2011-12-31

Making laundry detergent

I recently did a post on making my dishwasher detergent. Now we've run out of laundry detergent so it's time to make some more. It's got even fewer ingredients! The only catch is you've got to grate a bar of soap, which isn't nearly as bad as it sounds.

Basically it's the same for laundry as for dishes, only leave out the salt/citric acid and add in a grated bar of soap.

Here's what it takes:
  • 300 g washing soda
  • 150 g borax
  • 1 finely grated bar of soap
    Thin and stringy like "fancy" shredded cheese is fine, doesn't have to be all powdery. We use Zum soap, usually frankincense and myrrh. The grating process acts as a whole house air freshener. And we get it from the 91st and Metcalf Whole Foods because we can get it without any packaging there by cutting off whatever size bar we want. We end up getting about the size they normally sell as a bar anyway, which is about 85 g.
Now just mix it all together and keep it in a sealed container. This one seems a little harder to keep mixed up because the soap is grated not powdery, so it doesn't get uniformly distributed really. The trick when you're measuring to do a load is to stir it around some and try to make sure it looks like you've got "enough" soap shreds in your spoon. Our frankincense and myrrh soap makes that pretty easy, because the powder components are both white but the soap is brown.

I currently do all my laundry in cold water, both because it saves on heating the water and because it allows me to be indiscriminate when sorting clothes. I've gotten into the habit of separating into three categories, generally only one load of each: shirts, pants (dress/jeans/skirts), and everything else.

All you need is one tablespoon per load*, dropped in the washer before you begin filling. And like any powdered detergent, wait until it's filled up some before you start tossing in your clothes.

One important note. The place I learned this recipe (sorry for no ref) seemed to indicate that this detergent is perfectly safe for use in HE washing machines. The theory is that HE washers have problems if your soap gets too sudsy. And this, I believe, doesn't gets sudsy at all. That said, don't come whining to me if you do it in an HE washer and you break it. I guess all I'm saying is that if I had a washer labelled as HE, I'd totally try it. It'd be worth a shot; we're at least halfway considering whether we could try doing laundry without a machine. No promises there though.

*I realize now that here and with the dishwasher detergent, I used tablespoons when I had been very careful about using metric measures in my weights. So if you care, it's just shy of 15 mL.


Remember that couple we met at Whole Foods?

Remember how we said we had met another zero-waste couple at Whole Foods the other day? Their article was posted on the Star's website today. My friend/coworker Brian actually emailed me a link to it, because it made him think of us.

2011-12-30

New dining room light plus one more use of CFLs

OK most of the lights in our apartment are CFL already anyway, but there are a couple stubborn locations we have had. The big one was the dining room. There was this old crappy gold chandelier thing that used little tiny bulbs. I know they make CFLs with that size base, but they're more expensive and we knew that after we re-signed our lease we would be getting a new fixture anyway.

So, our new lease began in November and we got tired of waiting. Last night I submitted installing our new light as a friendly service request and this morning they came by to put it up!

It's pretty classy, and now no longer matches the gold on the living room fan. But, it also uses standard size bulbs.


Here's the best part. I found CFLs that came in all-cardboard packaging, almost like how incandescents have been packaged my entire life!


Now the remaining incandescents are in the hallway (CFL wouldn't fit in the globe), in the bathroom (weird spherical lights above the mirror) and in the bedroom fan (not turned on a ton but small bases like the dining room was before).

2011-12-29

Zero Waste Christmas

Here is how we did some things this Christmas and what we hope to work on in the future:

Christmas Dinner(s) Food Ingredients:
Items found in bulk/loose with zero waste
-Wheat flour
-Oat
-Almonds
-Sugar
-Salt
-Buttermilk: left from when I made butter 
-Cheesy loaf from Panera: put directly into a bag 
-Chocolate chips
-Yukon Gold potatoes in mesh bag
-Sweet potatoes in mesh bag
-Garlic in mesh bag
-Carrots in mesh bag
-Maple syrup 
-Peanut butter
-Baking soda: already had, can get in bulk in the future
-Cinnamon: already had, can get in bulk in the future
-Nutmeg: already had, can get in bulk in the future

