A Guide to Plastic-free Food Storage 0
There are all kinds of waste, from packaging to disposable everyday items, but often overlooked is food waste. How much of your weekly groceries end up in the trash (or compost) before they ever got a chance to be consumed or used? Most of us would say that it's an embarrassing amount, and considering all the energy that goes into food production, it's key that we put a stop to unnecessary food waste.
However, is it possible to effectively store food without plastic? Won't our carrots go floppy and our salad wilt?
It is. It is completely possible to store your food in a way to decrease food waste without resorting to plastic.
Here are some simple rules that you can implement to get started:
Only store the things that need to be in the fridge there.
Otherwise make space on the counter for produce that does better at room temperature. Here is a break down of what should go where:
Use Water to Your Advantage
Just like you put flowers in a glass of water and on your counter, there are herbs and vegetables that need the same, like cilantro or kale. Others, like carrots and celery do best in water, but in the fridge. Some lettuces and leafy greens like spinach are best stored in damp tea towels or a Swag, and in the fridge.
Do NOT Refrigerate Bread!
Ripen and then Refrigerate
Seal the Deal
Segregate the Ripe and Ready
Use the Crisper
Don't Pass Over the Freezer
When you notice that your food is coming to the end of its usable life, freeze it! Veggies can be chopped up and used in stews, stirfrys, and casseroles, while frozen fruit is ideal for smoothies, jams, and baked goods. Otherwise, cook something with them to be eaten or frozen, like quiches, pot pies, or filling soup stock. Instead of plastic baggies, consider (re)zip bags, sturdy jars, or glass containers.
Minimizing food waste doesn't have to be complicated- it's all about forming habits like meal planning, proper storage, and finding creative use for scraps and food that's about to expire.
How do you deal with this issue?
image credit: Jessie May
Why Refilling that Container is the Best Thing You Can Do for the Planet 0
"It's ok, I'll just recycle it!" is what a lot of us think when we are choosing products and considering their packaging at the store.
Sorry to set this straight, but that's not always possible. There are so many things that need to happen for that dish detergent container to actually get reused into something. From you actually cleaning it out and putting it in the recycling bin, your facility accepting it ( for example Hamilton, that thin plastic that dish soap comes in actually doesn't get processed here), them treating it and then selling it to a company that will take it on. We have all heard that China isn't taking our recyclables anymore, so where does it all go?
There's a long, political answer and then there's the short one:
It gets thrown in the landfill, incinerated, or whatever the local policies and facilities have determined.
While we can certainly do more to pressure our local waste treatment and recycling facilities to become better at dealing with the waste, the more successful and less complicated thing is to minimize how much you recycle.
Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean that you should stop trying to recycle items that are recyclable, but we should get out of the mindset that as long as your recycling bin has more in it than the garbage bin, you're an eco saint.
The goal is to put out as little as possible in EVERY BIN: green, blue, and black
How do we attain this?
One solution is refilling. Reusing containers, bags, bottles, etc., to collect product that you need for everyday, from food, through household cleaners, hair & body products and more.
Not only are you REFUSING a new container, you are REUSING one that you already have, and no one is saying that at the end of its usable life, you can't RECYCLE it. But when you do, it will have been used multiple times, avoiding the use of dozens of other containers. Shopping at a local refillery also means you're more likely to buy as much as you need, REDUCING the amount that you are likely to throw out or go bad before you have a chance to use it. And just like that, you have hit 4 of the 5 pillars of zero waste living : refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot.
Here are some products that you can easily refill on rather than buy in new packaging:
Even food giants like Bulk Barn are starting to let consumers fill up their own containers instead of using plastic baggies. Tare your containers and go to town buying dry goods like rice, beans, nuts, flour, sugar, candy, quinoa and more. You'll even be able to get products like peanut butter, tahini, honey, and syrups. Some smaller zero waste grocers might even have specialty products like olive oil, vinegars and more.
Household Cleaners & LaundryOur refilleries in Hamilton and Grimsby have many options for those looking for waste-free and all natural alternatives to the household products they are using now, including all-purpose cleaners, laundry soap, toilet cleaners, and more.
Bath & BodyShampoo, conditioner, soap, and hairspray can all be purchased package-free at your local refillery. Lotions, creams, bath salts, deodorants, are also available as refills so that you don't have to compromise on your routines just to go low-waste. Some zero waste shops will even carry specialty items like nail polish remover. Contact your closest refillery and ask about products you are interested in. If they don't already carry it, they could be open to bringing it in and making it available to you and anyone else who is interested.
