Crafting a Sustainable Holiday: A Guide to a Low-Waste Festive Season


In a world dominated by consumerism, shifting towards a low-waste holiday season can be a powerful way to make a positive impact on the environment. By adopting mindful practices such as buying used, regifting, engaging in DIY/crafts, prioritizing experiences, and choosing products with purpose, we can collectively reduce the burden on landfills and embrace a more sustainable way of celebrating.

Buying Used

Embrace the charm of second-hand treasures! Whether it’s vintage decorations, books, or clothing, opting for used items not only reduces waste but also adds a unique touch to your holiday finds.


Regifting with Thought

Regifting gets a bad rap, but when done thoughtfully, it can be a sustainable way to share joy. Ensure the item aligns with the recipient’s tastes and needs, giving it a new life and purpose.



DIY/Crafts for a Personal Touch

Tap into your creative side! Handmade gifts and decorations not only carry a personal touch but also minimize the environmental impact associated with mass production.

Tea Cup candle

Gift Experiences

Consider gifting memories over material possessions. Concert/movie/theater tickets, spa days, or cooking classes provide lasting experiences without contributing to the clutter of physical items.


Choose Consumable, Reusable, or Comparable Products

Opt for gifts that won’t gather dust on a shelf. Consumable items like artisanal treats, reusable products such as stainless steel straws, or comparable alternatives like eco-friendly lifestyle swaps contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle.


The Impact of Collective Effort

Imagine if everyone made a conscious effort to incorporate these practices into their holiday celebrations. The potential impact on reducing landfill waste would be substantial. From reducing packaging waste to curbing the demand for new products, each small action contributes to a larger, positive environmental shift.

This holiday season, let’s redefine the spirit of giving. By making mindful choices, we not only create cherished moments but also foster a healthier planet for generations to come. Join the movement towards a low-waste holiday, and together, let’s unwrap a more sustainable future.

April 2023 Earth Month Events

Greetings readers,

Earth Month is a time to celebrate our planet and take action to protect it. As we head into the last half of April, in honor of this special time, many local communities are organizing events and activities to  engage and educate the public about the importance of sustainability and environmental protection. These events not only serve as a means of raising awareness, but also provide a fun and engaging way to learn about the crucial work of environmental organizations in our communities.

Gainesville – get ready to learn, connect and have some fun!

Slow Food Talk with Charles Barstow 
Thursday, April 13th @ 4pm
UF – Little Hall 0113

Charles Barstow is a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology at UF. His presentation will highlight the importance of food in bicultural conservation and introduce Slow Food approaches to protecting and promoting endangered food heritage.

This is a co-presentation of the Ethnoecology Society and the Center for European Studies at the University of Florida.


The State of Water – Juried Art Exhibition
April 13 – April 30
Cade Museum

The State of Water art show at the Cade Museum opens Thursday April 13th and runs thru April 30th. Museum hours are 10am – 4pm Thursday thru Sunday (closed Mon/Tues/Wed). A museum admission fee applies to see the exhibit – free admission will be during the Saturday, April 15th, Water State Festival at Depot Park.
We are intrinsically and deeply tied to water, especially in Florida. The waters that surround us in the landscape, the waters that flow underneath our feet in the aquifer – they nourish us, connect us, and inspire us. The works in this exhibition explore various “states” of water, from literal to figurative – whether physically transcending states from liquid, to solid, to gas; to a flowing state of a winding river; to an emotional state flowing down a cheek; surfacing on skin in fear; to a state of advancement from rising seas.
The art show is presented by Play Hard Florida and is benefiting Current Problems, Florida Springs Institute, and Keepers of the Springs.

Spring Clean Out – Community Reuse & Recycle Day
Saturday, April 15, 9am – 12pm
Santa Fe College NW Campus

The Alachua County Solid Waste & Resource Recovery Department, in collaboration with the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, invites residents to participate in the “Community Reuse & Recycle Day” on Saturday April, 15th 2023.

Residents are encouraged to take advantage of this free spring clean out, donation and hazardous waste recycling event.

Non-profit organizations will be onsite to receive the following items:
• clothing in wearable condition
• non-perishable food
• housewares in usable condition
• school/office/art supplies
• Household hazardous waste such as paint, chemicals, old electronics etc. for recycling or proper disposal.


Party for the Planet
Saturday, April 15, 9am – 3pm
Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo

This event is perfect for the whole family! The zoo welcomes you and your kids to explore and participate in fun activities such as games, crafts, training demonstrations, keeper talks, animal encounters, and more! Learn to build like a beach mouse, save a sea turtle, make a backyard habitat, and spring into action to save species. Get the full presentation schedule and exhibitor list here


The Water State Festival 
Saturday, April 15, 12-6pm
Depot Park

Enjoy a day of water-themed science, crafts, art vendors, environmental nonprofits, government agencies, live mermaids, adventure outfitters, and entertainment.

Also, festival goers will be able to visit the Cade Museum (FREE admission) to see Play Hard Florida’s State of Water Juried Art Exhibition!

Presented by Play Hard Florida, proceeds of the festival and the art show at the Cade Museum benefits two local environmental nonprofits that protect our waters: Florida Springs Institute and Current Problems.


Celebrate Earth Day with Cinema Verde
April 21-23

April 21: Ashley Creek Clean UP – RSVP here

April 22: Sustainable Showcase & Films at Cypress & Grove – learn more here

April 23: Awards Dinner at Passions Field in Alachua – learn more here


6th Annual Earth Day Eco Fest
Saturday, April 22, 10am-4pm
Eco Teaching Farm
17306 NW 112th Blvd, Alachua, FL

Spend the day in nature learning new, sustainable skills. Fun for the whole family! Speakers like Alex Ojeda, a permaculture expert, will be touching on growing herbs, soil development, and much more. Learn to make things like cheese, paper, incense, infused medicinal herbal oils.


The State of Water Celebration
Thursday, April 27, 6-8:30pm
Cade Museum

The State of Water Celebration - Cade Museum

Enjoy delicious food and drinks, amazing water-inspired 2D, 3D, and video art, a moving presentation from Florida author Rick Kilby, and a water-themed silent auction!

Buy Tickets


Mayor’s Water Challenge
April 1-30
City of Gainesville

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The Mayor‘s Challenge is a friendly competition between cities across the U.S. to see who can be the most “water-wise” by pledging to conserve water. We invite all of you to join us in taking the pledge at www.mywaterpledge.com, then click on Take the Action Pledge, and enter Gainesville, FL.

Participants in the winning cities are eligible to win hundreds of prizes.


Earth Month Virtual Silent Auction
We Are Neutral
April 1 – May 1

May be an image of poster, plant and text that says 'WE ARE NEUTR SECOND ANNUAL Earth Month Silent Auction Virtual bidding: .is open right now .endsMay1s Monday night at 12am midnight new items are posted weekly, so be sure to check back!'

Help We Are Neutral raise money for their small organization  to continue Earth-giving programs, including energy upgrades for low-income families, indigenous tree plantings, invasive species removal, urban agriculture, soil regeneration, composting, landfill diversion, landfill methane capture, vehicle fuel efficiency tuneups, climate change victim relief, environmental policy advocacy, and massive amounts of environmental education. Bid on items here


2023 City Nature Challenge
Alachua County
April 28 – May 1

Join Alachua County and hundreds of other cities around the world for a friendly competition to see who can make the most observations of plants and animals in their community.

Learn more at citynaturechallenge.org


At Life Unplastic – if you haven’t heard about our Earth Month Sale – we are discounting products 20% off storewide – excluding refills – through April 30th! Get 10% off your refills when you BYO containers (bags, bins, jars – whatever you fancy!)

And finally, our April Puzzle and Board Game Swap will be April 30th. Bring a game or puzzle to swap and bring home something new – to you – while you foster a circular, buy nothing economy. FUN!

If you made it this far, thank you for reading and I hope you can participate in at least one of these wonderful Earth Month/Earth Day events. Have a great April, everyone!

— Joy

The Meatless Monday Recipe Guide for Regular People

chalkboard background with white text that reads #meatlessmonday and a small illustrated strawberry above it

If you Google “Meatless Monday Recipe” you will find no shortage of options — from Pumpkin Roulade with Quinoa Stuffing to Crunchy-Topped Lentil Gratin, the internet is exploding with insta-worthy food made by stay-at-home food bloggers and influencers. 

And it’s an amazing resource for anyone who wants to bask in the blissful ecstasy of their dinner after spending an entire Sunday learning five new cooking techniques. 

But what about for the rest of us?  We don’t have a ton of time to cook every night (or frankly, don’t want to)… not to mention the clean up afterward. 

If you’re like me, you’re just an average person trying to make your life a little more sustainable. Cutting out some meat consumption is a highly effective way to do that, and #MeatlessMonday is a fun way to hold yourself accountable. 

