Zero Waste Lifestyle: 20 Ways to Have a Zero Waste Kitchen

Friday, August 18, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Take a quick look at the items in your kitchen: What items do you use over and over again, and which do you toss after one use? For me, paper towels and napkins come to mind. For the longest time, my parents and I would constantly toss both those single use items in the trash, dooming them to a landfill. Well, not anymore! Thanks to learning more and more about the zero waste community, I decided to invest in a compost pail. It fits on my kitchen counter and is great for collecting food scraps...but that's not all it collects. I put used paper towels and napkins in there too! The guy we donate our food scraps to every Saturday (he's at our local farmers market) said it's completely fine to add these because they decompose. So, while it's not a completely zero waste solution, it's definitely better than tossing them in the trash.
This is just one way to make a small adjustment towards a more sustainable, zero waste kitchen. It's important to remember big changes don't happen overnight, nor should they. You don't have to go out and buy 500 new items all made out of sustainable materials to create an eco-friendly kitchen. You simply have to work with what you already have, and find the best use for it. At some point, I'd love for my kitchen to be completely napkin and paper towel free, but I don't think that will happen until I move out of my parents' house. I cannot control what they buy when I'm not around. That said, I can make a positive influence and gently suggest things. And so can you.
No matter what your living arrangement, I hope you will find this article useful, and something you can come back to often. Bookmark it, if you have to. Use it as a guide. Do you already have/do something on this list? Look for the things you don't and agree to try doing at least one of the tips provided. Perhaps you incorporate one zero waste item into your kitchen every month, or you choose 5 you want ASAP. The choice is yours, simply let this be a helpful guide. Just remember to go at your own pace (I know I have - it's a journey, but that's what makes it fun). 
Also, if you already have a zero waste kitchen, you might want to check out my post on having a zero waste bathroom, or being zero waste on the go. I plan to create more of these posts, possibly focusing on the bedroom next? We shall see. Now without further ado, lets greenify that kitchen of yours!
 
 
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  1. Stop buying frozen food packaged in plastic - even if it's organic. Chances are, the plastic bag it came in is not recyclable. Instead, learn how to freeze fresh food in glass jars. Yes, it's safe. You can freeze almost anything without plastic: Fruit, vegetables, bread, beans, etc. My only piece of advice to you is to leave headspace if freezing a liquid of any kind. Oh, and another tip is to use jars that used to have food in them. No need to go out and purchase a whole set of mason jars: Just reuse jelly, jam, or sauce jars instead! Make sure you clean them out really good first though.
  2. If you use a lot of paper towels, try replacing them with dish towels, or un-paper towels (you can grab some on Etsy).  Reach for a dish towel/un-paper towel first to wipe your hands after washing them in the sink. You can also create rags by ripping up old, worn out clothes, especially shirts. These work well for cleaning dishes or unexpected messes. Then, just wash them and reuse.
  3. Replace napkins with cloth napkins. You can learn how to make your own, or buy them online. The Tiny Yellow Bungalow is a great place to find reusable napkins (with really cute designs on them too). Once you're on that site, just go to shop - kitchen - and lunch gear to find them. I bought my mom one so she could take it with her to work: The one I bought for her is the flower cloth napkin (priced at only $6). You can see it here, along with a few other goodies I got for her from The Tiny Yellow Bungalow's shop (it was her birthday, of course I'd spoil her 😉).
  4. If you cannot completely cut back on paper towels, try doing what I did and investing in a compost pail. The one I use is stainless steel and has a built-in filter that completely masks any odor. It's perfect for leaving on your kitchen counter and has a handle which makes it easy to transport. I take it to the farmers market every Saturday. Check out my blog post on composting to read more about how I do it. And of course - don't just use it for paper towels - use it for food scraps too!
  5. When you go to the store, stop buying water, soda, juice, energy drinks, and any other beverage that comes in a plastic bottle. Chances are it's unhealthy for you anyway. Plus, you could always make your own juice and sodas at home (google and Pinterest probably have some great recipes waiting for you). Instead, drink water straight from the tap. Worried about the quality of the water? Invest in a filter. We use a Brita filter in my house, and on the go I use Miyabi Charcoal to keep my reusable water bottle filtered and pure.
  6. Stop buying plastic straws, cups, utensils, plates, and stir sticks. It's just adding to the single-use epidemic. Use reusable products instead, like stainless steel or bamboo cutlery, glass cups and straws, ceramic plates, etc. If you want to have single-use cutlery, straws, cups, and plates for a party or something, look into ones that are biodegradable. Here's a set of biodegradable cutlery that I love to get you started. You can compost them after one use!
  7. Use what you have: Being zero waste doesn't mean completely getting rid of all plastic. If you already have something, use it. Just don't buy more of it. For example, many zero wasters struggle with what to do with their Tupperware after going zero waste. While I'm not a fan of Tupperware, and know how toxic the plastic can be, it's more wasteful to just throw it out than to use it to the end of its life. Here's a good guide that will help you deal with plastic (both in the kitchen, and outside of it). When you're ready to, simply replace it with glass or stainless steel food storage options. Mason jars work great at storing leftovers too!
  8. Avoid using single-use plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and parchment paper. Most states do not recycle these (New York certainly doesn't recycle plastic wrap - but it does accept aluminum foil wrap), so it's best to do research into what's deemed acceptable to yours. There are some great alternatives worth seeking though; Have you heard of Bees Wrap? They create products that function similar to plastic wrap, but are completely compostable and reusable. They're not the best option if you're vegan though (they're made with beeswax). Instead, you could try finding cloth covers for your food. Etsy is a good place to start, and you could find some cloth covers for bowls of various different sizes (look for ones that use elastic bands instead of beeswax). Here's one from a another website I trust (Life Without Plastic) that has cute flamingos on it and can cover a medium sized bowl easily.
  9. Try shopping at bulk food stores. I know not everyone has access to these, but do your best to find ones near you. You might be surprised: Here's a great resource to see how many bulk food stores are in your area. I only have one, and I'd need to take a few train rides to get to it. Still, it's good to know, and this app helped me find it. If you plan on going to a bulk food store, be prepared: You'll probably need some glass jars (they don't necessarily have to be mason jars though), cloth bags, and reusable bags to get you through it. Here's a great resource on how to shop at a bulk food store if you're completely unfamiliar with it.
  10. If you cannot find a bulk food store, try locating a local farmers market. Farmers markets aren't always completely zero waste, but they are usually considerably low waste!  The food there is typically plastic-free. Mine uses paper cartons to hold any smaller fruits, like berries, in. These are reusable, or you can just take them back the next week so the farmers can reuse them. Cool, right? Just take a few reusable bags with you and some produce bags. Then you're set! To learn more about my experience with farmers markets, check out this post. Also, to save a buck, here's how to create your own reusable bag from an old t-shirt.
  11. Can't find a bulk food store or a local farmers market? Don't fret, you can still work it out. If you have a local grocery store, do your best to buy only these items from it: Fresh produce, and products packaged in paper or cardboard. Unfortunately, fresh produce at the grocery store will probably have non-recyclable stickers and bands wrapped around them. Still, it's better than buying the produce completely wrapped in plastic (trust me - I've seen that too). For dry foods, like grains, avoid plastic packaging as much as possible and go for the paper/cardboard boxes. At least these can be recycled and composted at home. Avoid processed foods, as most of these are snacks packaged in un-recyclable wrappers (granola bars, candy, etc.). If you buy things made in cans, make sure the cans are BPA free and recyclable in your area. Also, there are some things you should learn how to make at home, instead of buying them at a grocery store. For example, learning how to make your own condiments (peanut butter and jelly, ketchup and mustard) is a good start. Also, try making your own nut milks to avoid buying the milk in cartons.
  12. If the products in your kitchen are at the end of their life (such as plastic storage containers, plastic spatulas, plastic cutting boards, etc.), replace them with sustainable alternatives. Try getting a bamboo spatula, some stainless steel food storage, a bamboo cutting boardglass measuring cups, and stainless steel measurement spoons. These are only a few options (there are so many alternatives to plastic, it's not even funny!). Do your own research, and when the time comes where you need to replace a certain item, you'll be ready.
  13. Make some homemade dish soap to clean those pesky dishes with. This will help stop water pollution and can be stored in a mason jar with a stainless steel soap dispenser. All you need is 3/4 cup liquid castile soap, 2 1/2 cups of water, and 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Mix it together and you're ready to wash some dishes!
  14. Sponges - they're not exactly as natural as they sound. At least, not the ones sold at conventional stores. Instead, why not try using a compostable, reusable dish brush? You can also choose between one with hard bristles and soft bristles. It will get the job done and won't create any waste at the end of its life. Plus, it'll save you a buck (re-buying sponges gets tedious after all). You could also try an un-sponge, which are available by the ton load on Etsy.
  15. Did you know plastic dish dryers cannot be recycled? Instead, lay your dishes out to dry on a reusable towel. It'll still work, I promise. If you're worried it will soak through to your counter, lay two towels down for extra protection.
  16. If something is really stuck on a dish, reach for a compostable loofah scrubber. Tiny Yellow Bungalow sells so many really cute ones shaped like eggplants, the earth, flowers, fruits, and animals. They're made with 100 percent natural vegetable dye coloring, so they're completely non-toxic. You can use them for other things too: They're gentle enough to be used on fruits and vegetables, durable enough to be used on surfaces like wood, glass, porcelain, stainless steel, etc. We love ours (we have a pineapple and an eggplant shaped one), and when we're done using it, we just rinse it and hang it on the sink faucet to dry. Simple! Just go to Tiny Yellow Bungalow, then click on shop - kitchen - and loofah scrubbers to get your own.
  17. Ditch the non-stick pans for cast iron pans. These are the absolute best to cook with. Not to mention there are so many health problems associated with non-stick pans, and they really don't last forever. They actually get funky really quickly, in my opinion.
  18. Have you tried a glass coffee maker? Personally, I'm a tea person, so I won't be needing this in my future home. That said, I feel like my parents would appreciate this as a gift, considering they love their coffee. They currently have a plastic coffee maker, but maybe when that runs out of fuel I'll get a glass one for them (Christmas will be here before you know it!). Here's a glass coffee maker that makes a whole pint (equal to about 3 cups of coffee), and the filter (it's made from hemp!) for it.
  19. After buying from bulk food stores, or from the farmers market, make sure you have proper storage ready at home. Store dry grains in glass containers on your counters or in your cabinets. For fresh produce, you can place them in a fruit bowl, refrigerator, or freezer. Just make sure you don't put them in plastic - either keep them in reusable produce bags, store them in reusable bowls, or freeze them in glass jars.
  20. Try preparing some zero waste recipes! There are so many available, you'd be surprised. Take any food scraps you have and compost them, or freeze them to make vegetable stock/broth in the future. Challenge yourself to make a full day of zero waste recipes by using nothing that comes from a plastic container. For some inspiration, here's a great index of zero waste recipes you can make in the comfort of your own home. Use these on weekdays, weekends, and at parties too!
Did I forget anything? Have any feedback? Want to discuss your own zero waste kitchen stories? Leave a comment below!


