Zero waste: Yogurt Solution

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Mmmm love me a dressed up yogurt!

My kids Love yogurt. They like the plainest, sugarless yogurt I could find, which I got in a big plastic tub. So luckily I was not forced to buy those horrid sugar filled mini yogurt cups that they market for children. Have you seen the sugar content of those little yogurt cups? Crazy!! But now we have gone plastic free, so I needed to find an alternative.

Unfortunately there is no yogurt at our bulk store, so I decided to make my own. I don’t have a yogurt maker, but I do have a crockpot. So I looked for a recipe and stumbled upon this one:

http://www.daringgourmet.com/easy-homemade-greek-yogurt/

As usual, I am highly skeptical of anything that looks too easy. I had been buying yogurt for YEARS thinking it was something difficult to make. What do you mean IT IS JUST HEATING MILK AND THEN COOLING IT?!? Ya, because that’s basically as complicated as the recipe gets!

Step 1:

Get a starter. I used 1/2cup of store bought plain yogurt (10%m.f). Once you make your yogurt, you can use it as your starter, just set aside 1/2cup to be used for your next batch.

Step 2:

Buy 2 litres of whole milk or the highest milk fat you can find. I get organic milk in glass bottles from a local farm, it is 3.8% m.f.

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Step 3:

Pour 2 litres into your crockpot, cover and set on HIGH. Leave for about 2 hours. Set a timer. Mine takes 2hr20 minutes.

Step 4:

Once your milk has reached 180F (check with a food thermometer) turn off crockpot and let your milk cool down to 115F. This also takes about 2hrs. At the same time, take your starter out of the fridge and leave it on the counter so it gradually gets to room temperature.

 

Step 5:

When your milk has reached 110-115F, ladle out a small bit and gently mix into your starter. Then pour it into your crockpot and gently mix.

Step 6:

Wrap your crockpot in towels and leave it somewhere undisturbed for 12hrs. I usually put it in my oven.

Step 7:

The next day your milk will have magically transformed into yogurt!!!! Amazing!!! All you have left to do is strain it! Line a mesh sieve with some cheesecloth, plop your yogurt in and let the whey drain. The longer you strain it, the thicker it will be. You can always add some whey back in to adjust the consistency. You can even drain it for the whole day and then it makes a cream cheese like cheese!

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Straining with a cheesecloth

The yogurt will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Keep in mind that this is homemade plain yogurt, so it will taste different from store bought yogurt, which typically has a lot of sugar added into it. Mine is quite tangy but the kids like it. When you are ready to serve, you can mix it with fruit, purees, chia, oats, chocolate chips, flax…whatever floats your boat!

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Mmmm Chia, flax, cocoa, oats, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, banana and a drizzle of maple syrup. How is this even breakfast!?

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Yogurt and Whey

Ps. Don’t discard the whey! It is loaded with protein. You can add it to smoothies, soup stock, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, it can also be frozen! I usually use it to make pancakes or waffles.

Update: Since learning to make yogurt, I have been able to find yogurt in glass containers! So when I don’t have time to sit around babysitting a crockpot, this is my go to option. And when I am looking for an extra special treat, I found these tiny little “petit pot” yogurts from Riviera*! They are seriously delicious and I use the glass jars as cups for the kids!

http://rivierapetitpot.com/?lang=en

Note: My Father in law always makes his own yogurt, even when they go camping!! I have not tried it but this is his method

  • use an insulated container (like a thermos)
  • Put in 2 cups of full cream powdered milk + warm water + a tablespoon of the current yogurt batch.
  • Leave for 12 hours.
  • Have yogurt!
  • They found it was best to start off with the commercial starter ¬†(packet of EasiYo Greek starter)

Which seems crazy simple. If you try this out, please let me know if it actually worked!

*Not affiliated or sponsored by this company, just like their yogurt ūüôā

Zero Waste Travel

DSC00156Well, it was that time of year again. The point where if I had to shovel one more scoop of snow or wrestle my kids into their snow suits one more time, I truly think I would have gone mad. So we booked a week escape to hot and sunny Cuba! Woo Hoo!

We have always been eco conscious, but it would be the first time traveling since we started on our Zero Waste journey. Though we are nowhere near Bea Johnson level, I think we did pretty well! This is what we did to keep our environmental impact minimal:

Packing

When we travel, our goal is to bring just ONE bag for the four of us. To create more packing space, I usually roll all our clothing, stuff it into big ziplock freezer bags and squeeze all the air out. This time I used the military roll technique to pack, skipping the ziplock bags. This is a super efficient way to roll, it saved so much space!! I rolled everything and kept it packed tightly together with elastics. I was pretty pleased to finally find a use for all my produce elastics!!

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My traditional way of rolling vs. military rolling

I packed my steel straw and straw cleaner. I rarely use straws, but I knew at the resort I’d want to sip my daiquiri through a straw and I was not about to use a plastic one. I still have nightmares of the turtle who got a straw stuck in his nose. Youtube it and I guarantee you won’t want to use a straw again either!! I love the steel straws, but they look a little deadly, so I was sure to keep that in the checked bag!

I brought a few wet bags. They were great for the plane ride home when we had wet towels and suits! I did end up with 3 ziplock baggies. One contained emergency baby food and milk. There is no way around this as the airport requires liquids to be in a plastic bag. The other contained sunscreen and bug spray. Perhaps I could have packed those in wet bags, but I’ve had my sunscreen explode one too many times and I was not about to risk ruining all our clothes. The last small ziplock contained our medications. I know it is not zero waste friendly, but acetaminophen and ibuprofen are pretty essential when traveling with young children. Especially when one is teething.

We brought a small beach tent for the baby. We usually wrap this in cling wrap to protect it, but instead I put it into one of my re-usable grocery bags and tied the straps tight. It worked just as well!

Plane Ride

To avoid purchasing packaged meals on the plane, I packed a meal and snacks into our tupperware containers. I use glass to store food at home, but I still have some perfectly good plastic containers. They are lightweight and I felt they were a better option for the plane. I worried that our nuts and fruit might not make it through security, but it was no problem, especially if you say it’s for the kids! We ate on the plane, so we didn’t have to worry about security once we arrived.

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When flying with children, coffee is a must!

