Healthy Eating: Your Guide to Clean Eating

Friday, September 15, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
You've probably heard of clean eating before, but what exactly is it? In simple terms, eating clean simply means avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods. It's great for those looking to lose weight, remove toxins, and overall feel better. Creating a clean eating plan, or a guide, will really help you achieve these goals. Plus it will give you the proper nutrition your body may be lacking from eating too much processed foods. Please use this post as a guide to jump start your own healthy eating plan today: It will tell you the basic principles of this diet, the benefits of this diet, and exactly what you need to get started. There are tons of eating clean recipes out there (which I encourage you to look up), but I will be sharing one at the end of this post to get you started. 



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What is clean eating?


Clean eating is about avoiding junk food and instead eating real, whole foods. Unlike other diets, it is relatively simple to emulate and not too complicated. Here are three basic principles to follow:

Eat whole foods

Whole foods are as close to their natural form as possible. In other words, they're foods that have not been tampered with in a manufacturing plant or lab. These are considered "real foods" that come straight from a farm (preferably a local one). Some examples include whole vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low fat dairy products, grass-fed and free-range meats, seeds, and unsalted nuts


Stop using refined sugar

Refined sugar is unhealthy for you to begin with. It doesn't provide you with any nutritional benefits what so ever, and may even lead to breakouts. Other, more natural sweeteners can be used such as raw honey, agave, cacao nibs, coconut palm sugar, dried fruit, pure maple syrup, stevia, and molasses. While these are certainly better than refined sugar, please use them sparingly, as too much of any sweetener (natural or not) can be a bad thing. 


Eliminate processed foods

Guess what? Processed foods are any food that has a label (yes, even if it's organic). The good news? Not all processed foods are bad: It's the ultra-processed ones you have to be on the look out for. Foods like doughnuts, cakes, cookies, and brownies are ultra processed foods. Other foods like pizza, white rice, and white pasta are also refined foods, so it's not just desserts to watch out for. These are the ones that contain no significant nutritional value and have been turned into refined foods. While shopping, make sure you avoid overtly processed foods and instead reach for the processed foods that aren't as bad, like organic pasta sauce, whole grain pasta, and natural cheese. Just avoid the ones with additives and strange chemicals in them. Make sure to read ingredient labels: If you cannot pronounce it, avoid it!



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The benefits of eating clean



There are so many benefits to this wonderful diet. The best part is, it's not just good for you, but the planet too!

  • It helps the environment: Processed foods are packaged in pollution-causing factories, whereas non-processed, whole foods grow straight on a farm.
  • Whole foods will help keep you feeling satisfied longer so you're less tempted to eat junk food.
  • Diets heavy on fruits and vegetables can curb or prevent certain life-threatening diseases and conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
  • Whole foods keep your digestive track regular - if you know what I mean *ahem, bathroom breaks, anyone?* 
  • A diet high in fruit and veggies is linked to healthy weight management and beautiful hair and skin. 
  • Eating a good variety of real foods ensures you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. 
  • Eating this diet will give you more energy and help you stay active and more energized for longer periods of time.
  • Some processed foods are also usually packaged in un-recyclable materials (think candy wrappers and chip bags), so not buying them also reduces your waste.

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How to eat clean


So, how do you start eating clean? You think about portions, not calories. In this diet, vegetables reign supreme, so make sure to get those in the most. If you're a math person, think in fifths: Three-fifths should be fruits and vegetables, one-fifth should be protein, and one-fifth healthy carbs.


I recommend shopping at the farmers market as much as possible. They have a bunch of whole foods there to choose from, and the best part is, it's all local! You know exactly where your food is coming from and get to see the people who helped make that happen. If you must shop at the grocery store, stick to the fresh, package-free fruits and vegetables they have for sale. 

As far as what exactly you should be eating, here's a handy list of un-processed and minimally processed foods you should include in your daily meals: 


Unprocessed foods include:

Fresh fruits and vegetables
Dried legumes
Nuts
Farm-fresh eggs

Minimally processed foods include:

Unrefined grains (whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice)
Frozen fruits and vegetables
Unprocessed meat; wild over pastured, pastured over grain-fed
Hormone-free dairy
Oils

Here's a clean eating grocery list I highly recommend checking out to help you learn more about clean eating. As far as actual cooking goes, opt for stir-frying and steaming. This is considered a flash-cook method that helps preserve a food's nutrients. Avoid deep-frying at all costs.

