haskaps and saskatoons!

The other day our friend Taylor showed Cass and I a group on Facebook called “Out Of Your Tree in Saskatoon” which is dedicated to sharing local wild/cultivated fruits/veggies. The basic idea is that if you have an apple tree in your backyard that you don’t have time to harvest you post on the group and people will happily come and load up on your apples. I’m really excited about it for a whole complex mesh of reasons, the first being the obvious access to non-commodified, packaging-less tasty goodness!

The other day someone made a post to the group about haskap berries growing on campus, which I had never heard of so we made a trip to see what we could find. We learned that the haskap bush is a man made hybrid of the blueberry and the honeysuckle and they have dark purple, elongated berries that are pleasantly tart and otherwise blueberry-ish. Apparently they also produce abundantly as we collected about a pound or two of berries in half an hour. They were literally falling off the bush XD

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I then went on to cook them down into a tasty jam like goop which we’ve shared with friends and ate on toast for the last week or so.

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This past weekend I also had the chance to perform at a small music festival in Southern Alberta, who’s site was completely rife with saskatoon berries. I picked about a 10x10ft square in half an hour and loaded up on enough saskatoons to make a pie or some jam or just freeze them for winter!

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One of the really interesting and unexpected outcomes of this WasteNot project has been a growing awareness of ideas surrounding gifting and abundance. In our commodified society we’re really accustomed to buying a pizza when we’re hungry and tossing the cardboard box in the landfill. In Nature though, there’s no such thing as garbage. In Nature the waste of one organism is food for another. If we’re willing to look, Nature gives us things to eat in inconvenient abundance… It gives us so much that we can’t possibly use it all before it goes bad and we *have* to give it away. I think that there are deep deep lessons to be learned here. How might the world look if we could stop seeing “garbage” and instead see raw material for the life of our community and ourselves?

 

it’s a recipe post!

Man oh man, May was BUSY! We can’t wait to update you on how our move went, and some of the big plans we have for our little house, but that will have to wait for our next few posts. This post is an answer to several requests over on our Instagram account for recipes to some of the tasty food pictures we’ve been posting!

If there’s one major benefit to the changes to our diet through the Waste Not project, it’s definitely that we’ve been trying a lot of new ideas, spices, and recipes to keep things varied and fun. What follows are three of our tasty experiments.

#1: Cashew Cheese

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cashew cheese is a tasty spread for my homemade sourdough bread!

I recently went vegan, and have been enjoying a somewhat bumpy path ever since balancing how I want to eat with what I want to eat. Cashew cheese reallllly hits the spot, and my batch seemed to hit a similar flavor mark to goat cheese. Does it function across the board as a cheese replacement? No. Is it super amazingly delicious and great as a spread in sandwiches or on crackers? Hell yes.

Super Simple Recipe:

1 cup cashews

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (available in the spice section of Bulk Barn, vegetarian/vegan super hero)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 – 2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (we make our own!)

salt and pepper to taste

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Throw everything into a blender and blend until smooth. I’m sure there is lots of room in this recipe to add spices (dill for instance!) or some sweetness (dried cranberries perhaps?) for some flare.

 

#2: Tasty No-Bake Date… Mush?

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basking in sunny glory

This recipe began with my desire to fashion some form of energy ball/power bite recipe from scratch. And let me just say right now, it tasted exactly like an eatmore bar!

Super Simple Recipe

2 cups pitted dates

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

handful of almonds

handful of cashews

4 – 6 tbsp unsweetened, natural peanut butter (you can have the chunky/smooth argument on your own time)

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Soak the dates and nuts in water for a while beforehand; I left mine soak for about an hour, and then thoroughly drained them and rinsed. This just makes everything mushier and easier to blend.

Blend everything except the peanut butter in a blender or food processor, and then spatula into a mixing bowl. Add the peanut butter and mix together with a spatula, then either form into little balls (as shown in the banner photo for this post), or into a shallow dish. Sprinkle with some crushed cashews and coconut, or really anything else that will taste good with chocolate! Let chill in the fridge for a few hours to solidify before serving.

