zero waste

What I’ve Read Recently

I have been on a library kick lately.

So much so that I went into my Amazon list and removed all the books on my wishlist and added them to my “For Later” shelf in my Chicago Public Library account.

While basically zero of my books have been cozy-up-by-the-fire-and-finish-in-one-day-books, they have all been really enlightening and I read them on the bus commuting to work.

Here’s what I have been reading. Have you read any of these?

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

By: Michael Pollan

omnivores dilemma

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating. His absorbing narrative takes us from Iowa cornfields to food-science laboratories, from feedlots and fast-food restaurants to organic farms and hunting grounds, always emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the handful of plant and animal species we depend on.” – Michaelpollan.com

What I learned:

  • Next time you eat a chicken nugget really think about the taste. Does it actually taste like chicken?
  • Organic agriculture is almost as bad as conventional agriculture
  • Buying local is better for everyone involved

Dress with Sense

By: Christina Dean

Dress with Sense

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“This four-chapter guide will cater to your appetite to have a more conscious dress sense and will take you through how you can:

BUY better and make more responsible choices when hitting the shops

WEAR your clothes more creatively, and rescue hidden treasures from the depths of your wardrobe.

CARE for your clothes by learning better more environmentally friendly ways to wash

DISPOSE of them by swapping, gifting, donating or recycling – anything but throwing them in the trash!” – redress.com

What I learned:

  • Take care of your clothes
  • I need to learn how to sew more than a button or fix a hole
  • Avoid low-quality clothes, go for high-quality and then make it work for you
  • If your clothes don’t fit, take them to the tailor! I have a skirt and dress pants with the tailor right now

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

By: Florence Williams

the nature fix

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to groves of eucalyptus in California, Williams investigates the science at the confluence of environment, mood, health, and creativity. Delving into completely new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.”- florencewilliams.com

What I learned:

  • Take the more scenic route to work, its better for you even if it is longer
  • Listen to some nature sounds, birdsong preferably
  • Basically living in the city is terrible for you

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying your Life by Reducing your Waste

By: Bea Johnson

zero waste home

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“In Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson shares the story of how she simplified her life by reducing her waste. Today, Bea, her husband, Scott, and their two young sons produce just one quart of garbage a year, and their overall quality of life has changed for the better: they now have more time together, they’ve cut their annual spending by a remarkable 40 percent, and they are healthier than they’ve ever been.” – zerowastehome.com

What I learned:

  • The zero waste queen didn’t start this lifestyle until later in life, so that means it’s never too late to start
  • Lots of good resources and recipes

Life Without Plastic: The Practice Step-by-step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep your Family and the Planet Healthy

By: Chantal Plamondon

life without plastic

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“LIFE WITHOUT PLASTIC: The Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep Your Family and the Planet Healthy strives to create more awareness about BPA-based products, polystyrene and other single-use plastics, and provides readers with ideas for safe, reusable and affordable alternatives. By removing plastic from your home, you can reduce your environmental footprint, minimize threats to wildlife, support local businesses and live a healthier, simpler life.” – lifewithoutplastic.com

What I learned:

  • I really don’t like reading about all the ways plastic can kill us
  • That’s it so far, I just started this one!

Other books on my radar:

  • Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything, by Daniel Goleman
  • The More of Less: FInding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, by Joshua Becker
  • Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash, by Susan Strasser
  • Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and A Raucous Year of Eating Locally, by Alisa Smith
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver
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Meet The Less-Wasteful Vendors of My Wedding

It’s the nitty-gritty of wedding planning. Less than 30 days left until the big day.

We got our marriage license, we are making our final payments, and I am picking up my dress in 2 weeks. Crazy crazy!

I wanted to recap some of the unconventional vendors I am including in one of the most important days of my life and why it’s important to support these types of businesses.

My wedding is by no means zero waste, but I did my best to include more conscious decisions while planning and even applied it to my shower and suggested it to my maid of honor for my bachelorette party (We shall see how she does. Love you Britni!).

You kind of need to pick and choose where you really want your less-waste decisions to shine or it will drive you insane. For instance, I would rather have something visible like composting than something no one would notice like using all natural, vegan, organic makeup.

So here it is.

My Less Wasteful Wedding Vendors

(And Also Those That Aren’t) **

**I have said this before, obviously, the most zero waste option would be just get married at City Hall in an outfit you already own and be done with it, but I am having a ceremony, with a reception, with guests, in a large city. #sorrynotsorry

Venue: The Joinery

I booked our wedding at the Joinery well before it became a green event space backed by the Green Wedding Alliance. The building was saved from demolition, therefore keeping construction materials out of the landfill.

the joinery front

Source: The Joinery

Dress: House of Brides Couture

My dress is not vintage or reused, but bought from a standard bridal store chain. I had mulled about doing a vintage dress but ended up falling in love with one at a store on a whim visit with a friend from out of town. So that was that.

