guest blog #1: Tennille Hall

If there’s one thing we’ve really loved discovering as we go along our Waste Not journey, it’s how many awesome people we know who have been similarly moved to be conscious of their impact on the earth. We have been so thrilled to find people who have been making these changes for years already, and who are always happy to offer us tips as we come up against new challenges.

We’re really excited to start featuring guest posts from some of these amazing people in our community , and to be able to share more perspectives with our friends, families, and readers. Cass met our first guest poster through the SaskAcro community, but we had no idea that she was also interested in the zero-waste movement until we began our blog back in December. Read on, to hear about Tennille Hall and her family’s move towards zero-waste!

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My name is Tennille and I’ve been trying to drastically reduce what I send to the landfill while I’m on my journey towards a “zero-waste” lifestyle. At our best, my husband and I send one grocery-size bag of trash to the landfill every two weeks.

I cannot remember a time that I wasn’t concerned about the destruction of our planet. I grew up on a farm, and even as a little girl, I remember being very bothered by several environmentally destructive practices, one being the fact that we burned our trash. When I moved to the city after high school, I was even more bothered by the amount of garbage that we, the citizens of Saskatoon, send to the landfill.

Throughout my life, I have developed several practices to attempt to live a “green” life, such as riding my bike to work each day, growing my own vegetables in the garden, composting, and several other things. However, I never gave much thought to the plastic that is everywhere. I hated throwing away the plastic that came from food and body-care products that I bought, but I didn’t know how to avoid it.

Not long ago I came across a book called Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, and this was the moment that really changed my life and put me on the path I’m on now. Her family of four, plus a dog, create very little waste. The waste she and her family create in a year can fit into a mason jar. They also don’t buy anything in plastic – they have found ways around it. They inspire me, and also provide me with relief – I can finally stop feeling guilty about my trash, because I, too, can move toward a zero waste life.

Without mentioning the obvious things, such as replacing plastic grocery bags with reusable ones, taking your coffee/tea mug with you to the coffee shop, using a reusable water bottle, I’m going to mention a few other things I’ve found in Saskatoon to reduce my plastic and trash consumption. Of course the above mentioned things are some of the most important changes you can make, but I want to highlight some of the less talked about changes you can make, and products you can find in Saskatoon. I would also like to mention that plastic is not recyclable like paper is, so recycling plastic is not the solution – plastic can only be down-cycled.

My goal is to reduce what goes into my trash can and recycling bin. Here are ten things that are easy to swap and where to find them:

1. Food:

Try to buy food that doesn’t come in plastic packaging and take your own cloth bags with you when shopping. I’ve seen lightweight mesh bags at The Better Good and Dad’s Organic Market.

Tip: I’ve found it is difficult to get lettuces/kale/spinach without the plastic sleeve. These are vegetables I prefer to buy organic so I buy them at Dad’s Organic Market. If you go to the store on days they receive shipment, they will give you some from the back that have not yet been wrapped in the sleeve. Take a dish towel to wrap them in because they are wet.

2. Choose glass over plastic. If you are buying groceries that require packaging, and if there is the option – always choose glass. These are things like salsa, apple sauce, jam, honey, etc.

3. Body Care:

* There are soaps without packaging at Bulk Barn (Soap Works), as well as a shampoo/conditioner bar (also made by Soap Works) without packaging at Bulk Barn.

* You can buy soaps, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, and lotion bars without packaging at Lush. Be sure to look at the ingredients in the products if it’s important to you to use natural products. The products at Lush are not all created equally.

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a shampoo bar from Lush!

Tip: Take your own container when shopping at Lush so that you don’t have to use their paper bag.

* 10,000 Villages sells chap stick that comes in compostable packaging.

* I like to use cocoa butter as body lotion. You can buy this in cardboard packaging at Herbs & Health. I use this on my face and body because it works well with my skin. They also sell mango butter and shea butter in the same type of packaging.

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* My favourite bar soap is Dr. Bronner’s. It is wrapped in paper packaging, which can be recycled. I buy this at The Better Good or Dad’s Organic Market.

4. Dishwasher Detergent:

I use dishwasher detergent called Ecover that comes in a cardboard box, which I buy at Dad’s Organic Market. It’s more expensive than other brands but this is the best option I have found so far.

5. Compost:

My compost is set up outside and I use it year-round. If you live in an apartment or condo, you can start vermicomposting. The Better Good sells vermicomposters, although you can also make your own. Research what can go into your compost. For example, you can compost things like hair and nails.

6. Bread:

You can buy unpackaged bread (remember to take your own cloth bag) at several bakeries in Saskatoon. I often make my own bread, but I have bought bread at Earth Bound Bakery.

7. For females, swap menstrual products for reusables. You can buy a menstrual cup at most pharmacies or grocery stores in Saskatoon, and cloth pads made by local sellers on Etsy.

