Category Archives: Uncategorized

Get a FREE $2 Amazon MP3 Credit!

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Click here to go to Amazon and enter the code STUDYBRK to get $2 of MP3 credit on Amazon!What will you buy with yours?

Thanks, For the Mommas!

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$5 off at iHerb (FREE Organic Virgin Coconut Oil!), My $10 Gift to You & Other Great Deals of the Day!

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Here are some great deals going on in the Webosphere today!

Plum District

This is a deal site similar to Groupon and Eversave, which I recently joined and am really enjoying. Today, I’m gifting EVERYONE with $10 to use on Plum District any way you want! One of the current deals is a one-year subscription to Kiwi Magazine for just $6 – with your $10 gift, that would make it FREE and you’d still have $4 left over to use on another deal! To redeem your $10 gift, join Plum District today (it’s free). That’s it. Enjoy! You can thank me later. 😉

Pei Wei: Buy One Entree, Get One Free

I’m a fan of Pei Wei (pronounced “pay way”), especially their whole wheat soba noodles, so I was really excited to see that they’re here in our new city. I’ll be taking advantage of this deal for a date night with my husband on the cheap! To get the deal, watch the video on Pei Wei’s website and then click on the fortune cookie that pops up and fill in your email address to get a coupon for a free entree at Pei Wei when you purchase another entree.

iHerb: First Time Customers Get $5 Off Any Order! Organic Coconut Oil Freebie!

iHerb has a promo code to save $5 off any purchase for first time customers. If you buy Now Foods, 100% Natural Coconut Oil 7 fl oz (207 ml) for $4.96 and use your promo code, it’s FREE! You will need to pay shipping, which will vary depending on your location, but it should be around $2. The code to use is UFU573 for $5 off of your order. There are other freebies to be had; just find a product under $5, use your code and it’s yours FREE!

Free EBook: Christmas is Not Your Birthday

I’m looking forward to reading this book, especially in our family’s pursuit of avoiding the gross commercialism and secularization of the Christmas season. There’s no guarantee of how long this book will remain free, so download it today. This is a Kindle version, but the Kindle program is available for your computer or smartphone as well.

 

Know of any other great deals? Post them in the comments and share the wealth!

50% off Non-toxic, Eco-Vinyl Shower Curtains from Rock Candy Life

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Since the next leg of our Green Living series is The Green Bathroom, I thought I’d give you a little preview with a great deal to help green up your bath! Blissmo has eco-vinyl shower curtains from Rock Candy Life for $12 – that’s 50% off the regular price. I ordered mine last week and can’t wait for it to arrive. Here’s the lowdown:

“A nice hot shower should never include a chemical bath. Unfortunately, conventional shower curtains are often made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVCs which include 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs pollute the air in your home by off-gassing and releasing toxic phthalates and organotins. In fact, the Center for Health Environment and Justice just released a report explaining how, when shower curtains and curtain liners emit that “new shower curtain” smell, the chemicals involved can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, liver and kidney damage, nausea, reproductive system damage, immune system complications and central nervous system damage.

"Whimsical Birds" pattern - I ordered this for the boys' bathroom!

“Say no thanks to chemical showers with Rock Candy Life. Rock Candy Life makes eco-designer shower curtains that are PVC and chlorine-free. Unlike conventional shower curtains, their Whimsical Birds curtain brings classic chic to the modern bathroom. Meanwhile, Roxal Luxe enlivens the space with swirling branches and playful peacocks. Or, for a more exotic touch, head east with Moroccan Luxe. Hang this “green,” biodegradable, 100% recyclable, chlorine- and PVC-free shower curtain in your bathroom and it’s like taking a vacation every time you step in the shower or tub.”

Who wouldn’t want to grab this deal?! But you need to hurry – you only have TWO DAYS before this deal ends, and there are just 27 left! Update: This deal has been so popular that Rock Candy Life has made more available, so there are 100 left. But now you only have ONE DAY to get them! So get over to Blissmo and sign up to take advantage of this great, green deal!

Green Living Series… Green Shopping!

