Archive | Food Storage RSS feed for this section

Co-op bounty

Today I made a trip to the Alternative Food Co-op to restock on some goods. It’s been almost exactly two months since the last time I visited, which seems to be close to the average time between my trips. It was a beautiful day and the drive was nice—still, I wish the shop was closer to my home! I can’t say enough good things about the co-op’s staff and their bulk goods selection. I came home with package-free olive oil, canola oil, turmeric, curry powder, chili powder, chocolate energy cubes, dried mission figs, baking soda, natural bar soap, and conditioner.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

East Side Pockets

Package-free hummus to-go from East Side Pockets. So delicious!

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

No trash fridge

The market bounty in my refrigerator.

Read full story · Comments { 1 }

To-go tea

After years of wrestling with flimsy ball strainers, I’ve finally found a system that works really well for me. My stainless steel mesh basket strainer hangs on the lip of most of my mugs and my 16 oz glass jars (The jar lid doesn’t close completely tight around it, but it’s fine if I carry it in my hand). The strainer is durable and extremely easy to clean. I brought this soothing herbal drink to work with me today.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

The perfect thing

I love the way bulk foods look stored in glass jars. Simple ingredients boasting great potential. I love the sound food makes when poured from cotton bulk bags as it ‘pings’ against the glass.

I have photographed and mentioned these before, but I want to talk about how much I love the design of Weck jars.  I think they are in many ways an improvement on the traditional glass wire bail jar. The seal is the same with a rubber gasket and a fitted glass lid, but the clamping system on the Weck jars employs two loose stainless steel clips that snap onto the lid and lip of the jar, forming an airtight seal. Because the lid can be removed completely, they’re easy to clean and dry. The stainless steel clamps won’t rust the way the wire can on a bail jar.

They’re great for canning and food storage. For the dry bulk grains on my counter that I use nearly every day—like quinoa, I simply cover the jar with the glass lid. Other dry bulk goods—like nuts, seeds, tea, spices, and chocolate, I seal with the gasket.

Weck seems to be growing in popularity in the States, which means increased availability. Recently I’ve been able to find them in boutique home goods stores and even at Crate and Barrel. Last year I ordered a set directly from the company website and it arrived in big cardboard box filled with packing peanuts—woops. I took the peanuts to a UPS store where they reuse them. Many shipping companies will accept used packing materials as long as they are clean. Of course it’s always better shop at local business when possible. I carry my large canvas tote when I go shopping for new or used jars and bottles. I’ve learned to throw in a sweater or some t-shirts to wrap fragile items in.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Bulk pepitas!

A personal favorite.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Radishes

From today’s farmers’ market for tonight’s salad!

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

in.gredients

If you haven’t already heard about in.gredients, check out this video! The in.gredients team is busy remodeling their store in Austin, inching towards the grand opening. Meanwhile they’ve been sharing updates, facts, and inspirations on their wonderful blog.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Sweet treat

Bulk local honey!

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Thrifty

Picked up a couple more glass jars at Savers the other day to accomodate more dry bulk goods. I spent 4 dollars on the pair.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Life Without Plastic

Yesterday I received a package I ordered from Life Without Plastic. I purchased the items above as a birthday gift to myself. Yes, that’s right, I bought a toilet brush for my birthday! It’s not your average brush.

So far I’m really pleased with each of the items. I brought the Klean Kanteen water bottle with me to work today. I have had a few of these, but none with the stainless steel/bamboo cap. I really love this particular newer model because it is completely plastic and paint free (the logo is laser etched into the steel). The cap seals with a food grade silicone ring. If I manage to hang onto this one (I’ve lost a couple others already), it will last a very long time. I purchased the steel container thinking that I would use it to put together a low-trash first aid kit. The steel seems to be a thicker gage than some of the other stainless containers I have and I love the roll clip design. I used it to carry some leftovers to work today. Because this particular one isn’t watertight it wouldn’t be ideal for wet foods. The handkerchiefs are made of organic cotton. I really want to make it a habit to carry one with me at all times as I still sometimes reach for toilet paper to blow my nose. The toilet brush is made from beechwood, wire, and pig bristles. It will be interesting to see how well it works and how long it holds up.

