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Maker gatherer

gifts2013

This year I decided to give experience gifts to friends and family. I tend to prefer coordinating a shared experience to exchanging objects. I enjoy spending time planning special outings and field trips (both surprise and fully disclosed) with the people I love. Now that I’m in New York, I’m closer to much of my immediate family and I have access to so many amazing sources of art, entertainment, and activity. I’m excited to take advantage of my time between semesters and experience more of what the city has to offer. That being said, the thought of showing up at my parents’ house for Christmas completely empty handed just didn’t seem right. So I decided to make and gather a few trash-free offerings to try to express love and appreciation at this celebratory time of year.

Pambeeswax

Dry skin is a pretty common affliction at this time of year in this part of the world. Combating it from the inside out by eating healthy foods and drinking lots of water is a primary defense, but sometimes it’s nice to have a topical aid as well. So I made some lotion for my family with beeswax (pictured above) given to me by our incredibly talented friend Pam DeLuco. She harvested it from the hives she keeps at her community garden in San Francisco and stamped the forms with the seal from her paper, print, and book company, Shotwell Paper Mill. She brought the bars to me when she visited New York City this past fall. This batch of lotion has just four ingredients: beeswax, coconut oil, grape seed oil, and water. This time around, the mixture was a little on the runny side so the wire bales jars weren’t the most ideal vessels for transport, but it’s still good stuff. 

christmaslotion

My family loves to drink wine. Curious to see if I might be able to bring them some in a reusable bottle, I took a walk in the rain on Monday afternoon down to the Red Hook Winery, located just a couple blocks from my apartment on Pier 41. When I entered the space, I was warmly greeted by vintners Christopher and Darren. I explained that I was looking to purchase some wine to serve at dinner with my family and that I was curious about where the grapes were coming from and how they were making and bottling the wines. Darren gave me a tour of the space, describing the sourcing and the processing that takes place right there in the beautiful and efficiently laid out waterfront warehouse space. I explained my No Trash Project and objective and withdrew my 32oz swingtop bottle from my bag. Darren patiently and graciously pondered options to accommodate my request, asking me questions about the details of my lifestyle. He then led me to a row of oak wine barrels that represented the 2011 vintage—or at least what remained of it after the winery was devastated by Hurricane Sandy last year. He syphoned the burgundy juice into a glass for me to sample. It was bright and tart, but smooth. I nodded and smiled in approval and he proceeded to fill my bottle for me. He drew a label for me on some blue tape, “Seneca Lake CF, 2011” (CF is short for Cabernet Franc) and smoothed it onto the bottle. He told me if I brought it back he would reuse the tape. We agreed to be in touch the next time they were bottling so that I might have some of my own filled without too much disruption to their production. I left feeling even more in love with Red Hook and the people and projects that have settled here. I tried to hit up Cacao Prieto as well for some Red Hook made chocolate but they were completely sold out for the holiday season. I was able to get package-free chocolate from The Chocolate Room to share with everyone instead.

cidervinegar

Also in tow was a large swing top bottle of homemade Fire Cider. Loved ones around me in Brooklyn and those I planned to visit for the holidays have all been sick with a cold or the flu, so I made up a large, potent batch to share with everyone. I’ve been trying to fortify myself over the past several months with homemade remedies to make it through a hectic time without falling ill. I first learned about Fire Cider when I fell ill with the flu back in the spring of 2012. My friend made a trip to Farmacy Herbs of Providence for me and came home with a bottle. I used it to combat my symptoms then, and have continued to use Fire Cider to ward off illness ever since. It is a warming concoction with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, meant to aid digestion, soothe sore throats, boost immunity, and increase circulation. As promised in my last post, I’ve included my recipe below. I determined the ingredients and amounts for this batch by browsing recipes online and combining things based on what I could find fresh and package-free from the store or the farmer’s market and what I had on hand in my fridge or on my spice shelf. Quantities can be tweaked in any direction according to personal preference and availability.

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup of grated ginger

½ cup grated horseradish

1/8 cup of minced garlic

1 quart of apple cider vinegar (with the mother)

¼ cup honey (or to taste)

1 lemon (juice and zest)

1 tablespoon of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

fresh rosemary sprigs

horseradish

I purchased the onion, horseradish, ginger, garlic, and lemon fresh and package-free. I’ve been able to find apple cider vinegar and spices in bulk at food cooperatives and health food stores. The  4th Street Food Co-op has a fantastic selection of dry and liquid bulk goods. They carry apple cider vinegar, turmeric powder, and cayenne pepper. The cider can be left to steep for a few weeks to a few months and then strained or it can be blended well and consumed immediately. This time around I prepped and combined all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blended them thoroughly with the immersion blender. I then poured the mixture into some glass bottles for storage and snipped some sprigs of rosemary from my beloved potted plant that lives in a south facing window and dropped them into the bottles.

christmassunset

The gifts were savored and enjoyed by us all and on Christmas night we were treated to the most spectacular sunset over Long Island Sound. The sky looked as if it was on fire and the water glowed red beneath it. Between the two, New York City appeared to float above the horizon. It was a lovely closing to the holiday.