So here are 22 meatless Monday meal ideas that will delight your taste buds, are easy to execute, and need minimal clean up! 

Two things to keep in mind: 

  1. If you’re looking to make an eco-friendly impact, you don’t want to replace all your meat with cheese and dairy — these products are also large resource suckers like beef. I have included some as options here because it can be tough to go full vegan, but I did try to lean towards the plant-based alternatives. 
  2. Living a busy life and staying sustainable is tough. Many of the most convenient options (take-out, premade sauces, pre-chopped fruit and veggies) come in unnecessary single-use packaging.

Just remember, it’s all about balance and finding what works best for you and yours.


BREAKFAST

Meatless Breakfasts to Grab On-The-Go

We’re talking real world here. And if you’re anything like me, you might get a nice sit-down breakfast once a week, but 9 times out of 10 it’s time to get out the door and you really don’t want to think about it. 

  • Quick and Easy On-The-Go Breakfasts

The trick here is to think simple, with a flair. Our taste palate loves variety, and turns out our brains do too. Don’t forget to eat the rainbow! They’ve done studies on this — Food that has more bright colors actually tastes better to participants, yet blindfolded tasters can’t tell the difference. 

close up of blueberries and sliced bananas on a piece of wheat toast with a nut butter smear
Toast: Buttered and Beyond!
  • Toast
    • I know, I know — but do you switch up your bread on a regular basis? Try different multigrains? Here some ideas for a bit of flair: 
      • Cinnamon toast with cream cheese and raisins or craisins.
      • Multigrain toast with Everything Bagel Seasoning (you can actually just buy this seasoning now – I personally LOVE IT).
      • Peanut butter toast with berries and/or bananas on top.
      • Sourdough toast with pesto and red bell pepper slices.
      • Wheat toast with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and balsamic.
      • Multigrain toast with cream cheese, cucumbers, and dill.
  • Butternut Squash “Toast” — yup you heard that right. Give it a try!
  • Bell Pepper Halves with Cream Cheese
  • Hard-boiled Eggs
  • ‘Clear the Fridge’ Fruit Smoothies
    • (example: I recently diced and froze a single yellow squash I was trying to save from the compost and have been adding it little by little to my morning smoothies.. I can’t taste it, but am loving the extra vitamins!) 
    • You can also add any leftover leafy green, avocado, citrus, yogurt, berries – just chuck it in there and hit blend.
  • Apple or Banana with Nut Butter

2) Make It Once, Eat All Week

If you do have an hour or two on a weekend or weeknight and want to invest a little time toward your breakfast for the rest of the week, these are great recipes that are meatless and save nicely: 

fluffy quiche in a scalloped baking dish

  • Homemade granola bars (grab your oats from the refillery!)
  • Peanut butter oat balls
  • Quiche
    • A quiche can be really quick to make if you buy a premade crust, but of course that usually involves more packaging. If you make your own crust do yourself a favor and make extra, then freeze what you don’t need. Also consider just making an “egg pie,” basically a crustless quiche. 
    • Quiches are a wonderful way to use up any leftover veggies or cheese from your week. Just saute in a pan and be sure to drain off excess liquid before you add it to the eggs. 
  • Banana Bread or Zucchini Bread

LUNCH

Very Easy Veggie Lunch Ideas 

Whether you’re a night-before prepper or a morning-of scrambler, lunch can’t be complicated either. It’s way too easy to snooze one more time and then grab lunch while you’re out. 

You know that making food at home is more sustainable, and if you’re looking to go meatless, your local lunch options might be limited. So here are a few easy veggie lunch ideas so you can get to work on time and stick to your sustainable goals: 

hand drawn illustration of a mason jar with layers for a salad on the go (layers are bottom to top: dressing, beans, grains, veggies, leafy greens)
Dump into a bowl, bam – salad!
  • The classic PB&J — plus a few twists! Try adding:
    • Pomegranate seeds
    • Coconut flakes
    • Dried apricots
    • Apple chips
  • Salads 
    • Boring I know, but they don’t have to be! It definitely helps if you have your veggies pre-chopped to save time throwing it together in the morning. 
    • Also try mixing up some dry goods like roasted pumpkin seeds and dried fruits so you have an easy grab-n-go salad topper that satisfies. 
    • Make sure to add a protein to help fill you up. Chickpeas are a great option! 
  • Hummus and veggie wraps
    • This is one of my favorites because it’s so easy and yet delicious. 
    • Try pesto instead of hummus for a twist.
    • Some of my favorite veggies: cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, broccoli, greens, sprouts.

If You Have a Little More Time

Again, if you do have a little more time you can make some delicious vegetarian meals with only slightly more effort than that 10-minutes-before-you’re-late-to-work allows. These are all great to prep the night before, then throw together for lunch during the week.

I am also always thinking about what little bits of leftovers I can clear out of the fridge – the combos can be as varied as your imagination! 


DINNER

Meatless Monday Dinners That Are Actually Feasible on a Weeknight

And finally, Meatless Monday would not be complete without a family-friendly vegetarian meal that you can whip up in 30 minutes or less. Sound impossible? It’s not. Here are some of my faves: 

Photo by Klaus Nielsen
  • Spaghetti squash with butter and sauteed veggies
  • Stir fry — this is one of the easiest meals you can make if you find a sauce you really like. Just fry up some veggies and throw it over rice or noodles
  • Curry — again, this can be a bit more complicated if you make it from scratch. And though that’s more eco-friendly (and healthier), if you’re looking for a weeknight option I recommend finding a curry paste you like. It’ll become one of the easiest meals in your arsenal. 
  • Cauliflower fried rice — this is a great shortcut to fried rice, and so much healthier. No need to wait for the rice to cook!
    • That said, if you have leftover rice, regular fried rice is another easy vegetarian option. 
  • Black bean burritos, tofu tacos, or chickpea tacos
  • Veggie spring rolls with peanut sauce — a really fun way to eat more vegetables. It’s like a salad only ten times better. Plus any leftover veggies after rolling are already cut up and great to throw on salads for lunch the next day. 
  • Vegetarian chili — okay it takes a while to cook, but the actual prep time is low so I included it. 
  • Baked zucchini boats — bet your kids will actually eat this zucchini! 
  • Portobello “burgers” — just throw some olive oil and salt+pepper on full size portobello caps and toss them on the grill. They’re done in no-time and you can dress them up just like a regular burger. 
  • Pasta
    • Pasta gets a bad rap, but for a weeknight dinner, it’s honestly amazing what you can whip together. It’s also an effective way to reduce food waste because pasta is so versatile with ingredients. 
    • If you have a whole bag of leafy greens like spinach or kale you forgot to eat (it’s okay, it happens!) try throwing the greens in a colander and “blanching” them. When the pasta is done cooking, you just pour the boiling water and pasta over top of the greens and let it drain. Then toss it all in some marinara sauce and you’re good to go!
      Or try some of these other pasta variations: 

  • Stuffed baked potatoes with a side salad 
    • Don’t be afraid to pack in those veggies. Some ideas: 
      • Roasted veggies (my go-to is broccoli and mushrooms)
      • Spinach and cheese
      • Butter and sour cream
      • Peppers and onions with plant-based sausage
  • Easy soups from Life Unplastic

Are You Ready to Try a New Meatless Monday Recipe?

I hope this has given you some very realistic ideas to try for your next Meatless Monday. If you’ve taken up the challenge, I want to say thank you. You’re doing it! Keep going, trying new recipes, and spreading the word. 

Double the effectiveness of your Meatless Monday by getting your groceries plastic-free at the refillery

The more we can all work together to be just a little more sustainable, the better the world will be. Don’t forget — if you try one of these Meatless Monday recipes tag us @unplasticgnv with #MeatlessMonday! 



Track Your Trash: How to Do a Waste Audit at Home

arm and hand holding a plastic bag of trash

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I wrote about 12 ways to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle and challenged you to pick one to focus on each month. Well somehow it’s JUNE and the Plastic Free EcoChallenge is coming up in July, so I thought to myself,  what is the best way to prepare for the eco challenge?

A Trash Audit. 

If your goal is to live closer to a zero-waste lifestyle, then the first thing you need to know is how much waste you’re currently creating. It’s true what they say — awareness is the first step. And also, you can’t manage what you don’t measure

So how do you do a home trash audit? Start by picking a method. 


Step 1: Choose Your Trash Audit Method

There are a few different methods for performing a trash audit, and while some may be more precise than others, just choose the one that sounds the best to you and that you’re most likely to actually do. Progress, not perfection!

The Full Inventory

This is where you truly get a piece by piece picture of every bit of waste you create. This can be done two ways: 

  • After the fact: On the day before trash day, head out into your yard or throw a tarp down and dump all your trash out. (Don’t do this on a windy day — we don’t need any accidental littering!)