While you might be interested in getting nice glass or aluminum containers like jars, spray bottles, or pumps, you don't have to. There's nothing wrong will filling up a plastic water bottle with your dish soap or using an old plastic shampoo bottle for your refill. Zero waste living looks different depending on the person and their own priorities, convictions, and aesthetic.
Best Non-Electronic Toys for Road Trips | Keeping Kids Busy without Ipads 0
Summer vacations are always a blast, but the trip itself, especially when you have kids, can be difficult. Whether you're flying out to see family on the other side of the country, or spending a few hours in the car getting to the perfect campsite, entertaining little ones can be a challenge.
While many decide to simply turn on a show or game on a tablet, some parents don't like the idea of their kids spending such an extended period of time with electronics. Besides, how long can you watch PawPatrol for? (Or how many times can we parents listen to the theme song?)
There are many merits attributed to toys that allow for creative play and stimulation, and some of them we can deem perfect for traveling as they are easy to pack and bring with you. Not only will your children learn to play more independently and not count on being entertained the entire time, but they engage different parts of their brain in problem solving and creative advancement. Oh, and bonus, none of these toys can run out of batteries leaving you in the lurch!
Here's a list of some of our top recommended road trip toys for kids, starting from kids aged around 12 months:
For a slightly older audience, we suggest the Petit Collage magnetic playsets. The little tin case opens to reveal a scene inside that is customizable by your little one thanks to over 25 magnetic pieces that come with it. Instead of watching or listening to stories, suggest your child prepare his or her own story that they can present to you at your final destination.
Is your child starting to become fascinated with letters? Practise your alphabet or work on spelling with this colourful wooden magnet set. Your little one will be learning without even realizing what's going on! Win-Win!
This might be a better match for your children ages 6+ due to small pieces, but you might find yourself tempted to usurp this amazing toy. This magnetic puzzle comes in a black metal box that makes it mobile, and can really bring out your little artist's creativity with creating images and patterns with the wooden pieces.
While we understand that there's a place for the right types of electronics, it's nice to know that your kids are not dependent on them to have a good time, especially during times like road trips or air travel, when mobility is decreased. There are also activities that you can do as a family that don't require toys at all, like playing "I Spy" or singing songs together.
Let us know how your kids like to best past the time on long car rides!
Greening the Cottage | Easy Swaps to Minimize Waste and Environmental Impact 0
Nothing makes you think about your ecological footprint like a stint in the great outdoors. You breathe in the clean air, take a dip in the cool water, and hope with all your heart that future generations will also have the privilege to enjoy this.
However, camping and traveling can often take us into "convenience" mode, where we don't mind the extra plastic, the disposable cutlery, and the lack of recycling options. Let's challenge this mindset this year and make this the summer of the #greencottage. You'll see that a lot of the times, the switches we make benefit both us and the environment, and there will definitely be less on your conscience when you sit to enjoy the beautiful sunset on the dock in the evenings.
Invest in Reusable Items
You might be shocked to find out that many people use disposable plates when camping or cottaging. Or, you might have done that yourself in the past. It's true that it means less washing up, but it also means a lot more garbage! Instead of bringing stacks of the disposable stuff with you, invest in a set for the cottage or for camping. They can be something as simple as old plates and cutlery from the thrift store, or recycled plastic versions from ReplayRecycled. In the long run, this will also be better for your wallet, as you won't have to keep dishing out for the trashy stuff.
Get a Compost Bin
The smelliest kind of garbage is usually the kind of waste that should be composted: items that rot. So instead of collecting it and driving it to the local dump on the one day a week it's open, or, even worse, having to drive home with it, set up a composting system on the cottage property. This will also mean less waste to deal with in general, something to consider if the dump charges you per garbage bag. An extra consideration, however, might be how your food scraps might attract animals. Be conscious of it being properly sealed and safe from little (or big) paws. Bonus: next spring, you might have some soil to use for an herb or pollinator garden!
Refill When Possible
Before you go up to your home away from home, refill on all of your favourite snacks, soaps, cleaners, and more. With recycling being an issue in some remote municipalities, refilling what you already have for the season is a better use of containers and then less hassle when it comes to disposal. Using glass or seal-able metal containers for foods like pasta, rice, flour, and more also keeps them safe from little critters and bugs who like to take up residence in our cabins when we're away. Pro tip: have some cottage mates that like indulging in beer while vacationing? Fill up your growlers with your favourite craft beer before you leave or being your growlers along to fill up at the local brewery.