Hair

It’s my stylist that has been cutting my hair since I was sixteen years old. She uses standard hair products, so no “natural” hairspray over here.

Makeup

All regular. Full of chemicals.

Florist: Avium Flowers

I previously posted about my wedding flowers from Avium here. This small, women-owned business will locally grow and put together my wedding flowers. Afterward, the flowers that don’t get taken home will be composted.

avium flowers2

Source: Avium Flowers

Food: Big Star

Instead of the standard wedding fare, we opted for food we knew our guests and ourselves would be excited to eat. It was soothing to know that one of the biggest pieces of your wedding budget was going to go towards food people have literally been talking about since we signed the contract a year ago.

We are having tacos. That’s right. Big Star tacos. 🌮

big star tacos

Source: Big Star

They were happy to accommodate my requests for no straws or plastic water cups. Additionally, since Chicago has strict laws about donating prepared food, Big Star agreed to provide my guests with takeout containers to take some tacos home, if there are even any left.

If there are some taco stragglers at the end of the night, they will be composted. More about that below.

Waste Disposal: Healthy Soil Compost

My normal compost pickup service also composts at events, so it was only natural that I chose Healthy Soil. They will drop off and pick up the bins, hauling whatever is left over to be eaten by worms and turned into fertilizer.

compost HSC

Source: Healthy Soil Compost

Invitations: Minted

While I opted to use an online service for our invitations, I did pay the additional fee to use recycled paper and print an extremely tiny, barely visible, recycled paper symbol on the back of them.

Day of Coordination: Prickly Pear Events

All of my vendors are then being coordinated by Green Wedding Alliance member, Prickly Pear Events, who so far has kept me thinking of different ways to incorporate less waste into my event.

That’s it! Catch up on the rest of my wedding planning journey with Waste Not Want Not Wedding.

Who is Bea Johnson?

While most people involved in reducing their waste have heard of her, most of my friends and family who read this blog have no idea who Bea Johnson is.

Well, Bea Johnson, of Zero Waste Home, started the whole Fit-My-Entire-Family’s-Annual-Waste-in-A-Mason-Jar trend.

That’s right.

Her family of four can fit all the waste that they produce annually in one jar.

 

This is her family’s waste for 2017. Source: https://zerowastehome.com/about/bea/

The reason I am bringing her up is because I had the opportunity to hear her speak on Monday at the Shedd Aquarium thanks to an event put on by my buds over at Zero Waste Chicago.

beajohnson1

I have not been to the Shedd in ages, mostly because I am terrified of fish and only like free museums, but they are super involved in conservation through their Great Lakes Action Days and plastic waste reduction through their Shedd the Straw campaign.

beajohnson2

The evening started out with an action expo of numerous local organizations and businesses striving to reduce their waste. I knew most of the organizations in some way or another and got to see a lot of familiar faces.

I did get to pick up some low-waste powder laundry detergent from Meliora Cleaning Products, which I am super excited to test out. That’s a post for another day.

After the expo, we filed into the auditorium to hear Bea speak about living without waste.

beajohnson3

Bea’s journey to a zero waste lifestyle started in 2006 when her family first moved to be closer to town and it’s walkability. She outlined her failures with making her own cosmetics, shampoo, and even toilet paper.

She and her family follow the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, & Rot, which I have posted about before.

beajohnson4

Her family refuses what they do not need and say no to single-use plastics, promotional freebies, junk mail, business cards, and more.

Then they reduce what they actually need. One thing that she said really struck me, “Once we pass our comfort level, anything beyond that becomes excess.” That is absolutely true. She has 4 kitchen cooking utensils, uses only white vinegar and Castille soap to clean, and her entire wardrobe can fit in a carry-on suitcase.

The family approaches reuse by swapping out disposables for reusable alternatives, which means glass jars for food, an old pillowcase for bread, and buying secondhand.  Everything they buy is from a thrift store or from E-Bay for super specific purchase you can’t easily find.

After that, they recycle what they cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. Contrary to what people believe, living a zero-waste lifestyle encourages you to recycle less. Whatever is left is composted, or rot.

Overall,  Bea Johnson finds the best benefit of her lifestyle is the simplicity, which is something I can get behind. Although I understand and support her lifestyle, I know that for some people, it is just not attainable, which is totally fine.

You may never be able to fit a year’s worth of trash in a jar and that’s okay (I know I won’t). Every small step or implementation of one of the R’s is a step in the right direction.

