Zero Waste Chocolate!

Isn’t it a shame that all of the chocolate manufacturers that we grew up with has traded their paper packaging for plastic? It’s almost impossible to get your all times favorites like Hershey’s bars with the familiar foil and paper packaging of our youth.

I noticed this shocking fact more recently when trying to buy chocolate bars for my niece’s’ first birthday party. We bought beautiful paper wrappers as a keepsake but there were no candy bars in sight that we could swap out their paper wrappers. It’s a shame.

When we’re buying for ourselves as home, we but higher quality chocolate because we love it and can afford it. But the average person can’t and won’t invest 4€ in a candy bar just to be plastic free. Nor should they have to. Especially if they are going to give it to a kid.

How to avoid plastic chocolate packaging

Going to your local pharmacy or supermarket is going to prove difficult. But there are excellent ways to avoid a lot of plastic or even plastic all together.

  1. Buy a family pack. I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But the individual packages come with a heafy orange plastic wrapper. Buying the fun pack or mini Reese’s Cups avoids a lot of plastic and leave us with recyclable foil and paper wrappers.
  2. Look for boxes. You’re not going to be able to find every candy you love in a cardboard box, but many do some in packs made for the movie theatres. This is a great recyclable option.
  3. Go to your local candy shop. You’ll pay by weight, but you can also bring your own cloth or paper bag to stock up on goodies.
  4. Check the bulk shop. Many bulk stores also carry chocolate bars. They might even be homemade and much healthier than traditional options.
  5. Make your own. In that same bulk store you can get chocolate chips and dried fruits and nuts. Try your hand at making your own bars (instructions below!). It’s easy and fun. A great activity with kids.

Specialty chocolate, how to avoid the plastic

Even if you are investing in higher quality, more expensive chocolate bars. It doesn’t mean you will automatically have higher quality packaging materials.

  • If items are boxed, make sure they are not secretly hiding plastic beneath. I have found this on more than one occasion to my disappointment.
  • Avoid mixes materials. If that foil crumbles down into a ball it’s recyclable. Otherwise, it might be mixes with another material even paper that could make it nonrecyclable because it is mixed material.

Making your own chocolate bars

There are no special moulds or materials needed to make your own chocolate bars. You can use a bar you already have in your kitchen, or even a plater or tray.

Ingredients: chocolate nibs or flakes or grater chocolate bars, whatever addition you like (nuts, coconut shavings, dried fruit, etc.)

Tools: Two pots to create a double boiler, pan or tray, and compostable or recyclable baking paper, spatula

  1. Line the bottom of your try with baking paper. You can recycle this later.
  2. Fill the bottom of the larger pot with water. Place the smaller pot inside and fill with chocolate bits.
  3. Boil the water in the bottom in order to melt the chocolate, stir out any lumps
  4. When the chocolate is completely melted, pour into your tray (using the spatula to get every last bit out)
  5. Add the toppings being sure to get it evenly throughout your chocolate
  6. Let cool for 15-20 minutes or until you chocolate is completely cool
  7. Break apart and enjoy!

Yummm! What secrets do you have for zero waste chocolate? I’d love to know in the comments!

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Staying Zero Waste with Guests

One of the most difficult parts about having a Zero Waste lifestyle is when you invite other people into your home who do not share or might not understand your values and way of living.

It’s best to prep them for their arrival by letting them know the rules of your household. Don’t feel obligated to push your values to the wayside just because you have guest. Our experience has been a welcoming and understanding from those visiting us. By educating them on why we are living a certain way, we get respect and can continue to maintain our lifestyle even with guests.

I find it is no different to ask guests to leave the plastic items at home than it is to ask them to take off their shoes when entering your home. You have the right to live in a certain way and your guests will understand, even if they may not follow those guidelines in their own homes.

