low waste valentine’s day

 

Valentines zero waste

Disclaimer: I’m really not into holidays much- I grew up with a mom who was a Jehovah’s Witness so we never celebrated them.  Therefore, it’s not something I have strong connections with- no nostalgia, memories, or traditions tied in.  I know this sounds really ascetic and miserly, but it wasn’t and I’m actually really grateful, because I don’t feel pressure to participate in what I feel can tend to be overly materialistic aspects of holidays.  It’s pretty freeing to just spend time with family and give small and meaningful gifts from the heart as I feel inspired to, instead of on a specific date set in place by capitalistic white patriarchy:  I love the quote from that article- “practically everything in every store you walk into has some sort of Valentine’s Day limited edition, overpriced junk. Rational people ransack the joints, and leave with packages of third world manufactured festivity supplies that will tomorrow find their way to third world landfills. Sentiments, probably born in some gray cubicle, are expressed in cards written by someone else, somewhere else.”  Anyways….I’m not really an expert on holidays so forgive my mistakes if I overlook aspects of them.

Zero waste kids valentines

At Carmela’s school, they exchange valentines.  I can’t control what things are given to her, but I can control what we give out.  I volunteered to make the cookies for their class party so that they were healthy-ish and not bought in plastic from Costco as has happened in the past.  She makes her own valentines every year, from recycled materials such as brown paper bags, the backside of once used paper, old wrapping paper, even pretty chocolate bar wrappers we’ve cut up and used.

Valentines

Gold foil from chocolate make a great decoration to cut out too.  For paste, I do an easy homemade flour and water paste– its messy and it doesn’t hold up forever but it’s fun and biodegradable.  Be careful to find out if any kids in the class have gluten sensitivities if you use it since it does have flour.

Zero waste valentines

As little favors to go with the Valentine’s in lieu of plastic toys or candies, we made some candied orange peels with the leftover peels from local organic navel oranges we ate.  They’re really easy- just basically peel, slice into thin strips and then boil in simple syrup- this recipe works great.  I dip in melted chocolate after.  A good quick option would be bulk candy in a little paper bag or diy envelope/pouch.  We are also adding in little “treasures”- a marble, bit of sea glass, crystal, shell, pretty rock, dried flower, bead- I’ve found that younger kids really love these things and they can be free things you’ve found or repurposed.

Shells treasures beach

I attach the Valentines to the paper pouch with a bit of biodegradable jute twine.  One year, we gave sunflower seed packets and they were a hit, too.

orange peel candy

For the cookies, the teacher requested I make the same ones I made for their Christmas party, which are these Hot for Food gingerbread cookies.  I’ll cut them into hearts and add a little beet juice or cranberry powder to the icing for a natural pink. You could probably sub chilled coconut oil for the vegan butter but one of the kids in the class has an allergy.  I bring them in on one big plate and the teacher uses compostable paper napkins to serve (the school has a worm compost in their garden!)

valentines

If you’re thinking about giving flowers to someone, I’d suggest a gorgeous living plant instead to bring joy and life into your loved ones’ space for much longer and its so much more environmentally friendly.  Or homegrown flowers!

orchid

Plus, who isn’t obsessed with plants?  From a little succulent to a big handsome fiddle leaf fig, there’s an option for everyone.  Orchids are beautiful and the blooms last several months, and can keep blooming for years.  Below is a monstera that my husband gave me a couple years ago.  Since then I’ve propagated and divided it into a couple new plants, given a few away to others, and it’s brought me joy every day.

Monstera

If you can, choose fair trade and organic chocolate or ideally, buy locally if possible.  If you’re in Sacramento, Ginger Elizabeth’s is delicious and really nice about putting stuff in your own container.  You can also DIY this 5 minute chocolate bark from the archives that is infinitely customizable and looks like a million bucks.

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

For cards, personally I always appreciate getting a handmade card or even just a piece of pretty paper with heartfelt words rather than a premade card with a regurgitated message and signature.  I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel loved and appreciated to receive a lovely note, poem, etc.  A wonderful gift on Valentines is a book that celebrates self love- like Rupi Kaurs Milk and Honey + The Sun and Her Flowers.

zero Waste wrapping

However you celebrate or don’t celebrate this February 14th, I hope you have a wonderful day and bask in your self love.  If you get a teddy bear and unethical chocolate and lingerie and red roses and a hallmark card it’s ok too.  It’s wonderful to be alive and I love you all xx

beginning to reduce waste

Hello!  Sorry for my lack of posting yesterday, it’s been a super busy week and last night I “taught” my first zero waste class at Refill Madness along with Sloane.  If you’re in the Sacramento area we will be holding these once a month.  Please contact me if you’re interested they’re free!  I say “taught” because I mostly just opened it up to questions from people that were there because I think thats the most important way to learn- asking pertinent questions and getting answers tailored to your specific concerns.

muir woods zero waste

Not any one of us is the “leader” in this community, I believe that we are simply here to share our experiences and help one another gain awareness just as we ourselves have been taught at the beginning of our journey.  We learn through positive uplifting allies, and no one person can claim to be the all in one leader of this movement, especially when zero waste 1) is actually an industrial term explaining a circular economy approach where everything get reused, and 2) has its roots in indigenous culture, and more recently, poverty- people doing “zero waste” practices without even realizing it because of NECESSITY.

