Monthly Archives

May 2016

Live Waste Free

Date Night Fail

so much styrofoam

I’m about to get super real with you guys. Although I had an amazing week for living waste free, it was NOT perfect. I worked hard on making my own food, shopped for fresh local veggies and bulk goods on the weekend and withheld from spending on useless stuff. So why was it not perfect? What could have been the issue (I’m assuming you’re asking)?

Here’s the scene, it’s date night and we’re both tired and in need of alone time. Sunday was the first day we had very few obligations. No work, no parties, no responsibilities, nada. We decided to treat ourselves to sushi. We chose a small restaurant, close to where we live. We thought we would have a delicious meal and just enjoy each other’s company. For the first time all week. I can’t stress that enough, I’m sure you’ve been there too and know the feeling.

But my joy for this evening was short lived. The waitress had brought over our meals. I swear I’m not exaggerating here, prepare yourselves for shock and awe: EVERYTHING WAS SINGLE USE DISPOSABLE. And not even the recyclable kind. It was all Styrofoam. Our main meal was on a large Styrofoam plate; another part of the meal was on a smaller plate (which was more than unnecessary, just put it on the main plate no?), all the sauces were in tiny plastic containers with lids, our soup was in a Styrofoam bowl with a plastic lid (again, so unnecessary). The chopsticks were in a plastic wrapper and the spoons were plastic. It turned my stomach so much that I could barely eat. I could not have foreseen this situation that I was now in. We went to a restaurant to SIT IN and enjoy a good meal. I didn’t realize that this entire place was used as a take out counter. I also didn’t feel the need before leaving to pack cutlery or anything. Who packs that stuff to go to a nice restaurant; it’s not a deli counter where you’re expecting this sort of deal. We ate mainly in silence as I held back my traitor tears (you know the kind where you’re upset and angry, and they just want to make an appearance to spite you).

My date night, the one I’ve been looking forward to, was effectively ruined because of this restaurant’s near sighted views. Yes, disposables are lest costly in the short run, but long term, they can’t even begin to combat the savings for reusable dishes. I’ll save the exact numbers for another post.

My fella said what he could to try and cheer me up with “You do so much and there’s no way you could have predicted this” and “It’ll be ok, this one meal doesn’t outweigh all of your efforts”. But I just wasn’t hearing it. You know when you start a new diet, you’re good all week and that one cheat day ruins you! You feel like you’ve just let yourself down. You know you can do better and that you’re stronger than that. This was that feeling. It shook me to the core, and in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have let it ruin my evening, I should have listened and let it slide. But passion is funny that way isn’t it? I was even on the fence about sharing this experience. I just wanted to put it all behind me, but I decided to take this very true example and show to everyone that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Being Zero Waste can be tricky sometimes. It gets hard, there are ways to ease up the pressure, sure, but sometimes life happens and there’s no way around it. This being said, it’s still worth it. You’re efforts are in no way lost because of one shitty day.

My night was ruined by this one meal, but I’m hoping through sharing this experience that you’ll ease up on yourselves. Zero Waste is in no way about perfection. That’s just not going to happen, especially at first. It’s hard to adapt. It’s hard to break the routine and your old habits. Yes, it gets easier but even sometimes the veterans fail. Take it, grow and move forward. Rest well and know that you did your very best.

“A failure is not a loss. It’s a gain. You learn. You change. You grow.” -Michael Barata.

Hope you enjoyed this blog. For others like this or general tips and tricks for living a Zero Waste lifestyle, check out my Facebook page Live Waste Free.

 

Live Waste Free

ZW Vegan Chili

On today’s menu: Dawn’s Homemade Zero Waste-Vegan Chili. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a long name, but who has time to come up with clever names when you’re cooking a bad ass meal like this one! Not to brag or anything, but my dad once described it as “Woah man, this is the S***!” So, take away from that what you will ;).

Now, I love making chili because of the simplicity. It can be dressed up or kept bare and still be absolutely DELISH! It’s possibly one of the easiest Zero Waste meals that you can make. It stores well, keeps for a long time in the fridge or even longer in the freezer and is the perfect, late night meal (for those of us hustling to the wee hours of the morning).

