Monday, July 29, 2013

Disposable to Reusable, Part 2: Hygiene

When I talk to people about trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, they almost always ask me for advice and/or say 'oh it must be so hard!'.  The first thing I tell them is to start where they can, and that the easiest place to start is by picking something that's supposed to be disposable and replacing it with a reusable thing.  So here are some of the ways I've switched from throwing away to reusing!

In part 1, I talked about switching from disposable bags and containers for shopping, cleaning, and food.  But what about more, um, personal areas?  Disposable products are marketed everywhere, but they aren't the only option.

An easy start is cutting tissues out of old t-shirts.  This is a great way to use old t-shirts that have gotten soft and snuggly - your nose will appreciate it!
I also have an old decorative bucket that I toss the used ones into until laundry day.

I bought some handkerchiefs at rummage sales, although some were free from my Dad.
Yes, you may object that you're putting something you've blown your nose on back into your pocket or purse, but who hasn't done that with a tissue at some point? There's a lot of cloth in these things - careful refolding prevents using the same spot twice.

Recently, I started shaving with a double-edge safety razor that belonged to my Grandfather. It works just as well as a plastic disposable or cartridge razor, although it takes some extra effort.
Going along with that, I also don't use shaving cream: I just use my regular bar of soap.

Ok, any squeamish males should stop reading now, personal details below...

For women specifically, we can cut out a significant chunk of trash and cost with reusable feminine hygiene products.  I started with a menstrual cup.
From SquawkFox, who has a list of top-10 reasons to get one
The Diva cup does come packaged in plastic, although its much less than tampon wrappers and applicators, and the hard plastic might be recyclable where you live. 

From a personal standpoint, I find the Diva cup way more comfortable and less hassle than tampons and pads.  It takes some practice to get used to inserting it and removing it, but it deals with heavy bleeding much more effectively than tampons.  Plus its made of silicon, rather than scratchy cotton.  You do have to take care of it, cleaning it with soap on a regular basis and boiling it at the beginning and end of your cycle. 

I back up my Diva cup with cloth pads.  These have more up-front cost if made by someone else, but some people do make their own.  I bought mine from Pleat and Moon Bees on Etsy.
Muffies Cloth Menstrual Pad Set: Choose Any Five Pantyliners
From Pleat on Etsy
Menstrual Pad Sampler FREE SHIPPING
From Moon Bees on Etsy

Moon Bees pads cost less because she makes hers out of undyed hemp/cotton fleece. It looks like she's only making dyed cotton pads now though.  Pleat's are prettier and her regular/overnight pads aren't as thick, but they're a little more costly.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Disposable to Reusable, Part 1: Food, Kitchen, and Shopping

When I talk to people about trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, they almost always ask me for advice and/or say 'oh it must be so hard!'.  The first thing I tell them is to start where they can, and that the easiest place to start is by picking something that's supposed to be disposable and replacing it with a reusable thing.  So here are some of the ways I've switched from throwing away to reusing!

Two of the easiest places to switch to reusable items are in the kitchen and on shopping trips.  

Reusable grocery bags are the base level.  If you do nothing else, do this.
I have more, but they're in the wash.  FYI, its a good idea to run these through the wash after every one or two uses.  It keeps bacteria from building up on the bags.  That's why I use cloth bags, instead of the plastic ones.

I made rags out of t-shirts I'd cut up for other purposes.
I also have some made from old towels.

I picked up cloth napkins from yard sales.
I actually have 6 more of these white ones, but they're stained.  Colored ones are better for hiding stains.

Then reusable produce bags and cloth bags for produce or bulk foods.  I'm actually known at my farmers' market for bringing my own produce bags all the time -  almost everyone else uses plastic ones (!!!)
The mesh bags are these from Flip & Tumble.  You could also make your own if you're savvy like that - my Grandma made my cloth ones out of her quilting scraps.  The rice bag came from a friend - I told him about my shopping habits, and he said he'd bought rice in this cloth(ish) bag, but wasn't going to reuse it.  So now it's mine!

Finally, I fill glass jars with dry goods instead of buying pre-packaged foods and spices.
Some of these jars used to hold other things, and I've reused them, while others I bought new.  Many spice jars in particular were purchased already filled, and I just refill them when I run out.

Look out for Part 2 next week!

Friday, July 19, 2013

CSA Weeks 5 & 6: Slow and Unexciting

I had little to say last week, and figured I'd have more this week, but that hasn't been the case.  Everything from the last two weeks has been eaten, and everything from this week will be eaten this weekend, but I haven't been branching out too much.

Last week's share included:
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • (Oakleaf lettuce) Traded for more turnips
  • Sweet Japanese Turnips
  • Collards
  • Chard
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions
  • A cucumber
  • Summer squashes 
I roasted the turnips with olive oil, salt, & pepper, like the kohlrabi a few weeks back, with similarly delicious results.  Lettuce soup occurred again.  Boiled chard.  The collards turned out ok - I cooked them with Trader Joe's chicken sausage because apparently adding meat helps the flavor, but I have yet to master the art of cooking greens slowly without drying them out.  My share partner Chris took the cucumber, squashes, and half the onions.

