The Dirty Consequence of Taking a Shower (and 3 Ways to Remedy It).

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De-plastic your bathroom one product at a time.

I’ll admit, I had a bit of a Shea Moisture Body Wash problem for a while. I blame my mother-in-law. She convinced me that liquid body soaps didn’t leave soap scums in the tub and who was I to turn down less cleaning? The body wash did in fact leave the tub cleaner. But when I started thinking about all of the plastic bottles I was going through (recycling, yes, but sill), I knew I had to kick the habit.

Look around your bathroom and count how many plastic containers you see. What if you switched just ONE bath product to a non-plastic container? A few ideas::

  1. A Sudsy Solution: Do you have a local co-op or bulk store that sells shampoo in bulk? Just bring in your favorite bottle/dispenser and fill it up. Did you know you can buy shampoo in bulk on Amazon? (I’m never sure how much plastic you’re saving when you buy a giant bottle instead of many smaller bottles.) I haven’t tried shampoo bars yet, have you? The LUSH ones are very popular (but contain sulfates). These look like a more wholesome (and pretty yummy) alternative. I do hear that shampoo bars do tend to get a little messy on the shower ledge—a small price to pay me thinks. And lookie here! Smart people are hard at work coming up with solutions to an overabundance of bathroom plastics. Check out this innovative solution.
  2. Hit the Bar: One very simple thing you can do is you’re currently using a liquid body soap, just switch to a good ol’ fashioned bar of soap. My friend Amy sometimes sends me Soap of the Earth for my birthday which I love (sadly the ones shipped to me came wrapped in plastic). Currently Tom’s of Maine soap is wrapped in paper—fingers crossed it stays that way.
  3. Why Stop at Containers?: Consider replacing disposable plastic bath products with more earth-friendly alternatives, like bamboo toothbrushes (I know, I know,  free plastic ones from your dentist) and metal razors (my husband and I share a crusty old Gilette Sensor razor—shh, he might not know we share it.

So far, I’ve done #2 and I’m working on #2 (shampoo). Do you have any favorite plastic-free bath products? Share in the comments. And let’s clean up together!

Say “Please”: How to Ask a Company to Be More Green.

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

I sign a lot of online petitions asking companies to reduce plastics. But so far, I have not started a petition. What I HAVE done is written emails and letters to politely voice my opinion.

My most recent request was to Target. See, I’ve been buying their Up & Up Clear Comfort Contact Solution for years—YEARS! Everything was all fine and good—until it wasn’t. Now, every box of the solution includes a new plastic contact case. WHY? How many contact lens cases do people need? Do people really switch out their cases every time they open a new bottle of solution. And if so why? Have they not heard of soap and water? WHY, OH WHY, TARGET? Honestly, nothing gets my goat more than unnecessary plastics in packaging—or some kind of added plastic tchotchke just “for fun.” A new contact lens case with every bottle of solution is completely unnecessary. Target, I love you but you’re breaking my bullseye heart!

You can tell companies how you feel about unnecessary plastics too! Your favorite shampoo start adding a giant plastic doohickey and you no-likey? Send an email! Doggo’s food switched from a paper bag to a plastic bag when paper worked just fine thankyouverymuch? Send an email! The pasta you eat once a week switched from a cardboard box to a heavy-duty plastic wrap? Send an email! Once you have the words, sending an email is super-easy. (You don’t even need to talk to anyone!) You can sometimes find a contact email address on product packaging. If you don’t find it there, check the “Contact Us” page of a company website. And if you don’t find it on the company website, just print it out send it by mail to the corporate office (attn: Sustainability Department — or something like that).

My letter to Target was a bit long (I had a lot to say), so instead, here’s an example of a simple letter that someone so nicely shared in a thread about unnecessary plastic packaging. Feel free to customize as you see fit, then email your little hearts out!:

 

Re: Please stop including plastic spoons in your Quinoa Quick Meals

Dear Kitchen & Love,

I love your Quinoa Quick Meals. But I don’t love how much plastic waste they generate. I am therefore writing to respectfully request that you no longer include plastic spoons in your products.

If you were to stop offering spoons, you could make a larger profit and reduce your company’s environmental impact. If you make this change, I will also be more likely to continue purchasing your products, as I am making a conscious effort to reduce my waste and to support companies that are willing to reduce theirs.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. I look forward to your response.

 
See? It doesn’t have to be difficult.

 

 

 

Skip the Tub: How to Make Crockpot Yogurt in 7 Simple Steps.

We’re big yogurt eaters in my family and for a long time I was buying two big tubs a week. I hated seeing all of that plastic come into our house week after week (even though it got recycled). I remembered hearing that you could make yogurt in a crockpot, so I decided to give it a whirl.

After watching approximately 8 billion YouTube videos, and reading an equal number of blog posts on the subject matter, I attempted my first batch. “Attempted” being the key word; it was a big fail. The happy lady in the video made it look so easy!?!? She SAID it was SO EASY?!?!? After reading approximately 3 million more blogs (and comments!), I realized that my crockpot temperature at “low” was not the same as the YouTuber’s crockpot temperature at low. I borrowed my neighbor’s meat thermometer to check the temps (using water) and it turned out mine needed to be on high for the first step, not low. I tried again—and success! YUM! You guys, homemade yogurt is soooooo yummy! And no poopy plastic tubs (unless you decide to store yours in a plastic tub that you saved from your last store-bought yogurt like I do).