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I’m back! Try not to be too critical of my absence (again!); I had a baby, moved cross country, and had a major computer crash issue, so… blogging just wasn’t going to happen. Things have settled down now (somewhat – I still have a toddler, baby, husband and household to take care of!), and my wonderful husband got my computer fixed, so I’m happy to be back. While I purpose not to be one of those bloggers that bombards you with pictures and stories of my kids, I thought I’d share a photo of our latest addition, who happens to be one of the reasons I’ve been away. 🙂

Xander Timothy Bryan Dawson, born May 20, 2011

Now, let’s get back to the Green Living series! One thing I hear a lot from people who haven’t yet taken the plunge into natural living is that it costs more to shop naturally. Yes… and no. Actually, I spend much less now than when I was shopping conventionally. It all depends on your approach. If you buy all the processed, packaged, “trendy” foods, health/beauty products and cleaners and shop at only the upscale, pricey, greenwashed (read: not really all that green but hopping on the bandwagon trying to make a buck) sellers, then yes, you will spend a lot more. But if you choose to take money and resource saving steps like plant a garden, buy used, make your own household and personal products, cook from scratch with whole, plant-based foods, reduce your consumption, repurpose items you already own and be more intentional about your purchases, you can end up saving more than you ever imagined. Think about it: our grandparents and great grandparents were “green” before anyone knew what being green was. They lived frugally, repurposed everything, grew their own food, avoided waste and lived simply and naturally. Before the industrial revolution, green living wasn’t a trend, it was just the way it was, and no one even thought about it. Today, with our convenience minded, disposable society, most of the above ideas seem radical, time consuming and impractical, but until just a few generations ago, this was the way things had been done for thousands of years. And honestly, the changes our family has made to live a more intentional, less wasteful life have helped us free up more, not less time, and simplified our lives in so many ways. By avoiding wasteful shortcuts, we spend more time doing things as a family, and by bringing less into our home, we have fewer distractions and more money to spend on the things that really matter. A few small changes go a long way!

One of those changes is in the way we shop. Today, I want to focus on Green Shopping. What are some simple, practical ways to cut back on waste when making purchases? Here are some things that we have done that have really made a difference for our family:

Reducing Waste at the Store

It’s no secret to those who know me that I have a major container fetish, particularly baskets and bags. I. LOVE. BAGS!  A lot. So much so that when we moved, I forced myself to go through my bag stash to see if there were any that I could get rid of, but alas, I just couldn’t bring myself to part with any of them. Very unlike me, by the way. I normally love getting rid of clutter, but to me, my bags aren’t clutter. They’re friends. *Sigh*… I gotta work on that one. So, they all came with me, and most of them are being put to use on a regular basis in a wide variety of ways. The few that aren’t are hanging in my closet as a daily reminder to find them a job. I will… soon… I promise.

Many of my bags reside in our car as part of my Shopping Kit, which consists of grocery, produce and bulk food bags. I take them in with me when I shop and put them back in the car after unpacking the groceries at home. It may seem like a small, fairly insignificant thing, but it saves hundreds of wasted plastic and paper bags every year. As an added bonus, most stores now give you the option of either store credit or a charitable donation for each reusable bag you use, so you can either save money or increase your charitable giving. It’s not a huge amount per bag, but it all adds up! This has been my favorite green change so far – I love not having wads of produce bags to throw away, or a cupboard full of paper bags languishing under the sink. And it allows me to further indulge in my bag obsession. 😉

So now I shop in style and love on the planet in the process, thanks in part to my friend Angela’s awesome little company, My Outdoor Mom. Her produce bags are fun, colorful, and, unlike those nasty, cheap, plastic bags at the store, don’t cradle your edibles in a toxic hug or rip apart with a heavy load (it’s apple season, y’all!). I have a set for fruits and another for veggies, as well as her muslin bulk foods bags, which are fabulous. They all come with carrying pouches and carabiners, so I just clip them to my cart and shop away, amid many envious looks from passersby. 😉 There are a lot of companies selling reusable produce and bulk bags, but I haven’t found any whose products are as affordable AND high quality as My Outdoor Mom. Angela has a TON of fabric and color options, and, unlike most other companies, she’ll do custom orders if you have something special in mind (trust me – I’m always bugging her to customize for me, and she cheerfully complies). She has lots of other great products as well, so be sure to take a look. My next purchase will be her organic buckwheat pillows and a set of reusable sandwich and snack bags. Can’t wait! I’m hoping we can also get her to do a giveaway here one of these days… hint, hint! 🙂

