill it with either a list of things you love about them, or a list of dates you’ll take them on this year. It’s a very thoughtful gift with minimal environmental impact.

4. Bake it Yourself

Rather than buying goodies just make them yourself. It shows that you put effort in and you can make their favourite baked good. This is my plan (don’t worry my partner doesn’t read my blog). I’m going to make him a peacan pie from scratch (crust and all) so fingers crossed I don’t ruin it.

4.5 Cook it Yourself

Last year rather than going out we stayed in and cooked our own fancy dinner. We bought organic ingredients from the farmers market and it still cost less than going out.

5. Buy Plants Over Cut Flowers

 House plants are far better for the environment than cut flowers. Unlike cut flowers a houseplant lasts forever, this means that they will have a reminder of you in there home forever.m

If you do get cut flowers try and get them from a local flower shop, or farmers market. When they’re done compost them.

Bonus Thoughts

 If you’re planning on drinking a nice glass of wine try and buy it local, zero waste and/or sustainably made. Like Banrock Station. They re-invest profits into environmental projects around the world.

The most important thing is to spend time together. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be consumerist if you use it as a reminder to spend some quality time with loved ones.

Let me know any of your own editions to my list!

Zero-Waste Kitchen Swaps

The kitchen is one of the biggest producers of waste (both food and packaging). By making a few simple changes you can easily make your kitchen more environmentally friendly, and zero-waste.

Coffee Time

bodummoka-potAvoid paper filters for brewing your coffee. There are so many different ways to make coffee and most of them don’t use a paper filter. You can use a Bodum/French Press, a moka pot, an automatic coffee maker with a mesh filter, espresso machines, manual espresso makers, and so much more. They all change the flavor of the coffee (really only coffee snobs will notice most of it) and it can be fun to have different options every morning.

If you use paper filters switch to non-bleached filters. This way you can compost your filters and grinds easily. Composting your used grinds is the best way to get rid of them. You can also throw them straight into your garden (tomatoes and kale especially love coffee grinds).

In addition you can use coffee grinds for many DIY beauty products. Lip scrubs, body scrubs, soap bars, and a hair treatment are some of the many things you can do with used coffee grinds, other than compost them.

Say No to Paper Towels

paper-towelPaper towels are awful for the environment. So many of them get used every time you cook a meal or clean the kitchen. It’s just as easy to use a dish cloth and wash it. I just throw them in with my regular laundry. It’s super easy. You can buy them in any colour you like, made out of sustainable/organic materials, and you can even thrift them.

You can also use old clothing to make cleaning rags for your kitchen and save the dish clothes for your hands, dishes, and produce. It’s a very simple way to limit the amount of trees that get turned into paper products.

Find Good Packaging

If you can’t find a zero-waste option near you, just buy the product with the best packaging you can. Look for items in glass jars instead of plastic (peanut butter is an easy one for this), pick cardboard over plastic (it stands a better chance of being recycled), and items made out of sustainably sourced materials or recycled  materials.

yeastOn the left are two different ways to buy yeast, one in a glass jar with metal lid, and the other in paper packets. The packets aren’t recyclable, but the glass and metal lid are. You can also re-use the glass jar. In addition one packet has enough for one loaf of bread while one jar has enough for several.

cerealSome companies try and package as ethically as they can. There are no zero-waste breakfast options for me (I really wish I had a local zero-waste store) so I try and find the best option I can. Natures Path Organic makes cereal that I really like. They use eco-pac for their bags, and have no cardboard box. Without the cardboard box there are less trees being turned into paper, and the eco-pac is biodegradable. It also just tastes good.

Use Produce Bags and Shop Locally

Bringing your own grocery and produce bags is a super easy way to reduce your waste. The thin plastic bags your produce goes in stand little chance of being recycled so skip them as often as possible.

Shopping at smaller local stores and farmers markets can help you reduce your waste (they are usually less picky about you using your own bags/jars/whatever) and help you reduce the carbon footprint of your food. If you’re buying locally the food had to travel less. You don’t have to give up all far-away foods but try and buy seasonally and locally when you can.

Tea Time

tea-2Tea bags are not compostable. It’s best to switch to loose leaf tea. You can buy loose-leaf tea at bulk stores, David’s tea, and health food stores without packaging. If you can’t find it zero-waste than buy it in a metal or glass container. I have loose leaf tea from Twinnings and from For Teas Sake that is not zero-waste but come in metal tins that I plan on reusing after words.

I use to find loose leaf tea annoying, but it really isn’t that much harder to empty a tea ball than it is to throw out a tea bag.

tea-ballsThere are also a ton of different tea balls you can use. I have gotten so many as gifts. You can get them in nearly any shape and made out of nearly anything. Plastic isn’t best but if you buy one plastic thing to replace thousands (that’s really how much tea I drink)  of tea bags it’s not a bad option.

My favourite one is my round metal one that I found in my grandparents house. No one was using it so it became mine. It has a finer mesh on it so I can use all my teas in it. I find with some of my others tea gets out.

Use Jars to Store Food

lemonWhen you store food properly you won’t end up wasting it. I prefer to store everything in glass jars because they are recyclable and reusable. I also didn’t pay for my jars. They are all old food jars that held nut butters, sauces, coconut oil, and juice. It’s much better to use what you have than go out and buy new jars.

I store my lunches, juices, coffee, and any chopped up produce in a glass jar. It’s super handy and looks nice. I make lemon water most mornings, so I chop up a lemon throw it in a jar and I’m set for the week.

Make it Yourself

breadx2One way to reduce packaging is to make things yourself. This is really only good if you have the time. I like making home made bread but I don’t do it all the time. Baking is an easy way to reduce waste because breads, cookies, pies… almost always come in plastic bags.

If you don’t bake there are a lot of easy things you can make at home in large batches and freeze to save time (pasta sauce for example).

 

Have you tried any of these swaps? Do you have any to add? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

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.