The whole order arrived in a small cardboard box sealed with paper tape. The handkerchiefs and toilet brush were loose inside. A piece of paper was wrapped around the bottle and the stainless steel container came inside a plastic bag within a cardboard Sanctus Mundo company box. I was surprised to see the plastic because there was no mention of it on Life Without Plastic’s website and they often specify when a product contains or comes packed in plastic. But overall I was impressed with the minimal packaging and have so far been very pleased with the quality of the products I’ve purchased from LWP.

 

Read full story · Comments { 3 }

Alternative Food Co-op

Yesterday I took another trip down to the Alternative Food Cooperative in Wakefield to restock on oil, soap, and baking soda. This time I brought my camera along and received permission from Rosemary–the co-op’s manager, to take pictures inside the store. Before the recent opening of Fertile Underground, Alternative was the only food co-op in Rhode Island. Shopping there is a very different experience from the conventional grocery store shopping experience I’ve known most of my life. As I’ve mentioned before, because of the variety of goods available in bulk, this resource has allowed me to take my project to a more thorough level. The co-op’s success is the result of a good business model, excellent management, and invested, conscientious employees. I want to share these images of what alternative food and household supply shopping can look like.

The co-op has the largest dry bulk food section of any store I’ve visited in the Rhode Island/Massachusetts area. Here I can find red quinoa, forbidden rice, and even goji berries. Spices, teas, and medicinal herbs in glass jars line the back wall. Oils, honey, and vinegar are kept canisters next to the spices. There is also a refrigerated bulk foods section. A small produce section offers fresh organic fruits and vegetables from local growers. Hot soup, baked goods, coffee and tea are offered at the front of the store. While I was there, a masseuse was giving massages to customers.

spices, teas, and medicinal herbs

spices, teas, and medicinal herbs

Bulk Tofu!

Bulk Tofu!

 

bulk cleaning supplies

bulk cleaning supplies

 

All of the stations in the store are extremely clean and well organized. Any spills around the bulk dispensers are quickly mopped or swept up. Pans and brushes hang on the wall so customers can clean up after themselves too.

The dry bulk foods supply is kept in a walk-in refrigerator located in the kitchen at the back of the store. I’ve always wondered how the foods that I scoop out of the bulk containers are packed and shipped to businesses. Inside the refrigerator, nuts, legumes, grains, and flour are stacked on simple wooden shelves, mostly in paper bags and boxes.

The walk-in

The walk-in

The back deck can be reached by walking through the kitchen. It overlooks the municipal lot where customers can park if there are no spaces on the street. Beyond the lot lie the Saugatucket River and a bike path that runs along it. Rosemary said that riders headed south from the co-op would arrive at the beach in about 15 minutes. In the summer the deck is set up with tables and chairs and the awnings are rolled down to provide shade.

Before shopping I weighed my containers again at the register. Then I filled up my glass jars, bottles, and bulk bags with olive oil, canola oil, quinoa, almonds, baking soda, and castile soap. I should be well stocked for at least another month, but if Alternative Food Co-op was located in Providence, I would do my daily shopping there. Many thanks to the whole co-op gang for chatting with me and for letting me photograph your beautiful shop.

Trash-free shopping basket

Trash-free shopping basket

Read full story · Comments { 1 }

Plastic

I have been avoiding the topic of manufacturing and recycling plastic goods and packaging. There is a part of me that would rather focus on the wonderful things we can do to take ourselves out of the plastic consumption equation. But of course the problems with plastic are a driving force behind this project, so I think it’s important to address this complicated and messy issue.

There are those who will argue that processing plastic food packaging is better for the environment than processing metals or glass. As a lightweight material, less fuel is needed in the shipment of plastic goods than those made out of metal and glass. Because it can so easily be molded and manipulated, while still possessing great strength and durability characteristics, plastic holds extraordinary potential from a design and engineering perspective. But while there may be many conveniences in manufacturing and using plastic, the environmental and heath impacts of our reliance on plastics can’t be ignored. Though the technology exists to recycle most plastics, many recycling challenges remain. Plastic recycling requires a greater amount of processing than glass and metal recycling. Plastic products cannot be returned to their original state, so they are downcycled. Bottles are turned into plastic lumber, carpeting, synthetic clothing, and furniture stuffing. Eventually those products end up in a landfill where they may take decades or even centuries to biodegrade.

