Storing Leftovers Without Waste

I am sitting on my couch feeling good. The kind of good that only comes after you have consumed Thanksgiving leftovers with more voracity than Thanksgiving dinner itself.

I am soooo happpyyyyyy.

Okay, anyway. Leftovers. My family always has leftovers and we all fight one another to take them home. But, if not prepared, leftovers can be synonymous with copious amounts of plastic tupperware and unnecessary trash. No bueno. Not good for your health, not good for your food, and definitely not good for the environment.

How do I combat the tupperware troubles? Mason jars, duh!

This Thanksgiving I went to my mom’s house prepared. I was stocked with six large mason jars, the perfect number for holding all of the stuffing, sweet potato, mashed potato, gravy, etc., that I wanted with absolutely no waste created! Plus, look how gorgeous those colors are! My fridge will look like fall all week (okay, who am I kidding, this won’t last longer than the weekend). 

So the next time you head to your family’s house for the holidays, remember to bring your jars (and your boyfriend to carry them)! Your stomach, and the earth, will thank you.


Two Months of Trash

Here it is. All of the trash that I have produced over the past two months.
The contents: (bold is new this month)

  • One package of Organic active dry yeast from when I made some ginger beer (I now buy yeast in bulk)
  • Three safety seals from vitamins that I purchased (my doctor told me that I was vitamin D and B12 defficient. I also purcahsed E and Iron)
  • A piece of green plastic (in the roll), not sure where it came from
  • A piece of plastic wrap
  • A sticker from bulk bread that I purchased at whole foods
  • Some produce stickers (notice-there are less because I used a lot of them to make an upcycled holiday ornament!) 

One Month of Trash

This is all of the trash I have produced in the past month. A bunch of produce stickers (the worst), one price sticker from Whole Foods when I bought unpackaged bread, one plastic baggie (it was from before I started my Zero Waste journey, but it is unusable now so it would go to landfill, one yellow plastic “PULL” thing, I have no idea where it came from, and one wrapper from an ink cartridge held together by a rubber band that I will reuse. 


Two Weeks of Trash

This post has been a long time coming. Over the past two weeks I have kept all of my trash in a mason jar to start documenting my output. I am going to keep doing this until the end of the year and see how little I can produce!

So this is it. I have a small pile of about 7 produce stickers (which I am still trying to figure out how to avoid), and a sticker from a loose organic bread I bought at Whole Foods last week (unfortunately, they won’t let you buy the bread without the sticker). From now on I am going to go to the Bread Alone stand at the farmers market to buy Organic bread because it is totally package free, sticker free, and cheaper! Can’t beat it.

The picture below is where I am keeping my trash to document how much I am producing.


What is Waste, Anyway?

How do I define waste?

Probably the most obvious question that I have never answered. But do do so, I first wanted to see how others define waste to better understand what I consider it to be:

  • Waste(s) is a pejorative term for unwanted materials. The term can be described as subjective and inaccurate because waste to one person is not waste to another.
  • United Nations  Statistics Division: Wastes are materials that are not prime products (that is products produced for the market) for which the initial user has no further use in terms of his/her own purposes of production, transformation or consumption, and of which he/she wants to dispose. Wastes may be generated during the extraction of raw materials, the processing of raw materials into intermediate and final products, the consumption of final products, and other human activities. Residuals recycled or reused at the place of generation are excluded.
  • United Nations Environment Programme: Wastesare substances or objects, which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law
  • Touse, consume, spend, or expend thoughtlessly or carelessly

The first thing that I realized is that waste means different things to different people which makes it so incredibly difficult to define. My sentiment is that I am trying to invest in items that will never need to be discarded (besides food waste, but part of that is biological and far beyond my control). Because of this, I see waste as anything that a person discards with no intention of having it be re-purposed, even if it unknowingly will be at some point in the future. So using this idea, this is my definition of waste:

Waste, for the purpose of this definition, will be point source, meaning if it is discarded by the current owner/holder with the intent of going to landfill. To that, it is anything a person plans to throw away or anything a person deems obsolete that is then discarded in a manner where it will not be intended for re-purposing or reuse even if it unknowingly will be at some point in the future.

So for now, this is how I view waste. Thus, when I say I am not trying to produce any, it means that I will not directly or purposefully send anything to landfill or dispose of anything that is not intentionally intended for reuse such as compost or recyclables.


Zero Waste, No-Tape Gift Wrapping

My step mother had her birthday party over the weekend. Not only is she the amazing mother of my beautiful two year old sister, she is an aspiringmidwife who is a living encyclopedia of all things… well… anatomical. To celebrate her birthday and to play on her interests, I found this handmade pillow on Etsy which could not be a more fitting gift for her.

When I think of “gift wrap” I think of overstimulating patterns, shimmery ribbon, and lots and lots of waste. It is definitely a predicament when you still want to adhere to the traditional “surprise” sentiment when giving them. My solution? As easy as going downstairs to my building’s recycling room. It is always full of clean newspapers, tissue paper, and kraft paper which are all fantastic wrapping alternatives. I was lucky to find a big piece of beautiful brown paper that reminds me of traditional ye olde country store wrapping. That plus some biodegradable twine that I picked up at my local hardware store works perfectly!

