Monday, March 11, 2019

Week Four of ZW: getting creative

It's the fourth week of my challenge and for this week I again weighed the household trash...under four pounds. I still can't believe that is all the trash we are producing. The recycling was 7 items: 4 beer bottles, 1 glass juice jar, 1 plastic tub, and 1 plastic dishwasher goo bottle. I'm not keeping track of paper recycling except to notice that the amount is steady (neither bin is overflowing). Nor am I keeping track of composting except to say that I am very conscious of dividing it into two categories: things chickens can eat and things that no one should eat, thus they go in the compost pile.

If the purpose of this experiment is to decrease the amount of waste we may have hit the wall. Some of the things that are becoming waste are non-negotiable and I'm not sure I can do better than the four pounds (remember the average American creates 4.4 lbs. A DAY). 

As a reminder, I shop with three things in mind: 1. our health, 2. our money, and 3. the environment.

Two of the items that continually end up in the trash are directly related to our health. For example, I honestly believe that raw goat's milk is the key to keeping my gut healthy. Raw milk is safe, but needs to be filtered to remove bits of hay or skin or hair. Filtering the milk is mandatory for our health and safety and I have chosen the best option for that. 

Also, this week I noticed that a large portion of the kitchen waste was plastic meat wrappers. Bea Johnson advocates for taking your glass containers up to the meat counter and having them put your selections directly in your own jar. Because I insist on local, grassfed/pastured meats and those are packaged in plastic I don't see a way around this one. Because my insistence on grassfed/pastured/local is in many ways a health choice, I'm not willing to compromise on this one. 

After reading several articles about countries banning the import of American recycling waste (India and China) I'm trying to think of ways to replace or repurpose the few recycling items. Since I'm a notorious kook I'll try all kinds of weird and odd things, so I decided that glass bottles are going to become a flower bed edge. I surfed pinterest and found all kinds of interesting things, so I'm going to try it. See below.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Week Three of ZW: Decidedly Below Average

This week's groceries (plus there was meat).

Well, at the end of week three I find that I'm below average....well below average, in my production of trash that is. Though there are varying numbers out there most sources  (including the EPA) report an average of 4.4 lbs of trash is created per person per day. AI YI YI. Since I had that number to work with AND my husband (who is not on board) filled the kitchen trash to beyond what would fit in a jar, I decided to weigh the trash this week instead of using the jar.

I knew the daily average was 4.4 pounds, so I calculated a week's worth of trash would be 30.8 pounds (yep, I can multiply). My husband was only home 1.5 days, so he gets 6.6 pounds added to my 30.8 for a household total of 37.4 IF we were like average Americans. 

I weighed all the trash, not just the kitchen trash this week, but ALL of it. Then I weighed the recycling items. Our total was 6 pounds....SIX pounds (I was using a bathroom scale, so no fractions).  That means that we were 31.4 pounds below the national average. Now, normally I wouldn't want to be below average...come on, who wants to be below average, but in this case I am quite proud of this.

I've been both focused on zero waste shopping and remembering my bags, both totes and produce bags. I've been using reusable totes for years and years and rarely forget those, though it used to happen now and again when I drove several different cars. Now that I drive just my one car for groceries, I keep them in the back at all times. 

Using the produce bags is a new habit I'm developing...those get forgotten a lot because I like to wash them after I use them and sometimes forget to put them back in the car. I'm working on that habit and so far, so good. I only have one complaint about the ones I have and that is that some of them are really stretchy...if you put apples or potatoes in them they get all wobbly and long and wonky and I just don't like it. They work fine, but I'm always annoyed. When these wear out I'm going to get some organic cotton mesh ones that appear a little more sturdy. (This post contains Amazon Affiliate links that pay me a small percentage if you use them. Proceeds will be used to support the farm).

