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The Benefits of a Plastic-Free Kitchen

plastic-free

From storing last night’s leftovers to shopping at the grocery store, plastic is everywhere, especially in your kitchen. It is important to understand that some plastics contain a hazardous mix of chemicals, such as:

  • Phthalates, which affect the reproductive system
  • BPA (bisphenol-A), which disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen

As you may be aware, these chemicals can leach into whatever food or beverage you put in them, in amounts that vary depending on your use. For instance, if you microwave plastic containers or bottles, or put hot liquids or foods into them, BPA leaches into your food or drink 55 times faster than when used cold. There is also evidence that chemicals leach from plastic faster when the container is:

  • Old or scratched
  • Frequently put in a dishwasher
  • Washed with harsh detergents

Knowing those facts, you’re probably wondering what steps you can take to transition out of using plastic in your kitchen. Here are a few tips:

Skip Plastic Wrap and Baggies

Plastic wrap and baggies are usually a go-to when saving leftovers. But plastic wrap can leech into your food, and every year 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away in America. Make a transition to reusable food wraps made of beeswax or LDPE #4, a low-density, recyclable plastic. Our food kozies and snack bags are a perfect option, or you can try to DIY with this step-by-step guide.

Save Leftovers in Glass or Stainless Steel

At first, it may seem hard not to use plastic for food storage, but switching to glass or stainless steel is a much healthier option for you and your family. Some helpful tips include:

  • Save glass jars and searching second-hand stores for glass containers in good condition.
  • Purchase stainless steel reusable food containers for takeout and leftovers.
  • Buy glass containers to cook, bake and for storing leftovers.

Skip Plastic When Food Shopping

From produce bags to check out, plastic is everywhere when grocery shopping. Do your best to skip the plastic by purchasing food in bulk in reusable bags, skipping fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic, and bringing reusable jars and containers for other loose items.

Cutting the plastic out of your kitchen may seem overwhelming, but by following these 3 small steps you’ll be able to easily transition to a plastic-free kitchen!

Looking for more ideas on how to live plastic free? Check out our infographics: Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Kitchen and Safer Kitchen Guide, created in partnership with EWG’s Healthy Child Healthy World.

4 Ways to Make the Most of your Halloween Pumpkins

pumpkin

Halloween isn’t the same without carving a jack o’lantern. But have you ever considered alternate uses for your decorative pumpkins post-Halloween? Just 3.5 ounces of pumpkin provides 100% of the daily value of vitamin A, which is essential for normal vision, fighting infection and healthy skin.

With a little pre-planning before tossing out those pumpkins, you too can reap the benefits that they have to offer.

Roast the Seeds

An ounce of pumpkin seeds gives you close to 20% of your daily requirement for magnesium and zinc. Magnesium plays a vital role in nerve, muscle and cardiac function, and also maintains strong bones. Meanwhile, zinc aids immunity, healing and fertility.

To prepare seeds from pumpkins, scoop them out, wash off any remaining flesh, boil for 10 minutes to soften and dry on a towel. You can then roast the pumpkin seeds with a olive oil and salt in the oven at 250 degrees F for 45 minutes. Add seeds to salads, granola, smoothies or yogurt!

Bake the Flesh

So many people discard pumpkins once Halloween is over without realizing what they’re missing. Skip the canned stuff and make your own pumpkin purée in a few easy steps.

The flesh of a pumpkin provides a good serving of beta-carotene which your body converts to vitamin A.  Use the pumpkin purée in many food recipes including pies, breads, muffins and soups.

Blend it Up

Pumpkin spice everything! Use that purée as an ingredient in fall flavored smoothies.  Follow this easy recipe for a drink packed with vitamin A, potassium and fiber.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 5 ice cubes
  • 1 cup unsweetened soymilk or coconut milk beverage
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Top with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. Makes 2 servings.

Make a Mask

Since pumpkins are packed with zinc, antioxidants and vitamins, they help in protecting skin from wrinkles and age spots. They also gently exfoliate, giving a more radiant complexion. Follow these steps for an easy DIY mask:

  • Make your base: Whisk together about 1/4 cup of pumpkin purée and one whole egg. The yolk adds nourishment while the white provides a subtle tightening effect to sagging skin.
  • Dry skin additive: Add a few teaspoons of honey, which not only seals in moisture but prevents breakouts thanks to its antibacterial properties.
  • Oily skin additive: For an astringent effect, mix in a splash of apple cider or cranberry juice.
  • Apply: Smooth the pumpkin-y potion over your face, relax for 15 to 20 minutes, and rinse to reveal a brighter, firmer, smoother complexion.

