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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Zero Waste and Minimalism Habits: What Has Stuck Around and What Has Been Left by the Wayside?

For various reasons, not all of the habits I have picked up have stuck around in the long-term. Here are a list of the habits that have stuck for me and a list of the habits that have not:

Minimalist Wardrobe (sticking around)
I still have my minimalist wardrobe and I love it. I even made some improvements. For instance, I don't have pajamas anymore, I just sleep in one of my four black t-shirts that I have. Speaking of my black t-shirts, I amazingly have not become bored with them. Probably because they are just such fantastic t-shirts. I've had these t-shirts for over a year now and they are still in great condition.

Soap and Towel in My Work Restroom (sticking around)
There are some bins in my work restroom. I put my name on a  post-it note and stuck it in one of the bins and keep a bar of soap and a washcloth in there for washing my hands after using the restroom at work. I used to keep some homemade lip balm and sunscreen in there as well, but those items were stolen, I think because they wanted my reusable containers, so I just keep the soap and washcloth in there now. I keep the bin open a bit so the washcloth can dry out, and once it is pretty damp, I take it home to wash and replace it with a dry one. For the soap, I keep it in a travel soap container, but leave it open to dry out.

Furniture-Free Living (sticking around)
Maybe two years ago now, we got rid of our couch, desks, and dining room table and instead sit on floor cushions on the ground. We also have a small coffee table for eating off of. This has been amazing for our health and for our recent move. Having to get up and down off the floor and use our back muscles to hold ourselves up instead of the back of a chair is great for being physically fit. It took a little getting used to at first, including a little soreness, but that transition is long gone now. Our recent move was such a breeze as there was only one item we had that required two people to move it.

Minimalist Beauty Routine (left by the wayside)
I am going to be 38 soon and I have been having so much trouble with my skin (acne AND accelerated aging from sun and acne damage). I made some dietary changes and actually did some medical spa treatments, but soon realized that I would have to make changes to my skin care routine if I wanted to see better results and keep my skin looking better in the long run. So, I am now buying products in plastic and glass bottles again. 

Restaurant Kit (left by the wayside)
Back when I lived in Phoenix, I put together a zero waste restaurant kit that I used very consistently. Then I move to the Pittsburgh area. I was in an area that did not have any vegan-friendly restaurants (other than Chipotle) and money was tighter then, so we stopped eating out for the most part. I'm now living in the city and am eating out more, but I've lost the habit with being zero waste at restaurants. I even forget to ask that they leave out the plastic straw. This is one area I want to work on getting back into the habit on.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Minimalist Composting

If you have a trowel and and a yard, you can probably compost.

This is the most minimalist compost method I have found, and it's also a great upper body workout. Here's what you need:

-0.5-1.0 gallons of kitchen scraps
-Kitchen knife and cutting board
-Trowel or shovel
-A yard with relatively soft soil
-Ability to dig a hole

1. Dig hole
2. Fill hole with kitchen scraps
3. Cover hole
4. Profit?

Here are my kitchen scraps I keep a jar in the fridge to accumulate kitchen scraps. Keeping kitchen scraps in the fridge keeps them from starting to break down and smell.

Chop up the scraps, the finer the better. If you have a food processor, you can use that.

Dig your hole. Your hole should be about 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. My trowel is 13 inches long, so I used that as a guide. 

I live in an old neighborhood that used to be housing for steel workers. What do you suppose this metal thing I found is?

Add your scraps. Mix in a little bit of the dug out soil.

Cover your hole with the remaining soil. There will be a little bit of leftover soil that has been displaced so just spread it around the area.

Source for this method:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Maximalism for the Sake of Resiliency

I've been sick with a cold, so I read the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life cover-to-cover in a couple of days. At the end of the book it talks about how to apply the concept of antifragility to our everyday lives. I don't want to go into depth on this concept of antifragility, so I will just say that it is similar to resiliency -- preparations that make one more likely to be in a good place after a disaster.

According to the book, here are a couple areas in our lives where is makes more sense to diversify for the sake of resiliency, rather than going the minimalist route:

1. Finances
This is in reference to both income and investments. Households should have multiple sources of income, so that if one drops off, there is still incoming money. Sources of income can be traditional work, rental property income, or hobbies that produce something that one can sell. Tangent to that is having multiple skills, in cases of job market changes.

Also related to finances, the authors talk about betting conservatively, but still taking some small risks. They give an example of $10,000. $9,000 of this money would go into an index fund and the remaining $1,000 would be split to invest into 10 start-ups. I think this concept can be expanded generally, thinking about all of the potential places that our money can be held for future use: checking accounts, savings accounts, cash under the mattress, precious metals, real estate, employer retirement saving plans (e.g., 401(k)), mutual funds, individual stocks, and individual bonds.

2. Relationships
If we pour all of our efforts into one relationship and we lose that relationship, where do we go for the kind of emotional and social support that we need? It is important to have as many close relationships as we can possibly manage in order to stay socially and emotionally resilient. The authors do make a small nod to minimalism when they mention that we should not keep people in our our lives that make us "fragile", i.e., people who are toxic to us. So it's important to be choosy when it comes to relationships. 