I’ve gathered together some of the most common questions I received last night about the ways I know to reduce waste.  If you are able to make any or all of these changes in your life, please consider doing so.

1. bring your reusable bags with you- both a shopping tote and produce bags.  There are so many of these available for purchase in local stores, online, handmade on Etsy, and in thrift stores.  If you can’t afford to buy one OR feel compelled to make your own, you can knot one together from an old tee shirt, crochet your own produce bags.  I keep a few in my car and purse so I don’t forget!

reusable bag

2. bring your own container- when ordering pre made food and drinks on the go, bring a mason jar or other reusable vessel with lid for drinks, and a container for to go food or leftovers.  Something like this stainless steel container or this tiffin (same one we have) are great to replace worn out plastic tupperware.  For further reading, check out this post: zero waste: on the go kit.  I know this can be hard to get used to and can be a barrier for some who have anxiety or are shy (it was one of the hardest parts about going zero waste for me!) but just keep trying if you can, its so worth it and gets easier.

Zero waste drink

3. Store your food without new plastic!  Click here for a comprehensive guide to storing everything waste free from my friend Ariana.  Continue to use what you already have until it breaks- I’m still using glass snaplock and pyrex bowls (both have plastic lids) from pre zero waste.  Mason jars are awesome for storing leftovers too.  Glass containers or jars for storage are fairly common in thrift stores too, at least in my own area.

fridge plastic free zero waste

4. visit bulk and farmers market whenever possible.  These places offer many food items without packaging.  For tips on how to shop without a bulk store, click here.  Choose the most sustainable packaging you can- paper, fabric, glass, and metal are all more sustainable than plastic.  If choosing plastic, choose hard plastic if possible which is more likely to be recycled.

Farmers market plastic free

5. compost your food scraps.  click here for a post on that, with many different ways to do so.  If you’re in Sacramento, theres a compost drop off location at The Plant Foundry.  You can keep the scraps in your freezer until you have time to drop them off.

6. respectfully say no to things like straws, free pens, business cards, plastic wrapped free candies, those tiny bags of mini floss and toothpaste from the dentist.  By accepting freebies we are effectively saying as consumers, “YES!  I love free single use plastic items, please make more of those!”

7. make the switch to cloth napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and paper towels.  I bought a bunch of mismatched cloth napkins about 5 years ago on clearance at world market and they’ve saved me so much money over the years.  I cut rags out of old t shirts, and wipe up with those instead + a super simple cleaning “solution” of white vinegar steeped in citrus peels and diluted with water.

natural zero waste cleaning

8. use knit scrubbies (or crochet your own) or wood dish brushes or copper scrubbies to clean dishes.  This costs a lot less than sponges, and you can compost or recycle at the end of life.  I buy my dish soap in bulk at refill madness (a local refill shop).  Here’s how to DIY.  If you still buy conventional dish soap, please consider switching to a palm oil free option.  Whats the problem with palm oil?

Zero waste dishes

9. make your own toothpaste or buy toothpaste in a recyclable metal tube.  Heres a post I did with more info: package free: toothpaste.  Compostable floss: made in USA refillable glass bottle with silk floss and made in AUS recyclable container vegan bamboo floss.  I use a bamboo toothbrush too.

Zero waste toothpaste toothbrush bamboo

10. make your own nut/seed/grain milk, its really easy, relatively cheap, and much healthier than store bought.  I have a step by step tutorial on my saved stories on my instagram page of how I make almond milk.  Check out this post by minimalist baker too about nut milk.  Theres so many reasons to cut out milk even if you’re not vegan, for environmental reasons alone.  Check out this WWF post with lots of info on how dairy affects the enviroment and this NYT post on the same subject (both non vegan info sources).

Almond milk

11. take steps to reduce junk mail.  This is a great all in one post for that which has helped me reduce our junk mail to almost non-existent levels.

12. try out refillable/plastic free makeup brands like Elate Cosmetics (vegan), RMS beauty (beeswax), dirty hippie cosmetics (vegan), meow meow tweet tweet vegan lip balm in a biodegradable tube, or DIY your own.  Recycle any kinds of cosmetic packaging through Origin’s awesome program.  Send mascara wands to Appalachian Wildlife where they use them to remove larvae and fly eggs from rescued animals fur.

13. If you have a baby, consider using cloth diapers and homemade spray +cloth wipes (recipe here).  We did this out of necessity when Vin was a baby as he got terrible eczema and it was amazing, and not hard like I had imagined.  We line dried (yes even in winter, with an indoor drying rack near the heater vent).  Green Mountain Diapers is a great small company resource for this with TONS OF info here.

14.  Reduce your reliance on animal products, they are one of the hardest things to find waste free and they also contribute in huge ways to deforestation, carbon emissions, and pollution not to mention the ethical reasons.  You don’t have to go vegan (although it would be awesome!) just try cutting back as much as you can to save resources.  Check out the documentary Cowspiracy for so much great info on this, and Stevie’s post “Lower Your Foodprint” for much more concrete ways to do this.  Check out my vegan meal plans too!

