How to support the environment even when the government won't

I have struggled to write this post.  Many of us woke up yesterday feeling disheartened and fearful for the future.  I was unsure whether or not to use this space to speak up, but I think it is important for our voices to come together.

For the next four years, many of the environmental protections put in place in our country will be in jeopardy.  While this is certainly a terrible thing, it is a fact now, and we must not let it discourage us from doing what we can to protect the environment.

How to support the environment after the election

1. Donate to and support environmental defense organizations

There are several environmental organizations that fight for environmental legislation and protections.  We need to support them, as they are even more important now.  If you live near a large city, look for volunteer opportunities.

Earth Justice
Sierra Club
Climate Science Legal Defense Fund
5 Gyres
Plastic Pollution Coalition

2. Make changes in your own life

I think this is the biggest and most effective thing we can all do.  All is not lost.  We must continue to lead by example and make environmentally conscious decisions in our everyday lives.  Leading by example is the best way to effect change in our families and communities.

If you are already making conscious decisions in your life, continue to do so, and look for more ways to support the environment in your everyday actions.

  • Bring your own reusables--grocery bags, water bottle, cutlery, coffee mug.
  • Reduce the amount of disposable packaging you purchase, and look for alternatives (more whole foods, farmers markets, buying in bulk, etc.)
  • Look for alternatives for your commute to work: walking, biking, carpooling.  Even if it's only one day a week.
  • Shop less.  Shop locally.  Support small businesses.
  • Buy used.
  • Plant a garden.

3. Talk to people about the environment and climate change

Now is not the time to remain silent.  Engage in conversation with family in friends about why the environment is important to you.  Go to state and national parks.  Discuss climate change, and the consensus among scientists.  Listen to people's concerns so they listen to you.  Read books about climate change and lend them out when you are done.  Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know by Joseph Romm and The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert are two good places to start.

And finally, we need to support those whose voices were not heard and will not be heard for at least the next four years: women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, religious and ethnic minorities.

Jezebel has a great post about organizations you can support that stand up for the rights of the most vulnerable.  We must also support these people in our own lives and communities.

We must stand together to support peace, love, tolerance and togetherness.

DIY Laundry Detergent

I have been using soap nuts to do our laundry since we stopped using disposable plastic in 2013, but I have been wanting to give homemade laundry soap a try.  Whenever I've used the homemade, natural bar soap I buy to remove stains or pretreat really dirty stuff, it has always worked amazingly well.  (It's the same soap we use to wash the dishes!)  So I decided it was time to start using it for all of our laundry.

Homemade two-ingredient laundry detergent: A zero waste, plastic free option | Cellist Goes Green

If you search "homemade laundry detergent" on Pinterest, you will get about a million and a half different recipes, many of which require several ingredients.  And then there's the whole borax controversy (borax does seem to be relatively safe, you just don't want to ingest it).  I wanted something simple and effective, so I picked the two ingredients I thought would be most important and experimented with the ratios a little bit until I got something I liked.  And it works!

Homemade two-ingredient laundry detergent: A zero waste, plastic free option | Cellist Goes Green

Two-Ingredient Laundry Soap

Ingredients
2 cups washing soda
1 bar of natural bar soap

Instructions

  1. Grate the bar of soap
  2. Measure out the washing soda and mix with the bar soap shavings
  3. Put mixture in jar

That's it!  I use about 1/4 of a cup in each load.


FAQ

Will it work in my HE washer?
Disclaimer-my top-loading washing machine is from 1998.  I looked up the serial number.  I have no plans to upgrade, and I'm hoping we can celebrate its 20th birthday soon. :)  So I can't really offer any first hand advice here. 

That being said, if you do some googling, most of the homemade detergent recipes say they are safe for HE machines, you just have to use less.

What kind of soap should I use?
I use a handmade soap from Barclay Soap Co on Etsy.  It has very few ingredients, all of which are natural.  It has done very well cutting grease when I wash dishes, and I've found it to be much more effective than Dr. Bronner's.  Look for a soap without synthetic ingredients (especially synthetic fragrance).  And look for one that's not formulated to be super-moisturizing (that's great for you, but not at getting dirt off your clothes).

