Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our Bulk Locator App is out!

Tired of fiddling with packaging? Want to help the environment? Shopping the package-free aisles can 
also save you time and money, but only if you know where to find them! 

When I started my Zero Waste journey, I had no idea that bulk bins even existed in my town. Then when I found them and realized that I could eliminate all food packaging by solely relying on them, I came to dream of a smartphone "app" that could locate nearby bulk suppliers. The prize money that I received for winning The Green Awards (thanks to your support) allowed me to realize my dream and provide Zero Waste enthusiasts a valuable resource. After a long year of design, development and testing, it is my pleasure to finally present you with BULK, Zero Waste Home's app, designed to help you eliminate packaging from your life, by pointing to bulk food bins and liquid refills near you - and letting you share the locations that you find with others!

The app is available in the iTunes App Store and Android Market and itfeatures include:
  • Search, add and rate bulk locations (US and Canada), including selection available and whether or not reusable containers are permitted
  • Locate businesses closest to you or a specific address
  • Narrow your search by bulk type (are you looking to refill on body care, dog food, wine?)
  • Build a bulk-shopping kit through Zero Waste Home's store
  • Consult a bulk food guide to learn how to prepare bulk food items
  • Read Community Updates from ZeroWasteHome.com
As of yesterday some 175 Users were already using it and have entered 120 Places. But we need YOU, the entire Zero Waste Community to populate it, to share those locations that you have found along your journey. Here is what to do:  
  • Download the app
  • Add your locations
  • Rate existing locations
  • Report an issue if you find a problem with a location ("Report Issue" at the bottom of the location page)
  • Rate the app...positively of course;) so that others will be inspired to add and rate locations!
    Where have you found bulk bins? (Answer this question by entering locations in the app!)

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    Zero Waste Home Book is out!

    My book, Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Wasteis out and I couldn't be more ecstatic about its release! 

    This book is a personal achievement; a dream that I would have never thought possible - when I came to America at the age of 18, my English skills were so poor that I couldn't even order a hamburger at a restaurant! But the reason behind this book - spreading the word about Zero Waste is what will bring me the most lasting contentment. I am honored to be messenger of the Zero Waste lifestyle.  It has done wonders for our family, providing us financial stability, health improvements and efficiency, and resulting in a richer, healthier and happier life. And I can only imagine what it would do for a society if all its people embraced it as a whole - yes, I dream big;). How grateful our planet, our health, our budget, and our children would be! 

    Imagine if we all de-cluttered our homes, and donated and shared those items that sit unused in our closets: Strains on our natural resources would be relieved and the secondhand market boosted (Imagine the great selection at your local thrift store!); Cleaning our homes would be a breeze and we'd have more time to spend with our loved ones.

    Imagine if we all took steps to fight junk mail instead of just throwing it into the recycling bin: Marketers would choose other means of advertisement; Forests would grow, our tax dollars could be spent on education, and our time used doing something important.

    Imagine if we all realized that shopping is voting and thought hard before buying: Products that are harmful to our health and the environment would disappear. And if we all avoided buying plastics, our oil dependence would subside (gas prices would drop) and so would the wars and conflicts to obtain it. We would not have to research its adverse effects on our health or dwell on the "plastic soup" that floats in our oceans, but focus our energy on fixing the problems that we have created.

    Imagine if we all stopped sending our hard-earned money to landfills (which is ultimately what we do when we discard of disposables), if we all embraced the reusable alternatives proposed in my book and eliminated disposable trash liners, paper towels, paper napkins, flatware, plates, foil, wax paper, food wrap, food storage bags, toothpicks, razors, feminine products, band aids, tissue paper, gift wrap, sponges, wipes, staples, markers, etc. (to name a few)We could spend our dollar on experiences instead. We could focus on living rather than discarding.

    Just imagine if we all aimed at Being rather than Having! 

    Maybe I am a dreamer, I dream of a peaceful and a brighter future for my children. Or maybe I am a believer. I believe in the power of community and I believe in the power of individual action. Or maybe I am a clairvoyant. I can see the key to a better world in your hand, I can see the Zero Waste community waiting for you to join, I can see YOU transforming your life.