8. Eating out:

* Ask for your drinks without a straw. If you need a straw, you can buy stainless steel straws at The Better Good and keep them in your purse/bag. * Take your own containers with you for leftovers.

* If you are ordering something that requires plastic side-dishes, ask for them in a separate dish instead (example: sour cream, salsa, etc). I have never had a server get upset over this request.

* Take your own cloth napkin.

9. Fruit:

In the summer, pick your own berries at local places such as The Strawberry Ranch and take your own containers for picking.

10: Tissues:

Replace tissues with handkerchiefs. I turn old clothing into handkerchiefs and keep them in the pockets of jackets or sweaters that I wear often, as well as my purse.

 

In order to reduce your trash, look at it. What are you throwing away? Is there a way you can replace that item with something else, compost it, or do without it? That’s the mindset to follow when you are transitioning into this lifestyle.

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the first waste not dinner party!

Mmmmmm, num-num-num-num-num!

One of the things that Cass and I have wondered about since opening this Wastenot can of worms is entertaining. Can we have people over, and enjoy ourselves, without needing to resort to packaged food or other such skuldudgery? Well wonder no more, because the first Wastenot dinner party has come and gone, and I think that all would categorize it successful!

Let me begin by saying that to me, food is Love. I’m so enamoured with eating that I get a real thrill from serving delicious foods to people that I care about. On the flip-side however, I perhaps tend to get a little bit neurotic about things that I serve being perfect. Remember the ice cream debacle?

So, you may ask… Did I feel some trepidation as the hour of guests arriving drew nigh? I did indeed, but my worries were unfounded 🙂

Here’s what I made (pictured above):

– Coconut Roasted Root Vegetables –

We have yet to obtain a ready supply of olive oil (we’ve tried Olive on Broadway and I think Cass tried Dutch Growers who also sells it in bulk? Cass, can you confirm that for me? *Ten-Four, big shooter*) Either way, no one has yet agreed to sell us their wares in our empty peanut butter jars). So I used coconut oil obtained from Bulk Barn instead. I chopped up potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, and beets, coated them with the coconut oil and tossed them with salt and pepper (toss everything first, then add the beets or they’ll get their pinkness all over hell). Baked in the oven at 350 until soft/crispy, then sprinkled some coriander (add spices last, lest they lose their flavour from being heated). Tasty as all get out!

– Tangy Bean Slop –

Before leaving for work, I stuck a batch of red kidney beans in the slow cooker with a bunch of water (we were out of our veggie scrap soup-stock, but I would use that next time for sure!). When I got home they were nice and soft, so I added a cottage cheese container of our patented tomato sauce (we cook down big batches of the stuff on a weekly basis to freeze and use on the go). In a separate frying pan I softened onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, and mushrooms, which I added to the slow cooker once they were nice and “disintegrate in your mouth-ish”. I used up the last of our glass jar of red-wine vinegar (next time it’ll be home made apple cider vinegar… booyah!), and balanced that out with a couple of scoops of white sugar. I find it pretty tough to give things the kind of “body” that you would expect without using stock, but I mostly made up for that with a bunch of nutritional yeast (Bulk Barn). After that it was just salt, pepper, sage, and some more time to let the gravy congeal. Usually I don’t like to experiment on guests (see the above mentioned neurosis), but this one was very well received!

– Salad –

It was a salad 🙂 Lettuce, red cabbage, shredded carrots, raisins, and a sliced pear, judiciously doused in lemon juice and a sprinkle of cumin.

And for dessert Cass pre-made:

– Chia Seed Pudding! –

This was a concoction of almond milk (almonds soaked in water, drained, blended with new water, and then strained), mixed with chia seeds and sliced fruit (apples/applesauce in one batch and banana/papaya in the other), then allowed to thicken in the fridge.

Mmmmmm… Tasty 😛

All in all, I’m thrilled with how Wastenot Dinner Party #1 all went down, and I’m stoked to give it another go this coming weekend with a different set of friends!

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a waste not week: cleaning and hygiene edition

A few weeks ago we wrote a post that has some tasty details about what our eating habits look like on this zero waste journey of ours (view that post HERE). This discussion was prompted by two questions we have been asked a few times; is zero waste hard? and does it take a lot of time?

The bulk of the time and prep definitely goes into how we eat, but there are many other household realms where we’ve had to find a new zero waste procedure! Our cleaning and hygiene solutions have come about steadily and gradually since we began the project in December, as we slowly ran out of old cleaners and products.

I was personally skeptical as to whether our homemade solutions would work as well as their store bought counterparts, but all in all we’ve been pleasantly surprised that the pretty much all of these changes have fallen under the category of “incredibly simple, just be patient enough to adjust the ratios until you’re happy with the result.” In all cases, our first attempts have worked *well enough* and we’ve just continued to tweak things from there.