For Zero Waste gift wrapping you will need:
-upcycled paper (newspaper, tissue paper, kraft paper)
-biodegradable twine

Position your gift in the wrapping and determine how much you will need

Trim away the extra

Save it for another gift!

Fold sides like you would a typical gift

Put the twine under the gift in the same direction as the folded sides. Tucking the pre-folded sides pull the twine towards the center, cross them and then pull towards the other sides and flip like you would string on any gift. Knot on the top to secure.

I secured this gift with some dried lavender from the farmers market that I keep in my apartment, it smells fantastic! No tape needed!


Why You Should ALWAYS drink Organic Wine

Have you ever heard that cheap wine gives you headaches and hangovers? Well, it might be an old wives tale, but it has some actual legitimacy for a very simple reason: Sulfites.

What are sulfites?

Sulfites are chemical compounds of sulfur. They are used as food preservatives and have antioxidant and preservative properties 1. They are used on fruits and vegetables to prevent browning, on shrimp and lobster to prevent melanosis or brown spots, wines to prevent bacterial growth, in dough as a conditioner, and to bleach food starches and cherries. They are also used in pharmaceuticals to preserve stability and potency of certain medications.

Please note: Sulfites are different from sulfur.

Sulfur can be a naturally occurring and essential element for humans found around volcanoes and hot springs. “Elemental sulfur was once extracted from salt domes where it sometimes occurs in nearly pure form, but this method has been obsolete since the late 20th century. Today, almost all elemental sulfur is produced as a byproduct of removing sulfur-containing contaminants from natural gas and petroleum” 2.

While Sulfur has been used in winemaking for centuries, sulfites recently became a major ingredient in wine as an additive to stop bacteria oxidation a.k.a. a preservative and as a sterilization tool.

Sulfites absorb oxygen and prevent aerobic bacterial growth that would otherwise convert ethanol into acetic acid, souring the wine.

While some sulfties naturally occur in the fermentation process, added sulfites used in winemaking are a residue of natural gas and petroleum crude 3.

Okay, so drinking natural gas sounds gross, but is it bad for you?

Sulfites have been used as a food additive since 1664. The problem? Sulfites, in many cases, are used excessively and are known to have adverse health consequences. It has been suspected that a percentage of the population has a sulfite sensitivity that can induce reactions that range from mild to severe 4.

The FDA estimates that 1 out of 100 Americans or around 3,139,000 people are sulfite sensitive and that 5 out of 100 asthmatics are sulfite sensitive.

Sensitivity to sulfites can develop at any time during a person’s lifespan with some reactions being delayed and not showing up until a person’s forties or fifties. Sulfite sensitivity can manifest in many forms including dermatolical, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular symptoms 5.

Is sulfite usage regulated?

The legal maximum sulfite level for U.S. wines is 350 ppm, with most wines averaging about 125 ppm. Naturally occurring levels of sulfur dioxide in a wine, without chemical additives, would weigh in at around 10-20 ppm.

On July 8, 1986 the FDA banned the use of sulfite preservatives in fresh vegetables and fruits that were intended to be served raw because they were linked to deaths and many illnesses 6. Additionally, Sulfites cannot be used in
products such as meats that serve as a good source of vitamin B1 because sulfites can scavenge that vitamin from foods.

Since 1987, the FDA has required that sulfites must be declared in cases when concentrations exceed 10ppm 7. According to the International Center for Alcohol Policies, the USA is required to disclose or declare sulfites in alcohol 8.

(They are also required to do the same for aspartame, a known carcinogen, which I didn’t even know was in alcohol).

Food products that contain undeclared sulfites above 10 ppm will be subject to the following potential recall actions 9:

Class I (greater than or equal to 10mg) recalls are the most serious and involve situations where there is a reasonable probability that exposure to the violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or deaths. FDA is aware of deaths occurring among sulfite-sensitive asthmatics

Class II (3.7 -9.9 mg) recalls include situations where exposure to the violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is rare

Class III (less than 3.7mg) recalls includes situations where exposure to the violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.recalls includes situations where exposure to the violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences

Is one wine safer than another?

Sweet white dessert wines contain the most sulfites, then blush wines and semi-sweet white wines coming in at a close second. The middle ground is a dry white wine. Dry red wines have the lowest sulfite levels. Additionally beer, cocktail mixes, and wine coolers also may contain sulfites.

My advice, avoid anything with sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or sodium sulfite on the label and go with Organic. Organic wines, by definition, do not have any added chemicals, including sulfites so you can rest assured that you are not drinking natural gas or putting yourself at potential risk of sulfite induced illness.

*NOTE: The FDA regulates the use of sulfites in drugs and food, while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use of sulfites in meat and poultry. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) regulates the use of sulfites in alcoholic beverages and the use of sulfur dioxide as a fungicide on grapes comes under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

*NOTE: When you try to SEARCH sulfite on the ATF website, nothing comes up.

*NOTE NOTE: On the FDA Food Additivies and Ingredients list, food starches contain sulfur dioxide, sodium metabisulfite is found in fruit
jellies, sodium sulfite is is also used as a boiler additive.