Thanks so much for reading- for further zero waste and vegan resources, please check out this page.

zero waste inspiration: Max

Hello again!  If you haven’t been following along in this zero waste inspiration series, we’ve been talking to inspiring people who are making zero waste work for their daily lives in so many different ways.  Last week we talked to Stevie Van Horn- read her interview here.

Today, I’m really excited to share with you Max La Manna, a zero waste and vegan chef.  You may know him from his drool worthy instagram @eatingwithmax where he posts about vegan food, wellness, zero waste and more.  Max is located in NYC and you can also find him + his recipes on his blog Eating With Max.  I’m so happy to be able to interview him because not only is he super inspiring, but I find men to be underrepresented in both the vegan and zero waste communities.  I hope you also find this helpful!  If you have someone in particular in mind you’d like to nominate for an interview, please let me know in the comments or on my instagram @mamaeatsplants .

Max la manna vegan chef

Walk us through a typical day for you- what do you get up to on the regular?
My days vary day to day, so whatever I feel like doing and is aligned with me in the moment is what I’ll get into. Normally, I have my morning routine that consists of a cold shower, yoga and meditation, positive affirmations, drinking a lot of water and conscious breathing. My favorite part of my day is when I wake up and moments before I go to bed – these are moments are so crucial and find them to be the moments where you set yourself up for success. Throughout the day, I am reading, researching, creating food and immersing myself in some creative action.

vegan butternut

What inspired you to go zero waste and what continues to inspire you to stick to it?

Well, I feel as though I’ve practiced zero waste in different aspects of my life since I was a child in small ways. I would look around and see trash everywhere and knew that this is not how I wanted to treat my planet and would pick up trash on the streets, and at the beach – I guess, the inspiration came from my good friend, Lauren Singer when we met late last year. Sometimes it only takes one person and you see something or feel something and in that moment I changed. What inspires me? Life! I’m going to live a long, healthy and happy life and if I am able to create less waste in doing so then I’ve done my part and hopefully, someone meets me and they change in that moment too and it continues…

Picking up trash New York City zero waste

How easy is it for you to live zero waste in NYC? Any specific challenges for this area?
Each day meets new challenges when I am traveling about this makes it fun, so I consisting have to check in and ask myself “where’s my container’s, where’s my reusable bags, do I have my mason jar?”. Anything new or a transition into a new lifestyle is going to bring new challenges, and being present and mindful in those moments is what allows me to continue to live a zero waste lifestyle. Taking in each moment which allows me to be present as well. The other day I was with Stevie and we forgot our containers, and had leftover food – we ended up having to take the food with us wrapped in a napkin. The weird looks from the wait staff did not deter us from continuing to do what was right because we knew they weren’t going to compost our food leftovers.

vegan food max la manna zero waste tiffin

Where do you shop locally for your zero waste food and household needs?
Go local! The farmers markets is where I go for my produce and food co-ops for other staples. I’m currently getting into making household cleaners with the use of citrus peels. I’d like to get into making shampoos and other hygiene products from scratch. The beautiful thing about being zero-waste is that you get to be creative and when you do your research you commit to it and you surprise yourself every time.

zero waste pasta vegan

If you live with a roommate, do they share your zero waste values? If not, do you find this to be challenging?
Oh, the roommates! No, they don’t practice zero waste or a vegan diet like myself, but I have seen changes in one of my roommates, which is amazing. Like I said, it takes one person. The other day I looked inside their garbage pin and saw plastic and other recyclable items and that made me mad, so I went out and bought a separate bin for them to separate their recycling and this has made an impact in our household. Small changes, big impact!

Vegan chocolate peppermint macaroons

You work as a chef- my husband manages a restaurant and waste is a HUGE issue in the food + hospitality industry, I believe. What ways have you modified your cooking when you made the switch to zero waste?
Growing up in my father’s kitchen and even in the restaurants I’ve worked in, I saw a lot of food waste and it made me upset that food was being thrown away and was still perfectly good for consumption or for other practices like composting. When I started practicing zero waste, my cooking style had to change immediately. I strongly feel that a vegan diet compliments this zero waste lifestyle completely. I started off buying ingredients in glass jars, so then I can reuse the glass jars and refill my ingredients. Then, I started shopping for ingredients that had no packaging – bringing cloth bags and those jars to the store with me to collect dry goods and spices in bulk and bringing my eco bag to carry my groceries home with me. This has made all the difference in my cooking! I feel clean, pure and I know exactly what is going into my body.

Vegan curry

Vegan chefs are a minority in fine dining- I hear a lot of negative comments about how cooking without animal products severely limits a chef in terms of possibilities, flavors, and cultural/traditional foods. Have you received such comments/negativity from peers in your industry and what is your view on vegan culinary “limitations”?

Of course, and then I welcome these people to try my food. My closest friends are not vegan and when they come over to eat, they are blown away by the flavor, texture, the colors that are incorporated- I guess I’m boasting a bit and puffing my chest, but seriously I have not been upset or limited with my cooking with lack of flavor or possibilities.  Think of this for a second, what are you seasoning that steak or chicken with?  VEGAN ingredients- like herbs and vegetables, so what am I really lacking?  (note: this is SO true, in my experience the flavors we crave are actually a result of the seasonings, spices, cooking techniques and sauces that we put on it- is plain no salt meat palatable?  No, its the way we cook it and the flavors we add that make it good.  Case in point- buffalo wings- its all about the SAUCE, and when made with cauliflower they taste just as good if not better and you can feel GOOD after eating a whole bowl instead of too full/sick).

