Monday, September 8, 2014

Waste Less Challenge: Week 2

In 1960, plastic was less than one percent of our waste. Today, plastic is everywhere. There’s even an island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. We come in contact with a variety of one time use plastics such as containers and packaging, however more durable, long term use plastics are part of our life. Don’t believe me? Look at your cell phone’s case, the exterior and interior of your car, or even your toothbrush.

Replacing plastic with more sustainable options helps break the consumer culture cycle that insists we need everything to be shiny, new, considerably cheap, and abundant. Generally sustainable options are not shiny, or new. Take bamboo for instance – it is organic so the color is going to vary, and even though bamboo grows quickly, it has to be grown. Sustainable products can be inexpensive and may even be considered cheap, because they are going to break down – naturally.

Replacing plastic items should be done responsibly. If you own something plastic and it still functions, keep it. There’s no need to create unnecessary waste. When you find something plastic that does need replacing, consider plastic alternatives. More and more product options are becoming available made with bamboo, hemp, wood and corn, or even glass or metal. How and where a product is made also impacts how sustainable a product is. Shopping local, where there is a lower carbon footprint based on the transportation alone can make a difference.

 I chose to replace my toothbrush. My old toothbrush had at least 3 different types of plastic. There was the hard plastic that made up the body, the silicone grip, and the bristles. There was no way to take apart these components which made my toothbrush unrecyclable. To be honest I didn’t do a whole lot of research before choosing a sustainable toothbrush. I had seen Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes at Expo West, and then again at a screening of the documentary Urban Fruit, so that was the toothbrush I went with. 

Before I even used my new toothbrush, I knew I was going to be using an eco-friendly product. The paper box and nylon bristles are recyclable, and the wrapper and bamboo handle compostable. They are made in China so they do have a larger carbon footprint based on having to be imported. Their website even shows you ways to dispose of the toothbrush, which tells me that the company cares about their product even after you've used it. 

Since bamboo toothbrushes don’t come in neon colors, I used some washi tape to differentiate between my brush and Sustainable Sam’s brush. I like the bristles – not too hard, not too soft. Sustainable Sam has some texture issues with bamboo and wood utensils, but he’s managed pretty well with the bamboo handle. Since using our bamboo toothbrushes for a few months now, we have noticed some wear to the bottom of the toothbrush where it sits in our toothbrush holder, but otherwise is holding up great.

What did you choose to replace?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Waste Less Challenge: Week 1

If you've been reading my blog for a while, I’m sure you are tired about hearing how reusable grocery bags are great at reducing waste, but I have failed – until now – to mention another lingering plastic waste in the grocery store. Plastic produce bags, though smaller than regular grocery bags, largely remain unnamed when discussing how to limit plastic waste at the grocery store. My guess is because produce bags become part of the weight per price at purchase with reusable alternatives actually costing the consumer.

Luckily, there are some options that make buying produce, and bulk items eco-friendly.

The easiest and most simple? Skip the plastic bag when purchasing produce and avoid individually wrapped products. Veggies and fruit come in a handy bag already. They naturally have a thick skin or peel that protects the goodness inside. If you feel uncomfortable with what your food might pick up while being “naked” in the grocery cart, consider that they have potentially traveled hundreds or thousands of miles without the “benefit” of a plastic bag. They should be washed regardless of how you handle them in the cart. By giving them a vinegar and water bath when you get home, you will clean the skins, and often times help the produce last longer.

Look for a store that is willing to join you in your waste free mission. Find a store that sells dry goods in bulk, package free produce or even a local butcher. The Bulk app has a search feature that can locate stores near you that sell bulk products. Yes, I know, these places have those pesky little plastic bags too, however many of these retailers are more likely to work with you if you bring your own reusable containers.
No joke – bringing reusable jars shopping is not easy. Sometimes even finding a market that is willing to let you use them without charging for the container’s weight can be trying. Just remember, if more consumers ask for sustainable, waste free options, the more these options will become available.

My first stop was Buy n’ Bulk’s Anaheim location. The gal behind the counter was super patient and willing to figure out how I could make my purchases with jars without charging for the extra weight. Since it was both of our first time, it wasn't very smooth, but she made it work and that’s what counts. The next time I came in she was able to help me just fine. Buy n’ Bulk even rewards their customers that bring their own jars and containers with 10 percent off their purchase. Why? Because you are also helping them be eco friendly. Adam from Buy n’ Bulk shared that “when you do use our bags they are brown paper and recyclable. Our main focus is to be eco-friendly, economical and a health alternative to the traditional grocery items.” Shopping with jars was bulky and heavy, but it was convenient to purchase bulk items in the container we were going to store them in.

My second stop was to Sprout’s Farmers Market. I already knew to leave my jars at home because their current Point of Sale isn't able to avoid charging for the weight of the jars. Instead I brought reusable produce bags made from cotton muslin. I had just finished sewing them and was excited to see them in action. To keep the weight down, I used the least amount of fabric with the most room for what I would purchase. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to close and label the bags, since Sprouts has you write down the SKU number of what you are purchasing. For now I am planning on reusing their twist ties. That works for me since I always purchase the same foods from their bulk bins. I’ll keep thinking of a more waste free option.