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My Top 5 Zero Waste Travel Essentials

Friday, August 11, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
I love eating out. Something about it is just so much fun: You don't have to worry about cooking and you can pretty much eat anything you want based on what you're craving. Japanese anyone? There's only one problem: Waste. At most eateries, they'll serve the food with silverware, cloth napkins, and reusable cups, but not every restaurant is the same. I've encountered my fair share of restaurants (and food courts) that use plastic straws, paper napkins, and even plastic cutlery. Since I eat out at least once a week, I decided it was time to create a zero waste travel essentials kit for myself. That way, I'd be prepared for (almost) anything that was thrown my way. I hope by showing you what's in mine, it will inspire you to make your own, or improve upon the one you already have.
The travel essentials I have gathered are all important items to living a more conscious, waste free life. I have the zero waste community to thank for this change, seeing as just a year ago I wouldn't have thought to do this. Now, I can happily say I sport a reusable napkin, a stainless steel water bottle, a multi-utensil kit, a reusable produce bag, and reusable straws with me everywhere I go. This greatly helps me reduce the waste I put into the environment every time I'm out and about. I'm still learning the fine art of refusing certain things (like plastic straws), but I'll master it eventually. The important thing is, I'm trying. That's more than most people can say they're doing. And yes, the travel essentials I carry around are far from perfect, but that's okay. In fact, they're a work in progress. I have a list of everything I still want to get, but I'm happy to say that list is no longer as big as it used to be. I now (literally) go everywhere with these items.
It's not pictured below, but I have a huge bag I carry all of these in. It's a really cute black sling over bag made out of ethically sourced, fair trade cotton. The bag itself is handmade and has a pretty Indian elephant on the front of it. It's safe to say I'm pretty obsessed with it. I literally bought this bag specifically to create this zero waste travel essentials kit. I knew the items I needed wouldn't fit in my regular bag (which was a sling over, but could barely fit my reusable water bottle in it), so I took the plunge. I use my sling over bag to carry around a lot more stuff than just my zero waste travel essentials though, that's for sure. It's roomy enough to fit my keys, phone, wallet, makeup, and even a book or two! Sometimes, if I know it'll get chilly out later, I'll even stash a sweatshirt in there. That's how roomy it is. So, it's safe to say that if I would like to expand on this zero waste travel essentials kit, I certainly can (and will) in the future. The possibilities are endless! Now, without further ado, here's a peak inside my bag.
 