What is the difference between washing soda and baking soda?
You can actually make washing soda from baking soda!  They are closely related, but washing soda is a stronger ingredient and should not be ingested.  Dr. Karen S. Lee has a great post about it here.  And while it shouldn't be ingested, EWG gives it an "A" as a safe cleaning product.

I'm having a hard time finding washing soda
Sometimes washing soda can be hard to find locally (you can make your own from baking soda!).  I did manage to find it at a local grocery store, and another local hardware store will have it shipped to the store if you order it online.  I would call ahead. 

Also, this message board thread suggests you call the number for the washing soda (1-800-524-1328), and if you give them the UPC code (33200-03020) and your zip code, they will look up what local stores have sold it recently in your area. I called, and they were able to give me the information.

You can also find it on Amazon, but it costs a little more.

Why did you switch from soap nuts to homemade laundry soap?
I liked using soap nuts, and they did work well.  But I've been really impressed by how great the natural bar soap I've been using works when I've used it to hand wash or pre-treat clothes.

I also already order the bar soap in bulk on Etsy for washing dishes, and I can find the washing soda locally, so it is one less thing I have to order online.  (I could not find soap nuts locally).  So that means less packaging from shipping.


Recycle your strings

Recycele your musical instrument strings | Cellist Goes Green

I was on Facebook, and noticed a post from Plastic Pollution Coalition talking about a program by D'Addario and Terracycle to recycle strings from musical instruments.  The timing was perfect, because I was just about to replace the top two strings on my cello.

You can find a limited number of local events held by music stores here, or D'Addario will send you a free shipping label so you can send them your strings to recycle.  All you need to do is sign up on their website.  Once you're signed in, just click on "recycle" at the top of the page.  You can earn points for sending in strings for recycling, either to use to buy D'Addario strings, or if you don't use that brand, you can use the points to go towards helping school music programs.  If you teach in a school, or if you have a music store, you can also send a request for a collection bin.

I was so excited to find out about this program!  Strings don't last forever (for me, no more than 6 months to a year before they stop responding well), and I've always been stuck throwing them in the trash.  So glad there is finally a solution!


Zero Waste Bloggers Network

I am proud to announce I am now a member of the Zero Waste Bloggers Network!

The Zero Waste Bloggers Network, founded by Inge of GRüNISH, is an organization committed to creating a community for zero waste bloggers, promoting the zero waste movement and raising awareness about environmental issues.  If you are looking to find other zero waste bloggers, or find out more about the zero waste movement, head over to the Zero Waste Bloggers Network site.


Lunch without the waste

Lunch at school or the office doesn't have to be wasteful, and full of disposable plastic packaging.  If you or your child are going back to school soon, or you just want to change up your lunchtime routine at the office, here are some ways to cut out disposable packaging and make sure you have a homemade lunch.

Lunch without the waste: How to reduce disposable packaging, and pack a nutritious lunch everyday | Cellist Goes Green

Pack your own lunch.

If you bring your own lunch, not only are you avoiding the disposable plastic waste from takeout or the cafeteria, you are ensuring you are eating real, nourishing food.  I usually pack myself a salad of quinoa with some veggies, avocado and beans, and throw in a piece of fruit, maybe some almonds.  For me, it's easier if I usually pack the same thing daily, so I don't have to think about it, but there are plenty of ways to add variation to your lunch while sticking to the same basic formula.

Grain: quinoa/brown rice/barley
Bean: chickpeas/black beans/navy beans/pinto beans
Veggies: green peppers/zucchini/cherry tomatoes/carrots/celery
Greens: spinach/kale/chard/romaine
Dressing: apple cider vinegar/EV olive oil with balsamic vinegar and mustard
Extras: avocado/cheese/chia seeds

Plan ahead.

It is no fun scrambling in the morning before work to try to find something to bring for lunch.  I've been there, and what that usually means is getting stuck with just a piece of fruit for lunch, or eating out and getting stuck with packaging you don't want. 