I was sure to have our mason jar mugs in my carry on, as well as a spoon and a small container of sugar because I knew a coffee would be in order. To avoid using the little milk/creamer containers, I asked the flight attendant to put some milk in one of my mason jars. They were happy to comply! The toddler drank most of it and I saved a little for my coffee.

We also brought reusable water bottles, which we filled up in the airport once we were through security. I had cloth napkins as well as some small washcloths that I could use to clean up the kids. I wet them with water and stashed them in a mini wet bag.

Beware! Often airlines will have small gift bags for children. In situations like these, I usually prep my daughter beforehand explaining why we need to refuse such things. But it totally slipped my mind! To avoid an epic meltdown while¬†boarding the plane, I let her accept the gift, even though I had packed a little activity kit for her myself. We ended up gifting the airline kit to staff¬†at the resort, so it wasn’t a total fail.

Resort Life

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Cheers!! Happy mama at the beach!

DSC09908We used our mason jar mugs every time we went to the bar. The bartender liked them so much, I ended up giving them to her at the end of our trip! I was pretty pleased to see many people heading to the bars with their reusable mugs!! It seems this is catching on! Perhaps it isn’t so far of a stretch to think one day people will be skipping the plastic straws too! ūüôā

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Cloth napkins can also be used as a bib!

At the restaurants they only had cloth napkins, woo hoo! In fact, I did not see a single paper napkin the whole trip! Awesome! It meant I didn’t have to use and wash the ones I brought!! I should have brought more of my own sugar, they only had the little paper sachets and I ran out of sugar a few days in. The only disposable plates I saw were at the beach grill, so we stuck to eating at the buffet restaurant. They set out plastic cups at the ice cream bar, but we just used our water glass or got a soup bowl to fill instead.

I always brought a container with me to meals so I could save the kid’s leftovers to be eaten as snacks later. We also insisted on reusing our same plate when going back to the buffet for seconds and were mindful of portions to keep food waste to a minimum.

In Cuba the tap water is not recommended for tourists to drink¬†and with young children I was definitely not going to risk it. We drank the bottled water, which was provided in 1.5L bottles. At mealtimes, we always used the leftover water in our glasses to fill our water bottles. Because of this, we didn’t waste any water and always had plenty to drink. And I saw¬†maintenance workers using water bottles as paint jars, so at least some get repurposed!

Everyday my toddler and I would take a walk along the beach. She would collect discarded straws and I collected¬†the cigarette butts. I actually could not go more than 5 steps without encountering a cigarette butt, it was pretty sad. On the upside, nothing makes statement quite like adorable toddler holding a huge fistful of straws. We got a lot of high fives and other people said that they were inspired to help keep the beach clean too!¬†The resort staff did an incredible job keeping the beach clean, but it’s amazing how, what appears to just be a few lonesome straws here and there, really adds up when you start collecting them.

On the way home, I filled our containers with food from the buffet to take on the plane. I worried again it wouldn’t be let through, but it was not a problem. We even forgot to to empty out our water bottles, but because we had kids, airport security let us keep it!

Room

Our room had a bidet!!! I had never used one before but I liked it! Felt so clean! And meant we didn’t use hardly any toilet paper while we were there!! Which is great because you can’t flush the paper down, any used tissue goes in the waste bin beside the toilet, yuck!

We brought our own shampoo and soap, so we didn’t have to use the hotels amenities. I made sure to carefully refold our bath towels so that our maid wouldn’t change them everyday.

Extras

We brought our hammock, but I forgot rope to hang it! No worries, everything we need already exists, I knew we would find something. I started making a rope from discarded straws, but on the second day I found an old fishing net. By the 3rd day we had unravelled enough to hang our hammock woo hoo!

In Cuba, things can be hard to get. So before we left, I packed a bag full of things to donate. Baby bottles, clothes, jars of baby food, formula, cloth diapers, toys, nail polish, makeup, bras, toothbrushes, purses etc… the staff were very happy to take it off my hands and assured me that they would all be put to good use.

We didn’t bring any sand toys with us, I knew that spoons and cups are easily found. But on the first day we arrived, we met a family who was leaving and they passed on all their sand toys to us! At the end of our trip,¬†we payed it forward to another arriving family.

My husband makes sand sculptures and needed a pail to carry water. Well, an hour later a water jug washed up ashore. Cut off the top and voila! A perfect pail. Honestly, anything we ever need has a way of finding it’s way to us ūüôā

My daughter wanted to be fancy for dinner. For her this means wearing a headband. Bad mom, I didn’t bring any! So I braided some palm leaves, stuck in a flower, and there you go, a fancy schmancy headband! She loved it so much, I had to make bands for the entire family, including her stuffed cat and my husband! I really loved making do with what was around us. No need to pack all that stuff!

For our first attempt at zero waste travel, I think we did pretty well! We had a fantastic trip! And my mental health was recharged ūüôā

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Green Wedding on a Dime

wedding

Once upon a time I got married to a crazy Australian and we had a beautiful wedding. This was before I ever heard of Zero Waste, but looking back, I realize that our wedding was pretty enviro friendly!  Our budget was less than 10,000$ and we managed to get just under that. I thought it might be worth writing out some tips on how to have a green wedding on a tight budget.

Here are my top 10 tips:

  1. Keep it small
  2. Become the queen (or king) of DIY
  3. Enlist friends and family to give you HELP instead of GIFTS
  4. Buy secondhand
  5. Borrow what you can
  6. Use/repurpose what you already have
  7. Sell what you don’t need afterwards
  8. Repurpose items into your post wedding life
  9. Think outside the box. It’s OK to do things a little differently!
  10. Stay true to yourself and what You want. It’s your day.

If you want to know more about what made our big day green and easy on the wallet, read on!

