zero waste (part two)

” … [W]hen we say ‘we threw something away,’ what do we really mean? … After all, our discards don’t just evaporate because the garbageman whisked them off. Our waste end up in our landfills, spoiling our precious environment, leaching toxic compounds into our air and soil, wasting the resources used to create the discarded goods, and costing us billions of dollars each year in processing.”

Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson

Above is how the second chapter of Zero Waste Home begins, detailing why eliminating our waste output is imperative. As gathered by the title, this is my second post in my newest zero waste series. In the first post, I discussed composting for the first time, utilizing a clothesline, our septic field, and collecting rainwater. Looking back, I focused on reducing our waste outdoors. This time, I will examine bringing it indoors- from recycling, to phasing out paper towels, and cleaning products.

Let’s begin with recycling. I am fortunate enough to have access to bins in the city where we can take everything there to recycle without having to sort it out beforehand. This has made going from recycling nothing only a few months ago, to now recycling practically everything! Geoffrey and I always have cardboard boxes or reusable bags in our home that are dedicated to these items. A couple of times every month we drop them off at the depot on one of our trips into town.

These depots accept all paper, plastics, aluminum foil, tin cans, milk jugs, cartons, glass bottles, jars, and bagged plastic bags. The only items that they don’t accept are hazardous materials, electronics, clothes, food, and tires. Having a depot located on the side of town that are closest to makes this an incredibly easy and rewarding experience.

We also have a collection of recyclable bottles in the bottom of our pantry that we drop off at SARCAN.

Let’s move on to cleaning supplies- or more specifically, vinegar. Growing up, my mum had always used vinegar and water as a cleaner, so by default when I moved out on my own, I did as well. Yet, I didn’t realize the power of vinegar or how all-purpose it is until only recently! In Zero Waste Home, it lists what vinegar can be used for and how to use it. For example, vinegar can be used as: an adhesive remover, bathroom cleaner, colour set, drain cleaner, eraser sponge, flower food, glass cleaner, herbicide, insect repellent, jewelry cleaner, kitchen cleaner, laundry booster, mildew remover, nicotine stain remover, odor neutralizer, pet repellent, quick mop, rust remover, stain remover, toilet cleaner, upholstery freshener, vinyl cleaner, and wood renewer. Simply dilute 1/4 cup white vinegar with 1 cup water (for added scent, you can also add citrus peels to vinegar several weeks before diluting it).

Of those, I was using it as a bathroom and kitchen cleaner, pouring it down my drains with baking soda, pouring it over weeds to kill them, in my laundry to boost colour, in bowls to eliminate odors, on my floors when I washed them, and to clean my windows- all without a second thought. It really is just an incredibly simple and versatile cleaner to have on hand! (I will return to window cleaning in a moment.)

Now if I am writing about cleaning products, at some point I need to address the elephant in the room. That is the notion of paper towels. Paper towels are a huge zero waste problem. In my research I found that paper products account for roughly 25% of landfill waste. Additionally, the US produces over 3000 tonnes of paper towel waste each day, which significantly increases methane gas. Cutting out paper towel would save trees, water, the atmosphere, and us money!

Until very recently, I was horrible when it came to buying and using paper towels. Being somewhat of a germophobe, I proudly used an entire roll every two days. I used to think more paper towel equaled a cleaner home. I loved the idea of spraying something down, wiping it with those fresh white sheets, and then throwing them out and thus getting rid of the dirt. Now, I shudder at the idea.

When I began this journey a few months ago, I knew that I would have to eventually stop buying paper towel. I was anxious and a little grossed out at the thought of using rags to clean up my dirtiest messes, and then having to touch and wash said rags with our clothes that we wore. I know what you’re thinking, ‘princess, get over yourself’. So one morning I purchased one more six-pack of paper towel with our groceries, and announced to Geoff that it would be our last. I also told him to start collecting every piece of old clothing in order to cut it up into rags. We went through one roll, then two rolls, then slowly went through the third and fourth. Then somewhere along the lines, I completely stopped using them. In all honesty, I can’t even tell you when I did this. Opening our kitchen drawer and grabbing a rag to clean quickly and seamlessly became second nature. I thought that it would be such a hard transition having to break a thirty-year habit, but it really was one of the most natural things that I have done in a long time. We still have those last two rolls laying around our home, but I have no intention on ever using them.

