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.

Up cycled poof

Poof from upcycled jeans

I wanted something to put my feet up when sitting on the sofa. Instead of running to the store, I browsed Pinterest for something that I could do myself with what I already had. I found this tutorial, and with a bit of help from P., I made this poof out of old jeans and stuffed it with old fabric scraps. I’m pretty happy with the result.

Zero waste breakfast

Zero waste breakfast for the weekThree years ago I started having variations around yogurt and oat inspired by the ‘Budwig cream’ for breakfast because it seemed to agree well with some minor health problems I had at the time. My health problem seems to have been resolved, but this is also a great zero waste breakfast. I can find oat and seeds in bulk and local yogurt in glass jars. Now I only have the full version during weekends and holidays, because it takes too much time to prepare for working days. For the week, I prepare a reduced version with only yogurt, oat, and seeds. In a small jar, I put 4 ts of oat, 1 ts of seeds (sesame, pumpkin, …), 4 ts of yogurt. When I have time, I prepare apple compote (I put 4-5 apples with 1 glass of water in my low temperature cooker), otherwise I put 1 ts of honey. I try to prepare them for the whole week during the weekend to be able to sleep 5 min longer. As a bonus, the yogurt makes the oat soften from being prepared in advance and it is even more delicious.

Zero waste bathroom up date

Zero waste bathroom progress

One year ago I was telling you about my zero waste progress in the bathroom. At the time, I had this grand vision that after one year I would have finished up every cosmetic I previously owned, and replaced only the ones I really needed with DIY recipes. The reality is very different, as finishing up my stash is rather slow. To date, I have only finished about 20 % of it. Reviewing my objective from last year:

  1. Soap. We finished all the shower gels and use bar soap for hands and body, but I still have liquid face soap that needs finishing.
  2. Shampoo. Despite finishing quite a few bottles, I still have a full bottle of shampoo that could very well last between 6 months to a year.
  3. Toothpaste. We finished the ones we had, but I don’t feel comfortable doing my own at the moment. I bought a refillable toothpaste from a zero waste online shop which is very convenient for travel, but I don’t like it enough to make it my everyday toothpaste. So for the moment we buy toothpaste tubes at the organic shop.
  4. Deodorant. I am still nowhere near finished with what I had. Since I could not find the one I liked in the UK, I made way too much stock.
  5. Moisturiser. Still going through my collection of samples. Since I don’t use moisturiser very often, except for my hands in winter, this could take a while.
  6. Lipbalm. Again, because I only put some every now and then when my lips feel too dry, they will take a long time to finish.
  7. Sun screen. Like for the toothpaste, I don’t feel comfortable experimenting with sunscreen. I am still looking for a more sustainable alternative to the one I buy in the pharmacy.

Then there are all the beauty things I rarely use like nailplolish and make-up that will probably take me a lifetime to finish, but that’s OK. Even if I might not get the minimal bathroom cabinet I’d like for a while, it is good to make what I have last.

Buying at local shops

We have bought very few new things since we move to Spain two years ago. I could probably make a list from memory. But they are things we really are missing and we are trying to catch up on this slowly. For example, we didn’t have enough light in the living room, so for Christmas, instead of buying each other gifts that might never really get used, we decided to buy a lamp together. At first, I was half of the mind to go to Ikea and get the type I wanted for 20 € together with a few other things we need. But 1) I didn’t feel like giving my money to a multinational, 2) 20 € sounded too cheap to be good quality, 3) we had to drive 45 min to get there. Instead we decided to see if we could find something in the city. We had a first round of the lighting shops within walking distance, which made a nice excuse for a long Saturday walk in a sunny day. Once we had a few options, we went home and thought about it a few days until we agreed on the best option. The final option was much more expensive than the Ikea option, but it was a Christmas gift after all. The guy at the shop was really nice and knew his stuff. The shop is 10 min walking for home, so it is really easy to pop back if we have a problem. Although buying something new inevitably has an environmental impact, it feels nice to keep alive the small shops of the city centre.

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

Advertisements

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.

Other over-represented pieces of trash were bottle caps and lollipop sticks. Trash picking project for another day? In the summer, it is easy to forget about sea plastic pollution, as the beach is cleaned every night to be pretty for the tourists in the morning, but in winter plastic trash washes up the shore to remind us how much plastic the sea contains.

Bouquet of straws picked up on the beach

Straw is a tricky one in the plastic disposable list of things to avoid, because by the time you realise you drink is coming with a straw it is too late. Avoiding them takes a bit of practice and I confess I am not always the best at it.

