Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Olive oil hand salve

My hands always get so dry during the winter, so I make a simple three-ingredient salve to keep them moisturized.  It works so much better than lotion in a plastic bottle, creates a lot less waste and is less expensive.  

(Side note: Has anyone else noticed that some commercial lotions will tout things like "Made with real shea butter!" or "Soothing oatmeal!", when the actual amount of those ingredients in the product
is minimal?)

How to make olive oil hand salve

Small pot
Glass measuring cup
Measuring spoon
Cheese grater
Small glass jar 

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon grated beeswax
15-20 drops lavender essential oil

Measuring beeswax

1. Measure a 1/4 cup of oil in your glass measuring cup.
2. Grate your beeswax. You'll need about one heaping tablespoon. Put it in the measuring cup with the olive oil.
3. Heat a small amount of water in your pot, and put your glass measuring cup inside creating a double boiler.
4. Heat the olive oil and beeswax gently until combined. Stir.
5. Take the olive oil-beeswax mixture off the heat, and add several drops of the essential oil. Pour into glass jars and let cool.

Note: For a firmer salve, use more beeswax, for a softer salve, use less beeswax.
         This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Other things I have used this salve for:
Lip balm
My husband uses it on his face after he shaves
To protect/condition my leather boots
I exchange walnut oil for olive oil, and use it to condition butcher block counters
As gifts for family and friends

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Want to reduce your plastic in 2015?

Do you want to reduce the amount of plastic (especially disposable!) that you use in 2015?

Good first steps to take:
Bring your own bag when you shop.
Bring your own containers for drinks (waterbottle, coffee thermos).
Refuse a straw for your drink.
Don't use coffee pods! (Use a Chemex or French press--your coffee will taste better and cost less!)

Ok, so I did that.  What's next?  Try to pick one area at a time to change.  It will be easier, less overwhelming, and the changes will be more likely to stick.  Cleaning was where I started, and I found that to be an easy place to make changes, and also something that immediately saved me money.

How to use less plastic this year

Clean with vinegar, baking soda, Castile bar soap and lemons.
Replace paper towels with cloth rags (cotton or hemp--microfiber is plastic!) that can be washed and reused.
Try soap nuts for your laundry.  Replace dryer sheets with wool dryer balls.
Get a mop with reusable pads that you can fill with a vinegar and water solution.

Replace plastic tupperware and takeout containers with glass or stainless steel.
Buy your dry goods from the bulk bin.  Cut out the boxed and bagged processed food.
Shop from local farmers when possible (and in season) for veggies and fruit.
Look for milk in returnable glass bottles.
Swap out non-stick pots and pans for healthier alternatives like stainless or cast iron.  If you are on a budget, or a college student, start out with just a cast iron pan--they are naturally non-stick and good for almost everything!
Use cloth napkins that can be washed and reused instead of paper ones.

Personal care:
Use a shampoo bar instead of shampoo in plastic bottles.
Use bar soap in the shower.
Get a safety razor.
Coconut oil and homemade olive oil/beeswax salve for moisturizing.
Bamboo toothbrushes.
Baking soda/cornstarch as deodorant.
Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.
Find makeup with recyclable glass or aluminum packaging.

Look for clothes made from natural materials (wool, linen, cotton, silk, hemp).  Buy used when you can.
When household items need to be replaced (dustpan, broom, brushes, etc.), choose well-made items made of wood, stainless steel, enamel, etc.
Write with a refillable fountain pen instead of disposable pens. (This is on my list for this year!!)
If you need a new piece of furniture, try looking for a pre-owned item made of solid wood.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Simple, plastic-free makeup

Much like everything else that has come along in my plastic free journey, de-plastifying my makeup also meant simplifying. 

Now, instead of worrying about a thousand different things when I am getting ready in the morning, I just worry about two: a little concealer, and a swipe of mascara.  Which takes two minutes instead of ten.

I don't have anything wrong with wearing more makeup (and I do every once and a while for super-formal events!), but simplifying what I wear everyday has been a nice change.  I used to worry that I would not look put together if I did not wear a full face of makeup every day, but I have found that not to be the case.

Reasons why this has been awesome:

1. Much less time spent getting ready in the morning.
2. Much less waste created.  I get my mascara from TWINK beauty, and reused an old mascara wand.  The mascara is cake mascara, which means it's solid (ask your grandma if you've never heard of solid mascara!), and you have to wet the mascara wand to use it.  It also means that you don't have to worry about plastic mascara tubes.  The container can be reused (homemade lip balm?) or it can be recycled.
The concealer comes from RMS beauty, and is packaged in a glass container with an aluminum lid.  Also reusable or recyclable.  The company lists the ingredients on their website, and it is certified organic.
3. Less money. Although the concealer is a little more money than I would spend before (although not by that much, I used to use Bare Minerals, and that was about $30 a pop), the mascara is actually cheaper and those are the ONLY TWO items I am using regularly aside from a little homemade lip balm/hand salve.  With the other foundation I used to use, I would feel like my skin would get oily, and I would have to get the powder, too.  Plus eyeshadow, liner, etc.  So, much less money in total spent, and the money that is spent is spent on higher quality items.