If you can sew (and if, unlike me, you actually have time to sew!) you can easily and inexpensively make your own reusable shopping kit and other cloth bag replacements (no more baggies – yay!). There are several patterns and tutorials available on the web, and you can repurpose material from old jeans, flannel shirts, and other heavy duty fabrics you already have. It doesn’t get any cheaper or greener than that!

Shopping Online

Another way I’ve learned to reduce waste is by online shopping. I’ve often found better deals on many of the items I buy on a regular basis at online stores, plus the added savings of gas (not to mention time and energy!). And when you have little ones, getting together all the necessary gear and hauling them off to the store is less than appealing. By shopping online, I can avoid all of that and have the things I need delivered right to my door. One of  my favorite places to shop is Amazon – I frequently get the things I’m looking for way below local retail prices, and they offer free shipping for orders over $25 of qualifying items (which is most of them). They carry a surprising variety of natural and organic items, including food. I regularly buy essential oils, chia seeds, hemp seeds and goji berries there, among other things. I also love to shop there for books, CDs and DVDs, most of which I buy used in like new condition, which goes even further to reduce waste and save money. Their Amazon Mom program helps you save even more on things for the kiddos, the home, and even yourself. And if you’re prone to running out of the things you use most, their Subscribe and Save service lets you sign up to receive your favorite items at regular intervals at even lower prices (great for diapers!).

When shopping online, be sure to look around for the best deal. Most retail stores have online shopping options as well, so you can buy the things you normally run out for without leaving home. The added advantage of online shopping is that you can compare prices at several different stores at once – there are even dedicated comparison shopping sites available to help you get the best deal. Usually, if you look up the product you want on your web browser, you’ll get numerous results complete with prices and reviews. Compare prices between the stores you normally shop and other stores offering the same item, remembering to factor in shipping as part of the overall cost. If a site offers free shipping on orders over a certain dollar amount, consider buying in bulk (but only if it’s something you’ll actually use in bulk) or going in on an order with a friend. I’ve done this in the past with great results. The company I buy my soap nuts (more about those in a future post) from offers free shipping on orders over $75, but $75 worth of soap nuts was an impractical purchase considering how long they last me, so I went in with two friends and we split an order, saving quite a bit on shipping. Going in with others on orders also reduces packing waste and adds a sense of community, which leads me to my next suggestion…

Daily Deal Sites

I love these! I currently belong to four different daily deals; Groupon, Eversave, zulilly and Blissmo. These sites work by offering a daily (or sometimes weekly) deal for a reduced price, usually 40-80% off the regular cost, for goods or services in your local area or for national chains or websites. Each deal requires a certain number of people to participate in order to “tip” and be eligible. Once that number is reached, the deal is on. These sites are free to join and frequently offer deals on natural, eco-friendly products and services that would otherwise be cost prohibitive. The key is not to allow the thrill of a deal overshadow your judgment – just because you can get something, that doesn’t mean you should. If it’s not something you need, love, or will use, it’s NOT a deal. If there’s a great deal on a product or service that you really have been wanting, great. If you’re prone to purchase things you’re not sure you need or love, but you just like the thrill of the deal, skip the daily deal sites (and the rest of this section!) and focus on reducing waste and cutting costs in other ways.

zulilly is a site that specializes in deals on items for babies and kids, and moms. Some of the recent deals I’ve gotten from zulilly include high end stainless steel baby bottles and silicone bottle sleeves, envirosax organic hemp grocery bags and several natural, wooden toys, all for less than half the regular prices. All of these items are normally expensive enough that I wouldn’t have purchased them otherwise, so these were great deals on things we really enjoy and use frequently.

