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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The most zero-waste woman in the world

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

I'm not currently menstrating, but when I do, I waste less than the average woman. Yep, I'm talking about feminine hygiene products today, so the more squeamish have been warned.

My pad and menstral cup stash

In my way of thinking, there are three levels of reducing waste for ladies, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. 




Beginners are just learning their options and are still using disposables. They need info like this-

Here is a great post on the pros and con's of reusable menstral products.
Here is a post about the environmental impact and the impact on your wallet for disposables.


Intermediate is trying out their options and figuring out what reusables work for them. They use the sample size of sea sponges as linked above, buy a few cloth pads on Etsy, buy a menstrual cup, etc.


Advanced ladies have been using reusable products for a while and know what works for them.

I would consider myself to be more in the advanced level as I haven't used disposables in five years and have used some reusables for most of the last decade. I know what works for me quite well. Pictured above is my The Keeper Menstrual Cup, Size A. I chose natural rubber so it can be composted after the 10 years of use. An advanced zero-waste woman might even carry Natural Sea Silk Sponges - Pack of 12 and instructions for when they are asked if a friend can "borrow" a pad/tampon.

This post isn't really for the advanced or even intermediate level though. This post is tailored for the beginner. This is for the lady that just bought a six month supply of disposables at Costco, and then found this post. Take a deep breath, and we'll try to reduce your trash from this moment on.


To donate or Use Up, That is the Question
First, we need to figure out how to deal with the trash you already have. You can either pass the disposables on to a women's shelter or on Freecycle or you can phase out of them as you figure out your options and use them up.


Must...Slow..Down..."Lady Waste"
If you are phasing out of disposables, you may still want to reduce your waste. This is a way to do it. Menstrual blood isn't dirty, nor is it bad for the environment. In fact, it can be a nutritional powerhouse for your garden. So, if you are still using disposable sanitary napkins or tampons, you are throwing away a valuable resource for your garden! 


Let's compost as much of that resource as we can and make it available for your garden. Since pads are made of wood pulp, cotton, and plastic top/bottom, we're looking to compost the inner contents.


Just Rot It, rot it!


To compost the tampon, just toss into your bokashi bin and cover with the newspaper bokashi or bokashi bran


Suit Up and Tear It Up

Put on some rubber gloves to keep your hands tidy. Wet the pad to prevent dust flying everywhere. Grab ahold of the pad and either rip or cut the pad from top to bottom over the bokashi bin. (Use garden shears.) It will look something like this:


Spread It! Spread It Good!

Use a trowel, etc. to flatten out the pad contents and cover with newspaper bokashi. Tamp it down as much as needed.

Rinse and Repeat
Wash off the plastic leftovers of the pad. Wash it thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide the second time. After pad plastic is washed, put it in with your mixed plastics recycling. Landfill free at last!

Congrats, you now waste less than the average woman. Enjoy your reusable menstrual products!

This post was inspired by a disposable diaper composting article and this recycling article.
Little Urban Greenie

Oak Hill Homestead
As featured on-

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Plastic-free Undergarments

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



There is plastic in me, there is plastic in me, just remember what I said, the elastic is the plastic in me!


Yes, it's true, undergarments have plastic in them. It's not talked about much, but the elastic is plastic. So, at the end of its life, your undergarments will leave you with a real problem to dispose of in the trash. For me, this just won't work. Kids stretch out elastic too soon and too often from a zero-waste prospective.



For the longest time I have been looking for plastic-free undergarments and couldn't find them anywhere. Nobody seemed to sell organic, plastic-free, all-natural bras, underwear or socks. Since I have four people in my family, I felt doomed to sew or knit undergarments for everyone to avoid plastic. That task seemed overwhelming.

Besides sewing them myself, my other option would be to pay for someone else to do it for me, which seems overly expensive for undergarments. So what else is there?


Are there any companies who sell bras, underwear, and socks without elastic? It turns out there is a company that makes elastic free undergarments for adults. Not only elastic-free, but also sweatshop free, organic and all-natural They also have an affiliate program to help support our little homestead at no additional cost to you!


I've personally been needing some new socks and bras as my current pairs of socks develop new holes about every other wear after darning them (most pairs are at about 1/3 darned to undarned), and my bras are several years old and starting to wear out, so I'm ordering some from Rawganique's elastic-free products. The only problem is that they don't offer any kids' underwear elastic-free, so I still have plenty of projects to keep me busy.

Once I receive my shipment, I'll need to figure out what do with my old socks and bras. Well....for the bras I can recycle them for several worthy causes.

As for the socks.... I'll probably keep darning them, but I'll have some to wear while they're in progress, instead of wearing holey socks. I could also use them for sock puppets and other art projects.

Ah, another plastic reduction problem solved by some research. Now if I could just find a cheap/free metal 55 gallon drum within walking distance for a cat composter....

Here's to plastic-free undergarments!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How I Start Seeds for (Nearly) free and Waste Less!

