Tons of garden produce all at once; saving broccoli for the winter.

The garden is in full swing, producing me a box of goodies every time I visit.  Our yard isn’t big enough to have one nice garden space so I share a plot that my parents rent by the river.  It’s a beautiful, quiet area; however, deer are frequently spotted so you have to find a means to keep them out of your food.  You should see what neighboring gardeners do to keep deer out.

The past couple of years we have struggled getting tomatoes to produce enough fruit to get us through the winter.  Tomatoes are the one fruit (I always think of it as a vegetable) that we use in a lot of things.  My husband makes homemade pasta/pizza sauce and I make my own salsa.  Oh, and homemade tomato soup is da-bomb!

This year we’ve had an abundance of peppers and at this given time, broccoli.  Too much to use within a two week timespan that’s for sure.  So, I blanch it and freeze it for the winter.  I love to have fresh food, of course, but I also love to be able to pull our own food out of the freezer over winter instead of buying off-season vegetables at the grocery store.

Homestead, Growing broccoli
Growing broccoli

About 4-5 broccoli plants arrived at harvesting time at about the same time.  Now it’s time to cut, blanch and store it in the freezer.  There were two options in preparing it for the freezer.  One was to blanch it, as I have done all other veggies and the other is to steam it.  Honestly, I wish I had steamed it, as you lose some nutrients in the water you submerge the broccoli in.  BUT, I do plan to use this water to feed my compost garden.

Ahem, so our compost pile decided to volunteer a few plants.

Compost Garden: butternut squash, acorn squash, 2 varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers
Compost Garden

What we have growing here is cucumbers, a couple varieties of tomatoes, butternut squash and acorn squash.  Oh, and I had a potato plant but I pulled it last week.   It gave me a few potatoes.

I will water my little compost garden with the nutrient rich blanch water that I used for my broccoli.  Circle of life, I’d say.

I am sharing a good chunk of 1 broccoli head with my parents, but the rest got cut up and blanched.

Broccoli ready to be blanched
Cut Broccoli, ready to blanch.

I let a big pot of water come to a boil, dropped in a colander full of cut broccoli and let it boil for about 3 minutes.  I have a bowl of ice cold water set a side for when it is time.  After boiling, I held it in the ice bath for about 3 minutes before putting it on towels to dry.

Drying Broccoli

Get as much excess water out.  If you have a salad spinner, this would be great to use here.  I wrapped it in this tea towel and squeezed out as much water as possible.  The problem with this is it does smash the broccoli and it doesn’t come out as pretty.

Once this is done, put the broccoli in a single layer on a cookie sheet or cutting board (or any flat surface that will fit in the freezer) and let freeze for a few hours.

Frozen Broccoli, ready for storage.

Now I am ready to put them in a reusable storage container and put them in the freezer.  This will save us a bit of money from having to buy store broccoli plus I know how it was grown.

Frozen Broccoli for storage.

I think I have used all of our plastic storage for broccoli.  Time to get some more I would think.  This broccoli is now ready for homemade stir-fry, one of my all time favorite meals.

What do you like to do with broccoli?  I’d love to hear your favorite recipes!



What One Weeks Worth of Trash Looks Like For Us: Week 2

Seeing what we send to the landfill is eye-opening if you have to collect it in a glass jar.  This week, we collected 1 quart and 1 pint mason jar of trash, plus one random pile of plastic neither of us (my husband or I) know where it came from.  It could have come from our carpet install that happened this last week.  In any case, I can’t find a reuse for it so it will end up in the trash.

1 Quart Jar and 1 Pint Jar filled with trash.

Below is an analysis of what we threw away this week:

  1.  1 used end to a shaver.  Since my husband now grows a beard, this rarely ends in the trash.
  2.   6 capsules from my cats medicine.
  3.   4 contact metal foil wrappers.
  4.   A small pile of band-aid wrappers.   My husband suffers from bloody nipples and we are both training for a half marathon.  This is the only thing that prevents that.  He wears them a few days before tossing them.
  5.   2 Lens Wipes.
  6.   A pile of used floss.
  7.   Foam from our carpet install.
  8.   About 8 stickers from produce.
  9.   3 drink seals and 1 plastic cap.
  10.   1 small piece of butter wrapper.
  11.   Plastic tape from a package we received.
  12.   2 small lumps of dryer lint.
  13.   About 7 receipts that are non recyclable.
  14.   2 Q-tips.
  15.   Plastic wrap from TP.
  16.   Wrap from brats my husband had for lunch yesterday.
  17.   Wire ties from a head of lettuce
  18.   A small piece of hard plastic.  I don’t even know where it came from.
  19.   2 pieces of plastic wrap from produce.
  20.   1 metal lid from a jar of olives.
  21.   3 chip bags.
  22.   3 individual drink packets.
  23.   1 plastic ziplock bag.  It had holes so I couldn’t reuse it, 1 carrot bag and 1 bag from sliced almonds.
  24.   A small pile of random plastic (top of a tofu container, part of the packaging from hotdogs, cheese wrap, a piece of cottage cheese seal, the cut top from a pet food bag and a package of sliced cheese.
  25.  1 Tetra package from Tofu.
  26.  3 plastic windows from envelopes.

Items not pictured:

  1.  2 small pet food bags filed with cat waste.  I reuse any bags that would otherwise end up in the garbage empty to use of disposed of cat litter.
  2.  4 small pieces of old wood trim still with nails in it.

After reviewing the above list of items in our waste jars, I can conclude the following:

  1.  Our pets produce more waste than we do.  This is because I can’t flush the clay litter and they refuse to use the biodegradable (healthier) litter that’s very expensive.  Our cats are stubborn.
  2.   95% of the waste my husband and I create are from food packaging.  The rest is medical/bathroom waste.
  3.   99% of the waste my husband and I generate is non-recyclable plastic waste.  We recycle everything else that we can.

A few limitations we have from producing less waste:

  1.  We are in winter 6 months of the year so our access to local produce is non existent during this time.  We rely on the produce from the grocery store which is wrapped in plastic, binded with wire and/or has produce stickers.
  2.   Our grocery store bulk bins are limited.  Our main grocery store has bulk bins but last time I shopped there, I saw an employee opening lentil and pasta bags (that you can buy off the shelf) and emptying them in the bulk bins.  Defeats the purpose of buying in bulk, if you ask me.

A few take-aways to try to eliminate future waste based on the above trash collection:

  1.  Start hanging clothes outside.  It’s starting to warm up now so we won’t have need to use the dryer any longer.
  2.   Eat more home-cooked meals.  The more processed the food the more food packaging.
  3.   Pick produce with less stickers.
  4.   Find Toilet Paper without plastic.  I have contemplated ordering plastic free from a hotel supply company.  I will have to do some research on this.
  5.   Make my own butter.  I have done this before, but in reality, I am trying to come off dairy all together.  This idea will be continued.
  6.   Ask for no receipt.  Most of the time they print anyways so it will still end up in the trash, whether I take it or not.
  7.   Call up a local Mexican Restaurant to see if they sell chips in bulk.
  8.   Most of the mail we get comes with a plastic window in the envelope.  I have on my mind to start calling businesses to take us off the mailing list.

I would love to hear how you are progressing in producing less waste or if you have any tips for me!

Single Use Plastic and the Problem it Causes

One of the worst detriments to our environment is single use plastic.  Plastic does not decompose and the amount of products that we use that contain single use plastic is enormous.

Examples of Single Use Disposable Plastic:

  1.   Straws
  2.   Plastic Bags
  3.   Keurig Pods and Coffee Cups
  4.   Water Bottles
  5.   Plastic Silverware
  6.   TV Dinners
  7.   Plastic Cups

Many of these above things are unnecessary and are only used for convenience.  There is something to say about convenience, of course, but is it convenient for the environment?  These single use disposable plastic items are tossed out without much thought.  They go to the landfill where they sit forever.   They don’t decompose and sometimes the end up back in the environment where animals eat or get strangled from it.  You can see the damage it causes to animals here.

