5 zero-waste swaps to reduce food trash

Two weeks ago, National Geographic shared a story about plastic pollution that photographer Randy Olsen has been covering for two years. In his story Planet or Plastic?, Olsen shares pictures that explain how 18 million pounds of plastic end up in our oceans each year. His photos also make it quite clear that discarded plastic wreaks havoc on the populations closest to it. At first glance, the pictures made my heart drop. I wondered if I might have used one of the water bottles pictured. I’ve never lived near a landfill or dumping sites, so plastic pollution hasn’t impacted me like it has people in the parts of India, China and lower-income communities all over the world who do. But at second glance, the pictures made me want to take responsibility.

I’ve known about the zero-waste movement since January. One day while listening to TEDx talks, I ran into a talk from Bea Johnson on how her family has produced almost zero trash in the last 5 years. This blew me away but also opened my eyes to the real problem that trash has become. What I learned since January is that the average American makes 4.4 pounds of trash everyday. This translates to just over 1,600 pounds a year and as a country, we create 254 million of trash yearly. That is enough to trash to reach the moon and back 25 times. If Americans continue to make trash at this rate, it is going to cause major issues for us down the road. China, who has traditionally purchased trash from us, has decided to no longer accept our trash beginning in January 2019. Some east African countries are considering banning second-hand clothing imports from America so to better support their own fashion industries. Things are changing and we need to change too, or else we will likely find ourselves living much closer to our trash and the problems trash brings.

So, how can we change this?

What sort of improvements can one person make?

Well, we can start by looking at the items we use differently. We can look for more sustainable, reusable and less toxic items. We can stop having a “disposable is better” mindset. We can cut back on the chemicals. We can also begin to consider the impact that products we use everyday have the environment.

How can we cut back or avoid products that require drinkable water and create toxic water during processing?

How can we reduce our consumption of animals/animal products that produce harmful gases or need a lot of valuable resources?

 How can we hold our favorite companies accountable for the pollution that they create to earn profit?

How can we reduce our plastic usage and use our money to invest in things that can be reused?

As you can see, these are the questions I have been considering for the last 5 months. And in that time, I had made a lot changes to how I shop, cook and look at everyday items. There is a lot to think about when one first becomes interested in the zero-waste lifestyle. To make things easier, I have shared 5 of my favorite zero-waste swaps that can easily help one kitchen trash. These are items that if utilized can help make huge cuts in the 4.4 pounds each person is said to produce daily. The most ideal situation would be to find these items used or second hand, but the main thing is to get started however possible.

1. tiffin or bento box

Lunch boxes and containers have always been a hot commodity among kids and adults. Even now, I take lunch to work everyday so it’s even important for me, too. I remember my parents purchasing me a new plastic lunch box every year that I was in elementary school. It was usually filled with plastic-wrapped sandwiches, fruits in plastic zipper bags and a plastic straw for my juice box. So throughout my school experience, this equals out to a minimum of 6 lunch boxes (if not more) and pounds of plastic waste that all ended up in a landfill. A great zero waste swap is a stainless steel tiffin or bento box. These containers can be filled with healthy foods and will last for years. One of my favorite food bloggers has been filling her daughter’s Planetbox with goodness for years (check it out with #realnaturalkidslunchbox). This is a swap that will keep on giving (and keep you from running through Target like a madwoman the weekend before school starts looking for a new lunch container for your child) for many years to come. ūüôā

2. utensils

 

Bamboo utensils are a really great zero waste swap. In the US, it is estimated that we throw out billions of pieces of plastic cutlery each year. A study from the San Francisco Bay area found that about 67% of the trash on their streets was made up food packaging waste. We can do a lot better than this by simply using reusable utensils. This is something that I am committed to and although I generally use a metal spoon or fork from home, this bamboo set would go nicely in with any lunchbox or tiffin.

3. drinking straws

Plastic straws are everywhere! According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, Americans use 500, 000, 000 (yes, million!) plastic straws everyday. Even at restaurants that serve food on reusable dishes, they still often times give every patron a plastic straw. These straws never go away. They end up in our oceans, which ends up inside of our sea animals. A simple swap is to purchase a silicone or stainless steel drinking straw, and to also say no to plastic straws. These are easy to clean, easy to carry and will likely save thousands of plastic straws from ending up inside the oceans we so desperately need.

