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Although the goal of this experiment is to be “trash-free” – after two months, I do have a small bag of trash.

 

Bag o' trash and floss roll

The number if items hasn’t increased too much since the last trash update, but I do have a lot more plastic.

 

Trash after three weeks

 

Trash after two months

To keep true to my experiment, I have decided to make my trash into a piece of art – a mosaic, specifically.  I am still undecided on whether it should be an add-as-I-go project, or something I do at the end of the year.  I also need subject ideas – what the trash mosaic will represent.  I would love and ideas and thoughts on this.

Keeping trash out of my little trash bag has meant taking the time to make a lot of things I used to purchase.  Thanks to great recipes sent by friends, I am now making my own granola and energy bars.  This week, I needed broth for a soup, so I bought a bunch of vegetables and threw them in a large pot of water and made my own.  It really took no effort, and now I have a great supply of vegetable broth to use in recipes.  I froze the extra in ice trays for easy access.  Two cubes is the perfect amount for a cup of dried soup.

Ice-broth cubes

Making chocolate is something I have not tried yet, however I did manage to collect and save some samples from the recent Hawaiian Chocolate Festival.

Chocolate samples become evening treats

Although it doesn’t look like much, when you can’t buy chocolate because of the packaging, every piece is cherished.  Friends at work recommended that I sign up for the Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club where I can get a piece of unpackaged chocolate each month – for free!  I will have to look into places like Godiva and See’s Candies to see if I can use my own container if I purchase chocolate from their stores.

Cheese Update:
I had great recommendations on how to keep cheese in my life without creating more trash that included purchasing a cheese wheel and making my own cheese. I am still on the look out for a cheese wheel here in Hawaii and have put in a birthday request for one or a cheese maker from Cheesemaker.com.  Thanks for the tip about the website, Jillian!

Toothbrush Update:
I got two ideas from last week’s post, and after doing a little research on my own, I really like the Preserve Toothbrush program.

Preserve toothbrush made out of yogurt cups

Not only is the toothbrush made out of recycled yogurt cups, but the packaging that this one came in is actually a reusable travel case for the toothbrush.  When the toothbrush is spent, I can download a postage-paid mailer from the internet and send it back to the company who will put it back into the recycling stream.

One of my friends asked me this week if I thought that this lifestyle change of buying specialty items and making so much of my own food would cost me more money.  My hunch is that I am actually saving money by purchasing so much in bulk, but I decided to start saving my reciepts to see how I do.

Does it cost more to be trash free?

I would love to hear if anyone has confirmed whether or not living a more packaging-free lifestyle and buying things in bulk actually saves money.

I knew my trash-free experiment would take some extra time, especially in the beginning, but this week it really hit me. Work, homework, volunteering, time with family and friends, exercise, and sleep seemed to leave me with little time left over to move forward with many new steps in becoming trash-free.  Serendipitously, however, in between all these other activities, I managed to pick up the following tips:

1.  If you are running around and looking for a fast food snack with “green” packaging, check out Quiznos.  While grocery shopping this week in preparation for hosting a dinner, I got suddenly famished.  I peeked into a Quiznos down the way from the grocery store and found that they are now serving their sandwiches and such in unbleached, compost-able paper sleeves.

Quiznos goes green with its packaging

"We're not perfect, but..."

2.  Vinegar, baking soda and hot water will unclog a drain. Our bathroom sink tends to clog up every few months.  When it happened again this week, I vowed not to clean it with chemicals like Drain-o.  Instead I used some vinegar we already had, and a newly purchased bulk package of baking soda.  Both containers, when empty, will be easy to reuse for other projects.

Clog-cleaning duo

I will admit that I did try by-passing the chemical clog-remover before and was unsuccessful.  This time I was determined to make it work – and it did.  You have to be persistent and patient, but it is definitely worth it.

I found these directions at www.ehow.com:

Baking Soda and White Vinegar

  • For moderate clogs, pour ½ cup of baking soda down the clogged drain. Follow it with ½ cup of white vinegar. The baking soda will react immediately with the white vinegar creating foam. The foaming solution will also emit fumes, but you don’t have to worry because they’re harmless.
  • Let the solution soak through the clog. Put the drain cover in place so that the foam does not seep out. Let the vinegar and baking soda solution sit in the drain for about 30 minutes. After the recommended time, pour down a gallon of boiling water. If it still does not drain properly, repeat the process until the clog is gone.

