Zero Waste Solutions to Keeping Food Fresh for Longer 0
Part of being zero waste is about consuming what you do have; food included. While the compost bin is a better option than the landfill, your mouth is the ultimate zero waste destination for your food.
However, when you're looking to minimize plastics and therefore end up buying a lot of basic produce, it can become difficult to keep your food fresh and good to use. We're not even going to go into the crazy temperatures we have had this summer and how that can affect the speed of decomposition...
How to Store Food
Here are some key items in your fridge and pantry along with some tips on how to keep them and store them for maximum freshness:
Kale & Spinach
These leafy greens can really vary in terms of lifetime depending on how you keep them. Try destemming, cutting, and washing them as soon as you buy them. Then run them through the salad spinner while in a cloth produce bag and then put the entire thing in the fridge. The dampness will keep the contents fresh (don't let it be wet, just damp!)
Tomatoes in the grocery store are never stored in the fridge. Why? Because keeping them there destroys the flavour and texture as they get "mealy".
Avocados need to ripen before they are ready to eat, and most times the store sells them a little under so that they don't reach this stage until they are already at your home. Store them on your counter until they are ripe, and then move them to the fridge to maintain that level. If you open an avocado and only use half, store the remainder with the pit in either in an airtight container or wrap with a beeswax wrap (we carry Abeego in-stores).
Once cut or picked, these can be stored in a beeswax wrap or cloth produce bag in the fridge. A notable exception is basil which will turn black pretty quickly. If you keep the cut stems in water at room temperature, it slows down the process.
Best kept in a linen bread bag or at least covered with a linen tea towel. The linen allows for natural ventilation while slowing down the drying out process.
Not in the fridge please! Store in a cool, dry place for maximum lifetime. Onions can be stored like that too!
Real coffee aficionados know that the only way to enjoy a fresh cuppa joe is to properly store those beans. Once you open the bag or container that your coffee beans came in, transfer to an airtight container like a jar and keep in the fridge. If you have left over ground coffee, you can store it like that as well.
Fruit like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits can be stored either in the fridge or on the counter. However, for maximum juiciness, store in the fridge and bring to room temperature before consuming.
Plan for the "end of life" for your food
Of course, even with these tips, time will take its toll on your food- and that's why having a few "last call" recipes is always handy. Smoothies, salads, soups, quiches, tarts and pizzas are all great ways to use up the items which are close to expiry but can still be eaten. Don't forget the power of the freezer, of pickling, and preserving, as these are great ways to extend the life of your food and enjoy local, seasonal items year around!
Let us know your #zerowastelifestyle hacks for preserving food for as long as possible!
Is Recycling Enough? Why the Zero Waste Lifestyle is the Real Goal 0
Just a few weeks ago, CBC published an article (available here) about how recycling is not all it is chalked up to be. The system is overwhelmed with materials that are difficult and expensive to recycle and reuse, such as plastics, metals lined with plastics or other materials, or dirty yogurt containers.
It confirmed my musings and reminded me why it is so important to go zero waste rather than just fall back on sorting the garbage that we do collect over the week.
While for years municipalities and green organizations have been pushing the "3 R's" of REDUCE, REUSE, & RECYCLE", it seems that people only really got into the last one since it is seemingly the easiest option. But the other two R's is really where we need to focus our efforts. The more we reduce, the less there is to reuse and recycle.
But what exactly are we reducing?
Sometimes it's easier to think backwards.
Picture your curb on garbage day. What's there? A black bag or two of landfill trash, a blue bin with plastics and a blue bin with papers, and finally a half-filled green bin? This will vary according to your sorting practises, but take a moment to account for the sheer volume of waste that your household produced that week.
Personally, I'm not comfortable with the amount that I have sitting there, but that's just motivation.
Then it's time to think about what you had to do or consume for that waste to find itself in your home. From plastic wrapping on the produce you bought, to the diapers you threw out, to the oil jugs you're recycling and the shampoo bottle you finished off this week, it has all made its way to your curb. From food, to clothing, toys, home goods, candles, decor, and more, these come in packaging that is taxing our system and polluting our earth.
