Stocking Up on Black Friday

I’m a firm believer in writing lists. If I want something, I usually write it in a list. That way, it gives me an opportunity to think about whether I really should get it or find alternatives for it. I have on occasions put something on the list only to delete it later on.

Just because you don’t sign up to the materialistic lifestyle and your goal is to lead a simpler life, you can still take advantage of Black Friday and stock up on your zero waste supplies. This year, I stocked up on bamboo toothbrushes and cloth pads because both items were discounted. I would have stocked up on soap and shampoo bars but I recently purchased enough to last me a few months.

The Package Free Shop is having a “25% off in store all day” in conjunction with Black Friday. Who says you cannot shop without appearing materialistic? The key is to shop responsibly.

 

 

 

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15 Minute Pasta Recipe

I usually eat my meals alone so there is no incentive for me to slave all day in the kitchen unless I want to try out a particular recipe or if I am craving for something specific. This recipe takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. The sauce cooks the same time it takes to boil the pasta.

10 Minute Pasta Recipe

Recipe

  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic (As much as you like. I used 4 large cloves because I love things garlicky)
  • Tomatoes (As much as you like. I used about half a bowl of cherry tomatoes)
  • Dried Chilli Flakes (Optional)
  • Basil (Sliced or torn)
  • Pasta
  • Salt
  • Cheese (Optional. Parmigiano Regiano, Pecorino and Mozzarella are safe options)
  1. Put the pasta in boiling water and set the timer to 1 minute prior to when the pasta will be done. If it takes 11 minutes for the pasta to be done, boil it for 10 minutes. Remember to add salt to the boiling water. Make it taste like the ocean.
  2. Slice or dice the garlic and put it in a pan with cold oil. Add dried chili flakes if you like a bit of heat in your pasta.
  3. Chop the tomatoes into halves or quarters (bigger tomatoes) and add it to the pan when the garlic starts to brown. Add some pasta water to stop the garlic from burning.
  4. Add some salt to the tomatoes and let the tomatoes liquify in low heat. If the sauce starts getting too thick, add pasta water to thin out the sauce.
  5. Feel free to mash the tomatoes with the back of your cooking utensil.
  6. When the timer goes off, add the basil and pasta to the sauce and let the pasta cook in the sauce for 1 minute. If the pasta feels a little tight when you try to move it in the pan, add some pasta water to loosen the sauce. Feel free to finish it off with a bit of olive oil.
  7. Also optional, grate some cheese over the pasta but I recommend adding the cheese to your bowl instead of in the pan. I like mine without cheese.

As always, if there are leftovers, I usually pack them in glass containers and it tastes great the next day. You can eat it warm or cold and it’s delicious.

Zero Waste Corporate Gift Ideas

Every business should find some way to market themselves in order to get more customers or keep their existing customers. I like to send something to my clients especially during the holidays either to thank them or to remind them of me. The struggle lies in living the zero waste life and giving customers junk that ends up in the landfill.

Experience is usually the go to zero waste gift but it may not necessarily be appropriate or it can be cost prohibitive. Unless you are gifting a specific person in mind, it’s always a good idea to find something neutral. Here are some zero waste corporate gift ideas.

Zero Waste Gifts that Fit in an Envelope

With Standard Postage

  • Plantable Cards – Cards that you can plant in soil and grow wildflowers.
  • Gift Cards / Gift Certificates – Online stores are the best option or some place you know that they frequent. You don’t necessarily have to buy the card. You can always buy it online and print out the code.
  • Movie Tickets – Think about where your customers are. Pick a movie theatre close to their home / business.
  • Postcard Size Calendar
  • Recipes
  • Tea Bags

Most of these are paper products that can be recycled or composted.

