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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

10 Most Useful Eggshells Hacks

The links in the post below may be affiliate links that support our current homesteading needs and the cost of building this business at no additional cost to you! We try to support small business owners on Etsy and Ebay sellers first, and then bigger companies that offer the most zero waste products. Read the full disclosure to learn more and find out what your purchases are supporting. 


This post is about 10 amazing ways eggshells can be used to make your life better. You'll never want to toss them again.



1.Super Scrubber- Use boiled crushed eggshells and a little bit of soap (totally optional if you are pre-washing before using the dishwasher) to scrub water bottles, vases, and even caked on gunk from pots and pans before washing dishes. This tip is straight up amazing. I absolutely hate washing dishes, but we eat almost all of our meals at home, so I end up doing my fair share. Honestly, I'm fairly terrible at doing dishes too.

It normally takes forever to get the yogurt out of each little yogurt maker jar when I make yogurt, or to get the film off Mason jars from homemade kombucha, but it was weirdly easy once I dropped half an eggshell in the jar. The eggshell gets in the little crevices so much better. I didn't use a drop of soap, just scrubbed with eggshell half and a dishcloth. After I finished, I cleaned out the drain catcher and put the ground up shell and food (fresh from a meal) into the "scraps for chickens" bucket. The best part was when everything came out of the dishwasher though, it looks like one of those dishwasher detergent commercials! My dishes were perfectly clear and not a speck left on anything.

This tip can also be used on stove-tops and burners for caked on mess. Amazing results here too. I'm going to try using eggshells to tackle cleaning my oven next!


2. Seed starters- Crack an egg across, like an equator, into two halves. Boil for 10 minutes. Make a hole in the bottom of an egg shell half for drainage. Fill with compost or potting soil. Place the eggshell planter in a carton in a sunny window, and gently mist the plant daily. When your seedlings are ready to plant outdoors, (lightly) crush and bury the entire eggshell. The shell will break down and provide extra nutrients for your plants.
3. Insect Bites Don't Have to Itch- At the start of summer, make a bottle of this solution and keep as small cubes in the freezer for insect bites. Boil an eggshell for 10 minutes. Dissolve the boiled eggshell in a small jar of  vinegar for a two days. Apply the mixture directly by holding a solution cube with a clean cloth as it melts to stop the itch of bug bites.

4. Happy Nightshades- Crush eggshells and add to tomato and pepper plants' soil directly, right after flowering for a calcium boost.

5. Less Bitter Coffee Substitute/Coffee- Boil eggshells for 10 minutes, crush, and add crushed eggshells to coffee or coffee substitute and brew as normal for a cleaner, milder-tasting cup.


6. Easter Confetti Eggs- These are so much fun! UG1 and Mr. Greenie had a blast using these last Easter and it was nice not to have to eat a bunch of boiled eggs afterwards. Make by cracking a hole at one end (save the egg for dinner in a jar), boiling for 10 minutes, let cool, clean off, fill with shredded paper, and glue shut with scrap paper. Enjoy by finding the hidden eggs, chasing each other and cracking them open on each other's heads (outside of course).

7.Worm Bin Gnat-Be-Gone- Add eggshells to compost, especially worm bins if any gnats start to take residence there.

8. Calcium Powder- For a calcium boost for pets and in homemade toothpaste, smoothies, etc., boil egg shells for ten minutes to kill germs. Let cool and dry off completely. Crush into a powder with a blender, a rolling pin, or a mortar and pestle. If you don't like the grittiness, you can add the powder to Kombucha or water kefir fermentations and filter out OR pour two TB of powder into a 1/4 cup of vinegar and let soak overnight. The next day, filter the egg shell powder out and use the (now calcium-rich) solution diluted in water to add calcium to smoothies etc. Store extra solution in fridge for about two weeks.

9. No Puppy Dog Tails or Slugs & Snails- Roughly crush eggshells around leafy plants with sharp edges facing up to deter slugs and snails.

10. DIY Chalk-
You will need:
Eggshells, save up for awhile and gather as many as you can.
Corn starch, for thickener and making smoother chalk.
Food coloring, either food you have on hand or store bought
Molds, you can use an ice cube tray, or any other type of mold of your choice to get the shape you like.

