4 Beauty Brands Breaking the Plastic Mold

Microbeads have been getting a lot of attention recently when it comes to our beauty and care products. We hear why they’re bad (think: tiny plastic pieces directly entering our waterways), but it’s not as easy to identify them. At EarthHero, we do the work to choose products that say no to microbeads, so you can shop assured that your beauty routine will be microbead-free!

From microbeads to packaging, here are four of our favorite companies tackling the ugly side of the beauty industry: plastics.

Plaine Products

True to their name, Plaine Products uses plain & simple ingredients–no microplastic particles allowed. All their personal care formulas are carefully crafted from all-natural, vegan ingredients that are power-packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Instead of using nasty parabens, sulfates, and phthalates, Plaine uses aloe vera as their main ingredient in their hair and skin care, an ingredient long known for its healing and nourishing properties. Our favorite part? Their formulas contain no palm oils, and are designed to easily biodegrade! That means with every wash, you’re actively reducing the amount of non-biodegradable microplastics that go down the drain every day.

Beyond their amazing formulas, they’re taking plastic-free a step further with their innovative 3-step refill system. Step 1: When you shop Plaine Products for the first time, you can choose if you want your 100% aluminum bottle to come with a plastic pump, or not! Step 2: Enjoy! Step 3: When you’ve used up your shampoo/conditioner/hand soap/lotion/whatever, you can ship the bottle back to Plaine Products to be refilled with your favorite product. If you opted for the plastic pump, you’ll keep that to be reused with your new bottle–reducing the amount of plastic used in the long run!

S.W. Basics

S.W. Basics knows that great skincare is about more than just great ingredients–it’s about simplicity. That’s why they use only truly natural and certified organic ingredients, with no GMOs, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or other yucky additives. Many of their products proudly flaunt having less than 5 ingredients, inspired by their humble roots as a “handmade in the kitchen” personal care brand.

Exfoliants can be the biggest perpetrators of microplastic pollution (haven’t we all been tempted by that one Pink Grapefruit scrub promising perfect skin)–but S.W Basics is different. Their 3 ingredient exfoliant contains no plastic microbeads, relying instead on organic oat and almond flours with a touch of mineral-rich sea salt to naturally remove dry and dead skin. Plus, unlike normal scrubs, it’s totally customizable to your skin’s needs. Feeling extra dry? Mix the powder with olive oil to moisturize while you scrub. Dealing with acne or troubled skin? Mix the powder with yogurt to neutralize the bacteria that causes pimples. The best part: it’s in a glass bottle, with an aluminum lid–perfect for your plastic-free skincare routine!

Seed Phytonutrients

Fact: the typical American creates 4.4 pounds of waste every day, with 30% of it from packaging. Seed is on a mission to open the world’s eyes to the ugly side of the beauty industry: plastic packaging. They’re making a difference with their innovative shower-friendly bottle, made with recycled materials. The compostable outer sleeve and recyclable inner bladder design is used for their shampoos, conditioners, face washes, and more–which are all crafted from organic ingredients, not plastic chemicals.

They start with post-consumer materials, giving old materials a new life through recycling. A specially designed exterior mold allows the 100% post-consumer paper to become densified, and is coated in clay to become water-resistant. For the interior they take post-consumer plastic, forming it to be an extremely thin layer. Instead of glue, this inner belly interlocks with the exterior paper layer, which can be removed to reveal a packet of seeds (get it… Seed Phytonutrients…) The result? A shower-friendly bottle that’s just as sturdy as the other guys, with 60% less plastic overall. Read more about the ingredients and plastic-free packaging of Seed: here.

Bestowed Essentials

Bestowed Essentials is here to show you that natural is absolutely beautiful. Created by a self-proclaimed hippie, Bestowed Essentials has been earth-focused from the start. The founder, Christianna, started this company with a simple line of all-natural soaps in 2016. She has kept to those ideals, and has grown her beauty line to include charcoal tooth powder, herbal toners, and shampoo bars!

Their inspired products are made without any chemicals or plastics (looking at you, microbeads), from the ingredients to the packaging. Check out their soaps, for example. Not only are they made with all natural ingredients, including essential oils, real fruit, natural extracts, and hydrating seed oils, but they’re packaged in a 100% recycled (and recyclable) box! Their charcoal tooth powder? Packaged in an easy-to-reuse glass jar. Even their bath salts are housed in a 100% biodegradable cellophane bag!

7 Steps to Ditch Plastic

Every year, Americans throw out 32 million tons of plastic trash–trash that won’t ever biodegrade or disappear, but instead will turn into teeny tiny “microplastics” that can cause a massive slew of environmental problems. While some people say plastic can break down after around 500 years, that still means your plastic fast food straw will stick around for the life of your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, (great!) grandchildren. In addition to the sheer volume of plastic pollution created, these plastics contain dangerous toxins like phthalates, BPAs, and flame retardants that can negatively impact your health, and the planet’s health too.

The negative impacts of plastics start from the very beginning. Almost all traditional plastics are made from non-renewable fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, which require intense amounts of energy and releases dangerous toxins when pulled from the earth.

Even at the end of their life, recycling these plastics can be a hazard for workers–and with the Chinese “Green Wall” in place, more and more American recycling centers are unable to sell or utilize any of their recycling, leading to massive buildups of plastic waste, and eventual dumping of recyclables into our landfills to make space. That’s why we suggest you start at the source–cutting out plastic (especially single-use plastics!) from your life one step at a time.

Chico Bag | VITA rePETE shopping bag | EarthHero | 7 Ways to Ditch Plastic Forever

1: Rethink your grocery store trip…

Next time you visit your local grocery, spend a couple of minutes looking around at how much pure waste there is… but also look at how many ways you can reduce your own just by being aware!

Plastic might seem like it’s unavoidable when it comes to food, but hear us out. Looking for peanut butter? Scan the shelves for a glass jar, or bring your own container and try out the bulk PB section (it grinds the peanuts in front of you!) Always go for the pre-portioned salads? Take note of the ingredients and turn to package-free lettuce and bulk cranberries to set you up for multi-meal success! Things to avoid: plastic wrapped pre-cut fruit, pre-portioned snack pouches, and those styrofoam trays holding bacon or chicken (the store butcher will usually use less packaging if you go straight to them!)

Now for the produce bags. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, but those flimsy plastic bags you use for your tomatoes are totally avoidable! While we sell these amazing bags made to keep lettuce crisp and almonds dry, you can always turn to using any old rucksack, or you can turn your old t-shirts into a homemade produce bag!

And, of course, let’s all just say “no” to single-use plastic at checkout. Grocery bags–we’re lookin’ at you! You only use them for about 10 minutes, but every plastic bag that’s been created will last at least another 500 years in the landfill. Even then, they just become microscopic bits that still become a part of the food chain. Keep our future food clean, and turn to reusable bags instead! Not only do they reduce the amount of plastic in your life, but they’re a lot less likely to end up ripping apart and dropping all your groceries, which we love. Let’s face it: do you really need more plastic bags stored under your sink?

Plastic Microbeads | Single Use Plastics | EarthHero | 7 Ways to Ditch Plastic Forever

2: Opt out of plastic microbeads…

Just because you don’t (usually) see microplastics, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. But–what is a microbead you ask? Plastic microbeads are itty bitty plastic pieces, usually two millimeters or less. They usually contain a cocktail of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon (aka all plastic). For reasons we don’t quite grasp here at EarthHero, some companies have taken these dangerous microplastic particles and added them to nearly everything. Shampoos, conditioners, face washes, body washes, lotions, lip glosses, nail polishes, toothpastes, and even anti-aging creams and makeups nowadays contain thousands of microbeads that will *never* biodegrade. Yuck. 

Part of the issue is that the very same products that contain these microplastics are also those that come in contact with water the most–like when you hop in the ocean after applying sunscreen, or rinse out your shampoo in the shower. Most wastewater treatment plants are unable to filter out these microscopic plastics, leaving them to build up in our oceans, lakes, and waterways. From there, fish and other marine animals can consume the microplastic pieces, mistaking them for edible fish eggs or plankton. Once those plastic pieces get inside their bodies, the dangerous toxins are absorbed into their tissues–which poses a huge problem if humans later harvest that fish for consumption. This is because microplastics can absorb toxic pollutants such as flame retardants and pesticides, which become “bio-accumulated”, as they get passed up the food chain. Put simply: if a fish consumes a piece of plastic, it might have .5% toxin level. But if a larger fish comes and consumes the fish that already had a toxin level of .5%, the larger fish now bio-accumulates the chemicals, and could have a toxin level of nearly ten times that original amount, or 5%. Bio-accumulation also occurs in humans, so by consuming fish that contains high concentrations of microplastics, we’re setting ourselves up for some crazy chemicals in our bodies.

But, how do you know if microplastics are in your products, and how can you avoid them entirely? Luckily in the USA, the FDA requires products with microbeads in them to have their full ingredients listed. Start by checking the products you already have for these ingredients: polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)–these are all indicators you’ve been tricked into using plastic microbeads!

In 2015, the USA pushed for federal legislation to ban microbeads, and succeeded–setting the stage for other countries worldwide to create similar bans. Despite this ban, there’s still a lot of products out on our planet with microbeads in it, so we suggest you always double check for plastic ingredients, and shop with certified organic companies whenever possible. We’ve broken down 4 of our favorite microbead-free brands here!

Khala Cloths | Plastic Free Nontoxic Food storage | 7 Ways to Ditch Plastic | EarthHero

3: Package your food like a pro…

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, roughly ⅓ of food created for humans to consume is lost or wasted globally–which amounts to 1.3 billion tons each year! In order to reduce this insane amount of food waste, various forms of food storage have popped up, from plastic seran wraps to resealable plastic baggies… but these single-use plastics can be even worse than the food waste they’re trying to prevent.

Simply changing the way you store leftovers, meal prep, and pack school lunches can have a massive impact on the amount of plastic waste your home creates. Tired of restaurants giving you non-recyclable styrofoam tupperwares with your leftovers? Bring your own toxin-free stainless steel container instead. Plastic-y seran wrap getting stuck in a useless ball? Swap it out with reusable (up to a year) beeswax wrap!

While avoiding single-use food packaging outside of the grocery store can seem like a hassle, the first step is simple: put your reusable containers in your car/purse/bike bag/spaceship/whatever takes you from point A to point B. That way, when you’re eating out and about, all you have to do is bring it in with you! When you’re at home, keep your reusable containers clean, organized, and ready-to-go–so if you’re running out of the house you can toss last night’s leftovers in a plastic-free container. By simply planning ahead you can stop hundreds of thousands of pounds of food-storage pollution from heading to our landfills!