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Takeaway treat

teainsaharatakeout

Hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and zaalouk from Tea in Sahara on Governor Street. I took a break from work and biked over to the café to save my growling stomach. The owner very kindly agreed to put my order in my stainless steel containers. A woman sitting sipping tea inside admired them and asked where she could find some. I gave her a list of sources. When I thanked the owner for honoring my special request, he said “No, thank you!” I left smiling from ear to ear.

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Compliance

bohcompliance

On the way home from my Worm Ladies field trip and the beach, I made a stop at the Alternative Food Coop. I knew I’d be driving through Wakefield so I planned ahead and packed my car with a shopping kit (a large canvas tote filled with a couple swing top bottles, a couple jars, and some bulk bags). It’s been about a month and a half since my last co-op restock trip and even though I wasn’t completely out of the few package-free supplies I can’t find within walking or biking distance from my home, I decided to fill up then to save from having to make another trip in a couple weeks. I go through a lot of cooking oil. Generally speaking, I use canola oil to cook with and olive oil to dress dishes. Canola has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point (the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke… a point of interest because when an oil starts to smoke, nutrients are destroyed and potentially health-harming compounds are formed). It’s also rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat. I can get great bulk olive oil Providence, but not canola. When I entered the co-op I noticed immediately that their bulk oil station looked revamped. They seemed to have more stainless steel fusti dispensers and a larger variety to choose from. A lovely co-op employee approached me and asked if I needed any help. I told her that I would need to tare my swing top bottles before filling them and she informed me that in order to comply with the Rhode Island Department of Health, the co-op devised an new system for the liquid bulk food items. To reduce the risk of contamination from shopping with containers brought from home, customers are asked to use the sterilized funnels provided at the filling station and then deposit each used funnel in a basket to be rewashed by co-op employees. Or customers may use any of the free vessels (pictured above on the bottom shelf) that have been donated by customers and sterilized at the co-op), purchase a clean mason jar to fill, or use a free number 5 plastic container (as seen on the top shelf). Signs posted at the station clearly explain the new system and thank customers for their cooperation. Because they weren’t very busy, the employee I spoke with offered to sterilized my bottles brought from home. This was another way to ensure that there wouldn’t be any contamination from potentially harmful pathogens coming in contact with the fusti spigots. She disappeared with my two large bottles and returned with them washed a couple minutes later. She tared them at the register for me and I was ready to fill.

I had a chance to speak with co-op Manager Rosemary Galiani, about the new system. She explained that the change was spurred by a Department of Health inspection, which determined that the old, funnel-less operation was not up to food safety standards. I think it’s so wonderful that rather than removing the liquid bulk food items, the co-op chose to work with the DoH to come up with several convenient shopping options for customers, and a manageable sterilization system for co-op employees. Yet another reason to support this wonderfully small business.

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Rolling with the punches

chamomiletoronto

This past week, I took advantage of the quiet University spring recess and used some of my saved vacation days to visit with friends and family. No trash travel has become pretty manageable and routine for me. Armed with a water bottle, stainless steel container, travel utensils (chopsticks and my bamboo spoon/fork), a few reusable bulk bags, a couple mini glass jars and bottles filled with my essential hygiene products, and my wits I am able to adapt to most scenarios without having to make trash. Committing to Zero Waste means having to be resourceful and I really appreciate the challenge of taking my project beyond my usual stomping ground. While the travel kit I described above serves me well most of the time, there are occasional circumstances in which I find myself missing something from home. This time around it was my trash-free herbal remedies I longed for when I found myself suffering from… ahem, acute menstrual cramps. Luckily I was staying in Toronto and as I had discovered during previous visits, the city is full of many great bulk sources. So on a borrowed bike, I took a ride to see if I could find something to ease the pain. At home I have been using teas and decoctions in place of over-the-counter or prescription pain pills to cope with the monthly distress. Slowly sipping on a warm liquid with pain relieving and anti-spasmodic properties gets me through the peak cramps. And I feel good knowing that I am not using medication that can adversely effect my stomach or liver.

strictlybulk

I was able to pick up some chamomile at great little store called Strictly Bulk. The slogan on their very simple website reads, “because you don’t eat packaging”. I filled up one of my hemp bulk bags with enough little flowers to make several cups of tea per day for at least three days, after which I knew I would be feeling much better. Studies suggest that chamomile may work to relieve menstrual cramps. I find that drinking chamomile tea has an overall relaxing effect that helps take the edge off of menstrual pain. And I was very glad to get a hold of this trusty, familiar aid while away from home. Meanwhile the chamomile sprouts on my windowsill are growing taller and stronger.