 
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Item #1: My reusable water bottle
 
 
 
Out of everything in this bag, this is the one item I've had the longest. Before I even assembled this on-the-go kit, I knew I had to get a reusable water bottle. I drink a lot of water, and to stay on my game, it just made sense to buy a stainless steel one. Stainless steel is probably one of the best materials you could pick for a water bottle, because it's great at keeping your drink cold (or hot - you can carry tea in it too!). I strictly stick to water for my bottle, but if I want to switch it up one day, I totally could. This bottle comes in handy at family gatherings, parties, or just in general when I'm out on the town. I don't typically use this at formal restaurants, though I will use it at food courts. If I get thirsty, I don't have to buy a single-use water bottle (or drink from a plastic solo cup). Instead, I just reach inside my bag, grab this, unscrew the top, and take a swing. Boom, I just saved another plastic water bottle from polluting the earth. And trust me, we don't need any more plastic being created on this earth (we already have too much to handle!).
 
I'm also a big advocate of water filters. That said, most stainless steel water bottles don't come with a filter. For a while, I struggled with finding a filter for it that would be both plastic-free and sustainable. That's when I learned about bamboo charcoal, which purifies water naturally and also improves its taste.  I simply boil the charcoal for 5 minutes, let it dry, then plop it into my water bottle and let it sit in the fridge for 1 hour. The boiling only has to be done once a month with 3-4 new pieces of charcoal, so it's a fairly easy process. After that, I just keep adding water to the charcoal and leave them in my reusable bottle! It automatically filters the water after one hour is up. The best part is the charcoal is compostable. How cool is that? It's safe to say I will never filter my water any other way.
 
I bought this stainless steel water bottle at a store in my mall called Francesca's for about $18, if anyone is interested. It's really cute, right? I love the color pink so I pretty much snatched this up as fast as I could. Plus, come on, who doesn't love the cute catch phrase "sipping and chilling" on the front? I know I do!
 
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 Item #2: My multi-utensil pack
 
 
I've always wanted a multi-utensil pack because I think it's so important to carry around reusable cutlery. As a zero waster, it irks me how many people use plastic cutlery on a daily basis, then just toss it away after one use. That plastic will sit in a landfill, or be mistake for food by marine life. Either way, it's just unacceptable. I refuse to take part in it any longer. That's where this multi-utensil pack comes in: I use it to carry a knife, a spoon, a fork, and straws everywhere I go. It has seriously helped me avoid single-use cutlery, especially while in the food court in my mall (that's all they give out). After I'm done using the cutlery I pack in this baby, I just wipe it off and store it back in the pack. When I get home, I wash it off in the sink, easy-peasy, and store it in the pack again.
 
My multi-utensil pack is made from reclaimed denim and cotton, but there are so many different options to choose from. The brand I received this pack from is StrawSleeves, a company dedicated to providing a practical way to carry reusable straws while traveling, shopping, or eating out. I have a few more items from StrawSleeves in my zero waste travel essentials kit, such as straws, and straw sleeves themselves. All of it is super handy stuff. The straws I got from them are really great too, and I keep them all in this multi-utensil pack. I got one big bamboo straw, a slim bamboo straw, a spoon straw, and a stainless steel straw. The spoon straw is cool, because it doubles as both a spoon and a straw, so I don't need to even grab a spoon from my kitchen drawer. The bigger bamboo straw I usually use for drinking smoothies or bubble tea while out and about. The slim bamboo straw and the stainless steel straw are used for ordinary drinks, like iced tea or water served at a restaurant. This multi-utensil pack is for more than just straws and cutlery though: I could also use it to store makeup brushes or even art supplies!

The multi-utensil pack is machine (or hand) washable, but mine is still really clean right now. When I'm done using it, I simply close the flap and use the ties to secure it. I usually tie it in a pretty bow, then plop it into my bag. It stays perfectly fine in there. I usually just leave it in my bag and don't bother taking it out at home, that way I never forget it (especially when I'm in a rush to leave the house!). It costs $26.95, but is totally worth it (I know I'll use it for years to come).
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 Item #3: My reusable cloth napkin
 
 
Out of all the items on this list, this is the newest one I have. It's also the one I'm still getting used to using the most. I've used cloth napkins at restaurants, don't get me wrong, but it's different when you know that napkin will be going straight back into your bag. You almost don't want to soil it too much, because you don't want to get the other items in your bag messy (and/or sticky). Having this cloth napkin has come in handy though, and I have used it. I haven't used it all too much though, as I try to stay as clean as possible while eating. I've got a big appetite, but somehow manage to stay clean through most of my meals. There was a time when I used to use practically all the napkins at a table, but I've very much so grown since that time. I'm happy to say I barely use this one!
 
It's machine and hand washable, so I'll probably just wash it in the sink like I normally do with the stuff I own. I don't have constant access to a machine washer in my apartment (we have to pay for laundry), so it's the easiest option. I'm going to wash it before the weekend is out, just so I know it's clean (right now it's only been lightly used). I have to keep reminding myself I have it, so I hope eventually, with time, I'll get used to that. Also, I would love to buy more reusable napkins, so that way, if one is completely filthy, I can just use another. That's a work in progress though, so I'm grateful to have at least one right now.
 
I purchased this at Francesca's (the same place in the mall I got my reusable water bottle), if you're wondering. Believe it or not, that store has a lot of very pretty reusables! You just have to keep your eye out for them. I also loved the tag for this item - it was pin and a piece of (plastic-free) paper, which I simply added to my compost pail. It only cost me about $12 too, so it was worth the investment. I also love the phrase "live a pineapple life, be sweet on the inside, stand tall, and wear a crown" on the front. Too cute!
 
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 Item #4: My reusable straw sleeves
 
 
I'm a germaphobe, so protecting my utensils from the contents of my bag is a huge deal for me. Straw sleeves are literally life savors: I use them to protect my favorite reusable straw and my vintage chopsticks on the go. They're also incredibly easy to use: I find myself reaching for these a little bit more than my multi-utensil pack. That's only because it's quicker to remove anything I store in them (I don't have to untie anything). Currently, I'm using them to store a reusable glass straw and a pair of chopsticks. I can even fit a straw cleaner right next to my glass straw, if I wanted to. I eat sushi a lot, so chopsticks are a must for me. My father is the one who gave me the ones pictures above: He had them since he was younger and bought them in China Town. Yay for hand-me-downs! The straw pictured above was one of the first zero waste things I ever bought (but at the time I had no clue what the zero waste movement even was). I simply bought it to be more environmentally friendly, and because I thought it looked really pretty. These two items go great with the straw sleeves because they're easy to remove and I love using them.
 