Do you have tricks for waste free shopping? 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Crafting Felt Flowers

My sister gifted me a 1950s spaghetti poodle pulling a little cart. After deciding that she is too fancy to join my other novelty planters in the backyard, I knew felt flowers would be the perfect bouquet for her little cart. I had just finished putting together felt brooches for my family and still had not only the felt flower bug, but plenty of felt to work with. I’ve been trying my hardest to use what craft supplies I have at home before purchasing new supplies, but I was out of black felt so I found myself also bringing home a beautiful red coral and light peach felt.
In the floral section, I found green wood sticks that were the perfect height for the flowers. I was going to use wood kabobs, but the floral sticks saved me the time of cutting them down to the right size and painting them green, plus they were inexpensive. Armed with my felt, wood stems and glue gun, I was ready to get crafting. I just had to figure out how to make some buds.

Since I already knew how to make felt roses, I started searching for other tutorials for felt flowers. Luckily my search was short, since my friend Lisa of The Makery had just pinned a felt flower tutorial from SomethingTurquoise showing how to make felt ranunculus, anemone and peony. I also wanted to add a couple of Marigolds for some pre-Dia de Los Muertos practice and tried a tutorial from Jones Design Company and Momnivor’s Dilemma.

I love how the flowers came out, and am loving how great they look in my poodle planter. I even made a few extra rose buds for my poodle cigarette holder that I was planning on using as a vase.

Have you crafted any felt flowers lately?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Green Bird Anaheim & Waste Less Challenge

Logo courtesy of green bird, Photo courtesy of Maurice Turner

A couple of weekends ago I met up with my neighbors for a neighborhood trash pick-up. The trash pickup was the launch of Green BirdsAnaheim – the first in the United States. Green Bird was started in 2003 by a group of young people in Tokyo, Japan. Their goal? “To clean the towns we live in and love” through their message that “littering is ugly and uncool.” Green Bird arrived in Anaheim through the continued dedication of trying to make their neighborhood a better place to live. My friends Kevin and Jody, the driving force behind Green Bird Anaheim, had visited Tokyo and not only noticed how clean the streets were, but also a Green Bird team picking up trash along the streets. Once back in the states they reached out to Green Bird, so that Anaheim too could promote that a clean city, starts with a little community and a whole lot of city pride.

Left, photo courtesy of Amber Foxx, Ctr, Rt, photo courtesy of Maurice Turner
There were about 45 neighbors decked out in our green jerseys with the official Green Bird logo, orange gloves, bags and trash picking tongs all sent over from Japanese headquarters – how cool is that? We set off in smaller groups in different directions to conquer the litter in the streets of Downtown Anaheim. My group set off East, then North along Broadway and Anaheim Blvd. Like other groups we came across tons of cigarette butts and potato chip bags. I picked up quite a bit of paper from the gutters that was blocking water drainage.

Photo courtesy of green bird Anaheim
At the end of our 2 hour cleanup we compared the most interesting things we found. I think our group took the cake with having found a pair of high heels and beer bottles in some bushes. My personal most interesting find? A can of vegetable soup that had been left in a bush so long ago that the bush started to grow around it. On our walk some of us spoke with community members that were interested in why we were spending our Saturday morning picking up trash. We heard compliments of "good job" to people questioning if we were serving community service hours because we had done something wrong. Isn't it a sad state when picking up trash is seen as punishment instead of helping your community?

Aside from stories of our encounters, we also had a mountain of trash which we displayed at the Anaheim Vegan Faire. We wanted to make a statement of how much litter there was in our streets, but also how much trash a small group of people was able to pick up in 2 hours. Was that pile of trash uncool? Yes. Did it make a point? Totally.

I believe that where there is litter, there is an excess of household waste. If we reduce the amount of trash in our homes, there will be less trash to become litter. The post World War II consumerism culture that remains today has perpetuated the trash problem that exists today. Take for example this clip from Mad Men where a family picnic shows littering as acceptable.

 As I challenge myself to find new ways to reduce waste in my home, I invite you as well to challenge consumerism and waste. If you are just starting out on your waste less journey, join the Beginner’s Challenge, or if you have been going green for a while, join me in the Green Challenge. Every week I’ll post about that week’s challenge, so feel free to comment on the blog or use #WasteLessChallenge on Facebook and Instagram.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Riding in the Bike Lane

I love riding my bike around town, but let’s be honest, without bike lanes I just don’t feel safe riding the streets. In my college years my roommate and I used to take our bikes down Pacific Beach and ride our bikes down to Mission Beach while blasting music from our am/fm radio. Yes, a radio. It was the early 2000s, okay? We weren’t counting miles as much as taking in the waves and sun while we peddled around town with her little dog in her bike basket and the radio in mine.

When I rode my bike for the first time on the newly opened West Anaheim bike trail I had a similar thrill. Sure there weren’t any ocean waves, dogs in bike baskets or a radio, but there is nothing like being able to ride your bike free and clear of traffic. The new bike trail is nestled between a neighborhood of 1950s Ranch homes and a nursery that offers a nice green view. At each major cross street a signaled cross walk adds security for safe crossing.

The 1 mile paved trail runs between City Park off Lola Avenue and Maxwell Park off Orange Avenue. Riding the length of the parks adds some mileage, and if you add a ride through Schweitzer Park to the West Anaheim Youth Center you can get in about 3 miles round trip. Between the view of the parks and the nurseries, there is plenty of green space on the bike ride, but I didn’t expect to see any wildlife. I’m not talking about neighborhood cats and dogs either. While riding alongside Carbon Creek, I was taken by the beautiful site of two egrets wading and flying over the water.

It brings a smile to my face to share the bike trail with my neighbors, feathered or not.