3.  “Bag it” is a must see for those of us out there who want to be inspired to create less waste, particularly of the plastic kind. This week I attended a showing of this lighthearted Susan Berasa film which was presented as a part of a push for the Surfrider Foundation’s “Rise Above Plastics” campaign.  I will never look at a bottle of water or a soup can (made of metal yes, but also lined with plastic) the same way again.  “Bag it” will be airing on National Public Television starting April 18th.

This week I have plans to search for a biodegradable toothbrush.  Hopefully I will get some time to do a little research and be able to purchase one locally.  I am sure other unplanned, trash-free moments will pop up along the way as well.  As always, any suggestions and comments are extremely welcome.

This week I seemed to be pondering a lot about packaging.  First, I tackled the toothpaste tube dilemma.  Although I am still loving my home-made deodorant (my boyfriend uses it now, too) I chose to forgo a toothpaste-making effort.  Putting baking soda and coconut oil under my arms is one thing; taking on cavities with what I have in my kitchen is an entirely different game.  I really don’t want to do the experiments to see if it works or not.  After a little research I discovered that good ‘ole Tom’s of Maine toothpaste tubes are made out of aluminum, which can be recycled just like aluminum cans, and I had a brand new tube in my cabinet.  Perfect!

Aluminum toothpaste tube

While writing this post, however, I discovered a Tom’s of Maine website page that explained how this year they are switching to plastic laminate tubes.  Although my heart sank when I read that they, too, would be creating more plastic, I appreciated their arguments which you can read on their website.   They also offer to take back the empty tubes which they will then put into their recycling stream in the event that local recycling facilities won’t take them, which I am sure will be the case here in Hawaii.  Although one of my rules with my trash-free-year is that I can’t send anything away, I may have to make an exception if I end up buying one of their plastic tubes.  So, I will finish this aluminum tube and revisit the issue again down the road.   I am curious if my local Reynold’s Recycling will take this aluminum tube when I am finished with it. They take other scrap metal, even aluminum foil.

Purchasing food without packaging, one of my greatest frustrations, saw a little success this week.  Although I have been able to find bulk replacements for milk, grains, snacks and even honey,  I have stopped purchasing many former staples like cheese and meat.  Of course, many supermarkets also have delis and butchers which I am just beginning to research in hopes of finding cooperative folks who will let me use my own containers. I am hoping that there are a lot of options out there, but for the moment  Whole Foods in Kahala will be getting my business when it comes to purchasing meats.  Not only do they sell local meats, but they had no problem putting my order of chuck roast for a Valentine’s pot roast feast in a reusable container from home that I brought with me to the store.

Bringin' home the beef in my own packaging

I am still in search of a place that will sell me cheese like this.  The cheese at Whole Foods is already cut and wrapped up in plastic.  I know Safeway sells cheese at their deli.  Of course, cost is a big consideration, too.  I won’t be purchasing meat like this very often, but I really miss cheese.

Continuing on the packaging theme, I got another online order in the mail this week.

Is this packaging really necessary?

Luckily, most of it is either reusable (envelope) or compostable (card stock).  I am even going to be able to reuse the molded plastic for watercoloring – it will be perfect for holding paint and covering up for storage.  But really, is all this necessary for cell phone ear buds?  I recently learned about Amazon’s  Certified Frustration-Free Packaging program.  According to their website:

The Certified Frustration-Free Package is recyclable and comes without excess packaging materials such as hard plastic clamshell casings, plastic bindings, and wire ties. It’s designed to be opened without the use of a box cutter or knife and will protect your product just as well as traditional packaging.

They work directly with the manufactures so they use Frustration Free packaging with their products.  I will keep this in mind and send them a note about companies that I think could benefit from a change in their packaging paradigms.

One final thought on packaging – toilet paper.  My household of three (myself, my boyfriend, and our roommate) traditionally have bought TP from Costco.  It is really cheap – but very high on the plastic trash scale.  Each roll is wrapped in plastic and placed in a larger plastic wrapping.  Taking a stand in honor of my trash-free-year, I refused to purchase it anymore and started looking for other alternatives.  I can’t imagine that local hotels and businesses buy TP this way.  I did find a company on line, Ever-Green, that sells toilet paper in recycled paper board.  However, I have not found it sold in any stores and would rather not have my TP shipped in from across the sea.  I am still investigating this one.  If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear them.