Let them know in advance

It’s best not to surprise your guest with an announcement of what they can and cannot do when entering and staying at your home. Before my parents visited our apartment this past summer, we let them know we were living plastic free and the ecological reason for this decision. We offered them reusable water bottles on their arrival and made sure they had the same comforts they expected to find, but in full knowledge their visit would not mean incrementing our production of waste.

Be prepared to make sacrifices

Your expectations for your guests should not be as strict as the ones you have for yourself. Be prepared to make adjustments to accommodate them. After all, you should not force anyone to follow your lifestyle.

There are ways you can still be sustainable (or low waste) and meet their needs. Zero waste works best when it is flexible and not extremely rigid.

My mom didn’t like the taste of our filtered tap water so we bought 6L bottles for her of mineral water. We reduced plastic by buying a large container, but also make our guest quite happy.

Provide solutions for your guests

Be sure to have all of the tools available to help your guest live zero waste with you. Extra napkins, cloth bags, water bottles, stainless steel straws, etc.

Making it easy for them might even help them to make small changes in their own habits when they leave your home.

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ThredUp Review: Second Hard Shopping Online

In a few short weeks I’ll be starting a new job that will require me to be in more formal attire. My work in a start-up was much more lax. So after clearing out my closet this past summer it was time to invest in more pieces to complete my work wardrobe.

Before my start-up CMO job I was working in consulting and traveling constantly. This meant a small carry on suitcase and packing light and versatile items that I would use over and over again for three weeks until I made it home to switch them out. It helped me learn to be an excellent packer and live with a minimal wardrobe. So I didn’t acquire many new items over the last 4 years.

Now that we have converted to a zero waste lifestyle I did not want to run out to the store and pick up new sustainable clothing to fill the gaps in my wardrobe. It’s expensive and in the end I think the most sustainable option is to use clothes already in rotation and give them a second life.

There is so much waste in the fashion industry. But countries like France are cutting down on it by prohibiting stores from destroying unsold clothing (check out this article to learn more).

So how can we as individuals do our part? By shopping thrift and consignment shops.

I’m short on time and looking for high quality items from brand that I know that I know will last me awhile. I wanted to try either Poshmark or Thredup, two online services that help making the process easier. But because they are only available to US customers I needed to wait until I was back in New York visiting family.

Postmark vs Thredup

I quite enjoyed the experience of making my account with ThredUp and ultimately decide to purchase from them instead of perusing the pages of the more well-know Poshmark.


There are a few reasons:

  1. User friendliness
  2. Customization
  3. Higher quality goods

Poshmark feels more like the Craigslist or eBay of second hand fashion, where at ThredUp you feel like you are shopping at a retail location. At Postmark you buy directly from the seller, but at ThredUp you have more flexibility because you are buying through an intermediary. This makes it easier to get multiple items and have a different shopping experience.

If you are looking for one or two items Poshmark would be a great choice. It will take you longer to find what you are looking for, but I am sure there are some great items out there. I’ll have to explore them in more detail at a later date.

Setting up your profile with ThredUp

It was extremely easy to set-up my account with ThredUp. You answer questions about your size in different clothing items so that they can show you only products that are relevant to you. If you wish to browse outside of your size profile that is also available to you.

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 08.36.17Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 08.36.38

The website is extremely user friendly and offers great items. You can see if they still have the tag on and if the item has dropped in price with the graphics show above the images.

It’s quite intuitive to use.

Purchasing with ThredUp

You can save items with a heart while you are browsing and them reviews them to decide what you would like to purchase.

Once the items are placed in your cart you have 12 hours to make your purchase. The items are held for you until that time has past. When you are looking for items you can also check what someone else has in their cart in case you would like to wait and see if they decide to not make the purchase.

They also offer a service like Lookiero and Stitchfix called Goody Boxes. If you are tired of reviewing the pages of items they have listed you can order a Goody Box and send back anything that you don’t like. I haven’t tried it, but I quite like the idea.

Check out is a breeze, you have three payment options: credit card, PayPal, and Pay with Amazon.

