String cheese

Why am I posting a picture of string cheese? Because, ladies and gentlemen, a dream of mine came true recently. I was able to find a bag of string cheese that does not involve individually wrapping each piece! I know this doesn't sound like much, but I had always questioned why it couldn't be done. So, when I discovered this, it made my day. You can find this at Natural Grocers. I like string cheese, and (confession) I had some during pregnancy despite the waste because I needed healthy protein snacks and string cheese called to me. But, now that I'm no longer pregnant, I just couldn't justify the waste that is involved with string cheese. So I went back to not eating it again. Until I found this beauty. Now I can occasionally indulge without having an excessive amount of plastic waste. Yes, there is some plastic here, but I think it's so cool I could find someone who doesn't individually wrap them at least. It's the small victories.


Zero waste, non-GMO, all organic, homemade Thanksgiving!

My sister Lacey hosts our family's Thanksgiving, and she always goes the extra mile with homemade everything. This year, she went above and beyond with a zero waste, non-GMO, all organic, homemade feast. The pumpkin pie was made from an actual pumpkin, not canned pumpkin, and she makes her own stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cream corn, etc. So, like I said, all homemade. I'm surprised she didn't raise the turkey herself! Needless to say, she generally gets more done before breakfast than I get done in a whole day and I'll admit that I often envy her productivity level. Did I mention she's pregnant, and has a 3 year old?
This picture shows the butter wrappers and tiny paper envelopes for compost, some plastic and a bit of cardboard for recycling, and that little bitty pile in the upper right is the only trash (minus the bird plastic). Amazing.
The following is in Lacey's own writing (with very minor editing). She will be our guest blogger today:
I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving for years. It makes me feel old to think how long I have been cooking it and even more old to know I have been with Matt for all that time! I have cooked it in school, out of school with a big kid job, with an infant strapped in a wrap, with a toddler strapped to my back, and now with a baby growing in my tummy! And Matt, being a super awesome helper always volunteers to clean up afterwards so I can rest. Our Thanksgiving is always traditional with the same dishes every year. Peeps might loose their mind if it wasn't! This year though, we tired to bring more of our personal beliefs into the sourcing of the food which makes Thanksgiving all the more fun! It is a holiday I super love. Here are the dishes we made this year, sourcing information, and packaging info. 
We ordered and picked up the heritage turkey from a local Vesecky Family Farm at the recommendation of our Urban Homestead group (UHOT). This contributed to our biggest piece of waste because I couldn't think a way around it. It was much less packaging than a store bought turkey. It had just a single plastic bag around it. The legs were tucked using the skin from the turkey instead of the plastic most conventional turkeys come with. 
To prepare the turkey with no added waste we used a different recipe than we normally do. First, this bird would be tougher to cook without drying out than a conventional self-basting bird so we cut slits in the skin and stuffed homemade herb butter all along the breast and legs. The butter came in cardboard (recyclable) and paper wrap (compostable). To get the fresh herbs we had a plastic shell container that we recycled. I could not find the right herbs fresh in bulk and I’m not really a green thumb with growing anything. We then covered the bird in thick cut bacon that I purchased straight from the butcher so I could get it put directly in my glass storage container. Of course we also oiled it in cold press olive oil from a glass bottle we already had on hand and stuffed with fresh crushed garlic, lemons, bay leaves (I got these dried in the bulk section at the MERC and stored in my own mason jar I brought to the store, fresh parsley (that I could find fresh without packaging), and onions. The bacon covering meant we did not need to use foil to cover during any of the cooking. 
Sweet Potato Casserole