Groupon generally offers more services than products, such as discounts on salon and spa services, restaurants and entertainment. I’ve gotten numerous deals on massage and other natural and alternative health services and products from Groupon, discounts at some of my favorite local restaurants and health food stores, and even symphony tickets, which I couldn’t have afforded otherwise.

Eversave is very similar to Groupon. I just joined this week, and my first deal with them was for huge savings on a natural and organic website I recently discovered and will post more about when my order arrives. The deal was $50 worth of products for $25, but I had a discount code which made the deal $20, and I was a first time buyer, so I saved an additional $3. So, I ended up getting $50 of products for $17 – that’s $33 of free merchandise! Definitely worth the 60 seconds it took to join.

Blissmo is a site that offers weekly deals on ONLY natural and organic products. They also have a service called Blissmobox, which is a monthly package filled with natural, organic goodies from a variety of companies. For $19 a month, you receive a box with $50 or more worth of merchandise in your chosen category (pure and natural snacks, skin & beauty, or natural cleaning). If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into making you own personal and household items or organic snacks, the Blissmobox gives you a chance to sample a wide array of products at a deep discount to discover what works for you. You can choose your category each month and cancel anytime. If you want to try it out, click here to get your first month for just $11.

If you find that you like being a part of group discounts, you may also consider…

Co-ops and CSAs

Co-ops are a great way to get natural, organic and non-toxic products that are sold in bulk, without having to actually buy in bulk. My favorite co-op is Azure Standard. They have a wide selection, competitive prices and great customer service, and offer both regular home delivery or co-op style bulk order. There are other co-op and bulk order sites, which a simple online search will find for you, and many churches and local groups already have established drop points, making it easy to join. When you join a delivery co-op, you can ask about local drop points. If there isn’t one locally, you can round up some friends and establish a drop point together, giving you the ability to split orders and share the cost.

Many health food stores are also co-ops, with membership options to save on purchases and participate in other co-op events. Your membership fee helps support the local farms from which the store buys its produce, and gives you a special share in the harvest, along with a sense of ownership and responsibility for the foods you’re eating.

CSAs are Community Supported Agriculture. In other words, you pay a minimal fee to join, which helps support the farmers that grow your food, and as a result, you get to share in the harvest. Typically, you receive a box of pre-selected produce every one or two weeks (or whatever schedule your particular CSA chooses). For many people, it’s a great way to save on organic produce and experience new foods while supporting local agriculture, which is so important and something I feel pretty strongly about. Some of the benefits of CSAs include:

  • eating ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • exposure to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • getting to visit the farm where your food is grown at least once each season
  • discovering that kids typically enjoy food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • developing a relationship with the farmer who grows your food and learning more about how food is grown

This is a great way to involve your kids in a healthier lifestyle, and introduce them to new foods. It’s important for children to understand where food really comes from, and taking a trip to the farm to meet the farmer that grows their food and see where it all starts is a wonderful education tool. My two year-old loves being out in the garden, seeing the vegetables grow, and popping a few ripe, organic cherry tomatoes in his mouth straight from the plant! My husband and I love growing our own food, but not everyone does or is able to, so in those instances, a CSA is a great alternative.

You can check online to find a CSA in your area, but before you do, there are a few things to consider. CSAs are not for everyone. For example, if you don’t particularly like vegetables, or only like a few specific vegetables, or if you don’t have the time, commitment or desire to prepare homemade meals most evenings, then signing up to receive several pounds of vegetables each week is not going to go well for you. Few things are more frustrating and discouraging than throwing away rotten, unused food, and with it, wasted money.  Also, consider the shared risk. Joining a CSA is like buying stock – you could have a great return on your investment with a good crop, or it could be a poor harvest year in terms of weather, pest problems, etc. Before you join, be sure you’re willing to take the risk, keeping in mind that the vast majority of the time, it’s a very worthwhile investment. I was a member of a CSA for a while when I was single and living in an apartment with no room for a garden, and I enjoyed it, but found that the amount of vegetables delivered was often more than I could eat myself. If you’re single, or a smaller family that consumes fewer vegetables, consider splitting your share with someone else to avoid wasted food and extra expense, or try canning or freezing the extra produce that you won’t be able to use right away. If you plan well, a CSA can be a fun, inexpensive way to shop green.