 Also, don't forget the importance of meal prep: It can really help you on this journey. For some inspiration on what exactly to cook, here's a list of 100 eating clean recipes to choose from (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert included!).
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Bonus recipe: Healthy Whole Food Salad


This is my literal go-to lunch as of late. I totally recommend it, because it is delish. I've also included the DIY salad dressing I use with it as well. You can rest assured this is a great salad, filled with clean eats worth devouring. Enjoy!

Whole Food Salad

This salad tastes best with produce fresh from the farmers market. If you cannot get your hands on heirloom tomatoes, regular tomatoes work well too. Please try to always buy organic too, as this will reduce your exposure to pesticides. 

Ingredients:
  • 4-5 big leaves of romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 3-4 heirloom cherry tomatoes (or 1/2 heirloom tomato), chopped
  • 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 carrot, chopped or shredded
  • 4-5 strawberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped

Directions:

  1. Wash off all the produce with water, then chop them as needed. If you plan on eating it right away, add it to a big bowl, make the dressing below, and mix it all together. 
  2. If you'd rather save the salad for later, place it in a sealed container of some sort. My mom and I love to make this salad at night and eat it the next day for lunch. We seal it in reusable Tupperware, but you can use anything you like (mason jars work too). 
  3. Make sure you don't mix it with the salad dressing yet if you intend on eating the salad later: This will cause it to get soggy. Only apply the dressing when you're ready to eat it. Enjoy!


DIY Strawberry Dressing

This dressing is a bit thick, just so you know. It doesn't make too much either, but it certainly makes enough for at least two servings. If you'd like to make more, just double or triple the recipe. It's perfect for those who like sweet dressings too.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup strawberries, rinsed and sliced 
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon natural sweetener (raw honey, coconut sugar, agave) 
  • 2 tablespoon coconut (or sunflower) oil

Directions:
  1. Place strawberries, vinegar, and sweetener in a blender until pureed. Add 2 tablespoons oil and process until smooth. To store, keep in the refrigerator.


And that's a wrap, folks. I hope this post inspires you to think of your own clean eating plan. Feel free to share any clean eating recipes you have below!

Zero Waste Living: 4 Green Beauty Brands That Offer Refills

Friday, September 8, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Zero waste beauty isn't exactly the easiest part of this journey. There are so many amazing green beauty products out there, but most of them are packaged in plastic! It's incredibly frustrating, especially when you know your state does not recycle cosmetics properly in any shape or form. Sure, you can DIY a few things, but what if your DIYs keep flopping? What if you just don't like crafting your own products? Thankfully, there are some brands out there that are a little more eco-savvy than the rest.
This post is dedicated to the top 4 green beauty brands I could find that offer refillable products. Instead of being single use only, you can refill these goodies until your heart is content and use them over and over again. Some brands focus on being completely refillable, while others only offer some refillable options. You'll also notice some brands are more pricey, while others are cheaper. Take that as you will, but just remember: You get what you pay for. Either way, I wanted to compile the ones I found to show you there are zero waste makeup options out there, and that you don't need to completely abandon makeup. The order they're in matters too: First is my absolute favorite brand, while last is a brand that needs some work (at least in my eyes). Altogether though, each of these brands are still trying to make our planet better by offering refillable makeup options, and that's something to celebrate.



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Why you want it: They offer both organic makeup and refillable makeup. What could be better than that? Plus, there's no shortage on what can be refilled: All of it is refillable. The cases the makeup comes in are absolutely stunning to begin with: They're made from white bronze. When you run out of the makeup that's in your pretty case, just order its refill. The refill comes in 100 percent recyclable cardstock. Doesn't get much better than that.


Refillable products: Every single cosmetic product.

Its value: Items range from $22 to $190+ (You only have to buy the white bronze cases once, which costs more. Once you do, the refills are cheaper).

