Zero Waste Lunches at Work

A lot of people ask me how I am Zero Waste at work.  I usually say that I bring my lunch to work every day which helps A LOT. A few weeks ago I posted my ultimate zero waste lunch kit with a lot of items from Life Without Plastic.

I save a lot of money by not purchasing lunch every day. My Organic, vegetarian meals cost me maybe three dollars each as opposed to buying lunch with non-organic, potentially GMO, conventional, and miscelaneious ingredients which can cost 8 dollars or more.

I try to make it a habit to make my lunch for the next day right when I get home. It takes about 20 minutes and then I am done and can just grab it and walk out the door in the morning. I usually make huge salads or mix pasta, rice, or cous cous with sautéed vegetables.

I keep apple cider vinegar at my office to use as a dressing so I don’t have to worry about lettuce from my salads wilting.

From the top left going clockwise:

  • Mixed green salad with kale, celery, cucumber, carrot, broccoli, green pepper, chia seeds, and beets: apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing
  • Mixed green salad with radish, kale, celery, cucumber, carrot, broccoli, green pepper, chia seeds, and beets: apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing
  • Mixed green salad with  barbecue tofu, chia seeds, kale, celery, cucumber, carrot, broccoli, green pepper, and beet: apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing
  • Cous cous with radicchio, tomato, green leaf lettuce, and mushrooms
  • Brown rice with kale, tomato, pepper, and avocado
  • Cous cous with mushroom, tomato, squash, and mushroom 

As always, I use:
One airtight stainless steel lunch container 

I got mine from Life Without Plastic. It is great. Totally spill proof, easy to clean, and it has optional dividers so that I can keep my food separate. 

One reusable fork like this one from Life Without Plastic

I also got this from Life Without Plastic. Besides the fact that it is insanely adorable and foldable, it comes in an organic cotton carrying case. I am still deciding whether I should keep it in my bag at all times, or just leave it at work. You could also pick up a fork from the Goodwill or Salvation Army to leave at the office.

One reusable napkin
I use Organic cotton napkins at my house, and I bring one to the office and leave it there for the week and then bring it home to wash it on Friday. So easy. LWP offers a couple options including a book of washable napkins which seem pretty cool although I haven’t tried them.

A couple Organic cotton bags for snacks or sandwiches
(you can also use them for bulk at the market). I use these to buy rice and pasta at the market, but I also use them to carry granola, nuts, popcorn or even a sandwich to work. They are super lightweight and washable.

One mason jar, glass, or stainless steel canteen
I leave a stainless steel water bottle at work and just wash it in the sink. I also leave a mason jar for hot liquids like coffee. You could also bring a glass from home or purchase one at your local thrift shop for under a dollar. P.S. if you drink iced coffee or tea, you might want to invest in a stainless steel straw. I LOVE mine.


Why I Let my Fridge go Bare

I recently read an NRDC report that said 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month adding up to over $165 billion each year. HOLY $#*^. I could get SO MANY JARS WITH THAT MONEY!!!!! So where does all of this food end up? Almost all of it in the landfill where food matter accounts for 16 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Methane, that gas that is driving climate change and destroying the planet…yep, that one.

I come from a mom who comes from a mom that wouldn’t let her leave the table until she finished everything on her plate. I never had that problem (I have always had a hefty appetite) but the idea of not wasting food is one that I grew up with. It just doesn’t make sense. Composting rotten food turns it into nutrient rich soil that you can use to produce nutrient rich food with. DUH! So why send it to the landfill where it won’t turn into anything but gas and wasted space?

I prevent that by saying NO, THANKS to food waste. While some dream of endlessly bountiful fridges overflowing with produce, I pride myself on letting my fridge go bare every week. At 22 years old, I get enjoyment out of scrounging together meals from “nothing” because it means that I have used up everything in my house and prevented any waste. For instance, tonight. My fridge, to many, could have seemed totally empty and a trip to the store or a takeout call would have been in order, but to me there was a big opportunity for a great meal.

Armed with half an onion, some dried peas, a handful of wilty kale, a few shriveled mushrooms, three potatoes that were starting to dry up and some dried rosemary I made split pea soup and rosemary roasted potatoes. Besides being insanely delicious, there is now enough food in my fridge to feed me for the next two days. I’m saving money, time, and preventing wasting food that could have been destined for compost.

Part of living a Zero Waste lifestyle is using up everything I have before buying anything new. The same ideology is applied to my food. By stocking up on staples like rice, dried peas, and dried beans, I can stretch any perishable by challenging when it should be decommissioned and making it into a hearty meal. Then, the only thing I am tossing into my compost are things like potato skins, onion peels, and coffee grounds. What happens to it then? It hangs out with some worms for a while until it is done cookin’ and is used to grow more food or fertilize some awesome NYC flowers. Total win.


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.