Then you’ll simply write down and tally up every single item in there. If you’re not already composting — this is a great time to start, because digging through old food is absolutely no fun. You can also keep your “dry” trash separate from your “wet” trash for the week when you plan to do your audit.

Do this process with your recycling, too. While recycling is better than landfills, it’s not a perfect system and we can’t discount that this is still a form of “waste”.

WASTE AUDIT DIRECTIONS AND DATA SHEET – ZERO WASTE GAINESVILLE

  • As it goes in: Instead of digging through old trash — cause, yeah… not really that fun — you can keep a clipboard or tape a sheet of paper over your garbage can and add or tally every item right when you throw it away. The trick here is you’ll need an easily accessible sheet for each of your garbage cans (don’t forget your bathroom trash!), your recycle bin, and your compost. 

The advantage to this type of audit is that at the end of the week you’ll have a very detailed account of all of your trash. This lets you really understand exactly where it’s coming from and how to tackle curbing it. 

Really short on time? Consider doing your audit by weight instead. 

The Weight Method

Instead of identifying each individual item, this method just helps you get an idea of how much trash you’re creating. 

If you have a luggage scale that can work, or just weigh yourself holding the garbage and subtract your own weight. 

This method is very quick, so try weighing your landfill garbage, your recycling, and your compost for the week. Because this is a faster method, you can repeat it more often and challenge yourself to simply reduce the overall amount each week. 


Step 2: Make an Action Plan

Once you know what you’re throwing away, you can create a precise plan for how to reduce the waste. For instance, if you see that a lot of your trash is food packaging, choose a few specific action steps to reduce that waste category. 

Young girl grabbing limes in a market with woman holding out a fabric produce bag
Don’t forget your reusable produce bags!

That could look like: 

  • Challenging yourself to buy more whole fruits and vegetables that are unwrapped. Bring reusable bags if you’re used to bagging loose produce.
  • Getting creative about how to use food scraps to prevent food waste. The less you throw out the less packaging you will buy. 
  • Shopping the bulk bins (or ordering at our refillery!) and bringing in your own reusable containers. 

You get the idea. 

Maybe you discover a large portion of your bathroom trash is cotton balls and you decide to try washable cotton pads. Or you realize you’re doing pretty well on waste until that time of the month comes along… (P.S. If you’re ready to ditch the single-use period products, check out my friend Stephanie’s menstrual cup manifesto: “‘Menstruation’ is Not a Dirty Word.”)


Keep At It

Whatever your action plan you settle on, write it down someplace that you can revisit regularly. The key is to try — give it a little focus every now and then, and you’ll be amazed how far you can come in a year. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes! 

Looking for ideas to help you live waste-free, follow us on Instagram


July Plastic Free EcoChallenge 2022 – Sign up today!

Follow up your trash audit!

Promotion for Plastic Free Eco Challenge, blue background with hands held up to an earth made of blue and green tissue paper. Reads: Plastic Free eco challenge July 1-31, 2022 plasticfree.ecochallenge.org
Sign up for the ecochallenge today!

Our local teaching zoo, Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, invites you to take action and create plastic-free habits with us while we prioritize public health and safety as much as possible!

The Plastic Free Ecochallenge is a 31-day global challenge to reduce and refuse single-use plastics. Inspired by the Australian-founded initiative, Ecochallenge.org has partnered with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to help you discover, learn, and explore new ways to take care of wildlife and the world we all share.

Throughout the Ecochallenge, share your progress, success, and reflections with fellow Ecochallengers. The combination of collective inspiration, camaraderie, and friendly competition makes change a little easier — and a lot more fun!

Join an existing team or create your own – if you want to join the SF Teaching Zoo Zero Wasters team we are offering team members a discount at Life Unplastic all month long! Don’t worry, the challenge is hosted completely online, so you can participate – and take advantage of the discount 😉 from anywhere! 



Composting 101: Why It’s Important, Where to Start, and Your How-to Guide

compost

I’ll be honest, I love to talk about compost. But while I could sit on this soapbox all day, I’m going to try and keep this brief and to the point so you can get the maximum knowledge in the least amount of time. 

But before I dive into composting I want to make one note: 

Composting food scraps shouldn’t be your first resort for dealing with food waste. The first step is prevention, and that means taking these steps before you compost when possible: 

    1. Learn to properly store the food you buy.
    2. Donate excess food to others in need.
    3. Offer food scraps to animals.
    4. Turn it into biofuel or donate to a biofuel project (this one is more difficult for the average person).
    5. THEN compost what’s left.
    6. Landfill as a last resort.

    (Source: EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy)

    Why Composting is More Sustainable than the Landfill

    I know, it’s sort of counterintuitive — I mean, the landfill is just putting things underground and letting them decompose, right? … Unfortunately not, my friend. 

    I won’t get too into the nitty gritty but basically, when food undergoes natural decomposition it is exposed to plenty of air, specifically oxygen. This aerobic process produces very little greenhouse gasses. 

    When food waste goes into the landfill, it gets completely covered by other unnatural materials and eventually the conditions lead to anaerobic (meaning without oxygen) conditions. When the food decomposes anaerobically, it produces a ton of methane, one of the most destructive greenhouse gasses. 

    Composting our food waste is one collective action we can (and should!) take to curb climate change. 

    Sidenote: I present to you my favorite TikTok on food waste:
    **spicy language warning**

    The Benefits of Composting

    Composting doesn’t just reduce methane emissions. As a zero waste principle, it “closes the loop” on leftover organic waste and creates a valuable resource: fertile dirt. Using compost for agriculture improves the soil, provides nutrients, increases water retention, and can actually eliminate the need for industrial fertilizers that are often laden with chemicals. 

    After fertilizing with compost, farmers produce higher yields of crop, reduce their operating costs, and significantly lower their carbon footprint. 

    Okay I’m done bragging on composting, let’s get to the good stuff. 

    How to Start Composting

    Similar to starting a garden, the key here is planning. Consider how many food scraps your household typically produces in a week and what sort of resources you have on hand. There are several different ways to go about composting, depending on your circumstances, resources, and lifestyle. 

    Text graphic reading "Turn Your Spoil Into Soil"
    Turn Your Spoil into Soil

    Composting in your backyard

    This is what most people think of when I talk about composting — but if you don’t have a backyard, or simply don’t want a heap of compost in your yard, don’t despair! Scroll on down for less intensive solutions.

    When setting up a backyard compost, consider the following factors: 

      • Light: This comes down to getting your compost at the right level of moisture and temperature. If you live in the north, you may want to put your compost in full sun to get more warmth and speed up decomposition. If you live in the south, you might consider the shade so it doesn’t dry out too much. 
      • Location: You want your compost to be close enough that it’s not too much of a task to make the trek from the kitchen. But also not too close to outdoor areas where you spend a lot of time in case it smells. It can also be helpful to have a source of water nearby in case your compost gets too dry. And keep in mind if you put it up against a wall it is likely to cause discoloration and potentially mold growth. 
      • Access: Also keep in mind it might attract critters from your nearby woods. Consider if you have dogs that might poke around in there. You can build or buy composts that keep animals out but it’s more complicated, so just be sure to take that into consideration. (If you’re keeping animals out, look into making a Compost Tumbler, which can be made cheaply with thrifted or second hand materials). 
      • Cost: You can build a compost yourself out of wood, but also less traditional materials like an old trash can, busted tote, wine barrel… or you can just start a pile without any structure whatsoever! It’s totally up to you and your preferences. 
    23 Ingenious DIY Compost Bin Ideas

      Composting in an apartment or condo

      If you don’t have a backyard, there are still options! You can create a compost in a 5-gallon bucket. It’s recommended to use vermiculture (worms!) if you want to maintain a smaller closed compost like this. Loop Closing is a great resource to get started on this. 

      The benefits of worm castings (compost made from worms) is even better than the benefits from “regular” compost, so if you can incorporate worms – DO IT!

      You can also buy countertop compost devices now, though I will warn you they are expensive and I have never tried them.

      Composting in your community

      If you generally don’t have the time or energy to create your own compost, look into your local options! Community gardens often have a compost, and many cities now have compost facilities that offer free drop off or scheduled pick-ups for a very reasonable price. (If you’re in Gainesville, check out Beaten Path Compost — it’s $15/month for weekly curbside pick-up!)

      Screengrab of the top portion of the landing page at beatenpathcompost.com
      https://www.beatenpathcompost.com

      Whether it’s a community garden or local flower farm, I promise there’s someone out there who will happily take your compost!

      By the way, if you’re worried about the smell or pests in your kitchen, try storing food scraps in the freezer until you’re ready to take them out to the compost (or put it out on the curb). 

      What to Put in Your Compost

      Ok, before we get into it the truth is, all you REALLY need for rich, wonderful compost for your entire garden is…. (drum roll please)…  shredded leaves.