Item I want to try: Personally, I'm eye balling their lipstick in "Affection". It's out of my price range right now ($56 and $36 for a refill), but I'd really love to try it some day soon! I prefer creamy pink nudes, so this one looks like it'd do the trick. 

Pros and cons: This company is pretty pricey, so I suggest waiting until you have some extra cash to splurge on them. The quality is top notch though, so it'll definitely be worth it! 

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Why you want it: This all-natural beauty brand uses bamboo to package their makeup! Bamboo is a great choice too, because it's super sustainable (it grows back quickly after being cut). They also use bamboo in their makeup formulas to provide a naturally silky texture to things. Pretty cool huh? Not to mention most of their ingredients are organic! They have everything from foundations, to eye shadows, to primers, to lipstick.


Refillable products: It's easier to say what's not refillable, in this case: Gloss, mascara, eye liner, pencils, mineral touch (loose powder eye shadow) and mineral silk foundation (loose powder foundation).

Its value: Items range from $10 to $40+ (You only have to buy the bamboo cases once, which costs more. Once you do, the refills are much cheaper). 

Item I want to try: I'd love to give their Organic Eye Primer a try. Every time I wear eye makeup, it tends to melt off (especially if I'm wearing a cream eye shadow). I'm thinking I need a good eye primer, and this one might be the one I eventually invest in. It's $30.30 initially, but only $14.10 for a refill. Sweet!

Pros and cons: Sadly, not everything is refillable, but at least the majority of them are. The ingredients are pretty clean in this brand too. It's definitely cheaper than Kjaer Weis products, and they're currently having a sale (use code ZAO20 for 20 percent off your next purchase!). 

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Why you want it: Ecco Bella offers three different refillable compacts: A duo compact, a single compact, and a single compact with a well (used to hold a tiny application brush). They're each made out of paper (which is easy to recycle) and, depending on which you get, can be refilled with different items. All three compacts can be refilled with eye shadow, powder eye liner, blush, but the duo compact can hold two at a time. The refillable makeup is all-natural and made from only the purest ingredients. 

Refillable products: Eye shadow, powder eye liner, blush, and shimmer dust (just make sure to get one of their refillable compacts first).

Its value: $10.95 - $9.95 (This is just for one of the compacts - it doesn't include the actual makeup you buy with it. The refillable makeup itself could cost anywhere from $14.95 to $15.95). So, lets say you wanted the duo compact with one blush and one eye shadow refill: That would cost a total of $41.85. Not bad at all.

Item I want to try: Honestly, I'm digging the sound of their powder eyeliners ($14.95). I don't encounter too many zero waste alternatives to eyeliners, but this one sounds pretty good. It comes in 5 different colors, and you just need to purchase it along with one of their refillable compacts. To use it, you only need to dampen an eyeliner brush and dip it into the powder, then apply onto your eyelids. Sounds pretty good to me! 

Pros and cons: Not everything on Ecco Bella is refillable, but the good news is it's pretty cheap. Compared to most other refillable makeup containers, this one is cheaper and actually recyclable. The compacts are made from paper! So that in and of itself is a huge win. 

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Why you want it: If you love Jane Iredel products, you'll love that they offer a reusable compact. They only have one reusable compact though, and it is made out of plastic (sadly). But, it's still better than nothing and comes in a pretty rose gold color. It also comes with a convenient mirror for on-the-go application. You can fill it up with four different makeup options, all of them some sort of foundation or bronzer. Unfortunately, there's not a wider selection to choose from, but the price is not too bad. Plus, the ingredients are all mineral based.


Refillable products: PurePressed Base foundation, Bronzer, PureMatte and Beyond Matte Refill.

Its value: Reusable products range from $18 - $44 (the compact is $18, but the foundation and bronzer typically ranges from $30 - $44).

Item I want to try: Well, first off, I'd definitely need to first get the Jane Iredale reusable compact before anything. Then, I'd have to go with getting the PurePressed Base foundation. I'm not much of a foundation girl, but I heard a lot of god things about this foundation in particular. It's got a sheer matte coverage that glides onto your skin, so it's bound to blend in effortlessly. It is $42, but I'd be willing to give it a go just to see what all the fuss is about.