Simply Straws Glass Straws | EarthHero | 7 Ways to Ditch Plastic

4: Refuse single-use…

If you’re a fan of following zero-wasters, you might be hit with single-use plastic facts constantly, like the always shocking “500 million plastic straws are used each day.” But how can we change these single-use statistics, before it’s too late? Refusing single-use plastics is one of the easiest, and most impactful, things you can do every single day. From bringing your own water bottle on-the-go, to saying no to plastic samples at the store, and of course bringing your own reusable straw, there’s no shortage of ways to ditch single-use plastics.

Check out our top 7 products to help you go from single-use to reusables here!

tentree sierra crossback romper | EarthHero | 7 Ways to Ditch Plastic

5: Search for plastic in your clothing…

We don’t want to alarm you, but there might be plastic touching you… right… this… moment! That’s right, it could be in your clothes! Synthetic fabrics like polyester, though they offer a unique alternative to growing cotton, contain non-biodegradable microplastics that are quite similar to those found in personal care. With every single wash in the washing machine hundreds of thousands of these little microfibers go down the drain, and due to their size, go past the filters and straight to our waterways and oceans. Much like the story of personal care microbeads, these polyester pieces can become consumed by animals, and can be potentially consumed by us–essentially meaning we’re eating our own pollution.

According to a study by the IUCN, roughly 15%-31% of marine plastic pollution comes from products commonly found in the home, instead of from larger plastic items that break down slowly over time. Additionally, they calculate that 35% of that above microplastic pollution comes from synthetic textiles–with hundreds of pounds of microplastics funneling into our oceans each week, globally. This number is so shocking, it can make you want to never buy clothes again! Trust us, keep your clothes on… just shop microplastic-free with ethical companies that use natural materials like hemp or organic cotton!

EarthHero | BioBag Plant Based Plastic | 7 Steps to Ditch Plastic

6: As a last resort, switch to recycled content, biodegradable or plant-based “plastics”…

Do you know what happens to your used plastic garbage bags after you use them? Or the thin seran wrap film that keeps your produce fresh? What about those tricky plastic products labeled with the recycling symbol “#7 Other” (what does that even mean!)?

Just because something is plastic, doesn’t mean it can be recycled–in fact, most plastics films end up in our landfills, where they will stay for centuries without truly degrading or composting. And if they do degrade, we learned above that they can degrade into dangerous microplastics that can travel through waterways, and into the bellies and habitats of various animals.

Don’t panic: there’s tons of awesome companies out there finding innovative ways to make things that look, feel, and act like plastic–without all the fossil fuels, chemicals, and health-disrupting additives that classic plastics contain. Because the truth is, for some things, we haven’t found a better way to do it for certain situations (doggy poo bags, we’re looking at you!) without giving up something important. From biodegradable trash bags made from plant resins, to plant-based toothbrush bristles, and even non-toxic children’s building blocks made from sugarcane resin, “bioplastics” are sweeping the eco-industry. Our final verdict? Compostable and biodegradable bioplastics are awesome when they’re produced the right way… but we always recommend you look for a plastic-free or reusable option first before making the switch.

We include recycled content plastic here because we think it’s a step in the right direction towards a circular economy and away from a single-use plastic system. There’s tons of plastic on our planet that we’re going to need to find something to do with… so recycling and upcycling it into new, usable products can add more value to its (often short) lifespan!

Compostable Tampons | Tampon Tribe | EarthHero | 7 Steps to Ditch Plastic

7: De-plastic your personal hygiene…

Did you know that menstruating Americans use 7 billion single-use plastic tampons and 12 billion pads every year? From raw materials to production to packaging, these necessary hygiene and care products create a huge environmental impact–polluting our landfills, waterways, and even our bodies. Our motto is: if you wouldn’t want to put it in a landfill, you definitely shouldn’t be putting it in your body.

There’s three ways most people discard of their plastic tampons–in the trash, recycling (aka the trash–you can’t recycle those), or the toilet (aka also the trash). Out of all of these options, flushing is by far the worst. In 2009 alone, The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup Project found 20,000 tampon applicators out of the 4 million pieces of plastic waste they collected. These 20,000 applicators will take 25 years or more to break down once they reach the ocean, that is, if they aren’t eaten by marine life who think they’re a tasty snack! Beyond the environmental impacts, flushing your tampon itself can break your plumbing, since cotton can grow to over 15x its original size in water, and take at least 6 months to biodegrade. So, even if the sustainable swaps we suggest aren’t for you–whatever you do, do not flush it!

When it comes to recycling tampon applicators, what you’re really doing is just adding another step before it ends up in the trash. Most recycling facilities can’t recognize and sort pieces of plastic the size of tampon applicators, so they end up either contaminating other recycled materials, or headed to the landfill anyways. So, if you’re still using traditional plastic tampons, save the folks at your recycling some time and energy by simply throwing that applicator away!

Beyond the mess of pollution and waste that traditional personal care can create, there’s also a number of serious health impacts correlated with most tampons. Those perfumed and scented tampons aren’t actually infused with rainbows, flowers, and pixie dust–but rather dangerous chemicals that shouldn’t be in any product, much less one that goes there. When you use scented tampons, you’re actually killing the beneficial bacteria down there, allowing bad bacteria to overgrow and cause serious issues like bacterial vaginosis and toxic shock syndrome (ew!) Your time of the month is how your body cleans itself, so let it do its natural thing!

Now that we’ve talked about how not to handle your period, let’s dive into all the amazing, innovative ways you can celebrate your body, and the planet during this time of the month. Whether your jam is compostable tampons, non-applicator tampons, a DivaCup, plastic-free cloth or cotton pads, or even a specially designed sea sponge, by not purchasing plastic packaged tampons you’re reducing the 300 pounds of feminine hygiene products that person can create in a lifetime! Check out our time-of-the-month go-to, Tampon Tribe, here! 

How have you permanently ditched plastics in your life? Comment below!

 

10 Tips to Buy in Bulk

How to Buy in Bulk (and save money doing it!)

Bulk shopping: it’s all about saving money and reducing plastic packaging. But, if it’s done the wrong way, it can end up costing you twice as much and creating just as much waste! From using PLU numbers, to understanding price-per-unit, we’re breaking down how to get some serious bulk bargains on everything from everyday food to specialty essential oils.

According to the Bulk is Green Council, buying in bulk at the grocery store can save you up to 89% compared to purchasing plastic packaged foods. You may not realize it, but you’re paying for all that fancy packaging! And, on top of the savings you’ll see at checkout, most popular bulk food stores have a quick food turnover, leaving you with fresher grains, and an overall fresher meal. Things like spices, which can be pretty pricey and lose flavor over time, can be cheaper and fresher if you can find them in bulk. Plus, there’s often plenty or exciting options in the bulk aisle that can help you get creative in the kitchen! While your pre-packaged grain section may just have your classic jasmine rice and white rice, it’s common to find unique alternatives in the bulk section–think bamboo rice, volcanic rice, black barley, and more!

So now that you know why… let’s tackle how. Bulk shopping can be super easy with the right tools, knowledge, and practice!

How to Buy in Bulk | EarthHero

1. Stay Organized: 

A successful bulk run starts with proper planning. Keep a “bulk shopping” notebook, where you track what you’re purchasing, meal planning, food budgeting, and more! Don’t have your recycled paper notepad handy? Use your camera-phone to take photos of the shelf tags of bulk food so you can remember the price per pound, and then compare prices to get the best deal! Using your phone is also great for some simple reasons–like keeping a grocery list, or looking up recipes.

 

10 Tips to Buy in Bulk | EarthHero | Produce Bags

2. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bags!): 

From produce bags to mason jars, there’s no shortage of plastic-free ways to buy in bulk. Plan ahead: what do you plan on getting at the store, and what kind of bag or bin would be best to take it home in? If you’re getting grains, lightweight produce bags are an awesome option. For cheese from the cheesemonger we love non-toxic stainless steel, while liquids like olive oil or vinegar tend to do best in a leak-proof mason jar or recycled plastic container.

 

10 Tips to Buy in Bullk | EarthHero | PLU

3. Price-per-unit: 

One of the goals of bulk shopping is to save some cash, but if you misread the cost-per-unit, it can end up getting pricey. To calculate correctly, make sure you really understand what that price means. The “unit” is the amount of a product you’re getting, usually in pounds or ounces, depending on what you’re buying. Use the nearby scales to weigh as you go, putting in one scoop of food at a time so that you only get as many “units” as you need. To get your price, multiply the number of units by the price-per-unit, and wah-lah, that’s the cost! Luckily, most markets (even traditional grocery stores) show the “price per pound” or “price per ounce” right on the price tag. 

 

10 Tips to Buy in Bulk | EarthHero

4. Read Carefully: 

At larger bulk stores, the label will tell you if that bulk product is organic, where it was grown or produced, and occasionally what company produced it. Just because it’s available in bulk, doesn’t always mean its a certified organic product, or GMO-free. Cookies, candies, and sweets are usually still those classic, sugary treats you love, just in earth-friendly plastic-free packaging! Make sure to read the label, carefully, to ensure you know what you’re buying (before you scoop out a few pounds of it!)

 

10 Tips to Buy in Bulk | EarthHero | Refill revolution

5. PLU – Learn it, Love it, Use it: 

Most bulk stores, whether it be food, personal care, or cleaning products, will have a PLU (aka Price Look-Up Code) number. The clerk will need this PLU number when you checkout, so make sure to jot it down in a visible spot on the bag, label, or twist-tie. Some bulk storage products even come with a handy-dandy spot to add your PLU number! Bonus points if you bring an oil pencil or permanent marker to avoid extra stickers or ties. Writing down your PLU codes gets you in-and-out of the checkout lane faster, and makes ringing you up a little easier on the clerk. Keep in mind, if you’re buying multiple types of one product (like multiple types of rice), you may want to add the item’s name with the PLU. Varieties of flour, soap, and nuts can end up all looking the same when you get home if you’re not careful!

 

10 Tips to Shop in Bulk | EarthHero | Tare Weight

6. Take it One Pound at a Time: 

Unless you’re only able to make it to your bulk store a few times a year, only get as much food as you could actually eat in a certain time frame. Even though most bulk items keep pretty well–things can still go rancid or end up with bugs if you’re not careful, and there’s nothing worse than tossing the 5 pounds of cashews that you wanted to stock up on! As you get used to shopping in bulk, it’ll start feeling more natural to guesstimate serving sizes. We all know a handful of uncooked pasta can look like the perfect portion, then end up being way too much! So, take it slow, get only what you need (and like!), and start making mental notes of how much your family actually eats.

