18 March 2015

Sharing 7 of My Green Home Tips

Hi friends! Just a little post today about some things we've done around this house to reduce some waste. I'm so into this! Not only does it reduce waste and respect the planet, but it saves money. It's really a win, win, win. Besides, this is about LOVE! And that includes love for Mother Earth. 

Here we go...

1. Bambooee Paper Towels
If your household normally buys paper towels - I have the BEST alternative for you: Bambooee paper towels. I simply cannot recommend them enough. They are washable/reuseable/super absorbent "paper" towels that can be used hundreds of times. We don't even use paper towels anymore and in a couple of years, it has saved us roll after roll. No more Costco paper towels for us. We have been using just one pack of 30 of these bamboo towels over and over. (It saves on storage space, too.)

A Tip: For immediate accessibility in the kitchen, I keep a large jar on the counter and just stuff it with these towels when they come out of the wash. So, so handy.



2. Silpats
Silpats are a DREAM, my friends. They are silicone sheets that you place on your cookie sheets and baking pans. They are non-stick and washable (dishwasher safe, too). They even prevent the food from burning and prevent your pan from getting baked on grease stains. I sometimes get ahead of myself and think that everyone must know about Silpats. But no. They do not! Here in Ecuador all the expats go on and on about how they cannot get Pam Spray here! SAY NO TO PAM, my friends! Get these silpats and you'll be set for life. Your baking pans will likely be set for life, too. And if you're like me, you'll enjoy their typography and "made in France" reminder each time you bake. Macarons anyone? They actually make a sheet for those - with a template for the exact measurements.  :) 2 mats for $16.24.




3. Join a CSA (Or Buy Directly From Local Farmers)
I cannot recommend a CSA enough! We joined one in Brooklyn (in Greenwood Heights) and it's INCREDIBLE to join with the community to get GOOD, CLEAN food delivered - package free! I will sign up for a CSA again in a heartbeat when we move back to the states. I know in Brooklyn the CSAs had waiting lists - so it's probably best to sign up as early as possible before the new harvest season. Another recommendation: Find bakers and local food makers in your area. Here in Ecuador, we can order smoked fish, kombucha, pickled garlic, kefir, organic meat, and gluten free bread directly and they even deliver it door-to-door! In Brooklyn, we purchased eggs, wild salmon, and freshly baked bread from local farmers/bakers.




4. No. More. Processed. Foods!
This is one incredible way to both save the planet AND save your body. We have basically eliminated processed foods 100%. That's just crazy to me. We had thought for some time that it would be the ideal way to live and I just can't believe that it's now a reality. One of the best side effects of making pasta sauce or hummus or almond milk or crackers or tortillas from scratch is: no more packaging. No boxed goods. No plastic containers or bags. Our trash accumulation has gone significantly down. (Disclaimer: It's much, much easier to live this way here in Ecuador. It helps that the packaged food products and branding and ingredients are just not as appealing to us. I hope that when we return to the states we can resist the organic corn chips and coconut milk icecream and all those snacks from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods! How are all you doing on the processed food front? I know it's a difficult thing to break away from them - but it is possible to do little by little. :)

5. Compost Pile.
We've been composting down here and I cannot recommend it enough. We probably do it wrong (we are no experts). And the truth is we haven't actually even used the compost for a garden yet. BUT...composting cuts back significantly on the amount of trash bags that we need to go through.  For the first time in my life I don't even own larger "kitchen sized" trash bags! Nearly all the trash can go out to the compost. (This is the compost pile at Casa Mojanda, the eco-lodge where we have our retreat. Photo by Amanda Glenn.)



6. Menstrual Cups Instead of Tampons
I'll admit, my first experience was a bit traumatic. And it's still not my favorite thing in the world. BUT...I love that it offers a safer, less toxic, green alternative to using tampons and plan to use it as needed, while mainly still using my reusable pads. I highly, highly recommend giving this a try (I use this cup here). You can see 67 comments here on a previous post here where so many women raved about using these cups.

7. Save All Glass Jars 
I have finally realized how nice it is to have glass jars around. From time to time we do have glass jars coming into the home for raw honey, kombucha, pickled garlic or olives. I now save every one and use them to:
-Store dry flours, nuts, coconut, oats, grains (I don't mind the mix matched look in our pantry)
-Package jars of food and beverages for the road or for picnics.
-Store homemade cleaning products.
-Use for water & green juice jars around the house.
-Deliver soup to a neighbor.

For another HUGE list of ideas, see this post by Trash is for Tossers. This trash-free woman is seriously raising the bar!

