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!

 

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

Coffee Cups Ruin Everything

I have been trying to avoid disposable coffee cups for some time now, but I have decided this year that I am not getting a coffee without a reusable cup, no matter how desperate I am for caffeine. I try as hard as I can to produce no waste when getting a coffee. I have a reusable cup in the trunk of my car at all times, and if I go somewhere and someone else is driving I bring my cup in my purse.

Despite my best efforts I still had a zero waste fail. My friend and I were having the perfect day. We went to a health food store that actually had zero waste options, I bought direct trade organic coffee, we thrifted some records, and we were ending the day by stopping at an organic coffee shop. The café seemed perfect. I love coffee and am devoted to organic coffee (I’ll make a post on coffee later).

We got to the coffee shop an hour before it was supposed to close, I brought my own reusable cup in my purse but we decided to have our coffee “for here”. I thought I had nothing to worry about since we weren’t getting our coffee to go. But sadly I was wrong. Even though I tried my best I still failed at being zero waste.

I was very annoyed. I tried to comfort myself with the fact that the cup was at least made out of recycled material, but I still felt bad. I was hoping to make it the whole year without using a disposable coffee cup and here we are in January and I’ve already failed.

I decided not to let it get me down. I tried my best. I meant to be zero waste. I didn’t actively try and use a plastic cup but it happened. The best thing I can do now is learn to ask about cups if I’m new to a café. If every zero waster gave up after each fail there wouldn’t be any of us.

10+ Green New Years Resolutions

Here are some easy ways you can green up the new year. Try them all or a handfull. As long as you try something you’ll be making a difference. Every little change you make adds up to something big.

1. Say No to Plastic Grocery and Shopping Bags

plastic-pollution-infographBring your own reusable bags everywhere. I always keep a small cotton bag in my purse, and a couple bigger bags in my car. I also plan ahead to bring a bunch with me when I go grocery shopping or shopping at the farmers market. Not only does this save you money (in most countries they charge 1-25 cents per bag) it’s also more fun and customizable. You can design your own, or just buy some with designs you like. I have bags covered in cactuses, or with logos from sustainable business I support, or from places I’ve traveled. Tote bags are my favourite souvenir.

1.5  Say No to Plastic Produce Bags

 

producebags-wI just got a bunch of reusable produce bags for Christmas and I am excited to start using them. You can just use small canvas/tote/cotton bags, but I like these because they are made for produce. I prefer them to be see-through and light-weight so I have no problems at the cash register.

2. Say No to Plastic Bottles

This means more than just water-bottles. I see stats and infographics on plastic water bottles all the time. I know they are the main culprit but we need to stop using all plastic bottles. My university (like many) is a water bottle free zone. You can’t buy them anywhere, but you can buy pop, juice, and sports drinks in plastic bottles. Bring a reusable plastic bottle with you everywhere. I have a lot of them. It’s best to get them in glass or metal, but BPA free plastic is also good. Use an old jar if you have to.

I have a plastic bottle that rolls up and takes up no space that I use for travelling, a small metal one I bring in my purse, and many more. I change them depending on where I’m going (will it fit in the cup holder of my car?) and how long I’ll be gone (all day = a bigger bottle). I even have one with a place to put fruit/herbs/cucumber for infusing the water. Just get whatever kind you like and use it instead.

3. Say No to Any Disposable Cup

That means coffee cups, frappachinno cups, pop cups, you name it get rid of it. I always have a reusable coffee cup in my car, as well as a cute mason jar cup with a straw for iced/cold drinks.

4. Bye Bye Straws

We use thousands and thousands of straws, and they’re almost all made out of plastic. It’s such a silly thing to use such a horrible material for. Why on earth should we be digging up dinosaurs and turning them into a plastic straw? They would be upset. Either ask for no straw when you go out, or be super cool and bring your own reusable one. I hate asking for no straw. Sometimes they don’t care, but sometimes you get weird looks. It’s the price we pay for the planet.

When I make my own drinks I use reusable BPA plastic free straws, and I have stainless steel ones coming in the mail. They are easy to clean. I just rinse them out as soon as I’m done (especially with smoothies) and throw them in the dishwasher. Once my new straws and cleaning brush come in the mail it will be even better.

5. Go to the Farmers Market

Find whatever one is closet to you (I’m positive there is one, they’ve been poping up like crazy) and go to it. Even if you have to wake up early on a Saturday or day off. I work at the farmers market so I can tell you not all booths are organic, sustainable or healthy (I sell deep fried Russian food in paper bags or styrofoam, clearly I’m not in charge of the packaging), but there are lots that are. Even if they aren’t the best environmentally no one will stop you from using your own containers or bags (I use a reusable container nearly every Saturday and reusable bags constantly, since my customers are the best).

You’ll find seasonal produce, fresh produce and you can actually see the person who grows your food. You can ask them questions. It’s great. They might even have recipe ideas for you. You can find produce, cooked food, baked goods, meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs, candles, soaps, knitted stuff from sweet old ladies, honey, seamstresses, and it goes on.

Not to mention “go to a farmers market” is on every article listing cool date ideas.

6. Change One Part of Your Routine

This could mean changing your bed time routine so you use an organic toothpaste, getting sulfate free shampoo, using locally made soap, or using zero-waste lipstick. What ever it is, pick one small thing you do everyday and change it for the greener.

7. Buy Something Sustainable and Ethical this Year

One way to convince yourself to become a greener person is with a reward. I know the minimalist zero-wasters wont be a big fan of this one, but it will work. We like new things, and we like getting ourselves treats. Pick one thing like organic fair trade coffee instead of cheap chemical crap, or sustainable and ethically made shoes. If you turn going green into a gift to yourself you might stick to your resolutions this year.

