book review: zero waste home

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson.

This was the first book I purchased for the Kindle I got for Christmas, and it has truly sparked a change in my life. Upon finishing it (or perhaps even before I finished it), I was off and running on implementing so many of Johnson’s tips, not to mention stalking Pinterest and Instagram for further inspiration for the zero waste lifestyle.

Bea Johnson is the author famous for reducing the trash her family of four generates to a yearly quart jar. I’ve stumbled upon mentions and articles by and about her over the years, and I always thought it was impressive, but never considered it would be doable for me. But I’d been meaning to read the book anyway, thinking it would give me a few more ideas on how to minimize our possessions and be more environmentally friendly (no quart jar goals). This book makes it seem possible! And not only that, it makes clear not only how important it is to reduce our consumption, but how many problems it can solve.

Think about this:
If you eliminate plastic packaging in your life, you are making a dent in all these crises: plastic toxins in the household and leeching into your foods; oil consumption to manufacture plastic items; ocean and sea life devastation; and lack of landfill space. You are reducing your consumption of fake, processed non-foods, meat, and dairy; supporting local farmers/ sustainable agricultural practices; reducing the number of miles your food travels to get to your plate (saving further resources). And you are saving money, as you stop buying single use products and instead buy products that can be used again and again, not to mention real foods sold in bulk are much cheaper that packaged foods.

The zero waste lifestyle is about much more than just eliminating plastic, but that was such an obvious place for me to start. This book lays out how and why to eliminate the waste in all areas of your life: eating, cooking, housekeeping, entertaining, holidays, wardrobe, junk mail, etc. The wastefulness of our culture is directly CAUSING (not just contributing to) environmental devastation, human suffering, animal suffering, health problems, and an unsustainable economic climate, not to mention our smaller day-to-day problems such as clutter and distraction overload. I read her book and had such clarity of mind. I can’t solve the problems of the world, but I can make a huge impact just by being more mindful of my consumption. Reconnecting to the impact of my actions.

Bonus: you’re also totally rebelling, and it’s my favorite part. You’ll feel marketing-proof! I highlighted her take on marketing campaigns as intended “not to create satisfactions, but to create dissatisfaction with what people possess.” This was key for me. Not because I’m some slave to brands or fashion, but because sticking it to the Man is my favorite thing. Johnson gives a zero waste alternative to the stupidly-expensive ladies razors: a stainless steel men’s safety razor. They last FOREVER and all you do is change the blade (and they are pennies!) I’d literally never considered there was an alternative – this is just one example of an idea that was so liberating to me!

If I had any critiques of the book, it would only be that all her tips are lacking for regions outside of California, but I didn’t read the book thinking it would be the answer to every potential hurdle I would face. Therefore, the fact that some of her suggestions didn’t apply to my household, in Suburban Utah, didn’t deter me from jumping in. For example, I cannot take my used wine bottles down to my local winery for a refill. And we don’t have curbside compost pickup. I’d imagine most people around this country would have a closer experience to me, in that we have to work a bit harder to seek out the best alternatives. But that’s ok. This book started me on the path with something to really aspire to. It sets the bar really high, but there’s no competition.

It’s been hard for me to look at anything in the same way since reading this book, and difficult not to become obsessed. Each little action encourages the next. If you want to embark on zero waste, or just do a little better, this book will inspire you and save you time. Johnson has given us so many solutions she’s found only through doing the legwork, and the results that show it’s possible.

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31 Day No Spending Challenge – Week 2 Recap

make stuffWeek two of the 31 Day No Spending Challenge is coming to a close. While my grocery plan hasn’t worked perfectly (I had to make another trip this week), we had a good week otherwise. We did end up picking up a few necessities for JB (much needed socks and undies – but what do ya do?) and I grabbed a pair of $3.25 shoes for Hannah on Ebay in her next size – but with my Ebates dollars so they were essentially free. The spending challenge has offered up some funny coincidences. Maybe an hour after winning the bid for Hannah’s shoes on Ebay, my niece came upstairs with a pair of Toddler Size 5 shoes (the size we need) from a drawer cleanout, asking if I wanted them for Hannah. If only I’d waited! She can use both – the ones from my niece are open toe, but they’d have worked out just fine for the next month or two! Funny.