Other Green Tips I've written about in the past

-Norwex Micro Cloths/ Cleaning with Water Only 

-Wool Dryer Balls

-Reusable Pads

-Green Reusable Vegetable Bags

-Reuseable Sandwich Wraps & Planet Lunch Boxes

OK, you dear, wise people - what else can we add to this list? Please share in the comments ANY green home tips you have. I would so love to get some more ideas!



17 comments:

  1. i have never heard about bamboe, thanks for sharing that info. i have been trying to switch more to greener living - replacing plastic containers with glass and saving my glass containers. i was just thinking about this the other day, how can we get away from buying produce from stores without getting the small produce bags because i cant reuse them or do anything with it. i dont do CSA but try to eat organic as much as i can...but at whole foods, i do take my reusable bags but not sure what to do with smaller flimsy produce bags, any thoughts?

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    1. I know! Those vegetable bags at the grocery store do seem to snag the whole green living thing. I started to just not use the bags as much as possible. I know it can be a headache at check-out for some items like say a dozen apples or strawberries. But certainly some items can go without a bag like zucchini or cabbage or broccoli, etc. Also! you must check out these reusable vegetable bags: http://www.amazon.com/flip-tumble-Reusable-Produce-Bags/dp/B002UXQ7QQ. They come in a set of 5 and I think they're such a great idea! The key is always getting in the habit of taking them with you. I used to keep reusable bags in my car so that I could never say I forgot them. Here we keep all our reusable bags by the door and since we're traveling and shopping on foot, there is no way we would forget them. I also now take my own egg carton to the market, too. Most of the fresh eggs are not sold in cartons, so you are pretty much forced to bring your own. I kinda like that system.

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  2. I love all of these ideas! Compost is my favorite. I love that something that could be considered trash in today's world can be changed into a life giving and life renewing substance. As the author of The Humanure Handbook says, " Compost happens." You don't have to do anything to it. It's a natural process. That's a great book, by the way. Even though it's out of my comfort zone to compost my own human waste at this time, it's still a beautiful concept from a spiritual perspective. And humbling to consider.

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    1. Thanks so much for the book recommendation. Sounds interesting for sure. And yes, there is something spiritual about all those processes that bring forth life.

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  3. All such great ways to live! And a wonderful alternative to the typical American household that produces garbage and wastes money with wild abandon.

    Check out one of my favorite blogs, Zero Waste Home (http://www.zerowastehome.com/). The author is an inspiration. Her family of 4 produces about a glass jar of trash a year. And she lives a zero-trash life while looking fabulous (she's French but lives in the Bay Area, and she looks like a French model).

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    1. What on earth? Shoot. that is unreal. Talk about raising the bar.

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    2. I second the recommendation for ZWH! I am trying to implement some of her ideas. I can't do everything but I do what I can. I also like Trash is for Tossers (a NYC millennial woman) and No Trash Project (similar age, also east coast). Zero waste living is fusion of my favorite parts of minimalism and environmentalism, with some hand crafting (food, toiletries) thrown in.

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  4. I love these posts about natural products. I'm so interested in the fact that you don't eat any processed foods. Does that mean you even make things like taco shells from scratch? I would love to read more about how you stopped eating any processed foods, what you eat now, and if it's so time consuming without eating any processed food.

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    1. Hi ! Thanks so much! So....yeah - no taco shells. :) If we have tacos we do normally just use tortillas and we're now making those from scratch. We DO buy some corn flour, though. (instead of grinding it - ha!) Though I'm not convinced this is really that great to eat due to all the gmo stuff.
      So - we've just read too many books and watched too many documentaries on food that we became super motivated to stop eating the chemicals, preservative,fillers, gmos, additives and colorings that can be found in nearly all of the food that comes in a package. Going gluten free many years ago helped this transition greatly as I had already been cutting out tons of processed foods (since so many of them contain wheat.) I also have some auto-immune issues so staying healthy is a huge priority for me.

      -We stopped eating processed food little by little. Getting a farm share in Brooklyn helped. We had gobs of vegetables so most of the meals were made with that. Though we still ate plenty of chips and other things from the grocery shelves. Moving to Ecuador took it to a new level. We have access to even more vegetables. Plus, most of the processed foods in the grocery stores here are just not at all what we'd like to eat (flavors and what not are just different here) - so it is a no brainer to avoid them. They do have SOME imported food from the U.S. (stuff like jello or something) - but again, it's just not the kind of food we want to eat. Plus the imported foods are very expensive. Nearly everything we buy and eat comes straight from the farmer's market.