The straw sleeves themselves are made from interesting materials: The blue one is reclaimed denim and the white one is made from hemp. They're clearly plastic-free and machine (or hand) washable, which is a huge plus. Each material comes in a variety of colors too, the ones pictured are just two options. To use the straw sleeves, I simply slip a reusable straw of my choice (or the chopsticks) into the sleeve. It stays put because the straw sleeve has an "invisible inner cuff" that prevents the utensil from sliding out of the pocket. That's why it requires no ties or fasteners, which is awesome. After the utensil is in the sleeve, I just plop it into my bag. Super effective! I could probably even use these to carry around pens or pencils if I wanted to. Maybe I'll give that a try in the future.
 
Straw sleeves are also really easy to take care of and don't require much washing. I haven't had to wash them yet at all: They're fairly new and clean. They are pretty genius though, don't you think? Each one is bound to last me at least 5 years, if not more (depending on how well I care for it). Each straw sleeve, no matter the material, costs $12, which isn't much. It's perfect if you recently bought a reusable straw but don't know what to store it in. Plus it's really unique and cute!
 
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Item #5: My reusable (and versatile) bag
 
 
To market, to market...to buy some produce! Every Saturday my mom and I go to the farmer's market to buy a bunch of fruit and vegetables. It's a great experience, but what makes it even greater is this little thing. In the picture above, you can't really tell what it is, can you? Well, looks are deceiving: Inside that little packet is a big reusable bag! It's so easy to stash in my bag because it folds in on itself and can be zipped up in the tiny pouch you see pictured. I keep it in my bag at all times and when I need it, I simply unzip the pouch and pull out the bag inside it. It's got really cute sea turtle designs on it.
 
The coolest part about this bag is that I can use it for almost anything. If I wanted to go shopping, I could use this to hold my purchases. I mainly use it to hold food from the farmers market though, along with two other reusable bags. The difference between those bags and this one is that this can be stored in my bag at all times, thanks to the pouch. With my purchase of this bag, money was donated to the Ocean Conservancy, which is great. It also helps keep plastic bags (the single-use ones) out of the sea, which make for healthier oceans and healthier lives.
 
I bought this (can you guess?) at Francesca's as well. What can I say? I love that store! I told you it has reusable items in there. What I love a lot about this purchase is the information it shows on the tag: It talks about the problem with single use bags. For example, did you know the average American uses 300 plastic bags per year? Or, that one bag can take 1000 years to disintegrate? It's sad, but true. So if you haven't switched over to a reusable bag, I highly suggest you do! This makes traveling so much easier: Plus it's even machine washable!
 
What's in your zero waste travel essentials kit? Mine is far from complete, but it's almost there. Let me know what you take with you on the daily in the comments below!




This post was sponsored by StrawSleeves. All thoughts remain honest and not influenced by a third party.

Review: The Little Flower - A Peak Inside My (Nearly) Zero Waste Nail Polish Bag

Friday, August 4, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Are you the sort of girl who loves getting her nails done? I'm not. In fact, the last time I got my nails done was back in February of this year. I know, crazy right? Thing is, I hate the smell of nail polish and also, as a green beauty blogger, know that nail polish can never be all natural. At least, not if you're looking for a diverse set of colors. That said, you can come close, and I particularly love using Pacifica's 7-free nail polish. They're free from 7 toxic chemicals typically found in most nail polishes, such as parabens, phthalates (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, xylene, camphor, formaldehyde, resin, and animals. They also come with a vegan brush and are completely cruelty-free.
While that's all said and good, the second reason I don't like doing my nails is because it's wasteful. And you know exactly what I'm referring to: Cotton balls. Every time I want to take nail polish off, I have to worry about wasting cotton balls, which just wind up heading straight to a landfill. To manufacture cotton, they use a heck of a lot of pesticides (cotton uses 20 percent of the worlds pesticides and herbicides to be exact). So yeah, not exactly the most non-toxic plant. Not to mention, cotton balls aren't recyclable, which is why they get dumped straight into trash after one single use. After learning about the zero waste movement, I was determined to change that. At first, I thought the best solution was just to stop using nail polish of any kind. That would make it easy to avoid cotton balls completely (no nail polish + no nail polish remover = no cotton balls wasted). While that probably is the best option, I didn't exactly want to waste the nail polishes (I only have 4, mind you) that I already have. Plus, the occasional manicure is pretty nice. So what was my second best option? Find a way to replace the cotton balls of course.
This is where The Little Flower comes in. I've reviewed The Little Flower's products on here before (The Etsy shop sells a slew of hand-made cloth items, one of them being cloth pads), so I certainly trust the brand. The owner, Mary, was generous enough to send me some of her reusable cotton balls. They're made with cotton flannel outside and stuffed with high quality poly-fill. I even got to choose what color I wanted (clearly, I went with pink, cause I'm a girly girl like that). They're literally perfect replacements for wasteful, single-use cotton balls. Want to see why? Keep reading.
 
 
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Reusable Cotton Balls
 
 
 
Why you want it: Single-use cotton balls are one night stands, but these? They're marriage material.
 
Its value: $8.50 (that gets you 10 of these keepers.)
 
My review: With conventional cotton balls, you pretty much need a whole slew of them to make them last. Sometimes, I would need at least two to four cotton balls just to remove my nail polish (in the past), depending on how stubborn the polish was being. Not with these! I literally only need one to do the job when it comes to removing nail polish. Since they're made from cotton flannel and poly-fill, they're quite durable and can take a lot of rubbing. I also loved how I was able to tell Mary, The Little Flower Shop's owner, what color I wanted these reusable cotton balls to be. It gave it a much more personable touch and made me want to use them more (because they're adorbs). To test them out, I painted only one of my hands and let it dry for about 5 to 10 minutes. Then, I took one of these cuties and put some nail polish remover on it. Essentially that means I just placed it on the opening of the nail polish remover bottle and flipped the bottle upside down twice so a little would get on the cotton ball. Then, just like with a conventional cotton ball, I started to rub the nail polish off. Presto! It came off. It didn't take abnormally long either and didn't get all messy and gross like a typical cotton ball does. You know when you're using a cotton ball to wipe off nail polish and it starts to flatten and gets super drenched in the nail polish remover? That was not the case with this little guy. It remained the same shape and didn't feel super soaked, which actually made it easier to remove my nail polish. The one down side to all this is that when I tried to get the nail polish out of the reusable cotton ball, it didn't budge. I washed it in the sink using some all-natural detergent (my favorite is from the Simply Co.), but the nail polish was very resistant to coming out. That said, nail polish (no matter how natural) can never be all-natural, and does use a lot of chemicals. So I'm not surprised if it takes a few washes to fully come out (or, simply a stronger detergent). I don't think the stain itself will effect it's usefulness in getting rid of other nail polish I want to remove though, so I'm sure it's not a big deal. Besides, I have more than just one of these handy little cotton balls: I've got 10. I could always just use another if I want to avoid the stain entirely. With that said, I also used another of these reusable cotton balls to wipe off the makeup on my face, and that worked equally as well. I figured I'd try it for the heck of it, just to see how it would hold up. I dipped the reusable cotton ball into coconut oil twice and then started to wipe the makeup off my face. I didn't need to triple dip or anything: Just one time was enough to get all my makeup off, including eye makeup. Pretty impressive huh? I'd say these little guys are quite the multi-taskers. I highly recommend you get yourself some ASAP.
 