During a morning run, I noticed several straws littering the boulevard and decided to tally all that I could collect on a one mile circle.

10 single use plastic straws collecting on a 1 mile run

10 minutes and 10 straws were picked up.  This doesn’t include any other trash ready to get swept down the storm drains.

I challenge you to the following actions to combat single use plastic:

  1.   Say no to straws.
  2.   Bring in reusable bags to the store.
  3.   Use a reusable coffee cup, water bottle and cups.
  4.   Make more homemade meals.

It only takes the creation of a new habit.

  1.   Committing to a new habit may take 3 to 4 weeks to become a norm.
  2.   Start small.
  3.   Being vocal about your request doesn’t always work perfectly.  Sometimes you ask for no straw but you get one anyways but at least you tried.

I am going to challenge myself and you to bring along a bag on my walks around the neighborhood or the beach.   Create a habit to reduce the amount of single use plastic or any trash that ends up in the landfill and rivers that can have a devastating affect on our wildlife.

What One Weeks Worth of Trash Looks Like For Us

We have been cutting back our trash over the course of the year by making things ourselves and buying from bulk.  This not only reduces trash but also reduces our dependence on plastic.  My intent is to bring in less plastic into our home because all plastic ever created still exists on this earth today.  Plastic is very bad for the environment as it never breaks down.  It can be recycled, but in all honestly, the term down-cycled is more realistic.  Recycled plastic will never be as good as the original version.

1 Quart Jar, 1 Pile of Meat Packaging and 1 bag of bones

I left out the bathroom garbage from this shot but it’ll be broken out into piles in pictures below.  It wasn’t much anyways.  We had a bit more unusual trash this week because my husband made homemade burgers.  I mean like he bought steak and did his own meat grinding and everything.  That is the reason for the packaging to the left, and the bag of bones to the right.  He did boil down the bones and made a beef broth soup for lunch so they got use out of them before they were thrown away.

A pile of meat trash and a bag of bones

We had 1 styrofoam meat package and 4 more plastic packages, one being a beef stick package.  The bones to the right were from one package of meat.

Trash broken out into piles

Most of the above pic was included in the jar photographed.  The rest was from the bathroom garbage.

An Analysis of what is in our garbage last week:

  1.  Parchment Paper for homemade buns.  I will be looking into silicone baking equipment to prevent this type of waste.
  2.   Cap tops and the plastic around wine/alcohol bottles.
  3.   Saltine Cracker wrappers – I can’t have chili without crackers.  I am going to try to make my own crackers from homemade bread.
  4.   A bag of chocolate chips.  I was a glutton and ate the rest of a bag of chocolate.
  5.   Lens wipes.  Not sure how to prevent this waste.  I have looked into making my own but there are warnings about damaging glasses.
  6.   Jar lid.  I’m not sure if these are recyclable.
  7.   Tube of Toothpaste.  We go through these once every two months.  I use some of my homemade toothpaste to reduce the amount of tubes thrown away.
  8.   A bag with bread dough.  This can’t be recycled.
  9.   A few pieces of butter wrappers.
  10.   Vegan meat patty wrappers.
  11.   Cheese/Salad and miscellaneous food packaging.
  12.   A cap for a bottle of Kombucha.  This may be recyclable.  My husband makes his own Kombucha now so this waste will be eliminated.  This was a left over bottle in the fridge.
  13.   A pile of floss.  This will never go away.  Oral hygiene is very important to me.
  14.   Medicine packaging.
  15.   A receipt.  These are non recyclable.
  16.   Plastic ties from bulk.
  17.   Lint from dryer.  This will be eliminate when I can hang my clothes out to dry outside.
  18.   Tofu plastic wrap and a wrapper from hot cocoa.  I will make my own hot cocoa when I run out.  I like to add it to my morning coffee.
  19.   Pieces of the paint from our siding.  It’s chipping off like this.  This is something we may need to replace in the next year or two.
  20.   A tag from a blanket
  21.   Pills for my cats arthritis.  This trash may always be produced as my cat’s well-being is very important to me.
  22.   Bandaid waste, a cotton ball and two cotton swabs (with paper stick).
  23.   A couple of drink packages (tea and Emergen-C).
  24.   A pile of plastic wrapping from a rug we bought online.

This also doesn’t include  pet waste.  We have 4 cats that produce more waste than we do.  I try to get them to use the World’s Best Cat Litter, which can be disposed of in a compost pile or the toilet, but they have refused to use it.  I will keep working on this.

I will challenge myself to analyze my garbage once a week to see what I can eliminate from trash.  There is always an alternative option to creating waste but you have to consider what is worth the effort.  I don’t think we will be completely waste free but we will minimize what we create as trash.  If I can convince one person to do this challenge with me, it will all be worth it.

Easy Homemade Almond Milk for Vegans

I made a new vegan homemade almond milk.  Due to treatment of factory farm animals, I am trying to move towards a more vegan lifestyle.   We have been buying the “humane” milk; however, that doesn’t change the way that milk is produced.  Baby cows are still taken away from their mothers so that the milk can go to us, instead of the cows.  I can’t support this.  But I still crave a morning bowl of cereal sometimes.  Enter in Almond Milk.

I had made coconut milk and I still love that; however, I was left with a lot of coconut pulp that I wasn’t sure what to do with.  I do have almond pulp left over from the process, but I can easily find a way to incorporate this in more foods we currently eat than coconut.

A couple of things to consider before making Almond Milk.

  1.  Buy unseasoned raw Almonds.  Organic is preferred, however it is way more expensive.
  2.   Don’t forget to soak.  Soak for at least 12 hours.  This softens the almonds for a better texture of the finished milk.
  3.   Make sure the water to nut ratio is correct:  4 parts water to 1 part nuts.
  4.   Blend long enough and make sure you strain well.
  5.   Flavor your milk.
  6.   Use fresh nuts.

How to make homemade Almond Milk.

  1.  Soak nuts over night.  12 hours is a good average.  Your water should be murky when it’s ready to go.  Strain from water.
  2.  Rinse well.
  3.  Add nuts to high speed blender.  Add the appropriate amount of water given the ratio above.
  4.  Most recipes indicate to use cheese cloth but if you have a great strainer, that works too.  I don’t want to use cheese cloth once then throw it away so I used my metal cheese strainer and it worked pretty good.  Some of the smaller bits got through but I’m okay with that.
  5.  Store in mason jars and refrigerate.  This may be the time to add flavoring like vanilla extract, cinnamon, a date or agave extract.  Source says to use it within 2 days.

My next goal is to figure out what to do with yummy almond pulp.

Bowl of Homemade Almond Milk Pulp

I will slow bake it in the oven to dry it out but below are a couple of options.

What to do with left over Almond Pulp:

  1.  Grind it finely in order to make Almond Flour.  This will be great for many baking purposes.
  2.   Coat chicken breasts and bake.
  3.   Add to salads, smoothies or muffins.
  4.   Add to cookie batter.
  5.   I am making homemade biscotti tomorrow for the first time so I’m going to add a bit to the dough before I bake it.
  6.   Add it to crusts, make crackers or add it to facial scrubs or homemade soap as an exfoliator.

I would love to hear your experiences in making Almond Milk.  Have you made other nut milks?  What is your favorite?  And please, I would love more ideas on what to use almond pulp for.

Re-purposed Wood Pallet Turned Into Kitchen Artwork

Earth Day is today and it came so quickly.   Usually I try to find some new way to “be more green,” but I just hadn’t had the time due to the craziness at work so instead, I thought I would reflect on the things that I have done to become a more earth friendly inhabitant and maybe a few things I can do better.