Pumpkins do so much more than foster the spirit of Halloween; they foster good health as well. Looking for more waste-free Halloween ideas?  Check out our Pinterest board full of our favorite spooky treats and decor.

5 Ways to Use More Glass and Less Plastic

glass

When looking around your home it’s hard not to notice all the plastic. From food wrappers to your beauty cabinet, plastic is everywhere. Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic every year, and only 8 percent gets recycled. The rest piles up in landfills, is incinerated or becomes litter.

Replacing less-durable and potentially toxic plastic with glass or stainless steel is not only good for the environment, but also good for your wallet and your health. With a little organizing and creativity, it’s easy to incorporate glass or stainless steel into your everyday routine.

Transition Your Beauty Cabinet

Plastic containers commonly house everyday toiletries and fill your bathroom. Instead, choose to fill your makeup cabinet with these plastic-free alternatives:

  • Visit a shop that will refill shampoo, conditioner, lotion and other products in your reusable glass jars.
  • Make your own beauty products and keep them in small glass jars or our mini containers.
  • Use bar soap free of questionable ingredients at every sink (even the kitchen!) instead of buying plastic soap dispensers.

Freeze Leftover Food in Glass or Stainless Steel

Skip the single-use plastic bags and containers and opt to freeze food in glass canning jars, glass containers or stainless steel containers. When freezing, always leave space at the top for expansion. Our glass containers double as bakeware and can go from freezer to fridge, to oven/microwave, to table, to dishwasher. Click here for more plastic-free freezer tips from Treehugger.

Infuse Water and Teas in Glass

If you’re looking to add a little flavor to your beverages, skip the pre-made drinks in plastic containers and opt for making your own. Brew your favorite flavors of tea in a large glass jar or carafe and enjoy hot or iced. Also, try these ideas for infused water to enjoy.

Shop Plastic-Free

More and more grocery stores are offering bulk food sections for everyday items like flour, beans, nuts and coffee. Our friend Lauren Singer at Trash Is for Tossers has an informative article on cutting the plastic out of your grocery shopping by using glass jars and reusable bags.

Decorate Your House

You can find beautiful and unique used jars and containers at second-hand stores and by looking in recycling bins. Get creative and utilize them around the house:

Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. Use these tips around the house and start your plastic-free journey!

 

 

How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Halloween

eco-friendly

Halloween is notoriously one of the most wasteful holidays because just about everything is wrapped in plastic and designed for single-use. From costumes and decorations to candy and parties, Halloween can take a toll on the environment.

However, with a little planning, it’s possible to participate in Halloween fun without creating all the waste!

Hand out plastic-free treats

There is a movement to replace candy treats with healthier alternatives, but this often means families are giving out plastic—and sometimes toxic—throwaway treats like glowsticks, plastic toys and juice boxes.

Instead, hand out eco-friendly treats that inspire creativity:

• Paper folding fortune tellers
• Origami animal shapes
• Felted wool animals
• Pencils and erasers
• Riddles on paper
• Small homemade books
• Seed packets

Make your costumes

Store-bought costumes are not only usually disposable, but they can sometimes contain dangerous chemicals and toxic flame retardants. Also look for alternatives to traditional face paints, and see the results of a report that tested 48 Halloween face paints for heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. You don’t have to know how to sew to put together creative homemade Halloween costumes. Find out how to make eco-friendly costumes from things you have around the house by visiting our Pinterest board.

Use plastic-free treat bags

Forgo the plastic pumpkin bucket and use a small cotton treat bag that also doubles as a lunch bag. Get one here with a reusable cotton napkin for $5.95. They’re the perfect sustainable party favor too.

Use earth-friendly decorations

It’s much more fun to spend an afternoon with your kids making decorations out of fabric or recycled paper rather than going to the party store. Black construction paper bats, cheesecloth spider webs, candelabras, old branches and vintage decorations can be used over and over again. Use old clothes to make a newspaper-stuffed headless man for your front porch. And don’t forget to compost your pumpkins when Halloween is over. See our Halloween Pinterest board for some DIY eco-friendly decorating ideas.