To make this recipe ZW, buy all your goods in bulk with your own jars (spices, beans, olive oil) and hit up a farmer’s market or even the regular grocery store for the veggies. Buy them loose with no plastic bags and be sure to wash them when you get home. For freshest ingredients, I prefer the farmer’s market for sure!

Meal Prep time: 30 minutes of prep-not including the reconstitution of the beans.

Cook time: 1 hour (again, not including the beans-that will soon be explained).

 

Ingredients:

¾ cup red kidney beans

¾ cup black turtle beans

12 tomatoes, whole

1 medium onion

1 tbs of olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

2 medium red peppers

1.5 cups of Veggie broth (I use my home made version)

1 tbsp sea salt

2 tsp Black pepper

1 tbsp Cumin

1 tsp Chili powder

1 tsp Cayenne

1/8 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes *if you’re not a fan of too much spice, omit this*

 

Optional to serve with:

Corn chips (bought in bulk)

Sliced avocados

Chopped green onions

Nutritional yeast (or grated cheese for non-vegans)

 

 

Directions:

I buy my beans dried and in bulk with my own jars. You’re going to need to start by reconstituting them. You can soak them overnight and then cook them until tender if you’d like, but I aim myself towards the “instant” way. It’s not literally instant but it is the faster way. Rinse off the beans in a colander, put them in a pot and cover them with water. The ratio is about 2:1-water to beans but keep an eye on them. Add more water if you need. Cover the beans and put on high until they boil. Once the boiling starts, drop the temperature to low (1-2) and leave them to cook for around 2 hours. This is the faster version since you’re not having them soak overnight, but you can really do it whichever way you prefer.

I don’t include this in the cooking time since it only takes 2 minutes of work.
From here on out, you basically just let the beans do their thing.tomatoes

Next up are the tomatoes. I buy them fresh and whole and work with them from here. Cut them into quarters, de-seed and core them. The seeds and cores go directly into the compost, unless you maybe have some chickens, I hear they like this as a snack :P. Once all of your tomatoes are ready, keep them aside for later use.

Heat the olive oil in a deep pot, dice the onion and slice the garlic. Add to the hot pot. Cover and cook them on medium until the onions are translucent, stirring frequently. Roughly chop the red peppers and add to the onions, let cook for another 3 minutes. To this, add your prepped tomatoes, veggie broth and sea salt. Cover and let simmer on low-medium heat for 20 minutes, or until super tender.

When you have reached your desired tenderness (not falling apart, but you can put a fork in the flesh and remove it with ease), remove from heat, but keep in the pot. You’re going to use a submersion blender to blend the veggies until they’re smooth. If you don’t have a submersion blender, use a regular one and just work in batches. Be careful while handling the hot veggies and broth, I’ve gotten splashed a number of times and it’s hot! Like, wicked hot!

Before you’re fully finished blending, stir a fork through it to insure that all the large chunks are out. After your little smoothness check, you add all your beans and the spices. Start with the quantities above for your spices and alter them to your personal preference.  Let the chili simmer on low-medium heat, partially uncovered for about 30-40 minutes to really blend the flavors and to cook off any excess water. Don’t forget to stir the chili every few minutes to avoid burning.

Serve straight or prettied up with sliced avocados, corn chips and nutritional yeast (shredded cheese for non-vegans).

Hope you enjoy this recipe! For other recipes like this, or general tips and tricks for living a Zero Waste lifestyle, check out my website www.live-waste-free.com. Also www.facebook.com/livewastefree.

