Zero Waste Tips: Part 1

Here are some zero waste tips to incorporate around your home. Let’s start in the kitchen, the heart of the home.

Kitchen

  1. Use alternatives to paper and plastic disposables. Put down those paper towels and drop those plastic sandwich baggies! Look for alternatives to those products that can only be used once or twice and then you ship them off to the landfill. Use reusable rags that can be washed in the washing machine (hang dry these guys to save electricity). Instead of plastic lunch containers and baggies, use stainless steel containers. Cling wrap and aluminum foil can be swapped out for beeswax moldable wraps. Take a look around your kitchen and see what can be replaced with a sustainable and reusable option.
  2. Buy in bulk or at the counter. Bring your reusable bags, jars, and bottles for dry goods, wet items, and liquids. If you know a place that will happily use your containers, don’t forget to bring them with you. If you’re not sure if your store will allow it, ask. It never hurts to ask. Reusable bags are good for small, dry goods like grains, nuts, and potatoes. Jars are good for meats, fish, butters, and cheese. Bottles are good for oils, shoyu, and castile soap.
  3. If you cannot find it bulk, find a supplier or make it yourself. Bring your jar to the ice cream shop (Ask if local shops will be able to fill your jar). Take a pillow case to the bakery for bread. That way you don’t take home the plastic bag. Bring your own bottles to wineries and breweries. Or if you can’t find certain things in bulk, make it yourself at home like salad dressings, jams, juice, or hummus.
  4. Shop the farmers market. Most vendors will take your egg cartons back and they’ll let you use your own reusable bags. Your veggies will also most likely be free of plastic and stickers.
  5. Learn to love tap water. Ditch the plastic bottles of water. If you live on catchment, invest in some heavy duty filtration system. As long as you boil the water, it’ll be safe to cook with. That and get your drinking water in bulk. See if you can get glass jugs, it’ll be heavier, but less waste.
  6. Use bulk alternatives of natural cleaning supplies. Castile soap can be used as a dish/hand cleaner, baking soda can be used as a scrubber with a compostable cleaning brush. Purchase dishwasher detergent in bulk.
  7. Turn your trash can into a big compost keeper. Use the tiny composter from the stores as your trash can.
  8. Reinvent leftovers before they go bad. Use what recipes you have and only keep those that can be achieved with zero waste in mind. If you don’t like to eat the same meal twice, spice it up a bit and put your own twist on leftovers so it doesn’t waste.
  9. Invest in a pressure cooker. It halves the cooking time on most dishes.
  10. Some additional tips. Reuse single-side printed paper and receipts for grocery shopping and errand lists. Use your lettuce cleaning water as water for your plants. Open your oven after baking to warm your home in the winter.
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A Zero Waste Adventure to Narnia


img_0663This is Narnia. A secluded place up the Wailuku River where you can swim, hang out, and relax next to waterfalls. On Monday, my friend took Waiemi, my cousin, Hunter, my sister, Camryn, and I on the long hike out there to show us where it was. I had heard about it from some people and didn’t really know what to expect.

The night before, I packed my bag with my medication, umbrellas, ponchos, snacks and lunch. I packed a separate tote with two blankets and two towels for Waiemi and I. Not knowing what to expect, I prepared for anything. img_0664Except I forgot my slippers in the car.

In two 8 oz glass jars, I packed Honey Nut Cheerios. In a 16 oz
jar, I packed Ranch flavored potato chips that my other sister, Crystal, snagged from a potluck a couple days earlier. In our two tiffins, Waiemi filled one with lettuce wraps (just turkey slices and cheddar cheese). In the other, I had one tier full of quinoa and the other with leftover roast from dinner. I had my 16 oz jar of water and Waiemi had his 24 oz reusable bottle from Kamehameha Schools and we were ready to get out there.