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My nail polishes - and my bag

My nail polishes are almost all from Pacifica and were bought about one year ago. One of them is from Poofy Organics (it's a light pink color) and is the only one that's not from Pacifica. Both of these brands are really great and don't contain any toxins. Poofy Organics nail polishes are free from 11 different toxins, such as formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, TPHP, camphor, xylene, parabens, fragrances, phthalates, and animal ingredients. The Poofy Organics color I have is called Never Too Late and it's a really cute pink color. The Pacifica polishes I have are Turquoise Tiara (the blue color), Blushing Bunnies (the pink color), and Red Red Wine (the red color). They're 7-free polishes, meaning they're free from parabens, phthalates (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, xylene, camphor, formaldehyde, resin, and animal ingredients. Both are really great brands, but I do favor the consistency of Pacifica's polishes a bit more. Also, on a side note, the actual bag that I got for holding my nail polishes is from a store called East Meets West. I was on a mission to find a really cute bag to put all my reusable cotton balls and nail polishes into and kind of just stumbled upon this one. While it's certainly not vegan (it's made out of silk), it is really adorable. Also, I got it at a bargain: The store was selling it for cheap because they were trying to get rid of it. In other words, if I hadn't bought it, it probably would've just ended up in a landfill. Glad I could give it a second life. Besides, the handle makes it super convenient to carry around with me, and also lets me hang it from my decorative wall hangers (they're shaped like owls, so double the cute).

A note on nail polish remover

If you're wondering what I used to remove my nail polish, don't get your hopes up. I tried using some natural stuff (witch hazel and apple cider vinegar included), but nothing worked. Unfortunately, I needed to use nasty, conventional nail polish remover to get my nail polish off. Ick, I know. I just used a little bit of my mom's and tried not to gag at the smell. I think the next step for me is to either make my own all-natural nail polish remover (that will actually work effectively), or look into pre-made ones. Because honestly, that's the one thing that's still not completely zero waste or all-natural in my nail polish bag. Most conventional nail polish removers not only have a bunch of toxins, but they also come in plastic (double gag). Sure, recycling the bottle is okay, but I like to avoid recycling as much as possible. What do you use to remove your nail polish? Do you have a homemade, DIY recipe you use and would like to share? Or, do you know about an all-natural nail polish remover that's packaged in something other than plastic? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section. I'm definitely open to suggestions. I saw a nail polish remover Poofy Organics sells that's toxin free and comes in a glass bottle, so that might be my best bet. If I can't find anything better, I'll just wind up purchasing that. Either way, I will do more research into this and see how I can - ahem - *greenify* my nail polish remover too, so to speak.
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The (quick) rundown
 

The pros: The pros heavily outweigh the cons.
  1. I've worked with The Little Flower Shop founder, Mary, before and her work never fails to impress me. She was so easy to talk to and sent my samples out right away!
  2. I love how I was able to customize my cotton balls (I requested pink ones and certainly got what I wanted - and you can request different colors too!).
  3. When I received my samples, they came in a recyclable/compostable paper envelope (super ecofriendly!).  
  4. I love how these cotton balls are reusable and made from washable fabric. Talk about a zero waste win!
  5. These are great for removing nail polish, but they are also great for removing makeup (so two in one!).
  6. I absolutely love these reusable cotton balls and will continue to use them for a long time - they seem very durable!
  7. I love how simple the materials in these cotton balls are - just cotton flannel and poly-fill.
  8. While I don't give myself manicures very often, I'm glad that I won't be wasting anymore cotton balls when I do decide to indulge.
  9. These products worked great - they truly got off the nail polish (and makeup) just like a conventional cotton ball would do.
  10. Using these products seriously minimizes the amount of waste I put into the environment. Do you know how many conventional cotton balls are in one bag?
  11. These little guys will save you money in the long run - a lot, to be honest. An average bag of cotton balls costs anywhere from $1 to $6, and if you use them a lot, that adds up. Having to pay $8.50 for a purchase that will last for years to come is such a better options.
  12. The Little Flower doesn't just sell the cotton balls I reviewed: They also sell cloth pads (which I've reviewed in the past too), baby blankets, baby accessories, bath accessories (cotton balls are one of them) and cloth tote bags (all handmade out of cloth). Pretty versatile if you ask me.

The cons: The cons are very low.
  1. If I ever decide to get my nails done outside of the house, I can't exactly take these with me. I mean, I could, but it might be considered a sanitary issue if I ask the nail artist to use my reusable cotton balls.
  2. I wasn't able to get out the stain of the reusable cotton ball I used for removing my nail polish. Maybe I'd be able to if I plopped them into the machine wash, but I washed them by hand in the sink. I think that's probably because nail polish is just (in general) harder to remove than your typical stain (and not because my Simply Co. Detergent is ineffective). With that said, it's still good to use again, stain and all.
  3. I wish I had an all-natural, zero waste nail polish remover to couple this zero waste win. That said, that's not necessarily a con directed towards the reusable cotton balls itself - more so an overall con that I want to find a solution to. 
Conclusion: If you love doing your nails but hate wasting cotton balls, these are for you. To me, there's no better zero waste way to do your nails. Plus, these cuties can be used to take off makeup (so they're doubly versatile). Since they're machine washable, they're built to last and can be added to your laundry without a hitch. If you'd like to get your own, I highly suggest talking to Mary about it. She will help you customize it to your liking and answer any questions you might have about proper care and use. Plus, Mary in general is such a sweetheart to work with. Also, lets not forget this one-time purchase will save you a lot of money in the long run. For example, lets say you bought one pack of cotton balls per month, and it cost you $5 each time. You'd be spending $60 a year on freaking cotton balls! That $60 could go to something you love - a nice dinner out, a movie, or a game. Even if the bag of cotton balls costs $1 a month, that's still $12 out of your pocket every year. That's $3.50 more out of your pocket than what these reusable cotton balls would cost you. So if you'd rather not give up your monthly manicures (but don't want to further harm your wallet or the environment), these reusable cotton balls are must-haves.

This post was sponsored by The Little Flower. All thoughts remain honest and not influenced by a third party.


