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Blog Share: Zero Waste Around the World

Zero Waste Around the World

So much of what you’re able to do to reduce your waste depends on whether there’s a culture of and facilities for shopping sustainably, composting, and recycling. So while some of the tips on zero waste blogs like mine apply universally, some certainly don’t, and it can be more helpful to connect with people who live close to you. To that end, here are a few of my favorite zero waste or simple living blogs or accounts based in countries other than the United States. Even if none of these are near you, they still offer beautiful perspectives on what it looks like to live simply and sustainably around the world.

Europe

Paris To Go is the queen of the long, in-depth, research-backed post; writer Ariana lived in Paris until recently and shares all her resources for living waste-free there. See all her posts about Paris here, or start here for a post that rang true to me of late. In the UK, Little Birdie features stories about slowing down and spending time outside, with photographs that always make me want to head straight out the door for a long walk. She’s not zero waste per se, but her practical and creative approach to eating seasonally, shopping thoughtfully, and using plants inside the home for decoration is a good one. In Turkey, Amira Made takes beautiful photographs of her simple, minimalist home and talks about how she approaches zero waste.

Africa

My friend Rachel of The Foraged Life recently moved to South Africa, where she posts about living sustainably, adventuring outdoors, and working toward environmental justice. It’s so good to watch her navigate her new country and learn more about life in South Africa. Amira lived in Libya until recently and started the group Zero Waste Libya. I’m not sure they’re active anymore, but their accounts still offer resources for the area – visit them on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Asia

In the Philippines, Dani shares snippets of her life and her zero waste / simple living challenges and victories on her Instagram account – her photographs make sustainable choices look even cooler than you already thought they were.

North America

Allison of Zero Waste Vancouver has the best tips for where to shop, eat, and compost in the area, and is generous with her expertise. I haven’t read much of PAREdown home‘s blog yet, but it looks like if you live in Canada they offer incomparable lists of resources for where to find what you need.

Elsewhere

I love reading stories about how sustainability efforts are different around the world and yet in many ways so similar – we have lots to learn from each other. It’s crucial that we choose to build bridges with people who live in other countries. While we watch governments deny the science of climate change and do less than they should, we can work on growing a worldwide culture that chooses and demands sustainability.

If nobody listed above lives near you or you want to find more resources in your area, you can find a larger list of zero waste blogs around the world here, complete with an interactive map. Or, if you’re planning a trip you can always reach out to a zero waste blogger in the area for tips on composting and grocery shopping, or just to find great local places to eat or visit. And for a few more ideas on building a zero waste community near you, I shared a few tips for how I approach it here.

This was reposted, with edits, with permission from Litterless. Image from The Guardian.

6 Toxins in Household Cleaning Products

Toxins in Household Cleaning Products

It’s easy to assume that household and personal cleaning products are clean and safe. However, most are loaded with toxic chemicals that can have negative effects on our health and the environment.

There are no federal regulations related to safety standards when it comes to common household cleaning products. This means that manufacturers can put just about anything in these products, without any significant testing. They may claim that trace amounts of these chemicals pose no risk to our health in small doses, but with consistent exposure over time, and in combinations that haven’t been studied, it’s impossible to gauge the risks.

It’s easy to make your own cleaning products with natural, non-toxic ingredients. There are also many resources that specialize in making organic, natural cleaning products that are safe for ourselves, our pets and the planet. Fillaree is a zero waste, sustainable soap company whose core mission is to reduce household plastic waste through refill. That’s a message we can stand behind!

Toxins in household cleaning products can be avoided by switching to handmade, natural alternatives. Here are some of the worst offenders:

Ammonia

Found in glass cleaners and furniture/silver polishes, this chemical is a respiratory irritant. Also, when mixed with bleach it produces a poisonous gas. Prolonged exposure can cause cases of chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Chlorine

A common ingredient found in scouring powders, toilet cleaners and laundry detergents. It can cause respiratory issues and thyroid disruptions with long-term exposure.

Sodium Hydroxide

Also known as lye, this is found in oven cleaners and drain-unclogging liquids. It’s extremely corrosive and can cause chemical burns on skin, and damage to the mouth and throat if inhaled.

2-Butoxyethanol

This is found in kitchen, window and multipurpose cleaners. This is what gives the cleaners that sweet smell and there are no regulations that require this ingredient to be listed. However, when inhaled, it can also cause respiratory problems and even liver or kidney damage.