Use Natural Products
It doesn't take much to connect the thought of putting chemicals in your water, on your surfaces, and on your plants with the thought of it ending up in the ecosystem that surrounds you, especially when surrounded by nature. In the city we tend to forget, but with everything reminding you of intricate (and sensitive) systems in place, the motivation to switch to natural should be there. From sunscreens, bug sprays, through dish soaps and shampoo, consider what you are putting into the environment when you engage with it. Make the switch from harsh chemicals that don't do good for you or the planet, to products that are biodegradable, derived from nature, and do little or no harm.
Get a Water Purifier
When camping or when at the cottage, we often doubt the quality of the water that comes out of the faucet, especially when we plan on drinking it. Instead of bringing packs and packs of bottled water, come up with a plan that engages a smaller footprint. Some ideas include refilling those big water jugs at the grocery store in town and using that to fill personalized water bottles. Alternatively, use a filtering pitcher to clean the water that comes from the well. Lastly, there are more and more options for bottles that filter water. That might be something worth exploring if you are moving around a lot during your outdoor adventures and wouldn't be able to refill from a big pitcher or bottle, ex. Backpacking trip or portage.
Reuse What You Have
While you can definitely invest in a set of beeswax wraps or silicone zip lock bags to keep your kitchen as waste and plastic free as possible, be resourceful with what you have. Finished the jam? Use that jar to refill with snacks when you go into town or use it to store leftover noodle salad from lunch. Finished off the orange juice? Use that container to bring up as much kibble as you need for your pet. Be more conscious of what you do bring with you, planning to either keep it there as an addition to your resources available, or to bring it back.
These are just some of the ideas that we came up with that would make the average cottage a little greener this year. What do you do differently when vacationing in nature?
Top 6 Alternatives to DEET: Natural Tick and Mosquito Repellents 0
Insects are an inevitable part of spring and summer in North America. While an important part of our ecosystem, they can also pose a threat to the health of our families. With pest-transmitted diseases like Lyme Disease becoming prevalent in our communities, it's become imperative to practice bug-safety, just like we protect our skin from the sun in the summer or the cold in the winter.
However, more and more studies show that the traditional bug-repellents don't just harm mosquitoes and ticks, they also can be harmful to those who wear them. DEET, the active ingredient in many of these agents, has negative effects on the nervous and endocrine systems, especially on children who have a smaller surface to volume ratio than their parents. It has also been known to cause allergic reactions to those with sensitive skin.
While we want to protect our families and ourselves from potential diseases and bothersome insect bites, we don't want this risk to limit the time that we spend outdoors in nature. That's why it's important to adopt habits this season that will minimize our chance for bug bites.
We have a large family ourselves, so we spent a lot of time researching and looking for the best there is in terms of natural tick and mosquito repellents.
Citrobug Mosquito Repellent Oil for Kids (+ Outdoor Cream)
Shown to be one of the most effective products in its category in Canada, this spray is comparable to competitors that contain up to 25% DEET. However, it can be used safely as the active ingredients are a combination of essential oils including lemon, eucalyptus, pine need, geranium, and camphor. It also comes in an Outdoor Cream Version which doubles up as a moisturizer. Bonus: it's hypoallergenic
Druide Citronella Insect Repellent Spray Lotion
Druide is a favourite of Canadian outdoor fanatics, and their citronella line is loved by many. Citronella essential oil has for years been appreciated for its insect repelling qualities, and this specific blend includes other plant extracts to boost its effectiveness. However, this formulation is not recommended for children under the age of 2.
Take a Hike Outdoor Joose
With an ingredient list that you can fully read and understand, you will love the additional refreshing and moisturizing qualities of the aloe juice in this formulation. Can also be used on pets' coats!
Care Plus Icaridin 20% Deet Free Insect Repellent
The active ingredient, icaridin, also know as hydroxyethyl Isobutyl Piperidine Carboxylate, is an odourless and nearly colourless liquid that is a known bug deterrent. This makes it an attractive choice for those who are sensitive to scents or come in close proximity with those who do. Studies show that Care Plus Icaridin at a 20% concentration can be as effective as solutions containing 30% DEET for protecting again mosquito, tick and black fly bites.
Atlantick Outdoor Spray
This product was developed by a Canadian family with a personal story associated with Lyme Disease along with researchers at Acadia University. Atlantick spray contains ingredients like witch hazel, lemongrass, jojoba oil and ocean water to protect families from bug related situations.
Many natural insect repellents enlist the help of essential oils to keep bites to a minimum. If you already have a collection of oils, you might already have what you need to make your own repellent spray. We like to dilute DoTerra Terrashield with Witch Hazel at a ratio of 10 drops to 1 fl. Oz. and keep the mix in a small glass spray bottle.