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Lions and lambs

Lion

Oh March, you fickle old girl. I love the changes you bring each year. The image above is was taken while I was out for a run Friday morning. It was snowing sideways and the temperature didn’t get up above freezing all day. But by mid-day Saturday, much of the accumulated snow had already melted in the sun. Sunday brought more sun and mild temperatures nearing 50 degrees Fahrenheit so I jumped at the chance to log some hours outdoors.

willimanticbounty

My best friend and I took a drive out to the Willimantic Food Co-op to stock up on some bulk goods that we can’t get package-free in Providence, namely liquid soap (for household and personal hygiene purposes), agave nectar, honey, and canola oil. Fertile Underground Grocery’s bulk selection continues to grow and I’ve been told that their goal is to one day offer these liquid bulk goods, but for now I’m still making out of town trips every two months to fill up my glass jars and swing top bottles. Of course, having to drive 40-60 minutes to get to the nearest liquid bulk goods source is not ideal. I take care to plan ahead, writing lists and packing a shopping kit with ample vessels to minimize my trips. Carpooling with a friend and incorporating an outdoor adventure into the errand helps ease my anxiety about burning the fuel.

hike

We hit up Old Furnace State Park—one of my favorite semi-nearby hiking spots. The extra hour of daylight seemed like such a gift. The air was warm enough to smell the wet earth and leaves underfoot. On several instances I was overcome by excitement and found myself breaking into a full sprint along the trails. My friend and I weren’t the only ones enjoying the warm weather—the birds were chirping up quite a chorus. Being confined to my apartment or office for most of the winter has its serious drawbacks, no doubt, but the cabin fever makes the coming of spring that much sweeter.

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The Local Catch

yellowtailflounder

I rode my bike over to the Wintertime Farmer’s Market at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket this afternoon to pick up some fish for dinner tonight. Rich and Ann from The Local Catch take a stainless steel container from me each week and fill it with something fresh caught. I never know exactly what I’m going to get. But they know a bit about my preferences and I’ve never been dissatisfied with an order. They always give me something low on the food chain and it’s always really fresh and delicious. This week it’s yellowtail flounder, which I love. It’s sweet and mild. I’m going to prepare it with some long grain wild rice, celeriac mash, and greens.

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Tiffin

tiffin

I have amazing friends. Just received this fantastic gift from two dear ones—a 3-tier steel tiffin with two plate separators. Can’t wait to test drive this beauty once the winter storm stops. It will be so perfect for take-away and picnics!

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Good Tern

goodtern5

This weekend I made a trip up to midcoast Maine  to visit with some dear friends I made at wood school this past the summer. On my way home I stopped into Good Tern Natural Foods Cooperative and Café. in Rockland, a wonderful source for organic local produce and bulk grocery goods. Each time I’ve been into the co-op, I’ve had a lovely experience. They have an easy tare system at the register. On two occasions I allowed (and welcomed) to rinse one of my less than squeaky clean reusable containers in their kitchen sink to use for my bulk goods purchases.

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Good Tern’s wall of bulk spices is one of the most comprehensive displays I’ve seen of all the co-ops I’ve visited. And their baking goods selection even offers alternatives to gluten flours.

goodtern

They even have bulk dry dog and cat food!

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And a fantastic selection of bulk oils, vinegars, honey, nut butters, and extracts.

goodtern2

I came home restocked with package-free olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and tahini. Oh, the many meals these three simple ingredients will inspire!

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Hardware

adlers

Today I spent some time looking for hardware I need to complete a couple household projects. It can be a real challenge to find hardware sold as individual pieces these days. Screws, nails, hinges, and hooks are often sold in PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic boxes, each containing more pieces than you might ever use. The leftovers tend to pile up in the junk drawer, under the kitchen sink, on a shelf in the garage or basement. I went to Adler’s, a local family-run business just down the street from my apartment. They have a good selection of loose, unpackaged hardware on display pegs and in drawers. I was able to find the hooks I was looking for marked with just a piece of masking tape. I bought the three I needed, pocketed them (no bag, I insisted), then made the short but very brisk walk home, my home improvement purchase clinking with each step.

adlers2

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Ship shape

heath

I recently received a gift of some Heath ceramic plates for my birthday. I’ve always admired this Sausalito, California-based company’s designs and environmentally conscious practices. Founded in 1948 by ceramicist Edith Heath, the company has upheld the values of timeless design, fair work conditions, and sustainability. Their lower heat, once-fired pieces are made to be durable enough to last for generations. Each piece contains some recycled clay. I will cherish my dishes.