Keep it small

wedding guests.jpgThis was easy for us! Since my husband was fresh off the boat, everyone he knew lived on the other side of the planet and couldn’t come to the wedding haha! We had 35 people, including us! The beauty of a small wedding was that we were surrounded by those who were closest to us. It was really intimate. It also gave us a huge variety of venues to chose from, instead of just reception halls. The small guest list ensured our waste was minimal, it saved us a lot of money and allowed us to do many things ourselves. It is a lot easier to make 5 centre pieces than 30!¬†

Choose a great venue

wedding ceremonyWe rented a beautiful log chalet that was located on a private lake. Cheshire Lodge was spectacular and really made our green theme come to life! It also allowed our guests to spend the night, so we didn’t have to worry about anyone driving home that night. This was the biggest chunk of our budget. Cost: 1650$/night + 200$ cleaning fee, with 2 night minimum. Total: 3500$

Invitations

Our invitations were very simple and were printed on card paper that could easily be recycled. We used vistaprint.ca, it was very affordable, customizable and we were very happy with the quality. Because we only invited close friends and family, we were able to hand deliver most of them, saving on costs and avoiding any extra transmissions and fuel consumption from the postal service. Our friend used their invitation to make us a beautiful shadow box, which we have hanging on our wall! We asked our friends to rsvp by phone or email. If you want to avoid paper all together, send out an e-invite. Or make your own pulp paper from scrap paper, you can even embed some seeds into it and encourage your guests to plant it!  Our Cost: 37$

Dress

wedding dresses

I kinda cringe when I see the hangers in this picture, but I just used whatever hangers I had in the closet! 

I found my dress on super clearance at an outlet store, but you can easily find a dress secondhand or even rent one! Maybe you are super lucky and a family member has one to pass on! You could have altered into a fabulous dress that suits your style and give it a new life. Honestly, isn’t it a bit crazy to buy a brand new dress that is thousands of dollars, and only wear it for one day?? I borrowed the bird cage veil from my sister, my ring has a blue diamond and my shoes were new (wedding shower gift from my friends!). I bought my bridesmaids their dresses from a local boutique, Boutique 1861. Their dresses are so pretty and very reasonably priced.¬†1861¬†https://1861.ca/collections/robes¬†¬†Cost: 45$ for my dress and 25$ for the alterations. The bridesmaids dresses were 60$ each and my daughter’s dress and headband was a christmas gift.

wedding baby flower girl

Flowers

We did very simple bouquets that we put together ourselves. Ordered the flowers in bulk from Costco, they were delivered in a cardboard box.  I ignored all those gorgeous exotic flowers and went with carnations, a very inexpensive, hardy flower. I wrapped ribbon around the stems to make myself and my bridesmaids each a small bouquet. I put whatever extra flowers I had in mason jars to add a pop of colour here and there. You could also forgo flowers all together. Some great ideas are bouquets made from vintage broaches or even paper flowers! My little flower girl waved a wand, which is now part of her dress up box. Cost: 100$

Food

Wedding cookies

Since it was such a small wedding, we were able to have it catered buffet style and could save any leftovers. People could take what they wanted and what they liked, which translates into less food waste. I made sure to bring plenty of containers to save the leftovers for the next day and told my guests to do the same! I’ve been to so many weddings that had so many courses. I would be so stuffed after the cocktail hour that I could barely could finish any of the main meals!¬†Such a terrible waste. Cost: 28$/person for the meal, 65$ for grill rental +25$ insurance, a cook and a server who were paid 30$ each per hour. Plus tax. It made for a total cost of about 1700$¬†

My mom and I actually made all the food for the cocktail hour. We kept it pretty low key so that people would still have room for¬†dinner. We had a tasty Mexican bean salad, all bulk friendly, package free ingredients, quinoa salad, fruit skewers on bamboo sticks, ¬†cheese platter, water melon, dips and crackers etc… One regret is that I had disposable cutlery, plates, napkins and cups *cringe* at the cocktail hour. I rented tables, plates, glasses, silverware and tablecloths for the dinner. If I could have a do-over I would rent more so we could avoid anything disposable. We bought all our own alcohol and had a self serve bar. For all the rental items it came to about 300$, alcohol was 600$ and food for the cocktail/dessert was about 200$


For dessert, my sister made our wedding cake and I made a paper cake topper. We also had homemade cupcakes and a “cookies and milk” bar. My sisters were big drinkers of those bottled starbucks frappachino drinks. They¬†saved the glass bottles for me, I removed the labels (Oh that was a pain!) and then I filled them with chocolate milk, yum! As a wedding gift, I asked my friends to bake cookies, so we had an awesome cookie selection!¬†

Wedding favours

wedding favoursWe gave away little boxes of sunflower seeds. I loved getting pictures afterwards of their little sunflowers growing! It was super inexpensive and I think our guest were pretty happy with them, some¬†even asked if we had any extras to bring home for their kids! The seed boxes were from Target, only 1$ each! I add personalized sticker on them (ordered from vistaprint.ca) Cost:50$ Other great favour ideas: Donation to your favourite charity, little buri palm fans, potted herbs or succulents, maple syrup, honey or jam in glass jars, mason jar mugs with hot chocolate mix in it, or dry ingredients from your fav cookie recipe… so many possibilities!¬†

Decor

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I knew all those hoarded wine bottles would come in handy!

Our venue was a gorgeous log chalet, so it didn’t need much decor. I brought my christmas lights and strung them on the balconies, it looked so pretty at night. I used¬†panels of sheer curtains to hang behind the dessert and drink table. I put them up with thumbtacks. Later they went right back up on my curtain rod at home, the thumbtacks back in our office drawer. Cost: ZERO!

I made tissue paper pom poms and had paper lanterns, strung on twine and hung from the ceiling. It looked very pretty and, best of all, no plastic and all recyclable materials. And yes, in case you are wondering, I am that person meticulously refolding all the tissue paper at every birthday and christmas, it can be reused people! Cost: ZERO + 20$ for the lanterns, but I sold them afterwards. Check out this tutorial to make tissue paper pom poms. http://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/how-to-make-tissue-pom-poms

wedding banner

Who would ever know this was made from a cereal box??