Growing evidence has revealed that petroleum based products can be harmful to our health. Chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), styrene, and Diethylhexyl Phthalate(DEHP) can leach out of plastic containers into our food and beverages, and as we consume these contaminated foods we are taking the chemicals into our bodies. The health risks posed by exposure to these leached chemicals are all over the anatomical map. Most are carcinogenic and have been shown to adversely affect the endocrine system. Some may impact the behavior of cardiac cells.

I think it’s important to know how the things we use are made. This project has led me to spend a lot of time looking at the objects I encounter with new curiosity about their life from the earth to the factory and eventually back to the earth. I recently stumbled into an online video vortex that inspired me to search for videos on the processing of plastic bottles. Made from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) #1 plastics are pushed as a safer food grade plastic. But recent studies show that PET may leach phthalate–a plasticizer shown to be an endocrine disruptor. Above are two well-made videos–each under five minutes. The Discovery Channel produced the first video–it illustrates the process of manufacturing new plastic bottles. The second is made by a plastics recycling company to demonstrate the process of recycling used bottles. After watching both clips together, I am left bewildered by the amount of energy and resources required to bring consumers single-serving beverages.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

No trash kitchen

More food storage. Purchased in bulk without packaging, plus a couple home grown foods, and some spices with labels that were purchased before starting the project.

From the left: carob chips, flour, rice, fennel seed, cumin seed, sugar, granola, nutritional yeast, raisins, camomile tea, flax seeds, cannellini beans, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, chili peppers (grown), rolled oats, dried apricots, stevia powder (grown), cocoa powder, almond butter, millet, green tea, yerba maté (grown), balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, canola oil, salt, pepper

All of the spices on my shelf are available in bulk at the co-op. I’ve been thinking about how long mine have been sitting, and as time goes by, their freshness fades. I may end up giving some away if I don’t find the inspiration to use them. I like the idea of buying smaller amounts of each spice at a given time so that they are more potent.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Bulk time lapse

<iframe width=”960″ height=”720″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/avLb8XK2pJk?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

One month of trash-free bulk foods on my countertop.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

The perfect thing

A big part of the No Trash Project has been learning to plan ahead. I’ve had to train myself to always carry a reusable bag with me, even if I’m not headed directly to the store. If I know I need to shop for food, I will pack smaller produce bags and at least one reusable container. As I’ve mentioned before, I am now in the habit of carrying lunch and dinner with me to work and on the road. When I first began this project I was carrying around plastic tupperware. I soon found that the plastic stained easily, held food odors, and it was difficult to remove meat counter price stickers from the worn, scratched lids. I transitioned over to glass Frigoverre storage containers for a while. While they were far easier to clean (oils don’t stick to glass the way they stick to plastic) they were heavier and more cumbersome than my already donated plastic containers. After breaking one glass container on the pavement, and another on a concrete floor at work, it was clear that I needed to find another solution. I had seen a stainless steel lunchbox at Whole Foods, but it was shrink wrapped in two layers of plastic.

My friend told me about a company called Life Without Plastic. Their website has become an important resource for me. Whenever possible I try to find what I need locally to avoid using shipping materials and fuel, but sometimes I strike out. I have turned to this company for products unavailable nearby or without unnecessary packaging, which have become an important part of my routine. Life Without Plastic makes an effort to pack their shipments in reused, recycled, and recyclable materials.

The stainless steel containers above are a few of my favorite things. They are lightweight, even more durable than plastic, and they have a tighter seal (a silicone ring for watertight storage) than either the plastic or the glass containers. I give one to The Local Catch to hold my weekly fish order. The steel never stinks the way the plastic used to. I bring my dinner to work in one almost everyday. I’m never worried that the contents will spill into my bag as I bike or walk from home.