Here’s how I made my crockpot yogurt. (First things first: I have the Rival® Crock Pot® Stoneware Slow Cooker, Model #3351. It’s pretty old, but still works like a charm. Don’t have a slow cooker? I can almost guarantee you’ll find one at the local thrift shop or neighborhood garage sale.)

  1. Pour 1/2 gal milk in crockpot (we’re trying to save plastic here so buy whatever brand that comes in cardboard containers. I like Sweet Meadows Farms).
  2. Turn the crockpot on HIGH for 3 hours. Temp should get somewhere between 170-190 degrees, so it’s a good idea to calibrate with water and a meat (or candy) thermometer ahead of time to make sure that’s what your crockpot is at HIGH.
  3. Turn off and unplug crockpot and let sit for 2 hours. After two hours, temp should be 110-ish degrees.
  4. Add 1/4 cup or so of starter. The starter is just any plain yogurt. You can start with a little container you get from the store. Just make sure it’s plain and says that it contains live active cultures (I used Chobani). Once you make your first batch of yogurt, you can set aside 1/4 cup to use as a starter for your next batch. One more thing about starter: I usually set mine by the crockpot at step #3, so it gets to room temperature by the time I have to add it. I have no idea if this is necessary or why I started doing that. Maybe I read it in one of the 8 million blog posts I read.
  5. Swaddle your crockpot like a little baby. I use a heavier large bath towel and just completely wrap the crockpot (while in the base–make sure it’s unplugged!) and let it sit 8-12 hours.
  6. Strain your yogurt to desired thickness. I place a steamer on top of a bowl then put a large square I cut from an old pillowcase or t-shirt over/in the steamer. Then I spoon the yogurt into that. You can let it sit in the fridge like that anywhere from one to four hours. The longer it strains, the thicker the yogurt. The bowl will be filled with whey that you can use in cooking or smoothies if you’re ambitious (I put it on our dog’s food sometimes too). If you forget about your yogurt in the fridge and it gets over-strained and thicker than you want it, you can always stir some whey back in to thin it out.
  7. Serve with toppings of choice. My favorite is a tiny touch of honey, sliced bananas and chopped walnuts. YUM!

That’s it! Once you make crockpot yogurt a few times, it’s super easy—pinky swear! It mostly just sits so the hardest part is timing it so you’re around the few times you need to pay attention to it.

You should try it. (Bonus: It makes a great gift too. And you can get rid of some of those glass jars you’ve got cluttering your kitchen cupboards. I mean, not that I would know anything about THAT.)

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Before You Pitch the Plastic: 5 Ideas for When You Can’t Recycle.

2015-Gimme-5-Bin-A580Sadly, not all cities have a plastic recycling program. If this is the case for you, and you can’t bear to toss those tubs and bottles in the trash, here are a few options:

  1. Choose Wisely: The best option by far! If you have two good brand choices and one’s packaged in cardboard, and one in plastic, pick the cardboard. I’m a big fan of voting with your dollars. If we all make a conscious effort to shop this way, I’m pretty sure we’ll see a bigger effort by companies to use more earth-friendly packaging.
  2. Get With the Program: There are a few great resources beyond your city that can help you recycle the unrecycleable. Gimme 5 Program offers recycling for #5 plastics if it isn’t offered in your area (search drop off locations here). Or, send your plastic in the mail to be recycled (but then there’s that whole fossil-fuel-for-shipping-vs.-throwing-away  debate). TerraCycle and Earth911 are some other great resources.
  3. Leftovers, good! Landfill, bad!: Of course using those pesky plastic tubs for food storage is a no-brainer. But think outside your home. Have someone over for dinner? Send them home with leftovers! Churches and community centers often offer free meals to the not-so-fortunate. Ask if they could use a few containers to offer take-home meals for the home bound.
  4. Bulk Up: Plastic cottage cheese containers and peanut butter jars are the perfect size for bulk food items like nuts, rolled oats and special flours (when you only need a cup or two for a recipe). You can designate them specifically for bulk by writing the container weight on them in permanent marker and set them aside so they’re ready for a grab-and-go on your way out the door. I wrote about bulk food here.
  5. Get Crafty: When it comes to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” reuse is my least favorite. I mean, you’re just postponing the inevitable landfill—UNLESS by reusing it, you eliminate the need to purchase something else that could end up in the landfill. Plastic tubs are great for planting (you can poke holes in the bottom and use the top for drainage plate). They’re perfect for storing kids’ craft supplies, small toys, bird food… And if you’re still up to your eyeballs, you can ask your local teachers, Boys’ and Girls’ Club, or after school programs if they have a need. If your neighborhood or community has a Facebook group, start there. Need more inspiration? Check out these ideas for plastic water bottles!

If you have a great idea for things you can’t recycle, leave it in the comments. And help me turn my plastic frown upside-down!

Take Back the Tap: Make a Commitment to Not Buy Bottled Water.*

I was never a huge bottled water consumer. But there was a time when I didn’t really think too much about buying pre-packaged water. Now I think a lot (some might say, a bit too much).

It took a while for me to get in the habit of bringing a reusable water bottle with me wherever I went (and packing one with my child). But like most things, once you do it a bunch of times, it becomes habit.

Now we always bring reusable water bottles with us on car trips, camping trips, or to sporting events and fast-food places (and yay! we’ve never been scolded for filling up our bottles at the fountain drink dispenser)—or pretty much anywhere we might get thirsty. And while there are a few exceptions, most places you go will have access to clean, safe drinking water so you can get quick refills too—for free!

Here’s a really good video that helped me give plastic water bottles the boot:

* Unless the water in your community is truly unhealthy.