Monday, 29 December 2014

Heading Into The New Year With New Standards

A few days ago I saw this New Yorker popping up on my Facebook feed a lot. Her name is Lauren Singer and she lives a zero waste life. Which I initially thought was bollocks, given the amount of trash our household generates on a daily basis, but reading through this article from The Daily Mail and her blog posts I can see how she's eliminated a lot of it. Though she is single and has no kids, the latter I think might be a greater challenge for a regular person. The time needed to be so prepared...hmm, not sure if I could manage it but maybe it's all about forward planning, as Lauren says. Though you also need good local suppliers, and I'm not sure if I have anywhere in my neighbourhood I could purchase unpackaged food in bulk. Picture below is Lauren's bathroom cupboard.
One thing my household has noticed since the move to NYC is the difference in produce; meat has been good and is cheap, and veggies have been great. But there is corn syrup in almost everything processed. Fruit drinks contain so much crap it's crazy. Yoghurt is highly sweetened – even the brands targeted for babies. Some have 2 or 3 spoons of sugar – per serve. That's crazy. And bread; most bread we have found is really sweet, and some to the point it's completely inedible. It's a bit of a minefield, but gradually we're finding the stuff that works for us. I did do one online order from Fresh Direct, but although the food quality was good, it was expensive and came with almost an equal volume of packaging. Unlike my supermarket in Amsterdam where they deliver in recyclable crates. Anyway, back to Lauren. In my efforts to downsize, reduce the amount of 'stuff' we have, and lead a healthier and simpler life I've found a few ideas from Lauren's site Trash is for Tossers I'm going to give a whirl.
There's a handy sections called Zero Waste Alternatives, which I like the idea of replacing make-up remover wipes and eye make up remover with coconut oil. I always wondered about putting such chemical-heavy items near your eyes, and so maybe this is a good alternative. I'm wasn't sold on the organic cotton pads; they look scratchy in the pic above, but on further research they actually seem very soft. You can get them here from Juniperseed Mercantile via Etsy (also nice to support a small business). I'm almost out of the eye make-up remover I brought over with me from Amsterdam, so I'll try the coconut oil next and let you know how the result it. The cotton pads I still have a tonne of, so I think I'll try the new ones after I've used those up in about half a year; another perk/trap of American life, you can bulk buy pretty much everything and then it costs you almost nothing. But you end up with a cupboard full of stuff. Side note: just came across this app called Think Dirty, which allows you to scan the bar code of a beauty product and then it'll tell you what chemicals are actually in it, and gives you alternative suggestions. Watch the video here to learn more. I haven't started using it yet as I literally downloaded it last night, but I intend to head on up to my medicine cabinet and start scanning today.
Other ideas for reducing the amount of chemicals in your home are using soap bars instead of body washes, which we already do. Switching from bleached loo paper to un-bleached natural. Lauren recommends Seventh Generation brand, which I see a lot of here but it's more expensive. I also try and use a reusable bag instead of getting the plastic bags at supermarkets. Love my Baggu bags. Switching cooling utensils could also be a good idea. Aside from preventing toxins leaking into food, the metal and wood ones Lauren has look so much nicer and will last way longer:
I think my biggest achilles heel would have to be bottled water. I drink a lot of sparkling water, not because the tap water here or in Amsterdam wasn't healthy, but it just tastes foul. That's the downside of growing up in Tasmania where we had natural water to drink; it tastes amazing, like water from a fresh stream. I just can't do tap water anywhere else since. So this one would be tricky.
One last tip I like; replacing conventional dish soap with bulk castile soap. Which, I have to admit, I had never heard of until I read this blog. Also these bottles are far more aesthetically appealing than the Parmolive bottle (actually the same one in the picture above) sitting on our kitchen bench. This is appealing to the designer in me as well as the mum and (gradually) more socially and environmentally aware person I am. Thus, I might get one little one for the bench top, and a large to top it up with. They also have hand pump soaps too.

And lastly, replacing a lot of cleaning products for white vinegar. Which I use as instead of softener already, not yet to actually wash clothes. Might investigate what other options there are. In Amsterdam I was using bio liquids, which I haven't found locally here yet. There are lots more tips on Lauren's blog, and in you live in the US, there's a handy section on Where to Shop.

Alrighty, long post. And maybe timely as we head into a new year ready to make some New Year resolutions, goals, and set new standards for ourselves. Hope you find this helpful. Please add any tips you've got to the comments field!