Every time I receive a shipment, whether it’s something I’ve ordered myself because I can’t find a local source or something that’s been sent by someone else, I cringe at the sight of any plastic or foam packing materials. If I receive a cardboard box, I find myself holding my breath before opening it, dreading the possible discovery of packing peanuts, Styrofoam molds, bubble wrap, or inflated plastic air bags inside. The box from Heath arrived sealed with paper tape. Fantastic. As I cut into it I was thrilled to find that the protective filling was 100% paper! I reached into the paper “peanuts” and pulled out a plate. There was no bag, no wrapper, no tape. It still had some dry clay dust on it, and I instantly imagined the factory it was produced in. But there wasn’t a single chip, crack, scuff, or ding. The plates were stacked on top of each other, separated simply by squares of corrugated cardboard. I composted all the materials. My bin is always in need of the carbon.

I contacted the company via email to express my satisfaction with both their product and their shipping materials. I asked who the manufacturer of the “peanuts” was and how long they had been using them. A woman named Stephany got back to me and this is what she wrote,

“We are one of just a few companies who proudly ship all of our products with ExpandOS, a great packing system made from 100% post-industrial waste and that is 100% reusable and recyclable. Heath has been using ExpandOS for at least six years. Our philosophy on packaging is that it’s wasteful, but we want our products to be safe. In addition to ExpandOS for shipping, we wrap our products purchased in our stores in good old-fashioned newsprint. We give it a second use and it’s recyclable. We encourage reusable Heath totes in lieu of gift boxes and encourage customers to use a Heath tote or their own bag. We do use brown bags when customers need it.”
The ExpandOS packing system carried beautiful ceramics safely across a great distance to my door. I hope to see more companies with mail order services electing similar packaging systems.
Read more about Heath’s environmental integrity here.
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New kicks

newrunningshoes

I had a lovely day. It started with an unseasonably warm run. I checked the temperature before I got dressed and it was nearly 60˚F in Providence so I threw on my running shorts and a t-shirt. While working up a good sweat in the warm sun it dawned on me, it’s the middle of January! Crazy. I wore the new running shoes I finally bought to replace the spent ones I’d been sporting for years. Most running and athletic shoes on the market are made from 100% synthetic materials. I really struggled with the idea of buying a new product off a store shelf that costs so much energy to produce and that will not biodegrade once the wearable life has been pounded out of them. I am completely onboard with the minimal running shoe movement for physiological health reasons and the fact that they require less resource material (for instance, there’s no foam in my new pair) to produce than the high stability, bulkier shoes I was rocking before this. So I settled on these of 6oz water-resistant minmal shoes that will get me through all seasons. I felt that they were the best choice of everything I considered at my local running shoe retailers. So far, I really love them. They fit me perfectly, I like the feeling of being in closer contact with the ground as I move over it, and they’ve kept my feet dry and warm even in the slush and snow we had just a couple weeks ago. I believe my old shoes are too damaged in the heel to donate to be worn so I plan give them to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program.

This evening I hung out at Fertile Underground Grocery on the westside of Providence with in-store foodie and event host Jillian McGrath and the rest of the wonderful FUG team. We spoke with interested customers about bulk food shopping and reducing food packaging waste. I had a wonderful time meeting folks from Providence and neighboring cities and discussing my project and ways to take advantage of such wonderful resources as Fertile Underground Grocery. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped to chat!

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Bulk love

Karmawoodbulk

I often recall a scene from a western I watched when I was a very young. I don’t remember the name of the film. I don’t even remember the storyline, but I have a vivid memory of this one fragment. A bright-eyed, handsome young man returns home on horseback to his family’s cabin somewhere in the arid, dusty southwest. He’s barrels into the small house, embraces his mother, father, and sister and then proceeds to unpack the contents of his leather saddlebags on the wood farm table in the center of the room. He presents the family with offerings from his travels to a far off place called California. One by one, he reveals amber honey in a glass jar, flour, sugar, and oats in cotton sacks tied with string. He places a cheese wheel wrapped in a white cloth in his mother’s hands and her eyes well up with tears. A family that has gone so long without these basic foods is overwhelmed and overjoyed. I clearly remember the feeling I had while watching this scene unfold. Though each and every gift given was well-stocked in my own family’s modern kitchen pantry amongst shelves full of many other foods, in that moment the essential goods on the screen—carried in simple cotton cloth and glass, seemed to me the most precious and delicious foods in the whole world.