Items in bulk/loose with minimal waste and/or recycled items
- Apples put in mesh bag: waste being the stickers they put on produce
-Homemade butter: waste being the plastic lids from the cream
-Lemon put in mesh bag: waste being the sticker they put on produce
-Eggs in carton: waste being the egg shells and recycled being the carton, plan to start composting shells
-Vanilla: already had, can make in the future from bulk vanilla beans and vodka with glass that can be recycled. Will currently have plenty as Paula made us some homemade :)
-Blueberries: waste being a plastic container that seems to be the only option - plan to recycle
-Whole milk in glass: waste being plastic lid
-1% milk in glass: waste being plastic lid
-Yeast: recycled glass jar
-Tea: Tea leaves in bulk- only waste is the coffee filter used to make, in the future we plan to avoid this by not using the tea maker and doing it the old fashion way by using our teapot or if we do use the tea maker we could start composting filters.

Seemingly unavoidable waste and ideas for the future
-Black Cherry Kool-Aid: waste being the paper packet. I usually only make this for holidays since it's a family favorite and a sort of treat for me, so not sure if I will give it up - but I do not do it very often.
- Brown sugar: waste being the plastic bag. Ideas anyone? There are no bulk options here.
-Ham: waste plastic wrap. Admittedly I didn't try hard enough on this one. I stuck with the ham I've purchased in the past that I enjoy and that is simple. I think I will force myself to see if there is a way to get ham directly from the meat counter, put into a larger Pyrex or something for the future.
-Gluten free Chex: waste plastic inside, recycled the cardboard. No bulk options here. It seems the only option is to just not make puppy chow as it did seem to have a lot of waste with plastic from cereal, and plastic from powdered sugar. Idk.
-Powdered sugar-waste being the plastic bag. Ideas anyone?
-Baking powder: already had - will have to investigate zero waste options for the future, not sure if there is a bulk option.
-Black pepper: already had-can get in bulk but not completely waste free bulk, will look to see if 119th has it in bulk waste free. 
-Cocoa: already had - will have to investigate zero waste options for the future.

Gifts
-Currently still trying to use up some of the wrapping paper we already have and the gift bags we have reused already several times and just are basically trying to give away lol. I promise to never buy another gift bag or any wrapping paper again though, so now it's just a matter of using up what we currently have.

-Did make some homemade gifts this year, along with gifts that had minimal packaging, gifts of donation,  gifts cards, and items that encourage eco-friendliness, like a reusable mug and bulk bags.

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

2011-12-26

Bar Soap

We've made the switch to bar soap. Mrs. Meyer's smelled nice, but since we can have a zero waste alternative, it just made better sense. We've already mentioned that we can get Zum soap in bulk. We do use this, but since it's more pricey, we just use it for laundry and not for hand and body use. For hand and body we have found that you can get these really great bars at 3 for $5 at Whole Foods. The brand is One With Nature. They have several different scents to chose from. In fact, for Christmas they had Cranberry Fig, Peppermint, and Sugar Cookie. Fun! Other ones I've enjoyed would be Rose Petal and Shea Butter.

We keep a bar at each sink: the kitchen and the bathroom.  Also, now that I've used up the last of my body wash, I have been using bar soap and it actually has been just fine. One With Nature soaps last a very long time and the shea butter one I have now has been wonderful in the shower and I haven't noticed it being as drying or film like as you'd think bar soap might be. Once Rob finishes up his current body wash, he will be making the switch as well. With this switch, we no longer have a need for plastic mesh body puffs either.
Making the switch. No more bottled liquid soap!
No more body wash!

2011-12-24

No more paper towels

We finally ran out of paper towels. We've gone about a week so far without them and really I've barely noticed. I used a micro fiber cloth to clean the bathroom mirror, that might have been the only time I actively thought about my previous use of paper towels. Number 24 on the 1001 list: done.

Also, since we don't really get plastic sacks much anymore (and since we wanted to stop using them for this purpose anyway) Rob switched to paper lunch bags for cat waste. I already had these white ones around the house so I figured we'd use them up. I like Rob's idea here of reusing paper bags from places like Chick-Fil-A and such.

Since Rob and I may or may not get on here to post again before Sunday, I just want to wish everyone a merry Christmas! I will post about zero waste Christmas things soon. Bye!