Also, let's just think about buying less.Yes, things get used and need to be replaced. However, the less we consume in general, the less waste is produced in the process. The industry now is geared towards selling many items of low quality that need to be replaced over and over again. Remember that quality might be expensive, but it's also better for the planet as fewer items need to be produced and later disposed of. That's why thrifting and buying used items can also be a great way to get a deal while minimizing our impact on our planet.
So ask yourself a few questions before buying items:
- Do I need this?
- Will I consume this? Ex. like soap, shampoo, food
- Do I see myself using this for a long time? Ex. Toys, clothes, home goods, kitchen staples
- Can I responsibly dispose of this (and all the packaging) after its lifetime? Ex. Donate, repurpose, resell, etc.
Reusing is also a great way to bring things into our homes but keeping them there instead of putting them out as waste.
From glass jars, certain clothing items, furniture, and boxes, these items can all find a new use in your home. Creativity is key here, and thankfully the internet has really been an amazing resource for inspiration on how to make things new again, or at least usable in a different capacity.
Ok, so what now?
The zero waste world is a big one, and after some reflection, the enormity of the shift that we need to make can be daunting.
But no one said that you had to do it all at once! A progressive shift towards a zero-waste lifestyle is easy to do, especially if you have the resources and the community (even if it's online) to support you in your journey.
We often suggest to start with just one aspect of your daily life, be it your personal care routine, kitchen essentials, or even just your lunch preparations. Once you get comfortable with that, you can tackle the next thing. Another idea is following along with our #zerowastelifestylechallenge that we post every week on Facebook. On Saturday mornings we announce the theme for the week, and we encourage our followers to integrate the following theme into their lifestyle. We invite you to follow along!
As for more ideas on how to go zero-waste, we are planning our next blog posts, full of tips and tricks that we have picked up over the last few years of this green living journey.
Keeping Mealtime Messes to a Minimum 0
Let's face it, life can messy, especially when you have a high chair in the kitchen. Babies aren't too clean to begin with, but just give them a little food and voila! There's a whole new level of messiness achieved.
Though as parents and caretakers you have probably learned to embrace a level of chaos in your lives, we can do quite a bit to keep the clean-up post-meals as quick and simple as possible. It's as easy as investing in a few kitchen staples that you will end up using on a daily basis, we promise!
Put a bib on it!
Bibs are essential for keeping those little outfits clean. Even if you're in favour of stripping your baby down to the diaper for mealtimes, bibs protect his or her delicate skin from harm, whether strange reactions to certain spices or to heat. While a traditional bib might be enough for when the infant is still eating from a pouch or a spoon, we love this one from Bummis for some more coverage. It protects the sleeves that end up getting pulled through the high chair tray or plate while grabbing that little morsel of food with those tiny fingers!
Stop the Fling Thing
Kids love pushing, pulling, and throwing. It's all about discovering their new abilities! However, mealtime is not a great time to celebrate these skills, especially from the caretakers' point of view. EzPz Fun has come out with great bowls and plates that stick to surfaces like tables to avoid the inevitable pushing off onto the ground. They come in a variety of sizes and colours, so it's all about what fits your needs and style.
A full Pouch Keeps the Grouch at Bay
Food pouches are a staple for babies getting their first forays into the world of solid foods and also a great way to transport healthy snacks like vegetable purees and fruit sauces for older kids. However, rather than buying the disposable versions at the supermarket which are often filled with preservatives anyway, make your own meals at home and simply put them into reusuable pouches like these by Roost or Little Green Pouch! It's the healthier and more eco-friendly option!
Spill-Proof Snacks to Go
Everyone who has had contact with kids knows that snacks are the key to happy kids. They can tide over "hangry" toddlers, soothe teething babies, or even just keep kids busy when you're out and about getting things done. To keep the happiness levels at a high and the mess levels at a low, we recommend the Munchie Mug, a spill-proof snacking mug that gives easy access to those little fingers without the risk of spilling the contents all over the backseat of the car, the playmat at home, or the waiting room at the doctor's office.
Squeeze-proof Juice Boxes
Juice boxes are a great idea in theory. They give you an opportunity to take a yummy beverage with you and your little one, no matter where you are. But the setbacks often outweigh the positives. Apart from the lack of options of what is actually contained within these juice boxes or pouches, often sugary drinks, the "squeeze and spill" phenomenon is definitely a real thing. The "Drink in a Box" seems to have fixed both of these problems by allowing you to fill the plastic container with whatever you want and avoiding the potential spilling due to the rigid nature of the box.
