Tag Archives: sustainability

The Trash Jar

If you’ve been in the zero waste tags on social media, I’m sure you’ve seen those posts where people claim they can fit a year’s worth (or more) of their trash in a mason jar. I understand why they use it – it’s a very effective, shocking picture to most people who don’t think about how much trash they’re actually producing.

But, it’s bullshit!

For one, there is always a reason you could come up with to leave a certain piece out of the jar. Many I’ve seen say they only use the jar for their ‘actual’ trash, and that it doesn’t count their recycling, or food waste. And what about glass jars, or other plastic containers they’re reusing?

It can also make zero waste seem unattainable. Hell, even the term ‘zero waste’ makes it sound impossible! But, here’s the real scoop: you don’t actually have to produce zero waste to live a zero waste lifestyle. In this day and age, it’s virtually impossible to have absolutely no waste, anyways, so trying to make that your goal will just drive you crazy at best, and at worse, make you quit before you even get started.

I understand that waste is a big problem we’re facing globally. When we throw something away, it doesn’t magically disappear – it has to still go somewhere. Kind of like when you finish eating and you do the dishes. You say you put the dishes ‘away’ after washing them, but they’re not actually ‘away’, they’re still there. You just put them in a different spot.

Driving ourselves crazy trying to reduce our own waste is not and should not be the goal for zero waste living. Companies and manufacturers should be the ones trying to implement zero waste initiatives. If every company produces food in plastic packaging, what are we as consumers expected to do, not eat? No, instead, we should be voting with our dollars.

A company can only exist if there are people buying their products. So instead of placing all the burden on us to completely fix the waste problem (which is virtually, if not entirely impossible), we should be using our collective voices to tell companies what we will – and won’t – buy from them. If enough customers tell a company something, they will change how they offer their products to meet demand.

This is literally how supply and demand works!

Now, you may be thinking, ‘okay, well what if I just grow my own food? Then I wouldn’t have to worry about plastic/waste packaging from companies’. Well, that’s only about half right. Yes, you wouldn’t have to buy plastic wrapped food, but growing your own food still produces waste. There’s seed packets, pots/plant beds, soil, watering products, special lights (if wanting to grow inside), gardening tools, etc.

You would have to go to a store and purchase all of the above, many of which would at least have a barcode sticker or some sort of tag, and at most, come in a (most probable) plastic bag. All those little bits of trash would still have to go in the jar. And sure, you could leave the barcode sticker on the product (depending on what it is), but that wouldn’t mean it’s not still a piece of trash.

And that’s not even mentioning how difficult it can be to try and start growing your own food. Also, not everyone lives in a climate that would allow them to do this, and their living situations may be too small to do so inside. Or, they may be too busy to start a home garden. It takes a lot of time and commitment to attempt growing your own food, and for many people, it’s just not a viable option.

While showing a picture of trash in a jar may be a cool aesthetic for social media purposes, it’s really not attainable, but that’s okay! As long as you are a person who is actively trying to produce less waste, then you are doing just fine.

I know it can be hard, but try not to be too hard on yourself. You cannot single-handedly solve the waste issues of the entire world!

Just… try your best.


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Soap Nuts: My Experience (Eco Nuts Soap Nuts Sample Review)

This article is talking about soap nuts. To save time, I’ve shortened this to  ‘nuts’ during most of the article, resulting in some… funny sentences. Please try to excuse these as you read through the article.


Like before committing to doing most things, I did some research about soap nuts long before I decided to try them.

In my research, I learned that soap nuts grow primarily in two places: the Himalayan mountains, and Canada. Being in Canada, I thought it would make more sense for me to try some soap nuts that were native here. If for nothing else, it would be pretty wasteful/silly of me to ship something in from another country that naturally grows here, right?

Right. Or, so you’d think.

Apparently, Canadian soap nuts (which are commonly referred to as ‘buffalo berries’), are considered endangered, and thus are not available for purchase. While I understand wanting to preserve the plant (you can’t even buy the seeds to plant your own!), as said above, it seems silly for Canadian who want a more natural laundry detergent to have to spend money on shipping a native plant from the Himalayas.

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That said, I really wanted to see if they were worth the hype, so I found this company called Eco Nuts, and ordered their sample pack of soap nuts in late May, 2021. (They arrived early June) This was a Canadian company that unfortunately no longer exists (they were already going out of business when I placed my order). I had naively thought that if I was ordering from a Canadian company, I would be getting the Canadian buffalo berries.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, as their About page stated that their nuts were from the Himalayan mountains.

The quest for buying Canadian soap nuts aside, I was actually very impressed with how well they worked, and was even gifted a bag of soap nuts from the biggest Canadian distributor, Sinfully Wholesome for Christmas in 2021, so I thankfully have a lot of soap nuts to go through while I try to figure out another more natural, native solution.

