Browsing Tag

near zero waste

Live Waste Free

Urban Gardening – How a Zero Waster grew a few beans -Pt. 2-

Welcome back! Last time, I had shared a bunch about how I started an urban garden, and ya know, have a new appreciation for farmers and love my green beans that I have a bunch of. Today, is all about my challenges. There’s been so many bumps in this road that it’s comparable to Montreal’s infamous pothole problem.

I want to start by saying that despite the difficult periods, I am loving this new hobby. I’ve really come around to the idea of spending a bit more free time on it. After all, it’s a hobby! Hobbies are activities you enjoy and do in your free time! For me to think that I wouldn’t want to spend too much time on it was silly and misguided. The fact that I get yummy food out of it is a gigantic bonus.

Before I started, I had no idea how much/how often I should be watering my plants. I still really don’t. I kind of go with whether or not they look dry, if we’ve had a lot of rain recently or if the leaves have started becoming yellow or brown. I was trying to water them about everyday which was super time consuming, but fully necessary when it was hot. I saw a way online that then altered my watering game for good! Basically, I now use a self-watering system using glass bottles. I had a stash of old clean glass bottles from a sparkly juice that I love. I filled them up with water and dug a small hole into the side of the pot beside the plants stalks. This allows for the roots to drink up the water whenever they need. This has made my watering go from every day to about every 3 to 4 days. I can now go away for a weekend without having them wilt or worry that they’ll die. I do still water the plants manually using a small hose and a bucket, but the self-watering system has really cut down my need.

On the watering front came another challenge that I did not anticipate. Being on the second floor, I did not realize the impact of the weight on the structure of the balcony. Originally, I had all my buckets lined up against my railing, it was super cute and would have been very easy to maintain the way I had it. Within 24 hours, my landlord came out and was like “Hey, sooo, you need to move your plants. The balcony has no support in the middle (between my apartment and the neighbors) and the gallery is starting to droop.” I never even realized that it would be so heavy, but thinking it over, between the dirt and the water, I understood. I had to move just under half the buckets to my front gallery to even out the weight. I also moved the remainder from the railing, to right beside the brick wall where the gallery met the outside of the apartment. It all worked out in the end, but it was  a bit stressful, I thought that after all the work I had put into it, he was going to ask me to get rid of them. I would have cried!

A small something I noticed was the importance of LABELLING YOUR SPROUTS! My goodness! With all the excitement I faced (Yes, excitement! I loved the beginning stages!) I totally forgot to label what I was growing. When everything started to really grow, I was all. ‘Hmmm, I wonder what you are!’ There’s still a few that I’m questioning. Eventually they show and you can figure it out, but it would remove A LOT of the guess work that I had. For example, I thought I was growing broccoli, turns out its peas! The peas had these tiny flowers budding and it reminded me of the tops of broccoli! After they all budded, the peas started growing and I’m all… UMM you’re not broccoli! IMPOSTER! It’s turned into quite a big inside joke and I smile every time I look at them. J But yeah, for the future, label what you’re growing!

Some more trouble I had was at the beginning stages in keeping it 100% Zero Waste. Aside from the packages from the seeds that you read about in part 1 of this blog, I had no clue where to get dirt that did not come in a plastic bag. I still don’t. *If you know how to get plastic free dirt in the city please feel free to email me. I’d love to know!* I had bought the largest bags of dirt that I could find, in hopes that it would be a smaller amount of plastic instead of buying a whole bunch of small bags. It really bothered me at the beginning. If I had a downstairs apartment or my own yard it could have been different. But that’s not the case and I did the best job I thought I could at the time. I did decide however that next year, I’ll attempt to re-add some nutrients to this soil (using fertilizer and compost) in an effort to reuse the dirt.

 

I’ve found that I really need to weight the good from the bag with this project.

 

BAD GOOD
Plastic bags for the dirt Attempt to reuse the product for years to come. Which will eliminate MORE waste from packaging.
Plastic buckets to hold the plants
Seeds from packaging
Glass bottles to water the plants.

 

Saved from recycling plant and made them into a multiuse tool, instead of an almost single use item.

 

I know it may seem like I’m making excuses, but the reality was that this was not a fully Zero Waste project and I am content with the progress that I’ve made.  Now I get the most local vegetables I could possibly ask for. They are organic and fresh and steps away from my kitchen. All these things make me incredibly happy. Legit, I make supper, run outside and grab some beans (and now, cucumbers!), give them a quick rinse and throw them into my supper! It’s amazing! Did I also mention how tasty the veggies are! Because they are! I’ve also grown so many beans that I bring them to suppers as small gifts. People tend to like small gifts and I like that it was an easy gesture to make someone happy.