I think of that moment regularly when I purchase foods in bulk without packaging. I’ve written a lot about how bulk food shopping both inspired and continues to enable my No Trash Project. In my first blog post I explained that for most of my life I passed by the bulk food dispensers of my local grocery stores on my way to pick boxed and bagged grains, legumes, nuts, and baking goods off the middle aisle shelves. Shopping in bulk has become an unexpected source of… well, joy. Equipped with my No Trash food shopping gear, I stock up. The steady drizzle of honey and olive oil from stainless steel fusti spigots into glass jars and bottles is mesmerizing. I love scanning the bins and choosing foods based on their actual appearance rather than an enlarged, color enhanced printed photograph. I love scooping the foods into my cotton bags, writing down PLU (price lookup) codes and relaying the information to the store cashiers. I’ve become an expert on judging how much I need to fill the large cylindrical Weck jars that sit on my kitchen countertop without spillover. I love the sound the foods make as they swirls through my large mouth stainless steel funnel and ping against the sides of the glass containers. Jars filled to the brim with edible goods are something to lay great store by. They are beautiful to behold for the potential they possess. Ingredients waiting to become meals. I take great pleasure in the process of preparing legumes and grains to be cooked. Rationing them out in my glass measuring cup. Rinsing rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, buckwheat, and amaranth until the water runs clear from the pot before placing them on the stovetop. I like the feel of the kernels sifting through my fingers as I swish them in the bath. It’s meditative. And I’m always amazed to see how much water dried beans, and chickpeas absorb during there eight hour soak. They seem to draw in life.

Somehow, every step required to bring bulk foods from the bin to my plate makes each meal taste better. With every bite, I feel a kind of appreciation that I never experienced when I bought foods in packaging. I think about the life-giving properties of  these ingredients that were themselves once alive. I think about how my digestive system turns these foods into me. And I geek out a little. And giggle to myself as I polish off every last lentil, grain of rice, or kernel of quinoa on my plate. Precious things.

I will be speaking at Fertile Underground‘s “Packaging Be Gone” workshop tomorrow (Monday, January 14th) from 5-7pm. FUG’s in-store foodie Jillian will discuss the ins and outs of bulk grocery shopping and I will be there to share advise based on my own experiences. If you live in the area, come meet and greet me! I wil do my best to rein in my enthusiasm… but really, I can’t wait!

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Giving

succulents

succulents2

This year I am giving few physical gifts to friends and family for the holidays. I filled the ceramic pots I made with colorful succulents and will present those to loved ones without any wrapping, but I have wrapped some of my unplanted pots and hand thrown bowls with Furoshiki style cloth—something I’ve always wanted to try. There are many wonderful illustrated directions available online and I found this video, which was incredibly helpful! The wrapping is beautiful, elegant, and easy to give to the gift receiver or keep as the gift giver to reuse.

ceramicbowls

furoshiki

The rest of the gifts I will give this year will be experiences. Surprise field trips. And because my wonderful friends and family read my blog, I will wait to share those adventures until after they’ve been had! Sharing good food and conversation with loved ones this week is precious time spent.

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All I ever want

We took a break from the ceramic making on Sunday to eat a fantastic dinner at Organic Garden Cafe. My custom dinner bowl was substantial, affordable, and delicious. It fueled many more hours of work late into the night. I was touched by one menu item called the Grateful Bowl, which allows customers to pay what they’re able to on a sliding scale of $1 to $8.50. I imagine I will be returning to this fine establishment in the future.

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Rainbow chard

From the farmer’s market. Pow!

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Baby bok choy

From Fertile Underground Grocery. Love those purple and green hues!

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Fertile Underground

Fertile Underground is located at 1577 Westminster Street on the west side of Providence.

Fertile Underground is located at 1577 Westminster Street on the west side of Providence.

Fresh local and organic produce on display beneath a chalkboard sign that reads, "No farmers, no food... Know farmers, know food!"

Fresh local and organic produce on display beneath a chalkboard sign that reads, “No farmers, no food… Know farmers, know food!”

A delightful display of bulk spices and teas. A milk crate full of donated clean empty jars is available to customers to share. "Sharing is Caring"

A delightful display of bulk spices and teas. A milk crate full of donated clean empty jars is available to customers to share. “Sharing is Caring”

Sprouted lentils!