    And it starts here, today!

    Note: If you're local... I have donated my copy to the Mill Valley Library for your enjoyment;)

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    The Beauty of a Zero Waste essential: The Refillable Fountain Pen

    "My pens are my babies and they drink from their bottles" Shangas - on the Fountain Pen Network Forum

    My blog series The beauty of Zero Waste and Zero Waste Essential respectively point to the beauty that Zero Waste has brought into my life and the objects (or skills) that I have deemed necessary to achieve as close to Zero Waste as possible. The Refillable Fountain Pen applies to both.

    Fountain pen fitted with a converter
    In our digital and (increasingly) paperless age, handwriting is slowly losing ground. Elementary grades are substituting penmanship for keyboard skills. Teachers use the computer as an educational tool and note taking apps are replacing even the most spontaneous form of writing.  In an effort to save paper, I do not use handwriting much either. Apart from filling a homemade notebook with ideas and drawing my own illustrations (time constraints and consideration for my publisher's sense of smell put an end to my feather and squid ink dreams), my book was completely done digitally.  I touched my paperback for the first time on The Jeff Probst Show, scheduled to air on May 14th. So much of my work is done on the computer (typing about the Zero Waste lifestyle), over the phone (interviews, suggestions), or in person (speeches, media participation, consultations), that I now consider handwriting a treat...

    The Zero Waste lifestyle inspires us to revisit nostalgic basics, and readopt practices that we shouldn't have dropped in the first place. Growing up in France, the use of the fountain pen was an integral part of my education (as it still is for French pupils today), yet I eventually dropped it for cheap ballpoint duplicates. Then when I embarked on Zero Waste, I opted for a ballpoint refillable model. But given the wasteful packaging that refills come in, I eventually realized that a refillable fountain pen was the most waste-free alternative for ink writing. And, boy do I love using mine: Writing with a fountain pen is as enjoyable as using a cloth napkin, or a ceramic plate. The reusable, durable alternatives, heighten the user's experience and respect for the item: You do not treat a fountain pen, a cloth napkin, or a ceramic plate as you would their disposable counterparts. Each use is a pleasure!

    The few writing opportunities that still present themselves should follow Zero Waste principles. If you are in the market for a fountain pen, here are some pointers for choosing the right model:
    Piston Fountain Pen with ink window
    • Look for a vintage model. For secondhand purchases involving specific criteria, I like eBay. Make sure to select the "used" box in the options on the left hand side of the page before launching a search and request "paper or cardboard only" for shipping at check out. You can also visit a pawn shop or a consignment store for this particular item, but they tend to be "hit or miss".
    • Look for a fountain pen model that will accept (or come with) a converter, which is a removable and refillable cartridge, or choose a piston model (my preference) which is refilled by turning a knob at the end of the pen (called a blind cap). The piston is a fixed filling mechanism, an integral part of the pen (the barrel is the reservoir) so it will hold more ink, and it's faster and less messy to fill. Both are pictured above. If you already have a fountain pen, the manufacturer might carry a converter for your model!
    • Look for quality: I purchased the converter model above for Léo, but the quality turned out to be poor and the ink delivery inconsistent. I purchased a Mont Blanc for myself (a childhood dream), and I have found the quality to be unsurpassed, a real difference in the writing experience: Smooth and enjoyable. As with anything else, quality is worth the cost.
    Bottled ink
    • Look for a model with an ink window so you know when to refill your pen. You don't want to run out when you're about to sign a million dollar contract or your first book;)
    • Purchase a bottle of ink. Choose glass (with a metal cap if possible). For the Quink brand pictured, you'll have a choice between permanent and washable. I chose the former so it cannot be erased. Honestly, I did not research inks, when I bought my jar, I just wanted to support my local stationary store; Parker Quink is the only option they offered.
    My pen will be busy signing books at Book Passage in Corte Madera on April 13th (4pm). I hope to meet some of you there (whether or not you have a physical book for me to sign)!