Monday, April 22, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Zero Waste: Grocery Shopping

There are several easy ways to reduce your waste. I realized quickly that much of our waste originates in the kitchen and eliminating waste before it enters the home through zero waste grocery shopping could make a sizable impact. I researched online for tips on waste free shopping, many of which I learned from the Zero Waste Home blog. Bringing our own containers, bulk and produce bags seemed like a big step. Gearing up for that first shopping trip took a mentality shift but was so intriguing that I knew I had to give it a try! 

This is how I prepped for that trip: I had two plastic Tupperware containers, a few mesh produce bags (had been using for a while) and a reusable canvas tote. I also did a ton of research to pepare but still had so many 'what ifs' whirling in my mind. 

What if - they flat out said no?
What if - everyone looked at me like I was insane?
What if - I lose the nerve at the last second?

I silenced the chatter in my head and went for it. Then, as I first asked for chicken thighs in my own container I got a burst of adrenaline. I felt like I could do anything. After checkout I walked out of the grocery store feeling proud and I couldn't wait until my husband got home from work to tell him about it. 

It's been about a year and a half since that first shopping trip and we haven't looked back. My husband and I usually do our grocery shopping together and we don't think about how we 'used' to shop anymore. We just understand that if we're not prepared to shop then we shouldn't be inside a store. This mentality has made us much more organized. We come prepared with a shopping list and we stick to it which saves us time and money. We bring the containers and bags just for what we need and leave the rest at home. 

Here is how we do our less waste grocery shopping:

1. Make a list. We talk to each other and figure out what we are out of and what we need (usually with specific recipes in mind).

2. Gather supplies. Our usual shopping supplies look a little something like this:
  • 2 - 3 Reusable tote bags for carrying everything
  • A few glass jars for wet items such as meat, cheese, peanut butter and olives. We use various sizes of Le Parfet jars, they're durable, clear and not plastic. If buying wet items in bulk (not behind meat counter for instance) then you'll have to weigh your jar to get the tare so the weight of the jar gets subtracted at check out. They can weigh jars at customer service, bring a water soluble crayon to write weight on the lid.
  • A few produce bags. We use green mesh bags by Blue Avocado.
  • A few bulk drawstring bags. I made mine out of flour sack towels because I love to sew but I have also seen them in the bulk section for sale at Whole Foods.
  • Water soluble crayon to write tare weight on jars and bulk bin numbers on my bulk bags 
  • Deposit items, such as clean Straus milk bottles, Revive kombucha bottles and St. Benoit yogurt jars. These products charge a deposit when purchased that is then refunded to you once you bring it back. 
3. Head to the store with your supplies for shopping.

4. Stick to the list. It's easy to get side tracked just know you aren't going to buy anything that has packaging.

5. At checkout refuse the receipt, it probably has BPA on it anyway.

{Produce and meat purchased with our reusables}

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Organically Dyed Easter Eggs

About a month ago while browsing PopSugar SmartLiving I stumbled upon a posting about all natural alternatives to traditional Easter egg dyeing.
After reading the article my wheels started to turn, thinking about what else I could use to dye eggs. I planned on sharing this activity with our 20 month old niece (this was the first Easter she was able to hunt for eggs) it was important for these eggs to be bright, colorful and non-toxic for her to enjoy. 

I had a rough list of ingredients in my head as I headed to the local farmers market in hunt for items that could serve double duty: package-free edibles that could be both conusumed and used for dye. The farmers market in Larkspur had an Easter theme that day which included a kids craft for (you guessed it =) natural egg dyeing with items available at the farmers market! I got so excited when I saw their display that I began asking the ladies running the craft tons of questions. They were sweet, informative and I could tell they were really happy to talk to someone over the age of six. =) The gist of what they told me is just to boil the ingredient of choice with two cups of water for less then an hour. Once the mixture is cool add a splash of white vinegar to set the color. Also, these dyes are weaker then their unsafe counterparts so for brighter colors the eggs should stay in the dye for longer. Farmers market purchases in tow, I headed to the store for a few more 'zero waste' ingredients then home to experiment. 

{Farmers Market Kids Craft}

At home I had fun concocting the dyes and testing out the colors. I hard boiled six eggs and blew out the insides of the remaining so that my sister wasn't stuck with a dozen hard boiled eggs! To add interest through negative designs I tied rubber bands around some and zigzag strips of sticker labels on others. Here are the dyes I tried:
  • Red Wine
  • Yellow Onion Skins
  • Turmeric 
  • Purple Cabbage
  • Turmeric + Purple Cabbage
The experiments results surprised me a bit. Red Wine, thinking it would make a red or purple egg made an interesting grey marbled egg resembling stone. Yellow onion skins produced a rich golden orange hue. Turmeric made bright yellow. Purple cabbage turned the eggs a beautiful cyan color then the turmeric and cabbage dye made a green.

{The finished product on my sisters spring time table-scape}

On Easter, my husband hid the eggs for our niece to find. It was a precious sight watching her roam around the yard, even though she found just one egg ;)