One part for the purpose of zero-waste and one part due to my hatred of HFCS we made marshmallows for the casserole. For this we used sugar from the bulk section of the MERC that I stored in my own mason jars, vanilla from a glass bottle already on hand, sea salt we had in bulk already, and gelatin that came in compostable paper envelopes (I used 2; they were about 2″x2″). We also used brown sugar. We could not find this in bulk so we had to settle for a recyclable plastic container that will not be empty for some time because there is a good sized amount left to use. I put the seal of this container in the “waste” pile in the picture Jess took. The main ingredient was, of course, the sweet potatoes which we just bought fresh and composted the peels. To mash it we used some heavy cream from a local dairy in glass. The seal was plastic, but at least it was recyclable. 
Green Bean Casserole
Believe it or not this is the most labor intensive of the dishes. First, you need to fry the onions for the top so you don’t waste on packaging. I used onions, composted the peels, milk from glass again, and flour that I bought in massive bulk…like I have a dog food size bag of whole grain flour I bought direct from Azure because I bake that much. It came in a thick brown paper bag so it will eventually be recycled or composted. Then, you have to make the cream of mushroom soup. This took mushrooms (fresh bulk using reusable produce bag), fresh garlic, butter, chicken stock (I used a concentrate that is an alternative to bouillon cubes. It comes in a glass bottle, but it lasts forever so it will be awhile before it is re-purposed or recycled), cream (reusable glass bottle), and some spices I already had and will not use up for some time (when I do all bottles are recyclable). Then, precook the fresh green beans after snapping and such (stored in a reusable produce bag). Finally, put all together and bake.
This is pretty up there on labor time too because it requires bread. That means making loaves of bread ahead of time and drying them out. I made the loaves Wednesday using my standard recipe. It calls for flour (that I bought in bulk as you know), yeast (that I also buy in massive bulk. I actually had to open a new bulk bag of the yeast which is one of those little strips of waste. The way it is lined I don’t think it can be recycled or composted.), honey from Eskridge (in a reusable, exchangeable bottle), milk (glass exchangeable). It also took some onions (compost peels), butter (compost wrapper), broth (from concentrate in glass jar), fresh parsley (no waste), and some seasoning I had on hand.
 Pumpkin Pie
I used our super traditional crust recipe and just subbed my whole grain flour for all purpose and butter for shortening. I baked a pumpkin for the filling which gave us the waste of the sticker that was on the pumpkin for labeling. We composted the pumpkin scraps. Other ingredients were: cream (glass exchangeable), brown sugar, sugar (from bulk), sea salt, egg (local farmers take the cartons back), lemon zest (sticker for label was waste), and some seasonings. 
Apple Pie
This contributed to a lot of our waste as we needed 12 apples. I think 4 of them had stickers. All stickers would be waste. Same crust as before, same sugar source, some butter, a lemon (sticker), and seasonings. 
Dinner Rolls 
These no-waste rolls were easy with just some of that bulk flour, bulk yeast, bulk sugar, bulk sea salt, milk in glass, butter in compostable wrapper, and eggs in returnable carton. 
Mashed Potatoes 
Easy on this one too. We composted the peels, used butter with compostable wrapper, milk from glass, sea salt and pepper from our grinder. 
Creamed Corn
With no fresh corn in season and me not planning ahead enough to buy and freeze earlier in the year I had to buy frozen. Luckily, it was very easy to find a compostable bag of frozen corn that I then creamed with milk (in the glass bottle) and bulk flour. 
For gravy I used the drippings from the turkey, the bacon from the turkey, leftover fresh parsley, bulk flour, and milk in glass. 
Cranberry Relish
I found carton cranberries this year so I recycled the cartons, yay! Add sugar from bulk, an orange (1 sticker), walnuts from bulk (in a mason jar) and bam, done. 
Our total waste = Produce stickers from lemons, apples, orange, and pumpkin. The wrapped seal from two spices I had to buy fresh because I was out, the top of the brown sugar, the single bag from the turkey, and the top of the new giant bag of yeast. 
Recycled = two small clam shells from cranberries, even smaller one from herbs, three seals from milk and cream, and two boxes from butter. 
Composted = potato peels, sweet potato peels, apple peels, pumpkin scraps, green bean ends, two gelatin paper packs, paper from butter, and bag from corn. 
We brought all our glass storage with us to box up any leftovers. Buying zero-waste and local when possible made organic and non-GMO even easier because we never made it to a conventional grocery store for supplies. :)