The original plan for this recipe was to add a bunch of protein powder (which I forgot in the heat of the moment, baking gets me all worked up), and I wanted them to be a bit more dense as power bites than they ended up being. Next go-round I’m going to mix in some oats as well to help them hold their shape, and perhaps try baking them a tiny bit!

 

#3: Almond Milk

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mid-way through the process!

I always figured almond milk would be much harder to create than it ended up being! I will warn, it is *much* pricier to make on the regular than buying dairy milk, but that’s not really how I use it. For me, it’s a treat that I’ll make for specific baking purposes (for instance chia pudding, or a vegan pancake recipe), so the cost difference doesn’t add up too much. Almonds are also (apparently) quite the water-guzzling crop, so it’s probably good to use them as a treat. 🙂

Super Simple Recipe

1 cup almonds; sliced or whole

2 cups water

strainer/cheese cloth/nut bag

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The night before you intend to make almond milk, soak the almonds overnight in a shallow dish such that the almonds have an inch or so of water above them. This will make them muuuuch easier to blend completely.

The next morning, drain and rinse the nuts thoroughly. Then combine the 1 cup almonds and 2 cups water in the blender, and blend for 2 minutes on the highest speed.

Pour the milk-y mixture through your strainer/cheese cloth/nut bag into a bowl, squeezing the pulp with your hands to drain all the moisture from it. This is hardest in a strainer (which is what I have), and very likely much easier with a few layers of cheese cloth or a nut bag.

The resulting liquid is your almond milk! You can add sweetener to taste, vanilla extract, etc, and I recommend only making as much as you’ll use in the next 48 hours or so since there are no preservatives in it. The almond meal that’s left over can be used in oatmeal, smoothies, cookies, muffins, or even in my attempts at power bites – I haven’t found a consistent use for it yet, that’s a work in progress. 🙂

My favourite use for almond milk is making chia seed puddings; there are a million great recipes available online for them, and they are a simple overnight option to make ahead for breakfasts and brunches!

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two flavours, though they look identical: apple pie, and banana almond chia puddings.

 

the wonderful world of compost!

All right! Let’s go! Compost! It’s waaaaayyyy easier than you think it is, and it actually makes me really happy in a “hard to put words to” kind of way. Starting to compost was one of the first simple (but super impactful) steps that we took when embarking on the Zero-Waste quest, and now that the weather has warmed up the process is really beginning to take shape!

First off we went and bought a compost bin (I think from Home Depot) for like $100. There are fancier ones on the market, and you could *definitely* make a DIY one for a lot cheaper, but that was the option we went with. We also picked up a cute little plastic “under the sink collector”. Very simply, fill the little guy with plant matter (no meat, bones, or dairy) from your kitchen and go dump it in the big one once it gets full.

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Now! I always put off composting because I was afraid of it ending up as a horrid stinking mess pile, so I’ve been pleased to see that this hasn’t happened *at all*. The main thing to keep an eye on is balancing the carbon material (wood shavings, dried grass clippings, sawdust, unbleached paper mulch, etc.) and nitrogen material (everything else, lettuce, potatoes, banana peels, coffee grounds, etc.). You need about 2/3 carbon to 1/3 nitrogen, but you can’t really have too much carbon unless you’re going way overboard. Basically if your pile gets sloppy or starts to smell bad (which ours has never done btw, it smells like leaves in the Fall), add some more carbon and give it a stir.

We don’t have a lawn to get grass clippings from but luckily my friend Joey works at a guitar factory where they generate copious amounts of sawdust. I’ve paid him a couple of visits and picked up a garbage bag full each time and we’ve had all the carbon we could use. We recently acquired this plastic bin to keep sawdust in, so next time I’ll bring that with me to avoid having to use a garbage bag.