      Mike McGrath from You Bet Your Garden explains why:

      He talks about the nutritional powerhouse that are trees in our ecosystem and their gift to us each fall.  Basically, you simply can’t gather too many leaves in the fall (even suggesting you could get more from neighbors who are silly enough to rake and bag).  The shredding is the most important part, but most leaf blowers came with vacuum attachments and canvas bags for the mulch you’ll create.

      You can use the mulch immediately if you want and/or create a compost pile with the rest. By spring, your pile will have reduced by half several times, leaving you with nutrient-rich compost. McGrath does go on to add that coffee grounds are a second “hot” ingredient that will kick start the compost pile and reduce it down even more quickly. (Not a home coffee drinker? Ask a local coffee shop for coffee grounds!)

      But THIS eco-chat is in the context of composting to divert organic waste from the landfill, closing the loop and supporting sustainable, zero waste principles. To do so efficiently and effectively, you will want your compost to be a mix of “dry” (leaves, cardboard) and “wet” waste (coffee grounds, food scraps) so that it doesn’t just become a steaming puddle or a dry heap of trash. It’s best to turn the compost every few days or at least once a week to keep the additions mixed and encourage oxygen to do its job. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you’ll just play around with it until the consistency seems right. 

      If it’s way too wet, oxygen won’t be able to circulate and it won’t decompose properly — remember all that aerobic decomposition stuff? So the dry ingredients are just as important as the wet, but keep in mind some items like paper and cardboard will decompose a lot faster if you shred them or cut them into smaller pieces. 

      If it’s taking forever for your compost to decompose you might need more wet ingredients (or it’s just too cold.) If your compost is full of maggots and fly larvae you probably need more dry ingredients, but remember worms are actually great for compost! 

      Common wet compostables include: 

      • Veggie/fruit scraps
      • Coffee grounds and tea leaves (natural tea bags are ok, but don’t put synthetic satchels in there)
      • Egg shells
      • Grass clippings, weeds, or other green plants
      • Wilted flowers

      Common dry compostables include: 

      • Leaves or pine needles from the yard
      • Sticks and branches
      • Paper products
      • Cardboard
      • Stale or moldy bread/crackers
      • Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, wool, or silk (cut into small strips to speed up decomposition) 
      • Dryer lint — from loads without synthetics (Psst: try wool dryer balls if you want an all-natural, compostable alternative to dryer sheets)
      • Wooden toothpicks or chopsticks
      • Dead houseplants (👀 it happens…)
      • Human hair or pet fur (okay I know it’s getting weird, but you really can compost this stuff!)
      Infographic called 10 Things You Didn't Know You Can Compost from 1millionwomen on Instagram
      10 Things You Didn’t Know You Can Compost! Pizza Boxes, Natural Wine Corks, Used Matches, Ice-Cream Sticks, Polish-Free Nail Clippings, Toilet Paper Rolls, Pet Hair, Pencil Shavings, 100% Natural Fabric Scraps

      Things you shouldn’t put in your compost:

      • Meat, dairy, fats, and oils — this is for sanitary reasons. If your compost is going to be used for gardening purposes you don’t want bad bacteria growing in there because it could transfer to your vegetables in the garden. Industrial composts can handle meats because they reach high enough temperatures to kill off those bacteria, but you shouldn’t put them in your backyard compost. 
      • Items that feel like plastic but are labeled as “compostable” by the manufacturer. Again, these can go in an industrial compost but your backyard pile won’t reach the temps necessary to break them down. 
      • Anything synthetic
      • Diseased or pest infected plants — They’ll just live in the soil and transfer to your future plants!
      • Plants or yard clippings treated with pesticides or herbicides.
      • Black Walnut Tree leaves, branches or walnuts — specific, I know, but this particular tree carries a hormone that inhibits the growth of other plants, so it’s terrible for making garden compost! 
      • Pet waste — again, for sanitary reasons.

      When Will My Compost Be Ready? 

      This is tricky because it depends so much on the conditions of your personal compost. The answer is anywhere from 2 months to a year. When it’s warm, it’ll go faster. In the winter (if you live up north) it may do nothing at all. 

      If it smells sour and looks wet, add more browns and wait a bit. If you want to speed up the process, turn your compost (meaning take a shovel and flip the contents around) every 2-4 weeks. This helps that aerobic decomposition and keeps it from being too wet at the bottom or too dry at the top. 

      Your finished compost will be almost fluffy in consistency, and shouldn’t have any large chunks of original material. It’s great to mix with soil for your garden, houseplants, or flower beds. Have too much? Offer it up to your local neighborhood, I’m sure there’s a gardener who will gladly take it off your hands! 

      hands holding fresh compost
      Image by Joke vander Leij from Pixabay

      If you have questions, the EPA offers a number of resources on home composting that are a great starting guide. 

      The Dangers of Fast Fashion and Why People Are Obsessed with Thrifting

      Tag attached to linen shirt with paper tag that reads, in green print: Sustainable Fashion across the top and then below with icons for each item, Care for the Earth, Wash cold Line Dry, Respect Workers, Mend and Repair, Trade Fair, Reuse, Swap, Donate

      “Fast fashion”, “slow fashion”, “thrifting” and “capsule wardrobe” — all terms you’ll hear thrown around in conversations around sustainability, but commonly misunderstood. 

      Most people don’t really understand what these terms mean, how big the problem actually is, and how easily you can implement sustainable solutions. I’m going to shed some light on fast fashion and how you can become part of the sustainable/slow fashion movement.


      Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion

      Before you can understand why supporting slow fashion and sustainable shopping is important, it’s crucial to understand the difference between fast fashion vs slow fashion.

      Illustration of two women, text reads: fashion slow vs fast
      Fashion: Slow vs Fast

      What is Fast Fashion? 

      Fast fashion is the cheap, rapidly produced clothing that changes drastically from season-to-season to fit with current trends and styles. 

      The term fast fashion first emerged in the 1990s with the start of inexpensive and stylish clothing companies like Zara, who mass-produce clothing with little regard for the environment. 

      What is Slow Fashion? 

      Slow fashion means quality, timeless clothing staples that a person can wear for many years to come.

      Before the Industrial Revolution, people made their clothes by hand. Being pretty labor-intensive, they were made to last. And if you tore your pants, you would repair them, not purchase a new pair.

      How Did Fast Fashion Start? 

      Though the term emerged in the ‘90s, fast fashion began long before that. As factories gained technological advancements in machinery and production, clothes became easier and easier to manufacture. As new styles became easier to produce, fashion grew into a more prominent part of society. By the 1960s, fashion “seasons” emerged. Dressing with the new styles was a symbol of status – whether your clothes were expensive or not. 

      Nowadays, fashion can change in the blink of a 10-second TikTok video. You can see how this is problematic.  


      Why Fast Fashion Is a Problem

      Fast fashion hasn’t just grown since the 1960s… it’s exploded

      Just since the year 2000, clothing sales worldwide have more than doubled. Meanwhile, the average number of times we wear our clothes before throwing them out is rapidly dropping. 

      This is a problem because textile manufacturing is not a sustainable industry. 

      Here are just a few textile industry facts that are sure to make you cringe: 

      • Fast fashion is responsible for more CO2 emissions than airplane and maritime transportation combined. 
      • 20% of global wastewater is the result of textile dyeing
      • Manufacturing a single cotton shirt requires the same amount of emissions as driving a car for 35 miles. 
      • 80% of clothing ends up in a landfill or gets incinerated at the end of its short life.

      And unfortunately, that’s just the beginning. 

      Fast fashion is also responsible for horrific working conditions and disastrous environmental damage to the local regions of production facilities. 

      See, in order for these articles of clothing to be sold as cheaply as they are, they’re produced in countries with less regulations. Without ethical or environmental production regulations, the wages and working conditions of the factory workers are abysmal. The factories also cut corners by dumping toxic waste into rivers and seas rather than collecting and sending it to treatment plants. 

      These factory conditions are so bad that in 2013 a multi-factory building in Bangladesh unexpectedly collapsed, killing over 1,100 workers and injuring 2,500 more. 

      This is why boycotting fast fashion and buying fair-trade, sustainable products is so important. 


      Why Thrifting Is More Sustainable

      Consider a pair of jeans: it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow the cotton to make a single pair of jeans. (I know, it’s pretty mind-boggling, but it turns out cotton is a seriously thirsty crop.) Aside from growing the cotton, then you have to consider all the water it takes to wash the cotton, dye the jeans, and rinse out the excess dye.

      Experts estimate it actually takes over 9,000 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans. 

      So let’s break it down. 

      Close up stack of folded jeans being held by a person in a white sweater.
      Photo by Maude Frédérique Lavoie on Unsplash

      If you wear those jeans 3x per week for 2 years, that’s 312 wears. Or, 28 gallons of water consumed for every day you wore them. 