Earth Day happens during the best part of the year, SPRING!  I love when trees bloom, grass turns green and the temperature improves.    It allows me to get out my bike and get it ready for my work commute.  I do pride myself on how little I drive in the summer.  Biking actually takes less time than driving, but I mostly bike because  I don’t like adding pollution to the air.  It is also great exercise and saves me a bunch of money!  Not only in gas but also maintenance costs.

My husband and I have cut back the amount of meat that we consume.  I just finished reading the book “Eating Animals,” by Jonathan Safran.  This book provided research on what factory farming has become and I don’t want to associate with that.  We have cut out almost entirely all factory farm meats and actually found some soy products that are actually great replacements.  Beyond Meat has a great chicken for stir fry and a beef crumble for spaghetti or any similar recipes.  I actually prefer these over the real thing.  On occasion we will find clearance meat at the grocery store that we will buy.  It’s better than it getting thrown away.

We have composted nearly 100% of our food scraps.  Only meat bone and fat are thrown in the garbage.  I have an awesome compost pile that I actually have lots of fun mixing and seeing it turn into black gold.

I have started making a bunch of homemade food goods like ketchup and peanut butter for example.  Also been buying a lot of things in bulk.  Much of our food purchases usually come from the produce section which means a lot less plastic waste.

One of our biggest trash component, is our cat litter box waste.  I have tried using the World’s Best Cat Litter (which can be flushed) but my cats have refused it.  They had decided to not use the litter box so I had to go back to the clay.  They are old and set in their ways.

A couple of other things I can work on it cutting back on TV time and shower time.  There is so much more to do than watch TV, but some days, you just need to veg and unwind; like after a long hectic day at work.  We ended up getting in a rut where that’s all we did so this week we cut it back to one show.  This is a massive cut back for us!  Shower time, this will be more difficult to cut back on.

That is enough reflection for now.  On to my most recent re-purposed art project.

Every spring our city allows you to put anything on the boulevard for trash pick up during the first week of May.  During this same week you will find all of the metal scrappers coming out to pull out any metal they can sell.  I will randomly find things that I really like too.  In the past I have pulled out a desk chair, laundry baskets and old wood and have been able to put to use for years.

One thing that was destined for the boulevard was a couple of wood pallets.  However, I found a use for one that I just adore.  When I start a project that I plan end up blogging on, I usually forget to take pictures until I am half way done.  So I don’t have a beginning picture of the pallet, only an after it was taken apart.

Reused Wooden Pallet

The were cut without measuring so they would have an uneven look.  This is the look I was going for.  I picked the side that looked a bit dusty because I liked the gray tones.  Once the boards were cut, I sanded down the sides and pulled any splintered edges.

In order to attach them together, I flipped them over to the backside, and nailed in a couple of strips of plywood pieces.  This looked pretty hodge-podge so I won’t share a photo of it.

Originally I wanted something that I could hang in my kitchen/living room area because we have bare walls.  I decided to paint a pear, so it would fit in with the kitchen, but when I hung it up, it actually looked so out of place.  I will need to find a new place for it.

I actually had a lot of fun painting it.  I had a set of acrylic paints I had for years but hadn’t opened yet.  I like acrylics because you can use water to thin it out instead of turpentine.  It got me motivated to get back into painting and art.

Below is the final project.

Repurposed Pallet Art

I think we will end up hanging it in our remodeled garage area; we have a 2nd story to our garage that we only use for storage.  Please see ugly before picture below.  We have just started the demolition part.

Garage Remodel

I would love to hear what changes you are making in order to be more green.  Please leave me a comment; I need more ideas!


How Marie Kondo Changed My Purchasing Habits

Marie Kondo is a name that is familiar with a lot of people.  Marie wrote a popular little book called, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  I first came upon this book while shopping at Urban Outfitters.  It caught my eye because I have always struggled keeping my place clean and I don’t know why.  I just thought I was too lazy.

Months later, I decided to buy the book and give it a shot.  I didn’t read it for a good while, but had already understood the concept of this “art of decluttering,” as I had begun the task of removing from my house what doesn’t bring me joy.  I knew I would have some tough categories to go through, that which I saved until after I read my book.

The book came with me on vacation and managed to read it within the first few days.  In my mind, while thousands of miles away, I was already purging my possessions.  I just had to get home to put them in a box.

It has been about 6 months since I started and I have already donated about 30 boxes of things that I no longer need.  One thing I didn’t like so much about the book was that Marie said to throw things out, instead of donating them.  Since I am limiting my waste, I couldn’t imagine throwing away 30 boxes of usable things into the trash.  This would include clothes, CD’s, dishes, etc.  The rest of the stuff was either recycled, and a few items given away to friends.


When you remove so much stuff from your home something shifts in your mind.  I don’t want to refill my house with stuff anymore so shopping doesn’t have the same thrill.  I don’t have the compulsion to buy or spend money.  Of the things I do need, I try to buy second hand, try to mend that which I already have, or I just go without.  I also don’t see the need to holding on to things that I may need in the future.

I have not yet gotten to the organization part as I am still working on a few of the difficult categories of the purging process.  I have a box of sentimental items I want to reduce to half and for some odd reason, I can’t quite part with a box of stuffed animals and beanie babies.  I also have a box of glass cat statues.  When I was younger, my mom and I would go to rummage sales.  Every time I would see a cat figurine I would have to buy it.  It didn’t matter what it looked like.  I felt like if I purchased it, I would love it and make it feel special.  I know it will be fun opening that box and taking out all of the figurines I have collected over the decades but I do not know if I can make myself get rid of them.

I think there definitely is truth to the book being magic.  It has helped me helped me see things as objects, not as things that contain my memories.  I hold the memories in my mind, not the object.

Cleaning even is less of a task now.

The true joy to me is being able to walk into my house and see that everything has it’s spot.  To see that all of my hard work has paid off by additional time given back to me instead of on cleaning.  More time that I can spend doing the things that I love to do.

Vacationing Via Cruise Is Easy; But Watch Out For The Plastic Straws

It has been a while since I posted.  It has been a combination of being very busy at work and very lazy once I get home.  I thought I would post today about our most recent vacation.

Last month I took a vacation and I had wanted to try being Zero Waste as much as possible.  There were some successes and some failures.  But overall, I have learned a few things that I will try for next time.

My husband and I took a cruise on the Norwegian Jade.  It was perfect timing and I really needed a vacation.  I needed a reason to not think about work for a week. Also, to be able to eat and not clean up.

Typically, I only carry my luggage on because I hate the whole checking luggage process as it wastes a lot of time and is a huge inconvenience. This time my husband was going to check his luggage so I just put my stuff in with his.  One checked luggage between the two of us wasn’t bad; but it still created the checked luggage sticker waste that you can’t do anything with besides throw it away.  This was to and from.

We stayed at Best Western Plus JFK Inn & Suites in Houston for two nights in February; one at the beginning of our vacation and once at the end.  The stay was fair but the customer service was wonderful.   The downside of our stay here was that breakfast for my husband and I created a lot of waste since many things were individually wrapped and dishes were all paper and single use destined for the trash.  I couldn’t see any recycling stations for plastic waste so everything we created ended up in the trash.  I was selective in my food choices; but, everything created waste.  The juice comes in individual wrapped plastic containers, the coffee are single serving containers.  If you want a satisfying breakfast you will create waste.

Breakfast Waste

I had brought my reusable coffee cup which I forgot to bring down for breakfast.  I don’t have a zero-waste kit that has sustainable silverware so that is something I will invest in for my next trip.

Once aboard our cruise, we wander around a bit to see where we will be living for the next week.  If you have never cruised before, you should definitely give it a shot.  The food is amazing and there is plenty to do.

Norwegian Cruise

We sat down to lunch, and had our first adult beverage.  Thus far, I felt pretty good about the amount of waste I was producing daily.  Dinner comes out on glass dishware and we have fabric napkins.  We end up eating all they bring out.  Through the cruise dining, we find out that bread comes out with every dinner.  This fills us up before we get to the main course so we eventually request no bread every time we sit down.  We don’t want to waste food, if we can prevent it.

