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      News — Tips for reducing waste

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      Zero Waste Back to School Tips

      Zero Waste Back to School Tips

      Shop Zero Waste for Back to School

      Back to School Season means shopping.  It's a tradition to start the school year with brand new clothing, backpack and school supplies.  The truth is many purchases are unnecessary, expensive and create loads of trash.  Save money and save the planet with some simple tips to help you go Zero Waste.

      Let's start with clothing.  The first day of school is exciting and everyone wants to look their best for the photos but... " fashion is the second dirtiest industry in the world, second only to oil."  This was a statement made by clothing designer Eileen Fisher in an EcoWatch blog post. There are a lot of issues involved- raw materials, production, distribution and finally disposal of used clothing. One strong philosophy of zero waste is to buy quality that will last.  When purchasing new clothing buy garments that are fashionable and well constructed.  When your child outgrows their clothing pass it along to a friend, neighbor, resell or charity shop.  Shopping at consignment boutiques and charity shops is both budget and eco friendly.  The problem with buying trendy and cheap clothing is they rarely last through multiple washing and the abundance of cheap, worn out clothing is literally clogging up our earth.  For more info on this serious topic check out 1 Million Women's Fast Fashion blog.

      Zero Waste Back to School

      Next the backpack.  Buy the sturdiest backpack you can find, either at a resell shop or from a good quality outfitter- think L L Bean, Land's End, Jansport.  Look for a company that has a genuine guarantee.   While the initial purchase will be pricier than a discount backpack, you want a backpack that will last for years.  But you can't buy a large backpack for your child to grow into because to be comfortable it needs to fit properly.  The perfect fit is below the shoulder blades and ending right around the waist.  This means a backpack or bag for the preschool years, one for primary and perhaps another larger one for the elementary years.  Any big growth spurt means time to buy another back pack.  That's why it's so important to buy quality- your outgrown backpack will be perfect for another student.  Another tip is to launder the backpack regularly.  It's best to turn the backpack inside out before putting into the washing machine.  Of course, as time goes on it will show signs of wear but keeping it clean will extend the life and appeal to the next owner.  You can add a bit of excitement each school year by applying patches, cool pins or zipper pulls.

      I also recommend purchasing a good quality water bottle.  In fact depending on the age of your child you might have to buy more than one.  Hydrating keeps us at  our physical and mental best.  You might need a water bottle for the lunch box, one to stay at school and one to keep in the backpack.  Again, it's quality over price.  Avoid cheap plastic water bottles that contain nasty toxins.  You want a water bottle that is leak proof, insulated, non-toxic and dishwasher safe.     

      clean around the house first for school supplies.

      For school supplies start with a hunt around your house.  I know I have drawers, tins and cups full of all kind of writing supplies.  I think it's fair to say to our kids that before we buy new we're going to use up what we have.  It's a good life style policy to instill as early as possible.  You might even donate a box of found supplies to your child's classroom.  When walking down the back to school aisles look for paper products that contain some percentage of recycled paper. Purchase from companies that are working for a better future.  Crayola has an easy four simple steps marker recycling program called colorcycle.

      There are many other ways to be more green when going back to school including lunches which is the subject of another blog.

       

      The Plastic Free Produce Movement

      The Plastic Free Produce Movement

      Are you ready to join the Plastic Free Produce Movement?  It's an easy step on your Zero Waste Journey because Mother Nature has been so generous in her packaging of most fruits and vegetables. Bananas, winter squash, avocados.....the list goes on.  

      Fill your cart with produce not plastic

      Of course, if you have a garden you understand the joy of plastic free produce. It's also possible to buy produce plastic free with just a bit of effort.  The first thing to do is either bring your own produce bags or have a basket to put all you produce in for easy weighing.  I was so proud of my first set of produce bags made from an old sheet but found they weren't perfect for produce as the checker didn't know what was inside each bag.  It could hold up the checkout line if the store was crowded.  My plan is to make some bags out of tulle but honestly I've gotten so use to simply placing most produce right in my basket or cart.  You do need a bag for peas, beans, etc. 

      Cloth bags instead of plastic for your produce

      One important reason to switch to plastic free produce is plastic is not biodegradable while our produce is.  It just keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces.  Those teeny tiny pieces often end up in the ocean where they are eaten by sea creatures.  If you think about it, these minute pieces of plastic resemble tiny and delicious critters in the ocean food chain.