While waiting for our friend to meet up with us, we checked out Rainbow Falls with the tourists and Boiling Pots. Both places were beautiful that lovely midday. Around 11, we made our way up to Narnia. Finding parking was a bit of a challenge, but not as big as the hike.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the hike was miserable. Well on the way out it was miserable. I was sweating so badly in places I had never sweat before, like my neck. After half an hour or so, we finally made it to Narnia. There were a lot more fair-skinned people than I thought would know about the place. It was hard to tell whether they were local or tourists. We found a side path and went down it. We found a lift that went to the other side of the river, but not knowing how safe it was, we just sat down at its base and had our lunch.

Lunch was good. It was refreshing and relaxing, especially after that hike. Then, as it always does in Hilo, it began to rain. The place cleared out so fast, because there’s no cover there. I gave Hunter and Camryn ponchos and Waiemi and I used our umbrellas. The walk back was definitely not as bad because it was all downhill.

We plan to go back there tomorrow with Crystal and possibly her boyfriend if he wants to make the hike out there. Tomorrow I will definitely take more pictures!

7 Tiny Steps for the Beginner Minimalist

Waiemi and I realized that zero waste and minimalism go hand-in-hand. Refusing to bring waste into our home and reducing what items we already have in our home helps to keep more waste from entering the home. Clutter attracts clutter. With minimalist living, you put value back into the things you own and makes it all the more valuable to you. Here are 7 steps you can take to begin your minimalist living.

Write it down…Make a list of all the reasons you want to live more simply. These are your whys and your whys will provide you with leverage when you think it’s too hard to keep going. Here are my whys:

  • I want to live more healthy and that starts with less clutter.
  • Decluttering my space declutters my mind, body, and spirit.
  • Having less things in our room will make it less stuffy and allow more air to flow freely.

Discard duplicates…Walk through your home with a box and fill it with duplicates. Once you fill the box, label it “Duplicates” and put it out of sight for 30 days. If you haven’t had the need to get anything from the box, donate it.

  • I found quite a bit of duplicates in our room. However, instead of putting them out of sight, we decided to just sell/donate them. They were of no use to us so maybe they could be useful to someone else.

Declare a clutter-free zone…Designate as area or zone in your home that will remain clutter-free. It can be a countertop, a room, anything. Slowly you can start expanding that area each day.

Travel lightly…Pack for 1/2 the time you’re traveling (ex// going away for 4 days? Pack for two days). You can either reuse some clothes or wash your clothes.

Dress with less…Implicate Project 333. Project 333 is a challenge where you pick 33 items of clothing and you wear only those 33 items for 3 months. We only use 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time anyway, so choose what you can wear and rewear and mix-and-match for 3 months. Jewelry also counts as part of the 33, so choose wisely.

  • I started the challenge for myself over the weekend and am currently on Day 4. I counted a pair of socks as one item since, well, I consider them to be one item. Everything else is in my other two drawers (they’re stuffed to the max, so I should go through them and get rid of what I don’t want anyway) and put my 33 items in my top drawer. Waiemi only ever wears his culinary uniform or work uniform every day so he only needs a couple shorts and shirts for the weekend.

Eat similar meals…Try eating the same breakfast and lunch all week with two or three dinner choices. Analyze your menu and everyone’s opinions at the end of the week.

  • Here’s where meal prepping came in for us. We would meal prep breakfast and lunch for the whole week. Dinner was pretty much fresh one day and leftovers the next. Try spicing up your leftovers so you’ll feel more compelled to eat it.

Save up $1000…You should always have an emergency fund. All that money you’re now saving from your minimalist lifestyle can be saved up for a rainy day or a vacation or that new (and useful) thing you’ve been wanting to get. Try the 52 Week Money Challenge – Number of the week is the dollar amount you put into your savings (ex// week 10 – put $10 in). Money for emergencies reduces stress.

  • We just started ours last week and we’re putting a little twist on our 52-week challenge. For the first 20 weeks or so, we’ll each put in the same amount (ex// week 10 – Waiemi puts in $10, I put in $10). After the 20th week or so, we’ll start splitting the amount in half. So by the end of the 52 weeks, we should have $400 more than what the original challenge entailed. Besides we”re also putting in anything we can spare into our savings for our wedding.

