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.

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Zero Waste Lunch


I just started my first real, post-graduate job last week (YAY!). The downside, it is about an hour away from my house in an area with nothing but fast food- not exactly what I want to be eating. The upside, I am a vegetarian and also LOVE to cook, so I am going to be bringing my lunch to work every day. To do so, I invested in the ultimate Zero Waste and Plastic Free Lunch kit. AKA a super cool lunch box for adults.

It includes:

  • 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.

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A Zero Waste Holiday Season


It’s Friday night and i’m feeling crafty. I was inspired by a light, well, more specifically a lightbulb that burned out today. WARNING: do not do this with CFL bulbs, if they break they could release mercury, I am using an incandescent bulb! 

After creating less than a palm full of trash over the past two months, I didn’t want to let all my effort go to waste (pun intended) with a lightbulb so I wanted to find a way to upcycle it. I started to think of the waste I have already produced as well as the light bulb and decided on, what I feel to be, the PERFECT way to upcycle a few things that I could have easily deemed useless: a holiday ornament!

I used a lightbulb, all of the salvageable produce tags I had put away as waste, the wire from a produce twist tie, and a glue stick that I had since I made a poster presentation in college four years ago to create a colorful ornament!

Disclaimer: Yes, I know this looks extremely DIY but I feel that makes it that much more special! 

I am so excited to see what other DIY/upcycle projects I can think of before the holidays!

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Zero Waste Food Shopping

Zero Waste food shopping probably sounds much more daunting than it is. One would assume it involves excessive preparation, a lot of hard work, and hungry days. This could not be more untrue. Zero Waste food shopping could not be easier for me. First of all I have a relatively regular schedule and know exactly what I like to eat so preparing a shopping list and thus shopping supplies is easy and predictable. Secondly, I bring my own jars and produce bags to the market and I buy in bulk so I leave the market with absolutely no packaging and can take the food from my reusable bag and put it right on my shelf at home.

When food shopping, I always bring around four to eight jars and two bags depending on what I am purchasing. See my post on Zero Waste shopping essentials for a detailed list. I keep one bag for jars, and the other for fresh produce like tomatoes or kale so that it doesn’t get squashed. This method also helps me save money. By thinking about the containers I will need, I also think about the food I will be buying which prevents me from making impulse purchases (however I always bring one extra jar because markets often have bulk items on sale and it is nice to stock up on things while the price is lower).

Shopping without purchasing any plastic is very easy once you get used to it, and then the process just becomes routine like setting your alarm before you go to bed. This experience was expressed in the documentary Trashed. It was stated that it usually takes a shopper about three times forgetting their Zero Waste or eco shopping supplies before they finally remember and prepare adequately, and after that it just becomes routine. The same thing happened to me. I used to go to the market three times per week because I was not prepared for what I was purchasing and did not plan ahead. This resulted in the use of plastic bags and the purchase of packaged products. I usually bought more than I needed and fewer of the things that I actually used. After two times of gauging how much I purchased and in what quantities, I was able to prepare for the market. Now I only have to go to the market once per week and do not buy anything in plastic because I utilize the bulk section of my market.

The photos below show my experience at Integral Yoga Natural Foods. My favorite market in the city! Integral has a huge variety of bulk foods ranging from amaranth to yeast and they even sell mason jars! I recently found out that the 4th Street Co-Op in NYC sells bulk oil and vinegar which I am not able to purchase at Integral.

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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
-scissors

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!

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Zero Waste Alternatives: The Ultimate List

While the journey towards Zero Waste is never ending, these alternatives will help any step of the way! All of these alternatives have been tried, tested, and approved by me! I would never post anything that I have not researched to the best of my ability and will constantly update this list with new alternatives! Please keep in mind that throwing out an old item for one of the items I have listed is not a good alternative. Use up old products, recycle, donate, give away or sell the rest! The purpose of Zero Waste is to prevent as much matter from heading to the landfill as possible!

Hygiene 

The Waste Problem: Disposable Razors

Why:  Non-recyclable, expensive, wasteful

The Alternative: Safety Razor or laser hair removal (more money)

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Plastic Toothbrush

Why:  Non-recyclable, wasteful

The Alternative: Bamboo compostable and sustainable toothbrushes 

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Disposable Makeup Remover Wipes

Why:  They are wasteful, expensive, unnecessary, and often have toxic chemicals

The Alternative: Organic Coconut Oil and Reusable Cotton Rounds

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Cotton Balls

Why:  Cotton is very pesticide and water intensive and they are not recyclable 

The Alternative: Reusable Cotton Rounds

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Body Wash in Packaging

Why:  It is wasteful, not recyclable everywhere, and contains chemicals

The Alternative: Unwrapped Bulk Soap

Where to buy:  Any health food store or Whole Foods

The Waste Problem: Bleached toilet paper

Why:  Dangerous chemicals, non-recycled, wasteful 

The Alternative: Recycled Natural Unbleached Toilet Paper

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Plastic Tampon Applicator and Non Organic Tampon

