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When I went to roll my compost bin this morning, this little guy showed his face.

The keeper of the compost

He/she has probably figured out that there is some delicious grub inside the bin – all the insects and bugs doing their important decomposing work.  (If you are curious, I believe it is a Gold Dust Day gecko.  This is the first time I have ever seen one.)

After three weeks, some of the materials in the bin have started to break down.   I am hoping a few months down the road I will be able to harvest some of it.  I saved a dog food bag this week just for this purpose.

I also threw one of the very “loud” Sun Chips bags in to my compost bin this week to see if it will really decompose – and how long it will take.  Has anyone else tried this yet?

The big step of the week, however, was making my own deodorant.   It was time – I just couldn’t scrape anymore out of my Tom’s container (I got desperate and was using a Q-tip to salvage whatever I could).

After some research on the web, I learned that baking powder can suffice as a good deodorant – until the third day, that is, when some people get the “pit itch.”  Other recipes fixed this problem by adding cornstarch.  Mix the two, put it in a glass container, and use a powder puff to apply. Then I came across a recipe for deodorant that attempted to mimic the consistency of the stuff you find at the drug store by also including extra virgin coconut oil.  This sounded the most interesting, so I gave it a try.  I used the recipe from this video from Passionate Homemaking:

Coconut Oil Deodorant:
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup cornstarch
~ 6 TBS extra virgin coconut oil
Essential oils (optional)

Mix everything together until it forms a mushy solid.  Place into containers.

Ingredients for home-made deodorant

Mixing ingredients

Consistency to go into container

I transfered the deodorant mush – the consistency of very thick frosting – into my Tom’s of Maine container.  It was still a little bit soft, so I threw it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes (this step is not in the recipe, but I read that coconut oil needs to be kept at a cool temperature).  When I took it out, it was solid!  It may have been too solid for the container, however.  When I tried to roll the bar up, the ring at the bottom seemed to break loose.  This is probably because when I was mixing everything together I added extra baking soda and corn starch because the mixture didn’t seem like the consistency of deodorant.  My coconut oil was probably a bit warm and melted.  Next time I will trust the recipe.  Despite this slight engineering flaw, I have new, all natural deodorant and didn’t have to throw out my used plastic container.

Finished deodorant

The big test of course, will be using it.  Will it work?  Will it melt if its not in the refrigerator?  Will I get oil stains on my clothes?  Will my skin get irritated?  I will have an update next week.  If any folks have tried something like this before, I would love to hear about your experiences!

Thanks to those of you who sent me recipes for granola and energy bars last week. Since replacing my cereal was high on the list I tried out the granola first.

Home-made granola

It was super easy to make and so tasty!  Thanks Katie, for sending this recipe from “Super Baby Food,” by Ruth Yaron.  I am posting it in case anyone else would like to give it a try.  For dried fruit I ended up using dried cranberries and dates, and I left out the coconut.

Granola

Preheat oven to 350F. Spread 5 cups oats in a 9×13 pan and heat in oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine in a bowl:
1/3 C oil or melted butter
1/2 C honey
1 t vanilla
1 C coconut
1/2 C well-chopped nuts
1/2 C toasted wheat germ (or whatever grain you have on hand)
1 t cinnamon

Mix into pan with oatmeal and bake for an additional 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes for even browning. After mixture cools, add:
1 1/2 C dried fruit
1/2 C sunflower seeds
Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.

In the process of collecting ingredients for the granola, I found out what a fabulous resource my local health food store is and will be through out this trash-free year.  Down to Earth has much more to offer than Whole Foods for those seeking to eat healthy AND reduce their trash.  Not only does Down To Earth have bulk grains, flours, oats, pasta and dried fruit, but you can also buy honey and peanut butter in bulk as well.  To mainlanders this is probably commonplace, but having this option is a big deal here in Hawaii.

When I was at Down To Earth I also picked up something called the Diva Cup.  It was that time of the month for me and I had to face the fact that my usual methods for dealing with my menstrual cycle were definitely not trash-free or even close to it.  A friend of mine at work mentioned this option to me, so I decided to give it a try.

Diva Cup

I am sold on it and so amazed that I had never heard of it before.  The photo above is a picture of the cup in its cotton container.  If any women out there are at all interested I would suggest checking out the Diva Cup website to see what it is all about.  There are other brands out there, as well.  This is just the one I chose that works for me.

Staying on the “girly stuff” theme, I also found a place to buy shampoo and conditioner in bulk.  Down To Earth also has this option, but I chose to buy mine from Bobbi and Guy Salon, where my mom gets her hair cut.

Shampoo and Conditioner refillable containers from Bobbi and Guy Salon

I was reading up on shampoo that comes in bars like soap…I may try that down the road, but this will help me achieve my trash-free goal for now.

The next “girly” thing I would like to change is my deodorant.  I have found great, fairly simple recipes online for home-made deodorant.  If there is anything that any of you have tried and like, I would love to hear about it.

Compost update:

The trash can compost is doing well, as far as I can tell.  I did have to water it a couple times this week because it seemed too dry.  I will need to collect more “brown” waste for this week and tear up my junk mail, toilet paper rolls, newspaper, etc., because I went through my entire container of it last week.  Every time I put in some “green” waste, like banana peals and veggie scraps, I cover it with some “brown” waste.