Indoor Container Gardening: 3 Vegetables to Grow This Summer

Friday, July 28, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Back when I was little, my mom was a home health aid and would take me with her (sometimes) to client's homes. I remember one of her clients quite fondly: He had a really quaint backyard garden that looked absolutely massive to little me. He didn't mind letting me look at any of the plants either, which made my little inquisitive mind all the happier. Every summer, his garden had an abundance of vegetables growing in it: Squash, pepper, eggplant, tomatoes. I loved spending time in it, but I was careful never to disturb his plants, out of respect for both the garden and the gardener. I guess that's where my love for plants, gardening, and summer started. To me, summer wouldn't be summer without seeing some sort of vegetation popping out from some nice, earthy soil. To celebrate my mother's client who loved growing vegetables before I ever could, I dedicate this post to him. After all, this post is all about vegetables!
That said, I certainly don't have a garden like my mom's client did. In fact, I have pretty limited gardening space because I live in an apartment. That's okay though, I make it work, and you can too. If you're tired of hearing "transfer this plant outside" or "move outdoors", this article is for you. It's totally possible to grow plants indoors (without transferring them outside) successfully! Welcome to part five: Summer vegetables.
My first post in this series was about spring herbs. If you'd like to see the first article in this series, I got you covered. My second post was all about spring vegetables, my third post was about spring fruits, and my fourth post was about summer herbs. If you enjoy this series, be sure to look out for the last post in this series next month! I publish every Friday, so look out for the next one August 25th!



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Swiss Chard
 
When you were little, were there certain vegetables you just wouldn't eat? Swiss chard was definitely one of those for me. I would not touch the stuff. But now? Heck yes! I love me some swiss chard and absolutely adore the colorful stems (they come in an array of colors: Pink, yellow, red, you name it). The good news is that I have experience growing this plant (albeit, not too much). I grew it last summer and while it did alright for a while, it didn't really grow as tall as I would've liked it to. That said, I've learned from that experience and done some research since that time. If you follow these directions, you're bound to grow plenty of swiss chard in no time.

You will need:
  • Swiss chard seeds (preferably organic)
  • 8 inch clay pot with drainage hole
  • Organic potting soil (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • A dish, saucer, or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)

Directions:
  1. Fill your 8 inch clay pot with your organic potting soil.
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. I recommend no more than 4 seeds per pot. Give them their space too: Seeds should be several inches apart. Aim for at least 3 - 6 inches of separation.
  3. Now cover the seeds with some more soil, about 1/2 inch deep (in other words, don't bury them). Transfer the pot over to your chosen windowsill. Over the next few days, water by gently misting the soil, instead of with a watering can. Personally, I don't even use a watering can: I use an upcycled glass bottle. It's easier to water plants this way because there aren't several watering holes (just one) so I have better control over my watering.
  4. Examine the soil after a few days, and look for sprouted seeds. If two sprouts appear to be growing from the same seed, cut away the weakest of the two with cuticle scissors. This will help the plant focus its energy for optimal growth.
  5. Watering: Once you have sprouts growing, you can use your watering can (or for me, my upcycled glass bottle - which I painted and made look all pretty by the way). Make sure you water around the sprouts, not on them (sprouts are very fragile and you don't want them bending in awkward ways!). Water ONLY when the soil at the top is dry to the touch. I always watered my swiss chard daily, but never over did it (just enough to make the soil moist).
  6. Sunlight: Swiss chard needs at least 6 hours of sunlight. Essentially, that means don't even bother moving them away from the windowsill. They love sun and heat!
  7. Harvesting: To harvest swiss chard, simply pick off the outer leaves once the plant begins to mature. This will also encourage new growth.

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Peas

Most people seem pretty disconnected with how peas really grow. After all, in most frozen food aisles, you'd find (plastic) bags filled with just the inside of the peas, not the actual pea pods. I get why they do this (after all, adding pea pods to an egg omelet might be a little cumbersome), but I do think there is a charm to getting whole peas. At the farmers market, I found sugar snap peas and couldn't be more excited. I scooped them up and my family made them in a delicious stir fry dish. Ugh, so good. I also do have experience growing them first hand. They can be a little challenging to grow, but with proper care, and some sturdy support (literally - they need a trellis), they'll do just fine.

You will need:
  • Pea seeds (preferably organic - snap peas or dwarf peas are best for indoor growth)
  • Pea trellis (I built my own)
  • 8 inch clay pot with drainage hole
  • Organic potting soil (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • A dish, saucer, or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)
 
Directions:
  1. Fill your 8 inch clay pot with your organic potting soil
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. I recommend no more than 2 seeds per pot, as peas need their space. Make sure to space them out at least two inches apart.
  3. Now cover the seeds with some more soil, about 1/4 inches deep (in other words, don't bury them). Transfer the pot over to your chosen windowsill. Over the next few days, water by gently misting the soil, instead of with a watering can.
  4. When the pea seedlings have reached four inches tall, begin to train the pea vines around the supports you’ve provided (AKA your trellis). At six inches tall, pinch off the tips so the peas will send out horizontal shoots that will cling to the trellis.
  5. Watering: Once you start to see sprouts, now you can use your watering can (or for me, my upcycled glass bottle). Make sure you water around the sprouts, not on them (sprouts are very fragile and you don't want them bending in awkward ways!). Water ONLY when the soil at the top is dry to the touch. I always watered my basil daily, but never over did it (just enough to make the soil moist).
  6. Sunlight: Peas needs 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Essentially, that means don't even bother moving them away from the windowsill. If you have a windowsill that doesn't get that amount of sunlight, consider investing in grow lights.
  7. Harvesting: To harvest peas, you have to wait until you see actual pea shoots. You'll probably notice a pea flower first (which are pretty all on their own). This is a good step, since the pea shoot will grow from this flower. When you finally have a full grown pea shoot, simply pinch it off using your finger. Pick the peas daily when ripe - this will encourage more growth!

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Radishes
 
Believe it or not, I'm pretty much the only one in my family who likes radishes. Whenever we go to the farmers market (pretty much every Saturday), I always see them and want them. Trouble is, they always give you so many and I just know I'd never be able to eat them all on my own, so I usually opt out. That said, I'd love to try growing them one day. I've do some research and they really aren't hard to grow indoors, in a container. Certainly gives me hope for the future!