These are just 7 simple things that you can do to start living minimally. You do not have to go big or go home here. You can always start small and slowly work your way into it.

Homemade Tooth Powder and Bamboo Toothbrush

Along with this new lifestyle comes some conscious decisions to switch out plastic, chemical-infused products and make your own essentials from more natural ingredients. Once again this recipe comes from Going Zero Waste and she even got it approved by a dentist, granted it was her own dentist, but her dentist definitely approved of the tooth powder.

I wanted to get rid of my toothpaste and see where natural tooth powder could take me. Let me just tell you a little something. Making the switch from minty toothpaste to tooth powder is not easy. I would highly recommend finding a recipe for mouthwash or I will post one later if you want to wait.

What You’ll Need

  • 1/2 cup Xylitol – $6.18/lb @ Abundant Life
    • a natural sweetener
    • prevents bacteria from sticking to your teeth
    • neutralizes pH to help avoid tooth decay
  • 1/2 cup Baking Soda – $3.99/lb @ Island Naturals
    • very mild abrasive (less abrasive than commercial toothpaste) that dislodges plaque on teeth
    • breaks down stain causing molecules
    • neutralizes pH
  • 1/2 cup Bentonite Clay – $16.79/lb Island Naturals
    • draws out toxins
    • contains calcium
    • often used to help remineralize teeth
  • 1-16 oz mason jar

Since Abundant Life has proven to be cheaper in some places than Island Naturals, I will check Abundant Life’s prices for baking soda and bentonite clay and see if they’re cheaper there.

Instructions

  1. Stir everything together in a glass jar. Don’t use metal with the clay, it will deactivate.
  2. Done!
  3. Dip half of your wet toothbrush into the powder and then brush your teeth. You don’t need much.

The sweetness of the xylitol cancels out the saltiness of the baking soda. I recommend using a bamboo toothbrush with your tooth powder as an environmentally friendly alternative to the plastic commercial toothbrush. Bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable and all natural. You can also compost them after 4 months.

The 5 R’s of Zero Waste

In my earlier posts, I had capitalized on a couple of R-words, namely Refuse and Reuse because these two words are part of the pillars of zero waste living. The 5 R’s of zero waste are: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, and Recycle. When facing waste in your home, you should move through these 5 R’s in this order and here’s why.

Refuse

“The easiest way to prevent waste from leaving your home is to keep it from entering your home.” – Kathryn K.

If it doesn’t come into your home, it can’t be waste that you and your family have produced. No will become your most difficult and yet somehow easiest word to use. At first, it will be difficult to tell your family or even yourself NO. But think about it for a few minutes. Where did this product come from? How much plastic packaging is coming home with you if you buy this? Do you really need this now? Will you need this 30 days from now?

Where did this product come from? How much plastic packaging is coming home with you if you buy this? Do you really need this now? Will you need this 30 days from now?

Don’t be afraid of the negative connotation that comes with the word No. Let your family and friends know about your zero waste lifestyle and why you’re going through with it. Encourage them to be mindful of packaging and wrappings of gifts. Explain to them why you want to avoid trash and plastic in your life.

Be conscious of what you’re buying and have a gentle conversation with the ones you love to support you. They don’t have to switch over to zero waste, but if they could remember that you don’t want to bring trash into your life.

Reduce

By having less, you will create less waste. The more stuff you have, the easier it is to accumulate more stuff. Clutter attracts clutter.

By reducing the amount of stuff you have, you’ll have less stuff to take care of, less stuff to store, and less stuff to worry about; keeping you mentally at peace.

One key aspect of zero waste is to measure life, not by how many things we own, but by the experiences we have with ourselves and our loved ones. Reducing will help us to focus our attention and efforts on those experiences in life. We will also be able to put value back into our possessions and make them meaningful to us again.

Reuse

“Disposables are only appropriate in medical and scientific fields and times of disaster.” – Kathryn K.

Here is where we will refuse disposables and use items that can be reused. No more disposable coffee cups, use mugs. No more disposable tissues, use handkerchiefs. Here are simple alternatives for disposable products.