Sprouted lentils!

Today I picked up some groceries at Fertile Underground on the west side of Providence. Since their opening last year, the cooperative food market has been slowly adding to their local RI farm produce selection (both organic and conventional) and expanding their bulk foods section. Today I was so pleased to see a significant increase the in bulk spices offered since the last time I stopped in. I was also impressed by the number of organic dry bulk legumes and grains (even a few sprouted) that are currently available. Rice, quinoa, cous cous, popping corn, oats, granola, garbanzo beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, red and green lentils, and coffee are stocked. The store is becoming a great local resource for No Trash efforts and as they continue to add more bulk items I’ll be able to rely more heavily on Fertile Underground for my grocery needs. Employees Nancy and Chrissy graciously allowed me to take pictures as I shopped. Every time I’ve been in to shop, the folks working at the register and cafe have been incredibly friendly and helpful. It feels great to be able to support this small business. Less regular trips to co-ops outside of town of course means a reduced carbon footprint. Thank you Fertile Underground for your work to bring alternative food shopping to Providence!

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Willimantic Food Co-op

Bulk Vermont-brewed organic Kombucha tea! This is the first time I've seen this. The elderberry flavor is so delicious!

Bulk Vermont-brewed organic Kombucha tea! This is the first time I’ve seen this. The elderberry flavor is so delicious!

A lovely selection of bulk teas.

A lovely selection of bulk teas.

Dish soap, laundry detergent, and Dr. Bronner's castile soap.

Dish soap, laundry detergent, and Dr. Bronner’s castile soap.

So many bulk spices!

So many bulk spices!

I spent this past weekend visiting friends and family in NYC. On my trip back up to Providence, I made a slight detour to check out the Willimantic Food Co-op in Willimantic, CT. I learned about the co-op from a woman who works at As220’s Foo(d) counter when I was picking up dinner last week and my reusable take-out containers sparked a conversation about package-free food shopping. She told me that her parents have been members since the co-op opened in the early 1970s and that a visit is worth the drive from Providence. So while traveling across the state, I made my way up to Route 6 and stopped in.

The co-op is impeccably clean and well-stocked. It’s larger than Fertile Underground, the Alternative Food Co-op, and Harvest Co-op Market in Jamaica Plain. The extra space allows room for an impressive variety of dry and liquid food and hygiene bulk goods. I bought some wild rice, local organic chestnuts and apples, and some ever-elusive package-free black quinoa. I also picked up some dish soap, shampoo, and Vermont-brewed Kombucha tea, which is available on tap from a stand on the edge of the produce section. The store employees were all wonderfully helpful and friendly and there was no hesitation in granting me permission to take photos inside the store.

This project has led me to so many wonderful discoveries. Seeing beautiful, inviting, and efficient establishments such as the Willimantic Food Co-op bustling with happy customers is energizing. Though I don’t live in the neighborhood, as I strolled amongst other shoppers, weighing my containers and writing down PLU codes, I couldn’t help but feel that I am part of a community of people in pursuit of a better way to get what they need.

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Takeaway

Oh Garden Grille, you do me right. But I always order more than I can finish because your dishes are so delishes. So I’ve learned to come prepared, with my own to-go wares.

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Homemade Tandoori Spice Mix

I recently discovered an incredible food blog called My New Roots and I’m in love. Many of you may already be familiar with it. Author Sarah Britton is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Chef. Her inventive recipes revolve around a plant-based diet, many of them comprised of few basic whole foods. I so appreciate that she lists the health benefits of the ingredients she uses. I’ve been digging deep into the blog archive, drooling over her dishes. I’ve tried just a couple things I’ve found there so far, including whole roasted tandoori cauliflower, which I made with the beautiful, fresh cauliflower I’ve been buying at the farmer’s market. I mixed up my own batch of tandoori spice blend as per the directions on My New Roots and used the coconut milk that I made in place of coconut cream or yogurt in the tandoori marinade.

Such a lovely food to behold! All of the spices are available in bulk at my local co-ops. My marinade probably wasn’t as thick as Sarah B’s, but it sure was delicious. I’ve also been using the tandoori spice blend for roasting vegetables and in lentil dishes.

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Coconut Milk

Last week I made coconut milk. Before starting my No Trash Project, I would pretty regularly buy cans of coconut milk to use in many favorite Indian and Thai recipes. Since I stopped buying foods in packaging, I have been adapting recipes that call for coconut milk, by either adding shredded coconut, or some other homemade nut milk. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me until recently that I could just make my own. After reading over a few different recipes online, I went to the grocery store and picked up two coconuts. My friend cracked them open and helped me remove the meat from the shells. I diced the meat into small pieces, placed them in a large bowl, added 4 cups of water and blended until smooth. Then I strained the solids from the milk. Voila. Delicious, fresh, and package-free.