All our banners were made from cardboard from old cereal boxes, ribbon and clothes pegs. Cost: ZERO

Our wedding signs were made with scrap wood scavenged from the curb on garbage day. I aged it with tea and steel wool in vinegar, they turned out amazing! I already had paint in our wedding colours in my art box. I was even able to sell the signs afterwards. Made for free and then made a profit, double win! Cost: ZERO

For the centre pieces, I collected (ok hoarded for years) wine and liquor bottles, took off the labels (ughhhhh more labels to remove, so annoying!) spray painted them gold and stuck candles in them. They were super pretty and after the wedding I sold them for 80$! I had hoped to display them on a slab of wood, but that turned out to be harder than I thought. Cutting wooden slabs straight and level¬†was¬†impossible with the tools that we had and there was no way I was paying 20$/slab of wood from the¬†craft store. So instead I found found pretty pastel metal doily-like “plates” at Ikea and put them on that. I used a bunch on our food table as well. They were actually meant to¬†put under potted plants, but no one needed to know that. I sold most of them afterwards but kept some, I use them to display food when I host parties! Cost: 40$ for the plates and spray paint

wedding cocktail food

Disposable spoons *cringe*

I made tiki lamps out of wine bottles to light the grounds outside, and filled them with citronella oil to keep the mosquitos. Cost: 10$ for the wicks. I found a big bottle of citronella at my parents house, so that was free.

wedding tiki lamps

Thanks Pinterest!

The start of the aisle was marked with two milk jugs filled with sticks. I already had these in my house as decor, why buy something new when we have houses filled with stuff already?! The aisle was lined with wood stumps that I found at the venue. I placed a mason jars with leftover flowers on each stump (and of course I still use the mason jars!). Cost: ZERO

Wedding ailse

We got married under a mosquito net that we pimped up using strands of pearls and flowers from my sisters wedding. That mosquito net now hangs in my family room and is used for my children’s reading nook. Cost: 20$

Our guest book was actually a Jenga game that I painted to match our colour scheme. Each guest wrote out their well wishes on a block. Now when we play the game, we get to read all their lovely advice and comments. So much better than a book that nobody ever looks at! Cost: 20$wedding jenga

One of the most important Rs is RE-USE, so I LOVE that most these items still have a useful purpose in our day to day lives or could be sold after our big day was over. 

reading nook

The wedding alter is now a reading nook, and there is our wedding tree in the window, thriving!

Ceremony

wedding tree

Sticking with our green theme, my husband and I planted a little tree at the ceremony to represent our union and commitment to each other (well technically we nurtured a potted plant by adding water and dirt to it haha). We still have the plant today and I am happy to report that it is alive and well! We have even had to re-pot it a few times! Cost: 15$

Gifts

wedding card box

We did not have a gift registry, the last thing we needed was a¬†bunch of useless china or more towels, so we asked for NO gifts. For people who insisted, we asked that they help with the wedding. We were doing everything ourselves, so we had people to help with the setup, the post wedding cleanup, one friend took charge of making of the music playlists, some baked for our cookies and milk bar, one filmed the ceremony, others¬†brought food for breakfast the next day (we had the chalet for the weekend, so everyone was invited to spend the night)…Most people preferred to give us money and a card.¬†We had a¬†little glass greenhouse (Ikea) and our guests put their cards in there. Cost: 20$

Dance floor and Extra activities

wedding fire

Our venue had a lovely huge veranda and a huge green space, so we used that as the dance floors. As it grew dark, we got a bonfire going and roasted marshmallows and hot dogs as a midnight snack. We also had fireworks, which my husband and his friends had a great time setting up and setting off. Seriously, I think this was his favourite part of the wedding, nothing says “I love you” like playing with explosives right?! It wasn’t totally zero waste, but it gave a special touch to our very relaxed, low key wedding. It was the first time my daughter saw fireworks (she was 8 months old) and I will never forget the look of pure amazement on her face. Cost of fireworks: 150$

Extra costs:

Photographers, wedding bands, my husband’s outfit, jars to put the cookies in, wedding license, legal fees…all those costs add up alarmingly fast. At the end of the day we came in at just under 10,000$. It sounds like a lot, but I don’t know how we could have cut anymore costs and still have the day we wanted. Our memories will last a lifetime!

So there you have it, how to have a green wedding on a tight budget! Did you have a green wedding?

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Happily Ever After

 

 

 

For the Love of Bread

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Oh bread, I love bread so much. I am quite thankful I do not have a gluten intolerance. I used to buy bread at the super market, we went through a lot and of course it came in those plastic sleeves. Once we went Zero Waste, I started buying bread at the local bakery. It was a good easy solution because their loaves were unpackaged and I could just put it straight into my canvas bag. But it would only last a couple days at most and at 4-5$ a loaf, it was pretty pricey. So I bought a huge 10kg paper bag of flour for 10$ and decided to make my own.

I must admit, I was very scared. Totally intimidated. Baking bread looked hard and time consuming. I have no bread machine. I have no fancy stand up mixer. Seemed like something better left to the professionals. But I could not give up bread, so I gave it a go.IMG_2713

I found an alarmingly simple recipe to make artisan bread. It looked too easy. How could 4 ingredients, 5 minutes of my time and no kneading lead to gorgeous bread? Well my friends, it totally worked! The yummiest, prettiest bread that you ever did see. I use this recipe every few days now. It is so quick and easy, I prepare it while I am waiting for my bread to toast in the morning. It’s THAT easy.

For the recipe click the link! http://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/2016/02/12/homemade-artisan-bread-easiest-bread-recipe-ever.html

IMG_2711Of course, that recipe requires dry active yeast. I am able to find it in a glass jar, but an even better Zero waste option was to make my own yeast! Assured by my friend (a professional baker) I followed her steps to growing a sourdough starter. Low and behold, it resulted in bread! Mine wasn’t as light and fluffy as hers, but the taste was amazing! For her bread and other amazing vegetarian recipes, check out her beautiful blog:¬†http://baconveggie.blogspot.ca/2017/01/make-your-own-sourdough-step-by-step.html

Occasionally I wanted a special treat. I began to crave bagels, english muffins, fluffy buns, pizza, waffles. I gained some baking confidence and was ready to branch out. They required a lot more time and effort, but now I make a huge batch and freeze them. These are the recipes I tried and liked:

Bagels: http://mysecondbreakfast.com/montreal-bagels-recipe/

English Muffins: http://tiphero.com/mason-jar-english-muffins/

Dinner rolls: http://www.marthastewart.com/312832/dinner-rolls

Pizza dough: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/pizza-dough-recipe

Belgian waffles (this required a waffle maker, which I borrowed from my mom): http://www.food.com/recipe/the-bestest-belgian-waffles-63071

That big 10kg doesn’t last me very long these days, but it comes out to so much cheaper and healthier than buying things store bought. I had someone ask me “but how much does it cost?” Well, the kids were at daycare that morning, so I had a moment to figure it out. Brain is a bit mushy these days from being on maternity, so please correct me if I’m wrong but here is the math:

10kg is equal to 80 cups. It takes 3 cups for a loaf. 80/3=26.6 loaves. A bag costs 10$. 10/26.6 is 0.375 cents worth of flour/loaf. Plus the yeast. Yeast is 5$/jar. It has 113gm. It takes 1/2tsp/loaf which is about 2.5gm. 113/2.5=45.2. So one jar of yeast makes 45 loaves. 5$/45=0.111cents of yeast. Yeast + flour+ water+ 1tsp salt= about 0.50cents per loaf.  Which is 10 times less than the bakery.