Everything Else

  • Wine
  • Soaps (not the ones wrapped in plastic)
  • Kitchen / Tea Towels
  • Collapsible Cups
  • Box of Baked Goodies
  • Cotton Tote Bag / Foldable Tote Bags – Great for printing your company logo.
  • Potted Plants
  • Scented Candles
  • Stainless Steel Water Bottles / Coffee Mug – Great for printing your company logo. I try to avoid plastic where possible.
  • Hand Towels – Great for embroidering your company logo.
  • Stainless Steel / Glass Containers – Great for engraving your company logo but I suggest filling the container with some goodies.
  • Bamboo Toothbrush – Especially great if you are a dentist.
  • Glass Straws – I think a lot of people will find it novel. If it’s glass, it is easier to see if the straw is cleaned properly. Don’t forget the pipe cleaner for the straw too.

Others Ideas that Didn’t Make the List

There is no point in giving gifts that a customer would not appreciate. Zero waste gifts may still end up in the landfill or become a dust collector at home. Here are some gift ideas that I think non-zero wasters would not appreciate.

  • Reusable produce bags – I’m not sure if a lot of people remember to bring their own bags to the grocery store let alone produce bags.
  • Fruit Basket – Maybe a small amount of fruit because do people seriously eat that much of fruit before it goes bad? It seems like most of the fruit will go to waste.
  • Homemade Beauty Products – Too personal because everyone has their preferences unless you are in the business of selling beauty products but soap is the exception.
  • Magazine Subscription – Not sure how that will remind people of your business.
  • Sandwich / Snack Bags – I don’t know a lot of people who pack their own lunch to work or pack sandwiches.
  • Mugs – There are just way too many mugs that end up in thrift stores.
  • Coasters – There are zero friendly options but chances are, everyone who use coasters have them already.
  • Cotton Napkins – Do people really use napkins at home?
  • Travel Chopsticks – It depends on your customer base. Surprisingly, a lot of people struggle with chopsticks.

It goes without saying that if you are looking for zero waste ideas, make sure that you keep that in mind when wrapping your gifts. Recycled / paper envelopes and cardboard boxes are easily available. Skip the plastic ribbons, shiny confetti and use twine instead.

Pros and Cons to Zero Waste

Pros

  1. It’s good for the environment.
  2. Unpackaged goods should be cheaper because you are not paying for packaging.
  3. There is more time for the more important things when you stop shopping.
  4. It forces you to make healthier choices. It is easier to buy fresh fruits and vegetables without packaging over processed food.
  5. You tend to save money because you buy less stuff, buy second hand stuff, make use of what you have or do without completely.
  6. It forces you to become more resourceful. You will pick up new skills and learn new tricks.
  7. No longer have to worry about taking the trash out because it takes awhile to fill up the trash cans. Also, trash cans don’t smell anymore.
  8. During the time of the month, I never have to worry about not having sufficient supplies.

Cons

  1. It is difficult to shop zero waste. Not all places sell in bulk or telling people that you want the item in your container can be tiresome.
  2. In an effort to go zero waste, we had to give up snacks, packaged food and certain convenience.
  3. Sometimes it is more expensive to buy things without packaging.
  4. You need to plan ahead all the time. It’s difficult to make impromptu trips to the store or restaurants if you are not prepared. My handbag is more than double the size of my previous handbag because I need space for water bottle, container, reusable bags etc.
  5. Your water bill goes up because there is a lot more washing when you avoid disposables. You run the dishwasher and the washing machine more regularly.
  6. Saying no to freebies, free samples and gifts.
  7. Being disappointed when people close to you insist on using single use disposables.

 

Repairing a Suitcase

If you travel a lot, it is important to invest in a good suitcase. A good suitcase, especially one that comes with a lifetime guarantee, can last you a long time.

Buying cheap suitcases that need to be replaced every few years may end up costing the same if not more than a good suitcase. It’s not just to the cost but the general frustration of buying suitcases. I understand that a good suitcase can cost several hundred dollars and not everyone has that kind of money. In that case, my suggestion is to buy the best you can afford. I am not sure how easy it is to buy used suitcases but if you can find a used suitcase from a decent brand, all the more better.

I’ve had this suitcase at least seven years now and it is still going strong. The zips needed to be fixed. I was reluctant to spend the money initially and I tried to fix it myself with paper clips. But after years of struggling with the paper clip, I gave in and got it fixed. Now, the suitcase looks brand new and ready for its next trip.

