Archive | September, 2012

Lippitt Park Wednesday Market

garlicgrass

Rode to the Lippitt Park farmer’s market today to restock on garlic. Grabbed up some delicious grape and lemon tomatoes too. It was overcast all day, but the sun peaked through the clouds as it was setting and turned everything rosy.

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Bike Days

bikeweeks

Today I realized that I haven’t driven my car in two weeks. Biking and walking everywhere feels great, especially since the weather has been so beautiful. This afternoon I ran all of my errands on my bike and still managed to make it to work on time. At certain hours of the day, biking in the city seems faster than driving. I hit the bank, the tailor, the grocery store, and Olive del Mondo (where I received 50¢ off my olive oil refill for returning my bottle to be washed). It’s been a great way to spend more time outside—something I always crave at this time of year as the days get shorter.

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Licorice Root Tea

Licorice is said to ease upset stomachs, aid digestion, and boost immunity. It’s also delicious. Glycyrrhizin, the sweet tasting compound in licorice, is sweeter than table sugar. I got this licorice root in bulk at the co-op and tried drinking it when I had a stomach ache. It was indeed very soothing. It’s a remedy I will definitely turn to in the future.

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Line Drying

The air smelled like fall today. A prefect day for laundry. Sunny, dry, and breezy.

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Homegrown Fennel Seeds

These are so flavorful!

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Eggplant in the garden

My first ever homegrown eggplant! A strange beauty.

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An autumn offering

autumnofferingA garden harvest… tomatos, peppers, and gherkin cucumbers. Happy fall equinox!

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Popcorn project

poppingcorn

A recent trash-free snack project shared with friends. Popping corn purchased from Dave of Schartner Farms.

kernals

The ears stripped of their kernels. My friend and I tested different techniques for removing them. I found that rolling the ear in my hand, and pushing the kernels off with my thumb worked the best.

Woops! Should have used a bigger pot! Something about unrelenting popping corn is hilarious. Giggles abound.

poppedcorn

The result was delicious. Seasoned this batch with bulk olive oil, cayenne pepper, paprika, and Himalayan pink salt.

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Details

Backlit bulk bags drying on the line make me smile.

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Shampoo

Our skin is a coat of armor that shields us from the elements. It also acts as a sensor, communicating important information with our brains about the environments we negotiate. The daily duty of stripping the oils it produces with soap and then replacing moisture with oils and creams seems like an agressive treatment of our bodies’ largest organ. Why have I bought into the cycle for so many years? The notion that we are born equipped with the faculties we need to thrive makes sense to me on a logical and intuitive level. But old habits die hard.

I’ve been buying shampoo in bulk (pumped out of a plastic gallon jug) from the co-op in wakefield. It’s not a trash-free solution but it’s a little better than buying smaller bottles of product. I tried “no poo“—an idea I can really get behind, but a practice I could’t stick with. I have long, fine, straight hair. Washing it with a baking soda and water solution left my scalp dry and without conditioner, I could hardly get a brush through the ends of my hair. I’ve tried bar shampoos, but they all seem to leave a waxy buildup behind.

I daydream about cropping my tresses close to my head or even going Sinéad and shaving them completely. When my brother recently shaved his head and it looked good, I found myself comparing the shape of his to mine, wondering if I could pull it off too. How wonderfully low maintenance it would be. But the truth is I’m pretty attached to my long hair. That is to say it’s been attached to me for quite a while, and in some ways is a part of my identity. So for the moment, bulk liquid (sulfate, paraben, and phthalate-free) shampoo is where I’m at. But my work towards using fewer and fewer beauty products continues…

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Powdered baking soda deodorant

powderdeo

Years ago, a conversation with a family friend (a pharmacist) about the health effects of aluminum—a common ingredient in antiperspirants and deodorants, lead me to switch from Secret brand to a crystal deodorant stone. I loved it. No white smears on my clothing, no swollen glands in my armpits, no stains on my shirts and dresses, I found it to be more effective at eliminating odor, it left no greasy residue on my skin, and one rock lasts me more than a year… so again, I’ve been saving money. The particular crystal I chose came in a rigid plastic container. I’ had been using the same one since starting this project and it’s now worn down to the size of a pebble. There are some stones on the market that are packaged in a simple paper box, but I’ve been unable to find such a product locally. So I decided to try to make my own deodorant.