      Also plastic is made from oil, a non-renewable resource.  One day we will run out of oil.  We need to conserve and use our natural resources rather than squander it covering fruits and vegetables that Mother Nature has already packaged perfectly.

      Once you make the switch you do have to be mindful with your produce in the fridge- especially if your bags are not clear.   I've had a few very yucky bags of forgotten produce to clean out- but remember it's a process.  One change I made was to shop more often but I totally understand if your busy life doesn't allow this. I keep my salad greens right in my salad spinner.  I use cloths to keep carrots and beets fresh and try to pay attention to what I have and eat it while it is fresh and tasty.   

      Anita Horan- a plastic free produce activist from Australia has some great tips on her FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/anita.the.writer/ and she has started a Plastic Free Produce campaign.  She has a template for cards to scatter around the produce department to help raise awareness if you want to become a give up plastic activist- No plastic needed cards.

      Going #plasticfreeproduce is a small but important step on the Zero Waste Journey.

       

       

      Plastic Free July

      Plastic Free July

      This month- there is a world wide movement- Plastic Free July with the goal of raising awareness and challenging people to do something about single use plastic.  Single use plastic is plastic that is essentially used one time and then discarded.  Straws, coffee cups, lids, take out containers.  Basically anything that is convenient, quick and saves time. 

      It's not that plastics are inherently evil.  The Plastic Free July organization has a really interesting perspective on plastics- "Plastics were developed in the early 20th century and were environmentally important, replacing ivory, tortoiseshell, horn and other plant and animal products. By the 1960's plastic had gone from being used in durable items to widespread use including disposable plastic packaging."  When you think about all the plant and animal products that have been saved you realize plastics have a place in our society and often especially with medicine and agriculture the benefits of plastic can make life better.  

      The problem is we have too much of a good thing.  We are simply using way, way, way too much plastic- it's everywhere and it's created a host of problems.  "Everypiece of plastic ever produced still remains somewhere in the earth today. In the last half of the 20th century over 1 billion tons of plastic was produced. This figure has already doubled in the first ten years of this century."  One of the biggest culprits is single use plastic, in the USA over 500 million straws are used daily.  

      And while many people recycle household plastic, single use plastic is the least likely to be recycled.  We tend to use these plastic products at events, concerts and while traveling.  Often our recycled plastic is sent to a developing country where we can't see it but it's still there.  There may also be health issues related to plastic especially with food stored or cooked in plastic.  And finally just the trash that is filling our land and oceans.  Plastic pollution in the oceans affects all sea creatures.  According to the Ocean Conservancy the biggest source of ocean pollution is plastic beverage containers.  They break down into smaller and smaller pieces and are often mistaken for food by hungry animals.  

      The best way to get started on your Plastic Free Journey is to visit Plastic Free July and take the Pesky Plastic Quiz.  Answering the questions will give you a great starting place to make a change in your life.  I guarantee once you get started you won't look back.  

      Resources to get you started- 

      From the Plastic Free Mermaid a free downloaded e-book Plastic Free July Guidebook

      Another resource from Treading My Own Path has Enough is Enough- 18 Ideas for Embracing a Life With Less Waste and Less Stuff.  She also writes great blogs with practical tips, her latest is How to Buy Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Without Plastic

      Follow Australian writer and activist Anita Horn on Facebook, her page is devoted to Plastic Free Produce.  It's an easy one to start because many of our fruits and vegetables are beautifully packaged by Mother Nature.

      Zero Waste Alcohol- Oh Yeah!

      Zero Waste Alcohol- Oh Yeah!

      If your idea of a good time is sitting outside listening to the birds chirp and watching your garden grow while sipping a fruity, boozy drink then infused vodkas are for you.

      I first read about infusing vodkas in the cookbook "How to Be a Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson.  Her rhubarb schnapps recipe caught my eye.  Living in Maine rhubarb is one of the first things to pop up in the garden and this was a new way to preserve it.

      I've been tinkering with infused vodkas ever since.  I tend to focus on seasonal fruits but my Finnish friend told me wonderful stories about herbal infused vodkas that pair beautifully with fish.

      Perserve fresh, seasonal fruits in vodka for delightful sipping.

      You need three simple ingredients- fruit, sugar and vodka.

      Fruit infused vodka needs only 3 ingredients- fruit, sugar and vodka.

       

       Plus big glass jars.  I don't recommend plastic.  The easiest jars to repurpose usually contained a vinegar based product so wash quite a few times.  Otherwise you'll end up with this slightly vinegar note that is so disappointing.  

