zero waste

Sometimes You’re Gonna Be Wasteful

Not that I need to share this with the internet world, but I had “minor surgery” this week.

I diligently go to the dermatologist annually to keep an eye on my fair skin and my numerous moles, but this year a mole on my back decided to grow, and my doctor thought it was best to remove it.

So “minor surgery” it was. And minor surgery means major waste.

Between the individually packaged sterilized tools and the gauze, and who knows what else (I was keeping my eyes closed. I DID NOT want to see what they were doing), there was already a bunch of waste just the day of the procedure.

For the next two weeks, I have to clean and change my bandage twice a day. That’s a lot of band-aids.

I know this is wasteful and legitimately all of it will end up in a landfill. We all have to make concessions sometimes, especially when it comes to our health.

Trying to make this situation less wasteful is not something I am up to doing. I am not making my own cotton band-aids and I am not risking infection, so landfill-destined bandages it is.

No pictures for today’s post. No one wants to see my stitches!

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How I Pack My Lunch

Back to the days of packing my lunch for work!

I pretty much never buy lunch and I never did even in my school days when we could purchase “hot lunch.”

 

 

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Locally produced turkey sandwich

 

Not only does this practice save me money, but it also saves on food packaging and waste. Ziploc bags are never on my shopping list because I use SnackTaxis to hold all my snacks and lunch essentials.

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I have had them for a number of years and I love them. They are machine washable and I just let them air dry over night. They even stand up to a PB&J with a bit too much jelly. Just wipe it off and toss in the washer!

Their fun designs also can make a boring lunch a little bit more exciting! And my lunches are pretty boring (see the turkey sandwich with just bread and turkey above).

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My handy lunch bag has also been hanging around since my college days and it too is machine washable. So when I leave something in there just a little too long and it starts to get a bit funky, that can easily be fixed.

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For foods that cannot go in a SnackTaxi, I just use Pyrex glass containers for everything from yogurt to soup. Yeah, glass is heavy, but whatever, bring on the muscles!

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Our regular silverware from home comes with me to work when necessary and then I just bring it home every day to pop in the dishwasher. I don’t find it to be any extra work.

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On top of all the other necessary pieces, I keep a napkin in my drawer at my desk! It definitely comes in handy when I am eating a juicy peach or there is a snack to grab in the break room.

How do you keep your work day lunches package-free?

The Plastic Wrapped Apples

So I went to Denver a couple weeks ago.

On the way to our gate, we stopped at the Home Run Inn to get something to eat before our flight.

As I stood in line waiting to order, I noticed an odd sight.

plastic apples

A basket full of individually wrapped apples……

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I thought that was #1 very strange and #2 very wasteful and unnecessary, so I did what any millennial would do:

Complain on Twitter.

I tweeted at both Home Run Inn and Midway airport about the oddness of the plastic wrapped apples.

 

pizza twitter

Before we had even taken off, Home Run Inn had responded. I hope something does come of this. It would probably be best to follow up.

Although I was not rewarded with any free pizza, I was pretty impressed with their quick response and demeanor.

Next time you are at Midway, hop into the Home Run Inn and see if the apples are free from their plastic wrap for me!

How To: Gracious Gifting

My Christmas gifts are all finished, and they have been for awhile. If you pay attention to the people you are giving to throughout the year, it is fairly easy to come up with something. For example, I keep a note in my phone with gift ideas for my friends and family.

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Giving and getting experiences is by far the best type of gift. Even if that isn’t an option, I want to be able to give something that truly has meaning to the receiver, is a need, and stimulates the local economy at the same time. Sorry, department store Christmas commercials, I will not be buying people random sweaters for the holidays.

Here is what you can do to be a conscious gifter:

Go Local

Help a small, local business out and get your gifts from them. To avoid a physical gift, gift cards to a favorite restaurant are always a good option.

Go High Quality

Make your purchase worth it. Going handmade and local usually means it’s going to be of higher quality compared to store brand. Go for brands that have lifetime satisfaction guarantees like LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, or anything on Buy Me Once.

Make It

The most memorable gifts I have ever given have been ones I have made with my own hands. One Christmas I spent countless hours knitting my dad a cable knit scarf and he wears it ALL THE TIME.

Have Someone Else Make It

Sometimes the thing we want to give others is beyond our own ability. If so, employ a local artist or someone from Etsy to help get your message across. I have sent get well cookies to sick friends and personalized flower vases for newly married couples.

Wrap It (Or Don’t Wrap it)

Wrapping paper is a huge waste. I refuse to buy it ever again, especially when we are daily subscribers to the Chicago Tribune. That provides plenty of newspaper to be used for wrapping. Additionally, I save every gift bag and bow I receive so I can pull those out if necessary.