Pickle Your Garden Fruits and Vegetables This Fall!

garden

If you head to your local farmers market every weekend or have a garden of your own, you know that fall offers a wide variety of delicious in-season vegetables. With so many options it can be hard to pick, but luckily you don’t have to! Pickling provides a delicious alternative to keeping those garden vegetables fresh for the winter months to come.

Apples, beets, cranberries, cabbage, rutabaga, cauliflower, onions and squash are all in season and perfect for pickling. Before you begin the process, make sure you have pint-size (2-cup) canning jars or similar-size tempered-glass jars with lids equal to the amount you’d like to pickle.

Step 1: Prepare Fruit or Vegetables

Wash and chop your veggies into whatever shape you’d like them to be pickled in (thin disks work well if you’re unsure ). Cabbage is easiest when shredded.

Step 2: Divide Vegetables

Divide the vegetables among the pint-size (2-cup) canning or other glass jars. Place them inside the jars and leave some room.

Step 3: Add Flavorings

Add fresh or dry flavorings, if desired. Don’t be afraid to mix and match a little! Some of the best dry flavorings to start with are peppercorns, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds and caraway. Use between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon of these dried spices per jar.

Step 4: Make Brine

Make either sweet or sour brine using these recipes:

Sour Brine Recipe

Makes: 6 cups. Combine 3 cups distilled white vinegar (or cider vinegar), 3 cups water, 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sea salt and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt is dissolved. Let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Sweet Brine Recipe
Makes: 6 cups. Combine 3 cups distilled white vinegar (or cider vinegar), 3 cups water, 1-1/2 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sea salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

If canning apples try this recipe, and for cranberries try this recipe.

Step 5: Fill Jars with Brine

Carefully fill jars (or containers) with brine to within 1/2 inch of the top of the rim, covering the fruit or vegetables completely. Discard any leftover brine. Place the lids on the jars (or containers) and push to the back of the refrigerator. Let them sit back there for at least a week while the flavors soak up. Keep jars in the fridge for up to 6 months.

If you grow other vegetables in your garden, try canning them this fall and perfect your recipe. These jars make great hostess or holiday gift ideas.

Did you like our pickling idea? Let us know on social media! Post your picture and tag our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page. Also follow our Pinterest page for our favorite waste-free ideas and inspiration!

3 Halloween Costume Ideas You Can Make!

halloween

Autumn is here and Halloween is just around the corner. Halloween is a fun holiday full of treats, scares and the opportunity to dress up! Making your own Halloween costume allows you to be creative, have fun, save money, and lessen your impact on the environment.

Here are three ideas for costumes you can easily assemble using found materials or items you may already have around the house. These ideas work for men, women, and children’s costumes.

Mummy

Turn an old white bed sheet or piece of fabric into a DIY mummy costume! Start by taking 5-10 teabags and placing them in a bucket of boiling water. Let the tea steep for 20 minutes and place the old sheet in the water. Soak the sheet for an hour to give the fabric an aged appearance. Hang the sheet outside to dry or place in the dryer. Cut or rip the fabric into long strips. Put on white or light colored clothing and find a volunteer to help you wrap strips around your arms, legs, torso and neck!

Witches and Wizards

If you’re in a time crunch and need a quick and easy costume, this is for you! All you need to make your Witch or Wizard hat are paper, scissors, a ruler and some double stick tape. Follow the step by step instructions here.

Finish off your costume with items from your closet or a thrift store. For a witch costume, find a black dress, striped tights, black shoes and a broom. For a wizard costume, find a robe, graduation gown, or make your own with a sheet or tablecloth.

Cardboard Dinosaur

We love this idea from hello, Wonderful that we couldn’t help but share. This is not only a great idea for kids but adults as well. All you need are three cardboard boxes, paint, white mat board, glue and scissors.

These costume ideas are just a starting point. Exercise your imagination and embellish your costume anyway you like. Check out our Pinterest Halloween board for more suggestions on eco-friendly costumes and decorations!

 

 

Eco-Friendly Fall Decorations For Your Home

ECO-FRIENDLY

It seems as though every day in October is a countdown to Halloween. As you’re preparing to decorate this year, skip the store-bought items and choose a more eco-friendly option. Not only will you save money, but you’ll end up with unique, one-of-a-kind ideas that are gentle on the earth!