4 tips to avoid/reduce plastic straws use

  1. If you really want a straw, you can buy paper straws or, even better, stainless steel or glass reusable straws.
  2. When you go to your favourite place and you know the drink comes with a straw, ask them not to put one.
  3. If you don’t know the place, look around to see if other consumers have straws.
  4. If you are comfortable enough (i.e. not struggling with the language), you can explain to the waiter why you don’t like straws. This is the first step to get bars to stop putting straws in their drinks by default.

What are your tips to avoid straws? Let me know in the comments.

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.

6 months of trash later

 

At the moment, we take the trash out every 6 months, except for the compost that needs to be emptied regularly. Above is all we took out this October. Since the last round (thank you to all the people that shared this post on Facebook and Pinterest and made it the most-read post of the blog!), our volumes of recycling have increased. We end up with slightly more plastic since we had to relax the pressure. But mostly, we are getting out of space to keep glass jars and it doesn’t make sense to keep them all anyway. Also doing a bit of research during plastic free July, I realised that in San Sebastian most of the plastic packaging actually goes into the recycling bin. So the residual trash went down while the recycling went up, although I have mixed feeling about this. Either way this shows that it is really important to look at the local recycling rules that are all a bit different and evolving. I have now pined the recycling leaflet inside the kitchen cupboard to have it at hand when I have a doubt.

Knitted dishcloth

Dishcloth

Supermarket sponges are not incredibly sustainable. They disintegrate quite fast with small pieces of synthetic material ending up in the water and they need to be thrown away every 6 months or so because they become too nasty. I knitted a few dishcloth with leftover yarn (Link to pattern which I got from the Zero Waste Chef). I have been using the first one for over a year, and it is great to clean the surfaces in the kitchen. I recently made a few more to be able to put them through the washing-machine more often. I am not quite there yet, but in the long run, I hope to get completely rid of synthetic sponge.

Update on store-bought socks patching

Socks mending

Since my post on Mending socks : darning vs patching, I slowly kept patching my socks. Now 12 out of the 14 pairs in my rotation would now be in the trash if I didn’t fix them. And I actually like to sew a few stitches in bed at night just before sleeping. After one year the first pairs I patched are still going strong, although some of the older ones start to wear thin on the sole and this is where I decided to draw the line. Let’s see if I find a sustainable source of socks before their lifetime is over.

Pyjama refitting

Pyjama refitting

I did a bit of refitting on old pyjamas. The fabric was crappy and stretched a lot to the point it was getting uncomfortable and I was seriously considering throwing it away. But I realised that the thing that was really bothering me was that the sleeves were not holding when I was trying to roll them up. I used the elastic from a mask I kept as a souvenir, but didn’t remember where I got it from, to narrow the sleeves.  It is ready to go back in my wardrobe. The good thing about starting with mending/refitting PJs and socks is that it doesn’t matter if the result is not perfect, and in the meantime, I am building my skills for when I need to fix my favourite clothes.

Crumbs to cheesecake

Cheesecake from crumbs

Did you ever carry around a pack of biscuits in case someone got hungry, but end up with a bunch of uneaten crumbs? It used to happen to me all the time, less now that I try to avoid buying biscuits, but still. Here is an idea of how to still enjoy those leftover biscuits: finish reducing them to crumbs and cook them in the pan with a bit of butter. Put at the bottom of a ramekin. Mix yogurt with a bit of lemon and sugar and add on top of the crumbs. Leave in the fridge for a little while. Enjoy.

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.

Eco amigurumi giraffe

Amigurumi giraffe with recycled stuffing

I used my baby niece’s birth as an excuse to make this cute crochet giraffe I saw on Pinterest. I used organic cotton yarn for crocheting and fabric scraps for the stuffing. I am not sure I will be able to keep up with homemade gifts for all Christmas and birthdays, but at least we (I got a lot of moral support from P.) welcomed her in the world in an eco-friendly way.

Jacket upcycle

Jacket up cycle

I bought this jacket in high school with a voucher my uncle gave me for my birthday and it got a lot of use, so much that the shoulders started falling apart and I was ready to send it to rag collection. But looking at old pictures, I remember how I liked the cut and decided to save it. After reinforcing the parts of the shoulders that needed it, I used an also much loved T-shirt to cover the worn parts. As a bonus, it now has a touch of colour.