3. Diet
This was discussed in a different part of the book and how one of the longest living populations, the Okinawans, had a diet that included over 200 different foods. Considering that the Okinowans ate very little animal foods, mostly white rice, and no processed foods, this means they ate an astounding number of different fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and spices, made easy by having their own gardens. For the sake of health, it's important to eat a variety of plant foods and not go minimalist when it comes to eating.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Five things to "Waste" in the Name of Safety

Those trying to live a waste-free lifestyle do not want to throw away things that seem perfectly usable, but when it comes to being safe, there are some things that need to be replaced periodically due to potential hazards or hidden dangers. Here's a list of some of those things, how often they need to be replaced, and why:

1. Bicycle Helmets
Bicycle helmets should be replaced after three to eight years, depending on usage and environmental conditions. Your helmet may look fine, but microscopic deterioration of the foam occurs over time and with certain uses, making it potentially less protective in an bicycle accident. 

I know it's tough, but if you own a regular, commercial bicycle helmet, it needs to be thrown into the regular garbage within eight years of use; it's not likely to be something that can be recycled. There are some alternative bicycle helmets coming on the market now that may have different replacement schedules or may by recyclable.

2. Fire extinguishers
Household fire extinguishers should be replace every 12 years. The proper functioning of the extinguisher cannot be guaranteed for longer, despite the gauge saying that the extinguisher is full. To throw away a household fire extinguisher, pull out the pin and let it depressurize before disposing. I suspect that fire extinguishers are not considered to be recyclable even though they are metal.

I should say, there is some good news with fire extinguishers. You can actually buy one that is refillable if there is a business in your area that sells and refills fire extinguishers. These companies usually sell and refill fire extinguishers to other businesses, but may also provide services to the public.

3. Spare tires
Luckily, cars are changing so that this is not as much of an issue, but if you have a car with one of those small donut spare tires, you should replace it every ten years . Talk to your auto mechanic or tire shop about getting a new spare and having them dispose of your old one.

For vehicles that have the space, you can buy five full-sized tires and rotate them in a way that wears out all five evenly. Talk to your tire shop about this. Also as I mentioned before, new vehicles are changing. Auto/tire companies are eliminating spare tires by improving the design of tires, giving you more of an ability to drive on a punctured tire until you can get it replaced.

4. Health and Beauty Products
If you look on the label of your health and beauty products you may see a little symbol that looks like a jar and a lid with number on it like "12 months". This is how long your product is guaranteed to be fresh for once you open it. I say heed this warning; this is how long the preservative in the product is expected to be effective. It's often hard to detect when health and beauty products have started to become overrun with microbes, so don't take a chance and give yourself an infection.

5. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years and carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced sooner at six years. These devices simply lose their effectiveness after some time. The batteries should be properly disposed of and if the plastic has a recycle symbol, it may be recyclable.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Easy Plastic-Free Shower Curtain System

#ZeroWaste #BuyItForLife

Traditional shower curtains are made out of PVC, a plastic that has a lot of downsides. Some newer shower curtains are made out of PEVA or EVA, which is better, but still plastic. A good alternative is a cloth shower curtain that can be washed in the washing machine, but what about shower curtain rings?! 

Shower curtain rings are generally plastic and even non-plastic ones are designed for plastic shower curtains, not cloth shower curtains that have to be removed regularly for washing. It takes forever to remove and rehang a shower curtain on traditional shower curtain rings! That’s why I love shower hooks. But do you know what I love even more?! Double-sided shower hooks! That way, you can still have a decorative shower curtain on the outside. 

My decorative shower curtain is a very neutral linen one. I plan to have it for a long time. I imagine my towels will wear out before my shower curtain, so I’d rather play with color with my towels and leave the shower curtain neutral. Here's my set-up. We've been using it for four years now and it's still in great shape.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

All of My Beauty Products

#ZeroWaste #Minimalism

Sorry about the yellowness of these pictures. That's just the way my bathroom is, and I don't like to spend a lot of efforts on my photos.

Top Shelf

From left to right: 
I make my own non-comedogenic sunscreen from zinc oxide powder, aloe vera, cocoa powder, and raspberry oil. I store it in a recycled glass jar.

Raspberry Seed Oil
I use raspberry seed oil as a face, hair, and hands moisturizer. I also use it as an eye makeup remover. Raspberry oil is non-comedogenic and provides UV protection. Also, you don't have to use very much; a few drops go a long way.

Glycolic Acid
I use 10% glycolic acid as a chemical exfoliant. Glycolic acid is usually made from sugar and its only risk is as a skin irritant. Concentrations higher than 10% can burn your skin. Unfortunately, the only 10% formulation that I can find that is just acid and water comes in a plastic bottle. In the picture, it's in glass because the dropper helps prevent contamination. I previously tried buying a higher concentration acid in a glass bottle and diluting it with water, but it burned my skin or did nothing, indicating that I could not actually dilute it at home. *shrug*

Sea Salt
I get sea salt from the bulk bins and use it as a physical exfoliant.

Bottom Shelf

From left to right:
Face Powder/Sunscreen
I make my own face powder and include zinc oxide powder for sun protection.

Eye Shadow, Lip Stain, and Lash Paint
I make my own eye shadow and lip stain out of shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa powder, and beet root powder. The lash paint I get from Etsy*. The lash paint can also be used as an eyeliner.

Make-Up Brushes
For make-up brushes I have a mascara brush for the lash paint and eye brow grooming. I have a eyeliner smudger to fix lash paint mistakes. I also have an eye shadow brush for brushing off excess make-up. I used cotton rounds to apply powder.

That's it!