4. produce bags

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE grocery shopping. Up until recently, I never thought twice about placing every ounce of my fresh produce inside of a plastic produce bag. Because I buy lots of produce, a single trip to the grocery store could result in my using 10 or more of these in one trip! These bags never get used again and end up in the landfill quite quickly. A great solution to this is to purchase reusable produce bags. They are a one-time purchase and can prevent the need to use plastic produce bags ever again. Also, since I’m a grocery shopping pro, let me share an awesome tip. Please know that every piece of produce doesn’t need a bag. But these reusable ones are a great option for the produce that does.

5. glass jars

If you’ve noticed a trend yet, most zero-waste swaps simply require going back to what worked before we learned to simply use things once and throw them out. If your grandparents were like mine, they kept Mason jars around to use for food storage, drinking out of and for growing plants. Mason jars are fashionable now and are associated with all things southern, but when it comes down to it, they are great for storage and meal prep. I use them to hold salads, water, smoothies, soups, oatmeal, quinoa and veggie “bowls” and so many other foods. I also store my dried beans and grains. It looks great and I don’t have to buy a new one every time one gets discolored, starts to hold smells or looks old. I also don’t have to worry about anything in the jars interfering with my hormones.

If you decide to try any of these items, please let me know how things turn out for you. Small changes equal big results over time.¬† I am excited to hear about how incorporating these reusables saves you time, money & makes our planet a greener place. If you are interested in learning more about the zero-waste lifestyle, be sure to follow the following IGers: @zerowastehome, @zerowastechica, @going.zero.waste and @zero.waste.collective. I’ve learned so much from following each of these people/accounts.

Thanks for reading,

Brittany

 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these items, a small amount of money will be sent to The Green Pursuit to help with maintenance and hosting fees. 

 

Getting Out of My Head

The hardest part about wanting to write is forcing myself to get the ideas out of my head and onto paper. Some of you may not have this issue, but I’m sure someone reading this can relate.

I am by nature a true overthinker. I take an ideas and boil it down into small particles, sometimes examining every possible outcome and aspect. At times, I even talk (or think) myself out of ideas because I assume everyone already knows it or they aren’t that valuable. My overthinking can be likened to the scene in Avengers: Infinity War when Dr. Strange looked into the future and found millions of possible outcomes for the situation the group was facing. The only difference is, I don’t have any super powers so my over analyzing never shows me anything new.

In this season of life, I am learning that it is okay to do my thinking on paper. I don’t have to keep the ideas bottled up until they are perfected before sharing them. I don’t have to have everything sorted out before I start to create. Ideas don’t have to be a final destination; they can indeed be a starting point. Growth can come from dialogue, but there can be no dialogue if I am not sharing ideas.

My goal for the next few months is to share more, even if I still want to ponder. There has to be a starting point and this short post (that was imagined weeks ago) is this overthinker’s step one.

Thanks for reading,

Brittany

4 Plant-Based Bloggers of Color You Should Be Following

 

Hello friends,

I hope that you are well. February is a very special month for me because it is Black History Month. Even as a young girl, I always enjoyed learning about the history of my people and our experience here in the United States. One of my favorite aspects of the experience to learn about has always been nutrition & cooking.

It’s no secret that food is an important aspect of culture, and food has played a big role in the lives of African-Americans from the time we reached this country to present. What I have always loved learning was how plant-based African-Americans had been for generations. During the least fortunate points in our history here, we were given the worst scraps of food along with the plants we grew. The beauty in who we are is that we were able to make what was supposed to be unusable taste great and continue to live on for another day.¬† And when we were no longer in that situation, we relied on plants because fruits and vegetables were more affordable & sustainable for people that grew their own food. I always remember my mom’s stories of how her parents always kept a large garden, with her father’s watermelons being her favorite plant that it yielded. Over the last century, so many things have changed regarding how active we are & how we get our food. Grocery stores, fewer farms, bigger cities, sedentary jobs, convenience foods, food deserts, and fast food restaurants concentrated in Black & Brown neighborhoods have all had their impact. Unfortunately for African-Americans, this has shown up in higher instances of heart disease, diabetes & high blood pressure than other groups, just to name a few. However, I am excited to see that there are many people who look like me who are (and have been for a while) embracing the plant-based lifestyle, taking our health back and getting back to our roots. I have decided to highlight a few of these bloggers, who in my opinion, have some of the best tasting plant-based recipes in the African-American community.