Online zero waste shopping

Zero waste online shopping

Until now, I had refrained from buying zero waste accessories, but I made an exception for P.’s birthday. This summer, we lost one of our two bottles of water, so I got him a eco-responsible replacement. I also realised during Plastic Free July that we could not completely get rid of straws, but we now have inox reusable straws to take with us to the cinema. While I was at it, I also order zero waste deodorant and toothpaste. I will let you know how I like them once I’ve had a bit more time to make my mind about them.

I normally don’t like to shop online. One of the reasons is that it normally generate a lot of packaging that I don’t know what to do with, but I was positively impressed by the parcel I received from Sin Plastico. The packaging was kept to the bare minimum and all of it was recycled, recyclable or biodegradable. The brown paper used to wedge the order was immediately recycled as gift wrapping. While I wait for eco-friendly items to be more wildly available in physical shops, I will be happy to order there or in other online plastic free shops again (with moderation).

 

Egg-free cookies

Egg free cookies

At work, it is customary to bring something on your birthday and I had everything to make cookies, but eggs. I had read that eggs can be replaced with chickpea cooking water (aquafaba) and I just happened to have a jar of them in my cupboard, so I gave it a go. I followed this recipe replacing the egg by 3 spoons of chickpeas brine, and I got a lot of compliments for them. It worked so well, I also replaced the egg by aquafaba in my sour milk pancake recipe and the pancakes were even fluffier than usual (although that might be because the milk was older than usual because of the holidays).

(Almost) zero waste travel toiletry

Zero waste travel toiletry

As I try to simplify what I have in the bathroom, I set to finish all the samples I have collected over the years and that I was keeping for who knows what. It is going much slower than I expected, but I finally finished the  shampoo and shower gel ones. When I travel, I now have a small soap for hand and body and I am refilling one of the hotel shampoo bottle from one of the big shampoo bottles I have left. Like this when I get to a hotel, I can leave the sample untouched for the next guest. My new deodorant and toothpaste should also be great for traveling.

SaveSaveSaveSave

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.

5 lessons learned after one year of zero waste

The beginning of this month marked the one-year anniversary of our move to Spain and the genuine start of our new zero waste lifestyle. I carried a trash audit 6 months in and did the same last week as we took the different recycling bins out. Except an increase in glass recycling due to the fact that the ’empty jar’ cupboard is now full, there are not major changes to report, so I will spare you the detailed inventory. Instead I wanted to share a few lessons I have learned in my first year of zero waste. I hope they can help beginners and less beginners to feel more confident in their waste reduction journey.

5 lessons learned in one year of zero waste

Focus on baby steps

When I first came across Zero Waste, I got over excited and though that once I really got started I would fit one year of trash in a mason jar. ZW was making the synthesis of a lot of ideas I had regarding what my lifestyle should be and I was excited to have a framework to put all those ideas into action. Because ZW touches all the little aspects of life, it was quite overwhelming at first as most of the things I considered routine needed to be reevaluated. The key is to focus on one or two little things at a time and find a new system for them. Once a new and better habit has been taken, then it is time to move on to the next thing. After one year, I still haven’t covered all the areas I wanted to when I started the journey, but I have a much more sustainable life style already.

Take your time to get rid of things the right way

It would be hard to live a zero waste life without looking into minimalism or simple living. Quite early on in my ‘zero waste observation’ phase, I realised that I had too much stuff. I got so relieved by the realisation that getting rid of the excess would make my life more breathable that I couldn’t wait to start decluttering. Now I wish I had taken more time and thought in this process. Beyond a couple of things that I was too quick to discard, I now realise that giving so many things to charity was not the best zero waste course of action. I got rushed by the move to give away things that would probably end up in landfill, when I now know ofbetter ways to give a second chance to those items (free cycle, FB give away groups…). We now have an area in the entrance where I put things to give away, letting myself the time to change my mind and waiting to find them a new owner.

Wait until buying zero waste gears

5 lessons learned after one year of zero waste
A few of the things I use every day to reduce my waste and that I owned before starting zero waste.

There is a certain aesthetic presented on social media around the zero waste movement. I confess to having been very close to buying a Klean Kanteen as I read several articles that were convincingly explaining that it had all the characteristics of the best reusable waster bottle. The truth is I already had several water bottles and although they were less ideal, they would do the job just fine for quite a few more years. If I didn’t buy a new water bottle, I bought a glass lunch box as I wanted to move away from all things plastic when it came to food. I now prefer to use the glass jars I buy my yogurt in as they are less heavy and could have spared the purchase. We all already have a lot of stuff that can be used or transformed to reduce waste at home. The only other things I bought new are my menstrual cup and recently menstrual pad. I might buy other zero waste gears in the future, but I will have taken the time to make sure I really needed them.