 

How to Buy in Bulk | earthHero | Whole Foods Bulk Section

7. Keep an Eye Out: 

Tons of bulk stores, or sometimes even your local large grocery stores, have useful take-home information in their bulk sections, from recipes, to DIY personal care, and even deals and coupons on more bulk items! Grab what you need, and keep them in your planning notebook at home for future use. Keep in mind, you won’t automatically have cooking instructions like you would on packaged grains or pastas, so you’ll need to figure out cooking times on your own. Don’t know how long your jasmine rice takes to cook? Just do a quick search–the internet can be super helpful!

 

EarthHero | How to buy in bulk | Meal and grocery planning

8. Plan your Pantry: 

If you’re anything like us, you’ve seen tons of perfectly planned pantries on Instagram, with rows of spotless mason jars filled to the brim with package-free snacks and goodies. While it looks absolutely adorable, there’s also a practical purpose behind this bulk trick! While reusable produce bags and stainless steel cans are great for buying in bulk, they’re not the best for storage (unless you’re fine not seeing what’s inside). Save and re-use the non-bulk food jars you have, and label and date them when you fill them with bulk, so you know exactly what’s in each jar, and when it’ll go bad. There’s no need to spend money on new jars when you can salvage them from salsas, pasta sauces, and jams of weeks past! Sometimes it’s helpful to use sticker labels so that you can reuse your jars for different items. Pro tip: to get those pesky old labels off your glass jars (and make them totally Pinterest ready!), soak them in warm water and soap, using a scrubbie or your fingernail to pull away the sticker. 

 

10 Tips to Buy in Bulk | earthHero | Mason Jars

9. Research First: 

Did you know that nearly any whole-grain flour, as well as seeds and nuts, will keep longer in the fridge or freezer than in the pantry? Or, if your pantry shelves are exposed to light, you should get opaque storage containers instead of glass to protect your food from being damaged? A little research can go a long way in learning what items should be stored whree. While it may seem like added work, there’s always resources out there to make shopping in bulk a breeze. Once you get the hang of it, it’ll feel like second nature.

 

10 Tips to Buy in Bulk | EarthHero | Mason Jar Bulk

10. Do What You Can: 

If you live in a rural area, or even some cities, it may be pretty hard to find a bulk food store, much less non-food bulk products like laundry detergent or essential oils! Don’t fret–there’s still a bunch of ways you can reduce the amount of plastic you take home from the grocery. Opt for things without plastic packaging whenever possible, like whole fruit instead of pre-sliced fruit in plastic bins, or glass jars instead of plastic jars. Or, if you have a few staples you know you’ll go through quickly, buy them in larger family size packages to cut down on overall packaging.  This will reduce the amount of recycling, and trash, you create–and give you some awesome empty containers for trying your hand at DIY, saving leftovers, or for the next time you go bulk shopping.

Our favorite way to shop bulk? With local Boulder, Colorado bulk personal care + essential oils store, Refill Revolution! No matter where you live (USA, Canada, and even Great Britain!), you can ship her your empty containers to be filled with some awesome bulk goodies–everything from laundry detergent to eye makeup remover. Plus, you can buy empty glass containers to help your next trip to the bulk grocery store!

Zero Waste Wedding

Did you know that the average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage? For a day that’s supposed to be all about the love, that’s a whole lotta’ of trash. Whether you’re on your way to zero waste, or just want to make this special day sustainable, we’ve got what you need for a waste-free wedding with all the bells and whistles!

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Bambu Compostable Plates | Zero Waste Wedding | EarthHero

Compostable Plates + Utensils

Whether you’re catering a wedding, or throwing your own, one of the biggest producers of waste at these kind of events comes from the food packaging and single-use cups, utensils, and napkins. While some wedding planners are ready-to-go with 200 sets of stainless steel utensils, simply choosing compostable disposables is an easy way to reduce your impact, while not dealing with the hassle of cleaning all your guests’ dishes. These unique plates, sporks, forks, and knives are made from biodegradable and sustainably harvested bamboo, without pesticides, bleaches, or dyes. So serve up a feast, then forget the cleanup–just throw them in your commercial compost bin!

Bambu | Zero Waste Wedding | EarthHero

Serving Spoons

We love buffets for a zero waste way to feed hundreds of people. What we don’t love? The single-use serving utensils that often get tossed in the mix. Make the sustainable switch with molded bamboo, upcycled cedar, and natural bamboo reusable servers! Not only are they a great way to present and serve snacks, but they’ll be a great addition in the home of the bride and groom after all is said and done. Make large, shareable plates of food in reusable trays, then serve to your guests on some compostable or reusable plates.

Love Bottle | Zero Waste Wedding | EarthHero

Reusable Cups

There’s no doubt that champagne or sparkling juice flutes will be at any wedding celebration–but what about good ole’ fashioned water? Pick a large, reusable jug that can easily be filled with water, then leave out stainless steel or glass cups for your guests to fill at their leisure. Pro tip: leave an empty table, bin, or bucket clearly labeled for dirty dishes (with a trash can, compost, and recycling next to it!) This lets your guests minimize their waste, and makes cleaning up a breeze.

Flowers & DecorBambu | Zero Waste Wedding | EarthHero

Candles

Looking to have a classic wedding? Or do you want to make it modern? Maybe glitter is your thing. Or maybe your “flower girl” is actually your dog. Whatever way you make your wedding truly yours, you’re going to need some beautiful eco-friendly decor to tie everything together. Candles are amazing mood setters–turning any dining table or outdoor decor into a woodsy work of art. Go classic with thin, tapered candles, or spice it up with amber tinted glass soy candles! Love is (literally) in the air.

Bambu | EarthHero | Zero Waste Wedding

Serving Trays

Unless you’re having a backyard wedding, chances are, you’ll need to bring some things from home. And what better way to do that than with serving trays that also add a touch of natural beauty to the table? This cedar wood server is toxin-free, long-lasting, and naturally resistant to stains and bugs (just like a healthy marriage!) Plus, each tray is totally unique–with different grains, lines, and knots that feel rustic, yet refined. Whatever your style, there’s a serving tray to spice up any table.

EarthHero | Zero Waste Wedding

Decor

Making your wedding look like a million bucks doesn’t have to cost, well, a million bucks. Get crafty with it! Go scouting at your local park or riverbed for rocks that could work as napkin weights, use broken branches  as centerpieces, or sea glass as table “glitter”. Upcycling is always a great way to make imaginative decor, and be gentle to the planet at the same time. The internet is always a great resource for inspiration, or just ask your friends at EarthHero!

Keep them Entertained Zero Waste Wedding | House of Marley | EarthHero

Recycled Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

Crank up the post-ceremony party tunes with a recycled content speaker from House of Marley! After the vows have been said, and first kisses had, it’s time to bust out the dance moves. From the bride and groom’s first dance, to everyone’s last dance, this speaker has 8 hours of playtime to last you all night long. Plus, it’s waterproof, just in case things get a little messy (that’s life!)

Bureo | Zero Waste Wedding | EarthHero

Yard Games

It’s summertime, and outdoor weddings are becoming the go-to for couples everywhere. Set them up for a day of friendship, fun, and festivities with some outdoor yard games like frisbee! Opt for a plastic-free one like this one made from 80% recycled fishing nets that can be sent back to it’s maker, Bureo, to be made into something entirely new if it falls apart, or a natural hemp version! Plan ahead: will kids be there? If so, set them up with some recycled plastic or biobased toys so they can stay entertained during the wedding reception.

You May Now Kiss the Bride

We love love. Aaaand we love the planet. And there’s nothing that combines those two loves like a zero waste wedding. Whether you’re planning and throwing a 200+ person gala, or just having 20 of your closest friends and family over, designing a wedding around your sustainability values can be super simple. From the gifts on your reception, to the decor on the table, your zero waste wedding can have a meaningful impact on your friends, without a long-term impact on our planet!

Product Breakdown: Plaine Products

The Zero Waste Way to Wash

The plastic-free packaging revolution is here, and it’s starting with your bathroom. With just 4 simple steps, these vegan, cruelty free, and refillable products from Plaine Products will change the way you think, and feel, about your bathroom. Let’s break it down.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Personal Care | EarthHero

Step 1: Order your non-toxic, natural, and totally awesome shampoo, conditioner, hand wash, body wash, or moisturizer–either in travel size, or 16oz. It will arrive in an aluminum bottle, and you can replace the aluminum lid with the provided pump. Recycle the shipping box and aluminum lid.

Step 2: When you’re getting low (usually 4-6 months in) order a refill bottle from us at EarthHero!

Step 3: When your original bottle is empty, give it a good rinse to get the extra product out, and then switch your original pump to the refill bottle.

Step 4: Put the new refill’s lid on your empty bottle and place it in the refill box. Stick the enclosed return label over the existing shipping label (making sure it’s totally covered), and send it to your postal carrier like any other letter. The best part? It’s totally free to ship it back!

Plaine Products doesn’t just offer an alternative to single-use plastic bathroom bottles, they also offer plastic-free shipping for a 100% zero waste experience. Their boxes are from EcoEnclose (a proud partner of EarthHero as well) and are made from a mix of 95% post-consumer waste and 5% post-industrial waste. While absolutely no new materials were used to manufacture their cartons, they did work with EcoEnclose to ensure their boxes can stand up to the aluminum bottles being refilled (aka no broken boxes!)

To label all their boxes they use plastic-free, water activated tape from paper, not synthetics. And inside these boxes? Just product–no plastic, packing peanuts, or styrofoam. From the moment it arrives at your house, to the day you send it back, Plaine Products goes the extra mile to ensure a zero waste, minimal plastic experience.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Personal Care | EarthHero

Refill, Reuse, Rejoice!

Look at your old shampoo and conditioner. Now look at the first ingredient. Can you pronounce it–out loud? Or is it just water? Unlike the other guys, Plaine Product’s first ingredient in their shampoo and conditioner (well, all of their products) is natural aloe vera. Their formulas are vegan, color safe, and totally natural–bringing your hair back to life and adding sheen and softness. What they don’t have? The harmful chemicals usually found in hair care–like silicone, parabens, sulfates or isopropyl alcohol. Every ingredient is run through the Environmental Working Group’s database to ensure it’s safe for you and the planet. 

Silicone is a mineral that can make your hair seem smooth and soft, but can build up over time and seriously dull out your locks. Silicone is basically like rubber or plastic, and can be used as a sealant against water or air (so just imagine what it would do to your hair!). The good news? Silicone isn’t directly linked to any health issues. The bad news? You probably already have it in your shampoo. Just look for ingredients with “-cone” at the end, like cyclomethicone or dimethiconol.

Plaine Product’s also ditched parabens in their plastic free products, and for a pretty good reason. Basically a chemical preservative, parabens are used for antibacterial and antifungal reasons–which seriously aren’t needed unless you want your shampoo and conditioner to last you for decades. Best case scenario, they just irritate your skin or dry out your hair, but we recommend you stay clear of parabens all together, as studies have started looking at health impacts that may be linked to the chemical.