Prepare the molds by greasing well. Grind the eggshells. Make sure they're totally dry before you begin. Use a blender, a rolling pin, or a mortar and pestle to grind the eggshells to a fine powder. Be sure not to leave any large shards of shell; the mixture should be very fine.

Mix two parts cornstarch to one part eggshell powder in a bowl. Add water a little at a time until you've created a thick paste. Separate the paste equally into bowls for each color wanted.

Add food coloring into the different bowls slowly and stir . Fill the molds. Spoon the chalk mixture into separate molds, one for each color. For a fun variation, try filling the molds halfway with one color, then filling up the other half with a second color.

Make marbled chalk by filling the molds with two or more colors, then poke through the paint layers and create swirls with a chopstick. Let the chalk dry. Wait at least 12 hours for the chalk to dry before popping it out of the molds and using it.

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There you have it! Ten useful ways to use your eggshells before you compost them. What are some ways that you have used your eggshells lately? Share some photos in the comments below!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Essential Zero Waste School Shopping Guide

The links in the post below may be affiliate links that support our current homesteading needs and the cost of building this business at no additional cost to you! We try to support small business owners on Etsy and Ebay sellers first, and then bigger companies that offer the most zero waste products. Read the full disclosure to learn more and find out what your purchases are supporting. 



This post is all about going to back to school zero waste and plastic-free. This post is for anyone buying school supplies, including public school parents, homeschooling parents, college students, and college professors, etc. 

The first step is to refuse waste before it even begins. As a parent who isn't homeschooling, talk or send a note with your child to their teacher(s) asking them to minimize laminating this year (which makes paper and plastic un-recyclable). Ask them to instead think before they laminate and then place anything they would normally laminate (for use more than once, like tracing pages) into sheet protectors instead. If you are a teacher or professor who laminates, follow the suggestion to use sheet protectors instead.

The second step to save money on school supplies and reduce your waste, check out your local thrift stores first, preferably not during back to school season to avoid competition. You can also ask your local Buy Nothing Project and Freecycle groups for things on your list and get them for free. 

The third step is to look through and reuse what you already have on hand. I had one jumbo box of crayons that lasted me about 10 years, so I didn't need crayons every new school year. This is with me being quite the artist back in my elementary years, not a good one, but there were plenty of works.