Phthalates

Fragranced cleaners, air fresheners, and even some toilet papers are loaded with these chemicals. Phthalates are a known endocrine disrupter, even causing low sperm counts in men. Most ingestion is inhalation, but fragranced soaps are dangerous as well since the skin absorbs the toxins directly.

Triclosan

Found in lots of dish detergents and antibacterial products. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that can cause the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Not only is this counterproductive for cleaning, but it’s harmful for our health in the long run.

These are just a few common toxins in household cleaning products, hidden in plain sight underneath our kitchen sinks. Instead of posing a risk to our health, start 2017 by making the switch to natural cleaning products. Shop Fillaree to see all the natural options they can offer your family and home!

This was reposted, with edits, with permission from Fillaree.

5 Reasons College Students Should Switch to a Reusable Coffee Cup

reusable coffee cup

Luckily this generation of college students is way ahead of their parents when it comes to environmental awareness. But in some ways our current culture is more dependent on using and tossing in the name of convenience, and that daily cup of coffee is no exception. Using a disposable coffee cup can take a toll on our well being, on the planet and on our wallet. Take a look at five reasons college students should switch to a reusable coffee cup:

1. You’ll be healthier

If you get to know a disposable coffee cup you’ll ditch the habit pretty quickly. Paper cups can’t hold liquid unless they are lined with polyethylene to prevent leaking. As a result, the entire interior surface of your cup is most likely made of plastic, and your hot drink is basically bathing in it. And those white plastic lids are polystyrene, made from styrene, a synthetic chemical classified as a probable human carcinogen. Toxic styrene can migrate into your coffee or tea when hot.

2. You’ll help the planet

It’s estimated that 25 billion single-use coffee cups are thrown away every year. That’s about 3 million every hour, or 70 million per day. Contrary to popular belief, disposable cups can’t be recycled. They are almost always coated with plastic, which makes the entire cup destined for the landfill. Also, manufacturing bleached paper cups requires a substantial amount of water, energy and about 20 million trees a year. And those paper sleeves add up to about 2.8 billion pounds of trash sitting in landfills every year. Compostable cups are not the answer either: they are rarely disposed of properly, and either end up in a landfill where they will not biodegrade, or end up contaminating recycling facilities.

3. You’ll save money

Bringing a reusable coffee cup can save you money. Most coffee shops now give at least 10 cents, and many as much as 50 cents, if you bring your own cup. Most college students would love to save up to $182 a year.

4. You’ll keep your coffee hot

By using a vacuum-insulated coffee tumbler, your coffee will stay hot for hours. And, these double-walled stainless steel exteriors will not feel hot when filled with hot liquids, and will not have condensation when filled with cold liquids. Do you take your time sipping your coffee and hate using the microwave? Reusable coffee cups are the answer.

5. You’ll feel good

Busy college students and the convenience of a single-use coffee cup seem like a good fit, but the combination is incredibly unsustainable and actually pretty depressing. As we’ve seen countless times, making more mindful choices, purchasing with intention and understanding how our actions affect our community and our planet feels good. This is especially true for young college students who are learning about their place in the world and actively thinking about ways to make a difference.

More good news: many organizations, like our partners Turning Green and PLAN, are meeting with colleges across the country to educate students about waste, and encourage students to ditch disposables. In one campaign, Kill the Cup saved 267,000 cups from landfill and awarded grants to six winning colleges. Colleges need more coffee shops like Bar Nine is Los Angeles and the Eden Café in New Zealand where throwaway cups are banned. Do you know any coffee shops that don’t hand out a piece of trash with every cup of coffee? Let us know!

I Tried Going Completely Plastic Free for a Day

plastic free for a day

Living zero waste is second nature to me, but my attempt to go plastic free for a day didn’t even last until noon. I knew eliminating plastic would take some thought, but figured it would be easy enough for one day. My family is used to refilling shampoo bottles, using bar soap in the kitchen and banning Ziplocs. I was up for the challenge. After all, I practically do this for a living so how hard can it be?

A simple gift (made of plastic)

My first plastic-free errand was to find a gift for a friend. We have a lovely bakery within biking distance so I sent my daughter out to pick up a paper gift certificate. When she returned with a plastic gift card in her hand, we felt defeated. More than 75 million pounds of PVC from plastic cards heads to landfills every year. What I didn’t do (but maybe should have done): returned the card. What I did do: emailed the bakery with my feedback and vowed not to get a gift card there again unless they switch to paper.