What I got from ThredUp

I decided to take advantage of the 20% discount for first time buyers and free shipping if you spend over $75. (In the end I paid for shipping just to ensure I get the products faster as I will leave the country in a week’s time.)

Product Original price ThredUp Price
Unbranded braided leather belt $36.00 $3.99 $3.19
Banana Republic leather belt $50.00 $4.99 $3.99
Free People Jeans $108.00 $21.99 $17.59
Gap Khakis $50.00 $9.99 $7.99
Brooklyn Industries Skirt $54.00 $14.99 $3.00
Joie blouse $158.00 $32.99 $26.39
Band of Gypsies Dress $60.00 $19.99 $15.99
Banana Republic top $45.00 $15.99 $12.79
Design History top $71.00 $15.99 $12.79
Old Navy blouse $25.00 $11.99 $9.59
Old Navy dress $42.00 $21.99 $17.59

I spent $158.93 (or 136€) for my total order, including the expedited shipping and taxes. Combining these 4 tops, 2 pants, 1 skirt, and 2 dress with the rest of my wardrobe will make for unlimited new outfit combinations.

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 08.30.39

Shipping with ThredUp

The standard free shipping didn’t meet my needs because the items would arrive in 3-8 business days. After the 1-2 days for processing the order. This is much slower than we are used when making purchases online. So be aware before you complete your order.

I opted for the 1-3 business day expedited shipping. In reality it arrived in X business days. Just in time for me to try them and head back to Spain.

I wish I had placed the order when I first arrived to give myself more time to make any returns necessary.

Delivery with ThredUp

The delivery was rather quick because I paid extra to have it arrive before I left the country. I would have preferred if it all came in one shipment in order to reduce packing materials.

Two pieces can first un paper bag wrapping and the rest of my order can in cardboard boxes. Everything can be recycled.

They send you a note in hopes of getting you to do marketing for them for free. I liked the experience so I don’t mind. But I think it could have been stated in a different way. It was a bit of a turn off.

Returns with ThredUp

Returns are EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE!! You have to pay almost $9.00 to them for any return you make that make this systems also a bit ugly.

I understand that it is a business cost for them, but it really lacks thought about the consumer. You are buying second hand and have really no idea what you are going to get and anything you send back is going to cost you more?

For me this was extremely inflexible and shows a lack of customer service. Especially in the same package they are trying to get me to recommend their service to others.

It reminds me of a client of mine who used their delivery prices as a revenue center instead of a cost center. I think to do business correctly, they should really be assuming these costs. And I’m sure it would increase their customer loyalty and retention.

Not being able to return your items without cost is also going to make unwanted items end up in your home cluttering your closet, while ThredUp benefits from your purchase. I’ll be keeping one dress that I would have liked to return. Let’s see if I can find it a new home.

My overall thoughts on ThredUp

I like the ability to make my purchases easily online, but like any online shopping there is a risk you might not like the items and they might not fit. The over inflated costs to return items make it an irrational purchase.

I think I’ll stick to shopping at slow fashion boutiques and in thrift stores.

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Make your own Zero Waste Condiments

It seems like a lot of zero waste success is based on being very good at DIY. I’m not sure about you guys, but I definitely don’t have the time nor the desire to make everything in my home from scratch. I focus on simple solutions to help me keep reaching my goals.

On place that I do put a lot more effort of creating my own items is in the kitchen. I love to cook and create interesting dishes alongside my partner. And I have gotten much more adept at making my own condiments by trying different recipes I found online.

Here are a few of my favorite, very simple recipes for zero waste condiments.

Mustard sauce

I love making my own mustard and the beauty is it only take me a few minutes. I like to reuse the container from store bought mustard to store it.

This is my favorite mustard recipe from I love it because it is simple and fast and make a great mustard. I prefer to use water and turmeric and honey from the optional ingredients. All of the ingredients are available from my favorite bulk stores.