Zero Waste Coffee

I love coffee. I drink it every day and have since I was about 15 years old. It was my saving grace in college and kept me sentient during many a sleepless night. Unfortunately, my addiction love, for coffee used to come with a high price tag, both for me and for the environment.

I used to buy my coffee every day from the cafeteria in my high school. I would buy 1-2 cups every morning and the styrofoam cups and plastic lids that it came in would go straight to landfill. It got a little bit better my freshman year of college when I lived in Paris. I used a french press, very authentic, and would drink my coffee at home before class, only to end up having to buy another once I got through my 9am 3 hour french lesson, can you blame me? Then, my sophomore year of college when I was back in NYC, I purchased a Keurig. I thought it was great. My semi-watery coffee was ready in 20 seconds, I could choose from an infinite list of exotic flavors, and I didn’t have to clean anything. I could just fill up the back of some plastic thing, wait a few seconds, and then toss out another little plastic thing. It was so easy and I had no idea how wasteful I was being. I just knew I was semi-caffeinated and that was enough for me.

Then, one August day my junior year of college, my mom brought me over a pumpkin roast that was pre-ground. It smelled like a mix of every bit of fall nostalgia that I ever had. The problem was that I could not make it in my Keurig, so I unearthed the completely glass and metal french press that I had purchased in Paris. I filled it up with boiling water, coffee and waited a few minutes. Even at first sip I could not believe it. It was so much more flavorful and rich than the single serve coffee that I had been drinking. I had truly forgotten how wonderful coffee could be. A few days later, I sold my Keurig on Craigslist and relied solely on my french press. I haven’t used anything else since.

Now that I am working and have to be up at 7am, coffee is everything. Including expensive. I just graduated, have an entry level job, and get paid a very, very entry level salary. While some people buy coffee every day, I simply can’t afford it, and even if I could, I still wouldn’t buy it out. Why? It is a waste of money, plus, I really think my coffee tastes better and I know exactly where it comes from because I buy Equal Exchange brand in bulk at my local market. My morning cup takes 8 minutes to make (four for the water to boil, and four for it to brew) and I can get ready during 6 of the 8 of them. It is an easy Zero Waste operation and I like it that way.

Now I make my coffee in my french press every day before work, and it pays off. A survey conducted by Accounting Principles showed that 50% of the American workforce spends $1,000 per
year on coffee which is much more than I spend on my multiple cups of organic, fair-trade coffee that I take to work in a mason jar. Here is my coffee breakdown…

-One pound of bulk Organic Fair-Trade coffee every week and a half for $10.00- $347.00/ year
-Organic milk purchased every week and a half for $5- $173.00/ year
-Bulk Organic sugar every three months for $11- $44.00/ year

Total:   $564.00 

The total is $564.00 for coffee and the works for my boyfriend and I every day of the year, so it would be even less for one! Subtract that from $1000.00 and you get $436.00 of savings. That money breaks down to about seven weeks of groceries for me, an obvious reason for me to make my coffee at home.

So there you have it. I get my milk, sugar, and coffee for over four hundred dollars less than 50% of the American workforce and it is waste free because I compost the grounds after!


Zero Waste Pasta Recipe

On my way to a friend’s wedding, I stopped at the 4th Street Food Co-op to buy some bulk Organic olive oil (so far the only place in the city where I can find it), and ended up leaving with a free squash. A squash the size and girth of a bowling ball. AKA the most awkward thing try and conceal at a wedding.

Five days later I roasted off the squash and decided to tackle something I had never before attempted. Ravioli.

I used the pasta recipe below that is from Anne Burrell’s cookbook called cook like a rock star, a gift from my friend Chelsea and the most used cookbook in my collection. I created the filling by pureeing the roasted squash with maple syrup, salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, olive oil, and garlic (zero measurements, totally by taste as I had no idea what I was doing) and hoped for the best.

The outcome was magical. It was the best squash ravioli I ever had. The pasta recipe was perfect and could also be used to make spaghetti or other types of cut pastas. I recommend trying it out immediately and impressing everyone you know. With this recipe, I convinced my cousin, who probably thought my cooking skills were equivalent to those of a 7 year old at best, that I am worthy of cooking with the big dogs (her and my 80 year old grandma) at Thanksgiving. This recipe is amazing.

Pasta Dough


  • 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour plus extra for dusting (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 large eggs plus one yolk
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Step 1: Mound the flour on a clean, dry work surface. Make a big hole in the center of the flour pile. Crack the eggs into the hole along with the extra yolk, olive oil, and 2 tbs of water. Season with salt.

Step 2: Using a fork, beat the eggs together with the olive oil, water, and salt, and begin to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture. Be careful not to break the well or the egg mixture will run everywhere and that is gross. 

Continue mixing…

Step 3: When the flour is incorporated and you can handle the dough, use your hands to combine everything. If the mixture is tight and dry, wet your hands a little bit.

