Tag Archives: zero waste

dryer balls trump dryer sheets

I’ve never been a big dryer sheet person. Tha’s probably because my mom doesn’t use them. She, along with my sister, dad and me, have suuuper sensitive skin. My dad can only use one kind of detergent — it’s nuts.

I remember how noticeably fresher my clothes smelled anytime I borrowed some from my roommate in college.

But only recently did I find out that, that “fresher” smell wasn’t necessarily cleaner or actually fresher. It was just riddled with miscellaneous fragrances.

You might think “fragrance” is synonymous with essential oil or plant-based or natural, or any of the other trendy words people use nowadays when marketing.

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But actually the term “fragrance” is a bit ambiguous. It’s an umbrella term that’s used to describe chemicals that are found in your products. Sadly, a lot of those chemicals have been linked to hormone issues and even cancer. And “fragrances” can be found in tons of products we use everyday, from cosmetics and cleaning products to pads and tampons.

I’m not a purist. I don’t think everyone HAS to use organic or that you should be terrified to ever touch something that has government-induced chemicals in it. Good luck getting through life that way, fam!

But I do think it’s better to be safe and opt for sustainable/environmentally positive products as much as possible. There are plenty of studies that show phthalates and parabens aren’t good for us… so I’m gonna steer clear from those bad boys as much as I can.

There’s a whole lot of research that’s been done on this topic, but here‘s one source that’s helpful from Huffington Post. And here’s another one from the Environmental Working Group. In the EWG post, it talks about how styrene (styrofoam) has been found in some of the products that contain “fragrance.” Interesting!

Anyways! Back to dryer sheets….

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I recently bought some wool dryer balls from Package Free Shop. They’re 100% compostable and will last for years! Hooray for zero waste/sustainable stuff!

All you’ve gotta do is put a few drops of essential oil on your dryer balls and throw them in the dryer with your clothes.

I really like to use eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, tea tree and citrus. Sometimes I mix a few essential oils together and other times I just use eucalyptus or lavender the whole time.

If you’re interested in finding out where I buy my essential oils, check out my essential oil page here. I choose Young Living essential oils for lots of reasons. 🙂

Do you use dryer sheets or dryer balls? What essential oils do you like to use on your dryer balls?

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zero waste party planning must-haves

Mike and I hosted a New Year’s Eve party this year and I really wanted to make sustainability a priority.

It wasn’t a huge party, but we had around 15 people. Before I went straight to the store to buy disposable items, I wrote a list to see what I needed, and if/how I could buy them secondhand.

Here are a few must-haves I thought I’d need for my sustainable party:

LINEN NAPKINS
LINEN TABLECLOTH
CUPS
PLATES
BOWLS
FLATWARE
SALSA/DIP BOWLS
SNACK CONTAINERS/TRAYS
DRINKS
FOOD/SNACKS

Once I looked at what I already had in my cupboard and rummaged through my mom’s pantry, I made a list of what I still needed and headed straight to my closest thrift shop.

CHECK OUT YOUR LOCAL SECONDHAND STOREdcb_2570

Secondhand stores can have some killer items for dirt cheap. Check out these beautiful linen napkins I found at Goodwill and another secondhand store near me! I also got the tablecloth there, too.

Finding linens at some thrift stores might be a little bit more difficult than it would be to find something simple like a gray sweater. Often the linen section isn’t well labeled, so you might have to ask an employee if/where they sell linens.

Most of these napkins were between $0.25-$1.00 per napkin.

What’s great about using linen napkins is once they get used, you simply throw them in the wash and can use them for years.

Same goes for plates, cups and flatware. I don’t have a dishwasher, which would’ve made clean-up much easier. But even so, it wasn’t too bad! A few extra minutes of labor on my end was worth it so I could use less plastic.

FOOD AND DRINK OPTIONS

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Since I’m on a pretty serious budget, when throwing a party, I ask guests to bring something along with them. I’ll usually ask them to bring a side dish or drink of some sort.

Luckily, if you’re going to have alcohol at your party, beer comes in cans and bottles, and wine and liquor usually come in glass. So that shouldn’t be a problem for you.

If you are looking for non-alcoholic drinks, consider making a large juice/punch recipe that is already pre-made when guests arrive. Also, opt for cans of pop or sparkling water rather than liters.

For food, stick with simple things. You can make a large amount of buffalo chicken dip or a vegan alternative. You can make pico de gallo for cheap or make/order pizza — who doesn’t love pizza? (AND pizza comes in a cardboard box!)

If you want to provide all the food and beverages, maybe ask everyone to bring $5-10 to contribute to the party! That way, you can ensure everything you have is plastic-free or recyclable and you won’t break your budget.

MAKE RECYCLING + COMPOSTING EASY

I made a composting and recycling sign at my party to help my friends remember what to do. Some people aren’t apt to recycle when they’re done using an aluminum can and some folks don’t think to compost their scraps if they haven’t finished their food.

It’s helpful to provide easy visuals to remind your friends and family to recycle and compost! Make it even easier by drawing a picture and writing exactly what you can/can’t recycle or compost. And draw arrows/describe where your recycling and compost bins are. I used left over brown paper bags I had from my wedding last spring and used tacks to hold them in place on the wall instead of plastic tape.

It might sound excessive, but small reminders really can make a difference!

WHAT IF I’M HAVING A HUGE PARTY THOUGH?

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Instead of opting for plastic plates and flatware, consider getting a compostable option — check out Amazon. Or sometimes Target and Walmart have some pretty decent eco-friendly options, too. Search around!