Besides ditching the plastic produce bags, I'm trying another plastic alternative. Even though we stopped using plastic wrap way back because that shit is just annoying as hell, all sticking to itself and whatnot. Then of course later I started freaking out about plastic near my food, so cling wrap was never really something I used, but there were always times when I wished I did. Enter Bee's Wrap. Bee's Wrap is organic cotton coated with beeswax that molds to various shapes and can be used just like plastic cling wrap or aluminum foil. I bought several sizes to try: this 3 pack in purple, this big one for bread, and this little sandwich one (I bought it for the cute button, I'll admit). Although I usually use Pyrex to store things in the fridge occasionally something just doesn't fit (I'm looking at you half a cabbage), this Bee's Wrap allowed me to use a bigger bowl that didn't have a lid. 

In addition to dabbling in the Zero Waste world (which I think we all know by now is impossible, so we should call it the Minimal Waste World) I've been overhauling my diet. After ten years I'm finally starting to get some definitive answers about my health. Suffice it to say that I'm collecting autoimmune issues. 

Since my doctor recommended Isabella Wentz's website and going gluten free as a first step...I dove right in and started her Hashimoto's Protocol. I'm not usually one to buy into things so completely but after a decade of feeling like shit I'm ready to try anything (oh wait, I have tried lots of things, lots and lots of things). Since I usually don't buy in completely and I rarely trust a single source, I've read Terry Wahls' book and Amy Myers for comparison. With the exception of some very tiny things (like caffeine vs no caffeine, and the order in which you should attack the problem) they concur on all major points. 

Overhauling my diet means that some of the convenient food things I just used to cave and buy haven't made it into our shopping cart in the last two weeks. Armed with a couple of new cookbooks (okay, it might be more like several cookbooks) and a new focus on cooking and health and we just aren't bringing it any trash and I'm starting to feel better than average!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Week Two of ZW

This past week (I'm measuring Monday to Monday) was a pretty normal week. I was home all week and the hubby had a pretty normal version of his schedule too. I might add that the hubby isn't very "on board" with this experiment which means I'm digging through trash cans to pull out recycling and such. ICK. 

Two weeks of kitchen trash....not bad.
I'm still focused on the kitchen so the two little quarts of trash that represent the two weeks of kitchen trash are just that, only the kitchen. I plan to tackle the bathroom soon, but for now I'm focused on the kitchen. I've shopped with zero waste in mind now three times. It is a tiny bit more complicated, but I think with time it will just be second nature. 

Yesterday I hit the local HEB for just a few items. Mostly I needed salad makings and some veg to go with chicken. I didn't want to go to two stores, but I knew that I was taking a chance at HEB. They really seem to think that produce has to be wrapped in plastic or in bags. I ended up getting lettuce (which was very small and sad), an avocado, and broccoli because those were the only things that weren't wrapped in plastic. I really wanted some red/yellow/orange bell pepper, but it was not to time I won't be so lazy and I'll go to Kroger where most of the produce is loose. Lesson learned.

Since I'm focused on the kitchen I've been cleaning out the cupboards. Despite having a long-term "thing" about plastic I still found some that had to go...where did that random green bowl come from?

BUH-BYE donut maker (Plastic and lined with teflon...more about that later) and buh-bye popsicle doo-walkers. I'll admit that I wanted to keep the donut maker, but honestly I have one donut recipe and I've used it three times in about three years. Pretty sure I'm not going to miss that gadget and it freed up some space in the gadget cabinet. 

One side effect of this experiment is that we are eating more fresh food each day...we've always eaten pretty well, but when you take tater tots off the menu you have to replace it with an actual potato. We didn't eat much packaged food but I can guess (and I'll own it when it comes up) that there will be things that we continue to buy in plastic rather than give them up forever. We haven't knocked on that door yet as we are still using a lot of what we have in the pantry and freezer. When things start running out we will see what we can do to limit the plastic in the replacement items. 

As I said before, my husband is not really on board with this. He stopped at the grocery store on his way home and came home with a paper bag and a couple of plastic bags (one for bread and one for tomatoes). I can't get all wracked up about it...he was in the city and I wasn't. He was driving by Central Market, it made sense to stop, but it also made clear to me that for this method of shopping to work for everyone you have to keep the bags in the car. I do, he doesn't. It took months for me to remember to take my bags in when I started using re-usable bags many years I'm struggling to remember to put the produce bags back in the car after I wash them. It all comes with time and I have to be gentle with myself. If I forget I'm not going to beat myself up; I'm just going to do the best that I can.