Green in

 

Brown in

Trash update:

A few new pieces of trash this week: more floss, bottle caps, plastic packaging that came with my training leash for my dog, and disposable contact lens containers.

 

Three weeks of trash

I think I will make magnets out of the bottle caps (my friend Suzanne did this before – such a great idea!) but I’m not sure of what to do with the rest.  Art ideas and other suggestions for how to reuse my trash are always welcome!

I made the first real changes in my lifestyle to help me minimize my trash production this last week.

To eliminate paper towels (and keep my clothes free of damp hand marks) I started tucking a cloth napkin into my pocket.  I am sure it looks a bit odd having a blue napkin hanging by my side, but it works.  I am hoping to switch to handkerchiefs soon.

I also finally picked a new dental floss called “Eco-Dent.”

My new dental floss

As lots of other folks out there have written blogs about their experiences minimizing waste, I am lucky to reap the rewards of their research and experiences.  Colleen sent me a link to a woman named Beth Terry who is doing what she can to reduce the plastic in her life: http://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/.

Beth did a lot of research on dental floss and chose “Eco-Dent” as the best over all option.  I took her advice and am trying it myself.  So far so good.  The downside is that the floss itself it is still made of nylon, thus not biodegradable.  The great side is that there is no plastic container to throw away – the cardboard box IS the floss dispenser!  How ingenious and smart of this company.  When I am finished with the floss, I will be able to throw the dispenser in my new compost container (after taking the very small piece of metal off that is used to cut the floss).

Speaking of which, I also “built” my first trash can compost container.

Trash can compost container

I got an old trash can I wasn’t using and drilled holes all over it (actually, my boyfriend did the drilling – thanks Adam!).  Different websites didn’t agree on how large these holes needed to be, so we just used the biggest drill bit my roommate had (thanks Dana!).

Inside compost container

I then filled it with leaves from the yard, some old grass clippings, my fruit peels and veggie scraps, and topped it off with the bag of compost-able materials I have been saving for two weeks, and strips of newspaper.  I watered it, rolled it around a bit, and put it on a few bricks in the sunshine.  If all goes well I should be able to just add materials, make sure the mixture remains damp, but not wet, and roll it around once a week.   Sounds suspiciously too easy.  We shall see.

As for my other goals for this week:

  • Research places to by bulk items:  I did check out Whole Foods in Kahala and Down to Earth in Kailua for options.  They actually don’t have too much to offer that I am interested in, unfortunately.  I just finished my last box of cereal, so that is on my mind. These places have granola in their bulk food sections, but I am going to research how I can make my own.  Anyone out there have recipes they have tried and liked?  I would also like to see if I can make my own energy / snack bars as my box of Cliff Bars from Costco is now empty.  Again, please pass on any favorite recipes you may have.
  • Experiment with compact take-out containers: I did not do this yet, however I did remember to bring a container to a restaurant last night.  So I guess it is top of mind, which is a step in the right direction.

So all in all it was a great week.  I will admit that I did produce some trash, though. I was caught off guard, at a bar with some friends watching the Ducks play a great game in the national championships, when I ordered a couple drinks and both came with – plastic straws.  I didn’t realize until almost the end of the game what had happened.  The restaurant experience got me again!

I will be spending this week playing with my compost container and continuing my search for packaging-free food.  Again, I would love any granola and / or energy bar recipes!  Thanks!

At the end of my first week of my year-long experiment, I learned basically two main things:

  1. It seems almost impossible to be completely trash-free and still maintain a somewhat modern lifestyle. (I will keep trying, though.  I still have 51 more weeks to go.)
  2. Most of what I used to just throw away can actually be composted. (If you compare the two photos below, the amount of compost-able trash is really quite remarkable.)

Compost me!

Trash I Still Have Yet to Figure Out What to do With

The reason for the increase in waste since the last time I posted my “trash,”  is because I…

  • flossed more with the “bad” floss
  • bought two bathing suits (tags, plastic tag holders, plastic stickers, receipt)
  • drank a fizzy beverage (bottle cap)
  • bought lettuce (veggie tie, receipt)
  • took home yummy Thai food from a restaurant (chinese take out container with metal holders)
  • drank more tea (tea bag and paper)
  • accidentally used couple paper towels (so hard to break that habit!)

Plans for Week 2:

  • Build a trash can compost container (my house that I rent came with a compost pile, but my dog thinks it is his secret poop spot so I am going to try the container route)
  • Research bulk items that I will need to buy soon when my 2010 products start being used up
  • Finally get some biodegradable dental floss
  • Experiment with compact container ideas for restaurant left-overs

Thanks for all your support, comments, ideas and links!

An unexpected power outage allowed for an impromptu lunch outing to a Thai restaurant this afternoon – and my first chance to face, and deal with, my restaurant waste.

When we sat down at Phuket Thai, I was pleased to see that the napkins were made of cloth.  Phew.  And when the waitress came around with disposable chopsticks, I got out my own pair from my “To Go Wear” set that I had just attached to my purse this morning. Check!