Vegan pizza rainbow

pictured:  Max’s almond cheese rainbow pizza, recipe can be found HERE.

So many women message me saying they have a really hard time trying to introduce plant based food into their male partner’s lives and I’ve noticed that veganism and masculinity have this weird stigma in our culture. Did you have any hangups about this before you went vegan? Do you have any tips on how to help men lean more towards veganism/plant based food?

The moment the idea about veganism entered my mind I changed the way I ate immediately. I think people get hung over with the name “diet” because we are constantly introduced a new trend, a new way to lose weight, a new this or new that – I think you need to do what feels right to you and your body and forget what others have to say. At the end of the day, who is going to take care of you? I’ve always been the person who thought outside the box or when everyone went one way, I went the other. I educated myself and read countless articles of veganism and then did my research on what to eat as a vegan. Over the years, I started to realize how good I felt and how much energy I have on a day-to-day basis – far more energy than I did when I was eating meat. For the men, who are out there who are considering or are just turned off from the idea – ask yourself – is my health important to me? Is the environment important to me? Is an animals life important to me? If you answer, yes to at least one of these then you need to take a good long look at yourself and accept that there is an awakening- change! Welcome the change with open arms. The strongest animals on this planet are herbivores – think about that for just a second.

zero waste vegan men

Continuing on this masculinity stigma, have you experienced negative reactions from male friends, coworkers, etc upon going zero waste? If so, how have you dealt with that?

I definitely hear it from others – male and female. What’s funny to me now is that those people are now practicing zero waste in small ways and practice going vegan a couple times during the week, so I guess it’s working. The first time I brought my compost to the farmer’s market I felt like I made such a difference – the feeling was so palpable and the rest of my day I was flying on a cloud. Knowing that you are making small changes creates bigger impacts down the road.

Composting is an essential part of zero waste and everyone does it a little differently. How do you compost in the city?

Compost freezer new york

Well, I am fortunate to have a compost bin in the front of my apartment, so I can easily go outside and toss my food scraps into the compost bin anytime. I typically will go the farmer’s market with my compost one week and then next I will use NYC’s compost. So, during the week I keep my compost in my freezer and sometimes I’ll take photos of the food scraps as it reminds me that food is art and no matter how you look at it – food can serves multiple purposes.

What is your biggest kind/source of trash still?
Napkins! Every time I go out to eat I always reach for that napkin – I’m getting better at it – this is a process and a change that is new for a lot of us, so we must be kind to ourselves.

max la manna vegan chef

You cook so many amazing delicious recipes, all from scratch. What’s your view on home cooking and how do you make time for it, even as a busy person?
Wow, thank you so much!  There is nothing better than a home cooked meal in my opinion.  I choose a home cooked meal any time! I do take my time and it shows in my cooking- I believe, and I feel that you can taste that in every bite as well. Truly, I make the time to cook at home – I hear from others that they don’t have time and you can’t make that excuse anymore – If it’s important to you then you’ll make the change. It’s about commitment and allowing yourself to research and create a recipe. I love what I do! I’m constantly receiving messages from people and they hire me to create recipes for the weekly.  This is the fun part of it all, and of course, eating the food too!

Vegan chef max la manna

Do you have a zero waste kit for when you’re out and about? If so, what’s in it and what do you carry it in?

Absolutely, I think you have to! When I do go out I carry my backpack with me or my eco bag. I will always bring my stainless steel container and mason jar with me as well. These are simple fixes and you may not get it right on the first couple times you go out, but after awhile you become pro and if you’re actively making a change then you’re stepping in the right direction.

Zero waste on the go

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zero waste inspiration: in the city with Stevie

Welcome to a new series on the blog of zero waste inspiration: I’ll be interviewing different people from all kinds of locations, lifestyles, ages and backgrounds to share how they make zero waste work for them.  My hope is for you to be inspired to start somewhere reducing your waste…no matter what your situation.

This week we are talking to Stevie Van Horn- someone I’ve followed for a while on Instagram and continue to be inspired by daily.

stevie sustainability plastic free straw

Stevie is an all around amazing lady living a zero waste lifestyle in New York City.  She is an advocate for living sustainably, self love, positivity, and getting outside in nature (one of my major goals to work on in 2018!!).  She thrifts her clothes, she recently adopted & tamed a stray cat lurking around her building, and she absolutely radiates joy + love.

Zero waste vegan food

You can find her inspiring people on Instagram @stevieyaaay, on her blog tradingwasteforabundance.com, and her YouTube where she fuses environmental topics and DIY recipes with dancing + general hilarity.  She makes living without the trash seem effortless.  Read on to find out how she does it all.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!  What’s your daily life like?

My name is Stevie, I am zero waste and a sustainability activist. My daily life varies day to day! I have a couple projects coming out this year so some days its embroidering for long days, writing, and creating!

Embroidery body positivity

What prompted you to live zero waste + did you make the transition gradually or all at once?