As you can see, there are numerous ways to green up your shopping and save money at the same time. This is by no means an exhaustive list – get creative, talk to friends and brainstorm for additional ways to go green, save money and improve your health. Look for deals and coupons on the natural and organic products you like, and remember:

Next up in the Green Living series… Green Living in the Bathroom! We’ll be talking about ways to reduce waste and chemicals in our health and beauty products, including a recipe or two for some homemade personal care products. Have any products you’d like to replace with something homemade? Let me know and we’ll add it to the list!

Guilt-Free Friday… Lentil Barley Soup!

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My husband and son picked up a virus from some friends last week and were both down with fevers. Meanwhile, I was down and out with a horrible allergic reaction, and the last thing I felt like doing was cooking, especially when the men in the house were barely eating. Fortunately, my mom is visiting, so she got to work making my favorite “I don’t feel good” food – lentil barley soup!

I personally love lentils in nearly any form and eat them frequently for both their taste and their numerous health benefits. My favorite variety are the French lentils, which taste amazing when sprouted – hubs and I eat them like popcorn!

Lentils are a terrific source of cholesterol-lowering fiber that are also of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal, making them an excellent food for diabetics and hypoglycemics. Lentils also provide six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein, all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils. This little legume is a nutritional giant that fills you up but not out! Lentils, like other beans, are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that snares bile (which contains cholesterol) and carries it out of the body. Insoluble fiber not only helps to prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Take a look at the following chart of the nutrient properties of lentils:

Note the high folate levels – this is an excellent food for pregnant/nursing women or those planning to conceive. There are also studies suggesting that the consumption of lentils and other legumes can reduce the frequency and intensity of morning sickness, due to its B vitamins. The high tryptophan level also makes this food ideal for those dealing with depression, anxiety or certain sleep disorders.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as lentils, helps prevent heart disease. Almost 10,000 American adults participated in this study and were followed for 19 years. People eating the most fiber, 21 grams per day, had 12% less coronary heart disease (CHD) and 11% less cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to those eating the least, 5 grams daily. Those eating the most water-soluble dietary fiber fared even better with a 15% reduction in risk of CHD and a 10% risk reduction in CVD. Lentils also contain significant amounts of folate and magnesium. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, and magnesium helps to prevent blockage in veins and arteries. In short, if you want to literally keep your heart happy, eat lentils.

If you’re new to lentils, this soup is an easy, delicious way to get acquainted. If you’re a lifelong lentil lover like me, you can add this to your arsenal of lentil recipes and pull it out an a cold winter’s day, a rainy afternoon in spring, or as a sick-day comfort food. There’s nothing like a big bowl of hearty, nourishing soup, and there is, in my humble opinion, no soup as good as this one! I originally got the recipe from my best friend. Hers didn’t call for barley; it was just a lentil soup, but I come from a family of major barley lovers, so mom and I have doctored up the recipe to reflect our obsession. The addition of the barley makes it heartier, so it’s really more of a stew. If you’re not a barley person (though I cannot fathom the concept!), rice can also be used. Or, unlike me, you can leave well enough alone and just make lentil soup. 🙂 Enjoy!

Lentil Barley Soup

• 3 C lentils
• 1 C pearled barley (or brown rice)
• 1 gallon water
• 3 rounded tsp. basil
• 2 tsp. parsley
• 3 tsp. garlic powder
• 2 tsp. sea salt
• pinch of cayenne
• 1/2 tsp. dill weed
• 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
• Splash of Nama Shoyu (or Bragg’s for those that use it) to taste
• 3 medium potatoes, cubed or chunked
• 2 stalks of celery
• 2 -3 bay leaves
• 1 med. onion, minced

Place water in large stock pot and add additional ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until lentils and barley are tender. Note: As with most soups, this one tastes much better the day after cooking, 🙂

Guilt-Free Friday… Healthy, Homemade Refrigerator Pickles!

