Last year, I was trying really hard to buy nothing new, and while I fell short several times (more on that in a future post), I did pretty well in the shoe department. Nearly all shoes have at least some plastic components. Buying them secondhand or repairing the shoes you already have are great ways to get “new shoes” without actually buying new shoes and new plastic.
Buy Secondhand Shoes
I’m not one of those people who won’t buy secondhand shoes. You can find some pretty great, almost new shoes at thrift stores for a fraction of the cost of new shoes. In June, my local Goodwill had a 50% off shoe sale, so I bought four pairs of practically new shoes for about $20. (They were actually in much better shape than in this photo that I took today after having worn them for several months.)
When buying secondhand shoes, make sure the soles are not scuffed (or only minimally scuffed) and insoles are… Read the rest
It’s super easy to make your own beef jerky. But before I get into how, let me explain why. Beef jerky (or any kind of jerky, for that matter) is not something I normally eat or even think about. But in 2015, while planning for the annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert, I wanted to find a good source of protein that would hold up in the weather without refrigeration or plastic packaging. And knowing that I would be camping with Zero Waste guru Bea Johnson (a very exciting story for another day), I wanted to do more than simply stock up on trail mix and dry soups from the bulk bins, which is what I’ve lived on in previous years.… Read the rest
Last November, I decided it was time to get rid of the small, ratty, and possibly toxic table-top ironing board we’d been using for years. And by we, I mean Michael. Still haunted by memories of ironing my dad’s shirts in the dank basement laundry room while the crickets chirped and imaginary mice scurried from corner to corner, I avoid ironing as much as possible. Michael, on the other hand, irons his work shirts every week, and I wanted him to have a nice, full-sized board with a non-toxic pad and cover, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money.
Getting an Ironing Board for FREE
Knowing that I was going to be starting a year of buying nothing new, I decided to look for a secondhand ironing board. I posted an ad on Nextdoor, a social network for neighbors to stay in touch about what’s happening in the hood, asking if anyone had an ironing board they didn’t … Read the rest
Back in April I promised a post about making broth. Well, here it is. Actually, this is more like two posts in one. There’s broth that you make from scratch in order to get all the nutritious goodness out of the food scraps you have left, and then there’s broth (or stock) that you need in a hurry for a recipe when you don’t have time to make broth from scratch and you don’t have any on hand.
(The word broth is starting to sound really funny after saying it in my head a whole bunch of times in one paragraph. If I capitalize the first letter, it could be the name of a new Game of Thrones character.)
Better Than “Better Than Bouillon” Vegetable Broth Concentrate
Five years ago, I touted the goodness of Better Than Bouillon broth concentrate that comes in a glass jar and eliminates the need for broth in a BPA-lined can or plastic-lined box. Using a concentrate helps prevent waste… Read the rest
Thanksgiving came and went. We gathered with friends, gave thanks, ate food, and took lots of pictures. Well, I took lots of pictures to share with you. Because the only thing better than preparing and eating beautiful food is looking at pictures of it, right? I mean, just ask your Facebook friends.
Our Thanksgiving meal was not entirely plastic-free and zero waste, but it was as close as we could get and still have a turkey. And while Thanksgiving won’t be back for another year, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter festivals are right around the corner. What ideas will you implement to create a waste-free holiday meal?
We hosted a Thanksgiving potluck, which meant we didn’t have to make the entire meal ourselves. That said, we did prepare a hefty share of it:
Cheesy mashed potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Fizzy water… Read the rest
This story starts with a car wreck. A few weeks ago–the week before the U.S. election, to be exact–I was in Maryland visiting my dad. Riding shotgun on the way home from my brother’s birthday dinner, I caught a glimpse of the sign for MOM’s Organic Market and shrieked, “HEY, THERE IT IS!” Unfortunately, my scream startled dad enough for him to swerve into a curb that had suddenly jutted out into the middle of the road. (Who put that there?) We ended up with a flat tire and had to wait in the MOM’s parking lot for my brother in law to come help us change the tire.
You’re probably wondering why I screamed when we passed MOM’s Organic Market. Well, growing up in Beltsville, MD in the 80’s, we shopped at conventional grocery stores like Giant and Safeway and A&P. We didn’t have markets like Whole… Read the rest
11/30/16 Update: Hurray! Despite the disappointing national election results, California has some things to cheer about. We passed Prop 67, the single use plastic bag ban! Thanks to everyone who voted!
A few weeks ago, I did something completely out of my comfort zone. I signed up and then showed up to phone bank with Clean Water Action in support of Prop 67, a statewide plastic bag ban on the upcoming November ballot, and against Prop 65, a competing measure that could completely undermine efforts to eliminate plastic bag pollution across the state. I also dragged my friends Nancy and Corbina along with me since, you know, misery loves company and all that.
What is Prop 67?
In 2014, the California legislature passed SB270 (Padilla), a law which would ban single-use plastic carry out bags and require merchants to charge customers a 10 cent fee to purchase disposable paper bags. Shoppers could avoid… Read the rest
11/30/16 Update: Well, so we voted. Now what? Trump has vowed to dismantle environmental regulations. We can’t let that happen. More than ever before, it’s time to get active.
I have to admit, the current election cycle has me wanting to hide under my covers with a bottle of wine and a few choice edibles until the madness is over. It’s been weird and ugly, and I’m sure quite a few of us are exhausted and tempted to just stay home on November 8.
PLEASE DON’T DO THAT.
November 8 is not only about electing our next president, which is important in itself, but also electing the representatives and passing the propositions that will impact the state of our air, water, soil, and climate in the years to come. Clean Air Mom’s Action — the political action partner of Mom’s Clean Air Force — is urging parents to get out and vote for the health of our children and those who are the most vulnerable.
Please… Read the rest
The following is an email I received from reader Susan Siu about how much she loves having to take her recycling to the local transfer center instead of having curbside pickup. I loved it so much, I asked her if she would send me pictures and let me post her email here. Don’t get me wrong: I still want curbside recycling to be made available so that people who wouldn’t otherwise recycle will comply, but I love her enthusiasm for her local transfer station. So, please enjoy this post about recycling/reusing in Southern Maine.
I LOVE your book and blog! I am a small-scale vegetarian organic homesteader in Southern Maine currently in the process of going zero-waste and plastic-free, and your book has been extremely helpful as well as fascinating. I have been watching many of your film/video recommendations with my kids, and they are sharing what they’ve learned with all their friends.
After… Read the rest
Photo credit: John Suchocki, Sunday Republican newspaper
Three years ago, artist Dara Herman Zierlein emailed me out of the blue:
Dear My Plastic Free life,
Thank you for all that you do and the amazing resources! Below is a link to my watercolor paintings dealing with multiple themes around pollution and the consequences of using disposable one time use plastic items, like water bottles etc… I am an art activist, My name is Dara. I’m excited to share them with you. Its a very hard to fight this battle alone and I spread the word through my art as I practice eliminating plastic use in my daily life.
The first two images were poignant and beautiful, but it was the third that stabbed my heart and took my breath away.
And then, sadly, the email got buried under a bazillion others.
Last night, finally getting my insane email inbox under control, I stumbled across Dara’s images again and had the same… Read the rest