Birthday Presents and Zero Waste?

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less-waste-birthday-present-ecologic-sustainable

Birthday presents and zero waste lifestyle?

How do you do that?

Well to be honest its one of the hardest aspect of trying to live in a more sustainable way. You see, you can control what you buy in the daily routines of managing a household but can you really control what others give you?

My friends and family know that we are trying to live by making less trash but even so they won’t give up the oportunity to get that one gift the kids might like. It’s hard picking out toys that are sustainable and aren’t made of plastic and it doesn’t help they are also a lot more expensive. So how do you balance it out? Well the way we manage is to look out for gifts that are the most durable. Wooden toys are a great option in my opinion, fabric plush toys too. Everything that keeps your kids away from that nasty cheap plastic is always the best option. But these are what we as parents get and our kids know why.

This year this birthday present has the possibility of lasting a lifetime or more. We bought a contructable ride that has several contruction models. Not only is it a great durable and sustainable toy but it also develops technical skills so valuable in the future.

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less-waste-birthday-present-ecologic-sustainable
less-waste-birthday-present-ecologic-sustainable
less-waste-birthday-present-ecologic-sustainable

In terms of packaging there was a lot less plastic than the usual suspects, mainly consisting of cardboard. Everything comes neatly packaged and aren’t necessarily a disposable, as you will need to keep everything in place for the next module you want to build.

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If only we could get everyone around us on board picking out the more sustainable options in everything we do… but this isn’t realistic and I have come to be ok with this fact.

My kids know what’s the right option and in the future it will be them to decide what to choose. I can only hope that what we teach them now plants a seed in them, making them search always for better options and never stop questioning life.

Did he have less sustainalble toys for his birthday? Oh yes, so much plastic, it made me cringe. But I tried not to show it because I didn’t want to spoil his day – I just wanted him to be a normal 6 year old, not an adult full of worries about the environment.

*This post was not in any way sponsored – these are my own opinions*

Zero Waste Birthday

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A Zero Waste Birthday – Is there such a thing? There might be but I still haven’t gotten there. My youngest son just turned 6 years old and we had his birthday party at our house.

Where we live is has become increasingly uncommom for parents to throw a kids birthday party at home. The trend is to rent out special venues that host your childrens birthday party. Most of these venues are all but ecofriendly, having the irresponsible throw away culture we have unfortunately been used to. Its a poor choice in regards to food quality and in sustainability.

I’m still getting used to being back in Porto after living in Italy for three years. I miss the sense of community, the parents engagement with each other, promoting events and days out for the whole classroom. Everytime there was a birthday party, all parents would join in for the entire afternoon. Here its extremely uncommon for this to happen – at least that’s my experience.

At home there is a bigger chance of reducing the amount of waste you create. I set the table without any tablecloth – that meant less washing. I used ceramic plates, silver cutlery and normal glasses and had to use paper napkins as I didn’t have enough cloth ones.

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zero-waste-kids-birthday

To drink there was water, lemonade and some juice, diluted with water and wine for the adults.

We are not vegetarians although we rarely eat meat at home, so to eat there were some fruit skewers, mini sausage rolls, bread with ham, chips, chocolate cake, cheese and bread, and another peach cake, which I didn’t manage to photograph :/

Not the healthiest of options but hey, its a special ocasion!

zero-waste-kids-birthday-party
zero-waste-kids-birthday-party

The birthday cake was just divine. It was freshly made of chocolate with a strawberry white cream. I used an old candle from my oldest son and placed some lego toys for some decoration. I think it turned out just great, and I’m hoping you agree with me.

So what are your thoughts on birthday parties? What other tricks do you use, please let me know, as I would love to improve next time!

Zero Waste Kids Essential Kit

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Don’t beat yourself up if you forget that item, be it a napkin, a straw or a container so you can take home your lefovers, as the world won’t end because of it. At the end of the day millions of plastic packaging is going to be thrown out to the trash on that same day. But don’t let it make you surrender, because what we as consumers are doing is by far more important than the latter. We are the pioneers in an evolutionary change of consciousness. We are merely planting seeds, and just like seeds they might seem small and insignificant, but we all know what come out of them.

