Life without Plastic

Friday, April 29, 2016

What's the Point of Individual Zero Waste Living?

Can one person make that much of a difference? Yes, you can make a world of difference. Think I'm kidding?

  1. Paper towels- A family of four can use anywhere from 8640-17,280 paper towels per year and spend $139-$299.6 per year on them.- Not to mention eco-impact-
  2. Bottled water- A family of four would use 136.6 gallons of crude oil to drink bottled water, 5832 water bottles in landfill, and spend an extra $1,236 all in one year.-
  3. Paper napkins- A family of four would use 4380 paper napkins per year and spend an extra $270.80 a year on paper versus cloth.-
  4. Disposable diapers- A family of four (with two kids) will use 14,749 disposable diapers and training pants and spend an extra $3,360 over the diapering period for both kids.-
  5. Disposable wipes- A family of four will use 15,500 disposable wipes and spend an extra $1700 over the diapering period of both kids.-
  6. Disposable menstrual products- Each woman will produce about 1642.5 lbs of trash every year from her cycles (divided from 38 year average) and spend an extra $80-88 a year.-

Pretty crazy, right? So any move in the zero waste direction is going to make an immediate impact. If you influence another person, then they'll pay it forward and your impact will grow. I have one child and one on the way, so assuming that they follow our example, that's two people who will grow up and make a greater impact from the get go. If anyone ends up making positive changes from reading this blog, then it grows and so on. Once a movement gains momentum (which there are quite a few in the zero waste/plastic-free community), then it can become more mainstream and the impact grows further.

Things are tight, but we're doing well. Our water heater is being installed today and the warranty company is covering the new one and code updates, etc. The Winter Farmer's Market is now closed and the Summer Market doesn't start for a month, so we're a little bummed. 

Our chicken coop will be installed tomorrow and just in time! We have two or three chicks strutting around our basement bedroom and all of them roost on the edge of the brooder.

Garden has been doing well! All of my transplants seem to be thriving with all the rain we've had this week. I'll start gathering herbs to dry once the rain clears up.

I'll hopefully get my canning equipment this next month. I'm looking forward to exploring local farms for fresh fruit and vegetables. I'll be buying more plant starts and growing our garden.

Little Urban Greenie

Friday, April 22, 2016

Phase 2 (Happy Earth Day!)

For Phase 2 of our Zero Waste/Plastic-Free Homesteading Journey, we will be adding:

  • Home canning with some Weck jars and some free Mason jars (some plastic on the lid liners) from my Relief Society president to get us started. We hope to just buy more Weck jars over time and regift any Masons that we aren't using as we replace them with the plastic-free Weck jars.
  • Food dehydrated in solar oven

Home canning and dehydrating will include Farmer's Market vegetables and meats, volunteer earned fruit from Green Urban Lunchbox Fruit Share Program, church free table, Food Not Bombs excess, and personal garden surplus. With this, we hope to replace plastic-lined aluminum cans of chicken, tuna fish, tomatoes, etc. Our food will be more local, healthier, organic quality, less plastic and cheaper.

Happy Earth Day! Here's to eating local! 
Little Urban Greenie

Phase 4

Darning socks & Young Dogs

This week I went ahead and finally learned how to properly darn a sock, since all but 3 of mine had holes in them. I had just hand sewn a few of the holes together, but it wasn't holding up great. (Check out my resources page for how to darn a sock and other information on sustainable living!)

I actually got most of my socks last year when one of our neighbors in our last apartment complex threw away three double-bagged garbage bags of baby clothes, women's odds and ends, some older kids stuff and some men's stuff. Since the bags were clean and had clothing peeking out, I took them inside and sorted them. I found a gold mine of baby clothes, my socks, and storable kids' clothes to grow into. I took the cotton stuff that was good out, washed it and stored what couldn't be used at the time. 

We don't use more than 10% synthetic hand-me-downs here to avoid plastic wherever possible. I'm too much of a tightwad to buy new organics, but I try to stick to natural fibers and hope that most of the toxins have been washed out by the time I get them. This way we reduce our consumption impact and get free or cheaper natural fiber clothing. It's a fair compromise of values.

Anyway, here are my first attempts at darning as I used the yarn I had and don't care about the ascetics of something that goes in my shoes to absorb sweat, get dirty, and keep my feet warm:

Free socks stay that way for awhile! 

We also had our hot water heater break yesterday morning which is almost 30 years old and has no shut-off valve of its own. So, we have been without running water for a day now and will continue to do so for at least another day when the repair person comes. Since we used our home warranty service, that's the earliest they could come over. Hopefully the home warranty will just replace it in a couple of days. We're not holding our breath for it though.

We also adopted a young dog yesterday. We went to look a couple of days ago, and found a great match. Young dog F is about 8 months old and though they didn't know if he was house trained, he hasn't had an accident yet and does seem to be asking for the door. He's fairly mellow, but is part border collie so has a herding instinct.  This means he walks in front/to the side of us whenever we go somewhere in the house. 