Live Waste Free

Why Shop Zero Waste

Zero Waste grocery shopping! I know what you’re thinking “HUH?! WHAT?!” Stay with me here. It’s a lot simpler than it seems.
Yes it takes planning and a bit of prep work, but it’s so worth it in the long run. The amount of plastic used in our everyday food packaging is outstanding. Landfills and recycling centers are full of it. And in fact, products once containing food will not be recycled into new packaging for more. This is because of possible cross-contaminants. It will be melted down and used to produce another form of plastic. This process is called “down-cycling”. Each turn at the recycling center sends it further down the down-cycled ladder and eventually will not be usable anymore. Therefore, it will ultimately end up in the landfill.
Not to mention the energy used to actually produce and transport this packaging. And for what? Ease? Sure. Does it look pretty and colorful? Maybe. But is it necessary? Absolutely not! There are many bulk grocery stores that allow you to bring empty and reusable jars, fill them up with what you need and go on your merry way. This has not only become a staple in our household, but it’s become a hobby.
I love finding new jars (mostly repurposed from old food jars). Fat jars, skinny jars, tall jars, tiny jars! They’re ALL good! I just love the principal behind this style of shopping so much! I find it really connects you to what you eat. You see exactly what you’re getting, and that you’re getting your money’s worth. It drives me crazy when I forget something in the back of my pantry and it goes bad. Food waste is such a huge issue already in North America. I just can’t handle the idea of being an even bigger part of the problem, instead of the solution. Insert Zero Waste shopping and you have your answer.
Start out with ideas for meals for the week (or for me, every 2 weeks since I live a bit far from my bulk store). Get an idea of what you want to eat and snack on; and how much you’ll need. Bring the amount of jars and/or cloth bags that you’ll be needing for your stock and VOILA! That’s it! Shopping this way allows you to only buy what you will need and throw away less in the long run.
This style is not only limited to bulk stores and dried goods. Try at your local farmer’s market. Insist on them putting the items you’re purchasing into your jars or reusable containers. My family has done this on multiple occasions for food like cheeses, meats, fresh produce and bread. If you go in with enough assertiveness and ya know… basic manners, it’s hard to be refused.
Now, shall I even comment on all the cash I’ve been saving? Every time we throw away a half-eaten box of crackers, we throw away half the cash we put into it. Since I started doing my groceries in this fashion, I can’t even tell you how much money I’ve saved! Or better yet, will be saving long term. How many times have you wanted to try a new recipe, only to find that it requires some new ingredient you’ve never heard of or don’t have in stock? It happens to me ALL THE TIME! With the option of shopping by weight, you can get exactly what you need. Only need a teaspoon of that exotic ingredient? Only buy a teaspoon! When we buy the product by the package, we are often left with so much. With new ingredients, we’re less likely to learn how to use them, causing them to be shuffled towards the back of our pantries or fridges. Sooner or later, it will be forgotten, and we’re left with the extra costs of food waste.
So let’s recap, Zero Waste grocery shopping is:
• good for the environment
• good for your household waste production
• and good for your wallet.
Now it’s time for you to get on the Zero Waste path. Enjoy!

Live Waste Free

Painting the Town Green: a Zero Waste Guide to a Great Night Out!

The Outfit

So I’ve been told recently that “It must suck being Zero Waste because you have to basically give up your social life.” I literally didn’t know how to respond to that, since it’s so far from the truth! I still get dressed up, I still go out with my friends and I still go out for fun activities and some drinks. All guilt free to boot. Imagine that! So I got to thinking, why not take a bit of time and address each stage of ‘prep’ before heading out for a night with my besties. Each step will be documented to show just how simple choices can change a regular night out into a Zero Waste night out.

Today, we’re talking clothes.

Okay, so first things’ first, never underestimate what’s already in your own closet. I recently went through my stuff and realized that there’s some nice things in there. Things that I’ve rarely worn before. I actually rearranged my entire closet to access stuff that I haven’t seen in years and it was lovely. Why buy new things if you don’t have to. Save that cash flow for the night itself instead of prepping for it.

Second on my list: borrow, borrow, borrow! Now I know, sometimes it’s difficult to try this. Maybe you’re not the same size as a friend, or have completely different styles. But let me ask you this, how many times have you gone through your own stuff and found something that is no longer YOU, or it doesn’t fit anymore, or it came around when you had your Little Black Dress phase…we’ve all been there, trust me. I bet this happens often right? So turn this concept around on your friends. They probably have stuff that you’ve never noticed before. Check their stuff anyways, you’ll never know what you can find (permission is required for this, don’t just raid your buddy’s place without their consent. Come on man!).