8. Shop Mindfully

I know I just told you to buy something, but you really should be buying less. It’s hard. Try and buy only things you need or really really want. When you do buy something buy the version that is the best for the planet and the people making it. Also buy something that will last.

Follow this handy chart I found:

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9. Eat Less Meat and No Factory Farmed Meat

Eating meat is a tricky subject, but we all know the less of it we eat the healthier we are. If you want to become a vegan or vegetarian, if not just eat less meat. If you do eat meat, make it ethical. Spend more on good quality meat. If it doesn’t cost a lot than you know its from a factory farm that does not treat its animals well. An animal died so you could eat it, so we should at least take care of them well before that. The farmers market or a local butcher can be a good place to start.

This also goes for eggs. You can tell just by looking at an egg yolk if the chicken was treated well. The deeper and orangier the colour the better treatment the chicken had. A happy free-range chicken actually produces an egg with more nutrients! That’s just crazy. So make sure your eggs come from happy chickens, and your meat comes from happy animals.

10. Replace One Item with a Sustainable Version

This means things like switching from a disposable razor to a safety razor, switching from normal printer paper to sustainably sourced paper (certified wood, bamboo or sugar cane). There are a lot of options here so find a need in your life and swap it.

11. Bonus One: Plant Something

Growing something means more CO2 being turned into lovely breathable air, and it’s just fun. Make it a veggtable garden so you really know where your food comes from, a flower bed to make things prettier, an herb garden to spice up your meals, or a houseplant to make some clean inside air. Whatever it is, growing a plant can make you feel closer to nature, which is good for encouraging you to go greener. They’re also just pretty.

Let me know if you’ve tried any or all of these resolutions.

Five Night Time Routine Swaps

The best way to go green is to incorporate it into your everyday routines. One of the first things I changed was my night time routine. It was easy. I’m going to show you a few simple swaps that have made my night time routine better for the planet and better for me.

I wanted to try and switch to organic ingredients and zero-waste alternatives (the more local the better). The hardest part about this was researching what I could change. I decided that washing my face, brushing my teeth and flossing could all be made better.

Before I get into the swaps, the easiest thing to do when making your night time routine greener is obvious: turn off the tap when brushing.

Now into the swaps:

The Teeth

1. Toothbrush

toothbrush-with-packagingOne thing you can do is switch from plastic to bamboo. You can find bamboo toothbrushes at zero-waste stores, health food stores, and online. Mine is from brush naked. I really like it. At first I found it too soft, but I think my gums actually like it better. This company is great if you’re Canadian because it’s one of the few places that ship to Canada for free.

There are lots of different brands you can choose from. There are even ones with traditional nylon bristles, but with a biodegradable body or with replaceable heads, if you don’t like the feeling of bamboo bristles. There are also recyclable plastic toothbrushes. Choose one that’s right for you.

2. Toothpaste/powder/tablets

night-routine-copyI’ve been on a mission to find zero-waste toothpaste. I wanted something that still did the job, tasted good and came in as close to zero-waste packaging as possible. This was hard. I found natural toothpastes at my local health food store but nothing zero-waste. I made zero-waste the priority in this and eventually found Lush. I’ve bought bath bombs and bubble bars from them before but never looked at anything else. They have zero-waste toothy tabs or tooth powders. I read a lot of reviews and a few youtube videos and decided to give it a try. I went with the powder and I’m happy I did (see my full review here).

If you just want something natural than get whatever you want, but I like the zero-waste aspect. There are lots of brands that sell organic and/or natural toothpastes like Radius or Green Beaver. Depending on how I feel at the end of my toothpowder container I might try some of these.

3. Floss

radiusI bought Radius natural silk floss from my local health food store Jo Anne’s Place, but it can be found online. There are other brands but this is what I have. The floss I bought was a little misleading. The box it comes in says 100% biodegradable, but the biodegradable floss is inside a plastic container. This is still better than traditional floss, but I felt mislead. I now know that you can buy them in sachets and therefore can avoid the plastic.

The Face

4. With Make-up

I used to use disposable make-up removing wipes, rather than washing my face. I mostly did it out of laziness. Now, rather than using makeup removing wipes I’ve bought a make-up remover (before I realized I wanted to go plastic-free) with fair trade ingredients. If I can’t have plastic free at least it’s partially fair trade. I also cut up an old plaid shirt to use as my new make-up wipes. I pour the make-up remover on them. I just throw them in my laundry basket after I wipe my face off. Another alternative is coconut oil. When I finish my bottle that’s what I plan to use next.

I still own disposable wipes so I cut them up into smaller wipes (so I use a quarter or half instead of a whole sheet) in order to make them last longer. Now I only use them when I’m not at home. I think this is better than throwing them out. Throwing away an unused product in the name of zero-waste is crazy.

5. Without Make-up

kalamazoo2-2I use a zero-waste face wash from Lush called Kalamazoo (to see my review of it click here). I love the packaging and the product. I use this on its own if I haven’t worn any makeup, or use it after using my makeup remover. When I’m done washing my face I use a face-cloth to dry off. I know some people use paper towel for “cleanliness”, but if you wash your cloth often than you don’t need to worry about that.

I used to hate washing  my face at night but now I treat it more like a pampering/self-care part of my day. Now that I put thought into my routine I enjoy it more. After getting new products I put research into I was actually excited to get ready for bed (just the first couple times).

I hope you found these swaps helpful. You don’t need to do them all but making one change in your routine can make a difference over time.