      If you extend the life of those jeans by two more years — that number drops to 14 gallons per day. Thrifting is one of the easiest ways to support slow fashion.

      When you thrift or buy used clothes, you give a second life to something that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. Even using a thrifted pair of jeans for a few more years saves massive amounts of carbon footprint by spreading out the resources used to create that item.

      Video featuring Sustainable Jeans Hack (tiktok @bug318_): Thrifted jeans a size too small? Shower in them (or sit in the tub with them on) and then let them air dry. Voila!


      The Potential Pitfalls of Thrifting

      One word of warning: Although thrift shopping IS more sustainable than shopping from fast fashion brands, there is another side to this coin. 

      Because thrift items are cheap, we have a tendency to buy more than we need. We think, “I’m not sure about the ruffles on this shirt, but heck — it’s $2. I’ll just get it and I can always donate it back if I don’t wear it.” 

      And while you might think you’re giving it a second life — if you literally never wear it, all you’ve done is provide an air-conditioned safe for it to sit in. Instead, leave it on the rack for someone who will love it, and choose items and clothes that bring you real joy. You know, the Marie Kondo way. 

      When you reduce the number of clothes you own, you’ll also wear the clothes you do have more often, giving them the full lifespan they deserve. This is the idea behind a capsule wardrobe. It’s a minimalist approach that gives you everything you need in one small, neat closet. 

      Neutral clothes with letterboard sign that reads: Fast fashion doesn't go with my outfit.

      Also, don’t forget that when you shop new from a sustainable store, you’re supporting that business and voting with your money. So it’s not the end of the world if you don’t buy everything used. 

      It’s all about balance and moderation. You don’t want to swing too far in one direction or the other. 


      Other Easy Ways to Extend the Life of Your Clothes

      Of course, thrifting and buying sustainable clothing isn’t the only way to make your closet more sustainable. Here are a few very easy ways to extend the life of your wardrobe right now: 

      • Learn simple mending techniques. 
        • Visible mending is a whole vibe!
      • Rewear your items before washing them.
        • If they aren’t dirty, don’t wash them. This will save energy and water from the wash cycle, but it also preserves the quality of your clothes. Plus it’s just some made-up rule from the textile giants that we’re supposed to wash our clothes after a single wear. And it wasn’t until very recently that society adopted that habit.
      • Wash your clothes on the cold cycle.
        •  This will both save energy and preserve your clothes. 
      • Skip the dryer and hang dry your clothes. 
        • The dryer is the most detrimental part of our laundry process. It is very harmful to your clothes (and I don’t just mean the accidental shrinkage!) 
        • There’s a reason all your delicate clothes tell you to air dry. The dryer actually breaks apart the fibers in your clothes and is the main cause of wear. And you don’t have to hang dry your clothes every time. 
      A few garments hanging outside on a clothesline. Background shows a tree and some bushes with soft golden hour light.
      Photo by Daniel Spase on Unsplash

      All this to also add that I often feel like a broken record when I say this but, progress, not perfection, remember? Doing these things some of the time still counts and it helps!

      Remember, education is power. I didn’t write this blog to make you feel guilty about your closet right now. Ten years ago, I didn’t know any of this!

      I write it to help open the conversation. To inform intelligent, caring people about the issues they might not have heard about so they can keep moving toward a life that aligns with their values — because we’re all a work in progress 

      If you learned something new, share this post with a friend! By sharing the knowledge we gain, we can make an even bigger impact on the environment, world and beyond. 


      Sources: 

      1. https://earth.org/data_visualization/the-9-biggest-fast-fashion-statistics/
      2. https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/09/style/fashion-in-numbers-sept/

      How to Start a Sustainable Garden

      Seedlings in square soil pots.

      One of our 2022 Eco Mini-Challenges is to start your own garden because growing your own food is a great way to be more sustainable.

      From a waste perspective so much of our food, especially fresh produce, is  packaged with petroleum based, single-use plastics. From the little stickers, to bags, to individually wrapped items, to unrecycleable clamshells for spring mix, and on and on and on and on. 

      Woman with empty shopping cart in produce section of grocery store. Most items are packaged in plastic.
      These days so much of our food is wrapped in petro-based plastics.

      Gardening also connects you with your food, your farmer, and the earth. All wonderful and rewarding things, but for a lot of people it seems like a massive, overwhelming task. 

      Just remember, it doesn’t have to be. If it’s intimidating, start small. See what works one year, then build on that the next year. 

      herbs in pots on a table
      Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

      I’ll be honest, I’m an extremely novice gardener. But I have been learning a lot about permaculture recently and now, of course, that’s what I want. It’s what I must have. Like many of you, I’m also extremely busy with general life things and frankly, I want to relax when I get downtime (do hobbies sometimes feel like more work to you too?), so what I really want is a food-producing permaculture space in my backyard that will be relatively low maintenance in the long run. 

      Side Note: One big source of lazy gardener inspiration this year was Chapter 17 entitled Double the Food with One Tenth of the Effort in the book “Building a Better World in Your Backyard Instead of Being Angry at Bad Guys” by Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop. Chapter subtitles include:

            • Transplanting? That’s Unnecessary Work
            • Prepping the Soil to Not Need Prepping
            • Planting Once and Harvesting for Years
            • Mulching 2.0: Being Naked is No Longer Required!
            • 3D Gardening – Big Berms Bring Big Benefits
            • How Trees Nurture Gardens, Cool Your Home, Heat Your Home, and Save the World
            • Replacing Fertilizer with Polyculture
            • Monocrops Need Pest Control; Nature Doesn’t

      This is my kind of gardening, for sure. Anyway, I thought I’d collect some of that information here for you, and speak a bit about my own venture and experience so you can experiment with a garden for yourself!

      Step One: Start with a Plan

      Planning really is the crux of starting a garden. You need to know what plants you’re going to attempt growing, and when they need to be seeded or put into the ground. 

      In Florida we’re lucky to have a little more leeway with our weather, but if you live further north this part is crucial. Plant too early and a hard frost will kill all your babies. Plant too late and you won’t get to harvest before the weather turns frosty again. 

      In general, you probably need to start sooner than you think. 

      Determine Your Gardening Space

      The very first step is deciding how big you’re going to go. If it’s your very first time, try a container garden (meaning all of your plants will be in large pots.) 

      The advantage of a container garden is that it’s very impermanent. You can set out as many or as few pots as you’d like and you have the ability to move them around to find the best places in your yard or on the porch. 

      You can usually find a lot of secondhand pots on online marketplaces like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. And if you’re in Gainesville check out the Repurpose Project for pots. 

      If you’re thinking of going bigger, be sure you know whether your garden will be in direct sun all day or if it gets more shade. 

      You’ll also want to make sure wherever you garden can be reached by a hose, and won’t be disturbed by pets or small children. 

      Select What Plants You’ll Grow

      Now look at your options. 

      One big thing to consider is what do you like eating? Some novice gardeners grow peas because someone said they were easy, but they don’t even like peas. Don’t do that. 

      Think about your favorite vegetables and herbs and select a number of them that match your garden conditions. 

      Then check out the recommended planting times for each of your selections and mark them on your calendar. 

      In Gainesville, we have a wonderful resource in UF IFAS and I did most of my research for my little beginner garden on their website.

      screengrab of UF IFAS Gardening Solutions website
      https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/

      One warning to keep in mind: If you grow a lot of only one type of plant, say tomatoes, you’re likely to attract pests that will set up camp and gorge themselves on your poor tomatoes all season long. 

      To avoid this sad fate, try to plant a variety (called polyculture gardening) and consider mixing in flowers like marigolds and sunflowers that will deter certain insects and attract others that you want.

      I went for tomato, roselle, arugula, cucumber, carrots, and potatoes for my main garden. Then threw some shade-loving seeds down around our sweet gum tree — basil, garlic chive, butterfly weed, thyme. And I plan to start more seeds soon for watermelon, cow peas, sunflowers and other pollinators in other parts of the yard now that it’s warmed up. 

      Before and after comparison of a typical single family home and front yard to a biodeverse permaculture garden
      Garden Goals: In 4 years couple creates biodiverse permaculture garden with 160 varieties of plants that provide food, medicine, habitat for wildlife, pollinator plants, holds water, captures carbon, reduces heat & it’s low effort.

      Step 2: Gather Supplies

      I already had some seeds and ordered a bunch of others from Working Food (a Gainesville non-profit), but anyone can find seeds at nurseries, ag stores, and/or local “seed exchanges”. 

      Also, don’t discount all the seeds you already have access to! Most of the food you buy at the grocery store is full of viable seeds that can be planted (especially if you buy organic, non-gmo). 

      Learn how to Grow Fruits & Vegetables from Food Scraps! – EatingWell

      I cut open a few tomatoes and used the seeds from them. I also used a few old red potatoes that had sprouted and they’re the happiest thing in my garden right now! 