Enjoy the empowerment of the little things

Some people might say that zero waste is only a drop in the ocean and it will never make a real difference. I have a lot of reasons to disagree with this (the Zero Waste Chef compiled a great list of arguments to answer the common critics against zero waste). The main reason I think zero waste makes a difference (at least in my life) is that it guides me to make purchase decisions based on what I want society to be like. It broke me free from buying what is cheapest or what advertisements managed to make me think I wanted. I feel I have more control over my life and know more about what I consume. This is probably the most satisfying part. More so than the actual waste reduction.

Don’t try to be perfect

There are only so many hours in a day and at some point it is important to let go to keep the motivation going on the long run. There will be trial and error before finding a new habit and this same habit might need to be reconsidered a few months down the road because the situation has changed. There will be progress and then set backs, moments when you are caught unprepared, important items that are not available unpackaged. It took me a bit of time to accept that I didn’t need to beat myself up every time I couldn’t avoid producing waste. In the same way it is important to approach zero waste in incremental steps, it is important to accept that we don’t live in a context where it is possible to reach the zero of zero waste. Zero waste is about taking better decisions for a simpler life and the future of humanity.

Save

Zero waste progress #1

Zero waste is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo that threatens our future on this planet. I can never find enough time in the month to write a full post about all the little things I do to make my life simpler and more sustainable, so I would like to try a new post format inspired by the simple things series for the beauty is simple. Here are 5 little things that brought me closer to my zero waste goals this month.

New produce bagsBulk drawstring bags

In preparation for potentially having to live apart from my boyfriend for a while, I sewed a few more produce bags so that we can both have enough of them to keep the amount of packaging we send to landfill low. I used my experience with the ones I have been using for a while to come up with a more convenient design for the bulk aisle (I’m hoping to post a tutorial for them soon).

Make it do with a bad purchase
Water bottle up cycle

A few years back I bought a ‘Bobble’ water bottle to be able to filter water on the go. What a bad purchase! With each change of filter, so much plastic had to go to waste that I only changed the filter once and stopped using the bottle. Since I didn’t want to throw the whole bottle away, I used a box cutter to remove the filter part and now we can use it as a simple water bottle.

Phone case from up-cycled materialsPhone case from up cycled materials

For Christmas, I offered P. to make a case for his new-to-him second-hand phone and I finally finished it this month. It is made entirely from materials that had a previous life. The fabric, button and elastic came from the pile of material I save for craft projects and the padding was some wrapping new screens came in at work. It is actually its third life as it was used to protect things when we moved last year. The design is adapted from this tutorial.

No food waste recipe: ‘Pain perdu’

Stale bread into french toast

We don’t eat much bread, so it is not uncommon that we don’t manage to finish the one we buy before it gets stale. This is not a reason to throw it away. Even weeks after, we make French toast with our hard bread. I love that in French it is called ‘Pain perdu’ i.e. lost bread. Recipe: Mix 1 egg, 10 cl milk and 25 g. Cut the stale bread in slices and deep them for about 30 seconds in the mix. Put in an oven dish and bake until golden.

Reusable pads

Reusable periode pads

As I mentioned before, my zero waste focus of the year is the bathroom. After successfully switching to a menstrual cup, I was still finishing up my disposable pad stock to deal with leaks at the beginning of the cycle. I finally invested in re-useable pads. I am looking forward for my first truly zero waste cycle.

***

How about you? I’d love to hear what little acts of resistance you carried out this month.

3 eco-friendly alternatives to google search

We all use search engines every day, without really thinking about it. Most of us would use google because they keep implementing convenient functionalities, but behind the scenes they are selling our data to advertisers that are trying to sell us things we don’t need.

What if there was a way to make internet searches while protecting our privacy and making a positive contribution for the planet ? I have tested three alternatives to google search that aim at protecting the user’s privacy and contribute to something bigger.

eco-friendly-search-engins

DuckDuckGo: it’s all about privacy

DuckDuckGo - A privacy oriented alternative to google search

When I started worrying about my privacy on the internet, I first came across DuckDuckGo.  This search engine is not eco-friendly per se, but it has a very high commitment on its users’ privacy: from not tracking users’ data to showing the same content to every user for the same search. For that purpose, it has developed its own search algorithm. It used not to have sponsored content, but added some to keep the project alive. However it is possible to opt out in the settings. If you use Safari or Firefox to surf the web, you can choose it as your default search engine.