 

 

I advise you to learn more about Bea and Zero Waste Home. It is really interesting. And with that, I leave you with these two pieces from Monday:

“When you live with less you have more time to do what is important to you.”

“It’s a life based on being instead of having.”

 

Showered in Sustainability

I cannot believe my bridal shower was on Sunday.

While I did not plan it, I provided the hosts with 3 requests:

  1. Please have waffles
  2. Don’t be wasteful
  3. Gifts should not be wrapped

Yes, there were waffles and in general terms, it was not that wasteful. Win-win.

I have already talked about my dislike for wrapping paper here. Thankfully everyone abided to my wish and there was no garbage bag full of wrapping paper at the event of the event.

bridal shower3

Otherwise, most decorations will be able to serve double duty at future events.

My mother got real crafty with prizes and favors. She bought a custom stamp on Etsy to decorate cotton grocery bags, and my parents had an assembly line going to make each one.

bridal shower

They were a hit!

bridal shower1

For those who won bridal shower games, they were gifted with produce bags! Hehe!

bridal shower2

It was great to have an event that kind of set the tone for the wedding a few months down the road.

My Bad

Things have been a little crazy over and Waste Not Want Not has sadly fallen a bit to the wayside.

My apologies.

Wedding planning has basically taken over my life, but when I am not scrolling through Pinterest,

I have been attending sustainability panels,

sustainability panel

been snowed in,

snowed in

played ping pong at a CO2 neutral place,

 

Ace Bounce

SPiN Chicago

 

and ate lunch at a place that works with imperfect produce.

Doves Luncheonette

I promise I will be back soon with some legitimate content!

 

Talking Trash: Garbology

You know you are nerdy when the current book you are reading is a book from the library on garbage.

garbology

But hey, whatever.

I am reading Garbology by Edward Humes as part of Zero Waste Chicago‘s BYO Books March Book Club, and so far it has been a bit challenging to get through.

“Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7.1 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. Across a lifetime that rate means, on average, we are each on track to generate 102 tons of trash.”

-Edward Humes, Garbology

It is an informative book for sure and definitely eye-opening, but I often have trouble reading (and watching) about things that are just so darn negative. It is why I haven’t watched Cowspiracy.

The best part of the book was finding another, more meaningful book.

Let me back up and explain.

I hang out with my grandma a lot and when I go over there, she tries to give me stuff. I love old things and usually take what she offers me (we have started a collection of old cookbooks from her now). A while ago, I was helping her clean out a room and we went through books that had been on a bookshelf for probably 40 or more years. I took a couple that sounded interesting and a few that just looked cool.

Fast forward.

As I was reading Garbology, Humes referenced a book from the 60’s called The Waste Makers.

“Vance Packard…wrote a prophetic follow-up in 1960 called The Waste Makers. In it, he accused his industry and marketing critics of sparking a crisis of excess and waste that would exhaust both nation and nature, until future Americans were forced by scarcity to ‘mine old forgotten garbage dumps’ to recover squandered resources.”

-Edward Humes, Garbology

I sat on the couch pondering this book he referenced. It sounded so familiar. So I got up, and I peered into our bookstand TV case.

Sure enough, The Waste Makers was stacked between Catching Fire and The Martian. It was one of the books I had taken from my grandmother’s.

tv stand with book

I immediately called her and asked about the book, curious about who was the original owner. Unfortunately, she couldn’t entirely remember, but we deduced that it was most likely my great grandfather’s, a German immigrant who was adamant about planting trees.

The Wast Makers

I can’t wait to read this book that my great grandfather read. Even though it is 58 years old it is absolutely ahead of its time and scarily accurate.

“Wastefulness has become a part of the American way of life. [The people of the United States]…must be induced to step up their individual consumption higher and higher, whether they have any pressing needs for the goods or not. Their ever-expanding economy demands it.”

-Vance Packard, The Waste Makers

Snacks Sans Packaging Leaves Me Hangry

I am almost a week into my package-free snack Lent challenge.

During the workday, I have been doing okay. I stocked up on fruits and nuts and double downed on carrots and hummus.

Now that I look back on the week, it is cool to open my lunch bag (which is more than just lunch, I pack food for the entire day) and see that everything in it is a whole food.

My troublesome area so far is when I come home from work. I am pretty famished and just want to eat the first thing I see when I open the kitchen cabinet. The usual bag of popcorn (or pretzels, wheat thins, whatever it may be that week) is off limits and I have eaten enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day that I don’t want to snack on an apple when I get home.

On Friday, my third day of this challenge, I made stovetop popcorn for my after work snack. As annoying as it sounds, and much more time consuming than opening a packaged bag of popcorn, it really isn’t that much more work. It takes maybe 5 minutes and tastes way better.