If you have refused the supplies you don't need, reduced what you do need, and are reusing what you can, then here is an almost plastic-free and zero waste alternative school supply list. Be sure to ask for plastic-free, recycled and bare-bones packaging in the notes to the seller. Life Without Plastic does this automatically, so you can just tell them thank for their efforts if you buy anything from them. This is why we love them!: 
  • Backpack- This backpack is higher price, but is made nearly plastic-free with hemp and cotton fabric and metal zippers. (The zipper teeth look like they are plastic though.) It seems pretty durable and is neutral-colored enough that it could be used for either gender. It even has a one year warranty. Whenever the time comes to buy a backpack for either of our kids for trips or what have you, this is the backpack I will buy. Here is an article on how to make different kinds of repairs when backpacks wear out in different ways. Here is how you can recycle your backpack when you don't need it anymore.
  • Natural Plastic-Free Insulated Lunchbag- Made of wool to keep your lunch either cool or hot, this all natural lunch-bag is easy to clean and large enough to hold a complete meal, including any containers. My girls are still little, but I'm totally buying one for each as they once get past the "sharing the diaper bag" stage.
  • Stainless steel water-tight food storage container- These replace Ziploc bags and Tupperware for school lunches or bigger work lunches. They are totally plastic-free and are durable enough for any age. If you are worried about breaking your jars or eating from a glass jar (which can be hard to reach down into), these are perfect. Imagine just washing these with your normal dishes and never having to buy sandwich bags again. 
  • Newspaper pencils- Once I finally stop finding pencils I need to use up, these are on our home-school supplies list. These are made from recycled newspaper and come without plastic packaging. I have always had a great experience with Life Without Plastic's minimalist plastic free packaging.
  •  - These erasers come in a 36 pack, which means less packaging for you and you get to delay buying erasers for the foreseeable future unless you have a large crowd. If 36 seems like a lot, split the lot with your friends so you all can save on the packaging and shipping! I prefer to buy a bunch and not have to worry about it again for while.
  • All-metal pencil sharpeners- These can be easily recycled if or when they ever break since they aren't mixed materials like most pencil sharpeners. Bare bones and plastic-free packaging, which we love. 
  • Beeswax Crayons for Older Kids & Beeswax Crayons for Younger Kids-  I like both of these products. I buy for the largest age group served, so I prefer the younger kid ones, which are both easier to hold but more expensive than the ones for older kids.
  • Refillable fountain pens & red, blue, and black ink in glass- These replace those pesky disposable plastic pens that just stop working randomly. I would recommend buying one fountain pen for each color needed and the ink for each as well. These should last a long time and just need to be refilled when they stop working. You can also refill ballpoint or gel pens, if you prefer to use what you already have.
  • Colored newspaper pencils- These replace both highlighters & colored pencils, can be erased if needed and last a lot longer than highlighters. Just toss into your compost pile when you're done.
  • Refillable markers- This is one of my biggest zero waste discoveries! (This isn't a plastic-free option though.) You can fill these with whatever colors you want and refill them! You can even make your own colors with this Food Coloring Markers Tutorial and decorate food with the same ones. You can also fill the markers with your Homemade Natural Food Dyes, so you know they're safe. If you still have old markers, this is where you can recycle your old markers as you use them up. You can suggest a collection at your school, if you are feeling some Mother Earthy vibes.
  • Stainless steel 12 in ruler- This is more durable than a wooden one and no trees were chopped for the making of this ruler. This should last you a lifetime.
  • Cellulose tape- This replaces "regular" tape, works the same, and is completely compostable after you are done with it. Minimal and plastic-free packaging.
  • Stainless steel scissors- These are completely plastic-free and can be recycled whenever they break. If they start just cutting weird, try realigning them. If they are dull, try sharpening them.
  • Used USB flash drive- You probably have several of these lying around somewhere in your house, but if you don't and need them for school, buy used whenever you can.
  • Used graphing calculator- These are affordable when you buy them used and expensive when you buy them new. They can last quite awhile as well, so you can sell it again if you only need it for a short time. Mine got passed down to my younger brother when I was done and it worked fine for him too.
  • Print your own index cards- This was a cool random find. Instead of buying lined index cards (wrapped in plastic), buy a cheap template and print as needed on one-sided paper or junk mail for your own notes to save paper.
  • Recycled folders- Instead of buying virgin paper folders, buy ones made from recycled paper. Brownie points if you reuse them again and again by gluing on labels you made from junk mail.
  • Recycled cardboard binders and dividers- These replace plastic binders with recycled cardboard ones. They can be reused by gluing on labels you made from junk mail until ready to be recycled or composted.
  • College Ruled Loose Leaf 3 Hole Paper- This paper is made from recycled materials, but is probably wrapped in plastic. See if you can skip it, if you can't, you can't.
  • Homemade wheat paste or plastic-free all-natural glue- Use either of these instead of Elmer's. This all-natural glue is made from potato starch (gluten-free) and comes in an aluminum tin, instead of a plastic bottle. Best of all, you can access all of the glue you pay for, rather than losing some to the edges of the bottle where you can't use it. If it dries out, you can refresh it and use it.
  • Recycled Notebook- You can buy one of these instead of a non-recycled version and recycle or compost it when you're done. You also make your own homemade recycled notebook instead and recycle it again or compost it.
  • Binding without a Stapler- Double check if a teacher requires staples, as some professors are very anal in this area. If you can though, Forget the staples, but bind the paper. If not, buy a used all-metal stapler for that "special" professor in your life. Rent it out for all your fellow students with the same professor.
  • Metal hole puncher- Use an all-metal either single or 3 hole punch, preferably used instead of plastic and new.
  • If you want custom book covers, just reuse brown paper and enjoy doodling or letting one of your artistic friends doodle for you.
  • Bonus: If you use a whiteboard, here are some refillable whiteboard markers. They are made from recycled aluminum, they are filled with plant-based ink, you can refill them for years and replace the tips instead of the whole marker. Yay for less plastic and less wasteful markers!
  • Bonus: Homeschool Classifieds-buy used curriculum from other homeschoolers. Check out Ebay and Amazon if you know exactly what you want to buy used. If you are looking for free resources and huge discounts, I highly recommend Free Homeschool Deals. That's where I found my free toddler and preschool curriculum and a few printables, etc. for UG1 and UG3.
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To all academics, what's your number one struggle for wasting less, when going back to school? Chat with us in the comments below!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Broken Crayons Begone (Responsibly)!

