February 26, 2015

Zero Waste Roadtrip & Reflections on Cheap, Fast Food

I know what you're probably thinking--that's an oxymoron! How do you have a zero waste roadtrip when driving emits so many carbon emissions? Right. You're absolutely right. You can't, but you can try to pack and prepare in such a way that you're eliminating trashcan waste along the way.
Tim and I were traveling to Pennsylvania last weekend--he was providing leadership at a retreat and I went to see my Best Fried Marian. I packed some homemade bread that we had made, 3 apples, carrots, and peanut butter. The apples and carrots were both bought in bulk and I only had to deal with produce stickers on the apples. The peanut butter was purchased pre-Lent and I am finishing it up. I am also transitioning to zero waste containers. The plastic bag is being re-used--it has already been used a couple times and washed out. And my roommate and I save all of our plastic containers for leftovers.
 My family is full of awesome, committed canners. I hope to be just like them some day! I packed some craisins in a jar, and for giggles I packed some pickles, and beets. I ate the craisins, but never had a chance to open up the beets or pickles. They probably weren't the best roadtrip food, unless we were going to stop out and have a picnic, which I have done on numerous occasions in the summer!
 I packed everything in re-usable cloth bags. I also packed some silverware (in the wrapped napkin) and some cloth napkins to use along the way.
 Tim and I did stop to eat at Panera, because they are pretty fast and minimal waste. I didn't have a chance to refuse the napkin and forgot that my sandwich comes on a little piece of cardboard. I inspected them both and figured I should be able to compost the cardboard and the napkins.

I also packed my mason jar and lid for water, so that I could refill it for free at gas stations along the way. Tim stopped in at a Subway for one of his meals and I was going to fill up my jar, but they didn't have water in the drink machine. WHAT? I looked and looked and nope, no water in the drink machine. I would have filled it up in the bathroom if we had a lot more to travel, but we were pretty close to Tim's destination, so I waited until we got there.

As we passed fast food upon fast food place, I kept thinking about the burgers in cardboard boxes, the fries in little bags, the sodas in disposable cups, and the individually wrapped straws. Fast food is fast...and cheap. It's hard for me to find fault with those who rely on cheap (often bad and unhealthy food) to feed their families or themselves.
Disposable Fast Food found on Living Responsibly

Part of my trip, I was alone and listened to a podcast called Homegrown Christianity, that was focusing on eco-theology. They had four hour long podcasts with those practicing and advocating for eco-theology: Matthew Sleeth, Jen Butler, Randy Woodley, and Leah Kostamo. They asked each participant the same rapid-fire questions at the end of the podcast and one was: "Should Christians buy cage-free eggs?" The answers varied. Sleeth responded, "Yes, and they should have had a massage and at least a third grade education." However, Woodley and Butler were quick to say, "Yes and No" pointing out the financial disparities among Christians and the availability of this kind of food. I agreed with them. Yes, I want to advocate for healthy chickens and healthy people, but I realize that all of this is a journey and a process...and I can't fault a Mama for buying the eggs that are $2 cheaper and nestled in styrafoam. It's ugly and hypocritical for me to do so.
Happy Chickens from Minimac Farm

I'm doing this Lenten project because I want to see how I can make Zero Waste sustainable in my own life, which means taking into account accessibility and financial costs. I want to be Zero Waste, but I also want to pay my rent! We live in a cheap, fast, disposable world and I want that to change. Let's make this possible and accessible for all.

February 22, 2015

Trash: Week One

Each Sunday in the season of Lent I am going to post how much trash I have created in the previous week. This is my first Sunday and it's really only half a week!

This week I trashed: 
- A dove dark chocolate wrapper
- Produce stickers
- A plastic tie

Things I avoided: 
Paper towels in the bathroom -- I shook it off!, used my pants, or a washcloth I brought with me.
- Disposable roadtrip snacks -- I packed my own!
- The front desk candy jar.

Transitions I made: 
I started using a mason jar with a lid as a water bottle. My plastic water bottles are washed and ready to be donated.
- I bought silk bulk and cotton produce bags for grocery shopping next week.

Things I learned this week: 
Cupcake wrappers and pizza boxes are compostable.
- Almost all unwrapped produce comes with stickers. Le sigh.
- My lifestyle uses about 390% of the world resources--if everyone lived like me.