Jenné from Sweet Potato Soul

I’m a believer in the saying that there is a whole lot in a name. With a website name like Sweet Potato Soul, you already know the food is going to taste as good as a warm hug feels. I found Jenn√©’s videos on YouTube when I became serious about really trying to eat more plant-based. Because she’s from the Peach State (like me), I already knew that flavor would not be lacking in her food. I was right! In my experience, her recipes have been creative, colorful and very nutrient-dense. I also love that Jenn√© teams up with other food vloggers on YouTube to do videos, and also shares more of her perspective on podcasts as well. I’ve enjoyed learning about her journey to veganism and how she aims to extend her consciousness about her food into other areas such as her clothing. On Sweet Potato Soul, you will find great advice, incredible resources and plant-filled recipes that are cost-effective, flavorful and filled with so much soul. You can find Sweet Potato Soul on the website, YouTube, Instagram & more. Oh yeah, her¬†cookbook¬†goes live today. Check it out!

Eva from Wild Sunflower Chef

Who doesn’t love sunflowers? They’re one of my favorite flowers. In a similar vein, Eva from Wild Sunflower Chef has quickly become one of my favorite vegan/vegetarian food bloggers this year. I found Wild Sunflower Chef on Twitter, when I noticed the beautiful pictures that captured food that looked absolutely divine. I haven’t been following her journey long enough to know the whole back story, but Eva has shared pictures of her before and after switching to a more plant-based lifestyle. Before making the switch, she was overweight and definitely didn’t look her healthiest or happiest. I’m glad to know that she’s decided to share what worked in her journey to happier days with all of us. On Wild Sunflower Chef, you will find love-filled recipes that are much healthier than your Grandma ever made them. You’ll also “veganized” versions of convenience foods, such as the Vegan Big Mac & Korean Fried Cauliflower Wings on Skewers. My personal favorite is her Creamy Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup recipe. It’s perfect for cold winter nights. Feel free to find Wild Sunflower Chef on her website, Instagram & Twitter. Also, her¬†cookbook¬†is available on her website. Get into it!

Jada from Nourishing Your Temple

Nourishing Your Temple is more than a food blog – it’s a life blog. I found Jada’s website through following her on Instagram a couple years back. I was inspired by her Christ-centered posts, her love for her family, as well as her love of healthy food. So when she started her blog, I knew that it would be something special. On the blog, Jada shares her story of discovering a plant-based lifestyle and how it in conjunction with her faith have changed her life for the better. What I like most about the recipes on Nourishing Your Temple is that there is something good for everyone. Do you love sandwiches? Smoothies? Salads? Breakfast? Hot meals? Cold meals? They are all there. I also like that Jada cooks with her husband in mind and shares his feedback about his switch to a plant-based diet. She uses incredibly healthy ingredients and shares hacks like how to make your own plant-based protein powder. I have also enjoyed her posts where she brings in other plant-based chefs & cooks to share their recipes. If you follow her on Instagram, you can also see some of her grocery store hauls, where she breaks down how she plans to use her ingredients. I would encourage you to check out her blog yourself, and find new ways to maintain your blessing of a body. You can find Jada’s recipes at Nourishing Your Temple.

Kim at TheChicNatural

Kim at TheChicNatural is like your super dope, down-to-earth homegirl who does some of everything. From keeping her hair looking flawless to styling outfits and from studying abroad to cooking delicious food…she’s truly a Renaissance woman. I found Kim on YouTube a couple years ago. After a few hair tutorials, one of her cooking videos came on and I found out that she was vegan!¬† I was excited because I knew that she would have some great recipes to share. What I love about Kim’s recipes is that they’re never too complicated. She makes food that tastes and looks good, and she’s always sharing what she’s eating whether at home or out & about. On her YouTube channel, you will find videos of what she eats in a day, what she buys at the grocery store & even collaborations between other vegan vloggers. Kim makes vegan cooking easy for us all and I’ve enjoyed every recipe of hers that I have made. Be sure to check Kim out on YouTube, TheChicisNatural website, Facebook and Instagram.

I hope that you enjoyed reading about all of the amazing food and information that these ladies have to offer. Please, go to their websites, try out their recipes and support their projects. If you have other suggestions of great plant-based/vegan bloggers of color, please let me know in the Comments section. I’m always looking for new ones to follow!