The the milk was a little on the thin side and I had some trouble with separation in the bottle shown above. I ended up pouring the milk back into a bowl so that I could hit it again with my immersion blender before each use.

I came across several coconut milk recipes that call for shredded coconut, which I can get in bulk at nearby food co-ops. I think I’ll try to make it that way next time to see if my result is any different. Buying the shredded coconut would certainly save a little time and labor, but may cost a bit more.

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Venda Ravioli

Picked up some Mozzarella from the cheese counter at Venda Ravioli on Federal Hill. There was some hemming and hawing between the employees over whether or not they were allowed to accept my reusable containers, but in the end they decided it was okay. I did come away with the paper price sticker…

Magpie is very interested in the contents of this jar.

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Castelvetrano olives from Venda Ravioli.

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Tomato soup

I also stopped at the Rocket Fine Street Food truck, which was parked outside of Hope Artiste Village and got some tomato soup in another steel container I had carried to the market. I warmed it on the stove in that same container when I got home. It was a delicious lunch.

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Hake

Picked up some hake in my stainless steel container from The Local Catch today at the Farmer’s Market.

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Romanesco

Romanesco broccoli from the farmer’s market. It has kept well in a shallow bowl of water (stem side down) in the refrigerator for the past four days. I never tire of admiring the forms of this vegetable.

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Well-stocked

More cruciferous veg from the market. Brussels sprouts still attached to the stock will stay fresher longer than those sold individually. I always put the end of the stock in a cup of water and refrigerate it, snapping the sprouts off over the next several days as needed. This one is pretty tall so I will halve it to fit.

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Cauliflower

A beautiful treat from the Saturday Wintertime Farmer’s Market at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket. I found a recipe online for whole roasted tandoori cauliflower that I can’t wait to try! I will post my results…

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Raw lunch

I recently enjoyed an outstanding salad on two occasions at a little raw food restaurant called Raw Aura in Mississauga. The ingredients were so fresh and well coordinated. Romaine lettuce, kale, red onions, red pepper, hummus, avocado, pepitas, sunflower seeds, and a fantastic sesame dressing. The gluten-free, raw “breadstick” that comes with the salad has me daydreaming about getting a dehydrator. The salad itself is large and the seeds, hummus, and avocado make it hearty enough to be a very satisfying meal. I’d like to make it at home. I’ll have to guess on the dressing. I think there was ginger in it… The restaurant is small and comfortable and the service was absolutely wonderful both times I ate there.

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Bulk Barn

So, there’s this chain store in Canada called Bulk Barn. I had my first Bulk Barn experience the other day and I was amazed by the range of products they offer. As I walked up and down they aisles all I could think was why don’t we have something like this in the states? I would think that such a business would do well because of the obvious savings it offers consumers. I was surprised to find that Bulk Barn doesn’t sell reusable bulk bags. Plastic bags that hang over the bins are supplied to shoppers. They do stock a few glass jars but there are no weigh stations in the store. My friend and I were able to purchase a few goods in his reusable mesh produce bags brought from home, but I’m not sure if it would be possible to buy any of the liquid goods in any container other than the plastic tubs provided in the store.

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They stock a wide variety of bulk teas and coffees.

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Bulk cake decorating supplies.

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Bulk pet food!

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Even bulk bird seed…

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Liquid and paste bulk food products like garlic spread, pie filler, and nut butters are kept in tubs at the back of the store. Bar soaps and powdered cleaning supplies are also available, but they don’t stock any liquid soaps or cleaners.

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Bulk molases, corn syrup, and honey. Bulk Barn #5 plastic tubs are provided… perhaps customers could wash these containers at home and refill them? Seeing such a large variety of foods sold in bulk is exciting because choice having choice is always appealing. The dry bulk food bins are impressively large. I’ve often wished for a similar business near me, but I picture a place that sells all organic products with weigh stations at which customers can tare their own containers. The truth is that I can get what I need in bulk at my local co-ops and supporting small businesses is certainly the way I prefer to shop. It’s clear that reduced waste is not an objective that drives the Bulk Barn business. While working on these posts I read on some forums that people had trouble using their own bags at some store locations. I assume fear of violating health codes must be the reason for this… what a shame. Still, I’m always interested to see different systems for dispensing wet and dry bulk foods. The inside of this store was impeccably clean. No food was spilled anywhere. These stainless steel honey dispensers are very efficient appliances. It seems to me that personal containers would never have to come in contact with the food source. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get honey from dispensers like these in reusable jars at any local grocery store? These are the kinds of things I dream about.

