zero waste (part three)

Initiatives to combat climate change, from large corporations to regular individuals seem to be everywhere these days. I don’t if it’s because I was living with my head in a hole (full of waste), or because I follow several social media accounts that are dedicated to low waste lifestyles, but I feel empowered more than ever to adopt these environmentally-conscious ways.

I have said this before, but moving to our acreage one year ago was really kickstarted our new lifestyle. Because we do not have garbage pickup, we have become so aware of what we put into our garbage. We used to throw away a small bag of garbage a day, and recycle n o t h i n g. I shudder at that thought. Now, as a family of four, we only throw out one small bag every few days, recycle everything that is paper, plastic, or glass, and compost all of our food scraps (that we can’t give to our dogs).

Additionally, we have also stopped buying paper towel and cleaning products. I do not regret cutting paper towel out of our lives. My mother-in-law was kind enough to give us a bag full of rags from old towels that she no longer used. This was something that I had never even considered doing- enlisting in family and friends to donate their old cloths to you. Really, it’s serving you both! They are able to downsize and you gain more rags. Plus, its keeping more out of the landfill. Even with a baby and toddler, I do not find using rags any more difficult. In fact, they are gentler on skin, furniture, and surfaces. Remy and Wilder both have learned that if they ever spill anything, to go into the drawer, pull out a rag, and clean it up! Wilder is only 15 months old and he does this on his own. It’s hilarious! Plus, we are saving a lot of money. Why would we ever go back?

As for cleaning supplies, I am actually grateful to be using vinegar as opposed to commercially-made ones that are filled with harmful chemicals. A few months ago I had a bowl of vinegar and water on the counter because I was cleaning our microwave. I turned my back and started making lunch for the kids, when suddenly I hear “Yuck, lemon juice is gross. My tongue hurts” from Remy. She was standing beside the bowl. I was confused at first, then realized that she must have picked it up and drank from it. I started panicking and asked her if she swallowed some. She saw the panic on my face and she looked like she was going to cry. I said, “it’s ok honey. Just tell mommy if you tried some.” She said that she did. Then I realized that it’s just vinegar, and although was probably really disgusting, could not harm her. It’s not like it was a bowl of Green Works, Mr. Clean, or any other harmful substance. Incredibly relieved, I hugged her and told her to not try anything without asking me first. That is one reason why I will not start buying cleaning products ever again. Natural is the safest way to go.

We have replaced plastic bags with reusable bags and only run the washing machine and dishwasher once a week. When we do, we put the washing machine on the fastest setting (express) and the dishwasher on the shortest cycle (1 hour). We still try to hang dry most of our clothes indoors during the winter months, and outdoors during the summer. All of this helps save on water and power.

Lastly, we have been putting our bottle recycling to good use. Only recently I have dedicated Fridays to doing something fun with the kids. We don’t have any activities that day, so we use the morning to go swimming, or to a museum, etc. Sometimes we do something free, like the library. However, if we do pay for admission somewhere, I aim to use the money that we get from SARCAN. It’s not like we can’t afford it. I prefer to do it because it’s more of an initiative to take our bottles into a recycling depot. In the end, it is like our activities are free, which to me make them more rewarding!

Now that we have the updates out of the way, here are more ways that we have been reducing our waste since my last post:

Thrifting

I have made a promise to myself that 2020 will be the year of thrifting. More specifically, I will buy no new clothing items for myself for an entire year! Everything that I do purchase must be secondhand. Why, you ask? Well new clothing creates a lot of waste. On average it takes 700 gallons of water to make one shirt, and 2000 gallons to make one pair of jeans. Furthermore, a staggering amount of textiles end up in the trash bin each year. In 2014, the fashion industry created over 16 million tons of waste, 10 million of which went into landfills. If we were all to give our clothes to consignment or donation stores, one person’s “trash” becomes another person’s treasure. What is no longer new to them is now new to someone else.

It does not go without saying that another huge benefit will be all of the money that I will be saving this year! In January alone I purchased three tops (one to sell on eBay) and one dress from secondhand stores- each averaging $7 an item. If I would have bought these items brand new, I would have easily spent closer to $200 rather than $28. And that was just in one month! Suffice it to say that this is one of the aspects of our new lifestyle that I am most excited about changing.