But there is a better way to wash. Plaine only uses natural, chemical-free, biodegradable ingredients in their hair care, perfect for any type of hair–from curly to fine and even color treated hair! The main ingredient, aloe, contains over 75 nutrients, including minerals and essential amino acids that nourish and revitalize the hair and scalp. The hardest part will be choosing between the volumizing Rosemary, Vanilla & Mint scent, or the Citrus and Lavender!

Plaine Products | Vegan Zero Waste Hair Care | EarthHero

Simply Soap

Plaine Product’s natural hand soap isn’t antibacterial… but that’s a good thing. According to the pros over at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there isn’t enough science to prove that antibacterial soaps can actually prevent illness any better than a good ole’ rinse with plain soap and water. Believe it or not, to this day, the benefits of antibacterial hand soap have never been proven. What the FDA does say though… is that using antibacterial soap, which contains the toxic chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, can potentially have negative health impacts if used widely, and over a long time.

Studies on animals have shown that triclosan can alter the way some hormones work in the body, raising questions about the impact on humans. While much more research is needed to prove that antibacterial soaps are safe, we prefer sticking to what we know is good for our skin–organic, vegan ingredients from nature, not a mad scientist lab.

Made without harsh chemical detergents, triclosans, or triclocarbans, Plaine Product’s hand wash (like all their awesome products) is vegan, hypoallergenic, baby safe, cruelty-free, with no animal testing, or toxic additives like PEGs, PGs, parabens, sulfates, dyes, synthetic fragrances, or petrochemicals (that’s a mouthful!). With natural aloe as the main ingredient, and essential oils from citrus and lavender, this hand soap gently washes away germs and bacteria on even the most sensitive skin.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Hair Care | EarthHero

Your New Sustainable Shower

If we didn’t already blow your mind with everything Plaine Products has thought of when crafting their personal care–there’s more. Their products are Leaping Bunny Certified to be cruelty free, and their entire business is a member of 1% for the Planet as well as B Corp, joining 150+ businesses who hold themselves to rigorous third-party environmental and social standards. Plaine Products simply does business better, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our conscious community of companies making an impact.

 

The Lifecycle of a Plastic Straw

The Final Straw

If you’ve been paying attention recently, you’ve seen businesses and cities alike are banning plastic straws due to their inability to be recycled or biodegrade at the end of their life. If plastic straws aren’t busy taking up space in our landfills, they can usually be found polluting our oceans, disrupting marine ecosystems, and trapping nearby animals. At this rate, if we don’t cut back on our plastic usage, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 (!!!)

So why keep using single-use plastic straws if they’re so destructive towards the environment? While many of us are unaware just how bad it is for the planet to sip that iced coffee through a straw, others don’t think that their “small” amount of waste can have an impact. The truth is, when just a little bit of trash is created by a whole lot of people, thousands of tons of waste can be produced in mere minutes.

The good news? Straws don’t have to suck. With reusable options made from glass, bamboo, stainless steel, and even compostable materials, you can have your smoothie and sip it too! Join us below as we break down “the break down” of yucky plastic straws, and give you all the facts you need to buy a truly better alternative.

plastic-straw-microplastics

Used For Minutes, Here For Centuries

Invented in 1888, the modern straw was made from just paper strips and glue to solve a common issue: the natural rye straws once used to sip whiskey left a grassy taste that the new straws did not. Flash forward a century later, and paper straws have almost been entirely replaced by their plastic counterparts, made from a chemical called polypropylene (composed of molecules of toxic propylene gas!)

Polypropylene, and plastic for that matter, is designed to withstand being submerged in water without falling apart. In other words, they’re made to last (and last they do!) This chemical substance, called “petroleum bi-product polypropylene” in full, never biodegrades and can stay in our environment for thousands of years.

Believe it or not, every plastic straw that was ever created still exists in some form today, whether it be in a landfill or the ocean. To add salt to the wound, straws are often individually packaged in unnecessary paper or plastic, and they travel huge distances from the factory, to your dinner table, and then back to the landfill. Just think of all the carbon emissions that come from simply transporting all of these flimsy straws!

Once a plastic straw is used (which is usually about one drink long), it will get thrown away and hauled off to a waste management plant–if the wind hasn’t already blown it from your trash bin and into our waterways, that is! At the waste management plant, there’s three places your straw is likely to go: the incinerator, the ground, or the landfill. While the incinerator may sound like a better option because it completely eliminates your plastic straw, it also releases yucky toxic dioxins into the air that can settle onto our crops and eventually end up stored in our bodies. Depending on your city, they are sometimes buried in the ground, leaching more chemicals into the soil and groundwater than if they were sent to the landfill. Most disposable straws, however, end up in overflowing landfills, where they remain for centuries!

If you try the recycling route for your plastic straw, you’ll be shocked to find that most centers can’t recycle straws at all.  Many mechanical recycling sorters can’t identify the lightweight item, which increases the potential for them to slip through the sorter and contaminate entire recycling bundles (costing recycling plants time & money!) Despite your good intentions, it’s likely that your straw will still end up in the landfill, where it will outlive even your great, great, great grandchildren.

Garbage Patch Madness

Believe it or not, plastic straws are one of the top polluters on our beaches. Whether you recycle or toss it, the lightweight plastic can get blown by the wind into our waterways and rivers, at which point it’s nearly guaranteed that it will eventually end up in the ocean.

When trash floats around in our ocean, it often finds itself meeting other plastics in a gyre, aka a circular ocean current, where it can stay for years. The largest accumulation of trash in the world, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, covers a surface area twice the size of Texas!

While the straws may break down in size in these gyres, the materials are with us forever, and broken down plastic isn’t necessarily a good thing. When these plastics break down into particles less than 5 millimeters in size, they become microplastics. These small plastic “crumbs” are even easier for marine life to consume, and even harder (virtually impossible) to remove from the ocean. The problem has gotten so bad that at least 100 million marine mammals are killed each year from plastic pollution alone, as well as a countless number of fish.

plastic-straw-environmental-impacts

No straw, please…

Straws are everywhere–in your water glass at a restaurant, in your frappuccino to-go, and even in your vodka cranberry at the bar. Lucky for you, making the switch from single-use straws can be easier than you think! By simply saying “no straw, please!” when ordering, you can make a huge impact. With just three little words you can help reduce the number of straws that end up in our landfills or polluting the oceans, and show restaurants that consumer preferences are changing around plastic. That’s the power of voting with your dollar!

Remembering to say “no straw, please!” does take some getting used to, and some servers are bound to forget your special request. If you do get stuck with a plastic straw here and there, don’t give up! You can minimize the negative impact by making sure that your garbage bags are tied tightly before going to the landfill, so your straws don’t get carried away in the wind. Just keep up your no-straw efforts, and with enough consumer action, businesses will start to take notice.

And don’t worry… you’re not in this alone. Tons of environmental groups and nonprofits are taking a stand against single-use plastic straws, pushing for taxation or bans around the toxic accessory. Organizations like 5 Gyres envision a world free from plastic pollution, and even founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition to bring together businesses and leaders who support a plastic-free planet! But it doesn’t stop there. Innovative companies all over the world are popping up with plastic-free alternatives to the classic straw, using everything from bamboo, to glass, stainless steel, and even compostable paper. Not sure which is right for you? Join us as we break down the most sustainable options below!

Straws Don’t Have to Suck

Straws aren’t the problem–plastic is. By switching out one-time-use plastic straws for more durable versions that can last you years, you reduce the 1.6 straws tossed daily by the average American (which really adds up over time!)

plastic-straw-switch-to-glass

Simply Straws

Did you know that glass can be infinitely recycled? Unlike plastic alternatives, glass straws can last you for years when taken care of properly, and at the end of their life can be recycled again and again. Plus, they contain no toxic BPA’s that could leach into your hot drink, and are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. From wide smoothie straws to thin sippin’ straws, Simply Straws has tons of fun colors for everyone to enjoy, all with a lifetime guarantee. Say hello to the last straw you’ll ever need with Simply Straws!

plastic-straw-swap-to-bamboo

Brush with Bamboo

For hundreds of years, natural bamboo straws were traditionally used in rural parts of India for drinking beer. Flash forward to today and those same hand-made straws are being crafted from sustainably grown bamboo for Brush with Bamboo’s organic drinking straws. Made from real whole bamboo stalks that haven’t been re-compressed or processed, these artisan-made straws are CERES Certified Organic and can be used with any drink. Plus, when you’re done with these durable vegan straws, you can toss them in any commercial compost (instead of the landfill!)

plastic-straw-switch-to-stainless-steel

U Konserve

There’s over 5 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing more than 250,000 pounds, floating in our oceans (that’s over 700 pieces of trash a person!) With U Konserve’s non-toxic stainless steel straws you can reduce plastic waste in your own home, and in our oceans. This certified B Corp promises BPA’s, phthalates, and lead stay out of your straw, so you can enjoy your drink without added chemicals. On top of that, the durable food-grade stainless steel is basically indestructible, so whether your straws are nestled in the bottom of your purse or tucked into the corner of the dishwasher, you’ll never have to worry about broken pieces!

plastic-straw-switch-to-bamboo

Bambu

Grasping for straws? Swap that disposable straw for this USDA Certified Organic bamboo straw from bambu. Biodegradable & compostable, these reusable bamboo straws are naturally cut from nature to make every sip a little more beautiful. Made from sustainably grown and harvested bamboo that’s ultra-durable for years of use, these naturally anti-microbial and water-resistant bamboo drinking straws are sure to become a favorite in your home.

Sip Smarter

Plastic pollution, and plastic straws specifically, has been getting more and more attention, as consumers like you become more educated about our impact on the planet. Join us as we take a stand against plastic straws! The little things we do have a big impact on the world, so lets make it a little cleaner by sucking the single-use plastic straws out of our lives.

Zero Waste with Andrea Sanders

Over the month of March, we brought the world of zero waste to you–highlighting tips, tricks, and stories from inspirational zero wasters worldwide. From swapping single-use plastic for reusable alternatives, to taking on home composting, we saw our community buzz with excitement, sharing zero waste knowledge far and wide. But some questions came up again and again: how do I get started, can I still buy things, and does all of my trash need to fit in a mason jar? To tackle these questions head on, we brought the expert to you in our first ever EarthHero webinar with Andrea Sanders of BeZero.org (find her on Instagram @bezerowastegirl). We’ve transcribed our favorite bits below, or you can check out the entire hour interview here!

 

Ryan Lewis, founder + CEO of EarthHero: Welcome to our Webinar with Andrea Sanders from Be Zero, a zero waste legend. I’m founder and CEO of EarthHero, and today we’re just going to spend some time talking about zero waste.  So welcome, Andrea.

Andrea Sanders, founder of Be Zero: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited.