Pesto sauce

When making pesto I don’t follow a recipe. Just combine my favorite ingredients in the quantities that I like based on the flavor I am trying to achieve. The beauty is, if it is too thick you can always add more olive oil, or too thin, more basil.

What you’ll need –

  • Ingredients: garlic, basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and salt.
  • Tools: mixer, chopper, or dicer, and large bowl

Start by chopping the garlic and separating the basil leaves from the stems. Place all of the ingredients into your mixing bowl and drizzle olive oil on top. Mix until the basil is finely chopped, adding more olive oil as needed. Stop when your have the consistency of a sauce or the thickness of your desire. Drizzle on your dish and enjoy!

Chocolate spread

I found this 4 ingredient chocolate spread recipe on Pinterest and immediately tried it because I happened to have all of the ingredients at home.

What you need:

  • Ingredients: 1 can coconut milk, 4 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 tbsp sugar (I used coconut sugar and replace the cocoa powder with Nesquik!)
  • Tools: mixer, large bowl, and serving jars or cups

Mix all ingredient together in a large bowl until smooth and creamy. Pour individual servings into the serving jars or cups. (I like to reuse glass yogurt jars.) And chill in the refrigerator until solid. It’s that simple!

Sometimes we think that making it yourself would be complicated and time consuming. But these three simple recipes prove that it doesn’t always have to be. Hope you liked them and will try them soon.

What other quick recipes do you like to make Zero Waste swaps? Let me know in the comments.

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The only 6 Items you need for Zero Waste Cleaning

There was a time when my home was filled with cleaning products each for a different purpose. One stronger than the next to ensure that all the grease was cut, the clothes without stains, and everything full of chemicals that would kill any kind of mold or mildew possible. A spray for this, a liquid cleaner for that. It was hard to keep up.

I started reading online about more natural cleaning to find some better solutions to these chores. I’m a person who doesn’t like to take too much medication unless it is absolutely necessary. Who always had a bottle of apple cider vinegar because it basically solves all medical problems (rashes, infections, etc.) and is also delicious on salads.

So, why was I comfortable using these thing in my home? The truth is, I was not.

What I found from my research and talking to my mom, was there are just a few items that I need at home to solve all my cleaning needs. They are natural and inexpensive and you really don’t need a different spray for each room of your house and type of cleaning.

White vinegar

The base of many great cleaning products if distilled white vinegar. I haven’t been able to find it in bulk (but maybe you can), so I buy the largest container to produce the minimal amount of waste. Due to the long shelf life of white vinegar you never have to worry about it going bad.

Vinegar can solve the majority of your cleaning needs but remember this it is a acid so be cautious about using it on natural stones, wood, and metal. Vinegar is not going to do all the work for you like more abrasive cleaners. You’ll have to put a bit of elbow grease into your cleaning to remove stains, soap build up, etc. I use it as a general cleaner mixing 2 part vinegar, 1 part water, and lemon peels in a glass spray bottle. (Be sure to label your bottles so you remember what is inside, I use a piece of electrical tape an a Sharpie.)

DO NOT use vinegar to clean: DO use vinegar to clean:

  • Natural stones (granite, marble, etc.)
  • Wood
  • Stainless steel (knives, pots, etc.)
  • Porcelain and tile
  • Copper, brass, and pewter
  • Appliances (except inside an iron!)
  • Shower fixtures
  • Windows, mirrors, and other glass
  • Garbage bins and containers
  • Vinyl or other synthetic materials
  • Soften used paint brushes
  • Your hair

There are so many fabulous uses for vinegar I cannot even list them all here!

Baking soda

The second most important cleaning tool is Baking Soda. It has so many purposes, freshening your fridge and freezer, deodorant, scrubbing agent, cleaning drains, etc. I use a combination of my vinegar spray and baking soda to clean all the surfaces of our bathroom and kitchen.