A local newspaper (wrapped in plastic)

Not soon after, our local paper landed in our driveway. If rain is forecast, every paper in our community is delivered wrapped in plastic. We usually read the news online to avoid the waste associated with delivery, but in this case we don’t even order this paper; it is delivered to every household regardless. What I did: contacted them directly to discontinue the paper. We love the paper, but we don’t love the plastic. We’ll read it online.

An organic apple (with a plastic sticker)

Then I was off to the market and what I thought would be an easy place to avoid plastic. I bring my own produce bags, use my own containers for prepared food, and purchase in glass wherever possible, but I forgot that practically every piece of produce is stickered. A Swedish supermarket has a solution: by using natural branding on all of their avocados for one year, they’ll save 135 miles of plastic 1 foot wide. I love the idea of marking produce with a laser instead of a sticker, and I also enjoy the farmers’ market for plastic-free produce. At the grocery store, however, produce with plastic stickers is pretty much unavoidable. Going plastic free for a day was becoming a challenge.

A glass bottle of milk (with a plastic cap)

Next, I realized that our delicious glass-bottled organic milk has a plastic cap and a plastic seal; both go into our recycling bin but I have a feeling that they don’t meet the recycling requirement in our town. The refillable glass bottle is a throw-back to the good old days, and an amazing improvement from plastic milk jugs, but alas the disposable cap and seal are nonetheless plastic.

A receipt (coated in plastic)

Last, as we checked out at the market, we were asked if we’d like our receipt. The cash register prints it regardless, so if we decline a receipt it goes in the recycling. Because receipts are commonly coated with plastic BPA, they not only pollute our environment, but they also contaminate paper recycling.

Our attempt to go plastic free for a day barely lasted a few hours. If you’re inspired to try it, please let us know! We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. Lauren Singer said that living completely waste-free is impossible, but she also said that it is possible to take huge steps toward reducing one’s waste in as little as a single day.

5 Reasons to Step Up Your Food Storage with Stainless Steel

stainless steel food storage

Plastic food storage is certainly affordable and lightweight, but research shows that plastic can often leach chemicals into our food and drinks, which can harm our health. In addition to the adverse health effects, plastics are polluting our planet at an alarming rate. Take steps to swap out old plastic containers that degrade after prolonged use, and replace them with safer stainless steel. The benefits of stainless steel will help you justify the switch:

Durable, long lasting and less wasteful

Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. As the desire to reduce waste is becoming more common, people are increasingly choosing more dependable and durable materials that do not degrade or leach after years of use and dishwashing. The longer containers last, the happier you are, and the fewer resources are used to reach the goal of working toward a zero-waste lifestyle.

Non-toxic and non-leaching

As news about toxins in plastic food storage becomes more mainstream, people are seeking safer food-storage solutions by ditching their plastic and turing to safer alternatives like stainless steel. “As scientists become more aware of the chemicals that leech out of plastics and make their way into our bodies, they are uncovering a variety of health issues that result. This includes cancer, reproductive issues, immune system suppression and problems with childhood development just to name a few.” – One Green Planet

More hygienic

Because plastic degrades over time from use, hot water and cleaning products, the surfaces become scratched and difficult to clean effectively. Smooth, non-porous stainless steel is the ideal surface for food, with fewer opportunities for bacteria to accumulate and less risk of contamination.

Less expensive over time

Saving money is an important benefit of swapping your plastic containers for long-lasting stainless steel. There is an upfront cost, but it pays to invest in quality products that stand the test of time to save money otherwise spent replacing lower-quality items.

Completely recyclable

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. Alternatively, plastic is “downcycled” into another lower-quality plastic product that becomes one step closer to a landfill. Plastic Pollution Coalition reminds us: “Indeed, collecting plastics at curbside fosters the belief that, like paper, aluminum and glass, these will be converted into new similar objects. But this is not the case with most plastic. These products will still end up in a landfill, and therefore, they do not stem the need for more virgin petroleum product.”

Switching out your plastic food storage can take time, and if you’re still using plastic during your transition, check your plastic numbers to minimize your exposure toxins. Check out our full-range of stainless steel containers, including divided containers, insulated containers for hot and cold, and nesting sets to save storage space.

Reuse and Repair: Worn Wear College Tour

worn wear college tour

Reuse and Repair on the Road

As a mission-driven company our decisions are guided by our desire to offer products that will help change our throw-away culture. We get our inspiration from companies we admire, including the outdoor retailer Patagonia. This month, they are teaming up with our partner, PLAN (Post-Landfill Action Network), to lead an impressive Worn Wear college tour to mend clothing for free and teach people how to reuse and repair, with the goal of promoting a world with less waste. And they’ll be using U Konserve along the way to help reduce their food-packing trash!