Ryan: So, before EarthHero was even started, I met with Andrea early on because we both live in Boulder, Colorado, and she was nice enough to have some coffee with me. From the very beginning it was so great to get Andrea’s perspective on this whole sustainability issue and how she’s approaching it. She has collected quite a following of people that she inspires around a zero waste lifestyle. So without further ado, I would love to start off by asking you, from your perspective, what does zero waste mean to you?

Andrea: Well,  people can define that a lot of different ways, but when I look at it, I think of that term and what it’s referring to. And it’s referring to a type of economic infrastructure where we design things, whether it’s a chair or a couch or a computer or roller skates, we design things so that waste is not built-in. In order for that to happen, we have to have a whole infrastructure in place, you know, regulations and laws and infrastructures, and everyone has to be on board.

So zero waste is actually referring to a type of economic structure otherwise called like a circular economy. That’s what that term really means, but so we don’t live in a circular zero waste economy, it’s linear. And so what we’re trying to do…

Ryan: And by linear you mean, a product is made used, and then buried.

Andrea: Yeah, take, make and waste. That’s the real simple way to think of it. So, when we design things, we’re not designing it in order for it to circle back into our infrastructure,  like how nature would work. Right? Since the zero waste lifestyle movement has become kind of popular, it’s sort of been redefined into more of an individual process, what can we do on an individual level to reduce our waste? When you look at it that way, I think of it as really as this navigation. When I hear ‘zero waste’, I think of the economic infrastructure that we want to move towards.

Ryan: …I think that really what you’re saying is there’s an infrastructure that we need to move towards that doesn’t quite exist yet, so there’s a gap in where we want to be and where we are.

So before we kind of dive into that, I’m curious, there’s a lot of concern and a sort of anxious curiosity around this whole situation we’re in with the current status of our planet and what’s happening day to day… even for people that aren’t designing their lives around this stuff, we’re hearing it almost daily now. So, what inspired you to start BeZero.org? What inspired you to dedicate your day to day life into promoting this message.

Andrea: So my background is Environmental Education. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida and I started volunteering at a local marine research center when I was 14 and I pretty much did that up until I moved out of the house. I spent my early life teaching environmental education conservation, whether that was in the marine field or the zoological field. I also have a background in meditation, and I still do that, but I spent 10 years doing that.

One of the things I’ve learned when I was teaching, talking to the public about conservation, or trying to get people to build relationships with the environment is that there’s just not a lot of information… and we’re very disconnected. And so I saw this disconnection. It’s between ourselves and the world, the natural world, like the biosphere. It’s like we’re here and nature’s over there. It was this idea of trying to build relationships with the world around us.

I was teaching at a wildlife facility, teaching people about plastic bags and wildlife being entangled in them.  I went home that night and did some research and found this blog called Zero Waste Home. Bea Johnson is kind of the founder of the zero waste lifestyle movement. She started this blog back in 2007, and it was basically her documenting her family’s journey in making less waste. All of their trash, for their two boys, her husband and herself, would fit in a mason jar for the whole year.

I saw this and I was like, whoa. This light switch went off for me. Everything that I was doing in environmental education already, and all the things I was trying to do personally, like thinking of myself as an environmentalist…I was like, wow. I never connected the things that I did personally, like my trash, or what I bought, or what I ate, to what I was doing every day. Teaching the public about saving the whales, or sea-grass beds, or whatever it was. So it was kind of like this “aha” moment for me and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is all about really putting value back into the things that we use again.” Whether it’s stuff or people or resources… that’s what’s been missing.

I had never thought about it until I stumbled on her blog, and that started the evolution of Be Zero. It kind of meshed my two backgrounds together–meditation and environmental education.

Ryan: That’s fascinating, because really what you’re saying is living zero waste and living more sustainably in general is directly correlated to be more mindful in general. What are some of your bigger challenges living this way?

Andrea: I think it’s just about having an infrastructure that doesn’t really support the dreamy ideal that we all want to have. Maybe this is a weird analogy, but the people who were living in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century that could see the onset of new technologies, but everyone was still using candle light and things like that. I still sometimes feel like I’m in that realm.

I’m bound by an infrastructure and different circumstances that don’t let me live exactly how I would think we should all be living. I’m not weaving my own clothes, or churning my own butter, or anything like that. I still utilize the platform that we all really have. I find it’s just trying to navigate [the current culture] I think that’s always the biggest thing. I see the potential like, “Ooh, I know we can do this, and this would make so much more sense, and it would offer so much more to people and the planet!” That’s probably my biggest thing, just being bound to this linear infrastructure for right now.

Ryan: So, sort of the gap between where you would want the world to be at this point, but compared to where it actually is. What are some of the things that you hear about that other people are having a hard time with?

Andrea: Yeah, I think it’s access. We’re kind of lucky [in Boulder, CO] because in the zero waste community a lot of people talk about bulk shopping or going to the farmers markets, but it almost seems like these things have become exclusive. When I started all of this I was living in Florida, and I had a Walmart and Publix. I didn’t have access to stuff and this was back in the early 2000’s when zero waste wasn’t really a thing.

The most concerning thing with the people I talk to is “I don’t have these things near me.” You can go online to EarthHero and places like that to get access to stuff too, but I think in general, it’s just that our cities and our towns aren’t situated for less [waste] here in America. Another thing that people say is “my family or friends won’t get it.” It seems like a big hurdle to try and get people to understand, and not to think “I’m weird because I asked for no straw.

I think it’s because our culture doesn’t think about waste. We don’t think about it as a problem, and so it can seem kind of odd. Some people think: “Why even bother? Why was I ever concerned? Why does it even matter?” So I think those are the kind of bigger hurdles: access and not having support around you, whether it’s family, friends or even your community.

Ryan: So, what do you say to people that have their personal values articulated really well? They want to take the [zero waste] values that they believe in and they know how to do, but yet are challenged by family, friends and where most of the world is around that stuff today. What do you say to that?

Andrea: I think what people should think about is that a lot of this idea of producing less waste, or putting more value into things, or taking ownership of things isn’t really new. It’s stuff that we did just a few generations ago. And so, if we’re talking especially to older generations, they lived in a world where there weren’t disposable things. A world where you bought stuff that lasted, and you took care of it. A lot of what I’m talking about isn’t so much about trash that you’re making, but about how much we’ve devalued things.

So, if you have a family member that doesn’t consider themselves green, or sustainable, then I usually come at it from a completely different angle and go right into that value. Don’t we want to value the things we own and take pride and ownership of where things come from? Really all of this is about resourcefulness and thriftiness and community.

That’s the kind of angle I encourage people to talk to others about if they’re misunderstanding things or don’t understand. In essence: why don’t we all want to value things more? Don’t we all want to value our communities more? Don’t we want to value the food we eat, the things we wear, and what we make, more? That usually helps people communicate these things a little bit better.

Ryan:  It’s funny, I’ve noticed that once you learn this stuff and you start thinking this way, you can’t unlearn it. And once you learn these things, your actions change, and others start to take notice.

Andrea: I call it quiet activism. Those moments where you’re asking for no straw or you go to a party and just bring your own cup but you don’t say anything–you just kinda do it, right? And that’s the quiet activism, where it’s not like you’re slapping disposable cups out of people’s hands at a party or something, you’re just doing it and then people ask you about what you’re doing. Then once they ask you, you have this platform.

Curiosity leads to knowledge and inspiration, and it just ripples from there. I always think that’s such a great way to advocate for what you’re doing. Just do it confidently and be knowledgeable about it in the best way you can and people will start to be interested like, “oh, why are you doing that? I want to do it too”.

Ryan: So how do you buy stuff and live zero waste at the same time?

Andrea: We don’t live in a zero waste infrastructure, so trash is going to happen. There’s going to be things like, “oh, it has packaging” or “it has a little plastic tag.”  When you’re trying to reduce or make less trash, it’s important to realize what the term ‘zero waste’ means and why you’re doing it in order to navigate through the culture.

As you’re navigating through a disposable culture, you have to remember that we have a linear infrastructure and just be OK with it. It’s not a perfect system. You’re going to have trash come into your life that has to go to a landfill because it can’t be recycled, and that’s OK. The idea behind it is that we’re just putting that value back. So if I’m shopping for things, my shopping is a lot different than it was like 10 years ago.

Ryan: What are some of those differences? Living in a modern culture, how do you approach this idea of needing a gift, whether it’s a necessity or a want? How is your approach different than someone that’s not living a zero waste lifestyle?

Andrea: What I do is think of the materials. If I’m buying clothes for example, I personally like linens and natural fibers, so I’ll look for materials before I buy something.  Then look at how it’s packaged. I’m fine with things being packaged in some way if I can’t avoid it. If it’s a good product and I think that I’ll get use out of it; if it’s durable, reusable, or multifunctional, then I feel OK about buying it. Those are the things that I look for in a product.

It doesn’t have to have all of those things. I’m not so stringent and restrictive that if a product doesn’t meet all my requirements I won’t buy it, I just pay more attention. The next question to determine whether or not I buy something is, “do I need it?” If there’s something that brings me joy, I like it. Think about, “does it inspire me and make me happy?” You have to really think about that for yourself. Get out of the clutches of the “over-consumer” impulse and just be thoughtful about how you’re buying, keeping those qualities in mind.

Ryan: Do you find yourself spending less money? Because one the common misconceptions out there is that living sustainably, in general, is more expensive than not living sustainably. So how do you feel about that?

Andrea: I definitely spend a lot less. I’m not impulse buying like I used to. Now I feel like I spend less because there’s that pause before I buy, and when I do buy something, it’s something that I know I’m really trying to get the most use out of. I’m not saying that everything I buy I’m going to use for the rest of my life–I might use it for a year or two and then maybe sell it or something like that. For the most part, I consume far less than I used to, and that’s because I try to think about those things first.

Sometimes better things do cost a little bit more money, and so that’s the kind of thing where it’s not always going to be accessible to people. I also try to think about what happens when I let go of all the frivolous things that I was buying. For example, when it came to clothes, I would buy all kinds of fast fashion type stuff, like $3 shirts, $5 jeans, whatever. I realized that, if I totaled all my spending for that month on cheap clothing, I could have just bought one nice, adaptable, durable, lasting thing. We have to kind of rework our relationship to consumerism, and that honestly looks different for everybody.

Ryan: So the average American creates four and a half pounds of trash every day, which is fascinating to me. My guess is you’re creating a lot less than four and a half pounds of trash every day. Ts that really what a lot of this is about? What would you say the end goal is, actually?  

Andrea: Honestly, there’s almost no end goal for me. It’s always a continuation. There’s always going to be evolution and things that are continuing. So for me, it’s like, I recognize I wasn’t putting value in the things I used, and now I’m putting more value into things I use, which naturally decreases the amount of waste that I make.