Why:  Conventional cotton is pesticide laden & I don’t want plastic in my life, especially near my…

The Alternative: Menstrual cup such as Lunette cup

Where to buyHere

Everyday Essentials: 

The Waste Problem: Disposable Plastic Bags

Why:  Go straight to landfill, very infrequently recycled, wasteful

The Alternative: Organic Cotton Tote 

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Plastic Water Bottles

Why: Not often recycled (less than 20%), end up in landfill, completely avoidable

The Alternative: Reusable water bottle

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Plastic Straw

Why: End up in landfill, completely avoidable

The Alternative: Stainless Steel Straw

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Wrapping Paper on Birthdays and Holidays

Why:  It goes straight to the landfill and is infrequently reused

The Alternative: Re-Use Newspaper and biodegradable twine from a hardware store

Kitchen 

The Waste Problem: Individually portioned coffee and tea and disposable coffee filters

Why: They produce a lot of unnecessary waste, uses plastic, and are not recyclable 

The Alternative: A French Press – the coffee tastes better, easy to clean, no plastic, no waste!

Where to buyHere


The Waste Problem: Plastic Cutting Boards

Why:  You can not recycle them and it is said that these boards develop nicks which foster bacteria

The Alternative: Wooden Cutting Boards 

Where to buy:  My friend Chelsea makes amazing boards that I use everyday!


The Waste Problem: Plastic Utensils 

Why:  They can not be recycled and there is really no use for them

The Alternative: Stainless Steel Silverware 

Where to buy:  Any goodwill, salvation army, or home store. 

The Waste Problem: Plastic Cooking Utensils 

Why:  They tend to melt and could leach toxins into your food

The Alternative: Bamboo utensils: are naturally antibacterial, absorb little moisture and regenerate fast

Where to buy:  Here

The Waste Problem: Plastic Ice Trays

Why:   Most likely not recyclable and could leach toxins

The Alternative: Stainless Steel Ice Tray

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Conventional Dish Soap

Why:  They have a high concern for cancer, high levels of preservatives and other problems 

The Alternative: Bulk Castile Soap

Where to buyHere 

The Waste Problem: Sponge

Why:  Not recyclable, compostable

The Alternative: Compostable and reusable dish brush 

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Plastic Dish Dryers 

Why:  They can not be recycled 

The Alternative: Lay your dishes out on a reusable towel to dry
Where to buy:  Here


The Waste Problem: Plastic Tupperware

Why:  It poses possible toxicity risks and can leach chemicals into your food

The Alternative: Mason Jars

Where to buyHere

The Waste Problem: Nonstick Pan

Why:  A slew of health problems associated with nonstick coating

The Alternative: Cast Iron Pan

Where to buyHere

Cleaning:

The Waste Problem: Paper Towels

Why:  Non-recyclable, wasteful

The Alternative: Reusable towels 

Where to buyHere 

The Waste Problem: Dryer Sheets

Why:  Synthetic, non-recyclable, unnecessary

The Alternative: Organic Dryer Balls- cut drying time, prevent static 


The Waste Problem: A slew of cleaning products 

Why:  They contain chemicals and are unnecessary

The Alternative:White Vinegar used as a counter or mirror cleaner, presoak for laundry

Where to buy: Any supermarket 

The Waste Problem: Dry Cleaning

Why:  Environmentally Unfriendly, unregulated (yes even the “green” cleaning), global warming

The Alternative: Hand washing, steaming, ironing, and line drying

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Life Without Plastic


In 2011 32 million tons of plastic waste were generated. Guess what, only 8% of it was recovered for recycling1. As my journey towards becoming Zero Waste continues, I have worked to eliminate all plastic from my life. I recently found Life Without Plastic, a website that provides plastic-free alternatives to items used in your daily life. In my house some items that were really hard to find alternatives to were the ice tray and sponges. This website was my solution! It had the most beautiful stainless steel ice tray which is so much safer (and more beautiful) than a plastic ice tray. I also picked up a bottle brush to clean all of my mason jars and stainless steel water bottles, a dish scrubbing brush to use in place of a sponge for plates, cups, and my cast iron, and a goat hair duster which is made to last a lifetime and more. The dish scrubbing brush has removable heads that are 100% compostable which means I no longer need to buy sponges and my cleaning routine is now completely waste free!

I received my package yesterday and all of the items shipped unwrapped in a brown box with paper tape. Everything was loose except for the ice tray and there was a sheet of brown paper tissue wrapped around to protect everything during shipping. I used the duster right away on my bookshelf, easily the hardest spot in my apartment to clean, and was amazed by how much dust it picks up and holds. The ice tray works so well, the bottle brush is going to make my life so much easier when washing my mason jars, and my boyfriend used the scrub brush this morning and said it worked perfectly! While I am a freak for functionality, I also love aesthetics and the wood, leather, stainless steel, and goat hair are all so handsome. I truly believe that going Zero Waste, and in the process plastic free, is not only making my home more sustainable, it is making it more beautiful.

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