We also went to dinner with some friends last weekend, which wasn’t planned for, but we needed it. We haven’t done much in the way of social stuff all summer except a few cooking clubs, and it was SO nice to get out and eat at our favorite place and talk to grownups. Again, this challenge isn’t about perfection so much as simplification.

nature center

Here’s what I accomplished this week:

  1. Lots of little work projects cropped up, so I got a few extra hours in this week.
  2. Took Hannah to the local Nature Center (already have the membership), on a local trail, and to the library (free fun).
  3. Visited Jonathan’s grandparents.
  4. Made an appliquéd popcicle tea towel for a friend (picture above).
  5. Made two Dresden Plate blocks with the fabric pieces my mom gave me from her stash cleanout. I plan to make them into throw pillows and will hopefully finish that this week (picture above).
  6. Dejunked a few more things and took three boxes of donation stuff to the local thrift store. WOO!
  7. Dejunked, cleaned and sorted the bathroom cabinet in the little bathroom.
  8. Made a peach pie. I never make pie! I hate baking, honestly, but we have so many peaches on our tree and I knew it’d make the hubby happy. 🙂
  9. Had Hannah’s broken sunglasses repaired rather than buying a new pair. (I took them to the optical center at Target and they put in a new screw for free – yay! It’s the little things..)

I didn’t fare well with my goals for the week due to work, so most of them are carrying over to next week:

  • Take yard/garden photos.
  • Take Hannah’s 18 month photos.
  • Put together Yellowstone trip plan (rough itinerary). Time to get serious about this!!
  • Dry some herbs from the garden.
  • Finish 2011 Project Life album (possible blog post on the progress..)
  • Make something. Did this.
  • Possible hike? Did this.
  • Finish Dresden Plate pillows.
  • Preserve (freeze) lots of peaches from our tree.

Two weeks down, roughly two weeks to go!

30 Day Challenge – Day 21

I’ve skipped many days of the challenge, but I thought I’d do this fun one. “One of your favorite shows.” I am not usually a TV watcher in that I watch anything currently on, while discussion is relevant. I watch Buffy and Veronica Mars repeatedly and occasionally find something on Netflix that keeps my interest for a while. If I do like something on TV I’ll NEVER remember to watch it the next week, and we don’t have TiVo. Or cable. Amish..ishparksSo I’m just now watching Parks and Recreation. I love a good strong female-led show, I love Amy Poehler. I just never got around to it until now. And to be completely honest, it’s probably only because I was compared to Amy twice in one week. 1- that I look like Amy on the cover of her book “Yes Please” (which by the way I finished last night – so great!) and 2- That I have a “Leslie Knope vibe” (this was when I was at the office). I didn’t know what that meant and my curiosity-slash-ego got the best of me and I’m finally watching it.

It. Is. Amazing. I’m not going to summarize the plot or characters because I just want you to watch it yourself if you haven’t done so already. And also I’m really bad at summarizing. I love every character. I cannot pick a favorite. I want to! But it’s a 7-way tie between Leslie, April, Andy, Tom, Ann, Ron, and Ben. They are all just so good, and the character evolution is so fun to watch. Leslie and Andy, especially, get so much depth as the series progresses.

I also appreciate the female relationships. Leslie and Ann’s epic friendship is only slightly overshadowed in the plot by Leslie and Ben’s romantic relationship, which I love. “Uteruses before duderuses!” The show passes the Bechdel test and then some. These women are caring, motivated, driven by their loyalty and values, often pointlessly optimistic, and socially awkward. Basically they are like me and my favorite gals in real life. Except funnier. But just barely.

Ann Perkins: The Most Underrated Character On

I don’t mean to read too much into a sitcom, really. I don’t. But the fact that I am anyway kind of says something to me. There’s so much comedy to be found in truth and observation. The struggle for equality in the workplace (especially a male-centered one) is real, and watching this is a bit of a sanity check/validation of my frustration, while also comforting to laugh about. There’s an episode where Leslie’s City Council term is ending and she’s got a month of “what are they gonna do, fire me?” mentality while she works to make the most of her remaining time. She says “No matter what I do, literally nothing bad can happen to me. I’m like a white male US Senator!” It’s lines like that that makes you laugh, then nod, then shake your head, then be inspired to get out there and fight against the nonsense in whatever way you can. Ambitious career women exist on TV, but not always in sitcoms. The fact that this is so refreshing to me is proof of how necessary it is to have female characters who are real people for women to identify with. There are really few sitcoms that have done this. It’s my generation’s Mary Tyler Moore Show.