It may just be my saving grace.

So I will share it with you!

popcorn recipe

If you don’t end up eating it all (which is hard), I was able to keep it fresh until the next day by storing it in an airtight container.

Do you have any other snack suggestions? Please share!

See Ya Packaged Snacks

It’s Lent for you practicing Catholics out there, a time to give up something that you are accustomed to, or make a sacrifice.

I tried giving up plastic for lent the other year and that was rough.

This year, after much discussion, I have decided to give up packaged snacks. It is not that I eat individually wrapped granola bars every day, but like snacks that come in a plastic bag or in a box.

I am looking at you pretzels and wheat thins.

Those are my go-to for a snack at work. Not only will this be a challenge of my own will, but it will help reduce waste and my processed food consumption. A win-win right?

Now, what should I eat for the next 40 days!?

A Zero Waste Super Bowl?

I don’t really care about the Super Bowl.

Commercials are good and I generally enjoy eating the food associated with a Super Bowl party.

But you know what really gets me pumped about a Super Bowl? Waste reduction! This year will attempt to divert 90% of the stadium’s waste.

Which is awesome!

Back in the day, while interning at the U.S. EPA, I had the chance to interview the NFL’s Environmental Program Director about that year’s Super Bowl. It was a really neat experience.

Check out the post below.


Science Wednesday: A Sustainable Super Bowl XLVI

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection.Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Marguerite Huber

On Sunday, February 5th 2012, thousands of people descended upon Indianapolis, Indiana to watch Super Bowl XLVI. While millions watched the game, they were probably unaware of the sustainability actions that were put forth at Lucas Oil Stadium.

I spoke with NFL Environmental Program Director, Jack Groh, about what his job entails. He describes his job as incorporating environmental principles into sporting events, all the while making good business decisions. In the 18 years Groh has been with the NFL, they have kept expanding their sustainability actions, moving from just solid waste recycling to green energy seven years ago.

This year the NFL will be offsetting the energy for the stadium with Renewable Energy Credits for an entire month! “We are renting the stadium for a month, so we believe we are responsible for our tenancy,” states Groh. In addition to the stadium, the program will be offsetting the city’s convention center and four major hotels. That’s an estimated total offset of 15,000 megawatt hours.

“Every year there is something new and exciting. We want to push the envelope and look for new impacts and strategies,” Groh proclaims. For example, diverting waste from landfills by promoting recycling and reuse, collecting extra prepared food for donations for soup kitchens, donating building and decorative materials to local organizations, and reducing the impact of greenhouse gases from Super Bowl activities. My favorite is the 2,012 Trees program, which will help plant 2,012 trees in Indianapolis to help offset environmental impacts.

What I found most interesting from talking with Mr. Groh was that he does not spend a lot of time with publicity, which is why many of you may have never heard of this program. “People are amazed that we have been doing this for two decades. We don’t do it to create an image or green presence in the media, but do it because it’s the right thing and a really smart way to run things. Our goal is make the Super Bowl as green as we possibly can make it.” Groh admitted.

Sustainability and sports is a growing trend, even if it is not seen on the surface of our favorite sporting events. I am excited to see how professional leagues will mold the core of their existence into a new form of competition that is not just for teams, but for the professional leagues themselves. With sustainability, everybody wins!

Double Duty on Wedding Purchases

Getting married is hard.

There are so many decisions, so much research, and so many opinions.

While making decisions on physical purchases, I have been keeping one question in mind:

What purpose will this serve after the wedding is over?

For example:

What purpose will this shirt that says “Future Mrs. X” serve after the wedding is over? 

The answer is none. Please, no one ever buy me this.

lantern.jpg

What purpose will these gold lanterns we scoured multiple Targets for serve after the wedding is over?

I plan on keeping a few and then selling the rest!

What purpose will these koozie favors serve after the wedding is over?

None because there will be no koozies.

Don’t hate me for hating on the koozies. I have a million of them. They get tossed into a cabinet, and I never use them. So no they serve no purpose for me.

I want my purchases to serve double duty, so I am trying to avoid anything that blatantly says Mr. and Mrs, or is obviously wedding related. I want to wear my wedding shoes again! I want to be able to use the bulk thank you cards I bought on Amazon for any other situation post-wedding!

Some people might say, “But it’s your wedding! You only get married once!

Yes, and because of that I want to be able to have a regular use for anything from that day, so I can always be reminded of it.

Doesn’t that make more sense?

 


If you are interested in more, I’ve previously posted about renting versus buying wedding decor and buying wedding decor secondhand.