What do you use to keep mealtimes as pleasant and clean as possible? Let us know in the comments!
Teaching Your Kids the Green Way | Eco living for Children 0
Our green mission was actually inspired by our kids and grand kids- we wanted to leave them an earth that is as beautiful as the one that we get a chance to live on. It meant a drastic change in our lifestyle and our perception of the world around us.
However, if we really want "the green way" to thrive, we need to make an effort to instill this mentality and eco-conscious mindset to the next generation. The younger they are exposed to environmentalism, the easier it will be for them to accept ecoliving as "normal" and routine.
Lead By Example
Kids are like sponges. You might not even know it, but they are constantly soaking up all the information you give them. They are the true definition of "monkey see, monkey do", if you can use this example in this context. By making an effort yourself to do things like recycle, reuse containers, clean using natural products, and more, they will copy your actions to be "just like mom and dad!"
Instill an Appreciation of Nature
Provide context to your eco-actions by sharing the beauty of nature with your kids. Through family hikes, camping trips, and encounters with nature, they learn to love and appreciate the outdoors. The more the they love it, the more they will want to respect and protect it, even with simple things like making their own snacks instead of buying wrapped ones or making a bird feeder out of used yogurt containers rather that buying a new one.
Make it Fun
We're lucky to live in a time when eco-values have started trickling into the mind of many, giving us resources that can help with teaching the little ones the green way. From DIY aquaponic sets that show that sustainable farming systems can exist, to fun toys and books like the Good Fairie Dolls, environmentalism doesn't have to be a chore - it can be a family bonding feature.
Present it as a Special Mission
Mission "Green way" can be one that your kids learn to love. Present your ecolifestyle as a earth-saving mission (which it literally is!). Challenge your kids with monthly goals and award bonus prizes when they covertly get their friends to join in on this eco-adventure! Your kids will love the fact that they are part of something greater than them, something so important and life-changing!
Make it Easy to be Green
If being green means that the kids need to put in a greater effort, it going to be difficult to convince them to do it. It will just seem like an additional chore they have to do. See if you can adjust anything to make it simpler to be eco, from conveniently placing little recycle bins in every room to subbing cleaning products with natural ones that are used the same way or even require less effort.
Give them a Leadership Role
Once your children hit a certain age, allow them to be leaders in your home's eco mission. Ask them to come up with new ideas and help bring them to fruition. Get them involved in choosing your household cleaning and laundry products, as well as choosing which all-natural toothpaste they prefer. This will give them ownership and shape them into eco-leaders within their friends and later colleagues. We love seeing kids shopping with their parents at our stores, giving input on their preferences and the selection.
Do you have any more ideas about how to make our little ones eco-advocates in today's world? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Why You Should Think Twice Before Lighting that Scented Candle 0
Fall is here and who doesn't love the cozy effect that lighting a nice candle has on a room? The warm, flickering flame and pleasing scent can take any setting and turn it into an inviting and comfortable space. But have you ever thought about the impact that your little candle is having on your health or on the environment?
We did. And that's why we threw out all of our paraffin wax candles.
Paraffin candles produce harmful by-products, some of which are even carcinogenic like formaldahyde, Acrolein, Toulene, and many others. Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product, meaning that it is oil-based and associated with all the same environmental implications that any oil product has. From habitat destruction, contamination of the environment with toxins, to increasing the level of greenhouse gases, the oil in the average candle is causing the same kind (though not level) of damage that dirty, oil-based manufacturing and transportation causes.
Scented candles are even worse as many of the "scents" are actually chemicals that can become toxic when burned. We literally pollute the air immediately around us while innocently hoping to create a more liveable environment. It's quite backwards, isn't it?
The alternative? Soy and beeswax candles don't give off the same level of toxins during burning as petroleum candles do. They are also more environmentally friendly options as they can be sustainably produced, something that isn't possible with the petroleum based paraffin wax.
Moreover, candles usually come packaged in extra plastic which gives little utility and is difficult to recycle. We choose candles that come in minimalist packaging, or better yet, in tins or glass containers which can be reused or recycled, depending on your needs. Mind you, these are also safer when it comes to the possibility of a fire, but of course that doesn't mean that they can burn unsupervised.