In fact, in many ways, this post is merely an ode to baking soda.

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the true hero of the story: the ever versatile baking soda!

 

Cleaning and Hygiene Zero Waste Swaps

Below is a list of what we have had to replace so far, and what we’ve replaced it with. The time and preparation component to these switches are significantly less than with our food prep.

  • all purpose surface cleaner: water and a rag, and some baking soda if there is more than dust to remove

We use old clothes/socks/dish towels, etc as household rags, and simply dissolve the baking soda into water to make an effective cleaning solution. 

  •  dish soap: grated vegetable glycerin soap and a tiny little bit of washing soda (we hand wash)

We buy our vegetable glycerin soap in bulk, packing free, at Bulk Barn. We grate about 3-4 tablespoons of it, plus 1/2 teaspoon washing soda into HOT water, and so far this has proven the most effective at cutting the grease, if we have pre-rinsed all of our dishes (we continue to tweak). We also have cut down substantially on the amount of oil we use in cooking, so we simply don’t have as much grease to deal with when it comes time to wash the dishes. Ratios are roughly represented in the banner photo for this post. 

  • glass cleaner: a clean rag and plain old water, add some vinegar if there’s “gunk” (dog nose prints, anyone?)

Water is generally more than enough for mirrors, etc, but for anything requiring it, mixing a tiny bit of vinegar into some water, washing, and then going over it once with just water works perfectly. Turns out it’s more about your cloth technique than the washing fluid itself. 

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Jesse makes our apple cider vinegar, using the apple scraps from all the applesauce we eat. Check out the process HERE
  • laundry soap: vegetable glycerin soap and washing soda, boiled together

We use a variation on zero waste chef’s dish soap recipe found HERE; we didn’t really like it as a dish soap mixture, but find we like it for laundry. We make it a bit more watery, and without the essential oil (that way it’s 100% zero waste). We use 1/4 – 1/2 cup per load of laundry, and it works great – no residue, and our clothes come out scent-free. 

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laundry soap…. okay, it looks a little gross. But whatever, it works really well!
  • toothpaste: depends who you ask!

Cass uses straight baking soda (you adjust to the taste), and Jesse uses a mixture of baking soda and coconut oil (seems a bit less rough on the teeth, and has a smoother taste).

  • deodorant: you guessed it, baking soda

After Jesse’s initial [hilarious] trial and error, we settled into just applying a baking soda a cornstarch mixture with an old makeup brush, a la talcum powder. Honestly, my body has been *thanking* me for finally switching off of antiperspirant, and baking soda seems to do the trick in odor control (I keep asking people to sniff me, and if they are to be trusted, I pass inspection). 

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same stuff, different brushes, different destination.
  • shampoo/conditioner: more baking soda, followed by apple cider vinegar

The “no-poo” method is a fairly well known one, and I swear by it. My hair was nasty and greasy for about 3 – 4 weeks while I transitioned cold turkey from using shampoo and conditioner to only water washing, but now I am so thankful I did. It’s way less maintenance, and my hair is just so healthy and natural feeling. I water wash my hair with warm water every other day (sometimes every day), and I use a baking soda rinse, followed by and apple cider vinegar rinse about once every few months, mostly if my hair somehow came into product (I now use absolutely no gel/hairspray/leave-in gunk in my hair). Jesse rinses with baking soda and vinegar only a bit more frequently than I do.

Baking soda: dissolve 2 tablespoons into 2 cups of water, pour on your hair and lather. Rinse out. Apple cider vinegar: dissolve 2 tablespoons in one cup of water, and work through your hair. Rinse. I promise you won’t smell at all like vinegar once you’ve rinsed (that was my worry as well). 

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tooth brush upgrade! bamboo, biodegradable, AND all the packaging is compostable (even the internal wrapper). The bristles themselves are not compostable. 

So What’s Left? 

There are a few odds and ends we haven’t used up entirely yet, and therefore haven’t yet had to replace in a zero waste way. I haven’t tackled any makeup swaps yet (though I’ve completely ceased using foundation when I ran out long, long before we began this project), as well as lotion. We just found compostable silk floss today at The Better Good (most conventional floss is nylon, or nylon-coated, and therefore won’t biodegrade), so we’ll post back on how that goes for us!

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compost-friendly floss! We’ll have to see if the actual container is reusable in some way, too…

There has also been some, *ahem* discussion on toilet paper. We have completely done away with paper tissues (hello reusable hankies!), and our rags have made paper towel completely obsolete since day one. Jesse is determined to venture into toilet paper alternatives at some point (which means it will surely happen), and I am content to have that be one area that I’m happy being 90% zero waste. 😉