Minimizing Food Waste When Going Out

Here are some tips on how I minimize my food waste when I go out to eat.

Tip 1: Order Less

The first step to minimizing your food waste is to order less or only order what you can eat. When I enter the restaurant, I will look around and check out the portion size. If I know that the food portions are large, I will try to order something that Husband and I can share. We usually share an entree and probably 1 or 2 appetizers. We rarely order dessert. When you order less, the bill is generally cheaper.

Tip 2: Plan and Be Prepared

There are times when I specifically choose to go to a particular restaurant because I know the portion size is large. The Leftoversidea is to eat half now and save the balance for the next day. It’s like 2 meals for the price of 1. I will then bring my own container and utensils depending on the restaurant. Husband (who is not a zero waster) loves it when I do that. He argues that (1) it makes it easier to heat up his leftover, (2) the garbage does not stink, (3) it’s easier for him to chuck the container in his lunch bag without having to worry about leakage.

Tip 3: Bring Your Own Container

You will notice that most zero wasters tend to have their own containers handy. I tend to have stainless steel containers in my handbag because its lighter than glass. This is handy for when you decide to dine out unexpectedly. Sometimes I forget to bring my own containers because (1) I left the house in a hurry, (2) the container is in the dishwasher or the fridge or (3) I was not planning to eat out so I revert to Tip 1.

Tip 4: Bones and Garnish

Food waste also includes bones and garnish. The other day, I ordered buffalo wings and it came with celery and carrot sticks. I’m not a fan of celery and carrot sticks so I packed all the bones, celery and carrot sticks in my container and brought it home. The contents went into the freezer where I hoard bones and root vegetables to make bone broth.

There are also times when I go to a Japanese restaurant and they would serve a dish over a bed of shredded cabbage. I brought home the garnish and used it in my recipe the next day. Shredded cabbage works great in fried rice and soup.

Donating Glasses / Eyewear / Spectacles

If you wear prescription eyewear, you probably have to update your prescription every year or so. For the longest time, I have had a massive collection of prescription eyewear which I have accumulated in my life. Sometimes I cringe at the frames I have picked previously. Rainbow frames? What was I thinking?

I did not throw away my old prescription eyewear thinking that I will always need a spare set in case something happens to my current eyewear. There goes the “in case” argument again and I’m guilty of it.

Spectacles

Where to Donate?

During the recent elections, I went to the polling station which turned out to be a retirement home and that is where I found a box accepting donated eyewear. In an effort to remove clutter from my home, I filled a paper bag with old prescription eyewear and dropped it off at the retirement home.

Check if your optometrist accepts old prescription eyewear for recycling. If you are not aware of any drop off locations to donate your eyewear, check out the following:

  • Lions International
    • Lions International is probably the leader in dealing with recycled eyewear. A lot of organizations work closely with Lions International in managing donated eyewear.
  • New Eyes – Glasses for those in need
    • They accept eyeglasses, sunglasses, hearing aids, watches, jewelry, silverware and giftware.
  • VSP Global
    • This is more for businesses. They can order a free donation box and when the box is full, they can ship the box using a prepaid shipping label. Apparently, VSP Global works closely with Lions International to clean, refurbish and label donated eyewear for VSP network doctors and schools.
  • Saving Sight
    • They also work with Lions International and they are based in Columbia, Missouri.

Is Donating Eyewear a Waste of Resources?

Here is a 2012 article arguing that donating eyewear is a waste of money because it cost more than buying new prescription eyewear. Here are some general comments in response to the 2012 article.

Personally, I believe that prescription eyewear is more expensive than it should be. That’s because there is a monopoly when it comes to the eyewear industry.

Even if donating eyewear is expensive, it’s still better than having it end up in the landfill. For someone who is not able to afford prescription eyewear, getting prescription eyewear which works even though it is not the ideal prescription is still better than not being able to see at all.

Sustainable Eyewear

I wish I knew about these sustainable options sooner. I’m currently wearing my sunglasses that I’ve owned for more than 8 years. It still looks brand new and there is no reason for me to get a new one. I may have had the lenses replaced once.