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It has been an interesting first year for the massive garden plot my husband planted. Many of the things we expected to do poorly thrived, and others we thought would do well flopped. One thing that has grown in abundance are the pickling cucumbers. We’re harvesting lots of big, bright green cukes and turning them into one of our favorite treats…  refrigerator pickles! I’ve loved pickles for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I ate them faster than my poor mom could buy them!

My friend Alana first taught me how to make healthy pickles and it quickly became one of my favorite things to make. I’ve adapted this recipe from her original instructions.

Aside from the obvious savings of not having to purchase pickles, we prefer our homemade variety because they are made with lemon juice rather than vinegar*.  I realize the standard belief about vinegar is that it’s good for you and I may make a few enemies here, but bear with me. From various studies and inspired writings I’ve read, along with my own personal experience (and that of others), my belief is that vinegar is best used externally. I am referring here to white (distilled) vinegar, which is a common ingredient in most condiments such as ketchup, mustard, pickles & relishes, salad dressings, etc. Fermentation occurs in the stomach as a result of ingesting vinegar, and rather than breaking down and digesting, the food remains in the stomach, decays, and releases toxins into the bloodstream. For this reason, those with blood disorders and diseases (HIV, anemia and sickle-cell anemia, leukemia, thrombosis, polycythemia)  should strictly avoid vinegar. The high acidity level of vinegar is also damaging to the stomach when consumed on a regular basis.

An easy and healthful substitute for vinegar is lemon juice. We are blessed to have a lemon tree in our backyard that yields enormous, juicy lemons, but any fresh organic lemons will do and, when necessary, pre-bottled organic lemon juice. I have yet to find a recipe calling for vinegar in which I can’t substitute lemon juice with great results. It’s perfect for pickling and preserving foods.

When my husband and I were courting, he had never heard of someone making their own pickles and was wary of how they would taste, but he absolutely loved these and now prefers them to the vinegar-free pickles from the health-food store. This year, I decided to teach him how to make them, and we had a great afternoon preserving our cucumber harvest together. It’s an incredibly easy recipe and makes a great kids’ activity as well.

You can adjust this recipe to suit your tastes, adding more or less onion, garlic or dill, but with pickles, more is generally better than less. You can also cut the pickles to your preferred shape – we made whole pickles out of the little ones, spears from the medium and the large ones we sliced into rounds (great for sandwiches!). Whip up a batch to munch on a hot summer day and stay cool as a cucumber. 🙂 Enjoy!

Ruth’s Summertime Refrigerator Pickles

Combine in a 1-quart large-mouth jar:

4 sprigs fresh or 2 tsp. dried dill

1/2 an onion, sliced (I prefer red onions for taste and appearance)

2 cloves garlic

1/2 C lemon juice

1 C water

4 tsp. salt

Add cucumbers and press down into jar.  Top with remaining 1/2 onion, sliced.  Cover and refrigerate.  Slices and spears will be ready to eat in 24 hours, whole pickles should sit for 3-4 days prior to eating.

*Apple cider vinegar is structurally different than white vinegar, and while I still don’t recommend its use in food, it does have certain medicinal properties that I believe can be beneficial in certain situations (although I know some will disagree).

Green Living: Reducing Waste

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Today is the beginning of my Green Living series, and I’m excited! So many people want to “green up” a little, but are not sure where to get started. The best approach is to start small in an area that interests you, such as switching to cloth shopping bags or reducing waste in your home, then moving up to larger areas, like making your own chemical free cleaning or personal care products. Choose just one or two things at a time and after a week or two, when the changes become second nature, add something new.