The team leaves February 16th on the 21-campus tour in their cute rolling Worn Wear repair truck, Delia. Visit one of the colleges on the tour to get your clothes (any brand is ok) repaired by the team, and participate in zero-waste activities, attend workshops, film screenings, and speaker presentations focused on reuse and repair. You can also have your Patagonia clothing repaired by one of their 45 full-time repair technicians in their garment repair facility, the largest of its kind in North America.

PLAN

We’re very excited to be partnering with PLAN this year. Reducing waste directly through innovative student-led activities on college campuses, the folks at PLAN are serious about protecting our planet. They cultivate, educate, and inspire the zero waste movement through tours, workshops, conferences, art, manuals and infographics (like this one we worked on together). They inform students and then equip them with the necessary skills and resources to implement solutions to eliminate waste on their campuses and in their communities.

U Konserve Helping Out

In the spirit of reuse and repair, while on the road, members of the Worn Wear college tour team will be avoiding packaged foods and packing waste-free meals. They’re all set with stainless steel containers, reusable sandwich wraps and stainless steel straws. We’re looking forward to seeing our trusted products put to good use!

“As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer. This simple act of extending the life of our garments through proper care and repair reduces the need to buy more over time—thereby avoiding the CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage required to build it.”  – Rose Marcario, Patagonia CEO

Top 10 Healthy Home Tips for 2017

healthy home

Start the New Year by taking steps to create a healthy home. Simple changes can have a huge impact on your health and the health of the planet. Here are our top ten healthy home tips for the new year:

1. Question plastic

Plastics not only pollute our planet, but research has shown that some plastics also harm our health. Avoid cans lined with plastic and eliminate single-use plastics that break down easily. Seek out non-plastic alternatives: use a cloth shower curtain, purchase food and drinks in glass jars/bottles instead of plastic, and pack lunches and leftovers in stainless steel and glass.

2. Avoid fragrance

Fragrance in dryer sheets, fabric softeners, cleaning products, candles and air fresheners often contain rarely disclosed toxic chemicals, including phthalates and formaldehyde. If you like scents, make sure they come from sources you can identify like essential oils, and avoid products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient.

3. Clean without toxins

Not only do conventional cleaning products harm our health, the chemicals also go down the drain and pollute our waterways. Vinegar, baking soda and Dr. Bronner’s castille soap are remarkably effective, non-toxic, inexpensive cleaning options. Skip the pre-packaged cleaners unless you’re comfortable with their toxicity rating on Skin Deep.

 4. Use non-toxic personal care products

Soaps, skin care and makeup are loaded with questionable chemicals including parabens, phthalates, toluene and triclosan. Because the industry is highly unregulated, and we absorb most of these products through our skin, use EWG’s database to identify safe alternatives and try homemade solutions.

5. Dust

Household dust is not only responsible for allergies, but it’s also made up of toxins from your home including fire retardants, lead and other chemicals. Vacuum often with a HEPA filter, open your windows for ventilation, and clean with a damp cloth.

6. Ditch the non-stick

Since the EPA lists PFOA (one type of PFC used in some non-stick and water-resistant coatings) as a “likely human carcinogen”, it’s best to find alternatives. Use stainless steel or cast iron pans, avoid takeout containers, and don’t purchase clothing with unnecessary stain proofing or water-resistant coatings.

7. Control pests naturally

These days it’s pretty simple to control pests by keeping your home clean, sealing entrances and using natural pest remedies. The NRDC has suggestions and a link for controlling over 30 different pests naturally.

8. Eat FLOSN foods

Thanks to the Conscious Kitchen, we have a new acronym to help us remember what foods to eat: fresh, local, organic, seasonal and non-GMO. This healthy home tip is easy if you shop at the farmers market, cook homemade meals, and pack lunches daily.

9. Drink filtered tap water

Tap water is regulated by the EPA, which requires yearly public reports, but bottled water is regulated by the FDA, which has no such requirement. Drinking filtered water is an important healthy home tip, but which filter should you use? Find out with this updated water filter guide.

10. Choose natural materials

Furniture made of wood with wool or cotton cushions will likely contain fewer toxins than those made of pressboard, plastics or stuffed with treated polyurethane foam. Remember this tip when replacing your mattress and bedding too.