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Even though it was a sample box, the Eco Nuts Sample was a lot smaller than I thought it’d be. I had no idea how big the berries were, or how many I’d get to fulfill 10 loads of laundry (as the sample pack page said).

Turns out, 4 whole berries + 1 half and a mesh bag was all I apparently needed.

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Now, I’m going to be honest, I ended up reading the FAQ page wrong at first, so my soap nuts didn’t last for 10 loads.

See, the way soap nuts work is that they have this thing called saponin in them, which is the part that makes them actually clean stuff. It’s also the thing we try to replicate when making man-made soaps. To get the nuts to secrete it, you have to agitate the nuts (or rub them together in your hands) and use some warm water to soften the hard exterior shell, so it can seep out.

Now, as someone who has a lot of dark-coloured clothes, I basically exclusively wash all my clothes in cold water, because using hot water a) is bad for them, since it could make the colours bleed, or shrink them, and b) uses unnecessary resources/heat and therefore, wastes money. (And let’s be honest, not many of us have ‘extra’ money to blow on something so small)

Anyway, so on the Eco Nuts FAQ page, it said that if you were going to wash clothes in cold water, you could still use the nuts, just that you had to make a sort of tea with them – put the nuts in the mesh bag, and then pour boiling/hot water on them, let them soak (to get the saponin out), then pour the ‘tea’ into the washing machine, then wash as normal.

The part of that I seemed to miss, was the part that said you’re supposed to pour both the tea and the bag of nuts in the washer, because they will still secrete some saponins, because of the agitation of the machine. So the very first load I did with them, I just dumped the tea in, and left the nuts out.

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Soap nut ‘tea’, I used a chopstick as a stir stick.

Honestly though, I did it exactly the way I make tea, meaning I boiled water in my kettle, and immediately poured it over the nuts, so I think I took out all the saponins that were inside them. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but I think because I did this, I kind of screwed myself for the following loads.

The first tea I made, the colour was a dark brown colour, and it actually looked like I had made tea with them. The second tea I made, the water colour barely changed. And the third time I made the tea, it didn’t change colours at all.

Aside from that, when I made the first ‘tea’, I discovered that the nuts had a faint smell to them while they were soaking. It wasn’t a bad smell per se, but it also wasn’t good. It faintly smelled like clean laundry, but also had a… pungent-ness that definitely wasn’t apitizing. Which I guess is good, because even though they’re called soap nuts, you’re not really supposed to eat them.

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Close up of a dry soap nut and the mesh bag, fresh out of the sample pack.

After washing my clothes as normal, using the tea, when I pulled them out to put the in the dryer, I smelled them, and they didn’t smell like anything. They didn’t smell dirty/unclean, but they also didn’t have that artificial ‘cleanliness’ smell that most detergents leave. They were neutral.

Some people may not like their clothes smelling like nothing, but honestly since I started this more natural living journey, I found it actually quite refreshing. I don’t know if it’s my mind playing tricks, or something that happens once you start cutting out a lot of man-made chemical products from your day-to-day, but I’ve actually notice myself becoming more sensitive to those chemical smells.

And the weirdest part is they never used to bother me before! I used to just smell the smell, and not the chemicals, if that makes sense. I used to find it pleasant, and now I just… don’t. Whether it’s laundry detergent, certain soaps and shampoos, dryer sheets, or aerosol sprays, they’re just not things I want around me, anymore. (Not that I wanted them around me anyways, but that was ‘just the way it was’)

The website also said that soap nuts had natural anti-static and anti-cling properties, so you wouldn’t need a dryer sheet when drying. I’d been not using dryer sheets for a little bit before that (I made some homemade ones and had been using those) so I didn’t bother tossing in a ‘regular’ (store-bought) dryer sheet, or a homemade one.

The clothes came out not static-y at all, but I don’t think this was more the material of the clothes I was washing, and not the soap nuts themselves, because on a later load, I did the same thing, and the clothes came out very static-y.

I only ended up using this pack of soap nuts for 4 loads of laundry, because as I said above, the ‘tea’ I made seemed to get much weaker after the 1st time. I still have the nuts and the bag, though. I was actually going to save them to do a comparison for this article, so you could see the difference between new and dried up soap nuts.

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Soap nuts air-drying after being through the washer.

I say ‘was’ because while I can see with my eye that the nuts are a different colour, for some reason, the difference hardly shows up on my phone camera. I don’t know if there’s some colour setting I need to change, or if it’s just a lighting thing, but I couldn’t get a good comparison picture, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

You can definitely tell the used nuts are a lighter when compared to not-used nuts. They most likely will also not remain whole by the time you’re done with them. Especially if making ‘tea’ with them, you’ll need to stir them around in the water to make sure the saponins are actually coming out. Submerging the nuts like this makes them soft, and thus more prone to breaking.

All in all, I definitely think soap nuts are a great alternative for people looking to change to a more natural laundry detergent/cleaner. I also think if you’re able to get your hands on some (sustainably, of course), you should definitely test them out for yourself!


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3 Tips On How to Have a Zero Waste Halloween

With cheap, plastic decorations, bulk boxes of individually wrapped candies and chocolates in plastic, and even the costumes, Halloween (or, any holiday, really) definitely doesn’t spring to mind when you think of ‘zero waste’, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have one!

Yes, it’s totally possible (and not all that much more work) to have a zero waste Halloween!

With just a little tweaking, you can have the zero waste Halloween that your wallet (and planet!) will thank you for having.

 

Tip #1: Make Your Own Treats!

I figured I would start with the hardest tip, and then work our way down. The most environmentally friendly and most zero waste way to still have a kick-ass Halloween is definitely to make your own treats.

Obviously, you can’t pass these out at the door (well, you could, but I don’t think parents would let them eat homemade stranger candy), but if you’re having a grown-up party, or even just your own house party with your kids, this is an awesome tip!

Not only will you get to binge on healthier treats (since you’re buying all the ingredients you need, you’ll know exactly what’s going into them), but I’m sure your kids would love to help bake/create the treats with you. It’s a fun way to spend the day, and you get a reward for all your hard work at the end!

Another bonus of making homemade treats? You can literally make whatever you want! Not that into chocolate? Don’t make it! Really craving a rice crispy square? Get yourself some marshmallows (if searching for vegan ones, I recommend Dandies), and rice cereal and go at it. Want to try homemade chocolate? Go get yourself some cocoa butter and Silk (milk) and go nuts! Rather not eat typical ‘candy’? No problem! Get your bakers hat on, and whip up some cookies, brownies, or whatever other treat your heart desires. And, to make them festive, you could decorate them with the Halloween theme in mind!

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The only limitation to the treats you create is your imagination!

If you want to make actual ‘candy’ at home (i.e. lollipops, hard candies like Jolly Ranchers, etc.) you’ll maybe not want to let the kids help with those. Those items require boiling sugar and that stuff gets super hot/a tad dangerous to work with, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

If you want to give some of your homemade treats away (I only recommend doing this to people you know/who trust you enough to actually eat what you hand-make, that way your good intentions don’t end up in the garbage), you can get some jars/containers and decorate them simply before giving them away. Similar to the dry mixes some people give at Christmas. Do them up a little pretty, and people are sure to love them!

 

Tip #2: Don’t Buy a Single-Use Costume

My mom was always really big into Halloween, so maybe this was just my family, but some of my best Halloween memories consist of mix and matching clothes I already had to make my costume. Sure, we had to go buy Halloween make-up (weren’t gonna waste ‘the good stuff’) and maybe a wig, but the majority of our costumes growing up were homemade.

If you don’t want to wear your everyday clothes, check out past year costumes you already have, to see how you can give them a new life as something else, or, go hit up a thrift store (like Value Village), that may have some more specific Halloween-themed pieces. The trick here is to go through what you already have, see what your missing, and then either go get a few choice pieces to complete the look that can be re-used in the future, or change what your costume is, so you can use pieces you already have.

You could also keep a few things from your Capsule Wardrobe purge to keep specifically to wear for Halloween. This way, you won’t care if you have to say, roll it around in the dirt to get the specific look, (we actually did this one year) or cut some holes into it.

Or, you could just forgo the costumes if you’re not going out/not that into it. You could have a house party in your pj’s watching scary movies with family and friends, instead.

 

Tip #3: Buy In Actual Bulk!

If you don’t want to make your own treats, or you don’t have the skills to make one treat in particular that you just absolutely need to make Halloween special to you, try to get it at an actual bulk store!

Here in Canada, we have this place called Bulk Barn, and every year around Halloween, they have a few dedicated bins to Halloween treats. Foil-wrapped chocolates, hard candies, gummy worms with a bat decoration stuck to the bin, etc. Basically they slap a ghost or spider-web on some of their regular offerings and call it a day.

But this is still better than buying those boxes of big-name treats, because you can fill your own container* with the exact amount of treats you’ll need. So yes, this option still gives you waste (depending on what treats you’re buying), but it’s still better than getting a bunch of those giant cardboard boxes (that can’t be recycled! The dyes used to make those silly pictures sometimes prevent the cardboard from being recyclable), filled to the brim with plastic wrappers.