The links in the post below may be affiliate links that support our current homesteading needs and the cost of building this business at no additional cost to you! Read the full disclosure to learn more and find out what your purchases are supporting.



Today we are going to talk about how to recycle crayons properly. Here is the step by-step-process to help you get those broken crayons recycled and keep them out of the landfill.

  • First, create a place for a shipping envelope filled with unwanted junk mail envelopes, with the color marked on the envelope for each color. Apparently black, purple, and blue are hard to sort, so the sorting is optional, but a nice gesture.
  • Try to leave the wrappers on the crayons to help with sorting colors, if possible. 
  • Second, when the envelope is full, seal each envelope.
  • Third, seal with plastic-free tape
  • Fourth, weigh the package or use a flat rate envelope from the post office.
  • Fifth, address the box/pay for postage to the current crayon recycling facility.
  • Sixth, send to the Crazy Crayons Recycle Program.
  • Seventh, (assuming you need to replace your crayons) buy all-natural, plastic-free, bio-degradable older kid beeswax crayonsbeeswax crayons or soy crayons for my vegan friends. Or go ahead and make your own beeswax crayons/recycle old 100% beeswax crayons (the steps are the same if you are using crayons made with only beeswax & not other waxes, just chop up your old crayons instead of the wax) if you have access to good quality beeswax:
  1. Gather 1 oz of beeswax and 1 oz of inexpensive bar soap, along with your all-natural food coloring or DIY the dye from food.
  2. Chop up beeswax into pieces and grate soap. Melt the soap and beeswax in a mason jar in a pan of water. Watch the mixture closely and keep it on Medium-Low. You do not want it to boil or it will foam up putting air bubbles in your crayons. If this does happen, let it set for a couple of minutes, gently stirring to remove air bubbles. 
  3. When the soap and beeswax have melted, divide the hot liquid before adding colors.  Carefully mix in color. The more of the food coloring you add, the more vibrant the color will be.
  4. Lightly grease the mold you will be using to pour the liquid into. Possible molds are ice cube trays, mini muffin pans, or soap molds.
  5. Pour the melted mixture into your mold and allow to dry completely. If the crayons have become chunky and you are using an oven safe mold, pop them in a 350 oven for a few minutes to melt a bit. Be careful not to let them go too long or they will begin to foam up and create air bubbles.
  6.  Remove from mold and color away.


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Here's to keeping crayons out of the landfill and keeping your crayons all natural.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Never Worry About Junk Mail Again!

The links in the post below may be affiliate links that support our current homesteading needs and the cost of building this business at no additional cost to you! Read the full disclosure to learn more and find out what your purchases are supporting.

I don't know about you, but one of the most frustrating parts of my day is bringing in the mail. I open the front door, one arm full of UG3 and let UG1 open the door.  We walk down our porch steps and open the front gate. UG1 begs to get the mail, so I let her grab it.

I double check the box, since she can barely reach in the box and often misses pieces of mail about half of the time. Sure enough, she got the Redplum catalog, but missed the letter sized mail. I hand the rest of the mail over to UG1, who is jumping up and down with all of her 4 year old might. She takes it inside and hands it to me to look it over. Sure enough, it's a bunch of junk. Not one letter, not a package, and not even a bill.

If this sounds like your situation too, then let's tackle this junk mail step by step.  We'll do USA tips first, then tips for our UK friends across the pond.


