Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Zero Waste Home essential: Motivation

One should be motivated to embrace the Zero Waste lifestyle simply out of goodness of heart. But our weak human nature is often tempted to put selfish needs ahead of conservation. Motivation is key to staying on track. My kids' future is what got me started, but it's too abstract to keep me motivated on a day to day basis. Visualization is what keeps me (I am a visual kinda gal) and the kids going. For example, when I am tempted to purchase plastic, I picture our oil reserves decreasing* and the guts of the birds below increasing...

(*According to Ed Humes, author of Garbology, "10 percent of the world oil supply is used to make and transport disposable plastics"!)

I thought I'd share with you two of the videos that impact my Zero Waste decision making:

On a serious note (thanks Cami for the link)

On a lighter note (yet so seriously true)

What images motivate you to stay on track?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Seasonal Recipe: Spaghetti Squash

Where I live, pasta is one of the food staples that is hardest to find in bulk (one of my pet peeves). The closest bulk store with a pasta bin is 25 minutes away, and if I am in that area, I stop by to get some, but the opportunity does not present itself very often. So in the winter, when we run out, we turn to spaghetti squash as a great - and healthier alternative. This is a simple recipe that has had a lot of success at home.

Cut the squash in half and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until a knife can easily be inserted through the skin.

Scoop out

In the meantime, prepare a pasta sauce (I sautee sliced onions in olive oil, then add canned tomatoes, chopped oregano, salt and pepper)

Combine squash and tomato sauce and top with goodies (I used goat cheese and olives here)

Bon Appetit!

How Zero Waste are my ingredients?
Spaghetti squash and onions: Purchased loose from the farmer's market (sticker free) or grocery store.
Olive oil: Purchased from bulk dispensers, filling a jar or bottle.
Canned Tomatoes: Opened one of the jars that I canned this fall; how-to right here
Oregano: Grown on the side of our house; it's a transplant from a friend's plant. We water it with leftover cooking water.
Goat cheese and olives: Purchased respectively from the salad and olive bars, filling 1 quart and 1 pint jars.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fashion Friday: Shorts in Winter

Today is Fashion Friday on the blog! This week I winterized my one pair of shorts -to California weather standards;)

How Zero Waste is my outfit?

Shorts: Purchased from a thrift store 4 years ago. They were a boy's pair of dress pants that I
shortened ;)
Black thermal, Animal print scarf, Sunglasses and Boots: Purchased as-is from the thrift store within  the past 3 years (I have waterproofed my boots for the rain - How-to in my book!)
Black tights and leather jacket: Purchased new within the past 3 years (before I made the vow to only buy secondhand). As you know, I don't like to mention brands, but my one pair of tights, Target's Merona premium opaque, have outlasted any pair that I have ever owned (3 winter seasons with several wears a week later, they are still going strong!).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Beauty of Zero Waste: Buying Coffee

Some of you felt that I flaunted the availability of bulk in my area when I introduced this series a couple of weeks ago. "This post just seems a little out of everyone's league and for the ones that buy [packaged products] for lack of other options, it may leave them feeling guilty or at a loss", said Jolie. This blog is not meant to flaunt my ways, point the finger at yours, or make you feel guilty or bad about yourself, your way of shopping, your access to bulk or lack of it!...But maybe I did not explain the point of this series clearly enough. 

This series simply aims at demonstrating the beauty of Zero Waste and overtime, at compiling a fantasy photo album of a Zero Waste economy.  My job here is to shatter preconceptions that Zero Waste is messy and unattractive, to provide visual evidence, and to share the great alternatives that I encounter throughout my personal journey. As I said in earlier posts, before I started reducing our waste I was unaware that bulk was even available in my town. Now that I only shop this way, my eye is trained to spot the package free options and I believe it is essential that I report what's out there and what's possible. I hope to inspire manufacturers and retailers to adopt some of these ideas.

In the US, I have found coffee to be one of the products most readily available in bulk form. And I must say, the aroma that exudes out of a bulk bag on the way home does not compare with its packaged counterpart.

Which one do you think is a more beautiful way of shopping for coffee?


Or loose?

Mill Valley Market


La Coppa, Mill Valley

Monday, February 18, 2013

How-To: Darning

Darning was, with canning, one of those old fashioned techniques that intimidated me; it just sounded hard. It's only after our family evolved into a Zero Waste household and our toes started peeking through socks that I decided to give it a go. I was amazed to find out how straightforward and forgiving darning really is.  If you've never tried it, follow this simple tutorial, and you won't need to collect worn-out socks for dusting again (how many do you really need anyways?), but keep them where they belong: On your feet!

What you need: A garment with a hole, a large needle threaded with a yarn color to match your garment, and an object with a rounded side (e.g., when I repair a sock, I use a cup).


Place the object under the hole

Run horizontal stitches over the hole, making sure that they cover an extra 1/2" on all sides 

Weave rows of stitches perpendicular to the previous ones.