I recommend you go out and buy store-bought treats last, because it will create some more waste than the other options here, but if you absolutely feel you need to, then do it. Zero waste isn’t about denying yourself things you like, or feeling like you have to ‘give up’ things you enjoy, it’s about helping the planet and minimizing your environmental impact.

It’s also impossible to be ‘true’ zero waste in today’s society, so don’t worry too much about trying to be perfect. Everyone creates waste – the trick you need to remember is to create as least as you can, as often as you can. If you create a little bit more than usual once a year, there’s no Zero Waste Police who are gonna show up and fine you, or revoke your zero waste card.

So relax, and have fun!

*Bulk Barn has temporarily suspended it’s BYO policy due to COVID safety practices. Call/check your local bulk store to see if/when the policy will change back


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Capsule Wardrobes and How To Downsize Your Closet

One of the things everyone has too many of, is clothes. I don’t know what it is, but practically everyone I know has overflowing dressers and closest. And, perhaps the worst part, is that their dressers and closest are overflowing with clothing they won’t even wear!

Seriously, how messed up is that? Why would you keep hundreds of items of clothes if you never wear them? That’s just wasting your money, wasting space for things you actually like/want to wear and is not doing your self-image any favours.

While I can’t tell you to stop buying yourself clothes (just because we’re in lockdown doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to go outside again), I can help you start the process of whittling down your wardrobe.

The first step to downsizing your wardrobe? Get rid of everything that doesn’t fit (yes, even that goal weight item you’re keeping for ‘inspiration’), and anything you haven’t worn in over a year. Chances are, if you haven’t worn it again, it’s probably because you don’t actually like it. By ‘get rid of’, I do not mean throw in the garbage! Unless it’s actually super holey and can’t be worn, donate them! There are tons of second hand stores that are always looking for clothing donations. (I know with COVID this may make it harder, but just be sure to do your research on the new donating guidelines!)

If the clothes are too worn/holey/stained to be donated, see if you can cut them up and turn them into something else. There are tons of tutorials online of creative ways to upcycle old clothing. I personally have made a few fabric bracelets, a hair tie, and reusable pads out of old clothes. (There will be a dedicated reusable pad/zero waste period post coming soon!)

Also, if you have an insane amount of the exact same item of clothing, get rid of it! There are only 7 days in a week, and unless you don’t have a washing machine, or get covered in mud every single day, you don’t need 7+ of the same t-shirt, or pairs of the exact same leggings. Honestly, no one will care if you repeat an outfit, and if they do, well… let’s just say there are more important issues to be worrying about.

Okay, now that you have a few tips to help you downsize, let’s get on to the items you’ll be keeping. Adopting a capsule wardrobe can be a huge help in not only maintaining your style, but also in keeping you from buying too many clothing items. The concept of a capsule wardrobe is simple: you just make sure that each new piece of clothing you buy (or each item you’re keeping) will match with something you already own. It’s basically turning your wardrobe into a giant mix and match set.

So, now that you know what a capsule wardrobe is, let’s get into the how-to.

 

Step 1. Choose a Base Colour.

This can be any colour you want! Yellow, green, pink, pastel, even tie-dyed! It all depends on your style, and what you want your wardrobe to say. This colour will be the bottom building block for the rest of your wardrobe (i.e. the colour you have the most of), so make sure it’s one that you love to wear!

I personally try to dress ‘gothic country’ (which I’m pretty sure is a style I invented), so that made choosing my base colour really easy: Black. It goes with everything, and I had the added bonus of having a lot of pieces that were already this colour. (Instead of having to rush out and buy more to my already-over-flowing closet)

 

Step 2. Select Neutral Essentials

Keep these items a solid colour that is different then your base colour. These items are these that you wear with most, if not every outfit combo you make. You can have multiple colours for your neutral essentials, as long as they go with your base colour. For me, these colours include white, grey and denim.

 

Step 3. Choose An Accent Colour (Optional)

This has to match the other colours, but this one can be a vibrant colour, or, (if your other colours are vibrant), can be a darker colour. This is to add some contrast/’pop’ to your outfits.

 

Step 4: Shoes, Jackets and Accessories

For shoes and jackets, it’s best to keep them as your base colours. However, accessories can be a vibrant accent colour. Just, be sure not to wear too many bright accessories. If your whole outfit is black, wearing ten red/blue/some-other-bright-colour accessories would just look out of place.

 

Again though, these tips are for general practices and will change wildly depending on your own personal style. You could make your base ‘colour’ polka dots if you really wanted – it all depends on what you want your style to be.

The main point of building a capsule wardrobe is to be able to wear most of your clothing with each other, so you’re not constantly buying new clothes/outfits. It doesn’t matter if you execute a ‘perfect’ capsule wardrobe, what matters is you being able to get rid of all the unnecessary clothes you own, in a sustainable way/a way that you can actually keep up with.


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