Love me a Zero waste win that saves me money ūüôā happy baking everyone!

Bye Bye Paper Towels

One of the first things we got rid of was paper towels. We would go through a ton of these! We have a cat, a baby and a toddler, things get messy and the paper towels were easy to reach for. In fact, one of the things we loved when we purchased the house was it had a very conveniently located paper towel dispenser. It was a little too convenient. We were using too much. It was time to make a change. So I hid the paper towels. And you know what? Once they were gone, it was easy to reach for something else. My kitchen was already stocked with many kitchen rags and dishtowels, the bathroom had a ton of baby wash cloths in the cabinet and I have lots of extra prefolds (cloth diapers) for the inevitable pee pee accident. For the table I found some lovely secondhand linen napkins, but we rarely use them. Most of the time the kids are such messy eaters that we found is easier to take them straight to the sink to wash up.

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Cloth napkins, so classy ūüôā

I now use the kitchen cloths and dish towels for nearly everything. Cleaning, drying fruits and vegetables, dusting etc…but I did come across a couple of¬†situations that made me pause before I used cloth.

Toilet bowl: Ohhhh, cleaning with a cloth rag just seemed gross. But I got over it. I clean the rag with soap afterwards and then soak it in a bucket with some bleach. Will look into other zero waste disinfecting methods once my bottle of bleach runs out.

Cat vomit: Used toilet paper to deal with that mess.

Human vomit: Used a dustpan and spatula to scoop the larger bits, emptied into toilet. Then a cloth for the left over liquid. Yuck so gross. The next incident happened in bed, how wonderful. But it was actually easier to clean up, the bulk of it was emptied into the toilet and then the sheets went straight in the washer.

Drying meat: Used scrap paper and put in the compost after. Or let air dry for a bit. Or skipped this step all together.

Bacon: Used a cloth to absorb oil. Washed the cloth with soap, then tossed in the laundry.

Other than those things, we have not missed paper towels and are doing just fine without it! It was a very easy baby step, and now we use that convenient dispenser to hang out old toothbrush, which has a new job as dish scrubber ūüôā

 

 

 

Zero Waste Challenge: Baby Cereal

A fantastic zero waste option when it comes to feeding your baby is to do Baby Led Weaning (BLW). Basically the idea behind this technique is to let your baby guide you when it comes to their introduction to foods. Somewhere between the ages of 4 and 8 months, most babies will start to show an interest in food. My baby did this by grabbing food off my plate and stuffing his face with it when he was 4.5 months old haha! Parents allow their baby to explore solid foods and let them feed themselves, skipping pureed baby food and letting babies learn how to eat solid food right from the start. This is what we did for both our babies, and I will write more about this in a future post.

BUT even though we did BLW, the baby and the toddler really like having baby rice cereal as a bedtime snack. I don’t know why! The one I bought came in a non-recyclable plastic bag, so that was out. I found another in a cardboard box, but inside was yet another plastic bag, so that was out too. Then I saw puffed brown rice at Bulk Barn and I was inspired, why not make my own?! It was so easy and I even fortified it with iron. My pediatrician tells me every visit how important iron is for the developing brain, and since my kids go through phases where they don’t want to eat meat or vegetables, I like to sneak it in somewhere.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 cup rolled oatsIMG_2883
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon *optional
  • 1/4tsp brown sugar *optional
  • Blend

Ya, I know. This is barely a recipe, but that’s what I did. I used my immersion blender to blend it until it resembled flour, but depending on your baby’s preference for texture, you can make it more or less blended. I keep this prepped in the pantry in a mason jar. You could probably make this with a regular blender or food processor too! When you are ready to serve:

  1. Add boiling water or warmed up breast milk (or formula) until you get desired consistency.
  2. Mix in some plain yogurt and/or fruit puree *Optional
  3. Add 1ml liquid Iron Supplement (or according to your child’s prescription) *Optional
  4. Make sure it is not too hot and serve to baby!
IMG_2884

Ready to blend!

That was such an easy zero waste solution. I don’t know why I never did this before!

Reaching Out

One of my Zero Waste goals was to write to companies and complain about their lack of eco-friendly packaging. But it was a bit depressing. On one hand, I felt it was important to tell these companies why I was no longer buying their product, but on the other, all these complaint letters were getting me down! So I decided to balance it out and also write thank you letters to companies that were helping me achieve my Zero waste goals. I think the most surprising thing was that pretty much everyone responded to me! I thought it would be fun to share some of these responses

To Presidents Choice regarding their freeze dried yogurt snacks

Hello! My children Love this yogurt snack, but unfortunately since we have realized it comes in non-recyclable packaging, we will not be able to buy it anymore. We are trying to reduce our household waste and eliminate plastic waste. I was wondering if you have ever looking into providing this snack in a more eco friendly package? If it came in a glass jar, we would be thrilled to buy it again ūüôā Thank you for taking this into consideration and if there is anyway I can purchase this snack in bulk or in glass, please let me know! Thanks!

Response:

Dear Ms. Morales,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. We work hard to create innovative, environmentally conscious packaging and were sorry to read of your disappointment.  Your feedback is valuable to us, as it allows us to make the right improvements.  Please be assured that your comments have been shared with our Product Development team for review. Ms. Morales, we hope you’ll continue to share your feedback with us as it is one of the best ways for us to improve our products. 