Or, if you’re having a fancier party like a wedding or bridal shower, consider renting plates and flatware from a local party rental shop. Sometimes it’s cheaper than buying your own, other times it’s more expensive.

Price out your options!

If you’re planning a wedding I have more specific ideas on the “our wedding” page — you can check that out here.

How do you plan a party zero waste style? I’d love to hear your tips!

plastic-free grocery shopping at Walmart

I follow loads of zero waste blogs, Instagrams and YouTube channels. Every person I follow says essentially the same thing about grocery shopping.

Most zero wasters post a trendy picture of them shopping bulk at their closest zero waste shop in New York or Colorado or Seattle. They all carry mason jars in their organic cotton tote bags and buy only organic, vegan food.

And that’s all great! But it feels rather unattainable and, quite honestly, elitist.

I’m just not that person. I live in Western Pennsylvania — Beaver County to be more precise. I’m about 45 minutes from the city of Pittsburgh where one sort of zero waste shop exists. (s/o to East End Food Coop that lets you bring your own containers to bulk shop!)

But my husband Mike and I live paycheck to paycheck (quite literally) and we can’t afford to travel down to the city every week to grocery shop.

Often, I find myself going to Aldi and Walmart as often as I can because I’m broke.

Aldi is cheap, but just about everything they sell comes in plastic — even their tomatoes and peppers. So I typically opt for Walmart.

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When I look at zero waste folks or holistic and wellness gurus, they make their lives look glamorous and, quite frankly, unachievable for the average person.

But wellness shouldn’t be that way.

You can limit your waste/plastic anywhere you go — be it shopping at Walmart, eating at a fast food restaurant or gas station, or shopping at the mall. Zero waste is a mindset. And nobody’s perfect. It’s not a competition of who can use the least amount of plastic. It’s meant to be a lifestyle that prioritizes sustainability and responsibility over convenience.

I just went grocery shopping yesterday at Walmart and I thought I’d go over everything I bought. Several of these items are packaged in plastic because they’re foods I really needed/wanted and couldn’t find a better solution. Here’s a list of what I got. I’ll put an * next to food that is either recyclable, compostable or package-free.

PEPPERS*
SPINACH*
KALE*
BROCCOLI*
YELLOW POTATOES*
RED POTATOES*
ONIONS*
LIMES*
LEMONS*
GARLIC*
NECTARINES*
BUTTER*
CHICKEN BROTH*
TOMATO SAUCE*
BLACK BEANS*
MILK*
LENTILS
MEAT
BANANAS*
BAKING SODA*
EGGS*
YOGURT
THAI CURRY SAUCE*
TORTILLA CHIPS
FRESH ROSEMARY*
RASPBERRIES*

The majority of my items are either package-free to recyclable, but there are some things, like meat, yogurt, lentils and tortilla chips, I purchased in a non-recyclable container.

Here are some tips for low-waste grocery shopping at Walmart.

BRING COTTON BAGS

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Check out these cotton bags made from recycled cotton from my friend Agnes at AndindaDesign here. Use code THANKYOU to get a discount! She makes some awesome bags that are perfect for produce!

Also, bring along a few larger cotton totes to use instead of plastic bags when you check out at the store.

BUY BULK

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Obviously buying in bulk is ideal. And it’s actually relatively easy to do at Walmart. They’ve got loads of produce that comes in bulk!

Before I go grocery shopping I try to think of a recipe I want to make for dinner that night/week. If one of the ingredients doesn’t come package-free or in a recyclable container, then I’ll swap it out for another ingredient. For example, last night I made a lentil soup that called for celery. Walmart (at least the Walmart near me) doesn’t carry bulk celery. But they carry bulk peppers! So I switched the celery for peppers — I like peppers better anyways.

OPT FOR CANS, GLASS CONTAINERS AND PAPER BOXES

 

I thought I’d have to buy chicken broth in that weird box-type container that most broths come in. Those boxes aren’t recyclable (at least from my knowledge!). But! I found chicken broth in an aluminum can! So I bought that instead.

Opt for canned beans if you can, too! That’s usually what I do. Coconut milk also comes in cans, which is great in soups! If you want some awesome soup recipes (and vegan recipes!) check out my best pal Leesha’s nutrition website here.

You can also find rice, raisins, baking soda, chocolate, and lots of other ingredients in paper boxes/wrapped in paper. And one of the easiest switches to  make in your grocery shopping is swapping your Styrofoam egg cartons with brown paper ones!

Some sauces come in glass containers, too, like the Thai curry that’s pictured above.

GO FOR RECYCLABLE PLASTIC

 

One of the most important things to know when limiting your waste is finding out which plastics your curbside recycling company accepts. I have a long blog post all about that here if you’d like to check it out.

My city only lets me recycle plastics number 1 and 2 — so I want to be mindful of that when I shop. For instance, I really wanted to get raspberries because I love them, but they only come in plastic. I looked on the back of the plastic container for the recycle symbol. It had a number 1 inside the recycling symbol, which means I can recycle it from my house! I did the same thing with my milk jug and fresh rosemary. Contact your local recycling company or look at your municipality’s website for more info!

GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

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Mike really likes to eat meat. It’s pretty tough to find meat that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. But it’s a big part of his diet, so I know that’s one part of my grocery list that is unlikely I’ll find plastic-free.

Again, nobody’s perfect! Be as mindful as you can. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to buy plastic-free. It’s a journey and a process — take your time and have fun with it!

How do you shop plastic-free at your local non-bulk grocery stores?

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