You will need:
  • Radish seeds (preferably organic)
  • 8 inch deep (or more) clay pot with a very good drainage hole
  • Organic potting soil (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • A dish, saucer, or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)

Directions:
  1. Fill your 8 inch deep clay pot with your organic potting soil.
  2. Now add some seeds, or sprouts, to your soil. Radish seeds are small, so you might want to just sprinkle in a bunch and thin them out later (while thinning, make sure the seedlings are at least 2 inches apart). Also, since radishes are root vegetables, they don't take well to being transplanted.
  3. Now cover the seeds with some more soil, about 1/2 inch deep (in other words, don't bury them). Transfer the pot over to your chosen windowsill. Over the next few days, water by gently misting the soil, instead of with a watering can. Personally, I don't even use a watering can: I use an upcycled glass bottle. It's easier to water plants this way because there aren't several watering holes (just one) so I have better control over my watering.
  4. Watering: Once you start to see sprouts, now you can use your watering can (or for me, my upcycled glass bottle). Make sure you water around the sprouts, not on them (sprouts are very fragile and you don't want them bending in awkward ways!). Water ONLY when the soil at the top is dry to the touch. Make sure the drainage in the pot is good, as thyme doesn't take well to soggy roots. Never let it sit in water that's been collected in the saucer, either.
  5. Sunlight: Radishes needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Essentially, that means don't even bother moving them away from the windowsill. If you have a windowsill that doesn't get that amount of sunlight, consider investing in grow lights.
  6. Harvesting: To harvest radishes, watch the plants carefully until they are an edible size. The smaller globes are more spicy while the larger ones have a more mellow taste. Either way, the root is the only part that's edible: It will begin to swell very soon after planting. Make sure to harvest radishes quickly to prevent splitting and drying. To harvest radishes, simply pull them out of the soil by their greens.
 
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Want more indoor container gardening? Check out the rest of the series here (this list will be updated):
 
 
Part 5 - Indoor Container Gardening: 3 Vegetables to Grow This Summer
Part 6 - Coming soon! *Summer fruits*
 
 
I'll update this series once a month on a Friday. Next month's will probably be on August 25th. It will be the last in the series. 

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Review: StrawSleeves - The Sustainable Way to Carry Reusable Straws

Friday, July 21, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
It's a crowded ice cream shop at 8 o'clock. There are little kids, parents, and teenagers everywhere, all of them eating ice cream or drinking bubble tea. You can't help but notice everything they put near their mouth is a plastic spoon or a plastic straw. You think about how much waste is produced by this single ice cream shop every night, considering there's at least twenty people surrounding you at the moment. Thankfully, you won't be contributing to that waste. You pull out your reusable straw from your bag. It's being protected by a uniquely beautiful denim straw sleeve. You don't go anywhere without this sleeve: It keeps your straw safe from touching anything else in your bag. Also, thanks to its special design, your straw stays put in there and doesn't slip out. You put the sleeve on the table you're sitting at and use your straw to drink the bubble tea you ordered and can't help but notice people are watching you. They don't say anything, but you can see they're intrigued by your straw, and its sleeve. Some people even smile at you and compliment your straw, or ask about the sleeve, which leads to a conversation on zero waste living. When you're done drinking, you wipe off the straw using a reusable napkin (you'll clean it when you get home) and put it back in its sleeve. Guess what? You just saved one more plastic straw from being wasted. Not to mention, you got other people interested in zero waste living too.  
This could be you thanks to StrawSleeves, a company dedicated to providing a practical way to carry reusable straws while traveling, shopping, or eating out. By simply using a straw sleeve to transport your reusable straws, you'll be able to attain this sort of life. You can buy reusable straws (bamboo and stainless steel ones) on StrawSleeves' site too, but their main focus is the straw sleeves (which make transporting the straws a cinch). They offer single straw sleeves (you can choose from two materials: reclaimed denim or 100 percent hemp), and multi-utensil packs. The single straw sleeves are ideal if you already have one reusable straw and just want something to keep it safe and secure in your bag. The multi-utensil pack is perfect for someone who already has several reusable straws (maybe of different shapes and sizes) and likes carrying all of them at once. I recommend the multi-utensil pack for those who aren't sure how many straw sleeves they'd want, since it has multiple slots. Either way, both products will make your life so much easier. Perhaps the coolest part about straw sleeves (and the multi-utensil pack) is that they aren't just for straws: You can use them for carrying cutlery, makeup brushes, and even art supplies. I personally love using one of the sleeves to carry around reusable chopsticks!
Cheri Newcomb, the owner of StrawSleeves, was kind enough to send me two straw sleeves, a multi utensil pack, and some reusable straws. I tried them out for a full week and lets just say I'm excited to share my results. Ready to see what I thought? Keep reading!     
 
 
 
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 Straw Sleeves
 

Both the reclaimed denim and hemp straw sleeves - pictured with a bamboo and stainless steel straw.
 
Why you want it: These handy sleeves protect your straws from bumping into things in your bag. Plus they're plastic-free and machine (or hand) washable.
 
Its value: $14.61 for both the denim and hemp straw sleeves (The straws pictured above: Bamboo is $5.11 and stainless steel $5.46 )
 
My review: I'm no stranger to reusable straws: Before I joined the zero waste movement, I bought a glass straw. I thought it looked really pretty and loved how eco-friendly it was. The problem? It came with a plastic carrying case. As you know, it's best to try and avoid purchasing plastic, as we already have more plastic than we can handle on earth. That said, these straw sleeves are the perfect alternative. They're completely plastic free and made from eco-friendly materials. The blue one is made from reclaimed denim and cotton blends, while the white (Natural colored) one is made from 100 percent Romanian hemp. The hemp sleeve straws are available in other colors too (mine is considered Natural): Black, Green, Purple, and Blue. The reclaimed denim one comes in both blues and in earth tones. They're designed to hold almost any size straw in varied widths (and bends). They can carry anything up to 8 to 9 inches in length. Pretty cool, huh? Personally, I love both of these straw sleeves and find it hard to choose which I like better. I actually use the reclaimed denim one a little bit more than the hemp one (maybe because it matches the multi-utensil pack a little more). There's not much of a difference between them in terms of functionality, that's for sure: They both work great. To use, I simply slip a reusable straw of my choice into the sleeve. It stays put because the straw sleeve has an "invisible inner cuff" that prevents the straw from sliding out of the pocket. That's why it requires no ties or fasteners, which is awesome. After the straw is in the sleeve, I just plop it into my bag. Straw sleeves work well with tote-bags, glove-boxes, pocketbooks, backpacks, or even picnic baskets. I usually pair the straw sleeves with the straws you see in the picture above (also provided to me by StrawSleeves), or with a pair of chopsticks (pictured below). Heck, I could even keep my glass straw in this sleeve because it's so secure. When I want to use the straw (or chopsticks), I just pull it out. After I'm done using the straw (or chopsticks), I just wipe them off and put them back in the sleeve. I usually wash the utensils when I get home, since it's not always convenient to do in public. Either way, these straw sleeves certainly come in handy. They're also quite durable too: Both the hemp and reclaimed denim ones are self-lined and triple stitched to hold up to frequent and repeated machine (and/or hand) washing. Personally, I'm just going to hand wash them in the bathroom sink, but they haven't gotten to that point yet. They're still super clean, so I probably won't have to wash them for several weeks. I totally recommend these to anyone who wants an easy way to store their straws (or utensils) on the go!
 

I like to use the reclaimed denim straw sleeve to hold my chopsticks! The chopsticks were given to me by my dad. He bought them when he was younger in China Town. Vintage!

