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,



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Why I Am Blogging Again…

Hello friends,

I hope that you are doing well and are having a prosperous new year thus far. I had big hopes for 2018 and I must say that the year has gotten off to a great start for me. In this blog post, I want to share why I’m blogging again after a long hiatus.

This year makes 6 years that I have been in the blogging space. I ventured into blogging back in 2012 as a way to share my spiritual journey, as well as the information and resources that were shared with me with the world. Blogging has helped me to make friends & acquaintances in other countries, learn from others, and from what readers have shared, bless people that I will never meet.

Over the last couple years, I have struggled to find balance between blogging, working & being in a relationship. This was when teaching, getting to know my now husband and settling into a new area were really my focus. I simply didn’t make much time for writing. Now that my life is a bit more settled, I am back because I feel that blogging regularly will be good practice in building consistency. One of my best friends, who I’ll call “A,” continually reminds me that all of my health & fitness goals are on the other side of consistency. I believe that she is right.

However, consistency isn’t the only reason I am blogging again. I am back because I believe that I have interests that others might share. In the past few years, the¬† words “healthy,” “green” and “sustainable” have all come to mean a whole lot more to me. I am committed to taking care of myself, inspiring those around me to take care of themselves and caring for the planet that we inhabit. There are so many people who do not have much knowledge in these areas and I hope to be able to share what I have learned through this blog.

And lastly, I am blogging because I believe that it is a great way to allow those that I don’t get to talk to regularly get to know me better. I am a deep thinker but also an over thinker who tends to be very introverted. I am in my own head a lot and I have discovered that this is both good and bad. I want to share more of who I truly am with those around me.

So what can you expect me to talk about here on The Green Pursuit? I plan to build this blog around 5 different domains that I think truly encompass what it means to be healthy, sustainable and green. The 5 domains are food, green living, health, service and faith. When I dive into green living, for example, I’ll be discussing non-toxic product swaps, minimalism, zero-waste swaps, thrifting and how to lighten one’s ecological footprint. And of course there is much more to share.

I am excited to see where this blog goes and the people it connects me to. If you are interested in the topics I shared, please don’t hesitate to follow my blog. I plan to share new content here weekly and I hope that you’ll tune in.

In pursuit of all things green,


4 ways minimalism has improved my life

Happy New Year, friends! I hope that your year has started out well. I wanted to take a moment today to talk about a lifestyle change that has benefited me greatly and to share some resources on how you can learn more about it.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines minimalism as “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” Around seven months ago, I began to explore¬†minimalism without really even knowing what it was. My teaching job had ended for the school year¬†so I was looking forward to a summer to work on other projects. When I first stayed home for a couple days, I started to feel overwhelmed in my own space. Generally when I am working, I am able to tune things out that bother me and just do what must be done. But when I finally had those first few days to myself, I knew that I wasn’t at peace with my surroundings and that I was actually somewhat anxious. This is when I started to declutter my space and look for resources on how to do so efficiently. This opened the door to me finding and adopting minimalism. As I’ve explored this lifestyle over the past 6 months, I’ve started to see many benefits.

I spend less time getting ready & tidying up

Prior to decluttering and adapting to a more minimalist lifestyle, tidying up used to take me a lot of time each day. When getting ready for work, I would pull out so many tops, pants and shirts. Then I would pull out different pairs of shoes, going carefully through several pair before rushing out the door, leaving all of the items I didn’t choose on my bed or floor. Upon returning home, I would be annoyed by having to put these items back before I could relax. Now, I have fewer items to choose from so this process is nowhere near as taxing as it used to be. I simply take out a top or bottom that I love, match it with shoes I love wearing and get out of the door. Even if I do take out multiple items, it is generally much less than I used to pull out. When you have less to start with, there are fewer items to put back.

I experience more peace & rest in my own space

Last year, I vowed to create spaces in my home that would allow me to experience peace and to connect with God without interruption. When I decided to pursue minimalism, I read the book “Spark Joy” by Marie Kondo. In the book, Kondo describes how important it is to be surrounded by items that quite literally “spark joy” for you. As I pared down my items, I held every one, asking myself if it was something that I truly enjoyed. What I learned was that many of the items I had were being kept out of obligation, guilt or security. After the first round of letting to of things that held no value to me, I immediately felt more at peace in my space. I attribute this to the fact that virtually every item that was left in my possession was something that I really, really loved or needed. ¬†I am now able to read, study, pray, work and enjoy company without feeling self-conscious about the things in my space. It has brought me much more calm.

It encourages me to make sustainable choices

After I started living with less, I began thinking about what would happen to all the items I no longer needed. Would someone actually purchase the items I donated to thrift stores? Now I was concerned about where¬†these items would go, what role they would play in lives and what role they played in the life of its maker before getting to me. A few months back, I stumbled upon a documentary on Netflix called “The True Cost.” This documentary explored how cheaply made items impact the people who make them, the environment and how American consumerism (that is at an all-time high) is driving this industry. Fast fashion, one of the major causes¬†of this problem, is one that I have supported.¬†It’s not that I didn’t know that cheap items don’t last, (my grandmother was telling me that years ago) but more so that I didn’t realize how large of an¬†effect they would have on the environment. Now that I am aware of this issue, I can ensure that the items I purchase are long-lasting, won’t be a major detriment to the environment when I am done with them¬†and that the people who create them are supported the way they need to. If you see me in Target, don’t flog me. ūüôā Just know that I am still learning about the sustainable options that are¬†available.

It helps me to spend wisely

Prior to becoming a minimalist, I loved buying things.¬†For me, this started in high school when I first began to make what I would call “significant”¬†money. I remember being so excited that I could pay for my own clothes and shoes, and literally started buying a pair of shoes each month when I could. It wasn’t that I needed a new pair of shoes each month, but I loved the attention having a great pair of shoes would bring when I wore them out with friends, to church or to an event. This habit didn’t last very long (as my college expenses didn’t allow such spending), but after college I started to see this habit come back. After my first year of work, I started to pare down on my clothing spending, falling out of love with the shopping habit. But every now and again, there would be that one pair of shoes or nail polish or book that I just had to have. As a Christian, I believe that I should have self-control over every area of my life, including my spending. Minimalism has helped me to ask the important questions regarding what I purchase like: “do I need this?” “how many times will I use it?” or “do I already own something that can serve the same purpose?” Minimalism helps me to be a better steward of the resources God has given me.

If you are interested in learning about this lifestyle, I have linked several resources to the Minimalism page in my Resource Library. If you decide to declutter or explore minimalism, please let me know. I would love to hear more about how it has impacted your life in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading,