Use It Up

photo (11)So my family has this chronic problem of purchasing excessive amounts of fresh herbs and then forgetting they’re there and letting them rot in the fridge. As an aspiring zero-waster, this is something I’ve really been trying to address, first and foremost by getting creative with what’s in my fridge rather than going to the store to buy more food. Ultimately, this will be better for the environment, but will also be good for our wallet.  

Anyways, last week I noticed that our herbs were about to go to waste again. There were two bunches of dill and parsley as well as some kale sitting in the fridge waiting to go bad. So instead of throwing them in the compost, I decided to make my own pesto. While it didn’t taste like your typical pesto, it was delicious and added a little extra nutrition to my family’s meals for the week.

If you are interested in transforming your herbs from trash into something tasty, here is the general outline of the recipe I used:

photo 1 (7)Ingredients:
1/4 cup of nuts(traditionally one would use pine nuts, but I used walnuts and
peanuts)
1-2 bunches of desired herb(you can really use any herb, and can mix sprigs of other
herbs in as well. I did this with some basil and rosemary from my garden)
2-3 garlic cloves
1 lemon
coconut oil or olive oil
Parmesan(or any other hard Italian cheese)
Salt and pepper
Optional: Spinach or kale

  1. photo 1 (9)Toast nuts in a toaster oven or in a pan over medium heat. Do not add oil
    to the pan. Once toasted, place into food processor.
  2. Wash herbs and greens. Cut off any odd or undesirable bits. Coarsely chop herbs, and place in food processor.
  3. Shred cheese(amount is up to you) into food processor. Peel and cut lemon into quarters. Remove seeds and cut up desired amount of peel into small pieces or shave lemon zest and squeeze juice into food processor.
  4. Add desired amounts of oil, salt, and pepper into food processor (the more oil, the smoother).
  5. Process until it has reached desired consistency.

This recipe is versatile, and so is the food! Once I made it, I mixed some of the pesto with cooked potatoes and made a sort of pesto mashed potato. The next day, I had it with eggs. The day after that, I had it with pasta.Yum! photo 2 (10)

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Zero-Waste Haul

Depending on where you live, zero-waste can have some obstacles. For instance, some people just don’t have a good bulk food store in their area, and therefore cannot avoid food packaging.photo 2 (9) The situation is similar with me. As far as I know(although I have to do more research), there are only two stores that offer in-bulk in my area, and only offer a small selection. However, about forty minutes away is Princeton, which has a lovely, reasonably priced health food store, known as the Whole Earth Center,with a great variety of foods!

While my mom loves going into Princeton, we can’t go there every week for our groceries because of distance, so we struck up a compromise: On a monthly basis, we go into Princeton and get the basic necessities for the month. To make this possible, we have to know exactly what we’re going to eat. We know we go through a lot of nuts, rice, salt, lentils, popcorn, quinoa, and peppercorns, so we make sure to get those.

The store was totally fine with us bringing our own containers, and even gave us a 10 cent discount per jar!

Bellow is everything we got from Saturday’s trip:

photo 2 (10)
From left to right: a jar of mixed nuts, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, chickpeas(we’re making the switch to homemade humus), brown rice, salt, pepper corns, gummy fruit slices (which I’ve already eaten 1/3 of), and lavender essential oil.
photo (9)
The two were very enthusiastic about posing with my lunch!

We were able to make a day out of this wonderful food pilgrimage, and after going to the food store, my two friends, Anna and Olivia, as well as my mom and myself walked around, went to a gourmet spice shop, as well as a vinegar shop, and got a delicious waste-free panini at a cafe. Yum!

No Need For A Dryer: Carbon Reduction Tip #1

Although it seems illogical, a lot of the new technology we use for household chores, such as dishwashers and washing machines, are actually a lot more environmentally friendly than doing those things by hand. With new demands for more efficient appliances, companies have been able to make products that use significantly less water and energy, which is great! Now you can easily do all of your household chores without guilt.

Except for one . . .

According to an article by The Guardian, electric-powered dryers (MUCH more common than gas) are one of the least environmentally friendly appliances out there.

In fact, depending on the temperature setting of your washer, using a dryer can double the amount of CO2 involved in the process, amounting to up to 3.3 kg of carbon per load. How often do you wash your clothes again?

The good news is, there’s a simple solution:  let your clothes air dry.

For free, you can hang your clothes out in the backyard on a rack or a clothes line. photo (6)In the winter, I do this in my basement. I typically dry my underwear by laying it out on my bed in the morning. By the time I get home, it’s all dry!

It’s cheaper, too! Not using a dryer will decrease your electricity use, as well as eliminate the need for things such as fabric softeners sheets, which are single-use products destined for the landfill. Fabric softener sheets can also contain harmful chemicals and be very dangerous, similar to many other household cleaning products.

I acknowledge that some people may not have the space to do this, but before you assume you don’t, consider looking around your house/apartment to see if you have a corner of your home that could be transformed into a drying station.

I can assure you I have pretty much no problems with wrinkles or cleanliness when employing this method. So long as you lay each article of clothing out neatly, and not in a jumble or bunched up, you should be fine. Please note: most of my clothes is either polyester or cotton, so I have yet to try it on less common cloth types. If you are unsure of what is required of certain attire, I would do some research before air-drying.

Thanks for reading!

The Beauty of Zero Waste

As acknowledged by one of today’s most up and coming Zero Waste spokespeople, Bea Johnson, many have this misconception that zero waste means more mess, complication, spending, and stress in a person’s life.

While I have yet to be entirely zero waste, and, no, my home does not have the simple white walls and beautifully uncluttered rooms of a minimalist, I can confidently advise any spectators not to subscribe to that idea. Zero waste means simplicity, and more often than not, it ends up looking more beautiful than a life of trash production.

Personally, I think my jar of water is prettier than bottled water…
photo 1 (5)

For instance, yesterday I went out to eat with one of my friends, Carolyn, after staying up till 4:30 am the night before finishing summer assignments (I’m actually typing up this post as a break from reading “Wuthering Heights”). With me, I brought a large square container, a fork, spoon, and napkin, a mason jar for water(which I put rosemary in for flavoring), my wallet, and a smaller jar, all carried in my favorite tote bag. photo (7)

I was able to order a sandwich at a Mediterranean restaurant. They still put tinfoil
around it despite my request for them not to, so here is all my trash from yesterday’s lunch:photo 1 (3)
photo (8)Then, Carolyn and I went to a frozen yogurt place, in which I requested to use my smaller jar. The cashier was fine with it, and weighed my jar before I put anything in it, so as not to pay extra for its weight. Then, I did as any other customer does, and filled my jar with delicious strawberry and mango frozen yogurt. In my opinion, as well as others, as I did get photo 2 (3)compliments at the store, the jar makes the food look a LOT prettier.

Prettier food, prettier planet. What could be the down side?

Waste-Free Fast Food

Think you have to eat hippy food (whatever that is) to get takeout waste free? Think again! You can get virtually any kind of food waste free while you’re out and about, all it takes is a little planning. photo 2 (5)

I’ve been experimenting with getting food waste free, and have picked up some tips on it over the course of the last few months. Before you get waste free take out, you should know:

  • Smaller businesses and restaurants are more likely to let you bring your own container than chain restaurants. Many of them are just not about to turn away business.
  • If you’re going out with a friend, say into a city, anticipate what you’re going to eat. There’s a pretty nice city right next to me, and whenever my friends and I go out to eat, I know I’m likely to get something like a salad, so I bring a container that acts as a bowl. I also bring a lid, so once I’m photo 1 (4)done with my food, I can seal it and put it away in my bag mess-free. I’ll also usually bring a fork, spoon, and reusable napkin. I also love frozen yogurt, so I’ll bring a small cup or container for that.
  • If you’re planning on bringing your food home, call ahead to make sure they’ll let you use your own container. If they say yes, once again, plan what you’ll need to bring.
  • Be prepared to look for another restaurant if the one you’re at won’t let you use a container. By resorting to trash production when faced with an obstacle, you are creating less of a demand for a zero waste meal, defeating the purpose. And who knows? Maybe they’ll change their mind and you’ll get a trash-free dinner.
  • It helps to be polite, patient, and grateful when restaurants cooperate.
  • It may take a place a few tries before they give you your food absolutely waste free. For instance, during the school year, sometimes I would go out to lunch at this Chinese food place and ask them to put my vegetable fried rice in my own container. They were more than happy to do this, but still wrapped my container in a plastic bag, along with soy sauce packets, a plastic fork, fortune cookies, napkins, and a receipt. By communicating with them, eventually we were able to avoid all the extra stuff, and now I just get my container, without the extra trash, back.
  • Anticipate condiments. Is the food place you’re going to going to give you salt and pepper in tiny little packets? If so, bring your own small jar of salt and pepper (I just mix them together in one jar) to sprinkle over your food. If you’re going to get coffee, will the coffee shop only offer those little packets of sugar? If so, bring your own small jar of sugar.
  • These things will take some time to perfect, but once you get into the habit of it, it becomes easy! I pretty much never leave the house without a reusable bag, water bottle, container, and fork anymore, and it’s really not a lot of work.