This past weekend I drove down to New York City with some friends. We packed some quinoa, farmers market brussels sprouts, squash, apples, granola, and almond butter in the stainless steel containers. We filled our large swing top glass bottles with water and packed some bowls, forks, knives, and cloth napkins. It was a delicious trash-free picnic that sustained us through a night at the ballet. The leftovers went into the refrigerator at our generous host’s house. The food was still delicious for breakfast the next morning!

Read full story · Comments { 1 }

It started in the kitchen…

A lot of time passed between the point at which I decided to create a blog about the No Trash Project and the point that I finally got it started. I’ve been thinking (probably too much) about how to organize it. Of course a blog is a wonderful platform for documentation, and I know that as time goes by, it will become a sort of album and journal. Ideally, I would like the content to be useful to others as well.  I’ve decided to try to outline the ‘big picture’ ideas motivating the project and also describe the details of the daily problem solving involved.

I think it’s important to talk about the reevaluation of both need and habit that has been necessary for me to make any kind of progress.  As cliché as it may sound, we are ‘programmed’ to participate in trash-making routines.  It’s easy to accept that the products we see on television, billboards, and store shelves will enhance the quality of our lives. I was very much in the habit of buying and using things that just seemed necessary to function in a productive way. Now, the question I repeat over and over everyday is, “Do I need this?” Do I really need a different cleaning product for each and every surface in my house? Do I need dryer sheets to keep my laundry fresh and static free? Do I need plastic wrap to keep my food from spoiling? After several months of making these continuous checks, I’ve found ways around the trash to get what I need to be happy and healthy. Eventually I came to the question, “Do I still need my trashcan?”

I want to stress that at the beginning of this project I decided that the venture must always be about feeling good. I wanted to be very careful not to make this process about deprivation, especially because I would be working on it with another person whose wants and needs vary from my own. The system is not perfect. There are many stubborn problems still to solve. A small amount of recyclables still go out to the curb every week. There’s always room for progress and I love watching the project grow.

Okay, now for some specifics. To start down the no trash road, I needed a plan of attack. I had to organize the steps required to establish working systems in my home and the rest of my life. I looked at the different ‘zones’ in which I make trash. In the broadest sense, I categorize my trash production into three zones that exist both in and outside of my home.

Zone 1: Food–before I began this project, the majority of the trash in my can was from food products

Zone 2: Hygiene–both personal and household

Zone 3: Work–for me this zone applies to both the practices of my artist studio, and my university film department job

For the rest of this post I’m going to talk about the food zone, as it’s the area that is working most efficiently today. Here is a breakdown of the food zone subcategories.

Shopping: As I mentioned in my first post, bulk grocery shopping was a catalyst for the project. I buy all my food in bulk and I try to limit my produce and animal product shopping to farmer’s market as much as possible. A local fishing company has agreed to take my container home and return it at the next market day, filled with a fresh caught fish of their choosing. When I do go to the grocery store I shop the perimeter. I purchase all my fruits and vegetables without packaging of course and I have someone at the meat and fish counter put my purchases directly into a container I’ve brought from home.  They place the empty container on the scale to get the tare weight, and then place the meat directly into the container. No paper for the cat to pull out of the trashcan at home.  I fill up peanut butter and almond butter from the grinder machines into my own jar. The tare weight is subtracted at the checkout register. While there are great selections of bulk dry goods at my local markets, discovering a nearby co-op helped me to take the project to the next level. There I can fill tea, spices, oil, vinegar, and many non-food products into my own containers. It’s wonderful. Finally, choosing responsible distributers at the markets and buying organic has become an important part of the overall no trash effort.

Food Storage: Once the food gets home, the dried goods are poured into glass jars of all shapes and sizes, greens are placed into cups of water, and meat is kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator. The humidifier drawer is helpful in keeping vegetables longer. Carrots and radishes will stay crunchy for a surprising amount of time if stored submerged in water in the fridge. With regard to perishables, I’ve found that it’s imperative to only buy what I know I’m going to consume in the next couple of days. This way I can altogether avoid throwing out spoiled food. My refrigerator is not cluttered with forgotten groceries like it used to be. It has become a very efficient space that is constantly being emptied and restocked with colorful foods. I’ve established a collection of storage containers that play a daily part in this cycle. Luckily I live in a place that’s within close proximity to many grocery stores and farmers markets.