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Packing In A Long Weekend in CA

My cousin got married in California over the weekend, so the majority of our family packed up our things and flew to San Francisco for the nuptials.

 

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The view from the wedding venue

 

Carry On = Minimal Clothing

While packing for a wedding is hard, packing for one in a climate you aren’t familiar with (and in a carry on bag) is even harder.

So this was my attempt at packing light! The most obvious clothing I needed to pack was something for the wedding and family dinner the night before. Otherwise, we would just be doing some exploring and going to see Alcatraz!

To avoid any crazy overpacking, I started with making a list of items I knew I would need, and then items that crossed over and could be used for different purposes.

  • 1 pair of boots
  • 1 pair of moccasins
  • 1 pair of heels for the wedding
  • 2 dresses for rehearsal and wedding
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 4 shirts/sweaters
  • 2 vests
  • 2 scarves
  • 1 regular jacket and 1 rain coat
  • obviously the other essentials

All made it into my carry on without a hitch! Pairing different vests and scarves with different shirts, pants, and shoes, really helped vary my outfit choices over the 5 days. So at least in most pictures, it does not look like I am wearing the same thing every day!

Being Conscious of Waste While Traveling

 

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Taken at the Cliff House, San Francisco, CA

 

Every single restaurant we went to had a sign that stated water would not automatically be served  due to California’s severe drought.  Living in a part of the country that is not under such water restrictions, it was a bit shocking at first, but it makes complete sense. How much water is wasted being brought to customers who don’t even want it?

In other news, my foldable reusable bag came quite in handy throughout the trip. It carried leftovers, souvenirs, jackets, and umbrellas. I refused straws at restaurants and refilled my water bottle where ever I was.

I definitely was not zero-waste perfect on this trip, but I made conscious efforts and shared them with my family.

Many other bloggers do a fantastic job covering how they travel zero-waste. Check them out:

Most importantly, check out the Zero Waster’s Travel Companion! Put together by the Zero Waste Bloggers Network, this guide can help you travel more consciously to 32 different cities around the world!

C3 Week 4: Waste

Obviously, I was very interested in this class topic since it covered waste and the point of this blog is to not be so wasteful!

First of all, why should we care about waste?

  • it does not go “away”
  • litter is ugly
  • sanitation
  • water quality is diminished
  • climate change due to more methane from landfills
  • these are just a few reasons!

waste pyramid

We have all learned about the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but there are more important steps that need to be included as well. The conversation we usually have starts with recycle, when we really should be starting at the top with refuse. If we refuse something, it cannot become waste in the first place. Zero-wasters are very familiar with this part of the pyramid! So refuse those plastic bags and straws, for they will never go away!

Chicago throws away 7.3 million tons of trash annually.

In 2009, the city conducted a waste characterization study, where our trash was sorted into 81 different categories.

The top three items by weight were:

  1. Paper (29.5%)
  2. Organics (29%)
  3. Plastic (12.5%)

All of these things can be recycled or composted, not sent to a landfill!

We have a big issue with recycling in this city if you have not noticed from my posts on my experience of trying to get a recycling cart.

The biggest issues we discussed in class are access, expense, contamination, and education.

Access

As I discussed here, residential buildings with 4 units or less have access to the city recycling service. Larger, multi-unit buildings, on the other hand, use a private hauler. So depending on what type of building you live in, your recycling rules may be different.

Expense

We do not pay to recycle our materials, unlike the tipping fee required to dump one ton of trash into a landfill. So the City is actually saving money when every ton of recyclables does not go into a landfill. Last year, the City saved $4.5 million.

In Illinois, It is cheap to dump into a landfill compared to other states. New York, for instance, is running out of landfill space and thus charges much more per ton.

Contamination

In addition to the list of what should be recycled, there are also a lot of items that do not belong in our blue carts. Here is where you can recycle common things that are not allowed:

Education

There are different messages for different audiences, especially if they use city recycling or not. Language is also an issue, but for the most part, there is a lack of staff to help implement. Maybe they need to hire someone like me!

Additional Recycling Resources:

 

 

Buzzfeed: 10 Ways to Reduce Your Waste

Do you love Buzzfeed? I do! Then check out this post by Shauna over at Zero Waste Teacher about the zero-waste lifestyle in Buzzfeed Community!

If we generate enough buzz about this post by sharing and liking it, Buzzfeed Community may make it a regular topic and help us reach a whole new audience!

Check it out: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ZWshauna/10-ways-to-reduce-your-waste-25dei