Regards,

Carole Léonard
Représentante principale du service à la clientèle 

Senior Customer Service Representative

 

400 avenue Sainte-Croix | Saint-Laurent | Québec | H4N 3L4
T: 1-866-330-5590 # 760714| F: (514) 383.3063 | 
cleonar@provigo.ca

cid:image001.png@01D226C5.3009D810

cid:image001.jpg@01D22B7A.F8C23F90

 

To Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes

I just wanted to thank you for making an eco friendly toothbrush! I am trying to reduce our household waste and eliminate plastic waste, so I was thrilled to find your brush in our local eco responsible store!! Even my 3 year old happily gave up her Dora the explorer brush for your bamboo brush! I was wondering if you make an adult brush with stiffer bristles? I know it is not great for your gums, but my husband only likes brushing with hard bristles and is refusing to brush with his new toothbrush (a big baby, I know).

Anyways, thanks again, I am super pleased with your product!

Sincerely,

Jessica Morales

Response:

Hello Jessica, 

Thank you for your support for Brush with Bamboo.
We are happy you are wrote and expressed your satisfaction with our product.
Our bristles are plantbased and made in a USA factory.
It was quite a stretch to get one formulation to suit our needs and we had to choose to do one run.
Many dentist advised us to stick to a Soft texture and the castor bean we use allows for this easily.
For now we have no means to make the bristles any different than what is offfered.
It’s quite a process to get the texture you desire and requires many rounds of testing not to mention the entire USDA lab-test approval .
Conservatively it would take over a year and lots of funds.
Hope I explained it to your satisfaction.
Thank you,
Vinnie
Brush with Bamboo The ecological bamboo toothbrush.
Clean Planetware. The highest quality stainless steel products.
Phone: (909) 265-4ECO  | Fax: 909-752-5339
* Official Sponsor of the new documentary film Plastic Paradise
* Official Toothbrush of¬†5 Gyres Institute¬†– the leading environmental organization sailing the world’s oceans to document plastic pollution.
To Que Pasa foods regarding their tortilla chips
My family has made a commitment to the environment and are striving reduce our household waste. So I was absolutely delighted to find your tortilla chips in what I thought was a recyclable paper bag. We loved the chips and were even happier with the ingredients listed.  So imagine our disappointment when we realized the bag was not actually made of paper but plastic lined bag and not recyclable! If we could find your product in a more eco friendly packaging, we would be very happy to buy it again! Thank you!
Jessica
Response:
Dear Jessica,

As all our products are certified organic, we don‚Äôt use artificial preservatives or additives in our food. This means that we have to rely on our packaging to preserve product freshness. At the moment there is no recyclable packaging on the market that can provide the product quality our customers have come to expect from Que Pasa. That said, we are diligently working with others in the organic industry to develop a 100% recyclable, compostable plastic film made from non-Genetically Modified plant cellulose ‚Äď possibly wood – that does have the necessary oxygen and moisture barrier qualities we require. Thank you for taking the time to ask this question and for being such a champion for our environment.¬†
 
Please visit Que Pasa for more information on our company and our products.

Thank you for being a valued Que Pasa customer.


Kind regards,

Cristina Tsukase

Consumer Response Representative

Que Pasa Foods

9100 Van Horne Way

Richmond BC V6X 1W3

or 2220 Que Pasa Way

Blaine WA 98230

Que Pasa 
To Harmony Organics (milk in glass bottles)
Hi I just wanted to tell you I really appreciate your philosophy and the product you provide. My family is trying to reduce our household waste and eliminate plastics from our home, so we were thrilled to find your milk in glass! Do you only provide it in 1litre containers? We drink a lot, it would be great to get 2L containers.  Thank you for the info!
Jessica Morales
Response:

Good Afternoon Jessica

Thank you for contacting Harmony Organic and for the kind words.  I’m sorry I did not get back to you right away as I was out of the office for a few days. We try to do our part to help reduce our waste and have a positive impact on the environment.  Each glass bottle is expected to make at least 15 to 20 trips before being recycled.  Bottles are returned to the processing plant where they are washed and sanitized before being refilled. Unfortunately, at this time we only sell the bottles in 1L size and some sku’s in the 500 ml bottles. I hope this helps and if there is anything else that I can help you with please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 Warmest Regards,

Cheryl Young

Marketing & Sales Assistant

Harmony Organic Dairy Products Inc

6013 Line 87, R.R. #1

Listowel, ON. N4W 3G6

519-291-9733 – phone

519-291-9744 – fax

Like us on Facebook!

To Ikea regarding their Korken Jars and their sustainability efforts 

I just wanted to thank you for your sustainability efforts and commitment to the environment. My family is trying to reduce our household waste and we were so pleased to find so many items with very minimal or no packaging. In particular we were very happy with the Korken glass jars. They keep all our bulk food items fresh and they are sold package free in your store! I was also impressed with the cafeteria. I love that you provide re-usable cutlery and dinnerware for adults and children, not many cafeterias do. The food was also very good and at a great price. Thank you!

Jessica Morales

Response:

Mrs Morales, 

Thank you for contacting IKEA Canada. As we strive to offer the best in Customer Service and product quality, we appreciate and encourage customer feedback so as to make the necessary improvements or reward good service. We are glad to hear that the service provided by our representative was up to your expectations.
On behalf of IKEA, we appreciate the time you took to share with us your thoughts about our store service. Your feedback will be shared with the representative’s manager.
For additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We truly value your opinion, as well as the opinion of all our customers and we thank you for choosing IKEA for your home decoration needs. 
We look forward to your next visit!

Best Regards,
Karina Alarcon
IKEA Canada Customer Service

To Green Toys:

Hello, I ordered a dump truck for my son as a christmas gift and I just wanted to say Thank you! I really appreciate that it is made with recycled plastic and that it came in a completely recyclable carton box, with no plastic window, wires or tape. We are committed to the environment and trying to reduce our household waste. Businesses like yours help us achieve our goals. We bought it off of well.ca and it came in a cardboard box, protected with packing paper, both are things that we are able to reuse and re-purpose, so we were very pleased with that also. Thanks! And to you and your co-workers, I hope you all have a lovely holiday!

Sincerely, 

Jessica Morales
Mother of two from Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Response:

Hello Jessica,

Happy New Year and thank you SO MUCH for your lovely, kind words. We really appreciate your feedback- it means so much to us. 