MommyCon weekend

Rob and I, along with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and Ronan of course, attended MommyCon KC on Oct. 26th. It's a convention geared toward the crunchy mama. As such, I figured it was fitting enough to write about here on the blog. Sessions covered things like baby-wearing, cloth diapering, green proofing/baby proofing, normalizing breastfeeding, holistic pediatric care, essential oils, birth without fear, car seat safety, and attachment parenting. Overall I thought it was very enjoyable, not to mention lucrative. I paid $70 for a VIP ticket and $30 for a ticket for Rob and walked away with these goodies:
Free stuff!
That's right, you are looking at TWO new baby carriers that start around $100 each, a new API book, some baby food, and two pacifiers. Not pictured: two bottles that we gave to my sister because she pumps and I don't have a use for them.

The Beco carrier was given out at the VIP play date, an hour event the day before the convention where all attendees walked away with a new carrier. This was the reason I got the VIP tickets. I mean, I pay $70 for the VIP play date and convention and I am guaranteed a baby carrier that cost at least $100. I'd say that's a no brainer. I had to really get in on it quick though, as it was open to the first 30 people and my sister and I just so happened to buy right away so we could go to the VIP part. Here is a picture MommyCon took of us at the VIP play date:
Left to right: Random other attendee with babe, my sister Lacey with my niece Aurora, and then me with baby Ronan.
The Ergo carrier was a prize on the day of the convention for Ronan wearing a Halloween costume. That's all we had to do. It was like they were giving carriers away like candy. Pretty sweet. The baby food was free at the Happy Family vendor's booth and the bottles and pacifiers came in the goodie bag we were given at the door. I won the book during an Attachment Parenting workshop.

Here's a run down of what the weekend looked like:

On Friday the 25th, we had a family day. My sister, niece and mother came to visit. We met up at the VIP play date first and got our baby carriers. Then, we all had a long lunch together. They stayed until Rob got off work and then we had dinner together too.

Saturday the 26th was the actual MommyCon event. My sister, brother-in-law Matt, niece, Rob, Ronan and myself were in attendance. 9:30am was Babywearing 101. Then at 10 I went to Essential Oils 101 while others went to Cloth Diapering 101. I was hoping the Essential Oils would have been a bit more informative, but it seemed more like a "buy this starter pack and book" spiel instead. I guess you can't cover a whole lot in only a half hour either. I did learn about lavender oil helping with teething pain. Haven't tried that one yet. Do I have any readers that have tried this with success? Please tell me about it. I still hope to learn more about essential oils in the future, when I have time. At 10:30 I went to Green Proofing and Child Proofing. Lacey and Matt went to Birth Without Fear (she is pregnant with #2). Here is a picture from the Green Proofing and Child Proofing. This session was pretty good, though I already knew about most of the natural cleaning methods:

Then there was time for lunch and visiting vendor booths, with changing and feeding Ronan interspersed as well. Check out the sweet changing room set up. I now wish I had something to dangle a toy above baby while changing at home:

They also had little tot potties in the bathrooms. How adorable and thoughtful:

Lunch was delicious and Ronan approved:

Celebrating turning 8 months by going to MommyCon!
1:15 was The Leaky Boob, which we only caught the tale end of due to our leisurely lunch, but it seemed good. I wish I would have been there from the start. It was about normalizing breastfeeding. 2pm was a costume contest and that's when we got yet another carrier as all participants got one. Then there was A Holistic Approach to Pediatric Care that ended up being mostly about chiropractic care, which is fine, but Lacey and I thought it might have include more. 3pm Rob and I went to Creating Calm in a World of Chaos (with Attachment Parenting International) while Lacey and Matt went to Car Seat Safety (they are looking to get another seat now that they have a second baby coming). At the end we all attended The Baby Gear Guide, where they gave out lots of prizes like strollers, car seats, more baby carriers, high chairs, etc. There were a few other workshops/seminars we didn't attend, like: Kangaroo Care and Skin-to-Skin, That's a Wrap: Using a Woven Wrap and, Wool Always <3 You (an introduction to wool in cloth diapering). I'm sure they were awesome as well, but you had to pick and choose as some things were at the same time and these didn't really apply to me.

It was a fun time and refreshing to be amongst like minded mommies. The only improvement I would make would be longer workshop sessions as many were too short to really delve into the topics at hand, but then again, this is the first year for MommyCon, so perhaps with time things will improve. Any readers that were in attendance either at the KC MommyCon or any other MommyCon event?

MommyCon even put out their own toys on the floor so kids could play with them. Cool.


Wordless Wednesday

Now here is a "Red Solo Cup" I can get behind (seen at Bed, Bath, and Beyond).


March against Monsanto

Wow, I can't believe it has taken me so long to post about this. Let's face it. I have been a horrible blogger as of late. Please, please forgive. Rob, baby Ronan, and I attended a march against Monsanto on May 25th. The following are a few pictures from that day. I believe there were similar marches going on across the country. This is the march that took place in Kansas City. I would so love it if GMOs did not exist, but at the very least we should be able to get them labeled. It was a hot day, but it was still a pretty good turn out. I particularly liked one sign that had a picture of the grumpy cat meme that read: Monsant...No.


Using a reel mower

We bought our house in October last year. It was a dry summer so there wasn't much need to mow before winter. Just hours of raking. But, we got a mower anyway. I believe we had to use it twice in 2012.

This thing is pretty great. No gas to buy. No blade to sharpen. No spark plugs to change. It's the ultimate zero waste mower! It's pretty easy to push, involving less effort than a gas mower with no power assist. Today was the first mow of the year. Took maybe half an hour.

As with anything there are downsides. It doesn't cut grass that's under leaves and doesn't really do anything to the leaves, so in the fall there's a lot of raking. And, it gets caught up on sticks a lot, so today I spent an hour picking up sticks before I even got started.