When combined with vinegar it is the perfect drain cleaner. To unclog your drain, put 1 part vinegar and 1 part baking soda down the drain and wait for the bubbling to subside. (Can take 15 – 30 minutes.) They boil a full pot of water and pour it all down the drain. Try your faucet. If the water still doesn’t go down or goes down slowly, repeat the process until your drain is unblocked.

To clean your tub, apply baking soda to a vegetable sponge. Dampen your tub and start working away on those water stains. It’s a bonus bicep workout. 😉

Sodium percarbonate

A tool very similar to baking soda is sodium percarbonate. It is a stain fighter and can be used in your laundry to replace bleach. Use any quantity that you wish based on your cleaning needs. You can use it to pre soak stained garments or added to your laundry cycle.

And if you have some at home, sodium percarbonate can do the same function as baking soda for unclogging your drains.


Lemons and their peels are another great acid for cleaning. The peels can be used to improve the scent of your homemade cleaning products and the lemon itself make a great cleaner. Lemon juice is perfect for cleaning meats and vegetables, but also for cleaning rust off of kitchen utensils, cleaning the microwave, cleaning your cutting board and chopping block and even polishing copper pots.

To clean the microwave: mix the juice of 1 lemon and and a ½ cup of water in a microwave safe dish, with the remains of the lemon. Place in the microwave and set it for 3 minutes on high. Let the cup and mixture stand for 3 – 5 minutes because removing them to let the steam do its job. Remove the container and wipe down the microwave with a natural cleaning cloth. And et voila! Clean microwave.

To clean copper pots and cutting boards: cut your lemon in half and grab some table salt. Fill the open side of the lemon with table salt and get to scrubbing. That’s it! Vinegar could also be used but it is less acidic than a lemon and might not cut all of the tarnish from your pot.

And remember after cleaning with lemons, if they are still in a good state use the peels for your cleaning products and compost the rest!

Castile soap

I honestly got tired of buying a different kind of soap for each purpose in my home. Is it really necessary to have a different soap for my hand than for my body or even for my dishes? The answer is absolutely not.

A pure castile soap can be used for anything and everything. Add a little water if you want to dilute it or use as is. It serves for cleaning your dishes, hands, body, etc. If you want to improve the smell, add a few drops of essential oils. Personally I keep it scent free to make it hypoallergenic.

It can even be used as a dog shampoo. So skip the overly expensive cleaners from the pet shop.


We mentioned salt above to help in your scrubbing needs. But did you know salt can also be used to brighten colors in your laundry and remove wine stains?

If you spill wine on clothes or even your carpet cover the stain completely with salt. The salt with absorb the wine. All that’s left is to vacuum it up and stain is gone. Let the salt sit until the stain is completely removed for the best results.

If you have a cloth item, place it in a salt bath overnight to get the stain out. Treat the stain first with salt on top, then place it in hot water with more salt dissolved in.

Bonus: the sun

Sunlight is one of the best disinfectants available to us. Hanging your clothes in the best way to give it a natural bleaching. You can also use it to disinfect stinky tennis shoes. I use it for cleaning my climbing shoes.

What other natural cleaning products do you use? Let me know in the comments.

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Weekly Zero Waste Swaps (September 17)

The essential, everyday zero waste tool that is, by far, the easiest swap to make is a reusable water bottle. It’s highly likely that you already have and are using one. Just taking it along with you can save you from throwing hundreds of single use bottles in the trash.

But just in case your one of the few who have not yet invested in a high quality water bottle (or if you are looking for an upgrade) here are a few beautiful alternatives. They fit all price ranges, come with great style, and do the job well.

Glass water bottle with wood lid // Cost Plus World Market

Glass water bottle with tethered lid // Bed Bath and Beyond

Floral Water Bottle // Vera Bradley

Copper Water Bottle // Urban Outfitters

Glass, silicone, and bamboo bottle // Soma

Glass and silicone bottle // BKR

Insulated stainless steel water bottle // Eco Vessel

Glass bottle with silicone sleeve // Eco Vessel

Pizza water bottle // S’ip by S’well

Remember to drink at least 2L of water a day!

