Zero waste progress #6

The zero waste journey is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo in everyday life. This series of post is about those little steps I take every day to make my life simpler and more sustainable.

It has been a while since the last zero waste progress post and a lot has happened since, but here are a few of the things that I have done on my journey to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Open an ethical bank account

After 8 years of relationship, we finally opened a joint account. Because the banking system and finance have a big impact on the planet, we chose to do so in an ethical bank. It works just like a normal bank, but our money is used to finance social and environmental projects which might not get financed looking solely at the economical aspect. If you are interested to make the change and you live in Spain, the UK, Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands, you can check Triodos. We have been with them for more than two years now and are happy with the service. If you live in France, you can check Crédit Cooperatif. And otherwise a good old “ethical bank in + [name of your country]” web search should do the trick to find a sustainable bank near you.

Continue reading “Zero waste progress #6”

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

Are you new to blogging, and do you want step-by-step guidance on how to publish and grow your blog? Learn more about our new Blogging for Beginners course and get 50% off through December 10th.

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

5 lessons learned after 4 years of simple wardrobe

Of all the changes I made in the past 4 years, my simple wardrobe is the one that has simplified my life the most. Because I have fewer things in front of me, it is easier to choose what to wear in the morning. I know better what goes with what. In the process, I refitted quite a few pieces that were too big and I hadn’t really noticed before, and I got rid of clothes that I realised were uncomfortable.

You can find a lot of posts on how to have a more sustainable wardrobe. But although they are interesting guidelines, I find it is impossible to follow them 100%. At the beginning, it can be intimidating and at times I felt overwhelmed by the impossibility to be perfect. Following my post about the lessons learned in my first year of zero waste, I wanted to share with you the lessons I learned when trying to build a more sustainable wardrobe.

Continue reading “5 lessons learned after 4 years of simple wardrobe”

How to shorten tank tops straps

I wouldn’t blame you for wondering if this blog is still alive since this is the first post of 2020. I do too! What can I say, sitting down in front of the computer in the weekend feels a bit too much like work. This is not to say that I don’t keep up with my experiments to be more environmentally friendly. This year, like with everything else, it has been a bit more difficult to keep up with the low plastic diet, but I made my own shampoo, sew some reusable masks, took care of our urban garden and other small things with big impact.

Being so much time at home, has given me time to work on my sewing skills. I also went to a few classes (with masks and social distancing). Until now I had mostly used recuperated fabric to make little objects or worked on pyjamas and underwear. I now feel more confident to put my clothes under the needle, as my objective with sewing was always to be able to extend the life of my clothes by making them fit better and ultimately make my own so that I can have a sustainable minimal closet that really fits me.

Continue reading “How to shorten tank tops straps”

Green objectives for the new year

I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, however I think new year is a good moment to set some achievable objectives for the coming year. A year only has 365 days, and it is a good way to not get caught up in routine and finish the year depressed because you haven’t achieved anything. This year, my green objective is to focus on eating local.

Garlic
With a bit of luck, we will eat very local garlic this spring

If you wish to be more green this year, you can scroll through the list below for inspiration. FYI I still have to do/master much of those. The good news is that you need only 30 days to create a new habit, so you could even pick one for each month of the year. Just don’t try and start too many at the same time, as you might get discouraged.

Continue reading “Green objectives for the new year”

Zero waste progress #5

In addition to lack of time, I have been less inspired to write lately. I realised that it is because I reached a plateau in my eco-living route. I am trying less new things because for most things I have reached an acceptable compromise between the time/resources I have and the environment. I still have a lot to figure out, but it is not on the menu at the moment either because I am still using up things I previously own or it requires a big-time investment to do better. New things and tips are what make me excited to write, but there is possibly more value in sharing longer running habits, as my reflexion on them is more mature.

Unpaper towel

Cleaning rags

One of the first things we stopped buying was kitchen paper. We used it as napkins and for cleaning. To replace kitchen paper and paper napkins, my mum gave me tissue napkins she was not using.  For cleaning, we replaced the kitchen paper by a bunch of rags from old t-shirts and bed sheets. They can be used to clean surfaces, remove dust or dry out accidental spells. After use, either I let them dry until the next laundry or I put them directly at the bottom of the washing machine. Like this they get washed without even having to think about it. For those who worry about the increased water use, we are not doing more laundry now than before and remember that it requires about 15 litres of water to make a sheet of paper.