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Milestone

It’s been exactly one year since I started this blog. Posting about my daily No Trash adventures—however large or small, has become an important ritual in my life. Dialogue with friends and readers about the project renews my resolve to continue sharing my experiences on this platform. Thank you to everyone for your interest, your inquiries, and your encouragement.

Tonight I shared a delicious meal with a friend at a Cantonese restaurant in Toronto. My meal was pretty large so I scraped what I couldn’t finish into my stainless steel lunchbox, which I had toted around the city during the day. It’s lightweight and this particular box doesn’t take up much space. The rectangular shape fits nicely in my backpack. It’s become one of my favorite objects. I’m looking forward to eating these leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

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Refrigerated bulk

At a Toronto area grocery store—chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, ground flax, pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, almonds, etc… It’s the first time I’ve seen bulk nuts and seeds (which can go rancid in warm temperatures or when exposed to air because of their oil content) kept in the refrigerated section of a market.

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Milk & Honey Bazaar

I also visited the Milk & Honey Bazaar in Tiverton. I’d driven by it many times before but had never stopped. Inside they have a beautiful display of artisanal cheeses and jars of local honey and preserves. I did something I very rarely do these days—I bought something in packaging. I was tempted by the golden glow from a jar of Lemon & Ginger Marmalade made at a farm in Middletown, and I couldn’t resist.

I justified the purchase because I know I will reuse the jar and because it’s from a local source. Still, it felt strange because I could make my own preserves at home that would scratch the itch for a sweet spreadable snack. But such projects take some doing and though I’ve gotten pretty good at rearranging my sense of time and responsibility to allow room for the homemade, there are still days when the energy required to make something nonessential but wonderful—like marmalade, just simply isn’t there. So I treated myself and smiled as I ate it.

 

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Farm and sea

Took a trip down to Little Compton this week to celebrate my Dad’s birthday with my family. I got to spend a day at my favorite beach. The weather on Friday was sunny and clear and the warm ocean current moving past the cove made the water particularly inviting. I first visited this place several years ago with a friend who referred to it as “the magic beach”. Giant pink granite rocks that stretch from the shore out into deep water look like dinosaurs lying in the surf. The white sand that surrounds them makes the water appear aqua, as though this tiny stretch of coast was actually in a tropical zone far south of New England. Cement stepping circles poured in a winding path, aid the trek across the back of one of the rocks to a staircase down to the water. Two diving boards are installed there every summer. Taking the plunge from the high board is like a rite of passage.

I’m always struck by how little garbage there is at this spot. It’s private and remote so there isn’t a lot of traffic. But even the water always seems free of debris. Perhaps the position of the beach on the point and the direction of the currents keep trash from riding in with the tide. Being in a natural environment that feels so preserved and untainted is a rare and special experience. These are the places worth fighting for.

On my way back to Providence I stopped at Walker’s Roadside Stand. An impressive display of pumpkins and gourds was practically spilling out into the road. I had some cash and some bulk bags on me (I rarely have cash but I always have bulk bags) so I decided to pick up some produce.

Good gourd!

I love the purple peppers.

There was a huge selection of beautiful heirloom tomatoes on display. Brought some of these home… well actually only a couple made it all the way home because I ate most of them on the ride back. So sweet and tangy.

Cranberry shelling beans!

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Chatham Real Food Market Co-op

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I took a trip up to the Adirondacks with some friends this weekend. On our way north we managed to find The Chatham Real Food Market Co-op in Chatham, New York. We stocked up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains to bring with us to our cabin destination. Local farm vendors were selling produce and baked goods out in front of the store. I was able to get bulk salad greens, kale, rainbow carrots, garlic, fingerling potatoes, and butternut squash without a single sticker or tie. Inside the immaculate store, I picked up an eggplant, some apples from the local produce section and some quinoa, red lentils and pepitas from the well-stocked bulk section. There was a small prepared foods section and a cafe area. The employees were lovely. It was the first co-op I’ve been to where I didn’t have to write down the price look-up code (PLU) for the dry bulk goods. I just told the woman at the register what was in my bags and she was able to pull the codes up on the computer while she weighed the goods. I get so excited to see one example after another of small and beautiful cooperative food markets that function so efficiently.

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Geeking over the impressive spread of dry bulk goods.

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Lippitt Park Wednesday Market

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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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