So how do we keep our windows clean? Guys, have you ever used newspaper for this job? If you haven’t, please switch now! I didn’t believe people when I heard and read that it kept your windows streak-free. I thought that it would certainly leave ink or bits of paper behind. I was so wrong. It’s thickness and durability make for a wonderful texture to clean your windows (using vinegar and water for the cleaning agent, of course). I have never had clearer windows. Afterwards, you have the added bonus of throwing the newspaper in the recycling bin. I hope to never, ever return to paper towel and Windex.

If anyone was needing tips for ditching paper towel, you can find a cute and helpful website here.

Please join me on my next zero waste post in just a few weeks!

Emory

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we bought an acreage

Almost five years ago to the day (though it feels much longer), we began our search for an acreage home. Having grown up on a few acreages, and my husband on a farm, we have always felt drawn to a more rural lifestyle. We started out by going north of our current city. I published my first post about our hunt here.

Since then, we have pursued homes in every possible direction. We must have looked at between thirty to fifty properties- small acreages with nicer houses, big acreages with smaller houses, nice yards, hideous yards, newer homes, older homes, ones less than ten minutes from the city, ones more than an hour from city limits, and so on. Years went by and we could not find an acreage that ticked most of our boxes. We also went through quite a few realtors during that process. In the meantime, we sold our place in the city, purchased an empty lot at a lake where we built a home, temporarily moved onto my parent’s acreage, sold the house at the lake, and returned to the city. All within the last five years. Now, I can finally say that our quest is over. We bought an acreage!

As life and luck would have it, we ended up settling on a place a few minutes from where we began searching- north of the city. While it does not have as much land as we originally wanted, it is newer and in better condition than most of the properties that we have looked at over the years. It is also completely fenced with a large garage and a finished basement (the latter of which we have never had the pleasure of owning). There are so many other positives about this home, many of which I plan to discuss in the coming months. There are also a few negatives of course, as no home is perfect. However, for right now, it is the best and most wonderful fit for our family.

I am just so thankful and grateful to God for answering my prayers, and to my husband for working hard and being able to afford this place, and putting up with my restless nature. It has been an eventful and long five years, but now I can finally say that we are home.

Emory

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our little nursery

Today I will be sharing another makeover story with you all. It is our master bedroom and nursery. Pictured above and below is what our bedroom looked like prior to our impromptu renovation.

This all began when Geoffrey had more than a week off at the beginning of August. I was 26 weeks pregnant at the time, and had spent the summer nesting. At the time we thought that we were done with renos until after I had our baby. However, being that we were planning on sharing our master bedroom with our newborn, and it was the only room that we didn’t touch since we purchased our home, I began to feel the strongest urge to do something. The walls, carpet, and baseboards were stained from the previous occupants, the fixtures were so old and grimy, and it just felt dirty. I really didn’t want to bring a new and pure child into such a gross room. Geoffrey agreed and so he set about painting the entire room white and changing the fixtures. After buying Remy a new bed, we made her bed back into a crib and brought it in our room. Below is an after photo.

Fast-forward to the beginning of September, and once again my husband was unexpectedly given more time off. (To explain- he is a train conductor that works hard and often makes enough miles before a certain date each month. When he does, he gets those remaining days off until the calendar resets. It is either between a few days to a few weeks per month! I love his job.) We had been staring at the carpet in our freshly painted room over the last few weeks, and decided that now was the time to replace it. That said, I was not able to physically help him refinish the floors this time. Not wanting to do them by himself, he said that we should pick out new flooring and get it professionally installed. I agreed. We went to our usual flooring store where they know us very well and always give us a discount. After bringing home samples, we just could not agree on a colour or style. He wanted dark laminate or carpet. I wanted light hardwood. See above.

Overwhelmed and running out of time, I said that I would sleep on it. The next morning, I cautiously told Geoff that I wanted him to refinish the floors beneath the carpet. His first response was a firm no. He didn’t want to put in the hard work himself, in addition to not knowing what state the original hardwood floors were in. I told him that we would be saving a few thousand dollars, and could do it faster than having to hire contractors. His answer was still a no. So I promised that if the floors were in terrible shape, that we would pay to cover them with laminate or hardwood. Right away, he begrudgingly started tearing out the carpet. So far, so good.