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One of the really cool ideas that I’ve come across in the Waste-Not world is that in nature “waste is food”. Anything that an organism excretes as waste becomes food for another organism (think of dung beatles, haha!). I like how the “wasted” sawdust from Joey’s work can become food for the bacteria that do my composting, and eventually food for me when the compost gets used in the garden. I think there’s a real lesson here with how we design our consumer goods and the processes we use to create them. Could we hold industry responsible for operating (and co-operating) in such a way that nothing goes to waste in the whole system? Aaaaaanyway, I digress…

The next thing I learned about was aeration. The bacteria and enzymes that do the breaking down work need oxygen, so it’s a good idea to put a pile of sticks in the bottom of the composter to allow air to get up from underneath. It’s also important to give the pile a stir (with a pitchfork or some such implement) when you add to it. I really like doing this, it gives me a chance to see the process working. I’m pretty consistently amazed that there’s black dirt just a few inches down from the top of the pile.

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Over the winter the pile basically just accumulated because it was too cold for the bacteria to work, but now that the weather has warmed up the composting process has kicked in big time. I opened up the bottom of the bin the other day, and there it is, dark brown/black dirt! Probably what we’ll do once we move to the new house (eeeeeeeee!!!) is get another bin and rotate each year. Once the first bin is full, start filling the second one and let the process work away in the first bin largely undisturbed. Once the second bin is full the first one will be fully composted and we can empty it and start the process over. Cass is also stoked to have a third compost bin for neighbours and apartment friends to drop off to!

Here’s one more picture of the finished compost from the bottom of the bin. Zing!

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My Zero-Waste World: The TMI Post

Some awesome ideas here! ^_^

Zero-Waste Chef

In recent interviews, people have asked me if I follow zero-waste practices in aspects of my life other than food.

The short answer: Yes but besides food, what else is there?

The long answer follows.

Food

I’ve got this one covered in the 145+ posts on this blog. Essentially, to go zero-waste in the kitchen:

  1. Put together a shopping kit consisting of jars, containers and cloth produce and bulk bags.
  2. Shop at the farmer’s market where the unpackaged food also happens to tastes great.
  3. Fill up on staples in the bulk aisles at the grocery store.
  4. Cut out all processed food from your diet.
  5. Cook.

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View original post 1,677 more words

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.

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. 😉

 

 

apple cider vinegar update

The saga of Jesse’s experimentation with apple cider vinegar continues!

After the first successful batch, I had a couple of batches go bad on me, so I figured I’d do another post covering the mistakes I’ve made and the fixes that I’m working on.

Just to recap, the process of making apple cider vinegar is pretty simple (full post here). Take your apple scraps and put them in a wide mouthed jar covered by a couple of inches of water. Cover the mouth of the jar tightly with a cheesecloth, stir a couple of times a day for 3 weeks, and voila! After the bubbly booziness, the resulting liquid will have turned acidic due to the life processes of various micro-organisms, and there you have apple cider vinegar.

As long as you don’t mess anything up…

The second batch of vinegar that I attempted, I had the idea of adding yeast to speed the fermentation process. Suffice to say that I was perhaps over-exuberant and the yeast population expanded exponentially, to less than desirable results.

With the third batch I didn’t add yeast (relying only on the wild yeast that already existed in the apples themselves), but then I also didn’t stir the resulting concoction quite often enough, and after the apples absorbed enough water to expand, they basically started trying to climb out of the jar. It was not a pretty sight, with any apple material that was above the water line developing a thriving civilization of mold/bacteria.

With this most recent batch, I decided to make a simple mechanical device to keep the apples below the water level and make sure that they fermented properly, without actually going bad.

I used a spare cottage cheese container (cottage cheese being the one packaged food item that we’re allowing ourselves, we have a number of them), and a wood barbecue skewer, pictured below:

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I cut little slits in the container, and shaped it into a spiral that would fit into the mouth of the jar, and hold the apples below the water. Observe!

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So far, it appears to be working fairly well. The “mother of vinegar” bacteria culture is collecting on the device a little bit, but nothing too serious that a little rinse hasn’t taken care of. I’m still stirring the mixture every day, but now I don’t have to worry about running home from work to make sure that it gets done on any kind of rigid time schedule. By the end of next week, the vinegar should be ready to go!

a waste not week: food edition

We’ve been so blown away by how much discussion our zero waste project has been generating, and by how many people are already doing some or all of these things in their own homes! We also get a few popular questions; namely, has it been challenging?  and does it take a lot of time?