As I said, I like to stick with a similar lunch each day, which makes things easier.  On Sunday evening, I will cook about 3 cups of dried quinoa, which is enough for my husband and I during the week.  I will do the same thing with dried beans or chickpeas--I'll soak a bunch on Saturday night, and cook them on Sunday evening so they're ready for the week.  That way all that's left to do in the morning is cut up a couple of veggies and throw in some greens.

This is really the most important thing, because you can have all of the containers and lunch boxes you like, but they won't do you any good if you don't actually make lunch!

Use glass or stainless steel containers and utensils.

Say no to plastic baggies and take out containers!  It's best to avoid storing and reheating food in plastic, so use a glass or stainless steel container to hold your food instead.  After I broke one of my glass Pyrex containers using it to take my lunch to work, I decided to invest in a stainless steel lunch container.  It works really well, and seems like it will last a long time.  I use a mini one for nuts, and you could also use it for cut up fruit.  I really like that the latches are easy to open--they're definitely easy enough for even a young child to use.  You can bring a spoon or fork from home, or get a set of travel utensils or a stainless steel folding spork.  I also throw in a cloth napkin from home, and I bring my glass water bottle.

We also use wool-insulated lunch bags (they also have an orange one) from Life Without Plastic.  They keep food at the right temperature, and they don't contain any plastic or other harmful materials.  According to a 2012 report, 75% of popular children's back to school items contained phthalates (which have been banned in children's toys since 2008).  One lunchbox from the study contained phthalates "over 29 times the allowable limit."

Take your compost home.

Banana peels, apple cores, and orange peels don't belong in the garbage.  Take them home in your lunch container to put in the compost!  (Unless you are lucky enough to have a school or workplace which composts food waste!)


This post includes affiliate links to Life Without Plastic, a company whose mission and values I fully support.  As always, I recommend trying to buy used or use what you have first, and as a second choice looking for products from a company who makes ethical and sustainable products.


Back to school without the waste

Back to School without the Waste | Cellist Goes Green

I loved back to school shopping as a kid.  There was something about having new pens, and clean paper that made me excited for another school year.

But all of that new stuff creates a lot of waste.

So here are some ideas to cut down on some of the new stuff, and when you can't, some ideas for replacing some of the plastic with natural materials.

Use what you have.

If you are a student: go through your supplies from last year, and find what can be used again.  Do your pens have most of the ink left?  Use them.  Is your binder in good shape?  Use it again.  Did you only use a quarter of that notebook?  Rip out the pages you used, and keep the blank ones.

If you are a parent: go through your child's supplies from last year.  Find what is usable, and present it in a way that makes it fun and cleaned up.  Gather up pens and pencils (make sure pens have ink, and pencils are sharp).  Tear out the used pages from last year's notebooks, and empty out binders.  Tie up everything with a ribbon or some twine. 

If you have kids who are used to a big back to school shopping trip, try replacing it with a fun activity before school starts--a camping trip, roller skating, a trip to an amusement park or the city, anything they would enjoy.

When you need to buy new, try for natural materials.

If you or your child needs something new, try to look for supplies made of natural materials.  That way, when they reach the end of their life, they can be composted.

Instead of plastic binders, many of which are made of PVC, try a binder made of recycled cardboard.
Instead of plastic mechanical pencils, try wooden pencils which are FSC-certified.
Instead of buying a plastic pencil pouch, find one on Etsy.  (I use this one for knitting supplies, and I like this one and this one).
Instead of plastic highlighters, try highlighter pencils.
Instead of plastic backpacks, get a backpack made from natural materials.  Smaller one for younger kids / Larger one for adults or high school students
Use paper bags to make book covers instead of using the ones made of plastic at the store.  Video how-to here.


This post includes affiliate links to Life Without Plastic, a company whose mission and values I fully support.  As always, I recommend trying to buy used or use what you have first, and as a second choice looking for products from a company who makes ethical and sustainable products.