No spoilers for me please as I’ve still got a few seasons left to go – but who else loves this show? Favorite character? What should I watch next?

30 Day Challenge – Day 2

Day 2’s topic for the 30 Day Blogging Challenge is “Where you’d like to be in 10 years.”

This isn’t my favorite blogging prompt because this question is the WORST. My goals change constantly, and there are so many facets to this question. But I’ll make an attempt to paint a picture of my perfect life ten years from now, knowing that a year from now my goals will not likely be the same.

In ten years I will be 41. Hannah will be 11; it’s hard to picture myself with a child that age but by the time she’s 11 I’ll be a pro at shuttling to activities, chore charts and homework helping. She will also have a sibling. I don’t want to say anything that can come back to haunt me like I hope it’s a (insert brother or sister here). Either way, I’ll be busy being the best mom I can be and life will be filled with the day-to-day that entails.

I have dreams of opening my own business and maybe I really will do that in the next ten years. I’ve actually got several ideas, but I know that if I do take the plunge it will be because I decided I had to see what it would be like to make my little creative mark on the world. I’m not really ready to divulge any details because everything is so abstract right now, but this is what I fantasize about: a small business that somehow mixes all the ethical business practices I feel strongly about: empowering women, creative reuse, and community-focus. I realize the explanation is so very vague (thus why I hate this question – I can’t articulate where I’d like to be, but I have a general idea of the accomplished feeling I want to experience. It doesn’t make for good blogging, though.) Or maybe I will be working for someone else, and that will be ok, too. No matter what I hope that what I’m doing is fulfilling and I’m doing something I feel matters, and that teaches my kid(s) by example – individuals can make a difference; you should do what inspires you and makes you happy; there are lots of kinds of success; you don’t have to sacrifice your dreams or your values (but you do have to adapt).

I hope in ten years I can look back on this post and be proud that I carved out a path in the right direction even if there were detours, some back-tracking, and some scenic stops along the way.

surviving the first weeks with a newborn

ImageI’m coming up on nearly 2 full months of mommy-hood. It’s been a lot of things: amazing, fun, emotional, exhausting, exciting, and monotonous, depending on the minute. Gazing at that beautiful baby makes up for a LOT of discomfort and stress, but it’s still HARD.

The hardest things have been the lack of sleep (obviously), breastfeeding (the first weeks were, for me, MUCH more awful than labor), and as silly as it sounds, just feeling very one-dimensional (a feeding machine) and unproductive (there is so much sitting). I have to remind myself constantly I am doing important work, and not to feel guilty or lazy for not having a chance to cook great meals, straighten my hair, keep in touch with girlfriends, check my work email…

A friend told me the first 6 weeks are purely survival mode for the whole family, and it is SO true. I’m glad he said that, so I could a) know it was normal to be feeling so frazzled, inadequate, emotional, and zombie-like, and b) to hope for an end to the madness in sight. Hannah is just over 7 weeks and I have to say that things are SO much easier than they were just a couple short weeks ago.

Those first weeks were HARD, and every day still has its moments. While I’m no expert or can’t speak for everyone’s experience, I do have a few tips for surviving the first 6 weeks+ of having a new baby. So I wanted to share some of the things that I found saved me (and continue to make life easier during this crazy adjustment).