Gifts

I am normally a buyer and not maker of gifts. I think that I have preferred doing it this way mostly due to saving time. However, ever since Christmas I have been making an honest effort to make gifts for our neighbours and children’s friends rather than buying them. The same goes with cards. Not only are cards costly but roughly 2.5 million trees are cut down each year just for greeting cards alone! I think that it is better to create your own card, or even just skip out on a card.

So what exactly do we make? One thing that I have been doing more of is giving the gift of food. At Christmas we gave our neighbours baking. Normally I would have put together baskets of little toys and treats for Remy’s friends and preschool class for Valentine’s Day, but instead I made them cookies and other sweets. I realize that this can’t be done for every holiday and occasion, but once in awhile, it can easily replace purchasing something non-biodegradable that will eventually end up in the trash. Try it!

Home Cooked vs Bought

Now that we are discussing homemade foods, I must bring up one of the biggest changes we have made- I have been baking our bread, buns, and bagels rather than purchasing them at the grocery store. Now this might not seem like it would make that big of an impact, but just think about it. Each loaf of bread, package of bagels, or a dozen buns usually come in a plastic bag. My family goes through a loaf of bread or thing of bagels every few days. Say that is two plastic bags a week, that equals 104 bags a year. Or three plastic bags a week is then 156 excess bags a year. The answer? A bread box and tinfoil.

Now when I make bread from scratch I make two loaves at a time. One immediately goes into this beautiful bread box which gets stored in our pantry. The other gets wrapped in tinfoil and placed in the freezer. Once we take it out and unwrap the bread we then recycle the foil! No waste is being created in this process, and by making our bread we are cutting down the use of plastic bags dramatically. Plus, it is cheaper and tastes better than buying store-bought bread. (Here is my favourite recipe that yields two loaves in two hours and tastes delicious.) 

While I realize that it does take longer to bake bread than to buy it, it is a switch that is definitely worth the time. You don’t have to bake ever single loaf, even doing a few a year saves you money and plastic from ending up in the landfill.

Meatless Meals

I previously discussed in this post how Geoffrey and I have agreed to implement one meatless meal per week. I felt like that change deserved a spot here too. Now there is much controversy about cutting back on meat consumption in order to fight climate change. The livestock industry reportedly produces more greenhouse gases than all transportation worldwide. However, cutting down on meat would obviously hurt local cattle and dairy farmers. Some farmers argue that grass-fed cows actually improve their fields by making way for new grass to grow. Other reports state that in order to significantly cut down your carbon footprint, you will need to transition to a mostly or completely vegan diet. That said, one meatless meal for one family every week may not create a huge difference, but like all of our other efforts, we have to start somewhere.

Renovating Rooms

Even though our entire house needs to be renovated, I think it’s important to reuse and incorporate items that are neither not new nor new to us in these made-over rooms. For instance, everything you see on that shelf was from our old house. The picture frames range from 2-11 years old, the lamp has been in a multitude of rooms over the last few years (finally ending up here), and the hanging planter was in our previous bedroom. We reused our white bedding, and after wanting a pop of colour, I rediscovered those cute yellow pillowcases in our antique wardrobe after buying and storing them away 8 or so years ago. They haven’t seen the light of day until now! My Baba crocheted the grey blanket at the foot of our bed for her couch before passing away. That probably holds the most sentiment for me. Finally, the oversized wood bench is actually part of our kitchen table set. The only things that we purchased brand new in this frame were the ceiling fan and the yellow throw pillow, the latter of which we bought locally. By simply recycling objects from other rooms or from other people, it can make a room feel new again.

Emory

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recipe: vegan chocolate zucchini cake

Enjoy diving into this decadent dessert that is not all that bad for your health! Hello New Year and new healthy body!