In pursuit of greener eats,

Brittany

Note: All photos in this blog post belong to the aforementioned blogger’s websites. I do not own these photographs and have shared them in an effort to show the types of recipes one can find when visiting their sites.

Marriage Musings from a New Wife + Wedding Photos

My husband and I recently celebrated 6 months of marriage. It has been 180 days since we said “I do” and we are very grateful for this small milestone. What I find funny about being married is that it doesn’t feel that new. In fact, I hardly remember what life was like before waking up next to him. It’s like he’s always been here. However, there have definitely been areas where we have both needed to adjust.

Living with another person is not always the easiest, but if you are committed to loving your spouse, you find ways to make your lives work. We are believers and have faith that God has placed us in each others lives for many reasons, with the primary reason being to help each other grow in our faith. When we keep this in mind, it keeps us focused on why we are together besides just love. There have been some adjustments that we’ve had to make, however, to ensure that both parties are happy.

The first adjustment was to make sure we are speaking to each other as kindly as possible. My husband is a natural at this. He naturally really kind and polite (unless he’s your basketball trainer). On the other hand, you have me. My only major punishments as a child were for talking back and for being rude when speaking. My parents were very traditional in their view of what children should be able to say and had no problem letting me know when I was out of line. I have made major strides in learning how to speak without being passive aggressive or condescending, but at times, it quite literally slips out. These are the moments when I have to say “I said that wrong. What I should have said was…” and apologize to my husband. When I was single, I was never as comfortable with another human as I am with my husband, but even as a wife, I have to make sure that my comfort does not allow me to become abrasive. We continually work to speak to each other with love and words that will make the other feel cherished.

Another area that we’ve had to adjust is our time. Before I married my husband, I pretty much lived at my job. Although I have exclusively been a salaried employee for the last 4 years, I am the type of person who would spend hours in my classroom perfecting bulletin boards or creating new projects. I was known for calling parents at 7pm and replying to e-mails well after 8pm. This is just the type of person I am and time flies when I’m having fun. Being married means that I can still work, but my husband definitely wants to spend time with me each day. Our schedules are quite opposite during the school year, and sometimes this means making adjustments so that we can spend time together. We have learned to do this and it has helped us so much.

One last adjustment is actively looking for opportunities to serve one another. My husband is a remarkable person in so many ways, but I’m especially thankful for the ways that he serves me. While reminiscing with a friend recently, I shared with her about how when I became ill with food poisoning once while we were dating, my husband served me in a way that really showed me his heart for me. He continues to do this even now. When I wake up for work each morning, he will go start my car, fill it up with gas or even make an early store run if I need something. He helps me by making sure I have my lunch, my keys and anything else I need on the daily basis. I can count on one hand how many times I have pumped gas or carried anything remotely heavy. These are just a few of the ways he serves me. I also look for ways to serve him. Whether it be making sure he has healthy meals, helping him manage social media for his business, shampooing his hair or just bringing him something special home for dinner. We have started asking each other “how can I make your day better” and it has truly helped us.

Being married has been a beautiful experience thus far and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in the future. Below are some of the wedding photos that I think capture the feeling of our day the best. As always, I have question for you.

If you are married, which lessons did you learn early on in your marriage? And how do you keep your marriage healthy? If you are not and desire marriage, what do you think will be an area you must work on when you become married? Please share your thoughts below in the Comments section. 

In pursuit of all things green,

Brittany

 

Real Food, Less Fake: Purple Sweet Potatoes

Today, I’m highlighting a really wonderful food that can be added to your diet today. The food that I’m talking about is none of other than the sweet potato, but more specifically, yellow-fleshed and purple-fleshed varieties.

The first time I came in contact with a yellow-fleshed sweet potato (also known as a Japanese sweet potato) was around 5 years ago when I was in college. I visited a multicultural church with some friends and their potluck-style lunch after church included all kinds of foods from around the world. Growing up in a church that spans 6 continents meant that I was really never nervous about trying new foods in this setting, but this sweet potato that was yellow on the inside really threw me off. When I tasted it, I was completely blown away. How could something this good exist and no one had ever told me? It was so delicious that I had another helping.