Let’s start with reducing waste. Most of us don’t realize just how much we consume and, therefore, waste. These days, nearly everything we buy comes in disposable packaging and items sold together are often wrapped separately, creating even more waste. A few months ago, my husband purchased a bulk pack of toilet paper at Costco and I was horrified to see that every single roll was individually wrapped in paper. It was completely wasteful and unnecessary, not to mention really annoying to have to unwrap every roll before using it, and I flat-out refused to ever buy it again. I would rather pay a few cents extra for less wasteful packaging. We also no longer use paper towels (except once a year on our annual camping trip, which always leaves me conflicted). Instead, I purchased several lightweight “flour sack” tea towels for $.49 each at IKEA for big spills, and for smaller messes we just use the dishcloth which is changed daily. I honestly don’t miss paper towels at all – in fact, I sometimes find myself wondering what we even used them for, because I honestly can’t remember!

A major source of waste in many households is from disposable water bottles which in our home are streng verboten. Instead, we use a water filtration system and reusable, non-toxic water bottles. Not only does it save money, but it eliminates the horrifying results of millions of bottles in lakes, streams, oceans and landfills. This is an easy place to begin, with immediate, tangible results. Money saved, a cleaner conscience and better tasting water! Water filters and filtration systems are available in a wide variety of styles with a price point to fit every budget. Research to find the best fit for your family.

A big area of waste reduction for us has been  our garbage, which is separated into four areas: Compost, Recycle, Trash and Recirculate. Rather than throwing away food that is no longer edible, we compost it and cycle it into our garden to help grow more food. Though we do try not to have any unused or inedible food, this step is a great solution for the little we do have. We recycle everything that can be, and honestly, our recycling bin is much fuller than our trash can. The reduction in our trash since we began this journey is staggering. A box of trash bags lasts us for ages. I think we’ve bought maybe two boxes in the last year and a half, and we’ll be upgrading to reusable trash bags soon. We try to reuse everything as long as we possibly can and, when we no longer have use for something, we recirculate it by selling or passing it on to someone who does.

The food industry is a particular culprit of waste. I use the term “food” lightly here, because most of what the American public now consumes can only be termed food by the loosest standards. In fact, it is actually referred to in the industry as “foodstuffs.” Generally, the more packaged something is, the worse it is for you. Eating a diet of whole, real foods has significantly reduced waste in our home. Whole, fresh fruits and vegetables are rarely pre-packaged, and with our reusable mesh produce bags, create zero waste (other than the SKU sticker, which you can avoid by shopping at farm stands and farmers’ markets). Whole grains, nuts and seeds are also minimally packaged and are easy to buy in bulk, reducing waste even further.

Another area of waste reduction is personal care products. Take a look in the medicine cabinet, bathroom cupboard and linen closet of most homes and you’ll find a wasteland of half-used shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bath oil, facial cream and hair gel containers that will probably sit for a year or more before finally being thrown out. We have become a society of consumers and have a hard time resisting all those brightly colored, highly scented bottles, jars and tubes that promise us wonderful results for just a few dollars. So we load up, only to find out they’re not so great after all. And there they sit, taking up space in our homes and eventually clogging our landfills. One of the greatest areas of waste reduction (not to mention money savings!) for our family has been in eliminating these products altogether. If you’re new to greener living, don’t feel pressured to try this right away; think of it as something to consider in the future.

For now, begin with taking one positive step toward eliminating waste. For example, purchase some reusable shopping bags at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. At Whole Foods, if your bag wears out or gets damaged, they replace it with a new one for free, so your $.99 investment goes a long, long way (TJs may also do this, just check before buying). There are also sturdier canvas bags available practically everywhere these days, or you can be industrious and make your own. If you already do this or it just doesn’t seem like enough, evaluate your home and determine your greatest source of waste. Is it paper products? Food packaging? An endless sea of bottles and jars? Then take steps toward reducing it, or eliminating it altogether. Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Do I really need it? If so,
  • Is it healthful? If not,
  • Can it be replaced with something better for me/less wasteful? Or,
  • Could I make it myself or eliminate it completely?

Once you’ve cleared the clutter and reduced your waste, you’ll be ready to move on to more “hard core” green steps, which we’ll talk about in a future post. So get going! Don’t forget to come back and comment on what you’re doing to reduce waste. Also, leave your favorite green tips for other readers – let us know what your family does to live a healthier, less wasteful life.