We promise to keep doing what we’re doing ūüôā

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Dara Lauster
Account Executive
Ph. 415-339-4143
Fax 415-651-9147
dara@greentoys.com
www.greentoys.com
 
Green Toys Inc.
4000 Bridgeway Ste. 100
Sausalito, CA 94965

To Driscolls berries:

Hi, I love your product, the berries are always fresh, delicious and my baby gobbles them up! However, we are trying to reduce our household waste and eliminate single use plastic waste. So far I have only been able to find your berries in the plastic clamshell. Are they ever sold in cardboard? This is a much more eco friendly packaging option as it can be recycled indefinitely and is less harmful to the environment than plastic. Thank you for your response!

Response:

Dear Jessica,

We’re so happy to hear that you and your baby enjoyed our raspberries! I recently received your inquiry about our packaging and its recyclability.¬†We do sell a cardboard box of berries but its a very large box for restaurants, etc. We appreciate your suggestions!¬†¬†At Driscoll‚Äôs we take great pride and care in not only the quality of our berries, but also the quality of our packaging.

Our containers are stamped with the international recycling code, which is three chasing arrows within a triangle that contain the recycling code #1 inside to designate how recyclable the container is.

Driscoll’s has been a family-owned-and-operated company with a mission to continually delight berry consumers.  We take great pride in growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping the safest, freshest, most flavorful berries possible.  Thank you for your support of Driscoll’s and for taking the time to share your concerns.

Best Regards,

Antoinette Jones
Driscoll’s Customer Care Representative

Zero Waste Bathroom

I wanted to ease into becoming a zero waste home by taking small baby steps. It has only been a little over a month into our journey and I am proud to say the bathroom is very nearly a Zero Waste space!!

I started out by decluttering. My bathroom was FILLED with products I didn’t need. I rarely wear make up, but I had 5 unopened eye liners. 4 unused red lipsticks, foundations, eye shadows and much more!! I have 3 sisters, so that was easy enough to give away. I had a huge stockpile of chemical cleaning products from my couponing days. Most of them I got for free or was paid to buy!¬†They were sold. Now I use a homemade all purpose cleaning spray and baking soda. Once I got rid of all that crap, I was ready to get started. These are the changes I’ve made:

  • Plastic toothbrushes were replaced with bamboo toothbrushes. I found this one at my local eco responsible store¬†https://www.brushwithbamboo.com.
  • Plastic “loofa” was replaced with an actual loofa (a piece of dried gourd)
  • Moisturizer was replaced with coconut oil in a glass jar (will refill at bulk barn!)
  • Shampoo/conditioner bottles were eliminated. Trying out a baking soda/apple cider “no poo” regime

    img_2581

    New “shampoo”¬†

  • Shower gel will be replaced with unpackaged bar soap (as soon as my current shower gel is finished)
  • Exfoliating glove was replaced with a pumice stone found on the beach in Greece
  • Pads and tampons were replaced with cloth pads and a Diva Cup
  • Disposable razors, waxing strips etc.. were replaced with an electric beard trimmer for hubby and an epilator for me.
  • Toilet paper will be replaced with a recycled paper that comes in paper
    img_2254

    This is a loofa!

    packaging (ordered, waiting for it to arrive). I have also started using cloth and a peri bottle for #1, which has reduced our toilet paper usage.

  • Deodorant has been eliminated (for now). I realized that in the winter I don’t sweat or smell. So Why was I using it daily?? In the summer, I will try a homemade recipe.
  • Q-tips have been eliminated. I Loved them, but they are actually really bad for your ears. After the initial adjustment, I haven’t missed them.
img_2517

Compostable/recyclable toothbrush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I still have to work on:

  • Toothpaste. I have to research a bit more about homemade toothpastes. I am a bit wary of non-fluoride, baking soda options. I don’t want to damage our teeth
  • Floss…is there a zero waste option for this?? Maybe a cotton thread that can be composted?? I don’t know, for now we still use the floss and will explore other options once we deplete our supply
  • Make up. I kept a couple items because occasionally I like to look less like a sleep deprived zombie and more like a human. Once they expire, I will look into more eco friendly or homemade options
  • Paw paw ointment. I Love this stuff, my MIL brings it for me from Australia. It is in a big plastic tub. Perhaps I will contact them and see if they would consider using glass
  • Hair brushes/combs. They are all plastic right now. Once they need to be replaced, I will look into finding a wood brush with natural bristles.

Do you have any great Zero Waste Bathroom alternatives?

Baby Steps: Good bye Tampons and Pads

img_2768Why, oh why did I not make this change sooner!? For years I used the Ob brand tampons, believing that I was making the most eco friendly choice when it came to menstrual products. After all, they came in a cardboard box, just a tiny bit of plastic wrapping each little “bullet” and no applicator. But then of course I needed panty liners, just in case of leaks. And¬†every ¬†few hours I needed to be sure to change it¬†because, you know,¬†tampons can actually kill you if¬†they are left in too long. And because the flow is not constant, I ended up buying several varieties of pads and tampons!¬†¬†So month after month, I would have to restock that drawer in the bathroom, spending tons of money and creating tons of waste. That all changed with¬†two little words: Diva Cup.

The Diva Cup is a menstrual cup that eliminates the need for pads and tampons. It is made of medical grade silicone and sits low in your vaginal canal collecting blood, rather than absorbing it like tampons. Because of this I think a cup is much safer for your body than tampons, which can contain harmful chemicals, bleaches and can irritate the delicate mucosa of your vagina. Another benefit of the Diva Cup is that it can stay in for up to 12 hours before needing to be emptied! So now when I have my period I barely even notice it! The Diva cup is reusable, so once you empty it, you simply clean it (by either rinsing in the sink or wiping with toilet paper) and pop it back in. No waste! At the end of my period, I give it a good wash, boil it for a few minutes to sterilize it and then place it ¬†back in it’s little cloth pouch for next month!

The Diva cup was about 30$, so it pays for itself pretty fast. The packaging says it recommends to replace every year, but users swear that with proper care, it can basically last forever. And if you do decide to replace it, it is recyclable!