Another thing I noticed is ALOT of the bars on board serve drinks in plastic cups with straws.  I decide that I am not going to order any drinks that come in these cups.  My husband on the other hand did so we ended up producing about 10-15 drinks worth of plastic cups and straws.  Even when I put up a small fight about this with my husband he commented that he was here to enjoy himself and wasn’t going to worry about waste.  I couldn’t argue, could I?  I mean we were on vacation and I was arguing about a few plastic straws.  The cruise line did recycle so I stopped worrying about that.  I just decided to pick my battles.

We stopped at 3 destinations: Cozumel, Mexico, Belize City, Belize and Roatan, Honduras.

In Cozumel, we didn’t have anything to do so we just walked around the port area.  We did have an amazing lunch.  Best guacamole ever!

Mexico Lunch

In Belize City we took a bicycling excursion through the rain-forest.  When we made our decision on the excursion types we did, I wanted to choose the type where we were being sustainable and humane.  There were ATV excursions and horseback riding excursions.  I don’t want to produce excessive pollution and I didn’t know what kind of life the horses had so I didn’t want to support that.  Plus I like active excursions because on the ship, granted there is a gym, it’s easier to sit back around a pool than to run.  I needed to get some fitness in somehow.

On our bike excursion my husband got to sample a termite.  He ate a terminate.  I couldn’t fathom doing this.  Apparently they taste like mint?  Who’d have known.

We had some delicious local lunch (plantains are amazing).  We saw a little friend hanging out in the water while we were eating.


After lunch we had some time to relax by a pool in Belize City.  We chose a couple of comfy hammocks.


On board the ship again for a couple of days we ate buffet for breakfast and lunch, listened to Bob Marley live music, hung out in the library to read and just relaxed.  It was awesome.

Our last stop was Roatan, Honduras.  It was such a lush island.  We did the Gumbalimba Park excursion.  We got to meet tropical birds and monkeys.  Going into this, me not liking monkeys, I was a bit concerned.  We did get to meet a few birds personally.

Honduras Tropical Bird

It rained the whole time we were out there.  The tour guide said to expect wet and stinky monkeys.  The first time they jump on your shoulder you aren’t really ready.

Honduras Monkeys

We have one more relaxing day before we arrive back in Houston.  We get to tour the Houston NASA Space Station as one final excursion.  We got to see Mission Control…

Mission Control

…and the NASA Training Center.

NASA Training Center

The vacation was much deserved and I learned a lot for my next vacation.

  1.  Be vocal.  Ask for no straws.  The first few times I have done this I get a confused look.  The more you do this the more confidant you will become and easier it will be.  Also, if you have an idea to make an establishment more sustainable, tell them.  I sent an email to the hotel in hopes they replace disposable plates with reusable ones.
  2.  Try new things.  I never thought I would have an enjoyable experience that includes monkeys.
  3.  Travel light.  Over packing only means you will have to unpack more things when you get back.  Most often you don’t need these extra things anyways.  Also, we washed our undergarments and socks in the sink (I brought laundry detergent with me) so I wouldn’t need to bring as much.
  4.  Instead of becoming upset when you are given a drink with a straw, use it as a learning experience and practice ways of asking for no straw.  This can pertain to anything, not just straws.
  5.  Bring along a zero-waste kit.  You can find these online before you travel.  It will take little space in your luggage and you will produce much less waste on your travels.

Do you have additional ideas on how to travel zero-waste?  I would love to hear them!

Turn the Castoffs of Coconut Milk into Coconut Flour

I have made my third batch of coconut milk this weekend.  In my quest to go trash and plastic free, this is one change that has also been cost effective.  I can easily spend over $4 for a half gallon of unsweetened coconut milk.  This store bought coconut milk comes in a vessel that is non recyclable in our city, so it ends up in the trash.

By making coconut milk, I end up with the scraps of coconut that didn’t make it through the colander.  Some of what I made with the castoffs were these Energy Balls.  But I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with this leftover coconut.

So, I made coconut flour.  This will make many baked goods gluten free; if you replace regular flour with this.  It’s really simple too.  When you strain the coconut milk from the coconut, make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as you can.  You will have to dry the coconut on the counter for awhile or you can dry it in the oven over a few hours.  I actually opted for both.  I have cats so I can’t leave anything on my counter.  They have a growing like for coconut milk too so I needed to overnight dry the coconut in the oven.  I just left it in there with the oven off.

The next day, I used Wellness Mama’s advice and popped it into the oven at the lowest setting for about 3-4 hours.  I put the pulp on cookie sheets and I checked on it every hour or half hour to ensure it’s not browning.  At about 3.5 hours it was ready to come out.  A few flakes had a touch of brown on it but that didn’t matter.

Coconut Pulp

Then I put it in the food processor and to grind it up as finely as possible.  Mine never got to a powder consistency; however, it’s going to work for me.  Our food processor got warm when I ran it for more than a few minutes so I had to give it a few breaks to cool down.

coconut flour

I have my flour stored in a mason jar on my counter currently.  I found a site, Coconut Mama that has quite a few 100+ Coconut flour recipes you should check out.  I ended up making the Coconut Flour Pumpkin Bread.  I didn’t cook it long enough, unfortunately, so I don’t have a photo of it.  But the above site would be great to save for future recipe ideas.

From making coconut milk, I will end up with lots of flour so I will need to find more uses for it.  So I made this homemade soap.  It literally took 5 minutes using the microwave and melt-able goat’s milk soap base.  I added some dried up rosemary that was for cooking that was about to go bad and I also added in some of the coconut flour for texture.  This will be good as to exfoliate.  I added in some Winter Green Peppermint essential oil for fragrance.  It looks and smells amazing.

coconut soap

My soap isn’t in a very cool shape because I don’t want to buy soap molds.  Instead I use what ever container I have around to shape the soaps.  You can use old milk containers, muffin tins or any other container you have around the house.

Do you have any grace recipes to use coconut flour.  I’d love to hear them!

Vegetable Broth Made From Scraps

I was reading the blog, The Rogue Ginger, start to finish over the course of a week recently.  I not only learned about going waste and plastic free, but I also learned that making vegetable broth is EASY.   The carton that we buy vegetable broth in is non-recyclable in our area so it would always go into the trash.  On my quest to go waste free, I happened to come across the steps to making homemade vegetable stock that I can freeze in mason jars.  This is perfect.

By the way – go check out The Rogue Ginger‘s site.  Lots of great recipes and tips.  I honestly don’t know how I found it but I am glad I did.

For the past two weeks, I collected all of my carrot, onion and celery scraps and put them in a separate container in the freezer.  I keep my compost in my freezer too (in a re-purposed metal coffee canister) until it’s full and ready to go outside. These three veggies are called mirepoix, a flavor base for stocks and broths.  I learn something every day.  You can add more veggies than just these 3.  Check out the image containing veggies to skip on the Rogue Ginger’s post.

I saved up about 5 cups worth, then put it into a pot on the stove top.  I put enough water to cover the veggies and so I can easily stir it.  Next, you add the spices.  I combined the Rogue Ginger’s herb combinations with the kitchn‘s.  I ended up adding Basil, Bay Leaves, Parsley and Thyme.  I eyeballed it; about a teaspoon of each, but it depends on how much water and veggies you have.  This will be a learning experience since this is my first try.

Vegetable Broth From Scraps

I got it to simmering, stirring every now and then for about an hour.  I let it cool for a while, then filtered out the veggies and herbs with a colander and a coffee filter.  I will be composting the coffee filter.

Store them in the freezer or in the fridge and use within 5 days.

**Update – I won’t need to strain the veggies from the broth with anything other tha just the collander.  It doesn’t matter to my husband and me if there are bits of veggies and spices left over.