Plastic Free July Day 31

Plastic Free July Day 31: Finding Community | Cellist Goes Green

I have enjoyed sharing my Plastic Free July with you this year!  I hope everyone had a successful and fun month.

For this post, I wanted to talk about finding community online (and off) in the zero waste/plastic-free community.  If you don't live in a major city, sometimes it can be hard to find other plastic-free/zero wasters nearby.

On social media, try searching the following tags:

#plasticfree
#plasticfreejuly
#zerowaste

Bea Johnson of The Zero Waste Home hosts a forum on her website, with sections covering a wide variety of topics.

Search for a local group on Meetup.com.  You can also look for groups under "Community and Environment."

Join a group on Facebook.  You could try Journey to Zero Waste or Zero Waste Heroes.

Find some awesome blogs online:

My Plastic Free Life
Zero Waste Home
The Zero Waste Chef
Paris to Go
Litterless

Treading My Own Path
The Rogue Ginger

Trash is for Tossers
Zero Waste Nerd
Going Zero Waste

 


Plastic Free July Day 30

Plastic Free July Day 30: Storing food without plastic | Cellist Goes Green

Plastic-free food storage doesn't have to be a headache.  Here are some simple ways to get the disposable plastic out of your kitchen.

This post includes affiliate links.

Replace plastic storage containers with mason jars, glass Pyrex, or other glass or stainless steel containers.

Chemicals present in plastic can leach into your food, especially when heated up, so don't feel bad about ditching the plastic takeout containers you have been hoarding.  Mason jars are a great affordable way to store food in the fridge and freezer.  I bought some glass Pyrex containers (with plastic lids) early on in my plastic-free journey that work pretty well, too.  Life Without Plastic also sells some glass storage containers that don't use any plastic in them at all--they are glass with a stainless steel lid.

You don't need plastic wrap or ziploc bags.

Ziploc bags are not the only way to prevent freezer burn, despite what the advertising tells you.  A well-sealed glass container does the job just fine.  I usually freeze food in my Pyrex containers, but if you're using a mason jar, try using a widemouth one, and leave plenty of space at the top.

I really have not missed plastic wrap or plastic storage containers once since I've made the switch--glass containers and jars have worked very well for me.  Glass or stainless is healthier for you and lasts longer (creating less waste).


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 


Plastic Free July Day 29

Plastic Free July Day 29: Liquid Castile Soap in Glass | Cellist Goes Green

I use bar soap to wash my hands in the bathroom, but I still like using liquid hand soap in the kitchen.  I use liquid castile soap diluted with water in a foaming soap pump.  You may be lucky to have liquid castile soap in bulk near you, or if you use a lot of it, you could buy the largest container available to cut down on packaging.  There is one company I have found which sells castile soap in glass bottles.  You can find it here.


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 


Plastic Free July Day 28

Plastic Free July Day 28: Mopping without disposable plastic | Cellist Goes Green

You don't need to get one of those spray mops with the expensive refills to keep your floors clean.  You can get a spray mop that comes with a refillable bottle and reusable pads to mop your floors.

The spray bottle stopped working on the one we purchased, so we just spray the floors with our regular spray bottle, which has a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water, and mop over it.  It works great.  We aren't tied down to any company's refills, we can use our own cleaner (which is much healthier, and fragrance free), and it is just as easy.


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Plastic Free July Day 27

Plastic Free July Day 27: Say no to the drycleaners | Cellist Goes Green

Step away from the dry cleaners.  Here are some ways to avoid dry cleaning's harsh cleaning agents, and all the plastic you get back with your dry cleaning.

Hand wash in cold water.

Your clothes will survive.  I just use a bar of soap, and rinse with cold water.

Wash your knits less.

Wool sweaters don't need to be washed after every use.  Wear a T-shirt or cami under sweaters to keep them clean longer.  Here's how to hand wash woolens.


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Plastic Free July Day 26

Plastic Free July Day 26: The benefits of beeswax candles | Cellist Goes Green

Candles may not be the first thing that come to mind when you think of plastic, but most candles are now made of paraffin wax (which is made from petroleum), and the synthetic fragrances which many contain aren't so good for you.