So next time you will do better. Next time you will be more organised and prepared for the unexpected, and this is what we must keep on saying to ourselves.

I am still learning as I guess all of you are but I would like to share with you my Kids Kit essentials when we’re out and about. (Please bear in mind that my kids are 5 and 8 yrs old so I’ve passed the nappy and the bring your own food for the baby phase!)

ZERO WASTE KIDS ESSENTIAL KIT:

1. REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE

I usually take one that’s big enough for both of them and they usually share it. We do refills from tap water if we need to.

2. REUSABLE STRAWS

This was a must item to buy as they would have a melt down everytime I would refuse a plastic straw.

All the drama has dissapeared and they do love using them.

3. CLOTH NAPKIN

I take a couple of cloth napkins so we cut down on our use of paper napkins.

4. CONTAINER/ LUNCHBOX

One thing I absolutely cannot bear is food waste. When we eat out all our leftovers come back with us in a small container. We strive to eat everything up but businesses keep pumping up the size of the individual portion. Sometimes depending on the place, we order the kids menu’s as they are substantially smaller or we order one plate for them to share. In Porto, where we live, there is a city hall campaign for restaurants to promote this action of taking home your leftovers, without any shame that might be associated with it. So in case you forget to bring along your container, the restaurant will provide you with a sustainable, biodegradeble option. I just love how they have set up an example!

5. ICE CREAM SPOON

After living in Italy for 3 years this was an essential 🙂 it was a always a struggle to refuse the plastic ones in our local gelataria. Most of the times we were unsuccessful, either they were to fast and stuck the plastic spoon on top, or they would use the plastic spoon to keep the icecream in place and just threw it out afterwards! It was painful, but eventually we were known as the ones who refused the plastic spoons, and would always receive a smirk from the owners.

So this is it. It doesn’t take much to cut out on some waste.

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Zero Waste Kids You Tube Channel

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I’ve been pondering this for a few months now, and besides feeling super uncomfortable in front of a camera, I decided to do this anyway. I believe some goodness will come from this, as I’m hoping to inspire some families out there with my tips on reducing the amount of trash we create.

This channel at the moment will be only in Portuguese, although I might look into adding some subtitles in the future if I get requests or positive feedback.

I have many videos on the making that I can’t wait to share with you. In the meantime, please leave a comment or some feedback either here or over on the YouTube Channel so I can follow your lead into what you’d like most to see.

Thank you for watching and for popping by 🙂

Zero Waste Christmas presents

This time of the year the amount of waste created senselessly is unimaginable. As long as I have been ecologically conscious I have tried a different approach to generate less trash. We have a big family so there is always around 40 presents to think about every Christmas.

Throughout the years I have tried all sorts of handmade gifts, like homemade jams, homemade cookies. candle holders, just to name a few.

This year I had been thinking to try something new and after researching for while I decided to try out a simple Lip Balm recipe, because who doesn’t get cracked lips in winter?

 

My boys just love making presents for our family for Chrismas, its become somewhat of a tradition, so they were eager to try something new out. Some of the process is a bit tricky for small hands but they helped whenever it was safe and got to see how lip balm is made!

List of ingredients:

400g of Shea Butter

200g of Beeswax

Essential oil of your choice ( I used Lavender and Tea Tree)

30 small glass jars

First off you need to steralize the glass jars

Next in a double boiler melt the Bee’s Wax

Then join the Shea Butter

I had to divide the quantity as I wanted to have two different scents.

Added around 15 drops of Tea Tree essential oil and mixed well.

Then just pour into glass jars

 

Repeat the process for the Lavender scented balm

Let them cool before closing the recipeint.

I used a marker to name the lip balm and best before date and then used some old stickers and some stamps that my kids had, to make them look pretty!

I thought a fabric wrap could work well and looked for some scraps I had at home.