 

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My lifesaving baby gear includes:

  1. A comfy chair. I bought a vintage chair for Hannah’s nursery that’s great for rocking, reading stories, and nursing, but I really quickly learned that I spend a LOT of my day feeding her and I don’t necessarily want to be locked away in another room to do it. Also, with Hannah’s sleep habit being that she will only sleep on one of us at night, a recliner became a necessity really fast. I just need to find a cute throw blanket to toss over the back eventually and it will blend into the decor more or less.
  2. iPhone. It’s been priceless! Obviously to keep in touch with people, take photos, and have something to look at during those long late-night feedings. I also use a free app called Eat Sleep to track feedings (so I know when the last one was, how long, etc.) It SAVED me during the first few weeks when I couldn’t think straight. I also use some of the free white noise apps to lull Hannah off to sleep when she’s fighting it at night and much of the time it works like a charm! Finally, because it’s always with me, I use it to make lists constantly. I always think of things while my mind if wandering during feedings and I know I’ll forget it by the time it’s over. I have a running to-do list, shopping list, and idea list. It’s SO helpful to just dump some brain contents somewhere.
  3. Babyganics brand. Every time people come to meet or visit Hannah, I make them use the Babyganics hand sanitizer we have out. It’s alcohol free so it’s not as sketchy as those other brands so I don’t have to worry that my germophobia and new-mom paranoia is doing more harm than good. We also use their baby lotion and it’s free of scary stuff Johnson & Johnson has in their products.
  4. Sleep-and-Plays. These are the BEST. We have a billion cute onsies, baby skinny jeans, dresses, skirts, etc.. but Hannah pretty much just lives in these. They are warm, and you don’t have to pull anything over her head. And no messing with pants/socks for diaper changes. Once she’s a little older I’ll worry more about the style factor of her outfits but for now these are my favorite.
  5. Gripe water. I had never heard of this until some late-night Googling about Hannah’s fussiness and this stuff is amazing and instant for curing hickups, upset tummies and gas. We use Mother’s Bliss because it is organic. It’s simply a combination of liquid herbs and she loves the taste.
  6. Soothies pacifiers. In Utah we call them “binkies.” This brand is her favorite, though I don’t know why she’s got the preference. I’ve heard the same from other moms.
  7. Scratch mittens. Baby fingernails and so sharp they can easily scratch their faces in their sleep, and mom while nursing (oww).
  8. Boppy nursing pillow. It saves my wrists and back from getting stuck in an awkward nursing position, and she loves to nestle in there after she eats.
  9. Muslin swaddle blankets. They are light and breathable and giant. We use Aden and Anise brand and love them.
  10. Seventh Generation brand. We use the diapers and wipes, until Hannah’s big enough for the reusable diapers I stocked up on. When we ran low and I had to shop at a store that didn’t carry this brand I grabbed Pampers and they were the WORST for blowouts! Seventh Generation brand are earth-friendly AND just better quality. We got awesome bulk deals on Amazon (free shipping with Amazon Prime).
  11. A baby swing. This is MAGIC for us for naps or when I simply HAVE to get something accomplished (a phone call made to the insurance company or work call, for instance), the swing will usually buy me some time. And if she’s drowsy but fighting sleep, the swing will usually do the trick to get her a nap. We were lucky to get one to borrow!

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A big part of the adjustment to baby (as if hormones, pain and exhaustion aren’t enough) is simply feeling like you are no longer your own person, and that can be rough! So I wanted to share a few things that helped me feel like some semblance of my old self, or at least made life easier for me.

1. Healthy, easy snacks. Breastfeeding increases my appetite like crazy – WAY more than pregnancy did for me. Even in the middle of the night. So having some easy to eat snacks (that require no cooking, cutting, forks, etc) has saved me. Bananas, almonds, dried fruit, and Clif bars are my favorite things to have around because I can manage them one-handed and they aren’t junk food.

2. Baby sling. I have the Baby K’tan and it’s awesome for soothing a newborn (walking around the house while snuggled in there must feel cozy like the womb) AND having my hands free is so nice. I can’t do everything with her in a sling, but I can walk around the house and tidy up, fold laundry standing up, dust the furniture, etc. I spent a lot of the first 4 weeks doing this all hours of the night to keep her calm and although I was exhausted, it was easier than carrying her the whole time and I was able to be a little productive.

3. Nursing stuff. I like reusable nursing pads more than the disposable (they are much softer). I use the FuzzyBuns brand. And my favorite nursing tanks are the Mama tanks from H&M. A lot of nursing tanks double as postpartum shape wear which sounds like a good idea til you realize you live in them and they are comfortable for exactly 5 minutes. The H&M ones are better and cut higher so I don’t have my gigantic nursing-boob cleavage hanging out.