However, if I ever need a new pair of eyewear, I’ll definitely consider sustainable options in the future. There are frames made from bamboo and recycled plastic. Check out the following links:

  • GROWN – sustainable wooden eyewear
    • For every item purchased, GROWN will fund sight-restoring eye surgery for 1 person, or diagnostic eye exams for 12 children
  • Guide to eco-friendly sustainable sunglasses
  • I want proof
    • Eye wear made from wood, aluminum and skate boards. How cool is that?
  • Dick Moby
    • Made from bio-based and recycled plastic
    • Handmade in Italy – I try to support businesses close to me so this is not my first option.
  • Panda
    • Bamboo sunglasses
  • Kynd – Sustainable Counterculture
    • More bamboo sunglasses
    • According to their website: If your pair of bamboo sunglasses has been messed up or broken by some random act of nature, or if you just want to try something different, then send your old pair back to us.  Not only will we give you 50% off your next pair, we’ll do our best to put the old pair to good use.

Don’t forget Contact Lenses

I have not forgotten about contact lenses, if you use Bausch and Lomb, you can participate in the Terracycle Recycle program.

Here is Lauren Singer’s take on recycling contact lenses.

Now, go locate your old prescription eyewear lying around your home collecting dust and give it to someone else in need.

Moving into a New House and New Year Ritual

The Chinese have a ritual for moving into a new house. Even though I am not moving into a new house, I still practice the same ritual to usher in the new year. Chinese rituals are full of symbolism and I personally believe that there is no harm in encouraging more good luck.

Before the new year, I usually ensure that I have the following in stock at home:

  • Rice represents income since its the staple in Chinese Diet.
  • Water represents wealth and the Chinese cannot have enough of that.
  • Sugar represents sweet moments in life.
  • Salt represents experiences.
  • Oil ensures that all endeavors proceed smoothly.

I just make a trip to the supermarket and buy all the stuff and store it in the pantry. That’s pretty much it. There is no complicated song and dance attached. I also view these items as items that I generally should have at home and there is no problems with having more in case of emergency.

Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Prop 67 – Ban on Single Use Plastic Bags

Do we need plastic bags?

 

Plastic Bags
I collect plastic bags and put them in this tissue box from my pre-zero waste days.

Husband complains that plastic bags are important for collecting cat poop which goes into the trash. If you have a dog, you can flush the dog poop down the toilet but you can’t do that with cat poop because cat poop has bacteria that affects marine life. As long as our cats are alive, they will be a major producer of trash in this household.

My solution to the cat litter problem is to leave a collection box at the office where my colleagues can drop off their plastic bags which they acquire from their lunch breaks. We still get plastic bags in the house when Husband brings home take out. I also salvage whatever bags that ends up in the house for that purpose as well such as the bag in which cat food is packaged in.

Currently, we have a healthy supply of bags for cat poop so we will see what happens in the future. I figured that in the future we should be able to use paper bags. If there is a will, there is a way.

Issue with Prop 67

California finally passed Prop 67 which bans single use plastic bags. Hooray to that. My issue is that:

  1. Prop 67 is limited to certain types of businesses and predominantly grocery stores. Other stores should be subject to the same ban too.
  2. Even though you have to pay for plastic bags when you check out, grocery stores supply single use plastic bags for purposes of purchasing bulk items, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese and meat.
  3. Grocery stores circumvent Prop 67 with thicker plastic bags arguing that thicker plastic bags can be reused when it can in fact the thicker plastic bags is equally if not more detrimental to the environment.

Next steps

There should be a rule requiring grocery stores to accept customer’s own container and bags. I don’t see what’s wrong with that. It’s cheaper for the grocery stores because they do not have to supply bags and it’s better for the environment. The food safety argument does not work because we have had cases where salad leaves which have been triple washed and ready to eat still ends up being contaminated. You should always wash your fruits and vegetables before eating it regardless of whether it was packed in plastic or not. Same applies to meat. You have to make sure that it is cleaned and cooked properly to avoid food poisoning.