An awesome alternative is beeswax.  Beeswax candles are not only a more natural option, they may actually purify the air.  You can buy them (I got this one on Etsy), or make your own.  When the candle has reached the end of its life, the beeswax can be composted.


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Plastic Free July Day 25

Plastic Free July Day 25: Homemade dishwasher detergent without plastic | Cellist Goes Green

I had been using a homemade dishwasher detergent that called for citric acid as one of the main ingredients.  Which I didn't love because citric acid only comes in a plastic bag.  (And also because the detergent made my glasses spotty, and my silverware dull).  So I have been on the hunt for another recipe.

This one works much better, and with only 3 ingredients (+water): lemons, salt and vinegar.  You can check out the recipe here.  No more plastic bags of citric acid, hooray!


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Plastic Free July Day 24

Plastic Free July Day 24: Plastic-free makeup options

For everyday makeup, I use two things: a light foundation/concealer (RMS beauty Un-Coverup) and a solid mascara from T.W.I.N.K. beauty on Etsy.  Neither has any plastic packaging, and both use safe ingredients.  RMS has other products, if you are looking for eye or lip color, or you could try your hand at homemade cosmetics.

(If you haven't seen solid mascara before, you wet the brush and rub it over the mascara to get the color on the brush).


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 

Plastic Free July Day 23

Plastic Free July Day 23: Paper-wrapped toilet paper | Cellist Goes Green

Sorry this post is a day late!  My husband and I had a fun day over the weekend seeing some friends and going to a couple of great museums :)  (Sadly, this weekend also came with a plastic straw, even though I asked for none in my drink). 

So you will get two posts today!

This is a pretty no-brainer change: find toilet paper wrapped in paper.  I buy Seventh Generation, because the toilet paper has a minimum 50-percent post-consumer recycled paper content.  It doesn't make sense to be using forests of trees for something like this!

I get mine locally, but if you would rather, Amazon does carry a 60-roll box that supposedly ships plastic free (look at the Q&A on the product page). 


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 


Plastic Free July Day 22

Plastic Free July Day 22: Use handkerchiefs! | Cellist Goes Green

We have been using hankies in place of tissues since my first Plastic Free July.  Tissue boxes generally all have some plastic wrapping, whether it be around the whole box or inside the top. 

By using reusable handkerchiefs instead, you are not only preventing plastic waste, you are preventing lots of paper waste.  My husband went through so many tissues before we made the switch, I used to joke he killed a forest of trees in tissues.  And handkerchiefs are so much easier on your nose, they really do a better job than tissues.

We got our hankies here, and we keep them in a little basket I found at Goodwill.


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing. 


Plastic Free July Day 21

Plastic Free July Day 21  | Cellist Goes Green

Our area doesn't have all of the bulk/local options I would like.  We have no bulk olive oil or vinegar options.  Which is frustrating, because I know there are places where I could reduce my packaging use (both plastic and not), but those options are simply not available where I live.

I have contacted the bulk stores near me, expressing interest in bulk olive oil and vinegar, in hopes maybe someday they will decide to carry them.  On suggestion from an Instagram comment, I have also reached out to a couple of raw honey producers I get honey from to see if they would take my jar back for reuse, but was told they wouldn't do that for local health code reasons.

I will keep trying.  I think it is important to show businesses and small producers there is an interest in bulk products.  If enough people ask for food with less packaging, eventually change will happen.


If you aren't familiar with Plastic Free July, take a look at this post.  Basically, it's a month-long challenge to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use.  It's a great starting point if you just want to give cutting out disposable plastic a try.
 
My first Plastic Free July was in 2013(!), and this month I'd like to highlight some of the things I do to reduce my plastic use, and some struggles.  Many things are part of my routine at this point (buying in bulk, refusing plastic silverware, etc.), but I am not perfect, and I always find this challenge to be a good time to refocus and look at what trash I am actually producing.