End your last stitch inside your garment and cut the yarn. When fixing socks, do not make a knot (comfort).

Pat yourself on the back! You've saved a piece of clothing and your budget!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fashion Friday: White blazer and Leather skirt

It's Fashion Friday!

First, let me apologize to those of you who have subscribed to the blog via email. There was a glitch and a two year-old post was sent out yesterday -although I would not mind going to The Green Awards and winning one again;)

This week, I am sharing with you an outfit that I wore to a Mardi Gras party on Tuesday.

How Zero Waste is my outfit?

Everything was purchased secondhand. But here is a run down of the prices (my favorite part).

Blazer: $9.99 + $75 tailoring
Skirt: $.99
Tank top: $4
Booties: $6.99
Purse: $2
Glasses: $2
Necklace: $1.99

People often ask me if I ever get tempted to purchase new clothes... with the prices of used ones, how could I?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Zero Waste Essential: The Mending Reflex

Repairs are an essential part of our lifestyle. Things are bound to break or get damaged in one way or another, but mending can extend the useful of our necessities. In our prior life, all the examples below would have ended up in the landfill. Today, our "landfill reflex" has turned into a mending one. Whether it involves scrubbing, sewing, gluing, darning or nailing, there is almost always a solution for a break or damage - and boy does it save money!

Here are examples of my recent projects:

Scrubbing: I thought my slipper was ruined when I found a smear of dried up paint on the calf after a wall paint touch up. My scrubber once again came to the rescue and my slipper is now like new.

Sewing: After 12 years, the padding of Scott's snowboarding helmet disintegrated and dropped black powder on his face with each use. I cut and sewed a replacement pad into a wornout wool sweater that I have felted for such repairs. The helmet is more comfortable that it used to be!

Gluing: The bristles of my scrub brush were ready for the compost, but the handle was still usable, so I transferred and glued dowel and handle onto a new brush (glue recipe in my book!)

Darning: My grandmother was a queen at it, and I don't think I do as good a job as she did, but hey, the result still works (Darning tutorial in an upcoming post)

Nailing: Leo's flip flop gave out, a nail across the loose bit now holds it in place. It's been 9 months and it's not budging!

How have you broken the landfill reflex?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Seasonal Recipe: Cream of Sunchoke

When we belonged to a CSA, our weekly box always came with a new recipe. Sometimes that recipe accompanied a new produce item. That's how I introduced sunchokes to my family. Also called Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot or topinambour, the root is a bit like a potato but sweeter and nuttier. Prepared as a soup in the middle of winter, it's a hit with my family. (Recipe is an adaptation of the one that I received from Eatwell Farm)

2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 of an onion, sliced
1 lb. Jerusalem artichokes, washed and sliced
1 cup milk
salt & pepper
herb of your choice, chopped (I used oregano)
olive oil (optional)

Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan 

Saute onion and garlic until soft and then the sunchokes for a couple of minutes

Cover with water, add bones and season with salt
Bring to a boil and simmer until tender
Remove the bones
Add milk and blend using an immersion blender
Adjust seasoning

Serve hot, with chopped herbs and a few drops of olive oil

How Zero Waste are my ingredients?

Butter: Purchased packaged, I use the waxed paper wrappers to grease my baking pans, then wash them for an art piece. I started my artwork this week; for a sneak peek, see my Instagram post!
Garlic, onion, sunchokes: Purchased from the produce aisle, using mesh bags.
Bones: Saved in a glass jar in the freezer after a chicken dish, then added to a dish as a shortcut to broth in the cooking process.
Milk: Purchased from the dairy aisle, it comes in glass and I return the empties to the store.
Salt and pepper: Purchased from the bulk aisle, using cloth bags.
Herb: Oregano, grown  on the side of our house; it's a transplant from a friend's plant. We water it with leftover cooking water.
Olive oil: Purchased from bulk dispensers, filling a jar or bottle.

Have you prepared sunchokes before?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mini-Wardrobe Fave: The White Blouse

Today is Fashion Friday with a Mini-Wardrobe Fave post. 

A white blouse is a known must-have for any capsule wardrobe, but I always considered it to be too preppy for my personal style. This season I however decided to welcome it into my closet and give it a try. Here are 13 of the ways that I can wear it:

Under my black cashmere sweater

with my leather mini

topped with my white blazer

underneath my LBD

with my grey shorts and heels for a party

with my black trousers

under my leather jacket

tied over my brown dress

underneath my overcoat, paired with an animal print scarf

with a belt -and Max's red knit cap;)

wrapped, as learnt in this summer's experiment

under my striped long sleeve -you knew I was going to bring it up;)

Underneath my black tank top -and with Leo's knit hat;)

$5 at the local thrift store and many outfits later, I no longer think that a button-down shirt is too preppy for me. I find that it perfectly complements my minimalist wardrobe after all. Do you own one?