We don’t have a trash can in our whole home, we just have a jar that’s underneath our kitchen sink and then when that fills up we put it in a paper bag in our main city bin and we take out that once a year. It’s drastically a lot less waste, but that waste shows the limitations of a linear economy that we live in. I can’t get around that unless I completely give up, like, so much stuff.

I tell people that if we all made that little waste, that’s a big signal to [companies] about how things are made and how things move in our economy. We’re always going to buy things, we’re always going to use things. That part is just a design problem; waste is just a design problem. We are going to make waste, that’s just what’s going to happen. It just goes back to that same conversation of value and ownership and understanding materials better, but knowing that you’re never going to make absolutely zero.

Ryan: You brought up a good point, which is when you buy stuff that is designed well you’re actually sending a signal to the companies that are doing it the right way to make more of that. It’s the old “voting with your dollar” cliché. To me, that’s sort of the economics behind this whole thing. Over time, with more people, that will create changes around the physical making of products and product design.

One of the questions I ask people, just because I like to geek out on this stuff, is if they feel like they live a sustainable lifestyle and why. And the number one response to that is, “well yeah, I recycle.” So, how does recycling fit into this and the circular economy?

Andrea: Yeah, so [recycling] was such a big part of my childhood. When I think about it was always “reduce, reuse, recycle.” And then, for a long time too, my idea of recycling (like most people’s), is that you put your recyclables in the bin, and they get taken away and turned into something else. Right? That’s kind of how we think of recycling, but it’s not quite really what’s happening.

Recycling is good, and I’m not saying everyone should just halt recycling, but we have to understand what exactly is happening, and understand that it is a business too. Especially in the U.S., recycling is complex. It’s resource intensive and it takes a lot [of energy] to take something and turn it into something else. It also requires new materials to be added to a lot to old materials.

We also don’t have a whole lot of products accessible to us that are made from recycled products. So, if we’re not buying recycled products, then there is almost no point in recycling. We produce so many materials that recycling doesn’t even make a dent because we’re producing so much. It comes back to the idea that, sure, something might be recyclable, but wouldn’t it be better to have something I can use over and over and over again? In the end, recycling is something that is nice, but we can’t rely on it like that’s going to save us or something.

Ryan: There’s some confusion around this, because the words themselves are so similar–but buying recycled products made from recycled content that’s also recyclable is a step towards that circular economy. At the end of life, we’re making that previously recycled item into new products.

We have a question from Michelle: have you had to change your diet in order to produce less packaging waste?

Andrea: So, for me, I definitely simplified what I eat. I try to make a lot of my things, but I’m not spending a ton of time in the kitchen. Any more than 30 minutes in the kitchen and I’m out of there. I try to find things that I have access to–like our farmers markets, local grocery stores and shopping in bulk.

When I started this [zero waste lifestyle] I didn’t have access to that. So, I thought a lot about materials. If I was going to buy something in a container or something, I would think, OK, is this paper?, Glass is probably a little bit better, but often can be more expensive.

It can be very tricky, but my suggestion is for people to rethink what they’re eating. I eat a plant based diet primarily. I know not everyone wants to do that, but that makes it kind of a little easier. Oranges and apples, for example, come in their own natural packaging most of the time. They’re not pre-packaged.

Then I use things like a pressure cooker and cast-iron skillets to make meals that are quick and easy and use very basic ingredients. But yeah, changing your diet is very helpful! So, we have to understand that again, it’s an infrastructure that is just off-balance and so we have to maneuver the best we can. We’re all part of the same infrastructure, and even when I’m buying my dairy-free cheese in plastic, that plastic has a huge footprint as well and it’s going to continue long after because there’s nothing I can do with that. So, we have to be aware that we have an infrastructure that is not going to support all of our wishes and dreams and be realistic–but also navigate that wisely, without being restrictive.

Ryan: So where do you think the whole zero waste movement go from here, and how do we accelerate it?

Andrea: I think what’s key, and what I see a lot in just watching this movement grow from the very beginning, is that we really need to just understand how things are. We have to understand what that term [zero waste] is referring to and not redefine it too much, where it becomes something different. We have to understand to be flexible and not hold people to these levels of like “you’re not following it all–you’re banished.” I’m telling people this because I’ve spent so much time in the education field. People want it to be black and white, but it’s just not.

I think going forward people need to read, read, read, read. We have a recommended reading list on our website to all those books that are really helpful to help you understand the infrastructure, the history of sustainability, the history of how we got to these things. I think people need to become educated and then be tolerant. Not everyone is going to just be into it.

Ryan: Quiet activism.

Andrea: Quiet, quiet activism, and keep doing it. Realize that we’re kind of pioneers in a lot of ways. Even though we lived in a culture just a few decades ago that didn’t have plastic disposables and stuff, we have it now, and we’re going to disengage from that as much as possible.

If I could advise people moving forward, it would be to not create this kind of “you’re this and I’m better than you” kind of thing. I feel like there’s a lot of that in [zero waste] and so that, I think, holds the movement back. I just want to see the conversation keep happening. I want more people to get inspired. For them to make changes and just be OK with the fact they’re not gonna be able to do it all. Just continuing on that, because that’s how anything ever is changed. It’s just these little movements and ripples that continue on. It’s hard because I see kind of the commotion that can happen when we feel like we can’t do it all.

Ryan: Well, for those that are listening and want to get involved, but don’t really know where to start, what suggestion would you have for people that are like “I want to start today”? What’s the one thing, or few things, to just opt in into this movement, try it on, and see how it feels, without making any big compromise?

Andrea: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of low hanging fruit, starting with the little things like disengaging from single-use things as much as we can, and building habits of awareness around that. Whether it’s bringing our own cup, or saying no to a plastic straw, or bringing your own cloth bags and produce bags to the grocery store.

Start with those little things and then sit down with yourself for a little bit and think about like, what are my true wants and needs, what’s meaningful to me? How can I put value into the things I use, whether it’s what I already own, or if it’s something I’m going to bring into my life. Try to keep those things in mind. This way it’s not so complex.

We’re all environmentalists in a way because we’re all breathing the air, drinking the water, and using the land, so those are the things that are valuable. How can we slowly bring [mindfulness] into our world and develop better relationships with those things? If we keep that in mind, that will open up our own path to create less waste, to think about how collectively we use the planet. It kind of seems simple…it’s more of a mindset that we have to slowly weave into our world, and our day, in order to see things how they are. Then we also have to see what we can do to make things better.

Ryan: Whether it’s a water bottle or a coffee mug or food wrapper, when you think about anything you use one time and throw away, there’s a great place to evaluate. Especially if that’s stuff that you’re doing every day. That’s another opportunity to save money on a regular basis because you’re reusing one product versus buying and using something every day.

Andrea: I’m always thinking about the materials. So, for example, pick stainless steel or glass over plastic. I will look for the durability of something: can I use it over and over again, does it have a lot of pieces that I would tend to lose? I kinda think of how it will fit into my life. I also realized that it’s really hard for everyone to trace down where things always come from an exactly, because again, a linear infrastructure is not always conducive to knowing exactly how something was made…I’m not saying not to be concerned, but realize that there’s only so much that businesses and companies can do. You know, people are like, “well, a lot of things are made in China”, most of everything is, so we kind of have to just be OK with us being a part of a global infrastructure…Give yourself space for that and just try find something that will be durable and lasting.

Ryan: You pretty much covered it, but I would just add that, specifically at EarthHero we spend a lot of time around material makeup and finding more sustainable alternatives to traditional materials. With clothing you can get very detailed around sustainability: it can be organic, renewable, meaning like hemp or something that’s very fast growing, recycled content, recycled poly, etc. It’s amazing you can buy clothes now made from water bottles…I think with a lot of non-clothing lines, looking for products that are made with recycled content [is important] because not only are you diverting waste from the landfill, but you’re also keeping natural resources where they need to be. Plus, you’re supporting recycling, which creates more demand for recycled content. It all ties together to create what you’ve been talking about, which is a circular economy and more of an infrastructure that’s gonna support zero waste versus seemingly seemingly having to battle it….

Definitely follow her (@bezerowastegirl on Instagram)… she’s always on the forefront of all of this stuff.  Any parting shots you want to leave with people that are looking to take these next steps to zero waste?

Andrea: Just remember that it’s all about how we can put value into things again and be kind, be compassionate, be flexible, be tolerant and know that there is no perfect one way right now and just keep going forward with that good intention, and things will happen and be OK with that.

Zero Waste Travel

Any type of traveling can be stressful enough. Whether you’re just heading to work or flying across the country, there are a million things to worry about. Where are my keys? Should I bring a coat? Do I have the right papers for my flight? Despite double and triple checking everything, you still wonder ‘Do I have everything I need?’ as you are walking out of the door. We get it: life on-the-go is not always easy.

But a travel-packed life often has some issues of its own that we may not want to recognize. First and foremost: waste. To-go containers and gadgets, food packages and drinks, and single-use everything can be convenient and easy to travel with, but at the end of the day they’re just another disposable item making it into our landfills. After all, as destructive as single-use items can be, people like them because we can use them and get rid of them (out of sight, out of mind, right?). Once anything goes into that forbidden trash receptacle, it’s easy to forget about it–as well as the 500+ years it will spend in our landfills. As a culture, we are conditioned to always seek out convenience. We often forget that this convenience comes at the expense of our beloved environment. But don’t worry, there is hope! With these simple zero waste travel tips you can become a conscious, on-the-go expert in no time!

Your “going out” essentials pack

EarthHero - Zero Waste Essentials

This is a list of essential items for almost everyone. When you leave the house, make sure to take these with you! Never be caught unprepared and forced to take the dreaded single-use anything. Put these items together and keep them on your person, in your car, at work, or wherever is most convenient. If you have these with you when you head out, then you’re on the road to reducing your trash output in no time!

1. Reusable water bottle

Hydration is a key player to human health, so make sure you do it the right way! Ditch the plastic bottles and opt for a sturdy reusable bottle that can be filled, washed, and reused over and over again!

2. Reusable utensil set

You never know when you will encounter the need for utensils. It happens more often than you think! If you carry around a reusable set, you are sure to be prepared for any spontaneous snack or meal that comes your way!

3. Reusable bag

Whether it’s a planned trip to the grocery store or an “I just want to look” turned accidental shopping spree, make sure you’re prepared. Keep a reusable bag with you at all times; you never know what life will throw at you!

4. Reusable straw

There is no reason not to carry around a reusable straw. It’s slim, lightweight, and overall easy to carry around. With your pick of stainless steel or glass, you will be sure to make a statement anytime you pull it out of your bag. Oh, and make sure to tell your waiter ‘no straw, please!’