As I was researching recipes I stumbled across some information that surprised me. My “mineral salt, aluminum-free” crystal is actually potassium aluminum sulfate. Aluminum? What gives? Why then is it sold on the shelves of natural food stores with the claim of being a safe alternative to conventional deodorant? I did some digging and found that the crystal is free of aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum chloride, aluminum hydroxybromide, and aluminum zirconium (it’s also phthalate, and paraben-free). These are the types of aluminums found in conventional deodorants that act as antiperspirants. They are taken into the sweat ducts of the skin, acting as a plug. I always thought that because I still perspired with the crystal, it was aluminum-free. I read that the reason potassium alum is considered safe is because the mineral salts are said to be too large to be absorbed into the skin. Potassium alum sits on top of the skin and it’s antimicrobial properties prevent the growth of odor causing bacteria, which is why it works so well as a deodorant. Okay, maybe… but rubbing aluminum of any kind onto my body just doesn’t bode well with me. So I’ve been test driving my homemade concoction over the past several days and it seems to be working quite well.

The recipe is ridiculously simple. One part baking soda (sodium bicarbonate—the odor neutralizer) and six parts cornstarch, mixed well. I’m able to get both ingredients without packaging from the dry bulk goods sections of several local stores. Too much baking soda left on the skin can cause irritation and itching, but this ratio seems to be a good balance. I put the mix into a salt shaker. After showering, I shake some into my hand, pat it on my underarms and I’m good to go. No body odor to speak of, not even after my run a whole day and night after application. I’ve also been sprinkling it into my sneaks on days that I want to go sockless to keep my feet dry (blister-free) and odor-free. Straight cornstarch works perfectly well for this too. I’ve read that a small amount of baking soda mixed into water, applied with a spray bottle works just as well for underarms. I might try that too.

Going without any deodorant at all is another option of course. I’ve never been someone who perspires heavily. Sometimes I forget to put any deodorant on and if I’m not particularly active during the day it’s no big deal. I find that not wearing any synthetic fabrics also greatly minimizes armpit odor. Diet plays a large role too. But my job sometimes requires some heavy lifting (toting films and projectors) and running from place to place. I find that on those days it’s nice to have a little odor control.

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Menstrual cup

While on the subject of personal hygiene, I’d like to address a question that is regularly asked of me (usually half whispered) by both men and women during conversations about the No Trash Project: “What do you do when you’re on your period?” I think it’s high time to get into it. So to all the squeamish and hemaphobic out there, let this be a warning… It’s about to get real.

In a woman’s lifetime (from menarche to menopause), she is likely to use 15,000 pads or tampons. This amounts to approximately 300 pounds of waste. There are 85 million women of menstruating age in North America. That means that 1.275 trillion disposable pads and tampons (12.75 million tons) end up in landfills, sewage treatment centers, and littering oceans and beaches in just this corner of the world… and wherever currents may carry our garbage to. Growing up on the ocean in Massachusetts, I often saw plastic pastel-colored tampon applicators floating in the water, or in the sand and seaweed along the shore.

Many of you may recognize the object pictured above. It’s a silicone menstrual cup. This product collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it. Believe it or not, the commercial menstrual cup has actually been around since the early 1930s but the it didn’t sell successfully until the late 1980s. I’ve been using one in place of tampons since starting my project 17 months ago. I wish I had been hip to the cup since I first started getting my period. I love it for many reasons. There’s no packaging or product garbage to flush or toss. I find it less irritating than even the organic cotton tampons I had been using for years (since reading about dioxin—a toxic bi-product of bleaching the rayon and cotton used in conventional tampons). A menstrual cup does not affect the vaginal flora or have the same risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome as tampons do. I have also found that I have less leaking than I used to have with tampons. The cup is supposed to last 10 years—So no longer stocking up on tampons means saving a lot of money.

