Thursday, November 17, 2016

Zero-Waste + Minimalist Office Supply/School Supply Guide

October was an absolute whirlwind. I participated in Project Green Challenge (founded by Turning Green). It was a 30-day event in which students have several challenges focused on a theme. They ranged from Zero Waste (my submission I posted here), Fair Trade, and Biodiversity. The goal was to challenge us to create ways to improve, educate, and, expand on our knowledge of sustainability and the environment. I knew I wouldn't be able to participate in all of the 30 days but being in my last year of  university + wanting to become more public with my passion for the environment I went for it and gave it my all and had the pleasure to be awarded in a few of the challenges. That and October was midterms-month!

The one closest to my heart was the Zero Waste challenge. I've spent this past year transitioning into a more zero-waste lifestyle, reducing and minimizing what I don't need. I have realized that for me less is truly more. It hasn't been terribly hard for me and I have learned to plan ahead. I don't view it as limiting - I view it as lighting your step and being kind to the environment. Which leads me to this post!

 I believe you can make conscious choices anytime, anywhere. It's never too early or late to start and your actions certainly matter no matter how big or "small'. Intended to be a  Back to College Guide, these are my staples for both university & work. Everything can be recycled or reused and falls within the realm of zero-waste! They would also make great gifts for someone in your life whether they are a student, or have office work (like me!) - or both.

Zero-Waste + Minimalist Office Supply/School Supply Guide
ECoffee Bamboo Cup | I saw this on Lauren Singer (Trash Is For Tossers) and was able to find the company that sells it. I was very hesitant on getting a reusable coffee cup for hot drinks (so I mostly avoided them) because most are made of plastic or glass I wanted to find safer alternative that would contain hot liquids that wouldn't burn you or break that anyone could use. Their cups are made from organic bamboo fiber and non-GMO corn starch as well as BPA and phthalate free. They are pretty neat because it has an attachable "stopper" that prevents liquid from spilling out on the go. I'm pretty reckless and have used it in my small tote bag and didn't have any spilling/coffee leaking. These are also available on Amazon (be sure to use Amazon Smile!)

Ukonserve Insulated Coffee Cup | Made out of double walled stainless steel and comes with a silicone coffee lid, this is an excellent sought after alternative for getting iced/blended coffees, teas, as well as the hot versions of them. Because I imbibe coffee on the regular this has been a lifesaver and I hope to see more of these in lieu of the standard coffee cups that are generally not recyclable. The majority of communities in the United States aren't equipped with recycling technology capable of dealing with these types of cups. this is because of the way that the cups are made: most paper cups are coated with a plastic resin (i.e., polyethylene) for durability and convenience, therefore making both their composting and recycling uncommon and raising the specter of carcinogenic chemical leeching. When we consider the numbers, about 60 billion paper cups in the U.S. end up in landfills every year because they can't be recycled. Personally the best way for consumers to go is getting a reusable coffee cup, many coffee drinkers tend to get their orders on-the-go - even if coffee companies offered a recyclable option, which they should, it would require effort on the consumer to find a composting or recycle bin to properly dispose of the cup.

UKonserve Travel Utensil | This is a double side utensil made of sustainably harvested bamboo. Read why bamboo is a preferable option to plastic here ! It comes with a mesh bag that is made of polyester but you can hand wash it as well

SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws | These come with four straws and a cleaning brush, I got them in June and only wish they had come with a mini-bag of sorts to transport them. Overall these are quite impressive: they haven't rusted, are easy to clean, and they fit in my Ukonserve cup. Plastic straws are just as bad as single use coffee cups - most can't be recycled and for those that can, how many actually are? With roughly 500 million straws being used in the US each day, they don't just go to landfill but unfortunately into the ecosystem of marine wildlife.

UKonserve Stainless Steel Mini Container | Simple and effective these containers are ideal for a small meal or snack, the measurement is 2" x 1.5" but they have several other options and sizes for customizing

Zebra Stainless Steel Ballpoint Retractable Pen | Pens & Office supplies are often way for litter to pile up. I invested in these pens that are professional-grade stainless steel from tip to clip, you can "refill them" with these ink cartridges. Although you'd need to purchase the ink after it runs out, this reduces the need for spare pens. I haven't purchases any other pens aside from the ones on this list.

Zebra Stainless Steel Mechanical Pencil | Self explanatory, a minimalistic alternative to the ubiquitous plastic lead pencils - this one won't break and grips onto the lead pretty well.

Pilot Point Gel Ink Erasable Stick Pens | Although these are made of plastic, they reduce the use for an eraser and extra pens. The top has a clear eraser and you can refill these pens well. These are my personal favorite because of the erasing and ink.

Pegasus Decomposition Book & Celestial Decomposition Book | These feature 80 lined pages made from 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper that was processed chlorine-free, soy ink colored , and you can recycle it when you no longer need it! Although these are more on the pricier side, they are an investment so perhaps you may not get it for office/school but as a journal instead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Zero Waste + Minimalistic Dental Care Guide

When I began to minimize the objects and products in my life, I did not want to skimp on efficacy when it concerns my health. I also wanted products that were purely plant & botanical based, organic within its means with minimal packaging, and yes it is possible! There are companies and small-batch shops who will kindly create sustainable solutions without using harmful ingredients and minimal packaging. This incorporates the concept of this zero waste guide: producing less waste. Also all of these products happen to be vegan and gluten free.

zero waste dental guide

Brush With Bamboo Toothbrushes | Made of sustainably sourced wild (no pesticides or fertilizers used) Chinese Moso Bamboo for the toothbrush handles which can be composted with the removal of the bristles. The bristles are made of castor bean oil and plastic which can be recycled. Brush With Bamboo has a guide on how to care and dispose (in a zero waste manner) of the brush. My favorite aspect is actually the bristles. They give a more cohesive clean than the typical plastic electric toothbrush (which I no longer use). By composting the brushes and the packaging it comes it, you create soil instead of waste! You would also be supporting an impressive company with ethical and sustainable values.

In Vitamin Charcoal Tooth Powder | Finding a toothpaste I liked was always a hassle. Personally I found most of them abrasive, contained an ingredient I didn't want, and then the tubes only created waste. Even at natural food markets I was usually out of luck in finding something I was content with. I became interested in using activated charcoal for dental health and last year I came across In Vitamin's Tooth Powder and I thought A) Am I really going to forgo society's accepted use of toothpaste in lieu of powder & B) Is this safe (its free of SLS, baking soda, and preservatives) ? Lo and behold I still have the powder I purchased last year and it is my favorite. It is full of botanical wonders like organic orris root, myrrh gum powder, bentonite clay that benefit your gums and teeth. In Vitamin is a perfect example of stores willing to make zero waste adjustments: the shop owner kindly sent out Tooth & Gum Powder with Activated Charcoal in Citrus enclosed in a biodegradable bag which I then stored in a labeled mason jar. & No it won't stain your teeth!

Plant Makeup Herbal Mouth Rinse | Most mouth rinses on the market are stored in plastic and contain ingredients that are harmful or unnecessary like food dyes. This is a gluten free alcohol based mouth rinse thats basically an infused garden. Plant Makeup uses organic peppermint, locally gathered wintergreen, clove, local soapwort, organic corn alcohol (40% alcohol) and sage. This mouth rinse is definitely a plant based zinger (hello!) to promote healthy & sparkly teeth & gums. You can reuse the glass bottle it comes in as well!

RADIUS Vegan Xylitol Floss Sachets | Created out of nylon and coated with vegan candelilla plant wax, USA grown cranberry, peppermint - this floss is cruelty free and plastic free while the packaging is all 100% biodegradable. The floss itself is soft and durable while being kind to your health and the planet. The company's products are quite easy to find in your local natural markets and leave zero to no footprint.

zero waste dental guide
zero waste guidd3

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Making the Case for Zero-Waste | Project Green Challenge: Zero Waste

When I became aware of the zero waste movement, I didn’t look at it with the perception that it’s limiting, I found it simpler – less cluttered and more conscientious of our purchases and actions. The less packaging used, being more mindful about what food we buy (spending only on what we need and will use) we can reap better benefits. Enter any market or shop and the pervasiveness of plastic is inescapable be it food, home, personal care items. And truthfully we’ve become to used it. It’s commentary reflects that we are a primarily packaged society. In North American alone about 55 percent of 220 million tons of 55 percent of 220 million tons of waste end up in one of over 3,500 landfills each year. However, its not just a packaging problem, when it concerns food waste, about 1/3 of all foodstuffs—about 60 tons is wasted by retailers and consumers every year.

zero waste

What if we made simple steps toward minimizing our waste? What If we didn’t look at the zero waste movement as unattainable or hard. Lauren Singer, the woman behind the blog Trash is for Tossers and her business The Simply Co. told me that :

I like to remember that we cannot change people, but we can inspire them to think about things in a different way. If they like what they see, they can decide to make changes in their life if they want to. I have found that to be the best way to talk about zero waste with people, is to invite them into my own life, let them see how I live, and if they like it and ask me more, be open to showing them what I do. “

Kathryn of Going Zero Waste offers her own easy tips for reducing your trash:

“My top tip would be to compost! Composting is the easiest way to cut 50% of your households waste. Then the basics, remember a reusable water bottle and bag. Keep them by the door - even hang it on your door so it's always right there when you're heading out.”