Gave Into Snack Craving; Ends Up With Mountain Of Trash

My company put a box of Starburst on my desk after work hours as a reward for hard work.  How did they know sugar and chewiness are my favorite combinations of candy indulgence.  I had a moment of weakness as I caved and ate all of my Starburst in one sitting.  Now, I am left with this mountain of trash that is mostly plastic.

It was packaged in a box, then in a bag, then each candy individually wrapped.  It is going to be sent to the landfill (minus the box because that’s recyclable) and just sit there amongst the rest of the trash that will just be there forever.  I would have been happy to decline; but I wasn’t given the opportunity.

Candy Waste

I am not happy that I did this.  If I didn’t eat this treat, someone else will.  However, now I know how I feel when I encounter a craving that will leave me with this much trash.  I am more inclined than ever to follow a plastic and trash free life as ever.

Plastic Free Dishwasher Detergent

I have been obsessing over having a plastic free and trash free lifestyle.  This is a slow change in progress as I have a husband who prefers convenience; plus, he does all of the grocery shopping.  I don’t want to throw 0% waste at him all at once.  It would never happen.  So, I am trying to remove as much plastic from my life as I can in my chores by means of making things myself.

I have been using homemade laundry detergent for a while and I love it.  It is plastic free and very easy to make.  I have heard debates on whether or not Borax is safe.  Well, I have been using it for about a year or more and I haven’t had any issues: rashes or skin irritations.  However; I am going to try a new recipe next time (I am soon out) that is Borax free to see how it works.

I am soon out of my store bought dishwasher detergent (my husband bought not knowing I had planned to make my own).  I wanted to use up what we had first before making my own.  I don’t like wasting.

Store bought detergent doesn’t contain ingredient list. Claims it’s safe for the environment.

I tried finding an ingredient list on my store bought detergent, but I couldn’t find one.  Look at all of the warnings on this stuff.  This is “Eco” detergent, “Friendly to Lakes and Steams.”  It says Phosphate Free; but since there isn’t an ingredient list; I am not confidant in this claim.  I am maybe reconsidering my dislike of wasting.

Toxic Dish Detergent

I wanted to find a non-toxic, plastic free recipe for dish washing detergent.

I found a recipe I wanted to try on thank your body.  For dish detergent, I wanted something borax free for sure since you use dishes to put food into your mouth.  I didn’t want to chance it.  This recipe was easy.  I had to only buy citric acid; the rest I already had in my pantry.  Citric acid is good for cheese making too (which I learned today).  So whatever you have left over, you can use to make cheese too.


  • 1 1/2 cups citric acid
  • 1 1/2 cups washing soda
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sea salt


Combine all together.  Blend out any lumps.  Store in a sealed canning jar with lid.  The jar that I used had been storing canned tomatoes.  Instead of throwing out the lid, I labeled that this jar contained dish-washing detergent.  It can be reused infinite times.

Three of the ingredients of this recipe are food-based.  Washing soda is closely related to Baking Soda; it’s also known as sodium carbonate and can also be created from sodium chloride, also known as table salt.  This plastic free homemade detergent will be much safer for your dishes and for you.

Easy Homemade Energy Balls

Energy Balls DIY

After I made my homemade coconut milk, I was left with over 2 cups of coconut that I could use for anything else.  I didn’t want to waste it and throw it in the compost bin, which was my initial thought.  I searched Pinterest for recipes that included coconut and came across many yummy ones, but I didn’t want anything with added sugar or covered in chocolate.

I hit the jackpot when I found The Organised Housewife’s blog post about Healthy Chocolate and Coconut Bliss Balls.  I had to try it because I had most of the ingredients and it’s a sure way to curb cravings mid-day when I would otherwise reach for a naughty snack.  Below is the recipe I took from The Organised Housewife:

  • 2 cups medjool dates
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • ⅓ cup cacao
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut

Okay, so I didn’t have all of the ingredients so I made some substitutions.  I used raisins instead of dates, and I didn’t have the 2 cups of nuts.  What I did have was about 1/3 cup of walnuts, so I supplemented the remaining with oatmeal.  I am sure it doesn’t taste AS good but it works until I can buy nuts for my next time making this recipe.

  • Combine the dates/raisins and nuts in a food processor.  I probably blended for about 45 seconds.
  • Add the cacao and coconut and blend for another 60 seconds.  After it’s done, the food processor will tell you by throwing the ingredients around in a big ball.  Scrape down the sides.
  • Roll into balls any size you want.
  • Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

I still have over a cup left of the coconut so I could use it to make the following:

  • Homemade soap and add the coconut to exfoliate.
  • Use in a breading concoction for coconut crusted chicken, fish or shrimp.
  • Make homemade Almond Joy or Mounds.
  • Homemade smoothies.

DIY Gold Leaf Artwork

This project has been on my mind for months.  I collected leaves in October for this artwork but I could never get started.  I had my leaves pressing between newspaper for a few months and I thought it’s about time to get it started.

I have been checking out our local thrift stores for cheap smallish artwork pieces with a good mat and nice frame.  The frame to me was the most important part.  I could always make a new mat.  One of them was only $2.99.  That’s cheap!

Homemade Leaf Art 1

My original intention was to use the leaves in their original condition and paint the frames gold.  Since then, I have decided to paint the leaves gold and keep the frames in their original color.  Most of the leaves turned a brown color so I figured gold would make them shine a bit more.

The first step was to dismantle the frames and remove the matting from the print that came with it.  The prints weren’t actually ugly so I thought it may be cool to just mount the gold leaves onto the existing background.  My husband nixed that idea.  What does he know anyways?  🙂 I ended up damaging one of the prints because it was taped to the mat so I couldn’t do much with it then but to throw it away.

The next step is to  paint the leaves.  I had to paint mine a couple of times so it had a good coating of gold paint.

DIY Leaf Art 1

Look at my oak leaf shimmer in the sunlight.

DIY Leaf Art 31

Now is also a good time to select the background you want in the finished project.  I had lots of nice scrapbook paper laying around so I selected my favorites that went with the frame, mat and leaves.

DIY Leaf Art 21

Next, cut your scrapbook paper or background to fit the frame and decide on the look of how you want your leaves to appear once complete.  You can have your leaves straight up to down, or at an angle.  You can have more than one leaf in each frame to if you want.  Think outside the box here.

Last step is to glue down the leaves.  I don’t think it matters what type of glue you use.  I had Alene’s craft tacky glue laying around that glues clear so I used that.  I would recommend gluing on the spine of the leaf as opposed to the leaf itself.  When the glue is all set and dry, reassemble the print and attach a mounting device if you do not have one.

DIY Leaf Art 41

Assemble on the wall as you like.

DIY Gold Leaf Art Display 1

Easy Homemade Coconut Milk

I have been obsessed with Coconut Milk since I found that the unsweetened kind had barely any sugar.  It’s nearly 0%.  I have been trying to reduce my sugar intake; milk being really high in sugar, was the first thing I considered removing from my diet.

If I had realized how easy it was to make this stuff, I would have been making this for a long time.  I found a recipe to try out on Wellness Mama here.  I figured I’d give these instructions a try, and if needed, I would alter or add more coconut, based on my taste preference.

I had sweetened coconut shreds in my fridge I wanted to use, so this isn’t the true unsweetened variety that I want, but I wanted to use it and there is no better way than to use it for something I need anyway: coconut milk.  So I measured what I had available, which was about 3 cups.

Homemade Coconut Milk 12

Based on the ratio on Wellness Mama’s site, this didn’t match so I had to do some math.  Brings me back to the good ole days of junior high school or elementary school.  When did we learn ratios, I don’t even remember.

Homemade Coconut Milk Calculation 1

So my recipe called or about 6.85 cups of water to 3 cups of coconut shreds.  Wellness Mama used approximately 1.75 cups of coconut shreds to 4 cups of water.  Adjust as you see fit.

