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
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?
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!
Easy Repurposing Projects for this Spring 0
In North America we have a very loose concept of what happens to our waste once it leaves our curb. We are lucky to have waste collection, but it also disconnects us from the truth behind the full impact of our wasteful habits. The current generation is growing up learning the importance of recycling and composting, while the focus should be on waste REDUCTION.
Did you know that less than 11 per cent of all plastics are recycled in Canada ? We have to get away from thinking that just because you put something in a special box, that it will be given a second life. The only one who has the power to do that is YOU!
The first step is to really evaluate what we bring into our homes in the first place. The item in its entirety will have to be disposed of later, and what will that look like?
The second step is to breathe a second life into items that we already have around the place, and diverting them from the waste stream. Which is the creative bit that we have some ideas for:
While we are aiming to go plastic free, many of those with a zero waste mindset still end up buying some grocery essentials that are difficult to get container-less. Items like yogurt or cream cheese come in tubs that can easily be reused for storing foods, crafts, etc. We've used them to store leftovers or store little items like paper clips or safety pins. As you see, there's no need to buy specific organizational tubs when you have them already! In light of spring coming, save your plastic "clam shells" after fruits like berries for starting seeds. They make a natural "greenhouse" environment!
Towels do have a usable lifespan in your washroom, before they start looking worn, tired, and stained. However, they are never to be thrown out! From use as cleaning rags, to backseat covers after a muddy game of soccer, or even your own reusable Swiffer cover, towels' absorbency and durability make them a treasure in the field of repurposing.
Here's a bigger spring project for those who don't mind bring out their tool belt. Rather than buy new planters or spend money on a greenhouse, repurpose old windows into cold frames. These are "mini greenhouses" that were traditionally used to help start cool weather crops while protecting them from those fringe frosts and freezes. You can find a tutorial here.
Toilet Paper Rolls
While you might have replaced your papertowels with old cut up towels or maybe UnPaperTowels, you likely have not found an alternative to toilet paper. No fears, however, because the residual roll can be used for all kinds of projects, from organizing cords, protecting garden stems from insects, to making biodegradable pots.
Orange Juice Jugs
Those large plastic jugs can be used in so many different ways. Repurpose them into watering cans for house or outdoor plants, or better yet, turn them into a bird feeder for native species in your backyard. While they are recyclable, the longer you can keep them out of the waste system, the better.
Remember how you used to play with sock puppets as a kid? Well who says that your kids or grand kids can't enjoy them now! Sew on some button eyes, use some fabric scraps to add some pizzazz, or just use fabric markers! You don't even need to sew if you have a glue gun! If you don't have any kids around that would appreciate a puppet, use your lonely socks as dusters! Just slip one on your hand and start wiping away!
Rather than recycle them and just buy new ones, save your current spray bottles for your own DIY uses, be that making your homemade cleaner, an essential oil-based bug spray, misting your plants, or making a natural pesticide for your garden. Why go to the Dollar store and buy one there if you already have a bunch at home? Just remember to take extra precaution when reusing a container that had harsh chemicals in it. Rinse it out repeatedly to ensure that you don't have any traces left that could cause harm.
Cosmetic and Personal Care Containers
Save your containers from old lip balms, face creams, deodorants, and shampoo. These can easily be used for your own DIY projects or refilled at refill stations at some eco shops. They are also great for traveling and filling with just the right amount needed for your adventures, be that a morning at the gym or a week-long trip away.
If you make your cup of joe at home, there's the odd chance that you might be keeping a couple of those big Folgers containers or other coffee tins. While, again recyclable, it's more fun and ecofriendly to give them a new use within your home, from being a "hankie dispenser", to a toy drum for a little one, all it takes is some imagination and a coat of paint. These are big, air tight containers that can have infinite uses at home.
Which project are you most excited to try? Don't forget to comment and share your go-to repurposing projects around the home!
Why "Paper" Coffee Cups Aren't as Innocent as They Seem 1
"It's just a paper cup- it's no big deal!" is a phrase everyone has once said or at least thought at some point in their lives. We like to think of paper as a friend, eco-friendly and easily recyclable.
However, what most of us don't realize right away is that disposable paper cups traditionally used to "coffee to-go" are not just made of paper. To keep the cups from leaking and falling apart as they transport your hot beverages, they are coated on the inside with either a waxy or plastic substance, which makes recycling these cups very difficult.