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Multi-Utensil Pack 
 

The multi-utensil pack - pictured with two bamboo straws, a spoon straw, and a stainless steel straw.
 
Why you want it: This awesome multi-utensil pack is perfect for stashing cutlery, makeup brushes, and even art supplies in one secure place.
 
Its value: $29.56 (the utensils pictured above are priced in the next section)
 
My review: I've always wanted a multi-utensil pack. Well, at least since first seeing one in a zero waste group. I was scrolling through the group and looking at pictures other members were sharing, and one was a multi-utensil pack they made themselves. While I certainly admired their handiwork, I am no seamstress. I don't even have access to a sewing machine and  even if I did, I would probably wind up sewing my own hand. Thankfully, StrawSleeves sells these amazing packs that do the handiwork for me. The one I received is made from reclaimed denim and cotton, but there are so many different options to choose from. Here are only a few color options: Pink with purple print, charcoal print with stripes, off-white with purple print, and so much more.  I'm in love with how cute the pattern is as soon as you open it. This pack is perfect for fitting any sized straw or utensil. In the picture above, I used it to carry two bamboo straws (one for bubble tea/smoothies, another for regular drinks), a stainless steel straw, and a straw spoon (literally a straw with a spoon on the end). That said, you can carry anything in this baby. There are four slots, but they're pretty roomy. Lets say I wanted to carry around art supplies: I could fit up to 6 colored pencils in each slot, which I tested myself so trust me on that. Or, lets say I'm a makeup artist and want to bring makeup brushes with me to a client. Easy-peasy, this pack will hold at least four brushes (maybe more per slot, depending on the length and width of the brush). It's also great for holding cutlery, which is mainly what I'm going to be using it for. Eating out, especially at places like malls or fast food chains, isn't always the most zero waste. Usually, you'll only be offered plastic cutlery (cannot say how true this is - every time I eat at the mall in the food court it's the only thing offered). This will help me stop relying on that. It's perfect for storing a fork, spoon (better yet, a straw spoon), and a knife. Even chopsticks! If you like bamboo cutlery or stainless steel cutlery, great, because either will be safely secured in this pack. Instead of buying a whole set of portable cutlery, you can just buy this and take from what you usually use in your kitchen (for me, that's stainless steel). Once you secure all your utensils (or art supplies, brushes, etc.) in place, you simply close the flap and use the ties to secure it. Make a pretty bow and you're ready to go! I plop it into my bag and it stay perfectly fine. When not in use, you can also fold it up and tie it so it takes up less space in a drawer or on a desk. I usually just leave it in my bag. It can also be machine or hand washed, but mine is still very clean. If I take care of it, I'm sure it will last me for years to come! I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to carry around reusable cutlery, makeup brushes, or art supplies (but doesn't want to waste plastic in the process). Plus, it looks really cute.
 

The multi-utensil pack also works great with reusable cutlery, art supplies, and even makeup brushes.
 
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Reusable Straws
 

I received two bamboo straws, one spoon straw, and one stainless steel straw from StrawSleeves. All work amazingly!
 Why you want it: Each straw is great for something, and each one has a different, unique texture. All of them are certainly handy to have around and on the go.
 
Its value: $4.46 - $21.61 (depends on the straw you get. The cheapest is the bamboo straw from Straw Free and the priciest is the straw spoon with a denim straw sleeve).
 
My review: These are the straws StrawSleeves gave me to try out. They aren't the focus of their brand, but it's great that they sell them too. Makes it convenient to shop for everything in one place! If you love smoothies (or bubble tea, like me), I recommend checking out the bamboo straws they sell from Straw Free. They're very roughed and thick, so they're best for those kind of drinks. For regular drinks (like water, iced tea, soda, etc.) I recommend the smaller bamboo straw or the stainless steel straw. It kind of just depends on the texture you like, but I recommend stainless steel straws for people who don't like a woody texture on their straws. Both don't bother me though, so I use them interchangeably. I drink a lot of iced tea while out on about, so these certainly come in handy! Probably one of my favorites is their straw spoon though: It's made from stainless steel and has a silicone grip on it for easy convenience. You can get two of them with a denim straw sleeve included, or without. I usually put this straight into my multi-utensil pack, along with other cutlery. It's super handy because it doubles as both a spoon and a straw. Of course you'd have to wipe it off before using it interchangeably, but it's certainly handy! Ultimately, I highly recommend investing in one of these straws if you don't have any reusable straws yet. Even if you do, grabbing an extra one might do you some good. With all these different sizes and shapes, there's bound to be one that grabs your attention!
 
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The (quick) rundown
  

The pros: The pros heavily outweigh the cons.
  1. StrawSleeves founder, Cheri Newcomb, was great to work with and was quick to send me my samples!
  2. When I received my samples, they came in a recyclable/compostable paper envelope with recyclable/compostable paper padding (super ecofriendly!).  
  3. I love how each of these products is completely plastic-free and made from washable fabric (or, if we're talking about the straws, washable straws). Talk about a zero waste win!
  4. The straw sleeves are great if you don't have as much room, or simply want to protect one straw.
  5. The multi-utensil pack is so versatile and works with everything from cutlery to art supplies!
  6. I absolutely love these products and will continue to use them for several years - they're super durable!
  7. I love how the materials used in each product is simple, yet effective (reclaimed denim, cotton, and hemp).
  8. It's great that StrawSleeves also sells reusable straws. I'm especially in love with the straw spoon! Perfect for eating ice cream on the go, or sipping and chilling.
  9. These products worked great - they kept my utensils and straws clean and safe while in my bag. No fibs here!
  10. Using these products seriously minimizes the amount of  plastic waste I put into the environment. Do you know how many straws are found in the ocean each year?
  11. I'm so glad I finally have a bubble tea straw that isn't plastic (I drink it pretty frequently, so this will greatly help me reduce the amount of waste I create!).
  12. They don't just sell the items I reviewed: They also sell cleaning brushes, stainless steel straws with silicone comfort tips, and reusable shopping bags. Sweet!

The cons: The cons are ridiculously low.
  1. I wish I had more of their products! That's pretty much it. I literally cannot think of anything bad to say about this brand. They're doing so much good for the world!
Conclusion: StrawSleeves are the best way to carry around your reusable straws. Period. They make everything from single straw sleeves, to multi-utensil packs. If you've been wanting to try plastic-free straws, but hesitated because you didn't know how to protect them in your bag, this is for you. Do the environment and yourself a favor and get yourself a sleeve or a utensil pack. They also carry a bunch of different straws if you're stuck on where to start. The multi-utensil pack is great for artists, makeup lovers, and zero wasters alike because it can be used to hold just about anything. Not to mention these make great gifts for family and friends! Also, be sure to follow StrawSleeves on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates on their high-quality products!

This post was sponsored by StrawSleeves. All thoughts remain honest and not influenced by a third party.
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs