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

 

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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.

Helpful Practices for New Year Success

Can you believe that we are 18 days into January already? It feels like just yesterday that I was sending “Happy New Year” texts to friends and family. The beginning of a new year is always a great time for me. I know that positive changes can begin at any moment, but I love getting a new start on January 1st. This year, I have decided to implement some new practices to help me in areas that I felt I was lacking in. I’m going to share the new practices that are working well for me so far in hopes that some of them may work well for you.

Committing to use a bullet journal

One of the best decisions I’ve made this year so far was to start a bullet journal. I originally heard of bullet journaling over a year ago, but at the time it seemed incredibly time consuming. During my two weeks off from work, I decided to go ahead and see what it was all about. Setting up my bullet journal required much thought but there were many YouTube videos & blog posts that made the process much easier. Bullet journaling has provided me the space to write down goals, trackers, budgets and so many other types of data that I’d like to keep up with. It provides a special type of accountability that I can’t get by simply saying “I’m going to do this” to myself.¬†In the last couple years, I have seen that I will do more and do better if it is written down. And, I have already accomplished some of the things in my journal. Here’s to knocking out this year’s goals by writing the vision!

Finding new streams of income

Ever since learning that the average millionaire has 7 streams of income, I have become dedicated to researching additional streams of income for myself. Although so many in my family are great at creating side hustles that work for them, I’ve never really found that thing that worked for me. Yes, I’ve sold a few items on TeachersPayTeachers or a textbook to another student in college, but I do not like directly selling things to people. However, I realize that everyone is selling something. People on YouTube are selling us makeup in their tutorials, some of my favorite Instagram influencers are constantly trying to get me to purchase sponsored healthy foods and even my Facebook friends are selling school fundraiser items on behalf of their kids. The economy only flows if money is being circulated through buying and selling. So far this year, I’ve made extra money through selling items I no longer use and mystery shopping. It’s really amazing how someone will find value in the things I don’t need anymore. I’ve sold shoes that I haven’t worn in years, clothes that are too small and even wedding gifts that were collecting dust in our closet. It has felt great to declutter our space and make money doing it. I have also completed one mystery shopping assignment that took me about 45 minutes and earned me $23. I was able to complete it by going somewhere that I needed to go to anyway and it wasn’t labor intensive. I have only done one mystery shopping visit so I don’t have too much to share yet, but if you are interested, Tai & Talaat McNeely have a great blog post with videos on reputable sites to mystery shop for here. I would highly suggest it for those who have pockets of extra time in their week.

Taking supplements daily

I know that taking supplements doesn’t sound that exciting and if it wasn’t flu season, you’d probably really¬†roll your eyes at this one. But I have found that taking vitamins are an easy way that I can ensure that I am getting what I need. I work in a profession where I come in contact with a lot of germs. And whether you work with children or not, the reality is, we’re all coming in contact with germs and harmful bacteria. This year’s flu season is already projected to be one of the worst on record, with hospitals setting up triage tents and school districts closing school to prevent the spread. I am hoping to do everything I can to keep myself healthy. My primary supplements are Vitamin C with Rose Hip to boost my immune system, Vitamin D to supplement for missed sunlight, Vitamin B12 to give me energy and wheatgrass because it helps everything. I also take a probiotic for gut health and St. John’s Wort for mood. I take some of them every day and some a few times a week based on my diet and the season. These supplements help me to feel my best and ensure that I’m not lacking in any vital area. I hope that they will help me continue feeling my best and have another sick visit-free year!

Which new practices have you incorporated this year? Did you commit to anything new? If so, how are these things helping you so far? Have you tried any of the practices I mentioned above? Please let me know in the Comments below. And as always, thanks for reading!

In pursuit of a greener year,

Brittany

Oh yeah, I just created an Instagram page for The Green Pursuit. Please follow at @thegreenpursuit. Let’s keep the conversation going about health, green living & sustainability there.