The rest of our trash and recycling looked about the same as the week before (I sum it up after four weeks...before we take it to the recycling center). We had a few beer bottles, 3-4 plastic containers, and two tin cans (which is now four can lids because I cut out top and bottom to use the can to protect seedlings). Again, it was windy and we collect quite a bit of trash that was blowing in from the neighbors...that irks me, but I'm easily irked so it doesn't mean much. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

ZW To-Go

This post contain Amazon Affiliate links...if you purchase something using one of these links I received a small percentage which will go towards running Owl Tree Farm.

Last weekend I traveled two hours to visit the Mother Earth News Fair. I'm kind of notorious for bringing my lunch/own food so it will come as no surprise to anyone that I planned to pack all my meals. I'm so picky in fact I've been called out for not eating anything at a potluck but those things that I brought myself. I AM picky. I won't lie. I expect a certain quality of food. I have high standards and I don't eat gluten or much sugar or anything processed.

Since I left before lunch on Friday I needed three lunches, two dinners, and two breakfasts. I spent a good part of Thursday figuring it out and packing it, but it was (overall) a success.

I've been carrying my lunch for years and years and during that time my kit has morphed. I cringe to think of the cheap plastic containers, stained and nubby, that I put in microwaves for those first years. As I learned more about plastics and their potential for leaching toxic chemicals into my food I began making changes.

First, I began collecting Pyrex. Made in the USA, glass, plastic lids for storage. Although these days I'm not too wild about any plastic near my food, the Pyrex lid is never used to heat and it is only used for storage. I used to say these were damn-near impossible to break, but I've broken one recently on our concrete floors. It breaks like safety glass...zillions of pieces (I suspect there are still some under the fridge).

I like the 1 cup, 2 cup, and 4 cup rounds and the 3 cup rectangle. We have other sizes but these are the most used.

Good Old Pyrex

For this past weekend, I carried my dinners in Pyrex. One 4 cup with salad and a rectangle with meat and roasted vegetables. Perfect. You can find those here and here.

For breakfast, I took oatmeal (already cooked) in the 2 cup. You can find it here.

I didn't buy these all at once, but slowly built up over time. As I acquired more glass I phased out the plastic. We now are able to use all glass.

Recently I discovered Lunch Bots. I wanted a thermos type container to take to work. The one with the purple lid is perfect for oatmeal or soup and it definitely keeps it hot.  

The little blue ones I bought when I was looking for something that wouldn't leak. I'm kind of addicted to almond butter and the brand I like is runnier than some of the others. I can only imagine the horror of the oily leaky mess that could make, so I got these little Lunch Bots with gaskets.
Lunch Bots! (no leaking!!!!)

You can find the bigger Lunch Bot here and the smaller one here.

Now, if you know me in person you will know that I have been carrying a refillable water bottle forever. FOR EVER. I just don't drink anything but "home water" if I can help it. I carried plastic bottles in the beginning, then upgraded to the non-BPA bottles from the same brand, but then decided to go with stainless steel.

Klean Kanteen
When I switched to stainless I bought two Klean Kanteens. I have a small and large. I LOVE my Klean Kanteen (though I hate that cute K spelling. What is wrong with Clean Canteen?) and it goes with me everywhere. The silver one is an very old friend and is very well can tell by the dents. They make the same one, but it is redesigned, so it looks different. This is just a single wall so it doesn't maintain cold/hot temps You can get it here.

The pretty teal one is new and insulated. Y'all know I need at least two cups of chai latte to get through the morning and this dude keeps it hot. The only thing I don't like is the cap is plastic and the drinking hole only lets out a sip. I need to guzzle it. With that said, I really like this bottle for ice water. You can get one like it here. It comes in 12, 16, and 20 oz.

As if lugging around water bottles isn't enough I generally have one, possible two cups along too. When I travel I take my GRAYL filter (tha'st the one on the right). I HATE the taste of municipal water supplies especially those that reek of chlorine and these days don't much trust it to be safe anyway (I don't care what they say). This filter gets rid of all the nasties...those that naturally occur like virus/bacteria, but also things like lead.

The GRAYL filters about 2 cups at a time which can get tedious, but it is worth it because it makes undrinkable water palatable enough to get it down. I only carry this when I'm staying somewhere overnight, but is doesn't weigh anything so it would be feasible to just carry this instead of a water bottle and filter as you need it. You can get it here.

The current It Cup is the Yeti and we have several. I have one for water and one for my hot tea...I can usually be seen double-fisting my drinks because I live on water and chai. Here's a link to the powder coated 30 oz tumbler (the big one)...please note, if you are lazy like me and put the cup (not the lid) in the dishwasher, the powder coating does start to chip off. Oops! My bad. The smaller one, the 20 oz., is perfect for a cup of tea. Keeps it hot until noon if you put the lid on. I only wish I had bought the plain stainless one (since I'm wrecking the powder coating...). Here's the link to the plain one that I wish I had.

The final To-Go item is my Zebra. This is a stainless steel, two compartment lunchbox that is generous in size and easy to pack and carry. I found one of these at Goodwill for $5.00 and having never seen it before had no idea they existed. I had a tiffen in the past that was so hard to pull apart that I (after slinging my food across a few lunchrooms) parted it out and abandoned it as a stack. This one is easy-peasy to handle, BUT it would leak if you had anything juicy in there. I've used it for salad (without the dressing on it), chopped veggies, boiled eggs, sliced get the picture. It is perfect for a cold lunch. (Use your Pyrex if you need to heat something).

Since there are two of us and we occasionally both need to pack lunch I bought a second one at Amazon. You can find it here.

Zebra Food Carrier
Whew! That's a lot of "stuff" but you don't have to do it all at once. Since I'm trying my hand at reducing our waste I thought I should share how I like to pack my food to travel. I have several other to-go things that I use but don't love....these are the things that I LOVE, the things that I don't travel without. I would never recommend something that I can't stand behind and these products are all Jen Approved. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Week One of ZW, sort of.

Well, I picked a terrible week to start measuring/weighing our trash and recycling. We were both gone for half the week, so we weren't here to put things in the bins.

For the last week when I was going to be measuring our trash we were only home four of seven days which means that there is NO way this is representative of a typical week, but I still "measured" it.

The kitchen trash which is where everything ends up filled one quart jar. ONE quart jar and there were three things in it that weren't ours (farm sitter's granola bar wrappers and a hostess cupcake wrapper that blew in from somewhere).

Bathroom trash gets dumped once a week. It was a tiny amount...a empty tube of toothpaste, some wipes, and two contact lens doohickeys.

In the glass recycling there were three beer bottles (part of the kitchen trash was packets from the hubs brewing a batch of homebrew beer, so while there was some trash made it was in the interest of not having bottles to recycle. Although glass is my first choice when I'm shopping because it is infinitely recyclable, it is heavy and a drag to haul around.)

In the plastic recycling there were three things. One supplement bottle from me and two gallon jugs that blew in from somewhere and lodged against our fence.

In the metal recycling there were two things. A pie pan and a roasting pan, both aluminum. The pie plate I jettisoned when I found it wedged at the back of a cabinet (not sure why we had such a thing as we use glass/ceramic pie plates). The roasting pan was another thing that blew in from somewhere else....are you seeing a pattern here. Other people's crap makes up about half of our recycling from last week. WTF? We are running a farm and farms are notorious for being junky, but guess what? While everyone else's crap was blowing around and lodging against our fences, our own trash was secured. We spend a lot of time picking up crap that other people loose on the world.

I downgraded the paper recycling to a smaller bin in hopes that I would be motivated to take it more often. We filled half of the new, smaller bin and the shredder is full.