Hopefully one of these products will work for your family's preference! Remember, that what's good for the earth is also good for us, and by taking care of our bodies with natural products, we also keep toxic chemicals out of the ecosystem.
The Pains of Living Plastic Free and How to Fix It 0
Who likes the idea of living plastic free?
If you're here, it's likely that you do.
Plastic has an obvious detrimental effect on the environment, but also has been researched to have a negative influence on our health. It was seen as a "wonder product" when it was first discovered, and only now we are fully understanding the consequences of using it to the degree that we do.
However, getting rid of plastic in your life, or at least single-use plastic, is a much taller order than you would initially think. So many foods are packaged in plastic film, the entire frozen food aisle is covered in it, and even normal household products are most readily available in plastic from cleaners, to garden soil, even kids' toys.
While just making a conscious effort to choose plastic-free can make a big change in your lifestyle, there are lots of "sticking points" that are thorns in our sides. Here are some common problems we find that people struggle with and how we can get past that.
Plastic Packaging at Grocery Stores
This is one that we know is a killer for many, especially in seasons when farmers' markets and stalls are not an option. While in the harvest months, shopping package-free from farmers or producers can greatly decrease your plastic wrapping, there aren't as many options in conventional grocery stores. There's often one kind of cucumber and it comes in plastic, or the peppers on sale are the quad-pack that come in a plastic bag.
The most we can do in the winter is choose plastic-free when possible, or shop at smaller stores that make un-packaged goods available to their customers. In the warmer months, we can shop from producers, pick our own produce (berries, beans, fruit, etc.), or grow your own. Items like bread can be picked up from bakeries and many other pantry staples can be bought in bulk. Bring your clean jars and bulk bags to your local bulk or refill shop, or else Bulk Barn.
Of course, remember to bring your own produce and shopping bags to avoid the single-use plastic bags!
Meat and Deli
These usually come packaged in plastic for freshness, but you can ask for them to be put in your container if there is a designated counter at your store. Bring your own rezip bags or reusable containers, ask for them to be tared and then filled with the fresh meat or deli meat of your choice. The same goes for seafood and cheeses. Many farmers' market vendors will also allow you to do this, though they won't advertise it.
Take Out Meals
This takes some research- some restaurants won't put their meals in your containers for fear of "contamination" or some other legality. A lot of the time it's about the inconvenience on their end. If you don't want to be disappointed when you arrive, call before hand and ask this restaurant if they will use your containers as you are trying to minimize waste.
When they do allow it, make sure that you communicate your appreciation and support them on social media, within your friend circle, etc., so that more restaurants feel motivated to do the same. If you are feeling especially frustrated and know that this fast food restaurant serves their "for here" customers on reusable plates, order it that way and transfer it to your container yourself. Sure the plate is dirty, but it will get washed, not thrown into the landfill.
Though this is changing, even a lot of "natural" household cleaners and detergents come in plastic jugs, bottles, or containers. From dishwasher tabs, laundry detergent, to scouring powder, many of these are now available package free or as refills at specialized eco or "refillable" shops. Now you can reuse those containers hundreds of times or refill a dedicated glass one. Otherwise, make them yourself from bulk ingredients! Baking soda and vinegar can get you very far, are cheap, and readily available.
Body and Skin Care
You'll be surprised what you can refill on nowadays, from shampoo, body lotion, nail polish remover, witch hazel, oils, and more! Companies are starting to let their stockists offer refill options, and there is more interest in making your own clean options from simple ingredients. Others run their own container recycling programs where your product containers are sterilized and reused down the line. It takes some research and some time, but many find this switch very satisfying. If a refill center is not accessible to you or you are lacking in time, always choose glass or reusable containers over ones that cannot be repurposed in any way or properly recycled.
If we really want to see a shift in the way that plastic is used in our society we need to ask for it. Voice your displeasure, write letters to the store managers, support small businesses that are making the changes, and make those "strange requests" when ordering food, products online, and more. It will be uncomfortable, but it's what will make employees, owners, and policy makers stop and think.
At Mrs. Greenway we are increasing our refill options because we see that you are using them! For businesses, it's often a risk to make these changes, but seeing that people are voting with their dollars and voicing their appreciation, makes them more comfortable investing in a shift towards more sustainable living! Stay tuned on more news on our refillery, and in the meantime, if you have any specific requests, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you struggle with or what "hack" has helped you? Comment and let us know!