Continue reading “Zero waste progress #5”

International straw-free day

Yesterday (3rd February) was international straw-free day, encouraging people to say no to plastic straws. These colourful plastic tubes might seem harmless and fun, but they are among the most frequent trash found in the sea. So the question is: do we really need a straw to enjoy a drink? Today, taking advantage of a short moment of sunshine, we had a walk on Zurriola, one of the three beaches of San Sebastian. In my first two steps, I run into a straw. Just when I came back from putting that one in the trash can, I found a second one. I then decided to see how many straws I would find and came up with a little bouquet. A lot of them are actually from fruit juice bricks.

Continue reading “International straw-free day”

Zero waste progress #4

The zero waste journey is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo in everyday life. This series of post is about those little steps I take every day to make my life simpler and more sustainable.

Getting more and more involved at work and having travelled quite a bit in the weekend, I have more and more trouble to find time to dedicate to the blog and to zero waste in general. I am trying not to let the fact that I am busy affect my commitment to sustainable living, but I have to admit, I have had a few setbacks since September, the biggest one being having to get a car for work. But the fact that I had to lighten some of the constraints doesn’t mean I gave up. It is not about being perfect, but about doing what I can.

Continue reading “Zero waste progress #4”

Zero waste progress #3

The zero waste journey is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo in everyday life. This series of post is about those little steps I take every day to make my life simpler and more sustainable.

With the new job and the summer I have had even less time than expected to dedicate to this blog. I was even tempted to stop writing altogether, but then P. reminded me why I started it in the first place: to keep moving forward toward a mindful way of life. Being busier, I will need this space more than ever not to let convenience get in the way of my convictions.

Continue reading “Zero waste progress #3”

Zero waste progress #2

The zero waste journey is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo in everyday life. This series of post is about those little steps I take every month to make my life simpler and more sustainable.

The last couple of months has been busy with PhD graduation, job interviews and starting a new job. Being now working full time might slow down my zero waste progress, although I will keep going. It also means that I will have less time to work on this blog. It has been a great tool to fuel my reflection and my actions about sustainability for the past year and although I might become more quiet, I am not planning to give this space up yet.

Simple wardrobe refactor

Clothes donated to compensate for buying job interview outfit

This month I have finally switched to my spring-summer wardrobe, with a bit of delay due to all the crazy travelling for graduation, job interviews and else. This was much needed, as with time passing, I had taken clothes I needed for specific occasions out of storage without putting them back. I also had to buy some new clothes to look sharp in my job interviews. All in all, my wardrobe was back to crowded and I had to fight with it every morning. I decided I would give away at least two items for every new one that made it to my wardrobe until I no longer have extra clothes. I have been donating quite a bit of clothes in the past few years, so it is getting more difficult to find things to give away. All the clothes I have left are pieces I like and that fit me. So I try to focus on giving the ones that I know I will never wear because I have other similar pieces that I like much more and I managed to give one more full bag of clothes that way. To be continued.

Fountain pen

Zero waste writing - refillable fountain pen

I used to buy those ink pens that you have to throw away once the ink runs out, but now that my stash ran out, I have dug out my high school fountain pen. I still have a few cartridges to go with it, but when they are over, I will switch to a refillable cartridge as this is the most sustainable option. When I get there, I might write in violet for a while as I happened to have a full bottle of it.

Handkerchiefs

Handkerchiefs in the entrance to remember taking one when I leave

I bought a set of second hand handkerchiefs at a flea market last summer. It turned out 10 of them was not completely enough. I would often run out while they waited to be washed. In the meantime, my dad rediscovered the stash his parents got him and gave them to me. Now with 20 of them, the rotation works quite well. The only problem was that I would regularly forget to take a clean one with me, so I have put a few in the entrance basket where I put my keys. It is not 100% fail proof, but helps me to check if I have one with me before I leave.

Doing without … a printer

We left our printer in London, and although we thought about buying one several times, we finally decided we would not need one. We can copy, scan and print for 0.15€ a page in the corner shop. Not having the printer at home and paying per use means we think twice before printing something and we try to look for alternatives. I have been using eTickets more and more, for example. This makes sense economically (we will have to make a lot of copies before paying more than printer + paper + ink) and environmentally (one ‘community printer’ will generate less waste than a lot of individual and cheaply made ones).