Third and final: shop wisely and responsibly. Now, I dislike shopping for many reasons. Mainly it’s because I don’t like spending money on things that serve no strong purpose in my life. However, for this purpose, I tried it! I actually did, I swear! I attempted to shop. I hit up a second hand store and rummaged through the racks of pre-loved items. Although I came out of this particular shop empty handed, I did still find some really nice dresses. I was genuinely impressed. Another thing to consider is to get rid of the stigma that’s been put on second hand clothing. As long as it’s new to you, it’ll still give you that satisfying “check out my new digs” attitude. And don’t think you’re limited to only second hand stores, buy new. Go for it, have fun with it. I’d just suggest trying to make the things you purchase as long lasting as possible. This goes for the material used as well as the style. So many fad items get sent to donations or the trash. Cheap items are scattered all through landfills and will keep doing so unless we collectively make a change that can catalyze a difference.

Picking out the perfect outfit doesn’t have to be such a costly event. The more aware we are of the effects of our choices, the smoother the transition is to living a Zero Waste lifestyle.

For more posts about living Zero Waste, check out my Facebook page Live Waste Free. Many random tips, tricks and funnies to be had on the daily.

Live Waste Free

Zero Waste Granola Bites

Baked goods, what’s up!

At the beginning of this Zero Waste journey, I took a step back and tried to picture everything that made up my trash. It was filled with the wrappers from my fiancé’s meat products, chips and candy bags and a variety of granola bar wrappers. Healthy eh?! Needing an alternative to these pure delicacies in the world of Dawn. I sought out to find them all made in bulk. Meat for the fella, check. Candy and chips, check. Granola bars, yeah right. No such luck here, so I instead turned to the home made versions and looked for the easiest and fastest recipe I could find. Let’s be real here, who has an entire day to bake, I’ve got stuff to do! It didn’t take long to find a healthy recipe that was filling, full of amazing nutrients and DELISH (shout out to Minimalist Baker here, they really know their stuff)! It’s from here where my zero waste granola bites truly evolved and became unique.

While I loved those granola bars and found them to be perfect for my lifestyle, they were missing a little somethin’ somethin’. Oh, I also am possibly the worst at following recipes. Not that it’s complicated, but I have an issue with food waste and storing super small quantities when I don’t have to. If I have a table spoon of extra sunflower seeds left in my jar, you bet I’m putting those into the batch too. I’m not keeping them in my pantry until the next time. I’d much rather just toss it in and enjoy it all now.

For the sake of this entry, I’m going to give my best approximation, avoiding using the terms “1 large jar and half of a teeny jar”. Enjoy!

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

4 ripe bananas

3 cups Large Flaked Oats

½ cup Hemp Seeds

¾ cup Chopped Pecans

¾ Chopped Walnuts

½ cup Sliced Almonds

½ cup Pumpkin seeds

¾ cup Roasted sunflower seeds

½ cup Cranberries

½ cup Raisins

4 tablespoons Maple syrup

1 tablespoon Vanilla extract

1.5 teaspoons Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Sea salt

*1 tablespoon of an oil of your choosing to grease the pan. I use coconut oil.*

Directions:

Slice the bananas and add them to the mixer. Let it run for about a minute to really mush them up. To this you’re literally going to add everything! And I mean EVERYTHING! There’s nothing special here, no technique, no grace. Just dump it all in the mixer and let it do its thing.

Now remember, it’s not a big deal if there’s a little more or a little less of each ingredient. The texture you’re aiming for is one that comes together well but isn’t incredibly sticky. If your batch is too wet, add more large oats. If it happens to be too dry, add more sliced bananas.

I use a mini muffin tin to help keep my bites together, but this is not needed. Grease your tin or tray with a little bit of oil. Roll you granola mixture into bite size pieces. It’s nothing fancy, just plop them down. I find a little less ‘perfection’ adds more texture. The loose edges will get the teeniest bit crunchy and it’s a heck of a good time!

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes. Cooking time may vary, you’re looking for lightly browned bites. Once they’re finished, let them cool. Then dig in! You’re going to love them! Delicious, simple, fast, and easy to eat on the go. A side bonus to these being super awesome, and they’re Vegan!

If you enjoyed this recipe, head over and like my page ‘Live Waste Free’ on Facebook for daily tips and tricks to becoming Zero-Waste.