I tried DuckDuckGo in its early days but came back to google pretty fast as I was not very satisfied by the search results. I tried it again last year and it has improved a lot, but it would still fall short when I would look for a combination of more than two ideas. I was finishing writing my thesis at the time and ended up having to use google for at least one third of my searches, which was not very convenient.

Lilo: support community projects

Lilo - Collect drops with every search and support environmental and social project

I still had in mind that I wanted to find an alternative to google search, so when one of my friends shared a post about Lilo on Facebook, I did a bit of research and set up to try it. The concept behind this search engine is to divert the ad revenue generated by our internet searches to  finance positive changes. Lilo redistributes 50% of their revenue to support environmental and social projects. For each search you make, you earn a drop of water. You can then choose to support the projects you like in a list of partner projects.

It works with the google search algorithm while protecting its users’ privacy (it doesn’t save personal data and protects you from web and advertisement tracking, but some basic info have to be passed on to google) so you don’t have to compromise on the search result quality.

Then there is the problem of the energy search engines consume. The internet gives this sense that things are dematerialised and it is easy to forget that behind each search there is an impact on the real word. Lilo offsets the carbon emission of its searches. This is also true for google, which uses 56% renewable energy and finance carbon reduction projects to offset the rest (see this Greenpeace report to know more about the green efforts of the giants of the internet).

I have been using Lilo since the beginning of the year and I am very happy with it. I only switched back to google for a couple of tricky IT questions that were hyper specific. To use it by default, you have to install a plugin on your browser. If you don’t like plugins, you can bookmark search.lilo.org. I like to see the drops accumulate through the month (I try to give my drops at the end of each month). It helps me realise how many searches I make and it is super nice to choose a project and give the drops away.

Ecosia: let’s plant trees

Ecosia - The search engin that uses its revenu to plant trees

Ecosia works in a similar way as Lilo, using Yahoo and Bing’s algorithm and giving away 80% of its ad revenue to a reforestation plan. You also need to install a plugin to use it. It is not completely clear to me where Ecosia stand in terms of the energy. I read here (have a look at the article if you want a more detailed comparison of Ecosia and Google search) that Bing and Yahoo are carbon neutral although Greenpeace ranks them lower than Google on green internet leadership. I didn’t find out if Ecosia does anything specific about their own energy use, but I guess since they contribute to planting so many trees they must offset the extra energy anyway.

As for privacy,  Ecosia don’t store permanently any personal data, but need to send some of them to Bing. Having read privacy policy of both Lilo and Ecosia, I would say Lilo is slightly better on that front, but if privacy is your main concern nothing beats DuckDuckGo.

I tried it for a few weeks and didn’t find a significant difference with Lilo in terms of the quality of the search results. As with Lilo, you can keep track of how many searches you make in the form of a counter telling you the number of trees you helped plant. Since you don’t have to choose which project to support, it doesn’t require any extra work to contribute to planting trees once you have started to use it. Although I like the idea that I can choose what kind of project I support.

***

In conclusion, my current favourite search engine is Lilo, but that might just be a bit of chauvinism as the founders of the project are French 🙂  What about you ? Are you ready to try something different for your internet searches ?

No food waste recipe: Sour milk pancakes

Skip to the recipe

A while ago, I was telling you about our zero waste milk routine and how, as a result, we ended up having to deal with sour milk from time to time. After a few more tries, I have perfected (or rather simplified) the recipe of my sour milk pancakes and I wanted to share it with you. Since the sour milk was supposed to make the dough raise, I didn’t see why I also needed to put baking powder and baking soda. So I tried without it. Although the result is more a thick crepe than a pancake, it is super nice and I don’t see why I would need the extra ingredients.

pancake.png

In the meantime, I also tried to make ricotta like cheese. I basically warmed the sour milk until it made curds and filtered it with a clean piece of cloth. It was quite fun, and the best part is that the whey can be frozen (I don’t have energy to make the dough straight after making the cheese) and used to make the pancake recipe later. The result is softer and sweeter than with the sour milk. Since neither of us is a huge fan of the resulting cheese, I would need to use it in a recipe to be worth the extra work, but last night we tried spinach and ricotta lasagna and this could be a good use for it in the future.

IMG_0463


Sour milk pancakes

Ingredients

For each cup of sour milk or whey (makes about 10 pancakes):

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 tea spoon of sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients in this order. Let the dough rise between 1 hour and one night. The dough is ready to make pancakes.