Fix it and make it last … umbrella

Fixing an umbralla with rubber bands

I have never been a great fan of umbrellas, maybe because there is always too much wind to use them in my home town, but somehow in San Sebastian it is hard to do without one. I have this umbrella that I miraculously found in a London bus a day of rain I was totally under-equipped for. The canopy was off at the end of one of the ribs, but it did the job that day and many other days. Recently the canopy went off a second rib and I was starting to consider getting a new one. But then I started thinking about how to fix it and I came up with a quick solution: use rubber bands (they had been salvaged from bunches of parsley or something like that) to tie both parts back together. This will not last forever, but the fix took 10 min and saved me the hassle of looking for an umbrella that is small enough to fit in my bag and resistant enough to last me for years. And the day this umbrella finally gives up, I’m planning to use the canopy to make a waterproof reusable shopping bag.

***

This July, I will take part in Plastic Free July, an Australian initiative to raise awareness about the plastic pollution our current lifestyle leads to and encourage refusing single use plastic during a month. Since I started my zero waste journey, I have cut single use plastic tremendously, but there is still room for improvement and this challenge is a great way to pin point what they are. Follow me on Facebook to see how I am doing.

It is really easy to join, even if you are a complete beginner with waste reduction. At www.plasticfreejuly.org, you can pledge to join for a day, a week or any part of the month you like and if you don’t feel up to looking at all your plastic usage yet, you can start with the ugly 4: single-use bags, water bottles, straws, and single-use to go cups.

What will you do this July to reduce your single-use plastic consumption?

How to sew the perfect bulk aisle produce bag

Shopping in the bulk aisle is a great way to reduce waste. Of course there is still the big bag the bulk food came in before being put in the bulk bin, but it sill uses less packaging and we could imagine that with the push for circular economy, they could actually be delivered in reusable containers as well. The most accessible option to buy bulk is to reuse the paper bags from the shop until they need to go to the compost, but fabric produce bags are much more convenient, both to fill at the shop and to transfer in glass containers at home.

How to sew the perfect bulk aisle produce bag

Produce bags can be bought, but they are easy to make with basic sewing skills. It took a  few trial and error to make a produce bag that is convenient for bulk groceries. I originally made a few by cutting in 4 an old pillow case, sewing on 2 of the open sides and putting a casing for a string on the fourth side or using the pillow case slap to close. Those bags work well for fruit and vegetable, but are not completely convenient for cereals and other small stuff:

  • They don’t close very well so things like rice spread in the bag.
  • Some grains stay stuck in the seams and I end up spilling them everywhere while transferring in the glass jar.
  • Fabric of the seam was frying despite the (bad) zigzag stitch and fibres would end up mixed in the food from time to time.

Since my sewing skills have improved a bit, I came up with a few tricks to solve those problems. It is a bit more difficult to make, but even if they didn’t come out as neat as I would have liked, they are much more convenient to use.

Tutorial: Drawstring bag for the bulk aisle

1 – Cutting the fabric

I made two sizes of bags based on the ones of the paper bags from my organic shop: 15 x 25 cm, and 20 x 35 cm, but you can use the size you want. The small one is nice for stuff like rice and the big one for stuff like pasta.

In a light and ironed fabric, cut a rectangle of:

(width + 4 cm) x (2*length + 6 cm)

In my case, 19 x 56 cm for the small bag and 24 x 76 cm for the big bag.

2 – Double-turn hemming the long sides

Perfect drawstring bags for the bulk aisle

Fold 2 cm on the long sides of the rectangle (up on the photo). Press and then fold the seam in two towards the inside of the seam (down on the photo). Press. You now have a 1 cm seam and all the loose ends inside.

If your fabric has a right side, it should be up while doing this. All the seams will be on the outside to avoid the food to stay stuck.

Sew as close as possible from the edge.

3 – The casing

Fold 1 cm on the small sides of the rectangle. Press and fold another 2 cm. Again the right side is up. Pin, press and sew along the edge of the casing.

4 – Side seams

Perfect drawstring bag for the bulk aisle

Fold the rectangle in two, right side inside. Press from the top for the two casings to align as well as possible. Starting just above the casing stitch (the casing stitch needs to be covered, but not much of the casing opening obstructed), sew as close as possible from the previous seam on both sides. It is important to start from the casing side and not the bottom of the bag as this will hide small dimension mistakes.

5 – Strings

For the stings, I use some yarn I had, because it is very light, but you can use any sting you have lying around. Eyeball the length for it to be just a bit longer on each side when folded in two. Using a safety pin, put 2 pieces of string through both sides of the casing. Tie the end of each string on a different side. This will enable to tie the two pieces together to close the bag well and prevent grains to escape during transport.

Have fun making your own bulk aisle produce bags. If you have any doubts on the instructions, feel free to ask in the comments.