For the USA:
  • First, opt out of Yellow Pages- Based on your zip code, the system will identify which subscriptions you may receive and offer you the option to opt out.
  • Second, use the DMAchoice, an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association, it will help you: 
- have your name removed from the lists companies use to find new customers or donors, and magazine publishers use to find new subscribers,
- stop receiving catalogs from companies you haven't purchased from or magazine offers from publishers you haven't subscribed to,
- stop receiving mail offers from companies you haven't donated to or purchased from.
  • Third, use OptOutPrescreen, a centralized service to accept and process requests from consumers to opt-in or opt-out of firm offers of credit or insurance. It offers two options: 
- electronic opt-out for five years: your name will not be eligible for inclusion on lists used for firm offers of credit or insurance for five years.
- permanent opt-out by mail: your name will no longer be eligible for inclusion on lists for firm offers of credit or insurance (in order to complete your permanent opt-out election, you must print and mail the permanent opt-out election form).
  • Fourth, use Catalog choice, a free service to opt out of catalogs, coupons, credit card offers, phone books, circulars and more. They don't have all companies in their listings though. The process is pretty simple: 
- you receive unwanted mail: unwanted catalogs, coupons and credit card offers, donation requests, and other junk mail arrive daily and clutter your home or office,
- you report it to them: you can simply log in to create a free account and register your opt-outs online. Just search for the company, and submit the opt—out,
- they'll take it from there: they act on your behalf to protect your consumer rights and get your opt-outs processed. You can keep track of your opt-outs, and if you receive the mail again, they will follow up!
  • Fifth, print and fill out a change of address form for any previous tenants whose mail you receive regularly (the online form won't work because it requires a forwarding address). In lieu of a new address, write "Moved, no forwarding address" and add "form filled in by current resident, [Your Name], agent for the above" next to your signature.
  • Sixth, contact the sender directly for any mail that wasn't stopped by the previous steps: Look for the sender's contact information and ask for your name and address to be removed from the database.
  • For occasion mail for an old resident, strike out the old resident's name and write "moved" while leaving it in the mailbox for the postman. Striking out of the name to make it obvious that it's the wrong address, whereas writing on mail alone might be glanced over.
  • Next, use the PaperKarma mobile app (paid subscription) to take pictures of any unwanted mail that hasn't been deterred by the previous steps. This app "automatically unsubscribes you from junk mail and unwanted catalogs. Go postal on direct mailings and marketing distribution lists.Catalog choice is yours: simply snap a photo to take control of your mailbox. Help save trees and positively impact the environment too!" They send updates on progress to your email.
  • After you have taken your picture, you can make a little money while you wait to be unsubscribed. Sell the junk mail that is already coming in both your email as well as your mailbox.-As a consumer panelist for a market research study, you send your qualified junk mail and junk emails to SBKC and they compensate you for it.
  • If you are just frustrated, you've  tried everything else, and you can't sell it, then try writing one of the following- Refused: Return to Sender, No Longer at This Address, or Take me off your mailing list. If you still get mail from the same sender, you can open up the mail and use the paid return envelope to send a letter requesting to be removed from their mailing list. 
  • Be polite but firm in the note. Don’t resort to foul or abusive language. If you’re not sure what to write, try something simple like “Please remove me from your mailing list. I do not wish to receive any future offers/solicitations, etc.” Make sure to include your name and mailing address on the note because your contact information will not be on the pre-paid return envelope.

