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.

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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!

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zero-waste-beer

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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Zero Waste Laundry

Apart from making change in the kitchen, one of the biggest areas that we were able to go Zero Waste very quickly, was with our laundry. It take a bit of trial and error to find the right solution for every need.

There are many different solution, so I wanted to share with you everything that we learned up to this point. In the beginning I recommend test out some alternatives before committing 100%. You need a solution that will work for you and be sustainable.

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Zero waste washing & energy consumption

It’s natural that you energy consumption might increase when going zero waste because you are now working with all cloth products (kitchen towels, napkins, cleaning clothes, etc.) But this doesn’t have to be the case.

  1. Be conscious about when you wash. With the exception of underwear, use clothing items more than once before adding them to your laundry hamper.
  2. Wash in cold water as much as you can and always wash full loads of laundry.
  3. Keep track of which cloth napkins belong to which family member and which go to guests. Soak out stains before throwing them in the washer.
  4. Set a schedule to avoid overwashing. I prefer one load of lights and one load of darks per week, and a bi weekly load of sheets, towels, and cleaning cloths, and a monthly load (or less) for bath rugs, shower curtains, blankets, etc.
  5. Wash reusable “paper” towels by hand to get out grease and line dry.
  6. Line dry as much as you can. In Spain this is the norm. In the winter clothes are dry in 2-3 days, in the summer 0,5 – 1 day. Plan accordingly.

zero-waste-laundry-schedule

Zero waste laundry detergent

There are many options available to you when you are switching to more sustainable laundry practices. Some produce less waste and others only produce waste in the production process.

Eco detergent

Companies like 7th Generation make eco friendly products that are safer to use for washing. But the packaging is still plastic. If you choose this option, but the largest packaging available to avoid creating excessive waste.

Biokleen offers a more sustainable solution packed in 100% recycled cardboard and newspaper, but with a plastic sleeve on the inside. They say it uses 70% less plastic than traditional detergents.

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Bulk detergent

Our current method is buying our detergent in powder form and in bulk. We use an extra large mason jar and bamboo scoop to head to our local bulk cleaning supplies store.

It’s very inexpensive (less than 5€ fills our mason jar and lasts 3 months).

But we have found that it doesn’t get out tough stains as well as traditional detergent. So we are exploring other methods.

Soap nuts

The most natural option would be to try Soap Nuts. They are a natural berry found in the Himalaya’s that have a soap like secretion that can be used over and over for cleaning. The nuts should be placed in a small bag to keep track of them during washing.

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Make your own

You can even make your own laundry powder by mixing baking soda and sodium percarbonate, and adding white vinegar to your washing tray for added brightness.

Be sure to look for paper and glass packaging for these.

Opt for the largest packaging you can to avoid waste. You will also need laundry detergent.

Stopping microfiber pollution

You might have read the news that microfibers from our clothes are filling our oceans with harmful pollutants that end up in our food chain. Have a look at this article to go deeper into the subject.

Patagonia is funding a product to create waterless washing machines and in the meantime has create a product called Guppyfriend. It is a full recyclable washing bag that captures microfibers when you do a load of landry.

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Zero waste drying

The most sustainable way to dry your clothes after washing it to line dry or use a drying rack. Remember to opt for wooden clothes pegs or pins.

If you absolutely must use your dryer try to limit you use to winter time. And option for wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. As they can be used over and over again.

Other zero waste laundry ideas

  • Limit the amount of dry cleanable clothes in your wardrobe. It will save you time and money, reduce your waste.
  • Minimize your wardrobe to only pieces that you love.
  • Buy high quality fabrics that will hand up better through many washes and reduce waste created by fast fashion.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know how you stay zero waste with your laundry in the comments.


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Zero waste at the beach

With beach time in full swing we’ve really perfected our Zero Waste beach routine. Living in Barcelona does have the awesome perk that the beach just just a few minutes away and always accessible.

But it can also lead to excesses like eating out and creating waste if you are not well prepared. How’s a brief look into how we prepare for a day at the beach, especially if we are traveling further along the coast.

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mooncup-review-menstrual-cup

Review: Mooncup for a zero waste period

Today I want to get very personal (and detailed) and talk about my latest swap: the menstrual cup. It’s estimated that tampon users will go through 11.000 tampons in her lifetime. I personally estimate that I use around

I only made the switch this week because 1) I was a bit scared of fitting this little cup into my lady parts and 2) I still had a stock pile of tampons waiting to be used and I think the first tenant of zero waste would be to not create waste just to make swaps.

Some facts to start. I have a VERY light period. It run from 3-4 days, it’s always on time, and I have a light flow. But I also have dysmenorrhea (read painful periods with lots of cramps and occasional vomiting), so it’s not party time. I don’t use pads or liners, nor wipes or washes. My personal estimate is that I use 8-10 tampons per cycle, resulting in approximately 120 tampons used per year.

Selecting a menstrual cup

To complete my purchase I did a great deal of research online reading other blog. I found this article the most helpful. But in the end I went with the Mooncup that is available in my country. Here’s an excellent article with a Mooncup review that made my choice even easier. I purchased the A version, as I am over 30 (as indicated on the packaging).

mooncup-review-unpackaged

I purchased it at a local bio supermarket, Molsa, for 28€ (It’s available on Amazon for $28.45 USD). I find the prices to be steep, but when thinking about safety and the long term use of this product you will absolutely be saving compared to purchasing disposable tampons, pads, and liners.