Compost update:
This is week five of my trash can compost bin and I am finally seeing lots of insects and bugs getting inside to help out and do their important decomposing jobs.  When I picked the trash can up off its bricks to roll it around, I spotted potato bugs frantically crawling inside and even worms left behind on the bricks (I never put worms in my bin…I hope they have found it themselves!).

End of week five

The best part is that even though I keep dumping stuff in, I always have room the next day.  I am predicting one day in the near future it may be difficult to roll because it is so dense.  So far so good, though.  I heart my trash can compost bin.

For years I have been purchasing either soy milk or rice milk in bulk from Costco. The price was right, but the waste was not.  The containers that soy and rice milk come in are not accepted for recycling here in Hawaii.  So, every week, after about 10 bowls of cereal were consumed, another empty container would get tossed in the trash.  I am happy to announce that I made the official transition to powdered rice milk this week!  I could not find it in bulk, but I did find this brand at Down to Earth.

Powdered Rice Milk

Last I checked, Whole Foods doesn’t carry this.  Obviously, when I finish the milk I will be left with packaging.  Luckily it is a perfect size to reuse as a container for other bulk food items which is what I plan to do.

Afternoon stomach grumbles prompted me to also try out some home-baked granola bars this week.  (Thanks for the recipe, Katie!).

Granola Bars

They are a bit softer and more crumbly than I expected, but are definitely tasty and filling.  I used crushed walnuts and flax seed rather than wheat germ, and left out the dried fruit.

Granola Bars:
Recipe Courtesy: “Super Baby Food,” Ruth Yaron

1 1/2 C rolled oats
1/4 C wheat germ
1/4 C ground nuts
1/4 C nonfat milk powder
1/4 C melted butter or oil
5 T honey
1 beaten egg
1/4 t vanilla
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 C dried fruit

Mix all dry ingredients. Mix honey, oil, vanilla, and egg into dry mixture. Add more honey to moisten or dry oats to dry, if necessary. Press into 8×8 baking pan. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, cool, and cut into bars.

Besides adding new food to my daily routine this week, I also had my first experience with ordering online and dealing with packaging. My rechargeable camera battery stopped working.  Luckily, the local replacement option was incredibly expensive and wrapped in that hard, sealed, you-need-a-knife-to-open, plastic packaging. This forced me to look online for other options, which is where I discovered Battery Depot.  Not only did this company sell me cheaper-priced batteries, they also used very minimal packaging.  This included a small, puffy envelope; 5 biodegradable cornstarch packing peanuts (not shown in the photo below – I had already put them into the compost); and two little plastic bags and tiny cardboard boxes that held the batteries (a valentines candy heart is included in the photo below for scale).

Minimal packaging from Battery Depot

I will save the envelope to reuse in the future, and toss the mini boxes in my compost.  The remaining plastic bags will be set aside as trash, but I am certain I will find a use for them.  Great job, Battery Depot!

Also on the trash front, as a result of a suggestion from a colleague at work, this week I began to “organize” my used-floss (washed, of course) into a more orderly bundle.

Roll o' Floss

Roll 'o Floss

Perhaps I will be able to use it to string home-made Christmas tree garland at the end of the year…

Home-made deodorant update:
After a week of using the coconut deodorant – I am sold on it.  It really works!  To make this determination, I did a little experiment.  Each day last week I used my new deodorant only under one arm, comparing it with the control, the other non-deodorized pit, at the end of each day.  This may sound a little gross, but really, how else could I know whether or not the deodorant was really working?  This experiment also included putting the deodorant through the real test of my Tuesday afternoon, shadow-boxing / conditioning class where I always walk away dripping in sweat.  I had my doubts, but the coconut concoction did its job – even in that very sweaty environment.  The one minor problem I had with the deodorant was that when I first put it on, it made my under arm itch.  After a little research I discovered that this could be prevented by either waiting a while after shaving before putting it on – or using a lotion after shaving before applying the deodorant.  I chose the later method and the itchiness never returned.  I also never got any stains from the coconut oil on my clothes.

Dealing with toothpaste packaging will be next on my list.  My current tube is down to the last couple of squeezes.  I am hesitant to believe that home-made toothpaste will be as effective for my teeth as using a store-bought brand.  I’ll do a little research this week to figure out my options.  If any of you know of recyclable toothpaste containers or have experience in the craft of effective, home-made toothpaste, I would love some suggestions and / or ideas!