Plastic water bottle → Reusable water bottle
Toilet paper → A bidet attachment
Paper towels → Rags
Takeout trays → Reusable Tupperware
Plastic straw → Glass or stainless steel straw

You have a lot of reusable versions of the disposables in your home, you just have to remember to bring them with you when you’re out. There is no need to go out and buy new stuff.

Along with reusables, you can also shop at Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other secondhand stores for cheaper used items.

Rotcompost vs avoid guide

Composting is one of the key aspects of zero waste. Composting allows you to return resources to the earth. You can compost food scraps, natural fabric, hair, cardboard, paper, and other organic substances.

Composting is the epitome of a circular economy as composting organic matter will eventually turn into dirt which ca be used to grow more organic matter. I found a resource for vermicompost bins, using worms to compost organic matter, I have yet to check it out, I’ll update you when I do.

You can also get backyard composters and kitchen composters (mostly for green waste). Vermicomposting is good for apartment living.

Recycle

Recycling should be a last resort. It’s energy intensive, an imperfect system, and not be viewed as our savior. Two things that can be recycled indefinitely are glass and aluminum, plastic cannot be recycled, it can only be downcycled.

Water bottles can’t be recycled back into bottles, they get downcycled to park benches or speed humps and when those items reach the end of their life cycles, it will be sent to a landfill.

It’s better to first refuse, then reduce, then reuse before we get to recycle. By following those steps, you shouldn’t have much left to recycle.

 

Homemade All-Natural Zero-Waste Deodorant

For a long time, I have had trouble with regular store-bought deodorant. I would buy a brand and stick with it for a year or two and then my body would reject it and get an allergic reaction from it. Then I would switch to another brand and repeat. In the last couple of months, I have grown irritated at my deodorant and decided to try something else. My friend told me how she would use lotion for her armpits and it wouldn’t smell and her armpits would become moisturized. I tried for a couple of weeks, but I would still smell my body odor. I couldn’t get too sweaty or the smell would become too strong, so I got rid of the lotion idea.

I came across an all-natural homemade deodorant recipe on Going Zero Waste‘s blog. This is her recipe and I am posting it here so you can access it or you can click this link. It’s made from three simple ingredients, water, baking soda, and Himalayan pink salt. After two weeks I don’t smell, my armpits aren’t irritated, and it cost less than the $3 sticks at the store. Kathryn K. is a lifesaver and she has some really awesome posts which I highly recommend you check out later.

 

FullSizeRender 13
Our spray bottles and excess deodorant in a mason jar.

 

What You’ll Need:

  • 8 oz of water (weight not fluid)
  • 4 Teaspoons of Baking Soda (Island Naturals $3.99/lb)
    • Absorbs moisture
    • Natural deodorizer that helps neutralize odor
    • Is alkaline and helps prevent excess sweating
    • Lowers your pH level to counteract the acids in sweat
  • 4 Teaspoons of Himalayan Pink Salt, fine
    • Provides essential minerals and trace elements
    • Helps eliminate toxins
    • Balances the body’s pH
    • Helps to increase blood circulation
  • Spray bottle (3 oz) or roll-on bottle
    • I got two small spray bottles from Target’s travel section for $0.99 each. One for Waiemi, one for me. Just remember to shake well before spraying.

Instructions:

  1. Heat 8 oz of water in a pot on the stove. Bring the water to a boil for five minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. While water is still very warm, add baking soda and salt. It should mostly dissolve in the warm water.
  4. Pour into small spray bottle(s) or roll-on bottle
  5. Spray once or twice before you go to bed and again in the morning.

If you would like to add some scent you can use 2-3 drops of essential oil. Tea tree would be best because of its antibacterial properties.

I made a big batch, poured 3 oz into my spray bottles and kept the rest in a mason jar. It’s in my bathroom for the next time I need to refill or make some more. The deodorant will last a long time, up to 5 months.