5. Reusable to-go container

Sometimes there are leftovers from work that you do not want to go to waste. Other times, you may decide to treat yourself to a meal in town. Maybe you stopped at a friend’s house and they want to give you some food for the road. Who are you to say no? If you keep a container on you, you mean business. Styrofoam, plastic, and aluminum foil are all food storage containers and wrappings of the past. Simply fill your reusable container, store, eat later, and enjoy!

Be eco-friendly everywhere!

Now, let’s get into some situational stuff. While the essentials will get you far, it can’t hurt to be even more prepared when certain events arise. Is work an eco-disaster? Zero waste travel tools are here to help! Going out to eat with the gals? We have gear for that, too! Taking a trip with your little ones? Have no fear!

To work and beyond! 

For many, coffee or tea is a morning must. Whether you make it at home or get it on the road, do your best to ditch disposables! Opt for an insulated mug instead that will not only save your hot drinks from getting cold, but the planet, too! (Pro tip: if you get coffee on the go, ask your barista if they can prepare it in your mug. They may not always say yes, but it can’t hurt to try! Some cafes will even give you a discount!)

So you’re making lunch at home and bringing it to work–that’s awesome! Using plastic wrap, tin foil, or other less sustainable means to transport your meal from A to B? Not so great. Avoid plastic wrapped sandwiches and unsustainable snacks by using reusable containers or food wraps. From tiffins, to sandwich wraps, to bento boxes, there’s tons of ways to pack a lunch without plastic. 

Now, how are you going to eat your lunch? Sure, plastic cutlery is convenient, but reusable utensils are much more fun and eco-friendly! With a bamboo utensil set, of course! 

EarthHero - 3-Tier Stainless Steel Tiffin Food Container - 2

Going out to eat

A reusable container once again saves the day! More often than not, restaurants serve large portions. But no worries, save that delicious dish for a next day meal! Leftover containers are very rarely eco-friendly. The most they can be at most restaurants is compostable, but few take the steps to do that. Instead, we are given plastic and styrofoam, neither of which are good for the environment. To solve this problem, bring your own container, slide your food into it, and take it with you. It’s that easy!

Restaurants and bars are notorious for contributing to the plastic straw epidemic. Straws are both harmful to the environment and the wildlife within it. Do your part and take action one of two ways: bring your own reusable straw or tell your server, No straw, please! These glass straws come with their own carrying case and cleaner. They come in a variety of fun colors, so choose your favorite and bring it everywhere you go! Or, find the straw alternative that works for you here!

For your longer travels

You really can’t go wrong bringing utensils around with you. Never again should you miss an opportunity to eat some delicious goodies, especially when you’re traveling! Say no to disposable plastic cutlery that will never be recycled, and yes to reusables that are easy to simply toss in your bag. 

Airport snacks can be so tempting, and expensive! Every corner you turn, there is another kiosk trying to sell you plastic wrapped this and disposable that. Avoid the expensive cravings by packing yourself some food for when you’re waiting. Trail mix, cut up fruit, and cereal are all lightweight and easy to carry zero waste travel options that are sure to make any adventure better!

To ensure you don’t have to buy bottled water, or take one of the free bottled waters on the airplane, simply bring your reusable bottle along and ask the flight attendant to fill it up for you on the plane! You’ll get more water, won’t use any plastic, and chances are, your bottle will probably spill a lot less than the little water cup they leave on your tray table.

Traveling with kids

When traveling with kids, it is important to use whatever fits your lifestyle best–and create positive habits to pass along to your little ones! Kick Ziplock bags to the curb and instead, fill these reusable snack bags with your kids’ favorite goodies, store, eat when ready, wash, and repeat! Your little ones certainly won’t mind the snack bag switch up, and neither will the planet! Or, try a compostable alternative to Ziplock bags–they are single-use, but won’t leave behind plastic thanks to their biofilm material. 

As convenient as those small, plastic water bottle are for your kids, they do not have a small impact on the environment. Instead, opt for some kids sized reusables! Not only are you reducing your consumption of plastic, but this is a great way to teach your tiny tots about responsibility by having them take care of their bottle! Plus, try kid-sized utensils made for tiny hands!

You’re setting an example!

Every time you pull a sustainable tool out of your arsenal, you are making a statement: “I care about the planet and you should too!” All too often, people assume that it’s too difficult to be sustainable, but you are living proof! When you bring your own container to the restaurant, people will notice. When you refuse a straw and instead pull out your own, people will catch on. Your choices and actions will make an impact, all you have to do is get started!

Soon enough, your friends and family will jump on board and then their friends and family will, and so on and so forth. The Zero Waste Movement is picking up traction and we want you to be a part of it! Take what makes sense for your lifestyle and implement it. Bringing these goodies with you from place to place and on every journey will become second nature in no time. Then, you’ll be on your way to being a zero waste travel expert!

Life Hacks for a Zero Waste Home

Today’s culture has made it really easy to buy, use, and throw away at a pace that our planet can’t keep up with. Most of the things we buy are made to be used for a short period of time, and tossed out when they aren’t needed anymore. Going zero waste involves a shift in thinking, but once you start thinking about how much waste you produce, it’s easy to start reducing it!

At EarthHero, our aim is to provide everyone with the opportunity to be a conscious consumer and live a zero waste lifestyle. In this week’s post for Zero Waste March, we’re sharing our favorite zero waste home hacks and “Do It Yourself” projects to lessen the amount of waste coming in and out of your home.

Time to Clean House

It’s no secret that traditional cleaning products are packed full of harmful chemicals–not to mention the disposable plastic bottles they come in! Your cleaning arsenal is a great place to start thinking eco. From shopping selectively to making your own, there are plenty of ways to make a change!

The DIY breakdown

Citrus + Vinegar

Citrus vinegar is an excellent way to clean even the dirtiest of kitchens, bathrooms, and tile floors. On top of that, it’s super simple to make; all you have to do is soak your citrus peels (lemons, oranges, limes) in white vinegar for two weeks, strain your concoction, and slap on a spray topper. Now you’re in business! You can even add some mood-lifting essential oils to bring some energy to your cleaning.

zero-waste-home-vodka-cleaning

Vodka always helps!

Calling all party animals: put that bottle of vodka to good use and use it as a natural disinfectant. While it may be known for starting a good time, it can clean up after one too. Vodka can be used to kill sickness causing germs and even disinfect wounds. (We recommend using the cheap stuff for cleaning, and save the expensive stuff for later.) Add ½ cup vodka to ½ cup water, then sweeten it up with some essential oils for a refreshing scent and added antimicrobial benefits. Try adding a few drops of lavender during flu season, and tea tree oil to give your ceramic surfaces special treatment!

When Life Gives You Lemons… Clean With Them!

Did you know that lemons are a great natural disinfectant that can be used in a variety of ways? We love bamboo cooking utensils for their durability (and they’re beautiful!), but they need special care–which is where lemons come in. Not only is bamboo a sustainable resource, but it will last a lifetime if taken care of properly. Hand wash your utensils in warm water and use lemon juice straight from the source to disinfect. Make sure the utensils are nice and dry after washing to prevent molding. Rub them down with oil to prevent cracks and breaking if they begin to look a little dried out, and they’ll stand by you for a long time!

It doesn’t stop there; lemons can also be used to remove stains from countertops and ceramic surfaces, clean out the gunk in your microwave, and freshen your garbage disposal. The best part is, you can toss them right in your compost bin afterwards!

Simpler solutions

Not into DIY? We’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorite swaps for your sustainable cleaning supply…

Organic Glass Cleaner

Natural Clean-All Scouring Powder

Citrus Spray and Mop Floor Cleaner

Declutter that Bathroom

EarthHero - Natural Charcoal & Mint Tooth Powder - 2.5oz

Tooth Powder

It’s time to breakup with your tube of toothpaste. Sorry toothpaste–it’s not you, it’s me. Actually, it’s the tube. If taking a look at the ingredient label doesn’t already scare you away, think how many toothpaste tubes people toss over their lifetime. Typically made with plastic or aluminum, around one billion toothpaste tubes end up in landfills every year.

Now, we aren’t telling you to not brush your teeth, but we are suggesting you to try out tooth powder! It’s available to buy here, but if you’re feeling a little adventurous you can give this DIY recipe a try!

The three main ingredients are 4 tablespoons bentonite clay, 2 tablespoons baking soda, and 1½ teaspoons unrefined sea salt. Once you mix that together as a base, you can add whatever you like! Cinnamon is antibacterial and adds great flavor, activated charcoal will make those pearly whites even brighter, and peppermint essential oils will leave your mouth minty fresh.

Now, switch that plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one, and you’re all set!

Simplify your hair routine

Once you find that perfect shampoo + conditioner set, you won’t find yourself with half-empty bottles cluttering your shower. Opt for a refillable option, like Plaine Products, and you’ll suddenly find simplicity in your routine! Once you’re low, just order your replacement bottles, and they’ll cover shipping your old ones back. No more empty bottles, no more waste!

DIY Dry Shampoo

We’ve all been there: you wake up a little late, and wonder if you can get away without washing your hair for the third day in a row. Dry shampoo is perfect when you need that extra 30 minutes of sleep and you’re not feeling a hat day. Not only will you save time and money with this homemade version of dry shampoo, but you’ll also keep toxic chemicals away from your scalp.

For light hair, use ¼ cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch as a base. For dark hair, add 2 tablespoons cocoa powder to 2 tablespoons of the arrowroot/cornstarch mixture. Add 5 drops of essential oil to leave your hair smelling lovely. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone how long it’s been since your hair’s been washed (oops!).

DIY Lip Balm

With so many lip balm options out there, it’s hard to pick the right one. You want something silky, smooth, and full of moisture, but not greasy. Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? Make it yourself! It’s that simple.

All you need are three basic ingredients: beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil. In just ten minutes, you’ll have all-natural, kissable lips! Melt 3 tablespoons beeswax, 2 tablespoons shea butter, and 4 tablespoons coconut oil in a pan. Once your mixture is consistent, pour it into a container and let harden. You can use any old lip balm container, or even an Altoid tin. Add some essential oils for a fun flavor, and for a natural tint, try adding a dash of Kool-Aid powder. Voila, homemade lip balm!

 

The Many Uses of Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder is one of those items that is super inexpensive to buy in bulk. To fill a 4 ounce jar, it typically costs less than a dollar! Cocoa powder is a natural superstar when it comes to beauty. Its rich, chocolatey color is perfect for filling in eyebrows, swiped across cheekbones as bronzer, and even used as eyeshadow for a bold, smokey look! For all you beauty virtuosos, give yourself a warm cocoa glow by using cocoa as a body bronzer. If you’re a real expert, use it to contour your face. This multifunctional gem will save you from creating excess waste and eliminate toxic chemicals that are ever so prominent in beauty products.