My first time having a purple-fleshed sweet potato was just a couple¬†years¬†ago. My local Sprouts Farmer’s Market introduced them¬†and I was so intrigued because of the experience I had with the Japanese sweet potato a few years before. When I took it home and baked it, I added just a tiny bit of butter and enjoyed it plain. It was so filling and beautiful that I knew it had to be added to my list of foods to buy on a regular basis.¬†

Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

In general, potatoes are one of the most satiating foods that exist in any category. According to the study, The Satiety Index of Common Foods,¬† potatoes outperform all other foods when it comes to how full they make people feel. If you have ever eaten a potato, you know how filling they are. Many people are afraid of eating potatoes because they are considered carbohydrates (which many people still fear), but they are also plants, meaning that they are inherently much healthier than any “foods” we can create or process. They are a great asset to a plant-based diet, especially for those on a budget.

Sweet potatoes are also full of many vitamins and minerals. Just one cup of baked sweet potato can contain a week’s worth of Vitamin A and around half of your daily value of Vitamin C and manganese. It can also contains a¬†quarter of your daily value of dietary fiber and potassium, and just under one-fifth of the copper.

And lastly, Japanese sweet potatoes are one of the primary foods in the diet of some of the longest-living people in the world. In 2005, Okinawa, Japan (along with the Seventh-day Adventist population of Loma Linda, California, the male centenarians of Sardinia, Italy and the elders of Nicoya, Costa Rica and Ikaria, Greece) was identified as a Blue Zone. According to¬†Dan Buettner, Blue Zones are essentially the areas around the world where people live the longest. The people of Okinawa, Japan have a very unique way of living that contributes to their long lives and their diet is one of the factors that makes them incredibly unique. For starters, they eat a 96% whole food, plant-based diet. I don’t know about you, but as someone who adds kale into EVERYTHING (smoothies, spaghetti, juice, muffins, etc.) as I fight to get enough veggies in each day, I am highly impressed by that number. Around 69% of their diet consists of purple and orange sweet potato. In whole, they eat a diet of sweet potatoes, beans, different varieties of soy including tofu and miso, as well as stir-fried vegetables. Pork and fish (around 1% of their diet) are eaten sparingly, with the aforementioned foods making up their daily diet. They also incorporate many medicinal herbs such as mugwort, ginger and turmeric on the daily basis for their healing properties.

According to BlueZones.com, Okinawans who follow the traditional diet have much better health outcomes than Americans. They are 5.5 times less likely to die from breast cancer, have 6-12 times fewer heart disease deaths, 7 times fewer prostate cancer deaths and 2-3 times fewer colon cancer deaths. The elderly population there also experiences much lower instances of dementia than people in most places. If adding more of their plant-based staples can help improve our numbers this way, it is definitely worth consideration.

Recipe Suggestion

My absolute favorite way to eat purple sweet potato is to make sweet potato salad. Potato salad was a staple in my family growing up. My mom & aunts always added russet potatoes, boiled eggs, mayonnaise, relish, celery salt and a variety of spices to make this mouth-watering side dish. Now that I try to eat more a plant-based diet, I wanted a more nutrient-dense version of this food that I love. When I went searching, I knew that Jene√© from the website SweetPotatoSoul.com would have something good. She, too, is a Georgia peach and knows how important potato salad is to¬†a Southern dinner table. She added a new twist on this recipe that I absolutely love. In her recipe, Jene√© uses vegan mayonnaise, white AND orange sweet potatoes as well as all the right seasonings & spices. I decided to make this at home a few months back, but I added a purple-fleshed sweet potato to the mix. At first, my husband turned his nose up a my tri-color sweet potato salad. He didn’t think it looked too appetizing, but after one bite, he took the bowl from my hands and smiled. This is when I know that my food is really good. We ate the entire bowl in three days (so much for a week long meal prep!) and it was undoubtedly the item I was most excited to eat in my lunch. I encourage you to give her recipe a try and add some purple sweet potatoes in, too. You won’t regret it.

If you decide to have purple sweet potatoes for the first time, please tell me how you liked them. If you have eaten them before, I would love to hear about how you serve them. And if you have any questions, please leave them below in the Comments section. I’d love to keep our dialogue going. As always, thanks for reading.

In pursuit of greener foods,

Brittany

Websites & Articles:

Blue Zone Exploration: Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa Centenarian Study

Self NutritionData: Sweet Potato

Study: A satiety index of common foods

Sweet Potato Salad (vegan)

The Okinawa Diet: Eating & Living to 100