Make sure you use fine grain Himalayan pink salt so it dissolves easier in the warm water. In order to save money, I used my regular Himalayan pink salt grinder that we use for cooking, sat down with a glass jar and just started grinding into the jar. It took a few minutes to come up with enough teaspoons of salt, but at least I worked my arm muscles. I plan to refill my grinder with salt from Island Naturals or Abundant Life. When I find out the price, I will update this post.

The great thing about this deodorant is how simple it is to make and use. I don’t have to worry about the toxic chemicals I’m introducing into my body through my armpits and I don’t have to worry about an allergic reaction!

Bulk Shopping in Hilo

Where can you go to buy bulk items?

– Island Naturals Market & Deli
Hilo Shopping Center Location Open: Monday – Saturday 7AM – 8PM, Sunday 8AM – 7PM
You can buy grains, nuts, dried fruits, tea, spices, and soap in bulk at the Hilo Shopping Center location. I have not yet asked them if you can bring your own reusable produce bags for the grains or glass jars for the soap, but when I do I will let you know.

– Abundant Life Natural Foods
Downtown Hilo Open: M, T, R, F 8:30AM – 7PM, W & Sat 7AM – 7PM, Sun 10AM – 5PM
You can buy grains, nuts, spices, and dried fruits in bulk. I have not yet asked them if you can bring your own reusable produce bags or glass jars, but they are cheaper than Island Naturals. They don’t have many other bulk options like tea and soap.

I will try to find more places to buy items in bulk. I have noticed that Abundant Life is cheaper than Island Naturals

Top 10 Ways to Start Going Zero Waste

 

Switch from tissues and paper napkins to cloth napkins.

This is a long process to transition from paper to cloth. The goal of zero waste is to minimize the amount of waste you are producing. Do not just go out and buy brand new cloth napkins and throw out all of your paper products.

Sell them or give them away to your friends while simultaneously educate them about zero waste and why you are giving them your remaining paper products. Also, instead of buying brand new cloth napkins, try making them from old sheets and clothes. REUSING items is a huge point in going zero waste.

Switch paper towels to woven cotton cloths.

Paper towels are great for cleaning up spills and messes, but it causes too much waste. Here is where you can buy cotton cloths. I highly recommend the cotton cloths that are really absorbent. However, it may also be a good idea to keep a couple of rolls of paper towels just in case and I recommend recycled natural, unbleached paper towels. The same goes for toilet paper as well.

Avoid microfiber towels because every time they go through the washing machine, they release thousands of micro-plastic particles into the environment. I suggest checking Amazon for cotton cloths.

Switch out plastic food containers for glass and stainless.

Plastic food containers are a huge waste and they are pretty cruddy food containers. I had a small Ziploc container that held my breakfast stuffed bell pepper that I made four months ago and I can still smell it. I have washed it three times and soaked it twice. If I leave the lid on for a week or so and open it up again, the smell of bell pepper comes seeping out. It is quite disgusting.

This odor retaining quality is not present in glass and stainless steel containers. Where plastic has a limited amount of times it can be recycled, glass and metal can be recycled an infinite number of times. I have a two-tiered stainless steel lunch container that I bought from Island Naturals for $24.99 and I am sure you can find them cheaper from somewhere else, just be mindful of packaging. The container I bought had zero packaging and had a compostable tag.

Quit plastic water bottles and use reusable water bottles.

Water is THE most important thing we need in our lives, but plastic is NOT. You will not believe how much plastic you could cut out of your life just by REFUSING plastic water bottles. Never leave the house without a reusable water bottle. Take a hydroflask or 50/50 with you at all times. I take a 16oz. mason jar with me everywhere I go. It doesn’t keep my water cold for very long, but I am saving up for a new or used hydroflask.

Stop using plastic shopping bags and use reusable totes and bags.

This is a no-brainer here in Hawaii. As of 2016, the law has banned stores from using plastic shopping bags. Not to say that everywhere has gotten rid of it, I know of some places that still have plastic, but almost every store now carries reusable bags. I am definitely considering buying large utility totes from Thirty-One when I can save up the money. They will be perfect for bulk shopping without having to lug around a million small reusable bags.