Natural Makeup Remover and Moisturizer

Look no further than jojoba oil as your new skincare superhero. Packed full of vitamin E and other healthy fatty acids, jojoba oil can be used to remove makeup while also moisturizing your skin. This non-toxic oil will give your skin the natural boost it needs! It’s great for soothing acne, nourishing dry skin and hair, and keeping skin youthful and wrinkle-free. It’s non-greasy, all natural, and non-irritating. No wonder it’s referred to as “liquid gold”!

Bringing it Home

Zero waste is becoming more and more popular as individuals aim to lessen their impact on the planet. At first, going completely zero waste may be a new way of thinking, but in reality, it can actually make your life simpler. Many people who work towards a zero waste home are amazed how much time and money they end up saving!

Your journey is your own, and everybody approaches zero waste differently. We’re here to help though! Check back on our blog for more tips and tricks on how you can easily reduce your impact. The planet will be sure to thank you!

Reduce Your Food Waste

Did you know that food waste takes up more space in our landfills than any other material (21.6% of landfill space, in fact!) On the surface, this may not seem like a huge deal… because food decomposes, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story when it comes to food waste. 

When organic matter decomposes in landfills, it gets trapped among all of the other plastic and non-organic matter, which seals it off from distributing nutrients back into the soil correctly. This creates and releases methane, which is roughly 23 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.

It’s no secret that it’s important to reduce food waste, both locally and globally, but changing personal habits can be difficult and it can take time. The key to minimizing waste is reducing how much you “consume” in the first place, which will leave you with a decluttered mentality and a happier wallet. As conscious consumers, we are the pioneers in encouraging a shift towards more package-free food options by changing our shopping habits and becoming aware of the items we purchase. When you only buy what you and your household will definitely consume while avoiding unnecessary packaging, you can protect the environment from pollution, conserve finite resources, and even save money in the process. It’s a win-win!

Don’t know where to start? Here are some zero waste tips to clear your cart and home of excess waste!

Package Free Grocery Shopping

reduce-food-waste-packaging

Aisles in conventional supermarkets are full of products that are pre-packaged in non-biodegradable materials or high-grade plastics. Think microwaveable popcorn: kernels inside of a paper bag wrapped with plastic, encased in a cardboard box. Or picture your pre-cut veggies, sitting on a styrofoam tray wrapped in (again) plastic. There is so much wasted packaging that can be avoided by buying items like popcorn kernels in bulk, and vegetables in their whole form. Not only is plastic-free better for the environment, but it’s typically much less expensive.

According to the EPA, 23% of landfills are full of packaging materials, many of which are food related. Take a stand and step away from unnecessary packaging. Making a change takes time, intention, and proper planning. Next time you go to the store, try to reduce your footprint by doing just one or more of the following…

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag! 

reduce-food-waste-produce-bags

Avoid pre-cut/pre-packaged items, especially produce, and forgo the plastic produce bags. The only purpose these serve is to get your produce from the grocery store to your home. Instead, opt for your own reusable produce bag or create your own by using an old pillowcase.

When it comes time for the question, “paper or plastic?,” instead go with option 3: hand over the reusable bags you brought from home. Reusable grocery bags and produce bags are easily stowable in your glovebox or backseat, and can reduce a ton of non-recyclable plastic bags from entering your home. Keep these bags in a handy spot in your car so you’re always ready to go, even for those impromptu trips. If you’re a rockstar on your road bike and prefer to take that instead of a car (props to you), try a grocery pannier–they are the perfect size for shopping trip necessities and will lay flat against your bike when not in use.

reduce-food-waste-bulkBuy in Bulk

Buying in bulk is another great way to pass on cardboard boxes and plastic bags. Look for items like dried grains, nuts, candy, spices, flour, or sugar to buy in bulk. To do this, you’ll just need some empty containers to take to and from the store.

Mason jars are a fan favorite, or you can reuse glass containers already lying around the house (we love pickle jars and pasta sauce jars!). Cloth bags or small food canisters can also be a great way to carry your bulk food items from the store to your home. Shopping for oils and liquids? Use empty wine bottles or a growler for craft beer or fresh kombucha! Take it one step further and bring your containers to the deli counter for meats and cheeses! 

How to take on the bulk bins:

  1. Weigh the empty container and note it–this can be done at home, or stores usually have scales
  2. Fill the container with whatever your heart desires
  3. Note the PLU (Price Look Up) or Bin#–you can write it on your container or simply just take a photo of it on your phone
  4. Pay & enjoy–it’s that easy!

Plus, checkout our top ten tips for buying in bulk here!

Not all packaging is equal

Prepackaged items in grocery stores are popular for their convenience, though they’re often unhealthier and more processed than fresh, natural alternatives–but let’s be realistic; nobody’s perfect. We all have our indulgences, and sometimes you just gotta grab something and go. When you do need to buy something that’s packaged, try aiming for recyclable materials like glass, aluminum, and cardboard/paper boxes, and avoid plastics and styrofoam.

Food Friendliness… Lets Taco-bout it

You’re an expert on packaging waste; you know why it’s bad, and how to avoid it. Let’s spend some time on how to reduce food waste: the seed of life and star of the game. Food waste is a global epidemic. In fact, 1/3 of all food produced in the world is unconsumed. Believe it or not, over half of that wasted food is the fault of retailers and consumers in industrialized nations. In the United States alone, 30-40% of food supply is wasted at the retail and consumer level, creating about 35 million tons of food per year! Worth about $161 billion dollars, that could feed a whole population of people, but instead it’s decomposing in landfills and producing that environmentally degrading greenhouse gas, methane.

While these facts are scary and unsettling, we have the power to change it! Here are some tools to start the transition towards reducing your waste food at home.

Plan Ahead

It sounds simple, but it’s the little things that count. Take inventory of what you already have in your fridge and pantry before going to the market to ensure you aren’t over-purchasing. Make a list and have a plan of meals for the week to avoid impulse buys, which greatly contribute to food waste. Refrain from over-serving food and make sure to save your leftovers. Our eyes are often times bigger than our stomachs, which can lead to a bunch of wasted food. Start by serving yourself modest portions on smaller plates, and go back for seconds if you find your tummy is still grumbling for more. Save what you don’t finish and eat it for tomorrow’s lunch, or get crafty in the kitchen and create a new dish out of what’s left.

reduce-food-waste-ugly-veggiesPick the Not-So-Perfect Produce

So many fruits and vegetables get tossed because they aren’t picture perfect, even though they are completely edible and full of nutrients. Bruises can be cut off and odd shapes don’t mean bad tastes. Give the imperfects a little TLC next time you’re at the store. (Bonus: farmers markets usually offer a discounted price for blemished produce, just ask for “seconds” or “imperfects”). You’ll be saving food, dollars, and resources!

Shop the Local Farmers Market

For those of you who are lucky enough to live in an area where fresh food is grown locally, take advantage of it! Local fruits and vegetables are much fresher, since they begin to lose nutrients once they are harvested. Experience the variety that traditional grocery stores don’t always have: purple cauliflower, heirloom tomatoes, and quail eggs. By shopping locally for seasonal produce, you’re helping to preserve the farmland and green space of your region, while also minimizing your carbon footprint! Support your farmers and embrace the community feel of your local market.

 

Make it last!

Food is always better when it’s fresh… did you know that some materials can keep your produce fresher, for longer?

There are a ton of options for wrapping up your sliced lemons, halved avocados, and diced carrots. Here are some of our favorites!

The reusable resealable!

Replace your resealable plastic baggies with something that’s more durable, freezer save, dishwasher safe, and that keeps your food super fresh. Plus, these silicone bags come in a wide variety of colors, making food storage just a little more fun! There are too many awesome features of this bag to delve into here, but check them out to learn more!

 

EarthHero - Original Food Huggers - 5 pk - 6

Keep it fresh with a hug

Food Huggers are specially designed to keep fruits and veggies fresh and moisturized longer, in five stretchable sizes for differing produce sizes! Just pop this over the end of your cut fruits and veggies (love avocados?), and the seal will make sure that it will stay fresh until you need it next. No more slicing off that ‘not-so-fresh’ end!

Bonus: these work great over opened cans, too!

Bye plastic wrap, hello naturalEarthHero - Small Beeswax Wraps 3 Pack 3

We get it–food wraps are super convenient. We don’t get why plastic should be the only option, though. Check out these beeswax cloths instead! Simply mold these around your foods with the warmth of your hands, and they’ll mold to the perfect shape. Beeswax is a natural preservative, so your fruits and veggies will stay bright and ready for your next snack. Looking for a vegan option? Check these vegan cloths out instead!

In the end…

Freeze Your Produce and Save Your Scraps

It’s super easy to buy too many fruits or vegetables and not be able to finish them before going bad. Reduce food waste by preserving your produce and saving them for another time by sticking them in the freezer. Cut the produce up and put them in mason jars for headache-free storage. You can keep them frozen for a year before the quality starts to decline, so there is definitely time to find a use for the leftovers. These are perfect for making smoothies when the craving hits, making banana bread, or adding to yogurt or ice cream as a topping!

reduce-food-waste-broth

It’s also a good idea to repurpose other scraps including carrot tops, onion skins, and meat bones (stay with us here…). Keep them in the freezer, and once you have enough gathered, make a veggie or bone broth!

You can put your coffee grounds to good use by mixing them with brown sugar and coconut oil to hydrate and scrub dead skin away. Did you know banana peels can be used to whiten your teeth? Try rubbing the peels on your teeth once or twice a day after brushing. They can also be used to shine your shoes! Rub the inside of the peel across your tattered leather shoes and watch them shine. You’ll be surprised at how far your kitchen scraps will go! Want to DIY a bit? Check out some our zero waste home tips here!

Compost

For those leftovers you just can’t salvage, scrape your food waste into an odor-free compost bin and feed them back to mother nature. Most compost bins feature a charcoal filter to absorb odors, so you won’t even know it’s there. Chopping up a storm? This compost bin makes it simple to swipe scraps off the cutting board and into the bin, thanks to its nifty cabinet attachment–and it perfect for freezing scraps, like we mentioned before! 

Some cities will pick up organic waste right at your home and others may have local drop off locations. You can see what’s available near you at findacomposter.com, or print the awesome composting guides below! When in doubt, check out EcoCycle’s composting guideline chart, and these guidelines for what non-food items you can compost! Plus, check out the EarthHero blog on How-To Compost here!

The Take-Away

No matter how hard we try, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate waste from our lives. Start at the source and cut down on food packaging when possible! When items have reached the end of their life and can no longer be reused or repurposed, dispose of everything properly. Our goal isn’t to be 100% waste free (shoot for the moon, though!), but it’s to take steps in the right direction of eliminating how much waste we are producing. 

Ready to take zero-waste past the kitchen? Check out how to start the transition here!