So tonight, my dad and I wanted to go to this AMAZING fast food joint in my town and see if we could get a burger and fries waste-free.

Bellow is everything I brought with me. I actually brought a few containers too many(because my dad decided he didn’t want a burger). I brought two circular containers, one square one, one smaller one for ketchup, and it was all carried in a lovely tote bag my boyfriend got for me:

photo (5)

For practice, I had my dad order the food for me(he has less experience ordering photo 1 (5)food waste free). The people at the fast food place were a little confused, but more than happy to put my food in a container. So…SUCCESS! And it was delicious!

Easy Bathroom Swap #3

We’ve got bottles and bottles of different brands of this stuff, along with wipes, creams, and cotton swabs. Because when you get home from work or school, don’t you just wanna take off your make-up, change into something comfortable, and put up your feet?

So yeah, maybe those makeup wipes are a little wasteful and those eye makeup removers a little expensive, but that’s the only way to get rid of your makeup, right?

Think again 😉

A new trend is underway, causing hundreds of Americans to make this switch: instead of using eye makeup remover or makeup wipes, just use coconut oil and a wash cloth!

Of all the brands of eye makeup remover I’ve used, absolutely NONE have worked as well as this lovely oil. And, unlike the stuff you’ll buy in the drug store, you can trust that its only ingredient is, you guessed it, mechanically pressed refined coconut oil.

It’s also cheaper, in the grand scheme of things. High quality coconut oil costs aboutphoto (5) $8 per jar, amounting to 14 fluid ounces, whereas your typical eye makeup remover, say, from Neutrogena, can cost up to around $7 for a bottle of 5.5 fluid ounces. So, buying coconut oil gets you more than twice as much as the commercial makeup remover does for roughly a dollar more. Seems like a pretty sweet deal. And what’s even better? You can reuse that sturdy jar for something else once you’re done, and coconut oil has plenty of other purposes. You can use it as a moisturizer(it helped me A LOT when I was recovering from a really bad sunburn), you can cook with it(it has been linked to boosting your metabolism), and you can use it in other homemade household items, such as homemade makeup, toothpaste, and deodorant.

In addition, it makes a lot of sense to use your coconut oil with a wash cloth instead of cotton swabs! Not only do they come in plastic and produce a lot of trash, but you constantly have to keep buying them. Yes, they only cost about $2, but wouldn’t you rather not have to worry about getting a new bag every month? With a washcloth, you have something you can use for years, only worrying about having to wash it every so often. Just a note: make sure it is a washcloth you do not care about, as it will get stained.

Here’s what I do to remove my eye makeup:

  1. Once you are ready to remove your eye makeup, dab a little oil on your finger and rub it onto your closed eye. You should feel the stiffness of that dried mascara subsiding on your eyelashes, and you’ll notice you suddenly have raccoon eyes! That means it’s working!
  2. Once you feel you have loosened up enough of the makeup, take a wash cloth that you don’t care about and wet a corner of it generously. Wipe away the coconut oil and makeup several times, until you feel it is all gone. You should have a makeupless eye!

Before:                                                                                 After:

photo (6)                                                      photo 1 (3)

This technique works great, is cost effective, and has never given me acne. If it does give you acne, or if you feel this is not working for you(everyone’s different), I recommend using another oil or doing some research on oil-free natural alternatives.

Disclaimer: coconut oil does NOT taste or smell like coconut  .

Hope you have a great day!

Easy Bathroom Swap #2

Still buying shampoo? Conditioner? Body wash? At the beginning of the summer, so was I, until I did some research.

Hair care products cost Americans hundreds of dollars per year, with each bottle being up to 10 dollars. And a LOT of these contain carcinogens and harmful chemicals. Not to mention, many of them are sold in difficult or impossible to recycle bottles.