Weekend Compost!
As a bonus, here is the compost that I accumulated from my weekend trip (save for some food peels left in my friend's compost!). It holds a number of things that I would have just trashed before--like cupcake wrappers and the little cardboard sandwich tray from Panera Bread. There are also some napkins that were served to me that I didn't have time to refuse.
I decided to carry a jar with me so I could bring home any compostable waste back to the neighborhood compost bins. All of this is compostable, but to help it break down more easily I am going to cut it all up into little pieces so the compost has an easier time breaking down. 

February 21, 2015

How many Earths does it take to support your lifestyle?

Do you know how many Earths it takes to power your lifestyle? 
Currently, humanity is living off of 1.5 Earths to produce what we use and absorb our waste. The quiz calculates how many Planet Earths it would take to support your lifestyle...if everyone was able to live like you. It also calculates how many global acres you consume. The average American consumes about 30.5. If everyone on Earth lived like the average American we would need 7 Earths to provide for us. 

Average American Consumption 
Katie's Ecological Footprint: 3.9 planets
Being a vegetarian might reduce a significant amount of impact, but my food still comes from far away. I do have a car. I might fly once a year. I live in a house with running water and electricity. I think electricity is the big kicker here that contributes to much of my consumption. I am going to do another post exploring the ways that I can get creative about reducing my electricity consumption.
Katie's Consumption
Calculate your own ecological footprint.
The Global Footprint Network created a handy quiz to rate the impact of your lifestyle on the planet. It looks at food, waste production, travel, electricity, and our households. The quiz is great and allows you to adjust different parts of the quiz to see how that might lower or increase your footprint. I took the test three times--for myself, for an average american, and an eco-conscious person.

My score was 3.9 Earths, Average American 6.9, and Eco-Conscious person 2.8. For kicks, I also took this quiz as if I was in India and answered the questions as if I were still a student there. Indian student impact? 0.6 Earths.

Further Reading:
Footprint Network | Calculator
New Community Project  

February 18, 2015

Zero Waste Lent: Dust to Dust

"From dust you were created, and to dust you shall return." 

These sacred words spoken at an Ash Wednesday service, as I received ashes, are continuing to echo in my soul. With the ashes of my confessions and others confessions marked on my hand, I am reminded of my own earthen quality and my un-earthen lifestyle. I look around my room and I am surrounded by things that are made from dust (or chemicals). Even if I live to be 100, my earthen body will fully decay before the things that fill my room have wasted away. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

I live a fairly simple life, but confess that I have earthly treasures to which I cling and take delight. I have a simple apartment, but confess to filling all of it's available spaces anyway. I don't buy much for myself, but I confess to saying "yes" to more possessions instead of refusing them. I don't want to create unsustainable waste, but confess to giving in to easy temptations wrapped in plastic. 

In this Lenten season, may I unclench my fists and release the possessions to which I cling. May I loosen my grip on easy and remember that it is not easy to return plastic to dust. May a creative, intentional spirit be stirred within me, that I would find new, meaningful ways to satisfy my basic needs, without harming creation. 

From dust I was created, and to dust I shall return. May it be so.  

February 17, 2015

It's a plastic world

As if I needed more inspiration to radically starting transforming my lifestyle to one of Zero Waste, this little video popped up in my Snapchat. Snapchat is the only social media that I keep on my phone and I'm glad I did--otherwise I might have missed this video.

Plastic travels all around the world--some ends up in landfills, some is shipped to "third world" or Global South, very little is recycled, and whats left is floating around our oceans and waterways. Plastics and trash are huge pollutants of water and damaging to our health and the health of our planet. When I was traveling abroad in India, I crossed two rivers on my way to my Social Work placement. The rivers are/were an important part of the vitality of India--now they are black. Literally sickly, black rivers leprosed with bits of white trash. The smell as we crossed them was putrid.
Photo from Transparent Chennai
It is a plastic world. I have given up things like single-use plastic bottles, but from where I'm typing on a computer made of plastic, looking at plastic office supplies, and just popped a piece of gum out of a plastic container--I have a long way to go, too. 