While these aren't accurate as benchmarks, they at least give me a snapshot of four normal days. We didn't do anything differently, just business as usual.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Five Rs and the Art of Saying NO

I've spent the last week pondering Bea Johnson's five Rs....her reworking of the "reduce/reuse/recycle" mantra of the current "Green" movement. The chasing arrows that indicate that a product is recyclable have lulled us into a false sense of responsibility in regards to our consumption. I know for myself that I always think, "Well, it's recyclable" and I move on. I mentioned suffering from eco-guilt if I don't dispose of things properly in a past post, but this week I've been readjusting my thinking. It is erroneous to think that recycling is going to save us, the planet, our health, etc. 

Bea Johnson's first R is REFUSE. I've spent the better part of that last two years reminding myself to say NO to over scheduling, extra tasks, social things, spending money, shopping, etc. Just say NO has been my motto, but as with most things I started strong and then fizzled along the way. This year, since I find myself with time on my hands, I am committing to doing this right.
In the office: the epicenter of clutter.
I spent my week tidying up the house and analyzing some of my clutter, especially in the kitchen and pantry. I was looking at the habits that I have built that are keeping me from being healthy (both mentally and physically), saving money, and "doing the right thing" for the earth. I had little piles of things that I wanted to reuse...let's call those the "good for something if I never use them" piles. I had jars, tin cans, and plastic containers in this category. I also had two bins of plastic bags...some of which I erroneously thought could not be recycled so I was saving them to reuse somehow. All of these piles caused me distress both in the burden of clutter and in the eco-guilt. As I cleaned out and reluctantly put those items in the recycling bin, I educated myself about recycling (#2 and #4 can go with plastic shopping bags at the store front bins at HEB) AND made a list of things that I either need to give up or learn how to make myself (okay, I actually know how to make most of things on my list I've just fallen into the trap of quick and convenient).

In the Sewing Room: the epicenter of CHAOS.
REFUSE: Since all of my goals start with being healthier both mentally and physically I'm excited to try my hand at more drastic refusing. It just makes the most sense...If I don't ever bring it in I will not have to haul it out (or nag my husband to make a run to the recycling center which is soooo bad for my mental health).

REDUCE: This week's assessment and the resulting list of products that I can reduce my use of in order to avoid the packaging will actually force us to cook more and in so doing will hopefully find us eating just a tiny bit better (we already eat pretty well....but, um, tater tots?!?!).

REUSE: In my "good for something" hoard of things I had tin cans that I intended to cut the bottoms from to use as collars to prevent cut worms from getting to my seedlings. Turns out those cans had a weird rolled edge on the bottom and my can opener wouldn't snap on. Recycled. The plastic containers were thinned out (and I made of list of things to made instead of buy: hummus, I love you). I kept enough plastic containers to make sure we could put food and water in a quarantine pen for a sick chicken (we've had to do this several times) and I kept a couple of sturdier things, because well, you never know this is a farm after all). As for the glass jars, I soaked and peeled labels....I only kept the ones that came completely clean and had metal lids. Those are in the pantry for reuse (Mayonaise tops the list for things I need to make).

RECYCLE: Everything else went in the recycling bin. Sadly I also spent my week reading and watching documentaries and I know that recycling (which used to make me feel good about our lifestyle) is not the answer.

ROT: Bea Johnson's final R is ROT. She means compost. Now if you don't already know, I'm the Queen of Compost. The High Priestess of Soil Building. The CEO of Closed Loops. So, I've got this one.

Tomorrow is Monday and we will empty the trash cans and take the recycling effectively starting with a clean slate. Tuesday is grocery day and I will try my hand at zero waste grocery shopping (I made a trial run last week and it is going to take some getting used to). Next week I'll be keeping track of exactly how much waste we produce...

A quick google search finds that reported waste production per person per day is between 4.4 lbs and 4.6 lbs. The global average is more like 2.6 lbs. (Real sources coming soon). I guess I'm going to be weighing my trash/recycling/compost next week. Until next time, Just say NO.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

If you need motivation to go Plastic Free... this.

This is an Amazon Affiliate clicking this I get a small percentage which will be used to support Owl Tree Farm.