To-Go-Wear

I was feeling like I might be able to walk away from this restaurant experience trash-free, until I saw the serving size of my order of Elegant Tofu Curry (delicious stuff, by the way).  It could have easily fed all four of us – but we each ordered a dish, so I knew there would be left-overs.

My co-workers and I had a nice leisurely lunch, chatting and sampling each other’s dishes.  When we were all finished, the plate of Elegant Tofu Curry was still half full.

And then came the moment of truth.  “Would you like to take this home?”  The rest of the table turned and looked at me when the waitress posed this question.  We had just been talking about my pledge to be trash-free this year.

So…do you take the yummy food home in a disposable container to prevent the food from being thrown in the trash (thus creating more waste to prevent waste) or do you just let the food get tossed (I assumed that they did not compost their wasted food – I should have asked).  I figured that in either scenario, I was not going to walk away trash-free.  But in one scenario I would miss out on some awesome Thai goodness.

I decided before making any rash decisions to investigate the options.  “We have the Styrofoam container, a chinese take-out container, and a plastic container you could reuse,” the waitress patiently explained.

The Winner!

I chose the chinese take-out option, because the containers are made with some kind of paper product, which I assumed that I would most likely be able to compost or feed to worms.  Before leaving the restaurant I ripped a piece off the top to see if it would dissolve in water (hence the ripped flap in the photo). There is some kind of impermeable lining on the inside, but otherwise I felt pretty good about my decision. If anything, I could clean them up and use them again.

After checking around the web this afternoon, I found out that I can compost the containers – except for the handles, of course.  That was a close one.  Next time, I might not be so lucky.

I know that the moral of the story is to always bring your own take-out containers, but this was an impromptu event.  I have been looking for something I can stuff in my purse for such occasions, but have yet to find that perfect, small-sized container.

Ideas anyone?

I am well aware that there are others who have taken this type of challenge before me and have written pages of blogs with information just like I am doing right now. The information and ideas I write about in my posts will not be anything new or ground breaking.  But I have realized in just the past couple days that I can only learn how to do this, to produce less waste, by going through my daily routines, making changes in the moment, and then writing about it in this blog.

Sometimes these changes are kind of sad at the time they are made, like walking away from the grocery store last night without my favorite Hansens Ginger-ale because the cans are held together with a plastic 6-pack ring.  Sometimes these changes are frustrating, like when I repeatedly grab paper towels out of habit and think “Arrg! Now I need to figure out what to do with this.”  But this is the way to do it – jumping in, pure immersion.

So, after four days I am not trash free – but I am pretty darn close.  I have started breaking my waste into two categories – Trash I Need to Figure Out What To Do With and Definitely Biodegradable, with the later being saved for a future compost container or worm bin.

Trash I Need To Figure Out What To Do With

I do not intend for these items to remain in this bag forever (I forgot to include the window from an envelope – it is there somewhere), but at the moment I do not know what to do with them.

Definitely Biodegradable

So, the plan is to build a compost container or a worm bin.  Once I do that I can drop in the items pictured in the photo above – including the dryer lint!

When I was growing up, my best friend’s mom, Kate, who was truly a pioneer in this waste-free lifestyle business, used to make beautiful art with dryer lint.  I hope to follow in her footsteps and make something with it someday, but until then what I collect will become soil. I found out that I can compost most dryer lint from 163 Things You Can Compost: http://www.plantea.com/compost-materials.htm.

After brushing and flossing last night, I stared at the waxy piece of string in my hand.

What do I do with this?  I should be able to throw this in the compost, right?

After a little web research I found out that the dental floss that was doing so much to keep my teeth healthy and strong is not biodegradable.  In fact, the floss that I had in my hand is made with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon.

Since I bought the floss in bulk at Costco months ago, I still have seven unused containers in my bathroom closet, each filled with something like 45 yards of floss. If I buy new, biodegradable floss, the floss I have will most likely get tossed if donated.  Perhaps I can use the Teflon floss in a future art project?  I will have to ponder this one further…

It is the first day of my quest for a trash-free year.  Time to layout definitions and rules.

Definitions:

Trash – any item that cannot be composted, recycled or reused here in Hawaii that would normally end up in my trash can at home, at work or while I am out and about.

Recyclable – any item that can be accepted for recycling here on Oahu.

Compostable – any item that will break down into soil if I put it in a compost pile or worm bin.

Rules:

  1. The experiment starts on January 1, 2011 and ends on December 31st, 2011.
  2. Since this is an experiment to challenge my everyday choices of 2011, which is primarily consumer choices, any choices I have made before January 1, 2011, do not apply.  For example, I still have boxes of rice milk that I purchased in December 2010.  Rather than donating them to avoid the net non-recyclable containers that the milk comes in, I will continue to finish them and do my best to reuse them if possible.
  3. “Trash” items that are given to me when I do not have a choice in the matter do not count.  This would include things like gift wrapping, and disposable plates and eating-ware.  I will do my best to recycle, reuse or compost the items, however refusing them will not be allowed as the point of this experience is to challenge my own personal choices.