Step 4: When the mixture comes together completely as in the picture below, start kneading. When knewading, put your body weight into it and really stretch it. Be careful not to tear it. Roll the mixture over itself. When it’s done it should be smooth. This can take 8-15 minutes. 

Step 5: When the pasta is ready and looks like the picture below, wrap it in a dish towel and let it rest for an hour at room temperature before rolling it out. 

Step 6: Cut the dough into quarters and roll it out. I don’t have a pasta roller or a normal rolling pin, so we used a stainless steel water bottle instead, which worked really well! 

Step 7: Cut the Pasta into your desired shape. For me It was strips and I filled them with my squash mixture. I then wet the edges of the bottom sheet of pasta and put another rolled out sheet of pasta on top. 

Step 8: Using a knife, cut them into individual ravioli squares and sealed the edges with a fork

Step 9: Put them into boiling salted water for about 3 minutes until they floated to the top

Step 10: Drench in sauce (I made brown butter sage sauce for mine), eat, and pat yourself on the back because you made pasta, and you are awesome.


28 Ways to Upcycle a Twist Tie

We all know them, Twist Ties. They come wrapped around veggies or bread and can be found at markets to close plastic bags. They could seem like nothing but trash, but I recently realized that they are far more useful than I ever thought possible.

Here are 28 new ways to use them:

  1. My favorite, to organize unruly cords as shown in the picture above
  2. Hold zippers on luggage together securely when you travel 
  3. Keep the door of your pet’s cage securely closed
  4. Replace buttons instead of thread so they go on, and stay on
  5. Pick locks (I mean don’t) but if you have to… 
  6. Make rings or bracelets with kids 
  7. Repair necklaces by using them as a secure fastener 
  8. Repair glasses where the corner screw has fallen out. Feed the twist tie through the bracket where the screw was lost. Make a loop and twist the ends together. Trim or fold back the extra
  9. Zipper pull 
  10. Hold together washers or bolts so they stay organized
  11. Quick and free picture hanging wire
  12. Stitch holders for a knitting project
  13. Reset buttons on watches, electronics, or cable boxes
  14. Remove hair from an electric razor 
  15. Remove pencil shavings from a sharpener
  16. Organize rolls of tape or ribbon
  17. Organize hair ties, rubber bands, or paper clips
  18. Remove staples that are stuck in a stapler
  19. Unclog glue or paint tubes
  20. Securely hang holiday ornaments to a tree instead of those flimsy hooks
  21. Securely close open bags of food 
  22. Make it into a key ring
  23. Hold together paint brushes, pencils, pens
  24. Temporary or permanent way to hold your pet’s tag to their collar
  25. Bind together pieces of loose leaf paper that have holes in them 
  26. Repair a broken document binding
  27. Secure holiday lights to outdoor trees so they don’t fall in bad weather
  28. Hang or bundle tools

Zero Waste No Bake Energy Bars

When I was in college I ate energy bars almost every day. At nearly 4 dollars a bar, it was not a sustainable habit at all. Not only was I spending way too much money, I was wasting a lot of packaging. Lately I have been focusing on preventing all packaging waste and as a result decided to take a stab at making energy bars. This was the first recipe I tried and it is INSANELY good. It makes a batch of about 15 bars depending on how you cut them, and I gave away some of the extras to my friends who all independently told me I should sell them. Try them out, you won’t be disappointed!

Trash is for Tossers No Bake Energy Bars

1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoon chia seeds
1 cup popped amaranth
1 cup nut butter (almond or peanut butter works) I used peanut
3/4 cup honey

Pop the amaranth (see below for instructions)

Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl one by one

Combine thoroughly using your hands (best part)

Transfer to a 9 x 13 baking pan that is lightly greased with coconut oil to prevent sticking (mine is a glass pyrex)

Refrigerate for a few hours to harden the ingredients

Slice into energy bars and enjoy! These will last for about a month in the refrigerator (but probably not because you will eat them before) or for a long, long time in the freezer.

Also, feel free to add other nuts/fruits in, if the mixture gets too dry add a little bit of honey at a time to get the consistency you want. The world is yours!

Popping Amaranth:
Amaranth is a short-lived perennial flower that produces protein packed seeds like the ones you see below. For this recipe we will be popping the amaranth which is fun and simple and really gives the protein bars a nice, toasted flavor. Heat a pot to medium/high heat and add a few seeds just to see if it is hot enough. When ready, drop in about a tablespoon of the seeds. After a few seconds, the seeds will begin to pop just like popcorn! Quickly cover the pot with a lid to prevent the seeds from popping all over the stove and shake the pot around a bit to prevent the seeds from burning. All of this happens pretty quickly, so don’t just leave them to pop and walk away from the stove! When the majority of them have popped, transfer them to a measuring cup. I then repeat this until I have the one cup needed for the recipe.