The Diva Cup comes in 2 different sizes. As I am over 30 and have children, they suggested I buy size 2. I was very intimidated by how big it was. I mean, I know I gave birth to a 7lb baby, but this thing looked giant! Well, once I figured out how to insert it properly (with help from my husband haha!) ¬†I couldn’t feel it at all!! In fact, since I started using the cup, I have had less pain, cramping and even less PMS symptoms. I will Never go back to tampons and disposable pads again. I even find that my period is lighter and over faster now! On the days that my flow is very light, I just wear a cloth panty liner. They get a quick rinse and then tossed in with my regular laundry. Easy peasy! No more disposables. No more plastic. No more packaging. No more waste! I no longer need a garbage bin in my bathroom!

I bought the Diva Cup because that is what was available in my local store, and I always try to buy local first rather than order online. But there are many cups out there, find one that is right for you! Your body and the environment will thank you ūüôā

Baby Steps: Cloth diapers and Elimination Communication

dsc09771

Baby Maxim modelling his fluffy butt

One of the very first steps we took, before we even¬†heard the term Zero Waste, was deciding to cloth diaper our baby. I knew there was no way I would be sending thousands of disposable diapers into landfills. So while I was pregnant, I did my research. I bought a nice little stash of gender neutral diapers. I prepped them and then I spent the next couple months defending my choice to cloth diaper. Everything from disgust (you are going to wash poop in your washing machine?! Gross!!) to ridicule (ha, we’ll see what happens once the baby is born) and even some¬†threats¬†(well, if WE have to change a cloth diaper, we aren’t ever babysitting). Who knew cloth diapering could invoke such strong reactions!? We were cautioned that it would be too hard, too¬†messy, too time consuming and that it would be bad for the baby’s development and health.

But you know what? Once our daughter fit into her cloth diapers, we never looked back. Cloth diapering was awesome! It was easy! It saved us a ton of money and time! I never had to run out to the store in the dead of winter with a newborn to buy more diapers, I just chucked them in the washing mashing machine and ta da! More diapers! So seriously, if you are thinking of cloth diapering your baby, do it! All you need is a good wash routine and cloth diapering can be simple and easy. Be sure to check out the Facebook group Fluff love and cloth diaper science, in particular their file on wash routines. Find your washer, follow their advice and you can’t go wrong.¬†https://www.facebook.com/groups/FluffLoveCDScience/

What to buy:

I bought a mix of Bummis organic cotton prefolds and covers and Kawaii pocket diapers with microfiber and bamboo inserts. If I could go back in time, I would have stuck with just covers and prefolds. Prefolds wash well, are very versatile and durable. After Baby #1, all the elastics on our covers and pocket diapers were stretched out, so we had to buy new covers for Baby #2 ugh! Thankfully our prefolds were still in perfect condition. Some people go overboard with cloth, but this is all you need to start  (washing every 3 days):

  • 10 covers. We liked the whisper wraps from Bummis
  • 35-40 prefolds
  • 2 small wet bags (to keep in the diaper bag)
  • 2 big wet bags to line your diaper pail
  • 1 diaper pail (we got a big bucket from the hardware store)
  • Flushable liners (optional)

If your baby has only peed, and the cover is still clean, you can re-use it. Just insert a fresh pre fold. And no need for all those complicated folds. We fold ours in 3 (trifold) and place it in the diaper cover. I have cloth diapered a boy and a girl now, both with scrawny little legs and I have never had any leaks or poop ‘splosions with this technique.

When not using them as diapers, we use prefolds as towels, to protect carseats when potty training, to clean spit up, to protect the floors during diaper free time, I’ve even stuffed them in my bra when my breast pads could not cope with all the milk that was spraying out of me (ya, that can happen, craziness!). So even when you are done cloth diapering, you will surely find a use for them, or since they are so durable, sell or give them to another family ūüôā

Elimination Communication

img_2917

Potty time!

Unfortunately, our daughter was plagued with really bad diaper rash (no matter what diapers, creams or wipes we used) so she spent a lot of time diaper free, airing out her poor little red bum. We started getting good at knowing when she would have to poop, so instead of letting her poop in her diaper or on her mat, we put her on a potty instead! Yup, our daughter’s first poop in the potty was at 6 months old! This magical technique has a name, it’s called Elimination Communication (EC). ¬†It is based on the philosophy that babies are born ready and able to communicate their need to eliminate. Parents who EC their babies can recognize the signs and signals their baby does when they need to go and will provide them ¬†with an alternative receptacle to pee or poop in, rather than let them soil themselves in a diaper.¬†The communication goes two ways, as most parents will also make a “cueing” sound as their baby goes pee/poop. The baby comes to associate this sound with going to the bathroom and so the parents can encourage the baby to go at convenient times, simply by making the sound.

This technique fits perfectly into the Zero waste lifestyle as it can virtually eliminate the need for diapers all together! It is a great way to keep your baby clean and dry, reducing incidence of rashes and needs for wipes and special creams. Since our baby was in the bathroom already doing her business, we would give her a quick rinse under the sink, pat dry with a towel and be on our way. In fact, once we started doing this, our baby never got another rash again! It also helps babies become more and more aware of their elimination, making the transition into underwear much more natural and smooth. Because our daughter was familiar with the idea of going in a potty from a young age, she was wearing underwear by the time she was 18months old and was completely potty independent by her 22 months, a full year before most of her peers were even attempting to potty train!

We had so much success with this technique, that when baby #2 arrived, we started doing it when he was just a few weeks old. Because we started earlier, we had even better results! Our 5 week old was doing at least 2-3 pees and 1-2 poops in the sink a day! Every catch you make, is one less diaper used so that is a real Zero Waste win! If you want to learn more about this technique check out http://diaperfreebaby.org. There is also an Elimination Communication group on Facebook.  While EC is widely practiced around the world, it is pretty uncommon in developed countries, so it is great to have a supportive place where we can share all our tips and tricks when it comes to ECing our babies.

So there you have it, two of our very first steps to Zero Waste: cloth diapering and EC. By combing these two things, you not only save money, but will save hundreds, even thousands of diapers from ending up in a landfill. And considering that it takes about 250-500 YEARS for a disposable diaper to break down in a landfill, I think that is a major Zero Waste win.