Most of our favorite ideas involve items you probably already have around the house including colored paper, scissors, string and glue or tape. Get creative and try to find items you can reuse to make decorations.

Themed Garland

Making a paper garland is an easy and fun project for the whole family. Ghosts, skulls and bats are easy to stencil and trace on construction paper, old magazines or newspaper. These ideas from HomeDIT cover Fall garlands and Halloween-themed garlands. Make the garland as easy as you like by choosing simple shapes and decorations. Kids can decorate with crayons, paint and buttons to personalize.

Alternatives to Pumpkin Carving

If you’re hosting any type of fall gathering, we love this idea where you cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the insides to make a cooler for all types of beverages. Utilize the same idea for smaller pumpkins and line with smaller glass bowls to use for snacks or candy.

If you’re looking for a new kind of pumpkin carving, these updates on the classic jack-o-lantern light us up. Simply hollow out the pumpkin, trace a shape on the outside and create holes along the pattern.

Paper Punch Leaves

Make a day out of raking the yard and collecting leaves. While outside, ask your kids to collect a handful of their favorite leaves. Take them inside and punch them into beautiful shapes and press them in a book. If you don’t own paper punches, create a small stencil of a circle or square and have them cut out their favorite part of the leaf. Once the leaves have dried, use them as DIY confetti on your Halloween or Thanksgiving table.

Looking for more ideas? Check out our Pinterest board full of ways to reuse what you have around the house and repurpose into the perfect eco-friendly Fall and Halloween decorations!

10 Upcycling Ideas for Kids

upcycling

Upcycling is simply recycling with a twist…the term is used to describe the growing trend of reusing, restoring or repurposing old furniture, clothing or goods from around the house. The goal is to lower your footprint and save items from landfill by turning them into something useful.

  • Cork Stamps

Wine corks can easily be repurposed into stamps for DIY crafts and projects for kids. We love this alternative to rubber stamps, especially the ideas in this tutorial. Minimal tools are needed to make these stamps, but adult supervision is recommended.

  • Glass Jar Planters

This idea is fun and easy for kids and adults alike. Collect empty glass jars that you’ve used (salsa, pickle or empty candles are our favorite) and get planting! All you need is some potting soil, seedlings or cuttings, and small rocks for drainage on the bottom.

  • Shirt Pillows

Love that gently worn shirt, but not ready to get rid of it? Repurpose it by making it into a pillow. Use upcylced throw pillows as decorations on beds or couches. Here is an easy step-by-step guide.

  • Vintage Fabric Bowl Covers

Try this simple sewing project with kids to create homemade bowl covers from vintage fabrics. Save on plastic wrap with this waste-free idea, perfect for outdoor parties or picnics. They also keep the bugs away and keep food fresh.

  • Map Gift Tag or Bookmark

With the holidays coming up, making your own gift tags is a simple way to upcycle old items and save money. Find old maps in the car or at a second-hand bookstore and turn them into gift tags or bookmarks. Cut to size and finish by hole punching the top and adding your favorite string or twine.

  • Coffee Can Planters

If you buy coffee in bulk, then this is a great idea for you to repurpose those old cans. You can add more house plants inside or out with these few simple steps.

  • Cuff Coin Purse

Here is another upcycling project involving another part of your outgrown shirt. Follow this guide to make cute purses for money, cards, chapstick or keys. It’s an easy first-time sewing project for kids that makes a great holiday gift.

  • Magazine or Newspaper Garland

If you have a stack of old magazines or newspapers lying around, this project is a perfect way to reuse them. This idea is a creative way to decorate for any occasion.

  • Cereal Box Notebooks

Make your own adorable notebooks in eight simple steps using cereal boxes, buttons, string and optional accent paper. These sturdy notebooks are the perfect rainy-day crafts for kids, and make thoughtful homemade presents. Follow this step-by-step process and have fun with this creative  upcycling project.

  • Paper Bag Baskets

Have a stack of leftover paper shopping bags? Here is a great way to reuse them with a purpose. These will keep kids busy, and make great baskets for fruit or planted herbs.

All it takes to upcycle is your creative imagination and an eye for what can be used around the house. Check out our Pinterest board full of our favorite suggestions!