But it's quiet and peaceful. You can listen to some music without having it turned up too loud. I could even strap my baby to me and the sound would probably put him to sleep in seconds. I actually enjoy mowing with this.


Cloth diapers

Let the adventures in cloth diapering begin!
Let me hear from you. Do you, or have you, cloth diapered? What advice do you have for new parents? Did you use throw away wipes or cloth? Did you use a sprayer? How did you handle cloth while out? What did the whole process look like for you? How often did you wash? How many diapers did you have? Are there ways to strip diapers without bleach? What other questions can we answer?


Local news

Attention locals:
Just wanted those who live around here to be aware of the Recycling Extravaganza that is taking place on the campus of Black & Veatch, 11401 Lamar, on Saturday, April 27th. This event will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This is a nice opportunity to drop off recycling items that are not collected by routine recycling drops/pick ups. For example, here you will be able to drop off:

  • Electronics (computers, TVs, printers, stereos, cables, keyboards, etc.)
  • Medications (unwanted or expired)
  • Confidential documents (onsite shredding to protect your security)
  • Cell phones 
  • Usable building materials (project leftovers or remodel removals)
  • Furniture 
  • Clothing
  • Toys
  • Bicycles 
  • Used carpet and padding
Visit opkansas for more information.




Drying rack

Something we've been wanting to do for a while now, we finally got a drying rack for the laundry!

So far it's done well for most things. I've still done towels and sheets in the dryer. Saves at least one dryer load each week.

Now I just have to get used to the stiffness from air drying.


Diabetic dilemma

So, I recently found out that I have gestational diabetes. Sucks, sure. But, at least I have been able to maintain things with diet alone and it should be something that goes away after delivery. But, it's something I hadn't given much thought to before...How is it possible for diabetics, in general, to live without all the plastic waste? This picture is probably just a month's worth of plastic, pointy, pricks. I can't imagine a long term situation of testing your blood (pain to finger wise and waste wise). And then think of all the people in the world that have to deal with this issue. I'm assuming there isn't much alternative, but it just made me wonder.

In the past, I have often thought about medical waste in general, generated in hospitals and doctor's offices. All the single-use plastics. For example, a plastic cap on the thermometer they put in your mouth and then immediately throw away (instead of just sterilizing). Or, same goes for the plastic caps they use to look in your ears and then just throw away. I sometimes wonder if I'm the only one that thinks about these things. But, I just think about the global impact when you put many offices and hospitals together with this mountain of waste. 

Okay, I know we didn't get anything resolved, but I just wanted to bring up the subject. Sorry if it only served to depress you! Anyone out there in the medical field have ideas/comments? Is this an area that can't yet be tackled, or has anyone heard of facilities making eco-friendly changes in the field of medicine?



We finally did it. The overhead lighting in every room of the house now has only LED bulbs.

The house came with incandescent bulbs, and after breaking a CFL in the process of discovering they wouldn't fit in the globes we decided to just put the CFLs we already had in the basement, which is surprisingly well-lit, and just jump straight to LEDs upstairs.

It took a while because they're not cheap, but we're finally there. We got a total of nine 60W equivalents and three 40W.

The bulbs we got were all Utilitech brand. Only Lowe's ever had them, which is a bit inconvenient for us because the nearest two Lowe'ses are each 15 minutes away.

The packaging for the 60W equivalents says each one will cost us $1.63 to run 3 hours a day for a year and will last 22.8 years. Each one costs $20.

These incandescents cost $0.37 each, with an average life of 1000 hours. We'll throw in CFLs in the comparison too. These ones seem to be about $2 each; the website was being confusing about prices.

We pay around 10 cents per kWh:

Incandescent CFL LED
Per-bulb cost $0.37 $2.00 $20.00
Power 60W 13W 13.5W
Lifetime (hours) 1000 12000 24966
Power over lifetime 60 kWh = $6.00 156 kWh = $15.60 337 kWh = $33.70
Lifetime cost $6.37 $17.60 $53.70

Based on that, the single-bulb lifetime cost puts incandescent well in the lead. Except, if the lifetime is anywhere close to accurate on the LED, you'd need nearly 25 incandescents to match it, making the total $159.03.

LED wins over incandescent 3:1.

I suppose you may have noticed that the lifetime cost of a CFL is better than the LED, even if it takes two CFLs to match one LED. I'm ok with that trade-off. I'm willing to pay the extra twenty bucks per LED to avoid the mercury in the two CFLs I'd otherwise need. Plus, for being "compact", the 60W equivalent CFLs I had wouldn't even fit in our bedroom ceiling fixture anyway.