    If they still send you mail after a couple of months, include another letter and try stuffing the envelopes with shredded paper until they can’t hold any more material. If you’re worried that they won’t stay shut, you may want to reinforce the closure with paper tape.
  • Lastly, according to U.S.C. Title 39 - Postal Service section 3008. Prohibition of pandering advertisements, you can fill out Form 1500 to stop delivery of any material that you find offensive. All you have to do is fill out a USPS Form 1500 and attach the opened mail piece to it and turn it in to the Post Office. The USPS will issue an order that no more mailings be sent to you by that mailer. 
    •  Form 1500 states that the mailing contains pornographic material that you find offensive. (The law says the determination of what is offensive or pornographic is at the sole discretion of the recipient). The two-sided form is available at any Post Office, and photo copies of it are acceptable. It is easy to fill out and takes only a minute or two. The USPS will send you a letter with a case number, stating when the cease and desist order was issued to the mailer. If you receive mailings after a grace period you can report them to the enforcement office - instructions provided in the letter. 
Now to help our friends from across the pond get started in the UK:
  • First, tackle unaddressed Royal Mail mail- They are still legally obliged to deliver all addressed mail including mail that is addressed ‘To the Occupier’.
You also need to get permission from others in the household before you send the opt-out form. Once Royal Mail receives your signed form you will stop receiving unaddressed mail within 6 weeks.The easiest way is to visit the Royal Mail website and download a copy of the form.
Go to the site and click –  Register Stop unsolicited mail
Tick the box -I wish to register my address details to be removed from mailing lists
Enter your postcode
Select the address you wish to register or add address manually
Add your details (Title, Forename & Surname) Here you have the option to add another individual
Select why you wish to register from the options
To activate your subscription enter your email
To complete your registration they will send you an activation e-mail. Once received, open the e-mail and simply click on the attached link, this will activate your subscription.
This service only covers UK addresses and you cannot register PO Box Numbers or business addresses.
  • Third, contact the Your Choice Preference Service for unaddressed mail. You can contact them via email YourChoice@dma.org.uk. 
They send a ‘Your Choice’ registration pack for free. Print off the form, fill in your details and send a scanned copy back to them via email. You need to provide your full address, including postcode and make sure that you sign and date the form.

To return the form to you can either scan and email to YourChoice@dma.org.uk or post the form to the following address:

‘Your Choice’ Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, London, W1W 8SS
  • Fourth, for occasion mail for an old resident, strike out the old resident's name and write "moved" while leaving it in the mailbox for the postman. Striking out of the name to make it obvious that it's the wrong address, whereas writing on mail alone might be glanced over.
  • Fifth, use the free PaperKarma mobile app to take pictures of any unwanted mail that hasn't been deterred by the previous steps. This app "automatically unsubscribes you from junk mail and unwanted catalogs. Go postal on direct mailings and marketing distribution lists.Catalog choice is yours: simply snap a photo to take control of your mailbox. Help save trees and positively impact the environment too!" They send updates on progress to your email.
  • Sixth, after you have taken your picture, you can make a little money while you wait to be unsubscribed. Sell the junk mail that is already coming in both your email as well as your mailbox.-As a consumer panelist for a market research study, you send your qualified junk mail and junk emails to SBKC and they compensate you for it.
  • Seventh, if you can't sell it, then try writing one of the following- Refused: Return to Sender, No Longer at This Address, or Take me off your mailing list.

  • Lastly, contact the Sender directly- Under the Data Protection Act 1998 any person or business must stop using your personal information for marketing if you ask them to. They cannot refuse to take your name off their list. The Information Commissioner’s Office has a great free template that you can use to send to companies. If they fail to contact you back you can then formally request they stop using Section 11 of the Data Protection Act.
Bonus tips: While you're waiting to get off their mailing lists, here are some ways to reuse your junk mail to save some cash and how to get rid of junk mail in one step.
  • Make notepads out of security envelopes- Here is a great tutorial for making notepads from the unwanted security envelopes until they get you off their list.
  • Make envelopes out of magazines/catalogs- Here is a great tutorial for making envelopes from the unwanted magazines/catalogs until they get you off their list.
  • Make doll food out of the ads-Here is a great tutorial for making doll food from the unwanted ads until they get you off their list.






  • If you are willing to pay a small fee (generally $20-30) to clean out your physical mailbox, services like Greendimes41 Pounds, and Stop the Junk Mail can take care of the problem for you. All you do is provide a information about you and your problem address and the services will make the necessary calls to get you off of junk and grey mail lists. This should get rid of almost all of your junk mail, with almost no effort on your part. Whoo-hoo!
I'll be holding onto my junk mail until September Zero Waste Week 2017, where I'll put aside the time to follow all of the steps above as my pledge.



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Here's to an almost empty mailbox!

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