The zero waste lifestyle doesn’t limit experiences. It doesn’t mean you cant do the activities you love, it just means you are more conscientious about your spending and choices. It’s not just about plastic but food waste: making the effort to reduce, reuse, & recycle. It means investing in reusable cups or bottles, bringing your own tote bags to the market, opting for glass/paper packaging instead of plastic, if you have the time to meal prep your breakfast and lunches to eat more whole foods and 

Holly of Leotie Lovely sums up the issue with recycling plastics perfectly:The recycling process itself releases toxins and chemicals into the air. Third, it never biodegrades. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces." Unfortunately this means that all those coffee cups, both for iced or hot will not recycle nor do they biodegrade. Styrofoam never goes away. Stickers and labels? Forever. When we consider fashion there are "fast fashion' companies that quickly create clothes for "seasons" that are typically cheaply made and what happens to the clothes that don't get bought? Theres already a large number of recycled items that get sent overseas, and the rest go to landfills. Which isn't to say we shouldn't appreciate fashion or expression of it, but we can support companies that go about it ethically and are made to last as well as shopping secondhand. When I wrote to Holly about how to avoid feeling like we “cannot do it” or that we aren’t capable she offered these words of advice:

Any growth, personal or otherwise requires work - and any work you do on yourself, whether it is your character, your spirituality, your habits, or your body, they all pay off in the end and make you a better and more fulfilled person. What I try to remind myself is to do my very best and be forgiving when I make mistakes - on any level - with sustainability or otherwise - I think that's a good sort of mantra to carry around - because it is hard work, and you will make mistakes, and it will take time, but it is most certainly always worth it, and that should be enough drive to keep you trying until it doesn't take any effort and just is the way you are”

So what are four “deeper” ways to live a zero waste lifestyle?

· Encourage companies to adapt more sustainable practices and ethics. This means asking your favorite brands to create recycling or biodegradable packaging, asking stores to offer more bulk bin items especially that are safe for those with food allergies

· Making a guide to what is available in your area, can you compost somewhere nearby? What recycling services are offered near you? Making a grocery list that will prevent food waste or expired items from going to waste, If you brew coffee can you cast the grounds on your plants instead of down the drain? Do you shop online? Create a signature to ask seller to not add excess or any packaging/receipts to your purchase(s)

· Discover a positive community. This is so important, find a community of zero waster or minimalist (if that’s what you’re after) who are non judgmental, who will encourage or offer feedback on questions you may have. Surround yourself with positivity and Recognize everyone is on their own journey.

· Influence others with positivity and passion! I used to think others would see me as odd for bringing my own cups, straws, utensils, etc. I felt like others would judge me and then I realized I am doing this myself. In fact you are more than likely to encourage others with your own actions whether it influences someone to get a stainless steel water bottle instead of single use water bottles, invest in a lunchbox, sop in the bulk aisle. By speaking positively about your experiences others will not only learn but also consider their own impact instead of viewing it as “impossible.”

There are no expectations. Release any expectations that you must be a purist or that you "must" make changes overnight to see results. That’s not the case nor should it be because that is creating limits. We’re better off investing in reusable coffee cups or water bottles, buying only what we will consume instead of mindlessly doing it. Planning ahead and clearing space can offer us more clarity.  Going on your own pace and figuring out what you do and don’t need yields better results and positive experiences. If you believe someone is making you feel negatively about yourself – release it. Someone else’s projection shouldn't harm your journey. Be kind to yourself. I believe that people who want to follow a zero waste lifestyle, or minimize their trash in general, want to do it to be kinder to the planet. Enhance that – Be Kind.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Zero Waste & Vegan Lunch Box w/ PlanetBox

I am embarking the final stage for my bachelors in university. Cue the emotions of excitement but anticipation of whats to come & the dedication that lies ahead. Studies are meant to challenge us and at times we put ourselves last. We fall out of balance with our health and succumb to the maddening late-nights spent editing, writing, or formulating. I’d always fallen into the category of neglecting to eat at the so called “proper” standardized times. Be it school or work when you feel rushed or need to catch the train, a deadline, or hour & it you forget to nourish yourself. And sometimes you get tempted by what’s available in the university cafeterias which may or may not lead to healthy choices, or produce waste - and if you, like me, have food allergies? It’s instantly a debacle.

I thought about attempting the zero waste mentality to meals when you’re in school, work, or even a trip. Perhaps it saves money, or offers you to make better choices. It definitely cuts down on waste, which was important for me to address.

planet box @

PlanetBox creates classic stainless steel lunch boxes that are an excellent alternative to plastic or single serve containers. No lead, BPA, or phthalates here folks, and its recyclable after your long years of use (no waste). I received the Shuttle Box with the Shuttle Carry Bag (which I highly recommend, to ensure longevity of your box & they’re BPA free + recycled materials used). I don’t like plastic; I want to avoid it as much as possible, especially when it concerns what I eat.

I gave myself a challenge: Create a vegan & zero waste meal for my Shuttle Box. I ventured to the farmers markets for fresh fruit & product, nuts (protein), found veggie chips in bulk! I recommend taking cotton or reusable product bags instead of the plastic ones they have at stores, or even mason jar (know your jar weight!)

planet box @

My meal comprised of unsweetened coconut yogurt* (the container is recyclable) with a drizzle of grade B maple syrup & a heapful of chia seeds (protein & omega-3s), sliced strawberries and a handful of almonds to dip them in, Sliced zucchini (which I also dipped in the yogurt) and lots of dehydrated veggies to round the meal. I take my own spoon & cloth napkin as well!

It took me less than 15 minutes to comprise this meal, mostly chopping fruits and veg and ladling in yogurt and its toppings. I really encourage y’all to try meal prep and ditch plastic for safer and earth-friendly alternatives. Check out PlanetBox for more inspiration on making your own rainbow meals.

planet box @

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Going Back Into The Wild & Our Impact On The Environment

Recently I came across the titles of these articles online: “Light Pollution Hides Milky Way From 80 Percent Of North Americans”, “Measuring America’s Disappearing West” “Oh, the Places Your Plastic Waste Will Go” or “Rising Seas Push Too Much Salt Into The Florida Everglades” Climate change likely to turn up heat on koalas. Not surprisingly I did not hear about these stories covered on tv news (a 2015 report showed that mainstream TV outlets spent devoted less than an hour covering climate change.) which is a shame but several online news outlets do a better job at covering these stories.

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve become so detached from wilderness, unless you happen to live near it. With human development expanding and taking away from natural areas there’s a concept of trying to tame the wild instead of trying to understand it, as individuals. How many believe its up to park rangers, botanists, or ecologists to understand? Some of us don’t see forests, mangroves, or lakes outside of our windows or on our way to work so we forget an environment completely unique to our own surroundings exists. Living in the city all my life I have become accustomed to hardly seeing stars, often having to venture out past skylines or buildings just to catch a glimpse of them at night. On a recent trip to Sequoia National Forest this year, walking on soil and passing creeks with the earshot of wilderness - birdsong and scuttling somewhere around us. I wasn't wondering about tomorrow or worried about something perhaps trivial. There was no internet reception to distract us, and the experience is different for everyone but for me I felt more alive basking in this habitat that was so distinct from my daily life.

sequoia national forest

I wonder how many of us take the science of things for granted.  We can appreciate the beauty of trees, their winding branches and changing leaves serve as home for many wildlife species. They absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and release oxygen back to us. Some of us may be spooked by the occasional bee, in fear of the possibility of being stung. Except the tiny bee’s presence does more for us than we realize. They are pollinators important for biodiversity and about 1/3 of our food production. However many bees are dying off which is most likely linked to widespread pesticide use, in particular the effect of neonicotinoids which includes losses of 44% in America this past year. Others may litter without realizing their action multiplies and regardless or whether their litter will find its way to a bin, it can also find its way to marine environments, parks,

Of course I don’t think we should drop our lives, our responsibilities and live into the wild. Most people don’t have that luxury because we are consumed with debt, the necessity to work, and others simply don’t want that and that’s perfectly fine.  But perhaps there should be a more conscientious approach about what we know pertaining to the environment. We go to the ocean for a few hours and leave, we visit the national parks and say goodbye but its not just a source of entertainment for us, it serves as a home for more other creatures unbeknownst to us. Yet these national parks are severely underfunded and even plastics in the form of microfibers or particles are showing up on the ocean floor and in the bodies of marine life. s (the United Nations Environment Program reports that about 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of ocean today)

sequoia national forest

Perhaps we should consider asking ourselves about our actions and how it relates to the environment? It unequivocally affects us on a small scale. If a neighborhood chooses to liter instead of disposing of their trash properly or better yet recycling it, if we purchase from farmers who don’t use insect-harming chemicals on their crops, urging companies like Starbucks to create non-disposable forms of their coffee cups, or better yet investing in reusable non-plastic coffee or water cups (a 2006  Pacific Institute report estimates that it took 17 million barrels of oil per year to create America’s plastic water bottles) to take to cafes, or simply minimizing our food waste footprint or picking up after ourselves or others. If you have a case of wanderlust, go visit the national parks, its up to us to keep them. There is also the importance of voting, in particular researching the candidates who hold environmental rights in their policies.

This is not to say that I am devoid of anything that could contribute harm to the environment, and I don’t stand to say we should all become over night purists – its not that simple but its not impossible. Because there are many people who are creating programs, startups, and outreach efforts that are raising awareness about the state of our environment.  I simply believe we have to collectively live in conjunction with our natural environment instead of allowing it to disappear.