The next day he rented a floor sander and sanded the entire room. Boy, he was not happy. He was also filthy and sneezing. Inside, I was ecstatic! So was Remy! They were in better shape than I could have hoped for. See the progress below.

I think that it only took half a day to stain the floors. After that, Geoff installed the quarter round to cover the gaps. In order to help him out, I painted the trim and our dresser. It was difficult with my big belly and being 7 months pregnant, but I didn’t want him to complain anymore. I also wanted to show my appreciation for making our room over!

In the last month, we have purchased a new bed (going from a Queen to a King), area rug, and other items here and there. The room just fell into place, and we are both so pleased with it. Even though Geoff still won’t admit it, I know that he loves the floors. Plus, between saving money on flooring and buying everything when it was on sale, we saved thousands of dollars! I call that a win considering this makeover wasn’t on our to-do list anytime soon.

Additionally, we decided to hire a furnace and duct cleaning company. Our home is well over 100 years old, and we have done so many renos that have involved sanding the floors that we just wanted to make sure our air was clean for ourselves and, more importantly, for baby. After spending the morning clearing out our ducts, we were told by the technician that our home has probably never been done before. He was getting clumps of solidified black dust and other disgusting material. It took an entire day to scrub our house down after that. Now we are on a two-year rotation to have the service done. I highly recommend it!

That was the story of our latest makeover. I hope you guys enjoyed it. I also hope that it will be the last one for a long while! I don’t think that I can take many more renovations.

Emory

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nesting

This pregnancy, my nesting instincts have been kicked into high gear. Like most pregnant mothers, I constantly feel the urge to rearrange, remodel, or fix things around our home.

I think that my nesting might be more intense this time around because we weren’t living in our own place when I was expecting Remy. I remember nearing the end of that pregnancy and crying after every doctor’s appointment because we didn’t have a separate bedroom for our baby. I somehow had it in my mind that he/she deserved one, and I felt like less of a parent because I couldn’t provide that. Back then, Geoffrey was going to school full-time and I was only working part-time. To save money, we rented out our house and moved into the second home on my parent’s acreage. Once our renters moved out, we listed our house but kept living at their acreage. I desperately wanted to move back into our home, but by then I was “too pregnant.” I was beyond grateful to be living somewhere for free, but I still remember that feeling of helplessness.

This pregnancy, everything is so different! We are settled in our own home, Geoffrey is working, and Remy and the baby have a bedroom. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to perfect each room in preparation for a new baby. This includes the exterior as well. I know from experience that we won’t be able to really redecorate once baby is here, so I’m trying to get it out of the way now. It’s been really fun. Here is what we have tackled in the last few months:

Ever since we renovated our kitchen, I’ve been unhappy with the empty space above the stove. Above is what it looked like.

I asked my followers on Instagram what they would put there, but the polls came back with inconclusive answers.

After leaving it for awhile, I came across a crate that we had stored on our basement. I hung it up one afternoon and it’s been the right fit ever since. That is, until we get backsplash!

We also have been hanging other items on our kitchen walls, and adding a ton of plants.

Our backyard and front yard have received similar attention. Tired of the unstained deck and rotting trim on the garage, we chose to finally hang new wood and stain the preexisting decks. Above is a before picture.

Here is the result. Much better. We have been gardening like mad, replanting the sod, bought outdoor furniture, and hung a flower box in the front. We’re slowly but surely fixing the outside of our home. Next month, we get a new roof!

Our living room was next on my list. Here is what it looked like before the new flooring and paint.

This is how we had it for the last few months. That cord always bothered us, and it just felt like an unfinished space. I decided to turn it into a gallery wall. See below.

This is still a work in progress. We have hung three pictures so far, but are waiting for the birth of our new baby to hang the remaining three. I love how it’s turning out!

Remy’s room is also getting redecorated a bit. I’ve rearranged her shelves and walls, and this weekend we’re buying her a bigger bed.

Our room is going to serve as the nursery for the first few months. It is the only room in our home that we haven’t touched over the last few years. Above is how we had it.