“Challenge” and “time” both being relative concepts, I thought that rather than answering these questions in a binary yes or no fashion, I’d summarize what an average week looks for us right now. You can judge for yourself! Another way to see what we do day-to-day, is to follow us over on Instagram!

Our zero waste goals affect most of our home life in different ways, so I’ll be tackling this idea in installations. This post is going to focus on the good stuff: FOOD!

Groceries

What food we buy and how we get it home accounts for a large chunk of our waste reduction efforts. Over the course of the week, we make 2 – 3 grocery trips, which is actually no different than our pre-waste not days. The big thing is that if you aren’t buying anything packaged and processed, you are relying a lot more on fresh veggies and fruits that have a shorter lifespan. We also buy a lot of root vegetables, dry beans, grains, etc that last quite a bit longer. Except for trailmix – it doesn’t seem to matter how much we buy, we always need to buy more. 😉

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A larger Bulk Barn haul than an average week – this is a pantry stocking trip. **All bags and containers are old Bulk Barn bags from December that we wash and reuse as the store doesn’t allow people to bring in their own mason jars/cloth bags**

I would say that one of the major benefits to buying non-packaged and processed food, aside from obvious and numerous health benefits, is that in order to create variety in our diet we usually snag one or two novelty items (eggplant, split peas, a different type of bean) to experiment with in the kitchen. Fun, and colourful!

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We have taken to buying a few different dried fruits and nuts and and trail mixes, and combining them to form a sort of uuber-mix. Nom nom nom!

Food Prep 

This is a stage that didn’t really warrant its own heading before we started our zero waste journey. Present day, preparing our food has become a weekly fixture, because all the food that we are buying is in its whole, unaltered state when it gets home to our counter.

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It is so simple and satisfying to turn apples into applesauce! We use applesauce as our main sweetener since we generally avoid sugar. This is about 13 – 14 apples!

A lot of our food prep isn’t actually a weekly process, so what I’ve done is made a rough list of our necessities, organized by the frequency with which we need to make them (always in bulk).

  • bread: weekly

requires 6 hours of on-and-off attention, plus 30 mins prep the night before, and an hour in the oven the day after (worth every second, I promise)

  • sourdough crackers: weekly/every two weeks

takes under an hour to whip up several batches

  • hummus: every two weeks

leave chickpeas simmering for a few hours, then takes about 10 minutes to blend

  • apple sauce: every two weeks

simmer apples on the stove, or forget about them in the slow cooker, then blend for 2 minutes

  • tomato sauce: every two weeks

same as the apple sauce! if you’re feeling industrious, add some onions

  • pie crust: monthly

make a big batch of dough, roll, and freeze in our accumulated old pie plates; 45 minutes

  • pizza crust: monthly

we use the sourdough cracker recipe, and just roll it a bit thicker and into a pizza crust shape; they seem to freeze quite well! takes about 20 minutes

  • vegetable soup stock: monthly/every two months

put all old veggie leavings from the freezer into slow cooker with water, and come back in eight hours; 5 minutes of time if you take the scenic route

That’s about it! Everything else we make from scratch when we feel like having it: pancakes, quiche, ice cream, soups, stews… nothing from a can or a package, and generally nothing takes more than about 30 minutes to whip up. And let’s be honest, we aren’t dealing with particularly high stakes here; if we don’t have time to bulk food prep, we just live without it until we have time. The challenge here is that if we fail to prepare, there can be a feeling of scarcity in our fridge and pantry. No packaging means no easy grab and go options beyond raw fruit and veggies, so we really need to keep on top of food prep in order to avoid feeling deprived in any way.

For something like my bread recipe, which is certainly the most time-consuming on the list by far, we always have the option of buying it from somewhere delicious like the Night Oven instead. If we ever get a food processor, I may move to making my own nut butters, and doubtless that will cut down a little bit on the time spent using our trusty immersion blender!

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10 – 14 tomatoes yields us about 3.5 – 4 litres of tomato sauce! Great base for pasta dishes, soups, pizza topping, etc. We typically throw these guys in the freezer.

So…. 