My family loved the wrapping and were so pleased with the outcome.Turned out perfect for me, what about you?

(Please note that this recipe was made for a large quantity of lip balm. To try this for ust one lip balm please use the following recipe found here)

Plastic. An Epidemic

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Before deciding to make a comitment to change our lifestyle I was very aware of the plastic epidemic our world is currently facing, but I simply believed there was no way around it. That we as a society we’re doomed to suffocate in our own “technological advancement”.

Little did I know how wrong I was. There is a movement happening right now and you too can and should get involved. Social Media platforms have brought us together. We are now all connected and determined to change our society. This connectedness only emphazises this movement even more, as we realise our indivudual efforts are not alone. Little by little, we are the change the world needs.

That does not mean the road to change is easy, or that we don’t feel desperate sometimes. My weekly produce shopping has become some what of a struggle in finding the best options for my family whilst moving into a zero waste lifestyle. I find myself going to 2 or 3 different businesses in order to keep my waste to a minimum. Do not be fooled – I am still very far from living zero waste, but be assured I am doing my absolute best in keeping my comitment.

Going to a supermarket and walking through ailes of plastic is truly depressing. Looking at people’s shopping cart and see it filled with plastic makes me wonder what will it take to change our habits.

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Of course we as consumers should buy as a politcal act but sometimes this is simply not possible. There might not be bulk or farmers markets options close to where you live. Or we might have such a busy schedule that the thought and effort of putting a zero waste life into practice just makes you feel overwhelmed.

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But here are some steps we can all take, with a simple email, phonecall or conversation:

  • We have to demand our goverments to make laws simply prohibiting the manufacturing of single use plastic. One country (France) has already done this so there is no reason why more aren’t doing the same.
  • We have to questions brands and there packaging design. Contact them asking why are they producing so much single use waste and what their plans are for a change.
  • Write to your local supermarket and again question them on their not so friendly environmental practices.
  • Talk to your family and friends about our plastic epidemic and show them what you’re doing to be part of the solution.
  • Inspire your kids. Talk to them and explain how crucial our choices are for their future.
  • Keep yourself connected to the change gamers out there. Follow accounts that inspire and educate you. Be part of the movement start your own sharing!

 

Making the Shift

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Although my head has made decisively its shift to live a zero waste life, in pratice the challenges are constant. My first internal debate began with a legitimate question:

Should I throw away all the plastic in my house or should I use these products until the end?

The answer hasn’t been simple. Although I believe this is a personal decision to make I can tell you that through my process, I decided to finish some products and other simply discard.

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Some products I decided to finish before changing to a more sustainable option

On the look out for replacements I came across many new brands that promote a healthier alternative, but my feeling is that this movement, is starting to become a little like the organic movement a few years ago. The organic labelling is now a wealthy promoter of plastic packaging and for me this is the biggest contradiction out there.

There is always someone out there trying to make money of the “new trend”.

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Stopped using exfoliator because wasn’t sure if scrubbing agent was plastic

Now, the majority of people who want to make changes to their lives, don’t have any time to make these produts themselves, yet they are offfered a not so sustainable option after all. Having a closer look this is what you are still getting:

  • Too expensive
  • Wrapped in plastic
  • Still contain toxic ingredients

It has taken me a few good days, searching for good options, taking into account the ecological footprint when ordering online from abroad.

My advice for anyone in the same situation would be to follow these steps:

1. Start with one section of your house and make a list of items that will soon need replacing. Start searching online or around your area, you’re not buying yet, you’re just scouting.

2. Save items that grab your attention for any particular reason (use your camera phone to save stuff, shopping lists or online carts) I use instagram to save interesting posts I find and then later go back to them, when I’m ready to make a purchase or to deepen my knowledge of the product.

My priorities when buying are:

  1. Do I really need to buy this?
  2. No Packaging
  3. Ingredients
  4. Price
  5. Local

Hope this can help you in some way but remember, the point is your intention to change and with intention comes action.