Heat the water to hot, but not boiling.  I went a bit too far with the temperature so I let it sit for a while.  Once it was at a good temperature, I added the coconut and used an immersion hand blender and blended it for a couple of minutes.

Then you send it through a colander to collect the coconut and release the coconut milk.  Originally I had planned to use a colander and a coffee filter but this deemed TOO slow so my husband told me to use the metal strainer (which he uses for cheese).  Worked like a charm.  I owe him credit: thanks Ben!

Homemade Coconut Milk Strainer 1

I popped the coconut milk into the fridge to cool for a while before I put them in my reusable bottles.   Love these things.  I found a box of them in our garage and thought they were perfect!  I think they were purchased years ago to make homemade booze and gift them, but that never happened.  I will put them to use in a different way.

Homemade Coconut Milk 21

Now, I need to find a use for these left over coconut shreds.  No reason to put them in the compost bin when they can be used in a healthy recipe.  More to come on that.

Homemade Coconut Milk Shreds 1

Remember to shake your coconut milk before you use.   This should last me a week or so.  I will update with how it holds up.

Homemade Non-Toxic Deodorant

Now that I do not plan to purchase regular deodorant anymore I needed a replacement if that one day I forgot to use my Crystal stone and it ends up being a really stressful day where I sweat a lot; I have something to fall back on.  In order to not smell up the workplace, I wanted to try to make a homemade deodorant with healthy and non toxic ingredients.

I found this tin among all of the garbage in my husband’s car and I was about to throw it or recycle it.  This is a perfect size for storing my deodorant.  Please note: I am not sure if I would travel with this container because if the deodorant does liquefy, I do not feel confidant that this container will contain what’s inside.  This is really a trial run with this deodorant since I do not know if it will work for me.  I will add an update after I give it a go for a few months.

Deodorant Tin

I won’t document the process with images or a video since there is a great video on Trash is For Tossers here.  The recipe is below.

2 Tablespoons Arrow Root powder

1 Tablespoon Baking Soda

1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil

1 Tablespoon Shae Butter

5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil

Combine all of the above ingredients and melt down in a double boiler.

Transfer into a jar or a canister that has a lid and pop in the fridge for 10 minutes to solidify.

**You can replace Arrow Root powder with cornstarch.  I had to order my Arrow Root powder online so if you already have cornstarch, use that instead.

What One Week of Trash Looks Like For Us

It is estimated that each person generates 4.3 pounds of waste every day.  This is 1.6 pounds more than back in 1960.  Over the course of one week my husband and I would generate 60.2 pounds per week, not including our cats.  It felt like we were so far from that number that we could consider ourselves low waste.  So we decided to do an experiment to see how we rated among the average.

For one week we collected all of our trash to see what we actually throw away.  We are going to collect our trash at work, at home and if we go out.  Below is a summary of what one week of trash looks for us.  I started with a rough estimate that 25% will come from food packaging and the other 75% comes from pet waste.

Our bin contained 3.5 pounds of household trash and our 4 cats made 16 pounds of pet waste.  What kinds of stuff did we consider trash?

  1. 1 broken hanger
  2. 1 dozen egg carton
  3. 2 incandescent light bulbs from our rental properties
  4. 4 bottle tops
  5. 1 takeout bag of disposable cup and soiled wrappers
  6. 4 cartons of polyethylene cardboard.  This is not recyclable in our area.  1 of which comes from my coconut milk which I plan to make my own when I run out of what we have already.  One was an egg white container and 2 were from soup broth.
  7. About 1 cubic foot of packing tape, peanuts and other shipping materials
  8. A tape dispenser that was about 15 years old.  We do not use much tape in this household.
  9. I accidental left out a bunch of pesto from our freezer last week.  When my husband found it it was too late to save.  All of the plastic bags had to be disposed of.
  10. Food wrapping: spinach bag, cheese wrapper, butter wrapper, chip bag, a container of ice cream, tea bag wrappers, meat wrappers, saltine wrapper, plastic cling and 2 ziplock bags.
  11. Lint from our dryer from 3 loads of laundry
  12. 4 single use lens wipes with wrappers
  13. 2 Andes chocolate wrappers from dining out at Olive Garden
  14. Empty bag of bath salts
  15. Wrapper for rubber gloves for deep cleaning our toilet
  16. 2 slips of paper stickers came on
  17. 2 single pouches of hot cocoa for a movie night with a friend
  18. Bathroom waste: floss, 3 Q-tips and 6 pill enclosures for my cat who needs Cosequin for her back.
  19. Gym waste: probably about 4-6 wipes to clean off our equipment.  This one thing I didn’t even realize I was throwing away until after I did it.  I was not about to grab my wipe out of 50 already trashed for this project so I left it there.

Much of the above waste did come from it being Christmas week.  The mailing waste was from a Christmas gift my mother in law from California shipped us.  A couple of the ziplock bags were from homemade Christmas cookies.  The rest seems to be typical weekly garbage.

After seeing all of this, I don’t think we do create LOTS of trash, but we can eliminate some by doing the following things:

  1. Make food from scratch.  And we generally do so the polyethylene packages of soup was a unique piece of trash that ended up in our bin.  My husband generally makes homemade broth a few times a year from turkey or chicken bones that gives us a few meals from it.
  2. Buy meat and cheese from the deli or meat counter by bringing your own to-go container.  This will definitely be a huge change for my husband since he likes convenience and he does the grocery shopping.
  3. Buy tea from bulk.
  4. Buy loose veggies and bring your own bag.
  5. Hang dry clothes.  1) they last longer, 2) you save money not using the dryer and 3) they don’t create lint you have to throw away.
  6. Compost all food waste, except for bones, meat and dairy (which I now do all year long). The U.S. EPA says about 24 percent of our waste is organic material that can be composted.
  7. Avoid single use items.

Going waste free isn’t an over night process.  The first step is tracking what you actually throw away.  By seeing it all laid out in front of you, you can start implementing simple changes to reduce what you throw away.   You will be surprised how easy it is to throw things away without thinking about it.   But these things don’t go away forever.  They go to a landfill where they slowly, or never degrade and create toxic gas that pollutes our air.

Things That Could Be More Green

Sometimes an idea comes to mind.  A small idea that would make less waste or one that is just simpler.

  • Okay, so this is an out of date idea, maybe, but why do you have to get prints or CDs when you bring in disposable cameras.   I have 5 sitting here needing to get developed but I just want to load them into the cloud and not deal with the clutter of prints and CDs.  Why can’t I bring in the cameras and they 1) all be put onto one CD or 2) be added to a flash drive or 3) email me all of the prints.   Any one of these options would be simpler for me, create less waste for me and less to store for me.  This maybe isn’t a huge deal since disposable cameras will soon be extinct anyways but Walgreens shot down all of my ideas when I called them.  Bummer.   I understand that mostly this is because the cameras are shipped off location to get developed.

*UPDATE – I went to Walgreens and they said that I had no choice to get prints.  The CD was optional.  I left and went to a local grocery store where they said I do not need to get prints and all 5 disposable cameras can be loaded onto one CD.  Score!

  • Receipts are just like plastic bags.  They are given to me by obligation (or default) but I never (rarely) use them.  They just pile up in corners, pockets and desk drawers for me to look at and wonder why I still have it.  Why can’t they ask if I want a receipt instead of printing and handing me one or offer to email me a copy.  Some companies do this, like GAP and Banana Republic, but more should have this as an option.

Do you have any  ideas on how companies could modify their processes to be more environmental?

An Update from a Lazy Blogger

I admit it.  I am a very lazy blogger.  It doesn’t mean that I am not doing things to remove waste from my life and to be more green.  Au contraire.   I wanted to at least write an “update” blog about what I have been up to lately and layout a plan of future blog posts.

