Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Less Waste Road Trips

Recently we head up to Humboldt county for my cousin's wedding. It was a long drive so we knew we'd get peckish at some point. I brought a few snacks but did not create any waste. We also stopped and ate a nice meal on the way so we avoided producing any trash during the drive. Here is what I brought:

- Stainless steel containers with carrots and homemade hummus. (recipe
- Stainless steel container with mixed nuts
- A few bananas, kiwis and tangerines 
- 2 Kleen Kanteens filled with tap water
- 1 Flip top bottle of wine (we refill, this was for when we got there!)
- 1 set reusable bamboo flatware (knife, fork and spoon)

{Carrots with homemade hummus}

Once we got there we had a kitchenette with a refrigerator to store what was left over.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recipe: Pickled Beets

Beets are one of my favorite vegetables. I love the earthy flavor, vibrant colors and that they are packed of vitamins. This time of year we get at least 5 beets a week in our veggie delivery but lately there have been more. I haven't been able to keep up with them, I try to roast them and juice them but found myself with too many to use. Wasting them is not an option so pickling them seemed like the best way to preserve all of those the beets. I found this recipe online that I used as a jumping off point, then processed the jars in a water bath to create a canning seal so that they'll last for months in the cupboard. 

First I infused some white vinegar with tarragon buy just letting it soak in the vinegar for about an hour then strained out the herbs. Then I roasted all the beets, pealed them and sliced them in about 1/4 pieces. While the beets were roasting I sliced up two red onions. Using sterilized jars I layered the beet and onion slices and set jars aside. In a sauce pan I combined the sugar, tarragon infused vinegar, water and salt, simmered the mixture for five minutes and poured brine over the beets and onions. I wiped off the rims of the jars, placed on new gaskets and submerged them in a water bath to create a seal like I do when canning tomatoes

12-15 beets (I used red and yellow)
2 large red onions
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp tarragon

{Pickled and processed beets with red onion}

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

DIY: Vanilla Extract

One product that is grossly marked up in stores is all natural vanilla extract. I don't think that most people realize how easy it is to make at home. There's just two ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka. I bought 10 Madagascar vanilla beans online at beanilla thinking they'd come in glass vials but instead were shipped in a vacuum sealed plastic pouch (ouch!). I still need to find a zero waste way to by them. 

To prep the beans for the extract cut down the center of the bean without piercing through the onther side then use the dull side of the knife to scrape out the seeds. Place both seeds and pods in a jar then cover them with vodka. Store in a dark cool place to marinate for a few weeks. For easy access while cooking and baking strain and store in a small glass bottle. I gave these away for christmas gifts this year using a cute label and bow. 

{4 oz decorative bottle perfect for a holiday or hostess gift}

Monday, February 10, 2014

Zero Waste Bulk Liquids

We make an effort to buy as many of the liquids we use in our daily cooking in bulk. If we cannot buy it in bulk then we won't buy it so we cater our recipes to what is readily available.

{Buying in bulk saved us 20%}
{Tip: take a photo of the plu# if you forget a crayon}

Two staples we make an effort to always have stocked are cooking wine and olive oil. We also stock canola oil, red wine vinegar, tamari, soy sauce and honey. We weigh our jars at home, writing the weight on the jar with a water soluble crayon then bring our hermetic jars to fill up at the store. Back at home I transfer the liquids to glass bottles with pour tops for easy use.

{My kitchen zerowaste label solution: scratch paper with a rubber band}

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Less Waste at Work

To my great fortune my work provides us with stocked kitchens and catered meals. There are tons of snacks, bottled beverages, individually wrapped candy but also great bulk options too. There are a dozen bulk snacks, fresh fruit, cereal, the list goes on and on. 

Since I started working here I brought in and have used my own reusable bamboo flatware. I bought two sets package free at the drug store for camping/picnic uses but they are great for work too. I also use a stainless steel tumbler which I love and use for both cold and hot drinks, they  are so durable you can take them anywhere. Some days I bring in my thermos, a cloth napkin or metal straw. After writing the post 'Easy Swaps Towards a Sustainable Household' I felt it was time to bring in that plate! I had bought a stainless steel camping plate and use it every day now. I thought my coworkers might heckle me about it but all they did was complement me and said they were jealous, go figure!

{my zero waste lunch-kit}

For the catered lunches and dinners facilities provides us with compostable plates, bowls, napkins and flatware. This wasn't always the case though. They always had compostable plates and cups but used to use plastic recyclable flatware until I wrote an email that is. A few months ago I wrote the new facilities manager in our company about sustainability offering easy suggestions for a greener work place. The suggestions went over really well and in a matter of weeks they switched out all the plastic flatware for compostable versions, I felt it was a huge win and the environment is who benefits most! 

Compost, Recycling and Landfill labeled waste stations are in clear view, for the most part our 450 employees follow them. There's has also been an effort to educate everyone about what common waste goes where through poster board display's posted around the office. 

After the switch to compostable flatware I noticed right away that the black landfill bins were nearly empty, everyone was using the green compost. It's really incredible how one little email and others making a small change has saved so much plastic from going straight to landfill. 

DIY Toothpaste

After an experimental phase trying using tooth powder to clean our teeth we both weren't satisfied. On my post about my dissatisfaction my friend Devon digested DIY toothpaste. I did some research and came up with this recipe that we love. 

{DIY toothpaste}

1 part baking soda (about 1/4 cup)
1 part organic coconut oil (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon stevia
Several drops spearmint essential oil to taste
Combine all ingredients, mix well.

Store in your medicine cabinet in a glass jar. Use spoon to apply to toothbrush.

{Espresso spoon used to apply toothpaste to compostable bamboo toothbrush}