      It's a bit of a balancing act and a mystery how much sugar to add.  If you are super serious about the process- keep notes but remember you are working with natural ingredients and there will always be variation due to weather and growing conditions.  In general, I use more sugar because my favorite way to enjoy is to sip from a glass filled with vodka, a slice of citrus and lots and lots of ice.  I found if I skimped on the sugar it has a raw taste.  If the infusion is too sweet I can tone it down by adding seltzer, juice or water to dilute.

      Strawberry Rhubarb Liquor

      1 lb rhubarb chopped and 1 cup sugar

      1 lb strawberries  and 1/2 cup sugar

      Combine fruit and sugar in a large bowl and mix to coat fruit evenly with sugar.  Put in glass jar, fill with vodka.  Shake.  Store in cool, dark cupboard for at least 6 weeks.  Strain into a pitcher and pour into a fancy bottle.  Viola- perfect holiday gifts and what a treat it is to sip summer fruit on a snowy winter's night.

      Capture summer by infusing vodka with seasonal fruits.

      If you keep vodka and sugar on hand you are ready for whatever is in season is in season. You don't have to make big batches, have fun experimenting with flavors and combinations in small jars.  

      And finally the trash- I composed my rhubarb and strawberry bits, the strawberry baskets I'll see if my local farm can reuse them first or  compost or recycle.  The vodka bottle can be returned for my bottle deposit and the sugar bag will get recycled.  That's not to bad for waste.

      Happy infusing!  I'd love to hear about your adventures and combinations.

      Protect Our Oceans Every Day- Simple Tips to Reduce Plastic Consumption

      Protect Our Oceans Every Day- Simple Tips to Reduce Plastic Consumption

      World Ocean Day 2015 was when I moved from awareness to activism both personally and in business.  Thanks to a FaceBook post by the Lonely Whale Foundation.  It was the handsome face of Adrian Grenier who played Vince on the TV show Entourage that caught my eye.  Of course, there is always that disconnect between a favorite character on a TV show and the actual actor.  In Entourage, Grenier plays an up and coming celebrity who definitely buys into the consumption lifestyle.  It was a pleasant surprise to see him talking about plastic straws  and his passion for the ocean.

      Single use plastic is trashing our oceans

      The truth is our oceans are being polluted with needless plastic.  This includes water bottles, straws, plastic bags, drink cups, coffee lids and balloons.  Everyday items that most of us don't think about using.  The problem with plastic compared to other materials is it really never goes away.  It just keeps breaking down into tiny, little pieces.  Often these pieces look like a tasty morsel to a jellyfish, turtle or seabird.  That's the problem our planet is facing.

      A few simple steps can make a difference.  

      Stop drinking water from plastic bottles- Invest in a reusable water bottle and use it. For more info check out Ban the Bottle

      Refillable water, coffee and drink cups are the way to go. 

      Say "NO" to plastic straws.  We use  500 million straws daily in the USA.  Companies now make stainless steel or bamboo straws both washable and reusable.  Checkout the Strawless Ocean for more plastic straw data. 

      Purchase a refillable coffee cup- You can use a refillable cup anywhere, this includes independent coffee shops, gas station quick shops and even big franchises including Dunkin donuts and Starbucks.  Even the Starbucks in the busy Kennebunk Rest Stop will make whatever yummy coffee drink you want in your refillable mug.

      Skip the lid- if you have to use a single use coffee cup don't use the lid, it's one less piece of unnecessary trash.

      Celebrate naturally- The problem with balloons is the bits and pieces often look like food for hungry critters and the strings often entangle and even kill wildlife.  Our joyous celebrations shouldn't harm wildlife or pollute our planet.  The organization Balloons Blow has over 20 environmentally friendly alternatives to balloons.  My favorites are bubbles and ribbon streamers.  

      I know how hard it can be to make changes.   Sipping from a straw is something we don't think about- you have to make a conscious effort and expect to fail at times.  One of the best ways to move from awareness to activism is to pick up trash.  Next time you are out for a walk or hike, notice what trash is around.  Chances are it's water bottles, fast food cups, lids and straws and other types of connivence foods.  It's actually shocking.  And document your find by taking a picture and posting it with Just Grab Bits and you'll be entered to win cool, eco-friendly prizes including our own plastic free Dulse & Rugosa shampoo bars.

      Start your zero waste journey today- small steps lead to big changes.