What inspired me to be zero waste was actually a bit odd. I started an obsession with fungi and mycelium. Mycelium is known as the neurological network of the forest and the fruiting bodies is mushrooms. This organism regenerates, rebalances and communicates with its environment and without it, the forest would be in shambles.

Mushrooms sustainable mycelium

I started really asking myself what the role of humans are and realized there are so many things we can do to be more harmonious with our environment. Zero waste is one of those things that I started doing and realized Ill never go back to my old way of consuming. I decided to prepare for a couple months before I started so I can be more successful but since I had all these trashy things to begin with, the transition is ongoing even today!

mycelium

What was your biggest source of trash pre zero waste + how did you get rid of it?

My biggest source of trash was food waste and food packaging! I never liked leftovers, I opted for plastic packaged everything and filled up a trash bin like once a day in the kitchen. I got rid of it by composting food scraps, being more mindful of utilizing all my food, and shopping in bulk, and fresh and organic. I’ve completely remedied my biggest source of waste just by paying more attention and being more mindful!

How easy or hard is it to live zero waste in your area?  Are there any specific challenges you’ve had to find a work around for?

It’s easy for me to be zero waste in NYC because of all the options I have. There are farmers markets often, there are co-ops in manhattan and I can find a bulk store in almost every borough. They have a compost pick up at our house too for easy composting. The challenges, I think, would be traveling to certain stores or finding a convenient time to do it. It was a habit switch for me though so gradually it got a lot easier to trek to these areas just by this mental switch and I really enjoy doing it!

Zero waste shopping

What’s your grocery shopping look like?  How often do you go, where do you go, and what kinds of foods do you typically buy?

Grocery shopping for me is heading to the farmers market for seasonal, organic fruits and veggies and then I head to a bulk grocery store or Whole Foods for the rest. I shop mostly organic and try for mostly local with produce. All my staple items come from the bulk section such as rice, lentils, nutritional yeasts, gluten free flours, nuts, dried fruit etc… Lately I’ve been on a kick of making cashew coconut milk, burcha, and sweet potato toast!  (note: Stevie’s post on how to lower your FOOTPRINT is so helpful)

You live with a roommate- has this been tricky on your road to zero waste? Does she share your values in this respect?

My room mate is also my best friend and she supports what I do 100%. She backs up the lifestyle and tries her absolute best to minimize her waste too!

Composting is a huge part of reducing landfill waste and everyone does it differently depending on where they live.  How do you compost in the city?

Composting in the city is easy for me! My neighborhood finally has a compost pick up every Thursday I believe. Before I would take it to the farmers market which I find it was just as easy.

compost travel

What’s your view on recycling and how much do you rely on it?

Recycling is great if you can recycle it 100% ! I used to buy a lot of cans but recently looked into what I can actually make instead of using them and cut that by like 75%. Beans, soups, and coconut milks were big for me.  I find that if you find the alternative and its easy to handle, then reducing the amount you recycle would be awesome. If I don’t have time to go to a specific bulk store, then I just opt for paper packaged, aluminum, or compost packaged items and I think thats totally fine!

vegan zero waste groceries

Some people worry that zero waste is expensive- what’s been your experience here?

Zero waste I thought would be expensive and I find that there are certain things that can be more expensive but as a whole you are getting more bang for your buck and often times we are spending more on the actually packaging and labels of it. I also used to buy packaged foods because they were just tempting. I would buy like 20 granola bars, cereals, bottled drinks, and all that just because they did a good job at branding and now I find that I can make things at home for way cheaper. You realize there are so many things you can live without that was just being given into by good advertising.

It seems that you travel a fair bit- how do you avoid waste while traveling?

Traveling takes some prep and some good tupperware. If you have a mason jar, produce, and prepped snacks you can avoid all waste. Home made popcorn, bananas, veggies, and rice bowls are all things I usually take with me and the food scraps go in the mason jar until I compost it or bury it next to a tree if I can’t. This is a habit switch that just takes a bit to get used to since you do have to make room for that time you spend prepping but its worth it !

sustainable zero waste travel

I know you’re palm oil free and it’s something I’m just starting to be aware of looking for.  Could you explain a little about why this is an ingredient you avoid, and what ingredient names to look out for in products that are palm oil derivatives?

Palm oil is one of those secret ingredients not a ton of people know about. Palm oil extraction takes place in plantations where they were previous peatlands and forests. A main hub for these plantations is in Indonesia in the Sumatran rainforest. Not only are they burning down vast forests everyday to meet the demands we have for this oil, but they are treating elephants, orangutans, and tigers like they are rodents where they are electrocuted, shot, and poisoned.

sustainable palm oil is a lie

These forests are the only place where these amazing, intelligent species all dwell symbiotically and we are losing it so fast just for us to buy detergent, peanut butters, lipsticks, chips etc… There are so many different alternatives to this ingredient and to brands that carry products with this ingredient inside it. Some names it goes by are: Organic Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Palmate, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Palmitate, Sodium Laurel Sulfate.