When I tell friends about the cup, questions about comfort, logistics, and the ick factor come up. Though it took some getting used to (a couple of cycles before I had it down), I now find the cup to be very comfortable to insert, wear, and remove. Okay, so logistics…. First of all, many cups on the market have a greater capacity than even a Super tampon, which means not having to emptying it every few hours the way one would frequently change tampons. Before emptying the cup, I wash my hands (this is important to prevent infection). I empty it into the toilet and then usually wash it out in the sink (unless I’m in a multi-stall public bathroom, but I hardly find myself in that situation because there are private bathrooms in almost all of the places I frequent during the day), reinsert the cup, then wash my hands again. It’s very quick, easy, and simple. I don’t find it to be gross or messy. In fact, I personally feel it’s less icky than using tampons and certainly pads, which hold odor because they are exposed to air.

The cup in the picture is the Diva Cup I just purchased from Whole Foods for a friend. The one I use is a Lunette Cup, which I ordered online before any were available on a store shelf near me. The Lunette Cup is a Finnish product and Diva Cup is manufactured in Canada. Most menstrual cup brands carry two sizes—a smaller size for young women, and women who haven’t delivered vaginally or by caesarian, and a larger size for older women and women who have delivered. The Diva Cup packaging is more obnoxious than the Lunette cup packaging. The box is glossy and has a cellophane window. It also comes with a metal stud pin that says “Diva”… uh, what?! Is this meant to be worn? The Lunette Cup box is just paper. Both brand cups come with a synthetic storage bag, decorated with a cheesy print. The Keeper is another brand of menstrual cup. They carry both a latex and silicone version.

I highly recommend a menstrual cup to anyone who is thinking of trying one. There are other “eco” friendly feminine products on the market like washable pads, but from an environmental, health, and practical standpoint, the cup just makes the most sense to me. I’ll never go back.

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Grooming

grooming

My nearly plastic-free (except for the nylon toothbrush bristles) set of grooming tools. I have been using the Environmental Toothbrush since I purchased it in March and I am very pleased with it. The soft bristles have held up very well and the bamboo handle, which I dry completely between uses, shows no signs of wear.

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Shaving

I get a lot of questions about grooming and hygiene in the context of the No Trash Project—particularly about hair removal. For reasons beyond the desire to make less waste (including the desire for a low maintenance routine), I often wish I could just rock the all natural, fully grown in look from brows to ankles. But alas, my partial Italian heritage has rendered me with plenty of dark hair, which if left untouched, can leave me feeling less than feminine. So I choose to shave.

I use the beautiful safety razor pictured above. Growing up, both the males and females of my family used disposable razors. When I was in college I switched to a razor with replaceable heads. But even those are usually so built up with plastic and come in excess packaging. At the start of my project, I did a lot of research before choosing a safety razor and blades. I settled on this Merkur brand razor based on reviews I read online. This particular model has a longer handle which makes it easier to hold in the shower and an open tooth head that provides a close shave with minimized irritation. I chose blades that come in a paper box. I like the weight of this razor and I don’t find myself cutting and knicking myself all the time—which is something people always ask about when I tell them I opt for this old school grooming tool. I have male friends with a similar model who also prefer it to any other electric or manual, plastic handle, multi-blade shaving experience. The only problem I’ve experienced with this razor so far is that I couldn’t fly with the blades in carry-on luggage. I tried to take one with me on a short trip to Chicago this summer and it was taken away. Duh—I guess I figured that would be the case. Not having any time to find a specialty shaving shop in Chicago, I had to borrow a disposable razor from the people I was staying with.

If I dry them between uses, the safety razor blades last an exceptionally long time. Determined to keep them out of the landfill, I’ve been stockpiling the used blades while searching for a place that can recycle them. Because they are obviously a safety hazard, they cannot be placed in the recycling bin. Sharp objects do not belong in the Materials Recycling Facility sorting lines! Today I called American Tin & Solder Co. to ask if they could take them, but I learned they’ll accept any metals (tin, aluminum, pewter, copper, brass, etc…) except steel. So then I called up The Steel Yard and was told that I can come by and deposit them in their recyclable metals dumpster that they fill with scrap metal offcuts from projects. Because these metals are not handled directly by people, but rather by magnets, having the sharp blades in the dumpster shouldn’t be a safety issue. Tomorrow, I’ll take my jar full of double edges and go check it out.