Food changes:

Mid October to mid November (30 days) I decided to do a no-sugar, no-flour cleanse.  Other than the obvious, I also didn’t use milk, cream or fried foods.  During this process I found alternatives to almost everything I ate.  I was able to stop my lunch addiction of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after this challenge.  I also mostly stopped drinking milk.  I have switched to coconut milk (unsweetened).  I was surprised by what foods had lots of sugar in it: Ketchup, BBQ Sauce, milk and lots of ingredients to my favorite stir fry recipe.  It’s just not the same without all of that sauce.  I don’t think I will ever be a vegetarian, but my husband and I have been making purchase decision for more organic produce and meat selections that are more humane.  We have definitely cut back on the amount of meals we make that contain meat because there are so many soy/meat alternatives that are a good substitute.

Due to me switching to coconut milk, the only downside is that they come in non recyclable containers.  However, there is a solution.  I found a recipe for EASY homemade coconut  milk that I will blog about once I use up my current purchased supply.

This is the first year that I haven’t sent any food scrap to the trash, with exception to bones.  I have diligently been collecting scraps in the freezer until I have enough to bring out to my compost bin.  Since it’s winter here the less trips outside the better.  I have also been reading up on the proportions of Carbon to Nitrogen in the compost pile so next year I will be more prepared.  I may even buy some worms.  Sounds like they speed up the compost process quite significantly because they eat half their weight per day of compost.

Thing changes:

Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has really inspired me.  I haven’t bought the book or even read it all.  I read a chapter or two while at a popular clothing store.  It spawned change in me to really consider why I have so much stuff and what do I really need.  What brings me joy?  I have broken down my possessions into categories and purged, sorted and donated within one category at a time.  This is an ongoing project and I am still working on it, but making a lot of progress.  What do I hope to gain from this?  The idea that I don’t need to buy so much.  I can eliminate duplicate items since everything has a spot and should be easy to locate.  I will have more free time since I will have less time finding things and cleaning.  The current thing I am working on is contacting junk mail companies to remove myself from mailing lists.  Less physical clutter makes a more peaceful mind.

One of the things that I have been doing lately is taking inventory of items we throw away.  Especially items that are in plastic packaging that cannot be recycled.  I ask myself, “Is it something that I can replace with an alternative, eliminate or make myself?”  One of these things is deodorant.  These things can almost never be recycled.  Not even the cap.    I found an alternative: Crystal Deodorant.  It is a mineral salt deodorant that doesn’t clog pores with nasty chemicals.  I find that I don’t sweat or get stinky using this every day.  I also found a recipe for homemade deodorant on the Trash is for Tossers website I plan on trying out.   I figured on days I forget to use Crystal, I will have a stash at my work desk so I won’t worry about giving off an unpleasant odor.

I was excited to find that our local grocery store has a selection of certain items in bulk.  I plan on using the bulk section more often for certain staples.  With this, I needed a means to take home these items without generating a plastic bag and tag that would go into the trash.  My solution was to make some homemade bags.  One that I created was from a pillow case that had torn.  I was able to make a bag to bring home my cereal without producing waste.  I made two smaller bags from the bottom of pajama bottoms that had also torn.  I made bags from the usable portions.  This solves the issue of plastic bags, but I still have to bring something up to the register to indicate the number of the purchase.  I plan on making reusable bag tags from tags I already created from wrapping paper waste.  They can do double duty in the form of gift tags.  I look forward to starting that project.

I don’t necessarily think of my cats as “things” but maybe they are.   I tried switching their litter to one I can flush.  They shut that down pretty quick.  I had to switch back to the clay litter, but I am going to integrate back the non-clay variety back slowly.  America’s Best Cat Litter is not only flushable (which would eliminate half of my trash) but it’s also healthier for the cats.  I am focused on getting them switched, whether they like it or not.

These are just a few of my ramblings on how I plan to reduce waste.  I don’t think I will be able to get down to 100% waste-free since Fargo ND doesn’t have as many option as I’d like.  But I am going to try.  I would love to hear about your ways you are reducing waste.  If there is anything you want to share, please leave me a comment below.

Journey to Zero Waste – Eliminating Excess

I started reading through a book on organizing while I was at Urban Outfitters called, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever” by Marie Kondo.  Since I was thinking about going Zero Waste when I found this book, I thought now is the best time to start getting rid of stuff and having a better method of organization.  One take away from that book that just makes complete sense, is to organize by category, and not by room.  Over the past month I have picked a few categories of stuff to go through: coats, towels, bedding, etc.  

Today’s task was to finally go through my clothes.  I have SO much and the thought of tackling this overwhelmed me.  I knew I hung on to clothes I didn’t wear at all or often enough to keep, but I always think that eventually it will go with something so I don’t want get rid of it quite yet.

I eventually found the guts to begin.  I started with emptying my entire closet.  Everything I own came out and onto the bed.  It took about 30 minutes to sort each article of clothing by type: cardigans, t-shifts, pants, etc.  It’s good to see everything you own in this category as you will see that I obviously have too many t-shirts.


I did struggle on a few decisions.  Below are questions I thought of when I was hesitating on letting go:

  1.  Does it bring me happiness?

2.  How does it feel when I wear it?  There were a couple of tops that I didn’t wear because it was itchy, or I didn’t like the pockets.  So they were easy to let go.

3.  Am I keeping it for sentimental value only?   I found I had lots of sadness thinking about getting rid of a dress my grandma (who passed away 5 years ago) made for me when I was about 15-16.   But I had never worn it.  I decided to take a picture for memory sake and to donate it to our local thrift store.  I pray someone will like wearing it.  I also have attachment to anything with a cat on it.  I forced myself to get rid of t-shirts with kitties on it.  Someone else will find just as much joy in owning them as I did.


4.  When is the last time I wore it? When is the next time I will wear it?   If I can’t remember or I don’t know, it’s time to get rid of it.

5.  Does it fit?  If not, why are you keeping it?

I notice when I dress myself for work I tend to wear the same things over and over, so why do I have so much clothes.  I want to make getting dressed easier by having less options.  Cutting back will make that happen.

Homemade Laundry Soap

I am now on my second batch of laundry detergent.  I have never thought powdered detergent would be effective.  But this stuff IS.   I found the recipe here.  I have a very messy husband who stains every shirt he wears daily, so I require something powerful.   Honestly, I don’t know why he owns anything but black t-shirts.

The hardest part of this recipe is shredding the Fels Naptha soap.  You need 1 bar of Fels Naptha.  You may actually get carpal tunnel shredding this thing.  I shred mine very fine; almost like a dust consistency.

Homemade Laundry Soap

Then you stir in 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda.    Stir it really well.  And that’s it!  Easy Peasey!  I store mine in a glass jar with a clamp locking lid.  I shake it a bit every once in a while to ensure it is mixed thoroughly.  When it’s laundry day, all you need is one tablespoon per load.  This stuff works amazingly!

Homemade Granola

I have been looking for healthy snacks while I am at work.  My wonderful friend made me some plain yogurt, topped with fresh fruit and granola while on vacation and I wanted to make some homemade granola for this.  I came across a health granola recipe which I HAD to try since I had all of the ingredients.  That never happens at all.

Go check out Elizabeth Rider’s blog here for the recipe.  It’s easy and quick to make.

Journey to Zero Waste

I have been following a Zero-Waster, Lauren Singer at her blog Trash is for Tossers.  I was inspired by knowing that I have an option to use products that are non toxic.  I have for a long time bought good beauty products like Dr Bonner’s soaps and Beauty Without Cruelty shampoos.  But I didn’t realize you have another option.  Homemade beauty products.  Being less toxic is not the only reason I am researching and learning more about being zero-waste.  I don’t like throwing things away either.  I get a ping of guilt when I find I don’t have any option but taking something that is individually wrapped or I have to take my produce home in a plastic bag because it’s more sanitary.  By making smart choices in your shopping you can reduce your waste too.  I plan to document things I am doing by going waste free so hopefully I can inspire you as well.