Inserting and adjusting the Mooncup

I work up at 7am with stomach cramps, indicating my period would soon be on the way, but it was way too early to even think about learning how to insert the cup. I recommend waiting until you are alert, because it requires quite a bit of concentration and trial & error.

Later in the day I followed the instruction to first sterilize the cup. This required boiling the cup for 5-7 minutes but making sure not to boil it dry. After sterilizing I waited 15 minutes for the cup to cool before getting to work.

Choose your first time inserting the cup along with your sleep schedule as you should be cleaning it out every 4-8 hours. I started at 8pm.

Pantsless, and standing I put myself into a squatting position for easier insertion. I wet the cup, as recommended in the instruction, and prepared for the worst.

I found the first method of folding the cup twice to be the easiest way to insert it. You squeeze it flat and fold it in half. It is quite a bit bulkier than a tampon so it will feel quite uncomfortable.

I found it best to press it toward the lower part of my vagina to insert it more easily.

Don’t let go of the fold and side the cup higher you can adjust it down afterwards, but it’s so bulky I found it more difficult to push it up then pull it down into place. It has quite a suction! I used my index finger on the sides of the cup to get it into a more comfortable position.

I didn’t have any problems with the cup opening properly once inside.

This cup has a long stem that you can cut to adjust. The stem should not hang outside of the vagina. I immediately removed it to cut the stem a bit and the second insertion was much easier. But the stem was still to long, but I decide to wait until my next cleaning to remove it again.

How the Mooncup feels inside

When I have a tampon in, I don’t feel anything, but I know many women than do. The Mooncup I can definitely feel inside me, particularly when I was more bloated at the beginning of my period. It feels like a little bit of pressure inside.

After the insertion the Mooncup I fiddle with the it for a few minutes (and every few minutes) to adjust when it is pressing on my insides. I’m sure with further use it will get easier to place it just right the first time.

It reminds me of my first experience using tampons at 17. It took some getting used to getting the right angle. And this is quite the same. There is a little learning curve.

After the first day, I could barely feel it there and it made me a little worried about leaks. Gratefully, there were none to speak of!

Removing the Mooncup

Removing the cup was BY FAR the most difficult part. The trick is to be calm. For this reason, I would not recommend a menstrual cup for younger users. Thinking about my younger self, I would be freaking out (and possibly crying trying to get the suction to give up and release the cup from my vaginal walls.

But as a mature 33 year old staying calm was no issue. I resumed the same standing squat position to remove the cup, as I did when inserting it.

I found the first method of squeezing the cup with two fingers from the bottom to be impossible. Instead I used my index finger to break the suction seal and gentle used it to the slide the cup lower.

Again, I pushed the cup toward the lower part of my vagina to make it easier to pull out. Since the stem was fully outside of my vagina, then I could grasp the cup with 2 fingers and pull it down.

There was not risk of leakage as the cup was quite suctioned in. It’s only in those final moment when you get the cup full out that you might slip, but it you are going slow and cautious I see no possible issues.

Clearing and cleaning the Mooncup

I found it easy to clean out the Mooncup and get it ready for reinsertion. On the first day of my period I didn’t have a big flow, so there was barely anything to clean out. But a quick wash in the sink and you’re all set.

P.S. I would not feel comfortable cleaning out the cup in a public bathroom without a private sink.

At the end of my cycle I again sterilized the cup and placed in into the cloth carry case, ready for its next use.

Pros of the Mooncup

  • Easy to insert and adjust (there is a learning curve)
  • Clear instructions
  • Convenient carrying bag
  • Comfortable inside
  • Simple, not fancy color or glitter
  • No leakage, tight seal
  • Certified ethical business
  • Two sizes for the best fit
  • Translated into multiple languages
  • No plastic waste

Cons of the Mooncup

  • A bit difficult to remove (but I’m sure it will improve)
  • Hurts on the way out as it’s now a full cup, not double folded
  • High cost (but let’s test it against durability) – might be cost prohibitive for some potential users

Final thoughts on Mooncup

I’m pretty satisfied with my purchase, as you can see from the PROs far outweighing the cons. I hope it will last me a long time. Buying 150 tampons per year (3 boxes of 50 from Target) runs me $28 (25€). So this purchase will pay off in one year (as I mentioned earlier it was 28€). I think the environmental impact, the impact on my body, and the impact on my finances are well worth the switch.

The little discomfort in starting a new method of managing my period will go away, but the benefits will not. Excellent solution and zero waste swap.

Have you made the switch? Which cup are you using? Let me know in the comments.


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Weekly Zero Waste Swaps (August 13)

One of the biggest excuses that I hear when I explain living a zero waste lifestyle to friends and colleagues is that it’s cost prohibitive. So I wanted to show them that it is possible on a limited budget to live more responsibly.  You don’t have to change everything at once, nor buy the most expensive “tools” to make a lifestyle change.

So I’ve dedicate this post to zero waste swaps under $5, to so that with just a small investment you can start making impactful changes.

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