Live Waste Free

DIY-Zero Waste Laundry Soap

Today friends, we’re going to talk about laundry soap! I haven’t been making this for very long; but I’ve still learned a few tricks on the way. I do this mainly for 2 reasons. First being that I don’t want the large plastic packaging (big surprise coming from me :P). The 4 ingredients I use are all in 100% recyclable material or don’t have any wrapping at all. Quick side note, I recently found 2 more of the ingredients in bulk, where I can bring my own jars to fill. SCORE! Second, I have sensitive skin and don’t want the chemicals in the store bought versions. My reasons are simple enough. Pretty much as simple as the actual recipe!

Before I made my first batch, I searched YouTube for hours (not even kidding!). Trying to figure out which recipe would work best for my needs. I landed on a super simple powder detergent. I tried that for a few weeks but I decided against it in the end. We wash our clothes in cold water always and parts of the powdered detergent were not dissolving. So it left my clothes full of little white soap granules. Now my question went to “what do I do with the batch I already made?” After another hour or so of searching, I stumbled across a simple recipe, already including the very same ingredients I had! All I had to do was dissolve them in hot water and mix! So alas, that batch was saved, and let me tell you, I couldn’t be happier! I even passed some jars along to family members and recently they asked for me to make more! Some of the pickiest people I know, wanted more of my easy DIY laundry soap! Who’d a thought!

So to start, there’s only 4 ingredients in this recipe:

¼ cup of Borax
½ cup of Washing Soda (important note: NOT baking soda! You can find it at any natural/health foods store)
A whole bar of soap (your preference)
15-20 drops of Essential oils (again, your preference)
And you will need:

10 liter bucket
Funnel
Container to help pour mixture (I used a large measuring cup)
Air tight jars/containers of your choice for storage
Whisk
Emulsion blender (it’s fine if you don’t have, a whisk will work well too)
1) You’re going to grate the bar of soap. I found mine at a natural foods store, luckily enough, it was not wrapped. You can use what you find works for you. Just using a regular cheese grater, nothing fancy, grate the entire bar. We do this so it’s easier to dissolve in the water.

2) Dissolve the grated bar of soap in 2 cups of boiling water. Whisk until it’s fully dissolved and you can no longer see small pieces of soap.

3) Fill up a bucket halfway with warm to hot water.

4) Add in the dissolved bar of soap, ¼ cup of borax and ½ cup of washing soda. Mix well until everything is fully dissolved. It should be easy since the water’s nice and hot already. Fill up bucket fully with more warm to hot water.

5) Once you’ve finished, add in the essential oils. I used peppermint because I love the smell but you can use any you like, just to make your soap nice and fresh smelling. Mix well and cover (I used a towel). Place your bucket somewhere over night so it can gel.

6) After 16-24 hours, you’ll notice it’s become quite thick and gel like. This is a good thing. Take either a whisk or emulsion blender to break up the hunks. It will give you a nice runny and soap consistency.

7) Place in your containers using a funnel to make the whole process easier. Wipe down any spills. For my containers, I’ve re-purposed an old fabric softener jug I found in my mom’s recycling bin and old, cleaned out wine bottles. You can choose anything that will work for you.

8) Store your home made laundry soap indefinitely (since it’s only soap and won’t spoil).

9) Using ¼ cup to 1/3 cup per load (depending of course on how much laundry you have in the washer), this batch should last for several months.

*I need to mention that we have an older version for a washing machine, and I’ve never had a chance to use it in a High Efficiency (HE) model. HE soap does not make suds in your laundry, and although I’ve never witnessed any in mine, I would proceed with caution.

So now you can see how simple the process was for me to make it, and I hope you’ll give it a whirl. And just like many other Zero-Waste efforts, I have to add a shout out to how much cash you’ll save! All my products maybe cost me 5$ per batch (Max). And this batch yielded me 9 liters. Enough for my family for well over 8 months. That’s a huge lift off of all our wallets!

For more tips and tricks, head over and like my page on Facebook ‘Live Waste Free‘. Where you’ll get daily ideas to keep you on the Zero Waste path.