What’s your favorite water bottle?

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Weekly Zero Waste Swaps (September 11)

I’ve just returned from a wonderful family vacation and wanted to share some of the swaps I found this week. All of these beautiful items for your home are made from recycled material. Isn’t that great!

I don’t believe that you have to sacrifice design for sustainability, and these items are perfect examples of that. Forward thinking manufacturers are making some great designs that will make you feel proud to put them in your home.

Read More


Weekly Zero Waste Swaps (August 27)

When it comes to cleaning your house you’re probably very accustomed to plastic bottles of clearning products, plastic sponges, plastic garbage bags, plastic plastic plastic plastic!

So when going zero waste you’ll have to make a significant amount of effort to swap out these items for more sustainable alternatives. I compiled a list of 11 essential that you can get know to make your household cleaning more eco friendly!

Read More


Zero Waste Beer

I spent a long time working in Sub-saharan Africa in consulting projects for beverage distributors. And one of the most impactful things that I saw with the producers there was how they recycle the beverage bottles after use. They have a system set up to recollect and clean bottles and get them back into the production process. This was true both for beer manufacturers, as well as soft drinks and water companies. So it got me thinking about zero waste beer.

The plastic waste we are accustomed to and large volumes of glass recycling was not factored into the operations of these business in Africa. And I’m talking about big companies like SABMiller and Coca-Cola, not small players. Once upon a time this was also true in everywhere beverage were distributed.

Nowadays if you’re a beer drinker it’s highly likely that you are bringing a back full of bottle to the recycling bin every few weeks. I love beer personally and I know it’s true for me. So I started thinking about way to also reduce this waste. Because at the end of the day, recycling these bottle is an expenditure of energy and water even if they are 100% recyclable.

So how can we reduce and reuse and be zero waste beer drinkers?

Reusable glass bottles and growlers

Beer culture has evolved over the years and now there are many small producers making amazing artisanal beers. Many breweries offer you the opportunity to buy in bulk and even bring your own bottles or growlers to fill up.

Check out your local breweries, beer shops, and even, some bars, to find opportunities to buy bulk beer. This is also great to stock up when you are having parties or dinners.

Cost Plus World Market Growler Set // Blush Watermelon Growler // Pier 1 Imports Stainless Steel Growler

If you’re a big beer drinker a growler, like one of those above, might be perfect for you. If you drink more occasionally, try a swing top bottle, so you won’t have flat beer if you don’t drink it quickly enough.

Make your own beer at home

Some of the best zero waste solution are often the do-it-yourself solutions. And when it comes to beer it can really be a fun enjoyable experience.

It’s now easier than ever to find kits to make your own beer. And if you’re really into it, you can go to a beer supply store and get all of the ingredients and tool to make larger quantities at home.

It could even be a fun activity to do with friend instead of your typical dinner party. Check out some of the kits I include below!

Save up the bottles you have at home to reuse and purchase home brew beer caps to seal in your own microbrew. Or if you don’t have any at home, buy a set of bottles from Amazon and enjoy!

Purchase beers in large bottles

Some of our local better shops offer the opportunity to purchase 1 liter of beer in a swing top bottle. They are sealed with a metal cap and once opened kept fresh with the suction cap from the swing top bottle.

These are perfect for dinner parties. And the best part is you can reuse the bottle after for more beer, for bulk wine, or like we do, to refill tap water at home.

It’s even a great option for bulk liquid cleaning products. But I digress…

Reduce wasted beer with a silicone cap

I’m a sucker for amazing gadgets and this silicone cap definitely falls into that category. It the perfect way to preserve a half full bottle of beer for another day.

You might be thinking, who opens a beer and doesn’t finish it? I must definitely do.

And think about when you have a party. People can be wasteful without ever realizing it. So instead of pouring that half drunk bottle down the drain, snap a cap on it and save it for the next day.

How do you stay zero waste with beer? Let me know in the comments!

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