Palm oil not sustainable

note: “sustainable” palm oil actually isn’t sustainable at all- don’t be fooled and please just avoid this ingredient all together- everyone should do this, but especially if you are vegan, buying palm oil products DIRECTLY contributes to SUFFERING- which is why I don’t consider palm oil products “vegan” even if they are, in fact, animal product free.  Dr Bronners is one well known brand that uses “sustainable palm oil” BUT this is an ecologically destructive ingredient whether or not there are animals involved.  Consider this information from Big Spoon roasters:  “ ‘Sustainable’ palm oil claims have arisen recently to represent an approach to oil palm agriculture that aims to produce palm oil without causing deforestation or harming people. However, “sustainable palm oil” has rightly been under fire for several years from environmentalists and organizations that have compiled evidence that such claims are nothing more than greenwashing schemes. This view did not improve within the environmental community upon the formation of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) in 2004. The RSPO is a not-for-profit organization and currently the largest sustainability-focused organization within the palm oil sector, however its standards do not ban deforestation or destruction of peatlands for the development of oil palm plantations.”

I’ve heard people comment that living zero waste is too time consuming.  You DIY a lot of products like toothpaste, cleaning spray, facial moisturizer + cook healthy homemade food- what’s your experience been with fitting these into your life?

zero waste on the go

I think zero waste can be considered time consuming like eating home cooked meals can. There’s no way around prepping but much like having a Sunday prep day, you can make it a fun routine, where once a week or the same day as meal prep you can stock up, create, and prep for the weeks or months ahead depending on different products! I tend to run out of a couple things at the same time which makes it perfect for remaking it all at the same time too!

What would you say to someone who is curious about zero waste, but feels overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start?

My advice to someone who wants to start zero waste but seems a bit overwhelmed is to take it easy! This is supposed to be an incredibly eye opening and fun transition and that takes time. First notice what you waste within the next week or even a month. Once you identify where you waste, you can then look for alternatives which is where the fun begins!

Stevie yaaaay

Another big piece of advice is do not expect perfection, you will not get it! Every positive action you take is a HUGE WIN! So celebrate them all and learn from the ones that are accidents or giving in cravings!

talking trash: 4 months

vegan zero waste trash jar

Time is just flying by and it’s already time for another trashy post.  A few of you asked me to document my recycling this month too so I’ve added that…although I don’t know if I’ll do it every month because it was kind of a pain to keep it around this long… but I will if its really helpful/interesting for you.  Let me know.

This is everything my family of four wasn’t able to reuse, repurpose, or rot (compost) this month…so our landfill trash and our recycling.  For more info on how we keep waste so low, check out the first post in this series: month 1.  And for past months of trash documentation: month 2, and month 3.  For a post about a zero waste kit to reduce trash on the go, click here.

Lets get into it.  First, here’s all the actual “trash” or landfill waste we made.

zero waste landfill trash jar

landfill trash:

plastic seal from Just Mayo: I haven’t ventured to experiment with DIY vegan mayo but will when we run out of this guy.  I reuse the glass jars and plastic lids for storage and bulk buying.

tabs from Carmela thrift coats, Joel sweaters, Vin tops: we needed some clothes this month as it got colder and even though we thrifted them, they come with little plastic tabs that attach the paper tags. (click here to read how+why we shop secondhand for almost all clothing)

tape from copper pots- also at the thrift store I found this amazing set of vintage copper pots (not even a brand on them and so well made) and they had a bunch of plastic shipping tape wrapped around them to keep the lids together with the pots.

plastic for your protection seal from oregano oil- this is my go to, heal all potion for immunity, infection, my mom even uses it to remove suspicious sun spots.  I was out so I bought another (it lasts forever) and it had this plastic seal.  I reuse the bottles for my own tinctures and refilling extracts.

2 small pieces of scotch tape from the sleeve of handmade local soap: these bars of soap was minimally packed with a thin strip of paper, held together by a sliver of tape.

tag from a bunch of parsley: usually I buy these at the market but occasionally I forget or run out and this label was attached to the twist tie.  It has a #5 recycling symbol on it, but its so small I worry it will slip right through and get trashed.

Clearly kombucha label: my husband picked this up before our own kombucha was ready to drink and although it had a metal lid and glass bottle (which i washed and will reuse for our own brew), it had this giant plastic label on it.

Nature’s Bakery fig bar: this I found at the bottom of my daughters backpack and she said it was a prize for winning the reading contest in her class at school.  I’ve talked to the teacher and asked if I can bring in a few jars of various bulk treats for her to give out instead of the bars, goldfish crackers, and plastic wrapped toys she usually gives.  The teacher didn’t mind whatsoever and I’m so happy to have this option.

Volunteer sticker: I volunteer at my daughter’s school a few times a week (I co chair the garden program there) and usually I sneak by the office so I don’t have to check in (and get this huge plastic sticker) but this time I needed a key and was forced to check in, hence the sticker.

Produce stickers from avocados: thankfully the avocado stand from Southern CA is back at the market.  I recently read this piece about avocados and sustainability too that I found thought provoking.

Gold plastic seal from a sesame oil bottle:  I usually buy this in bulk but I ran out unexpectedly one night after being almost done with a recipe it was essential for- I will wash +reuse the glass bottle it came in for hot sauce.

2 plastic windows from mail: I have all my bills on paperless, and have followed this great post years ago to stop virtually all junk mail- but I did get 2 envelopes this month with plastic windows for a security alert from my bank and new membership to a local art museum.