4. Comfy but flattering clothes. After having a baby you’ll be exhausted and sore and miserable, and when you start feeling better you’ll be exhausted and down on yourself because you feel so frumpy. I live in yoga pants (more flattering than sweats), nursing tanks, and a long cardigan. I feel less gross than in pajamas and it’s just as comfy. I also try to throw on some jewelry everyday to feel semi put together. Earrings are easiest because necklaces get tugged on during feedings, bracelets can get in the way when holding a baby in your arms, and rings.. well, mine don’t fit like they used to, still. 😦

5. Coffee. Duh. 🙂 There’s no time of day I won’t drink coffee now because nothing will keep me awake when I get a chance to sleep, at this point.

6. All-day lipstick. I was never really a lipstick wearer, but now I throw it on pretty often because it’s easy, it lasts, and makes me feel like I’ve made some effort. I like Lush brand in “strong.” It’s a bold orangey-red so I feel like I channel Emma Stone when I wear it.

7. iPhone. Again. It’s my sanity!

8. The one thing that makes me feel in control of my life. For me, it’s having my bed made. The house can be a disaster, there will be no clean laundry, the baby is crying and I haven’t showered in 3 days.. but something about having a nice clean bedroom helps me feel in control of my world. Some people might choose having their nails done or something but for me it’s always been the bed. Followed closely by a clean and empty kitchen sink. If I can have both, it’s a successful day.

I don’t know what the next days, weeks, months, or years will hold but I feel rather proud to have made it through those first weeks with my sanity in tact. There are definitely things that help to make it through and it DOES get better. That’s not just something people say.

PS- my friend Katie took that first picture – one of many amazing shots she took a few weeks back. I will have to share more later because they are so good. I should have included in my mom-essentials, friends and family! We have been so lucky to to have so much support and love.

september monthly challenge update

Man, has is really been 13 days since I declared September to be the ultimate super-organizey month? Oy.Welp, here’s a recap of my month so far:

  1. Create a go-to list of 20 easy, healthy, frugal, vegetarian meals, to hang in the pantry.
  2. Start my gardening notebook.
  3. Streamline the ol’ bag collection in the trunk of my car. How many reusable bags does a girl need?
  4. Come up with a composting system. Inside and outside.
  5. Find a local tire place and oil change place. Take care of necessary business, and write in my planner when it should be done again!
  6. Ditto on haircut, dentist, doctor, etc. Create a reminder system and put contact info in address book and phone.
  7. Clean out my car. Glove boxes and everything.
  8. Find a way to organize coupons so I actually have them with me (I have the cutting them out part down – haha).
  9. Create a “landing strip” in the laundry room (where we enter from the garage).
  10. Organize the year’s photos so far. Back up all to hard drive. Put it on calendar to do this every 3 months. Organized, but have yet to back them up!
  11. Make a list of Christmas gifts I will need to start planning for, and jotting down ideas.
  12. Get my recycling under control! (can you believe we don’t have curbside pickup???)
  13. Organize the garage with the hubby’s help. This is going to be a huge ordeal.
  14. Organize the painting supplies and leftover paint.
  15. Tidy up the basement. There’s not much down there but it’s willy-nilly.
  16. Cull the closet.
  17. Come up with at least 10 nice work outfits.
  18. Organize dog stuff.
  19. Organize the office closet/office supplies.
  20. Find a solution for storing gift wrap.
  21. Make a memo board for the office.
  22. Organize the file cabinet.
  23. Organize recipes. Sort through cookbooks!
  24. Organize the freezers.
  25. Create a cleaning schedule.
  26. Create a workout schedule for the next 30 days (with the intention of doing this monthly). My “schedule” just entails a committment to get 30 min of some sorta exercise every single day. Gotta start somewhere!
  27. Organize kitchen sink area.
  28. Put a clock in the living room.
  29. Prioritize home to-do projects.
  30. Prioritize yard to-do projects.

Hrm. Well that’s a little dismal, eh? 5.5 done out of 30? F-plus. Goal is to get at least 6 ticked off by the end of the weekend! Off to get started..now!