My makeup routine now:

1. Does the mascara work?  Yes!  It gives enough definition, doesn't flake off during the day.  However, it is not going to give you the same "huge lashes" look as a drugstore or department store mascara.
2. Is it waterproof? No.
3. I don't want to give up eyeshadow/blush/my makeup routine, are there any plastic free options? Yes!  Browse through Etsy, and there are tons of people selling makeup with minimal ingredients, and minimal packaging.  RMS also sells lip and cheek stains in glass packaging.  Or you could try your hand at making some of your own :)

Have you found any good plastic free or less wasteful makeup options?  Any good homemade recipes?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Real food staples

Last post, we talked about why preparing your own food is important.  Today, I want to share with you some of the things that have become staples in our kitchen and improved our cooking (and eating :) 

1. Chicken Stock
We usually roast a chicken once a week, and then use the leftover bones to make chicken stock.  While the stock will have to cook for several hours, the amount of hands on time is about two minutes.
  • Throw chicken carcass into your stock pot.
  • Put one to two onions (don't bother peeling, just wash, halve and cut off the ends), carrots (washed, unpeeled) and celery stalks in.
  • Add a bay leaf and a few pepper corns.  And a dash of apple cider vinegar. 
  • Cover with water and simmer for three to four hours (or more if you like).
This is super, super easy and adds tons of flavor to homemade soups and sauces.  If you are a vegetarian, you can make homemade veggie stock.

2. Homemade Applesauce
I like to put applesauce in my oatmeal every morning during the cold months.  This stuff is so much better than the canned variety.
  • Slice/core your apples.  You don't need to peel them.  I usually use about nine apples at a time.
  • Throw them in a pot.
  • Sprinkle in some cinnamon, nutmeg and a couple of cloves.
  • Simmer until the apples are a little mushy, and then throw in a blender or food processor.

3. Whole Wheat Bread
See recipe here.   Whole wheat flour, honey, molasses, salt, water and yeast.  That's it.  Good for sandwiches and spreading jam on.  Once you taste homemade bread, you will never go back.  For those weeks where we are very short on time, we do get bread from the bakery, which is still a much better choice than the prepackaged, preservative-filled breads on the store shelves.

4. Yogurt
Homemade yogurt is very easy to make.  Heat up some milk, add a little bit of pre-made yogurt, let sit overnight.  See recipe here.  Not only is this great with fruit in the morning, it also can be good as a dip (add a little lemon and dill!) and a nice addition to salads.

5. Salad Dressing
Most likely, you have everything you need to make a nice salad dressing already in your pantry. I use the recipe here, except instead of white wine vinegar, I use balsamic.  I recently used this on a kale, beet and barley salad, which was AWESOME.

This week, I challenge you to pick one thing you usually buy prepackaged, and try your hand at making it yourself.  It doesn't have to be complicated (it could even be just soaking and cooking your own dried beans!).

Let me know what you are going to make this week in the comments!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why cook real food?

Making your own food from scratch is probably one of the best things you can do to "go green," reduce packaging and be healthier.  (If you are not familiar with the issues of packaged food, I would strongly suggest reading "Salt, Sugar, Fat" by Michael Moss.  It was an eye opening read). While the other things I have discussed on the blog are important, in my opinion, food tops the list.  What we eat fuels our body and keeps us healthy.

At least in the United States, it seems as if we have been trapped in a mindset where convenience always wins.  Adults are over-scheduled, children are over-scheduled, and suddenly what we eat moves from the back burner to the microwave, and we become completely distanced from where our food comes from and how to prepare it.

Why real food matters | Cellist Goes Green

1. By making your own food from whole ingredients (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, eggs, dairy, etc.), you avoid additives like food dye, preservatives, anti-caking agents, and artificial sweeteners and flavorings in packaged and processed food.

2. When you make your own food, you control the amount of salt, sugar and fat that goes in to it (and what kinds).  Processed foods often make up for lack of flavor by increasing these ingredients to unhealthy levels.  And while your body will still process all sugar as sugar (so it should be enjoyed in moderation!), I would rather eat raw honey than processed corn syrup. 

3. Real food tastes better.  If nothing else convinces you, this should.  Real food tastes like food.  Compare something you would normally buy packaged at the store to a time when you had that food homemade.  Did they taste the same?  Probably not.  Canned or boxed chicken stock just can't compare to the kind you make on your stove with real chicken and vegetables.  Homemade roasted tomato sauce with extra virgin olive oil is not the same as what you buy in the jar.  And that bread wrapped in plastic on the shelf is miles behind homemade or what you can get at the bakery.

4. It does not take that much time.  One of the biggest excuses for not preparing home cooked food is lack of time (I often used this one myself as a college student--I am not pointing fingers!).  Yes, it will take more time than throwing a box in the microwave, but not that much more.  And that added time is not always "active time." While chicken stock technically takes several hours to cook, those hours are not spent slaving over the stove.  Just throw everything in the pot and walk away.

5. Cooking brings us together.  Passing down recipes, techniques and sharing them with friends and family.  Taking pride in something you made and sharing it with others. All things that are invaluable and shouldn't be underestimated.

So, if you're up for a challenge: this week, pick one thing you would normally buy in a box or can and try making it yourself.  It does not have to be a big thing, it could be as simple as pumpkin puree (yum!) or soaking your own beans.