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

In a wasteful world, people pay top dollar for plastic wrapped dirt, cheap plastic pots, spray dangerous chemicals in plastic containers, and still buy plastic-coated produce out of season at the grocery store.

As for me and my house, we'll save the cash and lose the packaging. This is how I garden for nearly free and produce almost no waste.

Seed Savings-

1. Buy or use a seed library/seed exchange to find organic/Heirloom Vegetable Seeds in paper packets.
2. Use same packet for years by storing properly and use it up.

3. Save the seeds from your plants or organic food to get seeds for free.

Cheap dirt-
1. Use worm casings from a worm bin or aged compost to start seedlings to lose the packaging and save your wallet.

2. Buy bulk compost and have it dumped in front of your house.

Free seed pots/Mini-greenhouses-
1. Reuse individual yogurt containers and punch 3-4 drainage holes to start seedings.
2. You can also reuse toilet paper rolls as seed pots.

3. You can reuse plastic containers for mini greenhouses or upside down Mason jars if yours aren't all being used. (You can always ask your friends to save these recyclables if you make your own yogurt and baked goods or if you use family cloth instead of toilet paper, like we do. Once you use family cloth, you won't want to go back, trust me.)
Starting seeds 2-3 weeks ago, all free containers and dirt from our worm bin!


Plant markers/Plant starts-
1. Mark a piece of scrap paper and slip it in or around the container=compostable plant marker
2. Plant starts can be regrown from plant scraps in water or by sticking cuttings in potatoes with two to three eyes on them!

What are some ways that you save money on gardening supplies by wasting less/using less packaging? 

Enjoy a less wasteful world by seeing our seedlings progress,
Little Urban Greenie

Both of the tomato seeds sprouted in the pot, so I'm planting them here with the avocado until it's warmer out

Organic avocado I sprouted in a yogurt cup

Cauliflower seedling in the middle, and I'm adding calendula seeds for good companion planting and extra cheerful healing flowers for inside
Aloe vera babies with golden yarrow seeds in the middle and more calendula seeds around the edge for healing indoor flower cheerily

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Feed the Birds..How to Feed the Birds!

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

Part 2 of the Zero-waste Cat Poop Composting series

(See Part 1 for How to start a Bokashi bucket for precomposting cat poop)

I have found a way to supplement our chickens diet and make their feed go further, compost our cat poop quickly so it can age sooner, reuse some stuff we have just sitting in our garage, all for minimum maintentence, and it is ridiculously cheap! Are you not entertained?!


Early each day to open the coop,
this little bird woman comes.
Later in the evening, 

to the chickens she calls,
"Come, eat the larvae;
Of the black soldier fly.
Show them you care
And you'll be glad if you do
I know you are hungry
Your nests are so bare.

All it takes is laziness from you."



Yep, black soldier fly composting. Sounds gross I know, but they don't carry disease, they don't bite, and they create compost quickly, while their larvae are popular feedstock for exotic pets, chickens, aquaponics fish, etc. The plans I'm showing today are very simple and are set up next to the chicken coop so I don't have to collect the larvae. It should work to fall right near and/or in the chickens coop. Sounds good?


Let's dive in! First we'll need some basic supplies that you could find for free or cheap:

  • A storage tote with a lid or wooden box (I'm using this wooden plywood box I wouldn't bring indoors to reuse what I already had, save me the trouble of borrowing a saw and more likely injuring myself.) 
  • A wooden board
  • Dried used coffee grounds
  • Drill
  • Saw


Assemble:

  1. Drill or cut some drainage holes in the bottom of the tote/box.
  2. Cut a slit or hole big enough for the wooden board to stick out and adult soldier flies to get in to lay eggs. (Predrilled!) 
  3. Sprinkle bottom of the tote/crate liberally with a thick layer of coffee grounds, 1-2 inches thick. This is to help absorb the larvae's sludge.
  4. Place your board through the slit and leaned at a 45° angle or so for the larvae to crawl out of the tote. 
  5. Carry your composter next to your chicken coop with the board hole side leaning against the wire side of the coop. 
  6. Add any kind of kitchen scraps, including meat, dairy, oils, manure, etc. In our case, we add the "pickled" cat poop from the bokashi bucket with some browns.
  7. Wait for black soldier flies to take over or add a purchased colony. 
  8. Enjoy your chickens automatic feeding and compost ready in as little as 1-2 days!

Until next time, here's to feeding the birds cheaper and cheaper,
Little Urban Greenie

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

How to Pickle Poop

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This is Part One of the Zero-Waste Cat Composting Series

Cat box from thrift store, transitioning to shredded paper

(Psst, read through for a bonus tip!)
Cats primarily create two kinds of waste, incoming and outgoing, if you catch my drift. Incoming waste (food and clean litter) can be reduced by reducing packaging and so can outgoing (yes, poop and used litter), but both still create some waste. Is there a way to produce no cat waste, i.e. trash?