2011-12-21

Other Zero Wasters

Last time we went grocery shopping, we went to the 91st Whole Foods because we needed a few ingredients that we knew the 119th one might not have. Anyway, while there, we came upon another zero waste couple! I felt this was blog worthy because it is the very first time we have seen anyone else using jars, produce bags, etc. while we've been out shopping. He asked about our jars (I say he because sadly, we didn't get to the point of exchanging names) and he asked if we were trying to do zero waste too and we said yes. It was just neat to met someone who even knew about it let alone did it. They are going to be featured in the Kansas City Star apparently on January 1st, talking about their zero waste lifestyle, so be sure to look for the article! We don't get the paper, but plan to borrow it from Rob's parents for this. We gave them our blog link and went our separate ways. Apparently they are moving soon, so it was just a chance meeting. Anyway, fun.

In other news: Did you know that your can recycle your old, busted up vacuum at Best Buy? Awesome isn't it? Well, not awesome that Rob and I are currently without a vacuum, but awesome that we were able to find a way to dispose of our broken one it in a green-friendly way. Thanks Best Buy!

2011-12-18

I wouldn't exactly call it composting

I wouldn't go so far as to call this composting, but I decided last night that I'd start collecting a few things in a Gladware-esque container. I'm thinking this'll mostly be for used tea leaves and garlic paper, with the intention that I'll just toss it all out in the yard somewhere outside the apartment. I do the same thing with salad greens we don't get to in time. It's all leaves, right? Just like the trees out there shed their leaves every year, I'm just adding a few more every month or so.

So here's what it looks like after making one quart of tea last night and three quarts tonight. And the paper from one clove of garlic that I had thrown into my veggie soup this evening.


I poked some holes in the lid, so the tea leaves won't stay soggy forever. I hope.

2011-12-15

Checking in on our progress

Some little updates:

Bread:
I think we mentioned earlier that we would be making a lot of our own bread. Lately, however, we have just been getting our bread for sandwiches from the Whole Foods bakery.  They can put the bread directly into a cloth sack this way and it's zero waste while being convenient.

Jars:
I'd say we have about 15 or so jars right now. In the beginning we almost worried about whether or not we would really be using that many. In the end I think we have found that it has been the perfect amount and that we end up always using them, sometimes even wishing we had one or two more. They have worked great.

Thanksgiving:
Yes, it's December now, but I wanted to get on here and mention that this Thanksgiving my sister Lacey attempted a zero waste meal. How cool! She did a pretty decent job. She even made her own marshmallows (something I will need to try). Maybe she will be so kind as to go into more detail via a comment here. But, I just wanted to thank her for her eco-friendly efforts around the holidays. I will plan to attempt a zero waste Christmas this year. We shouldn't have too many problems with that, but I did get a roasted chicken in plastic last year from Target.  Will have to decide what to do there instead. Will have to look into ham options as well.

Recycling:
We have started to keep track of how often we have to take out the trash and recycling. I believe we have made quite a noticeable difference already! The recycling is what surprised me the most. It has gone way down (since we get more in jars and use less plastic, we end up with less to recycle). It will only get better now that we intend to give up Kleenex for handkerchief and paper towels for cloth, etc. Last time we took the recycling was Nov. 27th and we are still nowhere near ready to take it again. My hope is that this will mean only a once a month trip.

Trash:
We use to have three trash cans: a tiny one in the bathroom, a medium one in the bedroom, and a larger one in the kitchen. We have since emptied the large one and put it into storage. We moved the medium trash can from the bedroom into the kitchen. Now we do not use one in the bedroom and we have kept the bathroom one where it is. When it's time to take the trash, we've always taken the two smaller ones and dumped them into the larger one and then took the large one out. We were taking out the large one probably about once a week.  Now, with the same system (just two trash cans though) we are almost in need to taking out, and it's been a week and four days! Now, not only does this mean we get four to five extra days before having to take the trash out, it means we are extending the time between take outs WHILE having our trash can basically cut in half.  So, long confusing story short: When we use to take a large bag of trash out once a week, we now take a medium bag out once every two weeks (well almost two weeks). I know with a little work we can get those extra 3 days :) Exciting!

101 in 1001 list:
Now, to wrap up this post, I wanted to point out that I have jumped on the 101 in 1001 bandwagon. Since my list has a lot of zero waste/eco-friendly goals on it, I felt this was an okay place to keep it. You can link to it here: http://sharprs.blogspot.com/p/101-in-1001-list.html
It is up on the static page list at the top of the blog. I will update it as I go along. I'm sure it will also serve as a source of inspiration for future posts as I accomplish some of them.

Thanks for reading.