      -Examples of things we eat now: Tons of vegetable soups (usually 2 a week with leftovers. Stuff like beet soup, zucchini soup, broccoli soup);Tons of green smoothies and green juices (1 or 2 a day); sautéed vegetables like broccoli, peppers, greens; vegetarian mexican food like sautéed pepper enchiladas, black bean/brown rice burrito bowls, baked sweet potato taquitos, guacamole, lots of black beans; homemade granola and homemade almond milk; lots of fruit; vegetable stir fry over brown rice; paleo almond flour biscuits; lots of salads with a homemade basil/pesto dressing. We love drinking homemade sodas (sparking water with lime. Danny adds a pinch of stevia. I like mine plain.) Once in awhile (maybe once every month or even less) we will eat some fish or shrimp tacos.

      -Eating this way DOES take a ton of time! Oh my. It definitely is a lifestyle and a huge commitment. Since we do our work from home, that helps. Having such a passionate cook in the home (Danny!) helps a TON! The biggest issue is that we have to soak the vegetables in a disinfectant here in Ecuador. It seems to take hours to do this on the market days. But - I feel it's all a worthwhile trade off. To me, eating this way is better than having insurance. It's better than taking meds. It's better than suffering from fatigue and festering disease. So - we're happy to do it. I hope we can always pull it off.

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    2. Thank you so much for this great response! : ) Very informative, and I really appreciate it!!! I bet the homemade tortillas are delicious. Do you have a good recipe for them? Thanks again!

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    3. Our favorite corn flour is called Doñarepa (from Colombia). I believe you can buy this online. Everyone says it's the best. A Mexican woman here in Ecuador said it's her favorite flour for making tortillas. So, we just do 1 cup of the corn flour (white or yellow or a mixture of both), 1 cup of water, and 1 tsp. sea salt. That's it. You mix it up and then roll 1 inch balls and then press it in a tortilla press, which you can buy online fairly cheaply. You then just put the tortilla on an oiled hot griddle for a few minutes. I love to eat the tortillas warm. And we often use them to rip and dip in salsa and guacamole (it's much healthier than straight up chips!)

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    4. I didn't realize you were mostly vegan. Did it start with eating raw food at the first retreat?

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    5. Well, it actually started mostly when we moved to Ecuador. We didn't know where to get good quality meat. A lot of the open meat markets have meat sitting out for hours it seems and that seemed less appealing. Also, we wanted to eat as frugally as possibly and also wanted to eat way more vegetables. So it just worked out that we pretty much stopped eating meat. Going to the raw food retreat ourselves did continue that idea even more. And since then we've added way more vegetable recipes that we really, really love. So we aren't feeling deprived or anything. We did once try out a supposed organic meat farmer here (for some Thanksgiving dishes). But the truth is, we weren't thrilled with the meat cuts and haven't gone back since. From time to time we do eat meat - but that would mainly be at a restaurant perhaps and that doesn't happen very often.

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    6. That makes a lot of sense!

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  5. My family (my husband and me) eats very few processed foods due to food sensitivities. Then again, we have to buy some things packaged because of those. We're happier eating this way, I think. Our grocery bills are also cheaper when we just buy produce. I look at the ads for the various stores around and buy all of the loss leaders/things on sale. My shopping route includes most of the stores, though, so I am lucky in that aspect. And I don't have children. Everyone will approach this from a different way.
    Thank you for the paper towel recommendation! I think those will be very useful in our home.

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    1. So fun to read this. It's always interesting to read how other people do it - and to get glimpses into people's lives. Smart idea to check on the prices at various stores. I know prices change often - but one of my friends in Brooklyn made a list of the main items she always buys and priced them at the 3 nearest stores. This way she'd know to buy rice cakes at this store, or hummus at that store, etc. Really it makes a lot of sense. Thanks for your comments always! And yes- get those towels. You'll love them!!

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  6. I really love the idea of making everything from scratch but with three small kiddos it just seems nearly impossible. Like there is realistically no way I have the time to make tortillas unless I want to stick my kids with the iPad which I don't want to do. I give myself 30 mins to cook something for dinner (my husband is never home for dinner.) and that is their "screen time". It normally end up being mostly raw fruits and veggies with something else. I sometimes feel like I could or should be doing more but at the end of the day I just have to be happy that my kids ate a huge pile of raw veggies and hummus for dinner. Even of the hummus was store bought. I'd love to hear how parents with three small kids make this happen so I can incorporate some ideas into my life! I used to make tons of stuff from scratch but it just got to be too much.

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