Hopefully now you'll think again before buying and lighting that paraffin wax candle. Here's how you can "green" your candle burning habits and make them healthier for you, your family, and the environment:
Ways to Make Your Candle Burning Habit Greener and Cleaner
Replace Paraffin Wax Candles with Soy or Beeswax Candles
Use candles only scented by essential oils rather than artificial fragrances
Buy Candles with minimal plastic packaging, instead opt for reusable pots or containers
Buy Candles made by local makers which have a small ecological footprint
We stock a number of different candle lines in our stores, including Natuur Candles, Muskoka Candle Co., Au Naturel, and Indigo Wild's ZUM Glow. All of these are soy candles made in North America (most of them in Canada), and come in reusable containers. Drop into our stores to pick up a seasonal candle, or shop online.
Keep Living the Green Life!
6 Easy Zero-Waste Kitchen Swaps 0
When thinking of sustainability in the kitchen, our thoughts quickly go to healthy, locally-grown foods. However, this is not the only lens we should be looking through when greening our kitchens. Apart from the food we store, prepare, and eat in it, there are other aspects that we should be practicing sustainability in, such as food storage and kitchen cleaning.
The goal is to be zero-waste in our lifestyle, and if we are already buying natural food with little or no packaging, and reusing or recycling what we can, we should be left only with organic waste which can either go in the backyard composter or in the green bin. However, even these can be minimized with easy swaps which are good for the environment (and for your wallet too!)
NO: Plastic Wrap
YES: Abeego Wrap
Plastic wrap cannot be recycled and therefore is something you want to avoid buying in the first place. Cling wrap can easily be replaced with Abeego Beeswax Wrap. Use it to cover bowls with left overs, store ends of fruits and vegetables, or to wrap your sandwiches with. It's waterproof and can be molded to fit the shape that you need, all the while safely and securely storing your food, just as cling wrap would have. Abeego sheets can last for months, if not years, making them a more sustainable alternative to the plastic that usually has to be thrown out after just one use.
NO: Wax Paper
YES: Baking Mat
Do you use wax paper to line your baking sheets when making your favourite cookies or pastries? You can easily eliminate the need for this difficult to dispose of paper by simply replacing it with a silicone baking mat. This mat can stand very high temperatures in the oven, is non-stick, and is easy to clean after each use. As a bonus, it can be used as a surface protector during the prep phase as well, protecting your counters and table from potential damage!
NO: Paper Towel
How many rolls of paper towel do you go through in a week? In a month? It might be time to ditch the addiction and adapt a more sustainable (not to mention affordable) way to deal with spills. For example, the euroScrubby dishcloth is a super absorbent little towel which can be used over and over again, reducing your household's need for disposable paper towels.
NO: Plastic Straws
YES: Metal Straws
Straws are a lot of fun do drink from, and if you don't think so, chances are your kids do! So whether you use them on a daily basis or for the occasional cocktail, metal straws are a classy and sustainable alternative to plastic ones. If cleaning them (there are brushes made for this) seems like too much of a hassle, old-school paper ones are still a better choice than plastic straws.
NO: Plastic Bag Lunch Bags
Yes: Cute Reusable Lunch Containers
Our society went from brown bagging to plastic bagging things. Though schools have smartened up and made parents think twice about the waste they were putting in kids' lunches, their own lunches often don't follow suit. There are so many options available for packing lunches, from stainless steel containers, to fun bento boxes, this is an easy way to eliminate a lot of plastic wrap, bags, ziplocks, and more.
NO: Dish Soap Bottles
YES: Refillable Dish Soap Bottles
It's true that you can recycle your dish soap container once it's empty, but it's better if you can eliminate that as well! When you refill your containers, it makes getting a new container unnecessary, as all you really need is the inside contents anyway, right? We love the idea of refilling dish soap pumps and we offer refill stations at our stores for especially this reason. And since you aren't getting a new bottle, we offer a discount as well!
As you can see, it doesn't take much to make your kitchen a lot closer to being zero-waste. Paired with conscious food buying and good sorting habits, you'll be on your way to leaving nothing but a green legacy on this planet!