Those are my challenges to date. Be sure to come back and read part 3 of this blog once more veggies start to show. I can’t wait to share some awesome Urban Garden based recipes with all of you! YUM!

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 going on the Zero-Waste path.

Or follow me on Instagram @livewastefree for random pics and funnies!

Live Waste Free

Urban Gardening – How a Zero Waster grew a few beans -Pt. 1-

Happy Summer everyone! I want to take a minute to talk about a new passion project of mine: Urban Gardening. I live in Montreal, in a busy borough on the second floor of a duplex. I do not have a front or back yard or even access to an outdoor space larger than 100 square feet. This has been problematic in the search of new hobbies to do from home. A friend of mine lives on a farmette (not quite big enough to call a farm, but larger than the typical yard of a house) and her and her husband have this AMAZING garden that I love to visit. I always thought I’d do a good job with one. So I figured, why not. I should try it! I set out in search for ideas to make a garden happen, even if I don’t have the typical amount of space or any experience (like, none at all!).

First thing I did was choose the veggies I wanted to grow. My challenge was to find an organic variety of seeds with no packaging. Unfortunately, only one of those two requirements worked. I was not able to find anything without a package, but the way I’m seeing it, at the end of the growing season, I’ll attempt to learn how to save some seeds and reuse them the following year. So the minimal packaging that was bought for the first batch this year will be unnecessary for the next several to come. I call that a win!

Sprouting the seeds of the different plants was so neat. It may sound naive, but I never realized how different each seed can look. Some were so teeny and others were massive and had different colors. It was an interesting part of the gardening process for sure! To start the sprouts, I had repurposed a couple of old egg cartons to hold the seedlings. Keeping in mind that I’ve never done this before, you can imagine how excited I was when they first started growing. Then, we had some unfortunate weather and I wasn’t able to put the sprouted veggies outside with a fear of the frost cutting their growth. I was quickly overwhelmed with the now indoor jungle that was growing. I had not anticipated how quickly and how much space was actually needed. It felt like it had taken over my kitchen in the matter of weeks. It was a good thing that the weather eventually warmed up and I was able to move on to the next part of the plan.

With my sprouts well underway, I was now in search of pots to transfer them into. Not wanting to buy new plastic pots for this project, or wanting to hunt down and pay the price for ceramic planting pots, I needed to figure out what I would use. Through one of the Zero Waste Groups on Facebook, someone had posted photos of their plants/veggies in repurposed buckets and I thought it was an amazing solution! I sent requests out to local restaurants and requested family and friends to check through their stuff for any old buckets that they weren’t using. My aunt messaged me back saying that she had a ‘few buckets’ for me that were on her property, not doing anything. By ‘a few buckets’ I mean, there was now a plethora of buckets at my disposal! SWEET! Thanks to my aunt’s one small gesture of gifting me her old buckets, I was able to make an entire garden on my balcony!

The 2 stacks of buckets were older and caked in mud and moss. I think they were outside for a long while, but I legit didn’t care since I was able to now start! So I cleaned the buckets and I took a drill to add drainage holes to the bottom. I was really worried I’d kill the plants right off the bat and I obviously didn’t want that to happen the first time I watered them. Once all the holes were drilled, I brought the operation outside and started adding the dirt to the buckets. Imagine, I was covered in dirt, the kitchen was a mess with buckets, towels and power tools and I had the biggest goofy smile plastered across my face. I was so incredibly giddy when I was able to start planting my baby plants (that by this point were at least adolescents)!

I had lined all my new pots along the edge of my balcony and hoped for the best. I had wished it would be easy and that it wouldn’t take too much of my spare time. I had hoped that the harvests would be bountiful and that I’d have enough to share with friends and family. None of that has happened yet. I know, I know, I need to be patient… but I’m not that patient a person and this is killing me. So far, we’ve had so many beans. Delicious and sweet green beans – the best I’ve ever eaten really. And I’ve found a few things to turn my urban garden into a lazy gardener’s paradise without killing those suckers, but it has in no way been easy or effortless. I think growing my own food has given me a new appreciation for all the farmers out there who feed the masses. So much effort goes into it that they really need to be acknowledged more. THANK YOU FARMERS for feeding me these past 28 years. You are all wonderful and I appreciate your effort and will still continue to support your business!