Then this week, I got:
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer Squashes
  • Japanese Turnips
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Green onions
  • An herb that I think is a form of mint
  • Tomatoes
 I say "I think" because Chris did the pickup this week, due to me being down with some weird illness, and he didn't read the list at pickup.  I say "I got" instead of "we" because he's going away, so he told me to keep everything.  Thus far, I've cooked kale with onions which took a lot of effort and water to keep from drying out while I cooked it.  And I've been snacking on the cucumbers at work.  The rest is waiting for the weekend, when I have visitors coming in.

Monday, July 15, 2013

And the winner is....


I'm disappointed, but I've given up.  I posted before about struggling to find a more eco-friendly deodorant.  Well, nothing eco-friendly was able to keep me from smelling funky by 3 pm, and one of them gave me a rash.  Here's the breakdown:

Homemade, coconut oil and baking powder

I smelled like a cookie, which I didn't mind but it was kinda strong, and I couldn't tell if other people noticed.  Nonetheless, the baking soda gave me a rash and further experimentation is on an indefinite hold.  I threw it away, which is why its not in the photo below.

I also tried 3 other semi-'natural' deodorants:

Tom's deodorant, Tom's deodorant/antiperspirant, Lush bar, standard brand-name.

Aromaco deodorant bar from Lush

Smell's good and mild, but applying it is a pain (literally, it's hard to get it to melt so it scrapes over my skin).  And doesn't really last.

Tom's of Maine, aluminum-free deodorant

Like the smell (lavender), but it fades by mid-afternoon.  And reapplication only helped for an hour or so.

Tom's of Maine, Naturally Dry Antiperspirant

Unscented.  Literally lasts about an hour.  I smelled gross.

And with that $20 spent, I decided to cut my losses and slink back to chemical, unrecyclable (but cheap!) Secret.

Although actually, with the new expansion to recycling, I might be able to recycle the container if I clean it first.  Not ideal, but better than tossing it.

*The brand is really irrelevant, it was just on sale.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Um, a Green Thumb?

Here's my burgeoning garden:

Basil & Dill, Peppermint, a currently blossomless petunia(?), and a sun-loving flower of unremembered name.  Also pictured: a window that gets direct sunlight!
I moved a month ago, from a sunless 1st floor apartment to an 8th floor apartment where the living room, at least, gets plenty of light.  So I decided the time was right to introduce some plants into my life.  My green thumb is pretty pale, so I hope they survive.  I consider this practice for a real garden someday when I'm not living in a city.  For now, I'm just excited because I have green, growing things perking up my living space :)

I initially had peppermint, cilantro, and two flowers I've forgotten the name of.  I think the one in the little pot is a petunia; the maintenance guy at my last place gave it to me when I moved out.  The tall ones I bought, but the name now escapes me.

There wasn't much rhyme or reason to my selections.  The flowers were supposedly hardy even when lacking water.  I like peppermint tea.  I make recipes that call for cilantro.  I didn't do much investigation about whether these plants survive well in an apartment.

Ultimately, the cilantro didn't survive.  Something infested the leaves, and some ants started a nest in the soil.  So out that went, and in went basil and dill from my CSA.   I think I'm due to get one or two more plants through the CSA, and those will fill out the left-most pot in the picture above.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

CSA Week 4: Socializing via vegetables

Everything from last week got cooked! Including very delicious roasted kohlrabi, thank you Miser Mom for inspiration :)

This week we got:
  • radishes
  • a cucumber
  • 3 garlic scapes
  • scallions
  • a dill plant
  • (lettuce) traded for another bunch of yukina savoy
  • choose 3 mustard greens -  I picked yukina savoy, chard and kale
This week the share didn't include as much food compared to the first three weeks.  All the bunches of greens were pretty small, and two shared meals took out almost everything for the full share.  I cooked the radishes and made garlic scape hummus again for my vegetarian friend Sloane on Tuesday night. Then my share partner Chris and I sauteed kale & scallions and boiled yukina savoy on Wednesday to go with dill & basil chicken.  The cucumber is headed for a July 4th picnic today,  the lonely chard went home with Chris, and that's the end of this week's share.

When I signed up for the CSA, I planned on cooking with Chris some weeks, but didn't really think about sharing my veggies beyond that.  In reality, it has given me so much more than vegetables.  I've fed friends at least once, and typically twice, from every delivery.  And that's been a huge blessing in my life.

There's the frugality reasoning - even when I add a protein and grain I'm coming out ahead of a restaurant meal (frequently a friend will bring one or the other, so I'm providing even less).  But the primary reason I love sharing my CSA is that inviting people over for dinner lets me spend time with them.  As a somewhat-socially-anxious introvert, it gives me an "excuse" to ask someone to come over.  Sometimes its hard to call someone and say "hey, can we hang out?" unless I know them well and have something specific to talk about.  Saying "hey, can I feed you dinner?" feels like a lower bar somehow.  Plus, acts of service is a big way that I show people I care about them, so I get to love on my friends.  In return, I typically get quality time with them, a major way that I feel loved.  So not only is the CSA good for my health, its good for my heart too.