Food Scraps: Compost, compost, compost. After years of talking about it, I finally built a compost bin. It sits in the small yard behind my city apartment—my landlady was nice enough to allow it. All the scraps from the kitchen (except for citrus) go into the pile, and the compost fertilizes my plants. The local farmer’s markets also have a compost service.

Make Your Own: There are many products that cannot be purchased in bulk or without some kind of packaging.  Of those, most I’ve found are very easy for me to live without. I’ve learned to make some of the foods I still crave at home, from ingredients purchased without trash—like hummus or kombucha for instance.

Eating Out: Here is another area where it is important to choose responsibly. Supporting businesses that buy locally, serve no processed food, and plate reasonable portion sizes is important to me. A reusable container from home can replace the need for a doggie bag. Also, a container can be brought to a restaurant for takeout service or to the window of a food truck. I make a lot of meals at home to carry with me to work or on a day trip.

So there it is—a scratch at the surface. A bit of the macro and the micro.

Read full story · Comments { 3 }

Introduction

For the past six months I’ve been focused on an undertaking that I’ve been calling the No Trash Project. The goal: avoid purchasing anything in packaging and eliminate personal trash production. As this is my first blog entry, I’d like to explain the inspirations for this endeavor. When I think back, I can pinpoint a few key discoveries that led me to the big ‘all or nothing’ push.

First, many years ago I came to the realization that Rhode Island only recycles numbers 1 and 2 plastics and that all the other numbers I had been putting in my recycling bin had ended up in a landfill. I began to notice how many different kinds of plastics are used to package goods and was amazed by the volume of my routinely purchased products that were packaged with numbers 3 through 7 plastics. For the first time I really took notice of how many plastic components surrounding and encasing the goods that I purchased, that were not meant to be recycled at all. I was making far more trash than what I was carrying out in a trash bag every week.

Then came the all-important discovery of bulk grocery shopping. For years I had passed by the bulk sections in my local markets to shop the middle aisles, buying my cereal, grains, nuts, beans, flour, sugar, etc… in plastic bags and cardboard boxes. Once in a while I turned to bulk to get a particular dried fruit that wasn’t on the shelf, or some trail mix that looked appetizing. I’d fill up the available plastic bags or the number 5 containers provided by the bins. Because of the guilt I felt over tossing out the containers, I began washing them at home and bringing them back to the store to refill. This was a real aha moment. Much like my reusable bag, here was a system that (if I remembered to bring my containers to the store) cut out a piece of trash. Soon I began to view the bulk section as a more prominent source for my dry grocery needs. Somewhat surprisingly, I discovered that bulk shopping even had an aesthetic appeal. With my food stored in clear containers on the countertop, rather than behind labels and packaging–tucked away in cabinets, ingredients looked more appetizing and inspired more cooking. Eventually I found myself wishing that more goods–even beyond the kitchen, were available to me in bulk.

A year ago, I attended an Action Speaks radio conference at AS220 about the 1987 roaming Mobro Garbage Barge. Three panelists spoke about the problem of where to put all the garbage we make, and whether or not recycling as we know it today, can even begin to curb the crisis. I remember being particularly struck by the comments of a young woman from the audience who had emigrated from Eastern Europe. She described growing up in a post-communist economy where out of necessity, everyone was “obsessed with recycling”. Glass milk, beer, and juice bottles were returned to the store to be used again. The conference prompted me to think a lot about the monetary cost of convenience.

Finally, in April I saw a news video online about a family of four (plus one dog) from Northern California, who after six months had just a handful of garbage to show for the waste in produced in their home. I was floored when I saw this story. The Johnsons have developed systems by which they consume food, hygiene, clothing, and other goods without carrying home the by-products that become garbage. After a glimpse of the Johnsons’ success, decided that I needed to go further.

Since April, I have been overhauling my lifestyle, implementing new shopping, cooking, and cleaning systems to produce as little trash as possible. Today, I can’t imagine ever turning back.

Read full story · Comments { 2 }