Number one tip for reusable bags, do not forget to leave the house or car without one. If you do, walk yourself back inside to get one. Better to have a bag than to forget it in the car and you have to load them in the rain or something.

Avoid plastic produce bags and use reusable cloth bags.

For larger produce, like bananas and lettuce, you can leave out of a bag. Use a cloth bag for small, numerous items like tomatoes and granola. You can either make them yourself or buy them. I recommend LifeWithoutPlastic for their organic cotton mesh produce bags. If you decide to buy bulk items with your reusable bags, remember to write down the product number for the cashier.

Replace sponges with brushes and rags.

Sponges are bacteria generators. Buying dish brushes with compostable heads or are compostable themselves are much cleaner than sponges. You can also use rags to dry your dishes. LifeWithoutPlastic is a great place to buy dish-washing brushes with removable heads that can be composted.

Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush.

Fun Fact: Every single toothbrush ever made is still out there. It takes a long time for a plastic toothbrush to degrade in a landfill. Bamboo toothbrushes are made from all-natural materials and they can be composted after you are done with them. They last just as long as plastic ones (four months).

Replace aluminum foil and cling wrap with moldable waxed fabric.

To avoid plastic waste headed to the landfill, moldable wax fabric can be reused as many times as needed. Again, LifeWithoutPlastic is the place to go.

Compost. Compost. Compost.

This is really self-explanatory. You can have a backyard compost or a vermicompost with worms in your kitchen. Green waste and compostable toothbrushes and other products can be composted. I am currently looking into a vermicompost here in Hilo and I will post about it at a later time.

Our Zero Waste Journey

Waimea Christmas Parade 2016

My name is Courtney and I live in Hilo on Hawaii Island with my fiancé, Waiemi. We currently live with my grandma, Aunty, and cousins. Not only have we found it difficult to live a more zero waste lifestyle in a family we do not own, we also found it difficult to live zero waste in Hawaii in general.

There are not that many locations and resources on the island that can support zero waste at a decent enough price. Products produced on-island are priced relatively higher than products imported from the mainland but products from the mainland often times come in a lot of plastic packaging.

However, the goal of my blog is to put information on resources out there for others on the Island who want to lead a zero waste lifestyle. As well as document our choices and journey to zero waste living.

I will post where you and I can get our bulk items and other local products to make our own recipes at home as well as any community events and ideas from other zero waste bloggers.

Hapuna Beach

Our Reason…

The reason why we are going zero waste is to do our part in helping to protect the environment. Living on an island with an ecosystem as sensitive as Hawaii’s as well as species of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. After visiting the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center one day, we saw an exhibit about marine debris collected from the Northern Hawaiian Islands and there were so many pieces of plastic, from lighters to water bottles, and it broke my heart. They also had pictures of marine animals that were harmed by the marine debris. Our beaches are so beautiful and I don’t want to pollute them. Minimizing our waste impact is a very real concern we should take to heart to help save the planet.

Our Zero Waste Living Guide

FullSizeRender 12.jpgWhen I began this journey, I found lots of helpful tips and tricks to zero waste living. I decided to write down and save all those that pertained to us and what we wanted to get out of this new lifestyle. This is basically my Bible. I have recipes, how-to’s, tips and ideas to lead a healthier lifestyle. I also included information about minimalist and non-toxic lifestyles because I believe all of these lifestyles are connected.

It is very difficult to achieve zero waste in my grandma’s home, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to switch out paper items with cloth items or use less water and buy healthier food. It’s an ongoing process in the house and I haven’t really told anyone about our decision to go zero waste yet.

I want to make a difference and live healthier. After recently being diagnosed with diabetes, I have tried to make efforts to change my eating habits and lifestyle. I have sold and gotten rid of a bunch of things in our room and I plan to sell even more. Saturday, April 8, 2017 we plan to have a yard sale at my grandma’s house with some friends and sell whatever we don’t need. Whatever doesn’t sell, we plan to donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. More details about the yard will become available in the coming days so stay tuned!