2 non dairy yogurt starter packets: experimenting with ways to get consistent results on dairy free yogurts and I wouldn’t recommend this brand.  I could have not bought this but I’m really sad without good non dairy yogurt.  We have a couple coco yogurt brands in glass here but they’re expensive and not very good.  All others like almond milk and cashew yogurt are in plastic here.

Next, here’s all the recycling we had this month.

recycling zero waste

recycling:

6 beer bottles + 3 beer cans + 1 wine bottle:  as you can see, this is the majority of the recycling.  My husband manages a restaurant here and receives free samples of beer and wine from alcohol reps and companies.  I wish he didn’t accept them and we bought beer and wine in growlers/our own bottles, but I’m working on it and at least there’s no plastic involved here.  If you’re in Sacramento area, Cork it Again, Revolution Wines, and Berryessa Brewing Co. all offer refilling.  All the beers are local to CA (where we live), and the wine is from Washington- better than from Europe or Australia, etc.

3 cans of coconut milk: I haven’t been able to make homemade coco milk as creamy as canned for texture in curries and such, but I’m continuing to experiment.

2 cans of beans: baked beans and chickpeas.  I make our own beans 99% of the time but I’m not above buying canned beans in a pinch.

assorted paper: from mail, Carmela’s schoolwork, cardboard 6 pack box from the beer.

 

That’s it!  If you guys have any questions about specific things, feel free to comment below or on Instagram @mamaeatsplants , I’d love to hear about what your biggest sources of trash are.

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package free: kimchi

kimchi vegan

It’s no secret that I love fermenting foods (see: sauerkraut and hot sauce).  Fermenting is a fantastic way to preserve foods, reduce waste, make the food more digestible, and add probiotics into your diet.  Today lets talk about making KIMCHI which is just as easy as making kraut but seems more intimidating in some way???  It’s really tasty and costs very little to make, which is wildly at odds with the $6 tiny jars of it at the store.

Most kimchi has seafood in it, so this recipe isn’t authentic or anything but it’s pretty darn good.  Taste your chili flakes first- I didn’t and ended up with a pretty mild kimchi which was good for the kids but next time I’ll be adding a spicier flake to make it really hot for me.

Vegan kimchi fermenting easy

I went loosely off of this video which is really informative and funny.  Theres a lot of seafood here though- fair warning.

vegan kimchi

nappa cabbage (about 3.5 pounds)

1/4 cup kosher salt (NOT iodized or granulated)

3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 small white onion, roughly chopped

15 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly smashed with the side of your knife

3 tablespoons liquid aminos or tamari

1 tablespoon miso paste (any type is cool)

1 cup gochujaru (Korean chili flakes)

1 cup water

1.5 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional but helps kickstart fermentation)

1.5 tablespoon sweet white rice flour (totally optional + NOT the same as regular rice flour)

1 cup thinly sliced carrots (i did matchsticks)

1 cup thinly sliced daikon radish (i did matchsticks)

1 bunch sliced green onion (scallions)

1 asian pear, sliced in thick matchsticks (optional)

vegan kimchi

method:

  1. cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters, leaving the core attached for now.  Place in a large bowl.  Working with one quarter at a time, spread open the leaves gently and sprinkle salt in between all the leaves.  Massage each quarter until it starts to break down, soften, and release liquid.  Set aside while you proceed with the recipe, coming back to massage occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, get out the food processor and place in it the ginger, onion, garlic, miso, and aminos.  Process until a paste forms.  Add in the pepper flakes and pulse a few times to mix.  Scrape into a small bowl.
  3. Warm up the water in a small saucepan- not too hot, just warm.  Add in the sugar and sweet white rice flour (if using) and whisk to dissolve.  Pour this mix into the ginger/onion/garlic/chili paste and stir to combine.
  4. Come back to the cabbage and massage a bit more.  You should have plenty of liquid from the cabbage in the bowl at this point.  Working with one quarter at a time, squeeze the liquid out over the bowl (you will need it later), place the cabbage on your cutting board, cut out the hard core (compost it), and cut into pieces (as large or small as you want, or you can keep them whole).  Return the cut cabbage to the bowl as you go, and repeat for the remaining 3 cabbage quarters.
  5. Add your chili/garlic/ginger etc paste to the bowl with the cabbage and cabbage water.  Mix thoroughly with clean hands to combine.  Add in the carrots, radish, green onions, asian pear and toss again to mix all the veggies thoroughly with the paste.Kimchi vegan daikon tamari
  6. Pack the kimchi mix into a large glass jar (I used a 3 liter jar) with plenty of space because it will bubble over if you fill it up too full.  I like to leave at least 3 inches.  You can pack into 3 smaller jars too if you like.  Pack it down nice and tight, using a clean fist to really tamp down.  There should be plenty of liquid on the top.  Place the lid on loosely (so that gases can escape during fermentation) and place in a dark spot like a cupboard.
  7. Fermentation length will depend on how warm you keep your house, how fresh your ingredients are, and how tangy/what texture you like the kimchi.  My house is pretty cold, so I gave it a head start by preheating the oven and then turning it off so that it was warm in there, and I left it for about 5 days- then I tasted and it wasn’t quite there yet, so I left it another day and then it was perfect.  Not a great method though because then you can’t use your oven/have to take the kimchi out and back in again etc.  It may take you a lot longer or much less time.  I know if you’re just dipping your toes into fermenting this seems a little scary not to know an exact time.  But really, you can’t go wrong…as long as you don’t see mold or weird colors/textures you’re good.  Kimchi is really forgiving too since it has all those garlic/chili/ginger it resists bad bacteria growth.  Just keep checking and tasting (with a clean fork each time please).  If you’re worried about the looks of something feel free to DM me a pic on instagram @mamaeatsplants
  8. When it tastes perfect to you, you can transfer into smaller jars for the fridge or leave as is.  Refrigerate and it keeps pretty indefinitely.  Older kimchi is great to use in kimchi fried rice (recipe can be found here).