Well how big of a problem is this?
With brands like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and MacDonalds making coffee to-go an easy convenience, walking into work or school with a cup of hot joe (or tea) in your hand has become part of the identity of Canadians. It has been estimated that Canadians put between 1.6 and 2 BILLION coffee cups in landfills every year.
As mentioned, due to the addition of the waterproofing layer, the breakdown period of the cup (not to even start on the polystyrene lid) is more than just a few months. Now think of how many cups like that you see everyday.
The positive note is that bringing along your own mug or tumbler has never been easier. There are really high quality products that do a better job keeping your hot beverages warm and tasting great, and coffee vendors have started adapting as well. Some cafes (even Starbucks) will give you a discount on your purchase if you provide your own cup or mug!
Though we like to think that business is on our side in this eco-war, we can't expect them to change if we don't show them that it's important to us. Here are some ways that you can minimize your use of disposable cups and encourage the industry to shift their values.
Bring Your Own Cup
This is the basics. By bringing your own cup, you're not just refusing to use a disposable one, and therefore minimizing waste. You are also signaling your values to the employees at the coffee shop, who sometimes are surprised, and other times actually excited to see someone caring this much. During the summer, when your order includes an ice coffee,, bringing your own tumbler and straw is key as well, just remember to tell them when you're ordering that you have your own cup (especially important when going through the Drive-Through).
Make Your Own Coffee
Support fair-trade coffee companies and save some money by brewing your own coffee at home or work. No paper cups, and the quality of your coffee will be likely higher than what you would get at many of the chain coffee joints anyway!
Lead by example and educate others as they ask. When doing a coffee run, ask people if they have cups that they want you to use, and insist on them using yours if others are offering to pick some up for you. Start a campaign at work, gift them to family and friends, or join a challenge like our #reusabletastesbetter week. When you share about it with others on social media and when interacting with them, it creates awareness and might spark something in someone you know.
So next time you are tempted to try your chances with Roll up the Rim, remember that the planet loses every time you play. A true win is stepping up to the counter with your Corkcicle tumbler or KeepCup and asking that your double double be poured in it.
Eco-Lover's Take on Greeting Cards 1
While you might feel like you can get away with just posting a cute family photo on Facebook rather than send a card to all your family and friends for Christmas, Valentine's Day still requires at least a few little notes, especially if you still have school aged children.
However, if you are striving towards the zero waste lifestyle, is buying a greeting card against your eco-morals?
Everyone has their own view on this topic, ranging from a strict ban and transition to digital e-cards, while others are willing to bend the rules to make a meaningful and timeless gesture.
I mean, all in all, it's just paper and totally recyclable, right?
Yes and no.
Many greeting card/envelope combos come wrapped in a plastic sleeve that is to protect them from getting dirty or separated. While practical, it's not a recyclable type of plastic, and it's better to stay away from this kind of card wrapping. Some companies offer a compostable sleeve, so look for that or nothing at all.
BLINGWhile some cards might capture your attention with cute addition of glitter, confetti, foil, or metallic writing, do your best to resist. These additions render your card non-recyclable and it will inevitably end up in the landfill.
All papers are not created equal. Look for stamps certifying that your card is made from sustainably farmed and harvested wood. This can put your mind at ease that you are not directly contributing to deforestation and biodiversity loss.
POST-CONSUMER RECYCLED PAPER
One step up is paper that is at least in part made of recycled paper. This uses fewer new resources and creates a market for recycled goods, giving them more value.
Some companies even go the extra mile and encourage people to compost the paper in their own gardens by using "seed paper", that you can bury and get plants out of. Or give something other than paper like with Gift-A-Green where you gift a package of microgreen seeds that can be directly sown in the pouch and then eaten!
Research your greeting card companies. Some of them have a pledge to plant a tree for every x number of cards they sell or do something else to offset the effect of their business on the environment. For example, Wilder, which we carry in stores, makes their cards using 100% renewable energy in addition to putting strict restraints on themselves in terms of sustainable paper, ink, and packaging.
Over the years you have surely collected enough cards and craft supplies that you can give a new life to items in your home and transform them into unique signature cards. This way, you avoid the plastic sleeves, you can control the "recyclability" of your creation, and you're already extending the time something stays out of the landfill.
So what are you doing this Valentine's Day and the sweet words you want to share with your love? Will you pen them down in a greeting card?
Happy Valentine's Day to all!