Alternatively, grocery stores can provide paper bags or boxes which can be recycled or composted. Compostable plastic bags should not even be an option because those plastic bags can only be composted under very specific conditions and not many waste companies can handle that.

Next up, styrofoam. How are we going to take care of that? Apparently New York is considering banning styrofoam and that sounds like exciting progress for me. Wish we were more progressive in California.

Christmas

I love Christmas and it is hard to decorate for Christmas without generating any waste. There was a time when I was in a Christmas frenzy and I would buy all kinds of Christmas decorations. I had a lot of leftover decorations from my previous life which I continue to use today because there is no point in throwing something that is perfectly good.

Music

The best way to get into the Christmas mood is play some Christmas music. There are tons of free music thanks to Spotify, Pandora and YouTube.

christmas-wreath

Wreath

Last year I bought a Christmas wreath from the farmers market. Eventually, the wreath dried out and went into the compost bin. I saved the frame. This year, I was tempted to buy something similar but I decided against it because my new place does not have composting facilities and I am not sure about feeding pine leaves to my worms. So, I decided to make my own wreath with existing materials that I have at home.

Cards

I like receiving cards for my birthday or for special occasions. It makes me feel special. I use the cards as decoration and eventually I would scan the card for memories (where possible) or recycle the cards. I’ve also started a new business and decided to send out 2017 calendars to my friends, clients and business associates. I am hoping that they will keep the card for the entire 2017 instead of throwing it away after the holidays. I also chose non-glossy cards so the cards can be recycled or composted when they no longer want it.

Ornaments

I collect Christmas ornaments from my travels. Every year, when we set up the Christmas Tree, we would reminisce about the trips and how or why we acquired the various ornaments. I am not a fan of baking sourdough ornaments. It is much too time consuming for a lazy person like me and I feel bad about throwing away the ornaments when the holidays are over. I am also not interested in ornaments if there is no story attached to it.

Scent

We use to buy Christmas scented candles but since the candles are gone, I told Husband that we will no longer be purchasing scented candles. I have to admit that the candles are pretty and it gives out a nice smell but candles can get expensive and potentially toxic. I tried looking for some zero waste methods to scent the house and I’ve decided that homemade potpourri is just too much work for me. Since I will be hosting a Christmas Lunch, I’ve decided to use our slow cooker to simmer some cinnamon sticks with clove and orange slices. Will see how that goes. I’m doing it in a slow cooker because I cannot trust myself in making sure that the water doesn’t dry out on the stove top.

Presents

This year, I have decided that I was going to shop for Christmas presents around my house or if I do purchase something, it would be in the form of experience or something that can be consumed. This year, I made doughnuts for my neighbors. I’m also thinking of movie tickets for the upcoming Star Wars film and you can almost never go wrong with a good bottle of wine. I also made Christmas ornaments for my close friends using existing materials that I have at home.

I actually hate giving or receiving gift cards because I think there is no thought that goes into that. I’ve had gift cards that I have held on to for years because I cannot figure what to use it on. I’d rather give or receive cash, Visa or Mastercard. However, I do buy gift cards for those I know who will use it and it’s usually gift cards for a grocery store which they frequent. I also did purchase a laptop as a Christmas present for my best friend but it took about a month to raise the necessary funds and coordinate the group effort.

As for Hubby, I’m not planning on buying him any presents this year. Last year, I bought him several Christmas gifts and he did not even bother to use any of it so it was a waste of money. This year, I’ve decided to organize a Christmas Lunch with his friends. I know he is looking forward to having his friends around. It’s an excellent excuse to deep clean the house. I’m also planning to get tickets to watch the Nutcracker and the Newport Beach Christmas Parade. I’m sure he will enjoy that too.

Lunch

I’ve invited Husband’s friends over for Christmas lunch. I’m actually looking forward to it. I told them not to bring any gifts but they can bring alcohol. I also told them to skip the gift bag and wrapping because I’m just interested in the contents in the bottle. We are planning to play board games after lunch and I am sure it will be lots of fun. Trying to organize a zero waste Christmas lunch is going to be a challenge.