If you have found a source of affordable, all-natural, healthy, and bulk dry cat food, bully for you. If you have only found cheap, unhealthy bulk cat food, then you are probably me. Good luck buying unpackaged meat for your cat for a price I will pay as well, unless we have more consistent meat scraps. Meat produces bones, which you can't put in your worm bin, city brown waste bin, or outdoor compost pile.

Outgoing waste from cats carries disease, shouldn't be flushed down the toilet, and will be in your regular trash bin if you follow the conventional rules. How very wasteful to throw it away where it can later get in our groundwater through poor dump maintenance. This waste also can't be composted directly in a worm bin, put in the city brown waste bin, or in your compost pile for your vegetable garden.

Shredded paper, ready to be used in the cat box

So where to send the bones or poop/litter? Bokashi, my friend, bokashi bucket precomposting, black soldier fly composting, and cat poop composting.

Bokashi is often referred to as composting, but it is really more of a form of pickling. Yep, today you are going to learn how to pickle poop and kitchen waste. You use similar beneficial bacteria to yogurt, kefir, kombucha, etc. to precompost/pickle: meat scraps, break eggshells down, poop (with special care, see link for cat poop composting above), dairy, and other normal banished compost organics. Then you can compost as desired.

You can, of course, buy bokashi buckets, bokashi bran, and the like. I prefer to DIY and reuse "waste" for free, cheap, and local. I found some great resources on how to make my own bokashi bran with newspaper.

Here's the poop pickling process and stage 1 of our cat poop composting-

Here is my newspaper poop pickling juice starting to culture:


I used yogurt whey from our homemade yogurt, some of our bulk honey, and old sensitive info paperwork for the newspaper. After the paper is cultured, it will be air dried and ready for use as both a odor-reducing litter and pre-composter. After all, would you look through pickled poop for sensitive information?

Suffocate the Poop
After it's dried, keep it near your composter (container with a tight-fitting lid and no air holes). We're using an empty 5 gallon food storage bucket from our free wheat kernels for our bokashi cat poop composter. You want to pickle the poop, not raise a living, breathing mold monster.


Shred, fill, and (duck for) cover
To start using the bokashi composter, fill the bottom with 2-3 inches of absorbent material, shredded paper in our case and cover with a light layer of bokashi newspaper to prep the composter. (Bokashi newspaper not shown). Yes, you may create a duck shape for the bokashi cover.


The Daily Poop Scoop and Run
Once a day, add your organic materials (cat poop and shredded paper litter in our cat poop composter) to the composter/pickler and cover with bokashi newspaper/bran. Close lid tightly and do not disturb for 24 hours.

And the Poop Goes to...
Keep using until full, and then let rest for a week undisturbed. Empty bokashi compost into a black soldier fly composter (in our poop case), worm bin, or outdoor bin.

*Bonus- Use some of the newspaper bokashi as cat litter to reduce odors.

 Until next time, happy pickling!
Little Urban Greenie



Canning with Small Children

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

How I can with small children:
  1. Put the baby down for a nap and do all of the washing and chopping for the day
  2. Perform all pickling (after chopping) while baby is awake and start pressure canning when Mr. Greenie is home or baby is asleep
  3. Let my preschooler UG1 fill the jars when she's in a helping mood (hands washed first of course)
  4. Watch pressure canner (process) while nursing or cleaning up the kitchen
  5. Do schooling while pressure canner/water bath canner pressurizes/heats up and releases pressure
  6. Forewarn UG1 that I won't be able to leave kitchen during processing time

With these tips in mind:

I made more dill pickles from our garden cucumbers. I adapted this recipe.

  1. First, I added 2 tablespoons of turkey brine mix for each 1/2 liter Weck jar
  2. Filled it with washed and sliced cucumbers
  3. Added 4 sprigs of fresh dill per jar
  4. Wrapped a washed grape leaf over the top of each batch of pickles
  5. Topped each jar with sliced cucumbers to weigh down the pickles
  6. Poured water almost to the top
  7. Put on the lids and placed on the basement shelves 

I made sweet pickles with honey and more turkey brine for brining and seasoning, by adapting the Bread and Butter Pickles recipe from Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home. These cucumbers and onions were left in the free produce box at church.
I also canned our first 1/2 liter of green beans from the garden. (It's the jar on the right!)

Finally, I canned more yellow squash from the free box at church.

During canning, I remembered to reuse the water from the canners and...

  • Watered my potato eye sprouts/onion bottoms that I'm regrowing from free scraps I got
  • Washed and lanolized two wool diaper covers>
  • Reused diaper lanolizing water to wet the worm bin>
  • Collected compost tea from worm bin (4th time using the canner water!)
  • Combined last of the canner water with the compost tea to water the garden

Worms are happy and started working on the second tray of the bin after almost finishing the first tray into gorgeous humus!

Here's to the free and cheap zero-waste homestead!
Little Urban Greenie

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