2011-12-13

Making dishwasher detergent

This evening I had to make some more dishwasher detergent. Last time I made some I had to make what I've come to consider a half-batch because I was running low on citric acid.

This time I decided to weigh my ingredients as I went. I'm thinking it'll be easier in the future to make it by weight so I'm not standing there trying to pour occasionally-clumpy powders into measuring cups. By the way, I did my measurements in grams. I feel like my scale is giving me a more accurate idea of what I'm putting in the bowl when I do it in grams. Might have something to do with the fact that the scale is accurate to the tenth of an ounce on imperial, but to the gram on metric. One gram is a third of a tenth of an ounce. I'm not crazy!

Here's how the measurements came out:
  • 300g washing sodaThat's sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), not sodium bicarbonate. Not edible, not a natural leavening agent, though it is apparently sometimes used instead of lye for making pretzels for the same basic reason it might be used to counter the pH effects of pool chlorine.
  • 150 g borax
    Sodium tetraborate (Na2B4O7·10H2O) has a bunch of uses for cleaning and it kind of seems like most of them are about the same purposes as the washing soda. I'm sure there's some explanation why using both seems to be better than just one. I use both in the laundry detergent too.
  • 150 g kosher salt
    Plain old sodium chloride (NaCl). My challenge may actually be to find a bulk source of kosher salt. The sea salt in the bulk bins at Whole Foods isn't quite as coarse as I'd like it to be. Maybe it doesn't matter ultimately since the dishwasher just dumps a bunch of water on it anyway. When I found the recipe, it argued that the coarseness of the kosher salt (over table salt, I guess) was beneficial for scrubbing the dishes. Maybe I'll have to give it a shot next time with the sea salt I can easily get.
  • 115 g citric acid
    Citric acid (C6H8O7) seems to be used a lot as a preservative in bottled drinks and I recently learned it prevents browning in applesauce in pretty much the same way lemon juice does with apple slices, presumably this has something to do with the large amount of citric acid in citrus fruits, hence citric. It gives a sort of tangy flavor to whatever you put it in (again with the citrus thing). This is why I do not care for bottled iced teas. It's also a natural antacid and is half of what's in Alka-Seltzer. Citric acid's role here is to help prevent the film you might otherwise get on your glassware. I must admit I was a little sad the weight on this one was so inconvenient. It ruins the possibility of a nice ratio of ingredients by weight like there is when you do it by volume.
Just mix all that together thoroughly. The citric acid may make the rest of it want to clump together. I like to break up the clumps and stir it up with a serving spoon, but if you've got clumps, it's not a big deal; it's all going in the same place anyway.

I use one tablespoon of the detergent loose in the machine for the pre-wash and one more tablespoon in the close-able container thing for the main wash. I found that if I just did one or the other, it didn't do quite as good a job.

Now if I could, I would also put some white vinegar in the rinse aid thing in the dishwasher. But alas, our rinse aid thing doesn't work. There's probably still some vinegar in there from the first couple months we lived here. The vinegar ostensibly serves the same sort of purpose as the citric acid, to sort of wash away any filmy stuff left after the rinsing, and any hard water deposits. I have this strong feeling it'd totally work. Vinegar does wonders on the heating element of our humidifier.

We'll get to laundry soap pretty soon. There's only a couple loads left, I think.

2011-12-10

Enter the wife, your new co-contributor!


Hello!  Jess here.  Rob and I are partners in our zero waste/eco-friendly goals, so why not see posts from each of us?  Mostly Rob allowed this because I would sometimes be tempted to ask, “When are you making a new blog about this or that?” and this way if I want a post about something I can just do it.  I’m proud of Rob for starting this blog, I guess I’m just getting in on the fun.  Thanks Rob, and I hope you readers (or reader?  Do we have any readers?) will not mind.  We also tweaked a few things on the blog itself, so feel free to check it out.
For my post I wanted to show you our glass water bottles.  We simply love them.



We found these at Whole Foods.  This is my white one.  Not pictured, Rob's larger red one.  And yes Toby Keith, I do prefer drinking from glass…you can keep your red Solo cup.

2011-12-07

TP

Did you know Amazon will let you schedule recurring orders?

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000C7OHFK/ref=oh_o00_s00_i00_details

Look! Nearly zero waste TP!

You know, after the cutting down of the trees and gas spent delivering it all over the country.

But still, we don't have to throw any of it away. It comes individually wrapped in paper instead of plastic and it's made from recycled paper.