February 16, 2015

Zero Waste Lent:The Start of a Long Journey

Inspiration: Mama Bea Johnson of zerowastehome.com
Every year for Lent I try to do something meaningful. Something that will improve my relationship with God, my life, the lives of those around me. This has manifested itself in very different ways throughout the years--wearing a prayer covering, giving up abbreviated words, or journaling everyday. These different practices help me critically analyze my life and help me take a step back from the "ordinary time." I don't necessarily stick with the practice that I try for Lent. I still abbreviate words (sometimes). I haven't chosen to continue wearing a prayer covering. Journaling is still very important to me and is part of my New Years Resolution--journaling every day for a year! However, I want this year to be different.

For Lent, I am starting a Zero Waste journey. That's right, I am journeying towards a life of drastically lowering the amount of waste that I create to...zero.

Is that even possible? 
Well, probably not. It's definitely not going to happen in 46 days and even after that it will take me a long time to use up the plastic products that I already have in my home. I am committed to using up all of the products that I have before having to send them "away."

How are you going to do it? 
Over the next six and half weeks, I am going to be tracking my waste. First, I want to know about how much waste I create from day to day. What are the little bits of waste that I create without thinking about them? I am hoping to become even more aware of my consumption of "one time use" items that have a more sustainable alternative. Second, I am going to be focusing on a different area of my life for each week of Lent. I will be focusing on Grocery Shopping & Kitchen, Wardrobe & Bedroom, Hygiene & Bathroom, School work & Desk, Time & Social Media, and Spirituality. Third, it's a long journey and I'm just getting started. It will take me a long time to transition from the plastics and disposable products that I have now to Zero Waste alternatives. It might take a couple years, but I am humbly and intentionally starting the transition now.

Why are you doing this? 
I am doing this because I believe that a Zero Waste (or little waste) life is possible. I have been so inspired by Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home and Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers. Bea and Lauren each live in highly populated cities in California and New York. I live in a medium size town in Indiana. I want to become more aware of the resources available around me. How far do I have to travel to find a co-op? What about the farmers markets? I'm also in seminary and my time is limited--how can I make a Zero Waste lifestyle work for me?
Inspiration: 20 something Lauren Singer of trashisfortossers.com
My faith is a huge piece of why I am doing this, hence starting intentionally for Lent. My faith journey has led me to take small steps to reduce my impact on the planet: vegetarian diet, using reusable grocery bags, etc. Transforming to a Zero Waste lifestyle is another step on a long journey to living in better harmony with the Earth, which as a Christian, is what God calls me to. I know that I can do more to limit my impact on the planet and I want to pursue that radically and intentionally.

I will be blogging about my experiences and what I learn along the way. I am humbly embarking on this journey knowing that I am not going to get there in 46 days, but it's my hope that I will learn so much and be 46 days closer to a Zero Waste Life.

February 8, 2015

Simple Living | Making my own deodorant

Yesterday, I ran out of deodorant. Instead of running to the store to buy more, I decided to try my hand at making my own. Making my own deodorant is something that I have wanted to do for a long time, but I had doubts. Would I smell okay? I had used natural store-bought deodorants like Tom's before, but ended up smelling a little too organic at the end of the day. What about how much I sweat anyway? I think I sweat more than the normal person. In high school, I was always self-conscious about raising my hands too high for fear of exposing my way too wet underarms!
With those fears in mind, I googled "fool-proof homemade deodorant" and then decided to make a deodorant based on what I already had at home.

My ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil 
  • 4 Tbsp of cornstarch 
Other variations, add essential oils, use arrowroot powder (instead of cornstarch), and add shea butter or other things. There are a TON of variations! I had the baking soda, coconut oil, and cornstarch so that is what I used! 

I mixed all of the ingredients together in a little glass jar and it made about 8-9 oz. Then to use it, I put a small bit on my fingers and rubbed it into my armpits. I had read that it's good to put it on and let it soak in before putting a top on, so there is less of a chance of it getting onto my clothes. 
I have used it for a day and at the end of the day--I didn't smell anything! There was no BO and there was no extra deodorant smell (like ocean breeze  or cool mist). If I added essential oils or something, there might be an extra smell from that, but without those there was no smell at all! I even took my shirt off to smell it--nothing! As for sweating, I did a bit. I tend to sweat no matter what deodorant I try and that's okay. A little sweat never hurt anybody.