Personal hygiene can be quite… well, personal. We (men and women alike) can spend years zeroing on products and accessories that make us feel good and sometimes the idea of changing or eliminating those items that play a significant role in our routines can seem daunting. I’ve found that paring down and simplifying the products and tools in my bathroom cabinets has not only saved me time and money, it has also made my routine more enjoyable. In previous posts, I’ve written a bit about the satisfaction I get from having a relationship with the objects I keep—relationships that are heightened as I keep fewer and fewer things. I am very fond of my razor and I take good care of it. It works very well at the job it’s designed to do. I think as an object, it’s lovely to behold. I like the way it looks in my ceramic cup next to my bamboo toothbrush.

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Stevia

I harvested some stevia (stevia rebaudiana) from my garden today. This is my third summer growing it and I’ve been meaning to share my experience with this amazing plant. I first learned about stevia many years ago while visiting Logee’s. An employee was growing some in one of the back greenhouses and brought a few sampling leaves up to the woman working the register. I was offered a taste, and having never heard of the plant before, I was completely surprised and delighted by the explosion of sweetness that hit my tongue. At that time stevia seeds or starter plants were still very difficult to find, because it wasn’t until december 2008 that the Food and Drug Administration gave stevia the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) approval. Today it’s not uncommon to find it among other herbs at greenhouse nurseries in the early spring. It’s sometimes labeled “sweet leaf”.

Stevia is a small perennial shrub that belongs to the Chrysanthemum family and is native to Paraguay. The leaves contain two “glycoside” molecules, steioside and Rebiana (rebaudioside A), which can be up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar (it varies from plant to plant). Stevia is virtually non-caloric and has a zero glycemic index, which means it has no effect on blood sugar levels. The leaves can be used whole or in ground form in food and beverages. I sometimes add fresh leaves to my tea. Otherwise I cut and dry the stocks, then pick and grind the leaves into a powder to use for baking projects in place of sugar. Many stevia recipes can now be found online. Because it is so sweet, I only use very small amounts at a time. The stevia I grow in a small pot in my container garden over one summer will yield enough powder to last me more than a year. In this project, less is always more.

Powdered stevia from last year’s harvest. A little bit goes such a long way!

Hearty Jumble Cookies made with only 1.5 teaspoons of homegrown stevia powder. These gooey treats are gluten-free, dairy-free, and of course trash-free. All the ingredients were obtained without packaging. As with most of the recipes I post, this one is very simple and pretty loose. There’s plenty of room for experimentation and substitution…

2 cups rolled oats
1 large apple, finely-diced
1 cup of raisins or currants
1 cup of nut butter (your choice) 
1 cup pecans (or any nut)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup carob chips or chocolate chips
2 whole eggs
1 cup water
2.5 tsp stevia powder

Combine rolled oats, eggs, water and oil in a mixing bowl. Stir in nut butter and remaining ingredients. Form into balls and place onto an oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy them warm out of the oven, room temperature, or fridge chilled.

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Adaptations

brooklynbaggu

I took a trip down to Brooklyn again this weekend. Anticipating the desire to shop for groceries at some point, I packed a hemp bulk sack and a stainless steel container. On Sunday morning, I borrowed my friend’s nylon totes to hit up the grocery store around the corner from her apartment. Inside I found a small dry bulk goods section where I filled up some mixed nuts, a decent organic produce section, and a bakery from which I was able to get some cookies without any packaging—I placed them in a smaller zip nylon pouch. I enjoy the challenge of exercising the project away from home, and so far I’ve found that whether I’m in an urban or rural place, I can find ways around trash. It’s exciting. Granted Brooklyn, NY or midcoast Maine may not be the toughest tests of No Trash… and I certainly tend to surround myself with like-minded people, but it’s nice to realize that my resourcefulness moves with me beyond the 5 to 10 mile area I navigate on a daily basis.

Breakfast was delicious.

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Carrot soup

carrotgingersoup

For lunch. Homemade carrot/ginger soup with basil from the garden.

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Broth

Making broth with carrot greens, radish greens, and onions from Schartner.

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