vegan kimchi

package free: toothpaste

toothpaste vegan zero waste copper tongue scraper

One of the easiest ways to lead a more sustainable life is to learn how to make your own products instead of relying on someone else to do it for you.  Not only is this cheaper and more environmentally friendly, there’s a deep sense of satisfaction knowing, “I created this for myself and I know exactly what goes into it”.  Plus, you can tweak it anytime you like to make it exactly how you want it.

I think there’s this misconception people have about zero waste that it takes forever to make stuff; like you’re going to be slaving away all day crafting all these products from scratch.  But really, for me, its much more convenient to whip this toothpaste up in 5 minutes in the comfort of my home than to buy it at the store.  Pull open the drawer, realize toothpaste is low or we’re out, have to make a trip to the store, buy the toothpaste, and come back home.

Coconut oil toothpaste

I’ve been making and using this recipe for about 5 years now, actually before I went zero waste.  I had researched what kinds of chemicals were in toothpaste because I was worried about my kids swallowing small bits of it.  What I found DISGUSTED me- Many of the top brands, like Crest, Sensodyne, Biotine, Colgate test on animals and use all kinds of chemicals in them- to make them foam, for the colors, to make them smell and taste good= not to mention the microbeads aka tiny pieces of PLASTIC in some varieties.  Our mouth is highly absorbent so any chemicals in oral care products can easily go right into our blood stream.  Also, pretty much all commercial toothpastes contain glycerin, which coats the teeth and prevents natural remineralization from your own saliva.

I asked our family dentist for his insight on the formula before I started using it and he said it was great and actually gentler than many commercial toothpastes.  Did you know “whitening” toothpastes generally have quite a strong abrasive in them to polish aways stains (and enamel)?  After years of use, our teeth are always really clean and when I go in for cleanings, the hygienist tells me I have essentially no plaque.  Obviously I have good oral hygiene too- I floss daily, scrape my tongue twice a day, brush twice a day and use a gun stimulator to massage my gums.  I also swish with water after eating anything.  And I use a water pik- it’s really old from pre zero waste but I love how clean it makes my gums.  I have al my wisdom teeth so it can be hard to reach all the way in the back with floss, so I go over it with the water pik.

If you don’t want to/can’t make toothpaste yourself (or your partners not having it), there are some better options out there: fat and the moon makes a whitening tooth powder with activated charcoal in a glass container, Weleda toothpaste comes in a recyclable metal tube (I used their salt toothpaste for years and loved it), David’s toothpaste also comes in a metal tube, and Uncle Harry’s comes in a glass jar.  The most sustainable option is to just make it yourself- and you probably have most of the ingredients laying around.

vegan zero waste coconut oil whitening toothpaste

zero waste toothpaste

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

1/2 cup baking soda

1 tablespoon stevia (optional- my kids like it with this because it tastes less salty with the sweet stevia, you could use xylitol too or if you’re ballsy just leave it out tbh)

2 tablespoons bentonite clay (optional)

40 drops peppermint or spearmint essential oil (or a mix)

Mix all ingredients together in a glass or plastic bowl with a NON METAL UTENSIL- metal deactivates the charge of the bentonite clay.

Bentonite is an optional ingredient here and it makes the toothpaste gray- I ran out of it which is why in the pics the toothpaste is white.  But it’s high in minerals, gentle, and has a magical ability of binding itself to toxins in your mouth so they can be spit out with the toothpaste.  I bought a giant bag of it years ago on Mountain Rose Herbs and I just ran out.  It did come in plastic at the time (this was before zero waste for us).  If you live in the Bay area of California, you can buy it package free at Rainbow Grocery.

I’ve heard from some people that coconut oil can clog drains- I live in an old house with terrible drains and I haven’t had any issues.  I’ve heard some people spit in the compost or outside or in the toilet instead.  You can always pour hot water down the drain periodically if you’re worried, or simply omit it and use it as a tooth powder.

For extra whitening, you can add in activated charcoal to the mix.  For sensitive gums, try adding in myrrh essential oil or a specific gum health EO blend.  Some people might be worried about the absence of fluoride.  I personally believe its toxic and not necessary, and my dentist agrees.  See the comment I replied to below for a more in depth about why.

Please let me know if you try the recipe and be sure to tag me on Instagram @mamaeatsplants !  I love seeing your variations and connecting with you.

Lots of love,

xx Amanda