 

The Start

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A few months ago I came across Bea Johnson’s blog about her Zero Waste Home and was amazed by her lifestyle. Watching her made me think two things:

1. Wow, it’s really possible.

2. I wish I could live like this.

Of course Bea had a lifestyle that took her a good couple of years to adjust to and this is really important to remind yourself when you start embarking in this lifestyle, because it can become overwhelming.

I am temporarily living in Italy and my experience here has been a very positive one in the long run. As anywhere in the world, it has its good sides and bad sides, but let me tell you something, Italians do like their plastic and its been hard to move away from it but not totally impossible.

Although Italy does have some bulk stores they are mainly in big cities and unfortunately very far away from where I live. It would be easier if bulk was available. The problem arises when bulk is not an option but you still want to live a zero waste lifestyle.

Another difficult aspect in my quest is the fact that as a family with two kids, things can become even more complicated when trying to move away from our plastic society. Those of you with children will appreciate that it is a challenge 🙂

So with these issues in mind I decided to share my experience, in the hopes that I can inspire some of you reading this, that may be in the same situation as myself. These are my steps into a healthier and greener lifestyle, as I cannot bare to sit and watch the constant devastation being inflicted onto our planet.

I am playing my part no matter how small or insignificant it can seem, I am sure its the future and the right thing to do. Hope you can join me for this journey too.

 

My first shopping trip with a zero waste mindset

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When starting out in a zero waste lifestyle one has to keep in mind the time that these changes can take to implement, but a few things are pretty basic and can start having an immediate effect on the amount of waste your household produces.

After educating myself (thanks for A Zero Waste Home blog and then book) of all the basic and simple changes I could make on my weekly shopping, I went for it, knowing how hard it was going to be.

So to start with, I went to a smaller organic shop which I had already previously scouted as to know if I could take my newly acquired mesh produce bags.

I focused on fruit and vegetables as I have come to realise that this is where I could really make a difference each week. Bulk isn’t available in my area so all the basics, like pasta, rice, etc. have still to be bought in a plastic package – but I will leave this subject for another post.

In a small purchase I managed to save 6 plastic or paper bags from being used. I thought it was a good start 🙂

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For those of you who feel overwhelmed going zero waste (which I know its easy to feel so) here are some of the steps I’m taking to make some changes.

Simple and easy steps to start with now:

  1. Buy or make mesh bags for produce (fruit and veggies mainly)
  2. A sturdy bag to carry them in
  3. A reusable water only bottle (carry at all times, kids are always thirsty!)
  4. Drink tap water – install a filter in your water supply or if you’re like me in a temporary home, buy a filtered water bottle. Mine is made of plastic but I focus at the plastic being saved every week from plastic bottles.
  5. Buy or make cloth napkins and erase paper towels or napkins today.
  6. Stop using cling film, cover food with either a plate or some beewax wraps
  7. Make your own washing detergent (washing soda, white wine vinegar and any essential oil of your taste, works magically).
  8. Ditch the liquid soap and use a soap bar preferably without plastic packaging. I’m currently using Lush’s soap bars
  9. When shopping choose glass over plastic packaging, it’s healthier for you and the environment.
  10. For the ladies ditch tampons and plastic pads and use either a mentrual cup or cloth pads.
  11. Clean your floors with hot water, a cup of vinegar and a few drops of essential tea oil.
  12. Refuse all the plastic you possibly can

On my to do list:

    1. Make my own dishwasher detergent
    2. Make some toothpaste and try it with the kids!
    3. Find alternatives for coffee filters and/or machines

Keep searching for glass alternatives to plastic packaging

I am surprised at how once you enter a zero waste mindset, how easy it is to implement these changes in your life. The alternatives have always been there but we are too busy, too tired and too used to going to a supermarket and buy what they tell us to buy. So it does take a little time, but we as consumers have all the power on our side. We just have to use it, and remember that there are thousands of us making these choices everyday. So don’t feel discouraged in the plastic ailes of supermarkets, make your choices wisely. I am finding the best option is to shop in small local businesses.

What are your thoughts? What are your struggles? Let me know in the comments!