      You’ll also want to make sure you have the gardening essentials: gloves, trowel, watering can, hose, pots, grow lamp. Keep in mind most of these items are available at second hand stores, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or you might get lucky in your Buy Nothing group. Locally, we have The Repurpose Project (what an absolute treasure of a place, we are very lucky!). The point is to always repurpose and buy used when you can.

      Step 3: Plant Your Seeds or Starters

      If you’re starting from seeds, you’ll need to start them indoors. You could buy starter cups, but I think it’s more fun to repurpose things you may already have like cardboard egg cartons or even avocado skins. So many things would work, use your imagination! 

      The newly planted seeds need to stay moist and get good light, so this typically means covering with a clear top after watering and providing a grow lamp during daytime hours. 

      If you know you’ll have trouble remembering to turn the light on and off, you can buy a circuit timer that will do it for you. 

      Harden Your Plants

      This is one of those steps that requires some experimentation, and in fact isn’t always necessary. 

      Basically your new baby plants have had a good life so far and they are therefore delicate and soft. That means they aren’t quite ready for the full harshness of the elements. If you buy seedlings from a nursery, this is also true. 

      Set them out for a few hours a day, or for longer in a more protected area like a screened porch. You want to do this for several days to a week. 

      Then they’re ready to be planted!

      Plant Your Seedlings

      If you want to avoid the plastic bags, but need garden soil and mulch, look for a local business in your area that sells it in bulk.

      a rake in soil
      Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

      In Gainesville, we get soil from a place called Gaston Mulch and Soil and add a mineral soil booster and organic fertilizer. My husband has a pickup truck and can haul one yard in it, but they also offer delivery!  (up to 10 yards at a time)

      We go pick up our soil, unload it into a pile in the backyard and then we have it to use as we keep adding to the garden. So far we’ve ordered two yards, but I think I might be ready for a third.

      I didn’t spend a lot of time prepping my yard. Basically, I lightly tilled the area where I wanted my “rows” with a shovel, but I did not have grass there. If you DO have grass I would recommend laying down cardboard first, then the dirt. 

      If you’re looking for a “lazier” setup (like me!), lay mulch between your plant rows to reduce the amount of weeding you’ll need to do.

      I was able to “mulch” around the rows with pine straw from my front yard (we NEVER bag it, we just blow it all together around the trees and bushes lining the house, so it’s pretty great free mulch now), but again, look for a bulk supplier nearby! 

      Step 4: Maintaining Your Garden

      When your plants are little you still want to protect them from harsh weather. If there are freezing temperatures or storms, try to cover your plants. 

      We were expecting some nasty thunderstorms recently, so I covered the little seedlings I was worried about with my jar collection. Bonus that the jars double as a quasi-greenhouse!

      13 Tips for Plastic Free Gardening on the Cheap – Zero Waste Chef

      Throughout the season you’ll want to water your plants in the morning, before the sun is too high in the sky. If you water midday you risk burning your plants, or having the water evaporate before your plants get as much as they need. If you water at night, you risk leaving too much moisture for too long and developing root rot or fungus and mold. 

      Adding a rain barrel is a great way to reduce your rain consumption (and something I will be setting up soon!) You can also save water from boiling vegetables or noodles and feed it to your plants for some extra nutrients. 

      And you can use your compost “tea” as fertilizer! (Mmm, right? 😉) 

      Keep an eye out for bugs. But remember not all bugs are bad. Predator insects like praying mantises, spiders, soldier beetles, and ladybugs will actually help protect your garden by eating the bad bugs like aphids. Remember, if nothing is nibbling at your garden (because of pesticides), you’re not truly part of the ecosystem. 

      Yellow garden sign with script-styled blue print.
      If something is not eating your plants, then your garden is not part of the ecosystem.

      Reap the Harvest

      Basket of beautiful fresh produce: lettuce, tomato, bell pepper, beets, and other root vegetables.

      Finally, enjoy your fresh herbs and vegetables! 

      This is really the best part, so be sure to savor your hard work. 

      And if you do have garden success this year be sure to share it with us! Tag us on Instagram @unplasticgnv.

       

      Zero Waste Week 2022

      Zero Waste Week

      January 23 – 29, 2022

      It’s hard to believe, but Zero Waste Week 2022 is upon us! It kicked off today and goes throughout the week til Saturday January 29th. 

      To our local Gainesville, FL residents: Zero Waste Week will include both in person and online events. We are always looking for ways to involve more residents and can’t wait to celebrate sustainability with you. 

      To our readers far and wide: Zero Waste Week isn’t just for local residents! Due to the pandemic we have moved much of the celebrations online, and you can join in the fun! 


      Haven’t heard of Zero Waste Week?

      If you haven’t heard of Gainesville’s Zero Waste Week it is a collaborative event focusing on policy and lifestyle choices that will further a sustainable, waste-free future for our beautiful city. 

      Zero Waste Gainesville (a community-led initiative) is devoted to education and awareness, as well as policy change that will protect our environment while having a positive impact on our collective health and economy. 

      Partners of Zero Waste Week (presented by Zero Waste Gainesville, The Repurpose Project, and Life Unplastic) include the City of Gainesville, Alachua County, Beaten Path Compost, Sierra Club Suwanee – St. Johns Group, We Are Neutral, NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, and Working Food.


      Zero Waste Week 2022

      First and foremost, if you want to stay up-to-date with information and join in the conversation, sign up for the Zero Waste Week newsletter by filling out this form. 

      In 2022, we will dive deep on the following topics: 

      • City of Gainesville’s Zero Waste Ordinance
      • Rescuing Edible Food
      • Reusables To-Go
      • Reuse and Repurpose
      • Composting

      If you’re signed up, you’ll receive a newsletter each day of the week with information and action points on each eco-friendly topic. 

      You can also check out content as it’s posted on zerowastegainesville.com under the tab: Zero Waste Week. 

      And if you’re in town, check out this event: 

      • January 28: Clothing Swap and Art Installation at Reuse Planet (1540 NE Waldo Rd) – 5:00-8:00pm

      • All Week Long: Save 15% at Life Unplastic on all your eco-swaps and refills!


      The Zero Waste Ordinance

      If you’re reading this blog, it’s probably because you’re interested in doing your part for sustainability. But if you’ve been following me for any amount of time you know that the most effective way to reduce waste is further up the waste cycle. 

      That’s why policy is so important. We need to reduce and reuse first, then talk about recycling and waste management. In order for this to work, we need governments and businesses working together with the proper supply chains. 

      That is why Zero Waste Gainesville focuses heavily on policy change. And in 2019, Gainesville took the first step by banning plastic straws and stirrers. 

      Then in 2020, a subcommittee was formed to write up the first draft of the Zero Waste Ordinance. The resulting action plans will be rolled out over the coming years, but we encourage you to get involved and support the initiative to ensure our city continues its journey toward sustainability. Stay tuned with Zero Waste Week to learn more about how you can support the Zero Waste Ordinance. 

      Next steps include curbside compost collection for both private residences and businesses, curbing student move-out waste, and diverting grocery store and food vendor waste streams. 


      What Zero Waste Week – Gainesville means to you: 

      As a citizen, this is a great opportunity to get informed, get involved, and help move Gainesville in the direction you want to see it go. 

      As a business owner, this the perfect opportunity to find out more about what a Zero Waste Ordinance would mean for your business.

      “There is no such thing as ‘away’. When you throw something away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard

      Check out these Zero Waste Resources with guides to reducing waste in all aspects of your life, plus finding local thrift stores, and how to compost. 

      And don’t forget to sign up for the Zero Waste Week daily newsletter!

      A Resolution Revolution

      Alright, I’m just gonna come right out and say it: New Year’s resolutions aren’t for me. 

      I’m a list person. Lists all day, every day. Writing down and/or vocalizing our goals are a wonderful way to find focus and commitment in any aspect of life. But I have never been able to properly manage a first of the year, sweeping lifestyle change or “resolution”, with any kind of permanent results. 

      I have always had a lot more success implementing small changes that over time led to a shift in my consumer mindset. Lasting lifestyle change has been the result and not the goal, if that makes sense. 

      That being said, here’s a way (well, many small ways) for you to become a more eco-friendly version of yourself in 2022 without making traditional New Year’s resolutions that don’t stick. 

      The 2022 Eco Mini-Challenges

      Alright, so how this works is – instead of one never-ending, perfect or perish resolution – challenge yourself (sounds fun, right?) to focus on various aspects of a sustainable lifestyle each month, and see where you can (and you will!) make improvements. 

      Even if you don’t stick with each one, you’ll get a taste for different eco-friendly solutions and a feel for what fits with you.

      You don’t have to follow the order presented here and if you don’t get to all of them, that’s ok too. Just pick a few that seem like a good place to start and jot one at the top of your calendar each month.