Ingredients:

(For the cake)
½ cup canola oil
¾ cup almond (or any dairy-free) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup white sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup zucchini, shredded
dairy-free butter, to grease

(For the icing)
1 ¼ cup icing sugar
2 tbsp dairy-free butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp almond milk (or more depending on desired consistency)
½ cup dairy-free chocolate chips

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8”x8” (or thereabouts) baking dish and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, milk, vanilla extract, and sugar. Mix well.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold in the wet ingredients, adding the zucchini last. Stir until just combined.

4. Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the icing. Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until melted. Stir often and do not burn.

6. Once the cake has cooled thoroughly, top with the dairy-free icing. Yum!

Emory

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recipe: spicy squash soup

I was recently given a spaghetti squash from my mother-in-law. A staple in the grocery stores during the fall and winter months, I have always dreamed about cooking with squash, but have not made anything with one before. Admittedly, I didn’t even know that I had a spaghetti squash in my hand until I Googled “different types of squash.”

Assuming that it had a naturally rich and smooth taste, I immediately envisioned a creamy soup sprinkled with green herbs. After clearing my original search, I then typed “squash soup” into Google. Most of the results were for butternut squash (which is probably what you should have used in this recipe), but not wanting to leave our acreage and drive to the store just for another variety of what I already possessed, I decided to substitute it with spaghetti squash.

(I also changed the amounts of vegetables and added my own spices as not to copy any recipe verbatim. If you are an adventurous cook like I am, feel free to do the same and rather use this as a general guide.)

Finally, I Googled “how to properly cut a squash.” If you are planning on making this recipe and are not buying pre-cut pieces of squash, be sure that you cut and remove everything properly before adding it to the slow cooker. Good luck!

Spicy Squash Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients: 

8 cups squash (any), peeled and cubed
1 onion (any), chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 sprigs thyme
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dill
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp chili powder
heavy table cream
parsley, chopped

Steps:

1. Combine squash, onion, carrots, garlic, thyme, broth, salt, dill, pepper, and chili powder into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until vegetables are tender.

2. Remove sprigs then put soup in blender. Blend until smooth. Add cream prior to serving and top each bowl with parsley. Best served with bread.

Emory

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recipe: vegan tomato pasta

I made this recipe because once in awhile, my husband and I both love pasta accompanied by thick sauces, and I was in the mood for something without dairy. I didn’t even know that creamy vegan sauces existed (but wasn’t surprised)! I was quite happy to find this one. In all honesty, it was pretty good for a first attempt. It tasted a bit like a healthier version of an Alfredo sauce. If anything, it has only inspired me to search out and try more vegan options.

Creamy Vegan Tomato Pasta

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pasta of choice
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup Spanish yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
⅓ cup olive oil
1 ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
4 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
salt
pepper

Steps:

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the pasta to a boil. Meanwhile, halve the grape tomatoes and add them to a heated skillet with oil. Dice the onions and add them as well. Cook over medium heat for approximately 15 minutes or cooked to personal preference.

2. Once pasta and tomatoes are cooked through, put almond milk in a separate saucepan. Begin stirring over medium heat. Mince the garlic and add it to the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then slowly add the flour, continually stirring. Cook on low for 5 more minutes to let thicken. Once it looks ready, taste it again. Add more spice if desired.

3. Put pasta and tomatoes on a plate and pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with pepper or vegan Parmesan cheese if so craved. Serve warm.

Emory

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recipe: chewy vegan oatmeal cookies

My husband and I can’t get enough of these cookies- and he isn’t even vegan! They are soft, coconutty, and have a hint of cinnamon. Best of all, you can add whatever you like to them to suit your taste buds even more!

Makes 3 dozen

(Variations include chocolate chips, raisins, butterscotch chips, and more!)

Chewy Vegan Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup vegan butter, room temperature
¾ granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups large flake oats
1 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
½ cup unsweetened coconut
2 cups raisins (or other)

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, applesauce, and vanilla extract.

2. In a large bowl, add remaining ingredients. Stir until just combined, and then fold in wet ingredients. Mix well.

3. Using a tablespoon, roll a ball into the palm of your hand. Gently flatten, then place on non-stick cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool before transferring them!

(Store at room temperature in an airtight container or sealed bag for up to 7 days.)

Emory

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