My husband and I don’t produce much waste as it is.  Honestly, my 3 cats produce more waste than both of us combined.  Having three cats makes it more difficult to go completely waste free.  I definitely don’t plan on toilet training then, but we can still try our best to reduce our what goes to the landfill.

Another blog that inspires me is Zero Waste Home.  I love how assertive she is in maintaining her goal of being a waste free home.  Something she says that I will never forget is, “shopping is voting,” and that couldn’t be more true. What we buy creates demand for more products.  I don’t want to buy individually wrapped products enclosed in shopping.   Unfortunately, I live in a place that doesn’t have lots of bulk options.  One of our local grocery store did however add more bulk bins recently, but they could definitely improve their selection even more.

A couple of things I plan to do to improve my waste production:

  1.  Sew produce and bulk bags to bring with me to the grocery store.
  2. Learn to make more homemade products.  I currently have made my own toothpaste and have used it a few months now.  I have made my own laundry soap.   I have bought ingredients to make my own dish detergent and shampoo.
  3. Become more conscience about my purchase decisions.

I would love to hear how you reduce your waste.  Please leave me a comment below.

DIY Toothpaste

Every year around Earth Day I get inspired to make a change to be more environmental.  I happened to find this awesome website Trash is for Tossers, which is just what I was looking for this year.  I have always been intrigued at creating Zero Waste so to find this website right before Earth Day was perfect timing.  I am going to try making my own stuff to eliminate packaging from entering the landfill and also to save a little money and control the chemical ingredients that come in contact with my body.  Below is the recipe for making your own toothpaste right from Trash is for Tossers:

Toothpaste Ingredients: (feel free to double or triple recipe)

2 Tablespoons organic coconut oil

1 Tablespoon baking soda

15-20 drops food grade mint extract

Directions:  Mix it all together.  Store in your medicine cabinet in a cute mason jar.  Run under warm water if too hard, or put in the fridge if too soft.

“Green” Wrapping Paper

I am always trying to find ways to making Christmas greener.  I haven’t used new wrapping paper in such a long time.  Wrapping paper typically isn’t recyclable so most if not all ends up in the trash can.  This year I tried something different.

With all of the Amazon online ordering I did this year for Christmas I ended up with a lot of Kraft paper that was box filler.  This is good wrapping paper that you can decorate with your own artwork and it’s recyclable too.  I used ribbon that I have had from past Christmases so I didn’t use any virgin materials this year for Christmas.

I did have a little help wrapping presents this year.


Next year, I plan to Christmas shop using a new trend – subscription boxes.  There is one for everyone.

DIY Landscaping – Weed Prevention

I read once that if you lay down newspaper in your garden, and then place soil on top and garden as usual, you will prevent weeds in a natural way.  Since I don’t subscribe to the local newspaper, I figured I would just use magazines that were in the recycling.

DIY Gardening 1

I am adding pea gravel between the garden boarders and the walking path stones.  I plan on planting some succulents next year on the pea gravel within the boarder stones.

DIY Gardening 3

It’s going to be winter in no time so I am trying to get my landscape ready for hibernation and getting the perennials in so they acclimate enough prior to dying back.  My garden is very rough right now as I only really have an outline of where the flowers will go next year.  But I have a vision.

DIY Gardening 2

Above is a photo of the whole space I am updating.  It is very narrow and long.  Awkward for a lawn so I tore it up to create a garden.  I am getting the hardscaping installed this week and more perennials as well.

When ever I work on a garden I use green or natural materials.  I use homemade compost, I dig up my garden with old fashioned gardening tools like a hoe or rake, use magazines or newspaper as weed repellent.  I don’t use pesticides or chemicals on my flowers.  I love spending time in my garden and am excited to see how it comes together next year.

Origami Butterflies

Origami is a great way to create a unique backdrop or centerpiece with just using a bit of paper.   I am in love with butterflies so I found this easy origami technique and had to try it myself.  I am a visual learner so here are simple instructions with photos:

PicMonkey Collage Row One 1

1.  First you have to start with a perfect square.  I had some already cut paper in long strips so I just folded one edge over to meet the other to form a triangle, then cut.

2.  Fold it diagonally both ways, then in half both ways as above.

3.  Fold the left and right sides inwards as above.  It will turn into a triangle when flattened out.

PicMonkey Collage 22

4.  Start with the triangle so the flat edge is at top.  Then pull down the left and right edge towards the bottom center (left photo).

5.  Flip butterfly to other side and pull down the center top so the tip overhangs the flat bottom.

6.  Flip butterfly over again and fold the tip over to the other side.  Slightly bend inwards the sets of wings.  This will separate the bottom wings a bit.

Once you get the folding steps down you can do one of these in 15 seconds or less.

Now you can place a dot of glue over that little tab you folded over so everything stays in place, but if you do, it’s no longer origami, but Kirigami.


Ways you can use origami butterflies:

1.  Baby mobile or hang them from the ceiling in a kids room.

2.  Artwork – use a few of different sizes and use pins to adhere them to the back so they pop.

3.  A backdrop for a wedding or implement them into place settings or table numbers.

4.  In replace of a bow for wrapped presents.

5.  Window displays in stores.

6.  As a cat wand toy.

7.  Get a bare branch and paint it a metallic color or black.  Glue some brightly colored butterflies to the branch.  Can be used as art in the house.

8.  Christmas ornaments (used wrapping paper).

9.  Wedding cake toppers/decor.

10.  Party garland.

I used scrapbook paper, but you can also use homemade paper, newspaper,  wrapping paper, book or magazine pages.  Each of these different papers will create a way different look.

Decorate With Your Favorite Books

Many people assume books are made for bookshelves.  Think outside the box and design with books throughout your home, not just in your library.  Use the below pictures as inspiration.  And, by using the books you already have, this is a way to change up your space without spending money.

On a shelf

Against the wall


Waterfall Art

Book 1

On a staircase:



Antique books or sorted by same color:


On a ladder:


As an end table:


Painted Shimmer Jars

I have always wanted to try painting jars.  It looks so easy.  You can really be creative.  You can add designs, add several colors, or paint multiple sizes and shaped jars and group them together in a vignette.

I had some baby food jars laying around that held little crafting things like buttons or string.

I used fingernail polish remover to remove all of the glue left behind after I took off the label.  I tried Goo Gone but it didn’t remove the glue.

Then I made sure to wash them very good on the inside since that is where we are putting the paint.  Make sure they are dry.

Pour in enough paint to be able to cover the entire surface of the inside.  Then swirl the jar around until it’s all painted.  I emptied all the extra paint back into my paint jar so I can use it for later.

Now I have cute little decorative jars I can put almost anywhere.  It took me about 10 minutes and less than a couple bucks.

Reduce Waste and Save Money

I put on a pair of slipper socks the other day and I realized that I have had those socks since I was in elementary school.   This is 20 years.  This got me thinking to what else I have held on to without replacing.  I see a lot of us wanting to get the newest and greatest thing when it comes out.   Here is my golden list of things that I have had for a LONG time.

  1. My car.  It is a 2000 Saturn and has just over 90,000 miles.  I barely drive and bike as often as possible.   It would be cool to get a new car, but that would also mean a car payment and possibly higher insurance.
  2. My cellphone.  Verizon told me that I have had my cell phone since January 2011.  I do not have a smart phone.  I am okay with that.  My phone is much cheaper and it does what I need.  I am online enough, I don’t need another distraction.
  3. My slipper socks.  20 + years old.  I actually don’t think I have bought socks my entire adult life.
  4. My tennis shoes.  I found a picture with them that was over 4 years old.  I don’t run and they fit like a glove.
  5. My winter coat.  I think I got it in 2000.  It’s showing it’s age, but I love it, it doesn’t look like it belongs to a homeless person yet, I will hold on to it a bit longer.

Replacing things frequently costs money and I don’t like spending money.  Plus, lots of things that are replaceable generally still have life in them.  Consider holding on to your things a bit longer to reduce waste.