So that’s it for now on the state of my urban garden and my journey as a newbie gardener. I have not yet lost hope that the bounty will be large enough to share and honestly, I’ve kind of began loving it. I’m sitting here now in the dark, on my gallery with my computer on my lap and my garden to my left. It’s something I never thought I’d have nor enjoy. Yet here we are.

Be sure to pop in to read part 2 of this blog post in what will most likely be an ongoing throughout the summer.  See how the garden is doing and I’ll be outlining all of my challenges thus far. And trust me, there’s been plenty!

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 going on the Zero-Waste path.

Or follow me on Instagram @livewastefree for random pics and funnies!

 

Live Waste Free

Zero Waste and on the Move

I’M BACK!! After taking a 2 month break from blogging to travel, I’ve finally settled in and am back at it! Now these passed months have been incredible, and you better believe that I’ve learned SO MUCH in the process! Seeing everything from: stunning beaches along the eastern coast of Australia, camping with wild dingoes on Fraser Island, and even adding in a cross country move only a week after returning from backpacking. Yes, this time has been crazy, but so worthwhile and such an eye opener.

Did you know that it IS possibly to continue to cut your impact while traveling? Convenience is key while constantly on the move, but if you’re properly prepared, you can continue to live a Zero-Waste lifestyle abroad with ease. Here are a few things that I learned while backpacking abroad:

  1. Buy used items and be picky about them. Prepping for a trip can be costly and add a whole bunch of stuff to your life that you may not need again. Try to downsize your packing list and cut it down to the bare essentials. Also, larger items like your back pack can be found online or in thrift shops for a lot less money. Even better, ask around, maybe someone has one they don’t mind you borrowing!
  2. Water bottles are essential. Not simply recommended, but necessary. Between the heat, the long drives and the tourist attractions; without our reusable water bottles, we might have been more inclined to buy plastic bottles.
  3. Carrying our own fork/spoon/plate. We both actually have these awesome portable sporks we kept in our bags along with collapsible and reusable plates. Thanks to our ability to plan ahead, we were able to avoid unnecessary waste. Not once did we have to use plastic utensils or Styrofoam
  4. Carrying a sealable container for our leftovers from restaurants. While in the airport awaiting our next set of flights, I had chosen to get a meal in a reusable container. This one container lasted the whole month as my take away container. We ate out more often than normal. As well as packing our lunches for day trips. This container saved me from getting so many more in this process. Before leaving, I did put it in the proper recycling and looked back at all the plastic I saved in lieu of getting more daily *insert sigh of relief*.
  5. Watch out for touristy souvenir shops. It is super easy to get swept up in the “I want to bring something back for everyone” aspect of traveling. If you’re really dead set on bringing stuff back, try to limit it. Not only will you run out of cash fast, but you’re going to have to carry everything around with you the whole duration of the trip. And maybe it’s just me and my lack of attraction to souvenirs, but I always insist when people go away, that they not get me anything. I don’t need another key chain. I don’t need another fridge magnet. As nice of a gesture it is, I’d rather hear your stories and experiences. Not have something that will most likely get donated in 2 months or worse, break and end up in the trash. This time out, I brought back incredible stories, pictures of glorious views and an incredible tan. After all, that’s the reason we travel isn’t it?
  6. Speak up and ask. Who knows the shops better than locals?! We found a few amazing zero-waste stores while abroad, just by fluke from striking up conversations. Unfortunately we didn’t have our jars/reusable bags with us; but they provided paper bags we could use and then compost.
  7. The will to keep going. Not everyone sees eye to eye on this, especially while traveling. Most things we saw and even refused were single use items. As long as you stick to it, know why you’re becoming zero-waste (or near Zero), there’s no stopping you.
  8. Keep like-minded company. I know this one’s probably the trickiest, or I may just have been incredibly lucky to have a friend with me, who has the same views I do on the matter. This trip would have been so much more difficult had I not had her there (in more ways than one). We both feed off each other’s creativity and really inspire one another to keep going. It’s nice to be able to have someone to brainstorm ways around the norm with. I definitely couldn’t have done this without her!

I know there’s so much more we could do while away, but I wanted to keep it simple. These suggestions are a big part of what I took away from my experience. Now go on and explore for yourselves! See everything you want to and remember it’s all about doing what you can and focusing on the positives.

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