      1.
      Track Your Trash

      A great way to get clear on where you can individually make the most impact and send less to the landfill is to conduct a waste audit.
      Know your trash, then reduce it. 

      What’s a waste audit

      It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You’ll be able to see the big picture of what you’re throwing away for the month (or even just a week!). 

      Once you’ve tallied up all your trash, look for what items have the most marks. Those are likely the most impactful places where you could start looking for eco-friendly alternatives.

      There’s two easy ways to do this: 

          1. Before you take the trash out to the curb, dump it all out and tally up what’s there. This is a lot more pleasant process if you’re composting your food scraps separately
          2. Keep a piece of paper by the trash can and write it down as it goes in. 

      Zero Waste Gainesville has these resources to help, including detailed instructions and a printable table. Or check out this cute video below:

       

      Betsy and her sidekick, Georgia, will show you how to perform a home waste audit to help you begin your zero waste lifestyle. A waste audit helps you learn what you are throwing away so you can begin making different choices to avoid items that create waste.

      Bets on the Planet is a show made by kids for kids to help them live a sustainable life that is good for the Earth.


      2.
      Practice Mindful Shopping 

      All you need is less text.

      The most sustainable product is the one you don’t buy, but it’s so easy to casually shop when products are being waved in our faces 24/7.  

      The challenge here is to pause when you pull out your credit card this month. Ask yourself –

      Do I really need it?

      Will I use it more than once?

      Is there a way to get it package free, packaged in, or made from compostable materials?

      If the answer is *no* to one or more, just don’t buy it.

      Admittedly, this can be tough! Our minds are programmed to get excited about novelty and that boost of serotonin when we buy or gift something is :chef’s kiss:. I will say, there is also a lot of empowerment in successfully saying NO to the barrage of tailored advertisements, so I encourage you to give it a shot.

      bubbles in hands above a bathtub filling with water
      Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

      Ultimately, retraining our thought processes around consumerism shouldn’t feel like restraint or punishment, so feel free to reward yourself in some way whenever you pass on a purchase. It takes a lot of mindful acknowledgment to celebrate not buying something.

      Rewards can be anything from relaxing in a bubble bath, to borrowing a new book from the library, or taking a fun fitness class. 

       

      Reducing our consumption is one of the most powerful ways we can be environmentally friendly, because so many resources are invested into making new things. Alternatively, you could seek out an eco-friendly alternative, try to borrow it from a friend, make it yourself, or even look for a used one.

      Bonus: a very real world benefit from mindful shopping is saving money! All those little (and big) impulse buys in a month can really add up. You’ll see!

      my buy nothing month: what i learned when i stopped shopping
      find your neighborhood ‘buy nothing’ group or learn how to start one. Declutter your spaces and give where you live

      3.
      Compost Your Food Waste 

      What to Compost

      I can’t express enough how important and impactful it is to compost your food waste, no matter your situation. You can contribute directly to a circular economy in a profound way. Not only does food that has been landfilled produce methane, a green house gas contributor, but also it is a missed opportunity to convert those scraps back into rich soil that can be used… to grow more food! 

      But, before we talk about how to compost, let me back up for a second. Depending on how much food you’re currently chucking every week, you may benefit greatly from taking a few days this month to peruse the websites and social media feeds of people like Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef. 

      She will show you how to get the most bang for your buck, with regard to food, food waste, and finding the value in what we may generally consider scraps. It’s inspiring, I love her work!

      Now to come back to composting the scraps that are left. From back yard piles to indoor worm bins, there are MANY ways to compost, even if you live in an apartment. Or look for a local composting service. For instance, in Gainesville where I live, there is Beaten Path Compost. They make it so easy with multiple drop off locations around town and they have a weekly pickup for some neighborhoods.

      Further, once you get your food scraps out of your trash can, things like waste audits become much easier and you can really get a good look at what is making up the balance of your waste.

      There are so many benefits to composting and I feel so passionately about it, that I can safely exclaim if you don’t do anything else this year, you should start composting.


      4.
      Green Your Cleaning Routine

      As spring cleaning routines kick off, be conscious of your scrubbing habits. Mainstream cleaning agents are expensive and often include toxic chemicals that end up in our waterways and pollute humans as well as wildlife. Plus, the packaging is almost always unrecycleable single-use plastic. 

      See how your current cleaning products are rated on the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning site
      shop our low waste cleaners


      There are lots of ways to green your cleaning routine. Swap out rags for paper towels, and try a natural loofah instead of a sponge.
      You could also make your own cleaners with simple ingredients like baking soda! 

      Spend the month being conscious of your cleaning habits. Looking for an advanced challenge? See how many days you can go without a paper towel.


      5.
      Plant a Garden

      Or just a few containers! Even if all you try this year is a couple herbs in your kitchen window, it counts. 

      Growing our own food (and buying local) is a wonderful way to embrace sustainability. Plus it’s super rewarding. 

      The Repurpose Project in Gainesville has tons of pots you can get for next to no dollars. 

      Looking for easy starter plants? Try corn, cucumbers, squash or zucchini.


      6.
      Going Meatless

      You probably know that our modernized animal agriculture systems are damaging to our environment, but it can be really tough for people to give up meat. Don’t worry, I get it. I encourage you to give it a shot anyway because both the health AND environmental benefits are worth the effort.

      7 things that happen when you stop eating meat.

      Some tips:

          • Get fresh fruits and seasonal veggies (without all the excess packing!) when you shop at a local farmer’s market.
          • Use the googles for recipe inspiration and give some cooking a go. It can be relaxing and somewhat therapeutic.
          • Feeling short on time or too tired to think about cooking when you get off work? Look out for future you with some day-off meal prepping
      how to store produce without plastic – zero waste chef


      Try challenging a friend or family member and see who can sustain a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle the longest. Or take a baby step and see if you can do #MeatlessMonday every week this month.

      One of my favorite and EASY meals with minimal dishes is a stuffed baked potato with a mixed green, vinaigrette dressed salad. Ideas for stuffings: roasted veggies (my go-to is broccoli and mushrooms), spinach and cheese, classic butter and sour cream, or peppers and onions with plant-based sausage. 


      7.
      Volunteer for a Green Cause

      Your challenge during this month is to sign up for an eco-friendly event like a creek or beach clean up, or planting trees with the Arbor Day Foundation. Bonus points if you bring a friend!

      Some Gainesville Orgs that could use your help:

      If you’re not able to commit to volunteering in person, consider making a donation if you are able. 


      8.
      Travel Trashless

      Another seemingly difficult place to reduce single-use plastics is when we travel. I don’t just mean vacations or work trips. Even our daily commute to work is often fraught with coffee shop stops and midday snacks.

      Challenge yourself to see how many days in a row you can go without accepting or using takeaway disposables and single-use plastics.

      Also, be sure to say out loud, every time, at restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, and markets: “Thanks but I don’t need a bag, straws, napkins, cutlery, condiments, lids, etc.” Of course don’t list all of that at a grocery store, just what’s applicable. They’ll sometimes forget and still give it to you, keep saying it anyway! Normalize asking for exactly what you need instead of taking disposables you just toss in the trash 5 minutes later. 

      Pro tip: Keep a reusable water bottle, thermos, and set of silverware in the car. Bring your own lunch and homemade snacks. And for mastery level: take a set of clean tupperware with you so you can take home leftovers without a to-go box.


      9.
      Digital Detox

      Don’t think of digital detoxing as eco-friendly? It really is! When you add up all your screen time, you’d be surprised how much energy it consumes. 

      Check out your digital wellness app for some stats about your smartphone screen time and see if you can cut it back this month. 

      Set a stopwatch when you watch TV and keep a record of it. See if you can cut back a bit each week. 

      Bonus: When we reduce our screen time we tend to reconnect with nature. Get outside and touch some grass.

       

       


       

      10.
      Nurture Your Love of Nature

      Sometimes we get so caught up in making our daily lives more eco-friendly, we forget what it’s all about. 

      Your challenge this month is to schedule four days that you’re going to do something to celebrate the natural world around us. Whether it’s a day trip to the beach, or a picnic in the woods; feeding the ducks, or the seagulls; laying in your front yard and watching the sky or dancing in the rain – take a conscious moment to remember why we’re doing all this. Really feel your connection to mother nature. Again, bring your friends or family and spread the love.


      11.
      Trim your Transportation

      Take a moment this month to look at your transportation. If you drive to work, are there days you could telework instead? What about finding a carpool buddy? 

      Do those old bikes in the garage still work? What if you cycle to a nearby restaurant or park for your next date night? 

      When possible, take public transportation instead of driving separately. And if you’re taking a longer trip, drive rather than fly whenever you can!

      See what you can do to keep your comings and goings green this year.

       


      12.  Share Your Journey

      We don’t often think about social media as an eco-friendly act. In fact, in a lot of ways social media contributes to our consumer-driven downfalls. 