Is zero waste food a challenge? Yes and no. Most of our grocery experiences have been painless, and we aren’t really too ruffled if we can’t have something because it’s packaged. Most of our recipes are pretty foolproof and quick, and the ones that have taken some tweaking are honestly much more rewarding once we have them all sorted out. Again, most of the challenge comes in needing to plan ahead for our food needs, but there’s a definite benefit to spending our time on these visceral essentials.

Which leads to the big question: Is it time consuming? Ultimately, neither of us are really approaching the project from that lens, turns out. We do indeed spend more time planning and preparing our food than we would if we weren’t always working with whole ingredient. Both Jesse and I find ourselves look at it this way: we would ultimately be allocating that time to something, likely less immediate and nurturing, like squeezing in an extra errand, some TV, or some other glorification of “busy” that would have us out of our home for another hour here and there. We are simply choosing to allocate some of that time to processes and help us to slow down and connect with how we’re fueling ourselves. We would be spending some degree of time preparing our meals anyway, and our from scratch recipes just mean that we’re generally eating better, healthier options. The bread is admittedly quite time consuming, but it’s completely elective on my part – we could definitely be meeting our zero waste goals without me becoming a baker. I’m just really, really enjoying getting into bread making.

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Bread porn. Flour, water, salt, that’s it!

And see, that’s the thing. I’m enjoying it. As we go along, I’m challenging a lot of identities that I carried for a long time for no real reason. “I’m not a baker.” “I can’t cook.” “I don’t have time.” The fact is, taking time to plan out our food, making each other things to eat with love and care, these are really rewarding (and unexpected) bi-products of the Waste Not project. Our date nights often include cooking and food prep now, and with it comes conversation and some of the most real moments I’ve ever had with someone else. I think it’s worth the time! 🙂 ❤

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One of our busier date nights – bulk pie crusts, sourdough rising (around 2 hours in), veggie stock just starting to simmer.

 

pit stick misadventures

OK, OK… I don’t necessarily know that it’s a misadventure yet. I just have a strong suspicion that it may be. Read on!

Having largely tackled our kitchen waste over the last couple of months, we’ve been slowly moving on to the bathroom. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been anxiously watching my supply of deodorant dwindle, with the knowledge that one day soon I would need to figure out a waste-free alternative to it.

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Today, my friends, was that day. I’m on the eve of setting out for three consecutive shows in Calgary, Nelson, and Vancouver, and my stick of Old Spice has seen it’s last. So we’re going trial by fire on this one, cuz I’ve been known to work up a mighty sweat whilst on stage.

Most of the DIY pit sticks that I was able to find online used coconut oil as a base, with various combinations of cornstarch (I’m assuming for absorption) baking soda (for scouring?), and essential oils (for the smell-like-a-hippy). So, being in just that kind of mood I basically threw a couple of spoonfuls of the oil, baking soda, and cornstarch (all obtained from Bulk Barn) in a bowl and whisked them together, then added some essential oil that a friend had gifted us. Recipes! F*=% that! Making pitstick according to a recipe is like making love according to a recipe. Boring!

Above you see me applying the resulting goop to my pits. I am out of my comfort zone. Standing in the kitchen with coconut grease slowly dripping down my ribs I have a surreal moment of “What exactly am I doing with my life?”. Cass gives me a hug. She loves me.

Now she’s at the sink testing out our newest soap recipe on my coconut oil coated spatula… We’re still working at the whole dish-soap situation as well. The last couple of batches have basically just broken apart and sat as a strange skin on top of the dish water, and left a thin layer of grease clinging to basically everything. This week we’re going to go with a combination attack of shaved bar soap and a teaspoon of washing soda in *extremely* hot water. We’ll see how it handles the remnants of my pitstick experiment.

All silliness aside, it’s at times like these that I think about the larger reasons for taking on this project. I think about the hardship and the sacrifice that our forebearers  undertook in order for us to even be here, and I realize that if my kids and my kids’ kids are going to have a good world to live in, then I’d better be willing to sacrifice too. I think that we can all agree that rubbing coconut oil into my armpits is not likely to save the world. But maybe it’s a start.

 

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