Besides, I'd bet that long before these die on us, there'll be more efficient LEDs for cheaper that would tempt me to move these ones down to the basement and totally get rid of our CFLs.

In addition to energy efficiency and saving money though, I for one really enjoy all my lights putting out the same color temperature, even when dimmed. Before, we had some Reveal, some soft white, some CFL, and some CFLs that warmed up so slowly you'd be half done with your shower before the lights were really on. It's nice to walk through the house and have some consistency!


New year, new minimization challenge

It's that time of year again. If you remember our post from last year we decided we were going to do a yearly room by room purge of our home. It's a great way to keep clutter at bay and make sure you are maintaining a minimized lifestyle. Since we got rid of so many boxes of things last year, we don't really have a lot this year, but I'm still working through it so we will see. I haven't gone through every room yet, but so far I've been able to box up some clothes, some more DVDs, a rug, lamps, and a few other odds and ends. Granted, we have taken in some new stuff since we are getting ready for a new baby, so it has probably equaled out this time, but it's still important to evaluate possessions and purge when you can. Who's doing the challenge this year? Click on the link above to see the old post that has all the instructions. It was such a great feeling, freeing ourselves from that much stuff last year. Tell me about your experience!


35 ways to make less trash

  1. Reusable water bottles. Take them everywhere. You can use them for more than just water too. For example, Rob takes his to Jason's Deli and other places to get tea. That way he can take some tea to go without getting a to-go cup.
  2. Get an old fashion safety razor, straightedge razor, or laser hair removal. This way you aren't having to go through disposable razors, or continuously toss plastic cartridges and such.
  3. Take your own containers to restaurants you anticipate having leftovers from so that you do not have to use their to-go containers (especially if they are Styrofoam). I use little Pyrex containers.
  4. We enjoy taking our own reusable chopsticks when we go to places that call for chopsticks.
  5. Try to refuse straws. We sometimes have issues with this because waiters will often bring out the drink with the straw already in it. So, we'll have to try to be on top of asking ahead of time. If you really are fond of the straw, they make nice glass and stainless steel ones that can be reused. When we do accidentally get straws we reuse them with our cat Virgil. They seem to be the only way to successfully cut his nails as the straw serves as a chew toy distraction so he is not chewing on us.
  6. Buy milk in glass that can be returned.
  7. Reusable shopping bags and produce bags. Don't forget that you can take reusable shopping bags with you to more places than just the grocery store. I like using one when I go clothing shopping for example.
  8. Use cloth napkins.
  9. Use washcloths instead of paper towels.
  10. Cloth diapers instead of disposables.
  11. Cloth pads or diva cup.
  12. Handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex.
  13. Buy from bulk bins using reusable bags or jars.
  14. Avoid individually wrapped items. Try buying in bulk in general if it helps.
  15. Make your own household cleaners so you avoid all the plastic waste. I mainly use vinegar, essential oils, baking soda, etc. All of which come in glass or from a bulk bin. I use reusable spray bottles and what I make lasts a long time.
  16. Make your own deodorant if it works for you so you avoid the plastic, but also so it doesn't have aluminum and other unwanted things in it. We have tried several times and failed. I am currently using a stick made by Tom's, so at least it doesn't have a lot of crap in it. Rob, however, has been okay with going back to baking soda and arrowroot, so he gets to avoid the need to throw away plastic. I'm sure I will experiment more in the future.
  17. Bar soap that comes unpackaged is preferable to liquid soap that comes in throw away containers.
  18. Compost.
  19. Reusing gift bags instead of buying new. Using newspaper, ads, etc. instead of wrapping paper.
  20. Try chopping your own produce instead of buying things prepackaged (avoid bags of salad, containers of chopped fruits, etc).
  21. Grow your own food.
  22. Buy less stuff in general. Minimize!
  23. Use rechargeable batteries.
  24. Recycle.
  25. When you do need to buy paper products, buy recycled.
  26. Compostable toothbrushes.
  27. Make whatever you can homemade. That includes foods, too.
  28. Track your trash and/or plastic. By watching what we throw away we can inspire ourselves to discover alternatives we've never thought of before.
  29. Make your own laundry detergent, dish-washing detergent, and dish soap.
  30. Get an air popper for popcorn instead of individual, microwavable bags. Get rid of your microwave, even!
  31. Buy used.
  32. Reusing small paper bags for cat/dog waste instead of using plastic.
  33. Stop whatever junk mail you can.
  34. Pay bills online.
  35. Utilize the public library or an e-reader instead of buying new books.