      But when used for good, social persuasion is a powerful thing. We are most influenced by those we trust and respect, so when we see something posted by a friend, it affects us more. 

      Your challenge this month is to post one day/week about a sustainability win you’ve had this year. Whether it’s a product that’s changed your life and habits, or the basket of veggies you grew in your garden – let’s hear about it! 

      And don’t forget to tag us at @unplasticgnv. We want to celebrate with you!


      Celebrate Your Successes

      Adopting sweeping life changes overnight is impractical and unlikely to stick. It’s overwhelming and unnatural. 

      The best thing we can do for the planet is whatever works within our own lives. If you try these 12 sustainable challenges in 2022 I will be greatly surprised if you don’t find something that brings you joy. 

      Maybe you discover you love carpooling with your new coworker, or you find community with the wildlife volunteers. Or you discover that it gives you deep satisfaction to tell the waiter “No thanks, I don’t need a to-go box” as you pull out your reusable tupperware. 

      Whatever works for you, it all contributes to the greater cause. Here’s to a greener 2022!

      Sustainable Gifts – DIY Edition

      Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels

      Well, here we are – the Holiday Season is in full swing.

      I know how chaotic it can feel and truly wish for you to have an opportunity to slow down and have some fun with it this year.

      Making little handmade gifts is one of a few ways I can really tap into the holiday spirit (see also: driving around to see twinkly lights, my mom’s chocolate chip cookies, and Die Hard).  

      I’ve made a lot of different things over the years, but really don’t consider myself very “crafty”. So if I can do it, you can do it. I do try to add an extra personal touch by sharing a holiday family tradition or recreating something I’ve experienced throughout the year. Ideally I can incorporate supplies I already have on hand.

      Did an idea just pop in your mind? Go with it! 

      If the ideas aren’t coming easy, read on for some inspiration. Everything can be accomplished in an afternoon and there’s lots of room for improvising the components with items you may already have on hand, whether you’re the creative type or not. And remember, if you get stuck – google is your friend. 

      Share the Self Care

      Candles:

      Making your own candles is low waste and eco-friendly and guaranteed to be as non-toxic as the ingredients you use to make them.

      Funny novelty mug candles would make a great White Elephant or Secret Santa gift!

      The vessels you choose can turn these candles into true works of art. Repurpose a .50 thrift store coffee mug, vintage tea cup, or mason jar.  Or maybe you have those little glass yogurt cups or old tea tins laying around. Hm! 

      If you prefer to go jarless, you can make small wax melts using a silicone ice cube tray. 

      Fancy up the tops of your candles or melts with some herbs, flowers, or dried fruits!

      Why should you avoid paraffin wax? It is derived from petroleum and full of toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene which is released into the air when you burn them.

      I strongly suggest using either raw beeswax or soy wax for something sustainable and safe to inhale.

      Ingredients: 

      • Vessel(s) – up to 24oz of volume 
      • Cotton or Wood wicks* (as many as you need for your number of vessels) 

      *The wood wicks have a crackling feature for that extra *ambiance*. 

      **Beeswax candles naturally smell a little like honey, but you can use essential oils if you want to add some fragrance. If you’re going to do this, I recommend adding a bit of coconut oil since beeswax doesn’t seem to hold onto the scent quite as well.

      Directions:

      Melt the wax and oil in a double boiler, then add the essential oils. Place the wicks in the jars and pour the mixture in, being sure to secure the wick with a clip (or tape to a pen) so that it holds in the middle while the candle cools. 

      Check out this video for a quick tutorial: 


      Body Butter:

      Body butter is easy to make while also ultra moisturizing and luxurious. This recipe has ingredients you can find by the ounce at Life Unplastic, but could of course altered based on what you might have on hand. 

      Ingredients: 

      Directions:

      If you plan to use arrowroot powder, soften the coconut oil and mix the powder in. Then use a double boiler to melt the butters. 

      Remove from heat and mix the butter with the coconut oil. Refrigerate the mixture until it firms up a bit, then add the essential oils and “whip” the mixture with a fork or a standing mixer. Add it to your jars and store with the lid on at room temperature. 

      It will keep like this for 6 months or more, though I recommend always using clean hands when you scoop it out. 

      (Recipe adapted from: https://livesimply.me/how-to-make-easy-body-butter/)


      Bath Bombs:

      Most people don’t have bath bomb molds lying around and that’s OK. Look around and see what you have! You can make bath bombs into all kinds of shapes by using molds such as muffin tins (metal or silicone) and cookie cutters. And why make them traditional when they can be quirky and unique? 

      Their natural color is classic and elegant, but you can add different coloring agents. It’s important to be careful what dye you select, since if it’s not water soluble it will actually stain your tub (or the tub of the person you give it to! 😬) 

      This recipe yields 10 large bath bombs, so feel free to half it or adjust as needed. Again, almost all of these items may already be on hand in your home or can be purchased by the ounce at the shop.

      Ingredients: 

      • 2 Tbsp Water
      • 2 Tbsp Dried Orange Peel (optional)
      • Make your own dried orange peel by zesting several oranges (3-6) and sprinkle it out on a tray to dry for 48 hours. 

      The orange peel is optional, but it adds a nice natural color and helps soften and exfoliate your skin. Plus it has anti-inflammatory properties! 

      Directions:

      Whisk together the cornstarch, citric acid, epsom salt, dried orange peel, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the melted coconut oil, water, and essential oils (if using).

      Very slowly add the oil mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring and mashing as you go. The end result should be similar to wet sand. Pack the mixture into your selected molds and allow to dry for at least 30 minutes (and up to 24 hours) before removing the mold. 

       

      Whip Up Delicious Consumable Concoctions 

      Ok here’s where your family traditions could shine or be adventurous and try something new, it’s all in the experience. Here’s some ideas to get you started: 

      Note: You could of course focus on what you have on hand first. I also carry a bunch of pantry staples by the ounce that will fill any gaps for a multitude of tasty, thoughtful gifts. There are so many options it’s difficult to list all the exact recipes. 

      **All of these consumables are great to package in clear jars with a little twine or reused bow to give as a gift. 

      Candied Nuts:

      Mix brown sugar (or raw sugar) with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne pepper if you like a little spice with your sweet. Add a splash of water and vanilla extract. Melt the mixture, stir in the nuts, then spread and cool them on a baking sheet before breaking them up and transferring to a container. 

      Cookies or Cake in a Jar:

      Just mix together the dry ingredients for your favorite cookie or cake mix, then tie the instructions to the jar! We carry gluten free flour, raw sugar, and oats. 

      Good Soup: 

      Perfect for literally anyone who loves to cook for their family. Grab your favorite chili or soup recipe and layer the dried ingredients like beans and spices in a jar. You can even add our vegan powdered broth mix. Write out and attach the instructions for the other steps, like sauteing diced veggies, adding a can of tomatoes or broth, then dumping the jar in a pot and letting it stew.

      An alternative soup idea is this 13 bean fiesta soup mix. Simple and looks beautiful in a jar. Add cajun seasonings for a kick!

      Put Together a Personalized Plastic-Free Gift Basket

      And finally, as I look around the store it’s hard not to see all the different ways you could combine our environmentally friendly products to make tailored gifts for your friends and family. They are maybe not “DIY” in the traditional sense, but still very thoughtful and a great way to show you care. 

      For the coffee enthusiast:

      Grab some locally-roasted coffee and pair it with a CoffeeSock and a locally made holiday scented candle.

      One variety we are carrying is called ‘A Love Letter to Gainesville’ and proceeds support a program helping to eliminate food insecurity for local students. 

      For the homebody:

      Make up a batch of super easy room freshening spray with just water, witch hazel, and essential oils! Lavender is great for relaxing a space and Lemon is refreshing and rejuvenating. We have colored glass or aluminum spray bottles so your gift is plastic-free, refillable, and non-toxic. 

      Pair it with these handy recycled cotton tea towels and a whimsical animal tree ornament

      For the ‘buzzy’ bee:

      Local honey, beeswax food wraps, candles, and these silicone reusable bags make a cute bee-themed collection. You can even wrap it all up in this Honey Chemistry Tote bag

      For the zero waste beginner:

      Foldable stainless cutlery set, bamboo toothbrush, and string grocery bag are just a few options for a starter kit that just makes sense. Other must haves: washable and reusable kitchen sponges, dishsoap block, Happy Willow shampoo bar, cotton produce bags. 

      Sustainable DIY Gifts Have Never Been Easier

      So you see, there are many ways to put together eco-friendly gifts that won’t end up clogging our landfills and really show you care… about your people, and your planet

      If you don’t have time for a visit, remember that shop items can be delivered within the Gainesville area. Order online or give us a call today. 

      Visit us at:

      2441 NW 43rd St.
      Ste 24B-1
      Gainesville, FL 32606
      📞 352.225.3116