So if it’s so hard to find safe products, what can you do? Chances are, the answer is in your kitchen.

photo 1 (2)In late June, I began washing my hair with apple cider vinegar (less than $2 per gallon) and baking soda (less than $1 per box), and switched to bar soap to wash my body, which you can find at your local health food store or drug store. Since then, I’ve felt just as clean, if not more!

This method of personal care is super easy and affordable, and you’ll know you’re treating your body right!

Here’s how to use baking soda as a substitute for shampoo:

  1. Mix 1 part baking soda to three parts warm water in a bottle (I wouldn’t advise using a jar, as it could break while you’re in the shower) and shake well. When all the baking soda has dissolved, it should look like regular water.
  2. In the shower, pour it over your hair and, if desired, massage it into your scalp(it won’t foam up like regular shampoo).
  3. Let it sit in your hair for 2-3 minutes. During this time I like to turn off the water and wash the rest of my body while I wait.
  4. Wash out the mixture thoroughly. Repeat if your hair doesn’t feel clean enough. Warning: Do not get the baking soda mixture in your eyes!

Here’s how to substitute conditioner with apple cider vinegar:

  1. Combine 1 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part water and mix well.
  2. In the shower, pour over your head (careful not to get any in your eyes) and rinse out immediately. You should notice that your hair will feel smoother. To the skeptics: your hair will not smell like vinegar all day! The smell should go away once your hair is completely dry.

Something to consider: This method won’t work for every hair type, so I encourage you to do some research to find what works best for you! photo 2 (2)

An alternative to baking soda is something called castile soap, a natural soap made
of oils, such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, and hemp oil. It smells great and foams up just like shampoo!

Happy bathing!

Easy Bathroom Swap #1

Hey guys! I know I’ve only just begun this blog, but I’ve been making sustainable switches all summer! Here is just one thing I have done in the bathroom to be more environmentally conscious:

Once my family had used up all of the floss in our floss container, instead of running out to the store to buy more, I simply popped open the container and rolled some sewing thread inside of it. It’s super easy, cheap, and works pretty well!

photo 2photo (1)

A little about my goal and me…

Greetings, millennials(and friends of millennials)!

This is my very first attempt at anything even remotely
related to a blog, so bear with me as I try to figure out my first post.

photo (3)

BUT, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sarah. I am 16 years old and an incoming high school senior from Central New Jersey. I have been studying ballet for thirteen years (currently recovering from an injury), and I consider myself as a bit of an environmental activist.

Through founding and co leading my school’s Environmental Club, I have developed a passion for the Earth and bringing my peers closer to it. I strive to live a life in tune to my values. Because what are we really doing if we don’t make that a priority? How can something actually be important to us if we do nothing for the causes we so passionately talk about?

Having these thoughts has lead me and my family to embark upon a mission: to drastically reduce our trash production.

Through this blog, I hope to:

  1. Document my efforts, as well as my family’s, to reduce our trash and overall environmental impact.
  2. Empower other people in my age group (aka millennials) to be educated and environmentally conscious consumers.
  3. Enable people to re-think all aspects of their trash: I want people to understand the part they play in the trash problem(I mean, we all contribute), where their trash goes and comes from, how to reduce it, and how trash is interconnected with other environmental issues. For instance, climate change is, in part, caused by trash. Think about the life cycle of your trash: Raw materials have to be extracted from the earth, transported to a factory, then probably brought to another factory, then to a manufacturer, then (most likely) overseas, then to a distributor, then to a store in your area. Then you buy it, drive home with it, use the product and throw away the trash, which a garbage collector has to drive to your house to collect and then drive to a facility that will drive it to a landfill. How much carbon do you think is involved in that process?
  4. Share tips on how to live more sustainably, and hopefully learn a thing or two from you guys as well!

I’m not here to say that I, or my family, is going to be absolutely perfect. In fact, there are limitations (due to the selection of stores in our area) that will prevent us from, for example, getting things such as dairy and meat without packaging. Nor am I saying that I know everything about the zero waste life style, recycling, trash, the environment, or environmental politics. In fact, if you catch me saying something incorrect, or improperly executing a sustainable practice, by all means let me know!

This blog is here to document, empower, and educate. I sincerely hope you enjoy it!