He decided my husband is the alpha and wouldn't eat or drink water until he came home from work. He also wouldn't explore the house until after work. He is in love with my husband and has made his favoritism well known. He is very affectionate and just runs from my toddler's bad behaviors. 

Border collies tend to do great with chickens, but not with rodents. So far "leave it" working with the guinea pig and we plan on keeping future meat rabbits in hutch that he won't be able to see into as the movement seems to be what bothers him. We keep him separate from the other animals at night in the master and he sticks with his human herd otherwise.

Little Urban Greenie

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Plastic-Free Vacuum Alternative Has Too Much Plastic!

We ordered our chicken coop and it should be ready to move chicks into within a week or two. It is made of wood and metal. They are already roosting on the edge of their brooder, which means they can get out into the room. So far, they haven't tried to leave the brooder. It's coming soon though as they grow bigger and their flight feathers are replacing the down.

Our quail rooster pecked a hen to death in his enthusiasm, so we separated him again and will be butchering him and the hens soon. We are now down to two hens and one egg a day, so our experience is gained.

We received our home birth supply list at our last prenatal visit, and I have figured out plastic-free substitutions for most of the list. Midwife wasn't too supportive, but we hope for the best and I will post my substitutions list and results as part of the zero waste birth story of UG3 (UG2 is our angel baby).

And now to the rant/main topic of the day, the delivery of a vintage carpet sweeper from the 1930's. It is a beautiful thing, in working order with only plastic brush fibers on its wooden bars and in its wooden/metal frame. So far, so good. No new plastic and nonelectric replacement for a plastic electronic.

I ordered it on Etsy with the specific request to use no plastic packaging/recycled packing materials, as we are plastic-free. I was delivered this:
A pile of plastic tape, some recycled plastic air bags, two cardboard boxes, and SO...MUCH...BUBBLE....WRAP (at least 3/4 of the tape pile was used to wrap it around itself)! I also received a note from the seller saying "sorry for the plastic bubble wrap".

I'm not sure if that is sarcastic or truly apologetic, but this seller is now entering the plastic hall of shame for this customer.

I will be bringing the packing materials to a local annual homeschooling exchange of household, clothing, and curriculum. I hope to have better results from the other requests I have made for building a zero waste birth kit.

Little Urban Greenie

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


We've been fairly busy planting some kale, Swiss chard, and red sorrel plant starts. I planted some carrot seeds today and one more Swiss chard, so we'll see if that works out. Our strawberries made it through the winter fine and I'm still letting them grow wild so not much to do there. Our herbs are happy as well:lots of mint, cilantro, new dill, parsley, new lemon balm, and sage doing their own thing. Grapevines are blooming, currants are green, and so are some of raspberries. Didn't have to plant anything last year and still have plenty to watch over. I've been watering just using my oil cleansing and toothbrushing water I collect in a bowl and dump into an old white vinegar jug. Yay to "free" grey water

Chicks, quail, and worms are all well. Rooster will live a little longer. Just bought a vintage carpet sweeper which will be plastic free and shipped with recycled packing materials, so that will replace our Roomba. Yay to less plastic and less energy use! Here it is:

Little Urban Greenie

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Phase 1: If At First You Don't Succeed....

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

So, we're doing well in some areas and not so great in others. We have been doing great with buying our milk in glass bottles, making homemade bread (I've even handmixed it a couple of times instead of using the mixer!), and brought my own glass jars for water.

Here is what our milk looks like from Winder Farms:

As far as using reusable when out, we basically stink. We are usually eating fast-food when we do eat out, so everything is disposables and we aren't usually planning to eat out when we do. This will need to be worked on in order to reduce our waste and eat healthier again.

Our worm bin has been doing great and we'll be able to add another tray soon. The chicks are still adorable and we've been able to change their paper enough that they aren't needing their bottoms cleansed anymore. All are currently alive and getting more of their regular feathers. So far, so good.

Here is the worm bin we bought (Yes, it's 100% recycled plastic, but it's all we could afford.):

Keep improving and going green,
Little Urban Greenie

Phase 4

Friday, April 1, 2016

We've Got Chicks!

My husband and I have developed a solid pattern for decision-making: talk excitedly about a decision and work it out as much as possible beforehand, then jump headlong and don't look back!

So it was for our most recent decision to buy chickens. We went to "check them out" earlier this week and came home with 6 chicks and supplies. We lost one that night and I went back to get a couple more. I came home with five more for a grand total of 10 chickens.

We have about a 90% chance of having hens, so we may have to eat one or two roosters to keep the city noise ordinance. We may also lose a couple more just from natural selection and/or pecking order. Our goal is for about 6 hens to keep and sell any extras.

For example, chickens can die if their fecal matter hardens over their vents, so guess what this pregnant lady and her husband has to do? Wipe chick butts clean of poop and keep the newspaper changes regular. Yep, I'm definitely nesting now with my fluffy babies.

Little Urban Greenie

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