This is what it looks like now. We hung curtains, painted the room, and are clearing a space for the crib. I’m probably most excited about this area, and will reveal more as we go along.

That’s it for now. There have been other recent changes but they will have to wait for another day.

Have a lovely week and weekend, all!

Emory

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our kitchen: before and after

Welcome to our kitchen renovation! The total time that this project took was approximately 3.5 months. 

During that time, we were also renovating our living room, hence the delay! It felt like a long process, but one that wasn’t as stressful as I had originally thought. Below are the before pictures.

Our goal for the room changed quite a few times. First it was to get new flooring and counter tops, but to leave the sink. Then it was to get all three. By the end, we decided on a new floor and sink, and to leave the preexisting counter tops. Meanwhile, we were always set on refacing the bottom cabinets and replacing the uppers. And that’s what happened!

We began this process by first taking down our upper cabinets. Removing them went fairly smoothly, but what was behind them was a bit of a mess. Where there was drywall, it was bumpy and uneven. In other parts, they had cut away the drywall to install the cabinets. The window casing also decided to come down with the cabinets. Because we were wanting to install floating shelves, the walls needed to be even and smooth. It took a lot of mudding, sanding, puttying, and more sanding, but we finally got them to a usable state!

Meanwhile, we had the same company return to rip out the vinyl flooring in the kitchen, and install the same dark laminate that we used in the spare bedroom. I love a dark floor with white cabinets, and thought that continuing it in this room would be to our advantage. After a day of labour, it was in!

Next we had a contracting company come and reface our bottom cabinets. We had never had this done before and were curious and excited to see how it would play out. We chose to reface instead of install new cabinetry for many reasons. The first was to keep the costs low. The second was because it was quicker. The third because it created less of a mess and we could still use our kitchen while it was getting done. They made us new soft-close drawers from scratch, reconfigured a few things, and ironed on the new material. I chose these drawer pulls from Amazon. Although it took three long days, we were so happy with the results!

After our cabinets were refaced, we set about painting the kitchen. This was pretty straightforward. It took four heavy coats of white to cover the dark and grease-stained walls and off-white ceiling. It was the most time-consuming project in the entire renovation!

We ordered our new appliances from Home Depot and Trail Appliances. We went during a big sales event at Home Depot for a new fridge and stove. It turns out that they ordered us the wrong fridge (but we kept it), and our stove was back-ordered for two months. I don’t think that we’ll be going back there again for appliances. Our dishwasher, on the other hand, came from Trail Appliances. We picked it out and picked it up that same day, and the sales team and entire experience was so enjoyable. We were even given a discount just because the salesman liked us! I definitely recommend a smaller company like them over a big box store.

Choosing our floating shelves was probably the hardest process in this makeover. I bought and returned so many different types and colours of shelves- it was insane! Here is Geoffrey testing out a MDF wall shelf and a barn wood shelf. We ended up going with neither! Instead, we chose wide plank pine shelving.

We ended up going with these brackets from Amazon. The least expensive brackets that I could find at Home Depot and Rona were around $10. Because we needed 17 of them, I wanted to find a cheaper option. The brackets that we ordered were only $5 each, and looked better than anything that I could find in the city. Hooray!

I also ordered our light fixture, sink, and faucet from Amazon. Those were the last to be installed. We chose a sink that was a little larger than our previous one, and so much better looking. The faucet is so neat. It has an LED light that turns blue when the water is cold, green when it’s neutral, and red when it’s hot. The plumber said that he had never seen one like it before. He took a video and a few pictures of it, and said that he wanted to order them for the shop. Too funny! After spending an entire day here, and $1100 later, our sink and faucet were in. We were done!

Down the road, and if we stay in this house, we would like to order a chimney range hood for over the stove. I would also like subway tile back splash in the kitchen! I think that it would pull it all together.

We learned so much from this renovation. I’m just thankful that we were able to continue to use our kitchen the entire time. I couldn’t imagine not being able to! In that regard, I wouldn’t have changed anything.

I hope that you guys enjoyed this post. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions, concerns, or compliments. ;-)))

Emory

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  • Welcome, friends! My name is Emory. I am a wife and mother to three (two on earth and one in heaven). This is our life on the Canadian prairies.
    email: helloscarlettblog@outlook.com

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