Pros and cons: Unfortunately, Jane Iredale doesn't offer a wide selection of refillables. If you're like me, and not really crazy about foundation, you might forego them entirely. Plus, the compact is made from plastic, which isn't exactly ideal. That said, it does knock down the price of the compact a bit (imagine if it were made from real rose gold?). Altogether though, you'd be dishing out $60 for the compact and the PurePressed Base foundation though, so use your judgement on that wisely.

Do you know of any green beauty brands that offer refills? Let me know about them in the comments below!

*This article may contain affiliate links. All that means is if you make a purchase, the brand sends me a small commission. This helps me make more blog posts that you read, love, and share.

Zero Waste Living: The Art of Saying "No" to Single-Use Plastic

Friday, September 1, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
You've got all the zero waste tools: Reusable straws, cloth napkins and stainless steel cutlery. You're ready to hit the town and do your thing. You head on over to a restaurant and you order yourself a nice drink, feeling good about yourself. You're all ready to use your reusable straw, which you recently bought. The problem? Your drink comes with a plastic straw.
This exact situation has happened to me before, especially when I first got my zero waste travel essentials. While I had all the right equipment, I was still running into the same problem over and over again: I wasn't refusing the plastic. That's not to say I wanted it, but it got me thinking. Our society is so reliant on plastic, so used to it, that we use it so many times a day without really thinking about it. It's everywhere from restaurants, to shops, to grocery stores. We've engrained plastic into our lives so much that it's hard to reverse the damage. Hard, but not impossible.
It took me a few tries, but I started to learn the art of saying "no" to single use plastic. Now see, this isn't an easy thing for an introverted person to do. I may seem fairly extroverted, but secretly I'm really an introvert (why do you think I love writing so much?). It takes a lot of gall for an introverted person to speak up and lay down the law, especially when it goes against social norms. Sadly, plastic is a social norm in our society, so going against it is a pretty big deal. That said, it's an essential part of zero waste living, so I had to get used to refusing it sooner or later.
I'm still learning the ropes to this art of saying "no" to plastic, but I figured I'd share what I've learned so far with all of you. Hopefully, it will inspire you to do the same and give you a few pointers. I hope to become better at this myself, but it takes time. No art can be perfected overnight, but it's sure worth learning.


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Why saying "no" matters

First things first: New, single-use plastic is created practically every day, and it's not going to stop every time soon. Worse off, every piece of plastic that's ever existed on this earth is still around. Crazy right?

So what can we do? We can refuse it.

Saying no to single-use plastic matters, because you're not participating in the continuous, casual use of something so wasteful. You're putting one less straw into the ocean, one less bag into an animal's digestive track.
 
Plastic finds its way to every corner of the earth...
 
It certainly makes a statement too: When others see you refuse, they usually have two basic reactions. They're either in shock, or disturbed by your decision. They will either applaud you or secretly disdain you.

I speak from experience. I have met a number of people who have both been shocked and appalled at my use of reusables. Naturally, I love meeting people who are shocked and curious, rather than those who are doubtful and questioning.

Thankfully, I've met more people who were supportive of my efforts than not. If you're kind and informative, people will naturally want to know more. Heck, I've even gotten people so interested in zero waste living I've handed out my business card to them.

That's why it's so important to speak your truth. That's why saying "no" matters, even if you say it indirectly. It gets people thinking about their own lifestyle choices and spreads a great idea: Don't use single use plastic.

Consider this: The average American uses 300 plastic bags per year. If you think that's bad, 500 million single-use straws are used and discarded in the US every single day. Yes, you read that right.
 
Still think plastic straws are harmless?
 
I'd say there's room for improvement, wouldn't you?

We can't keep treating the environment this way. We can't keep being wasteful. We have to put a stop to these numbers, and the only way to do that is to refuse. We have to learn how to say "no".
 
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How to learn to say "no" to single-use plastic

It's not going to be easy, and you will make mistakes. In fact, you can rest assured you'll mess up, especially in the beginning. But that doesn't mean you can't make an impact.
 
Reusable water bottles are just one way to say "no" to single-use plastic.
 
Here are some ways you can learn how to refuse single-use plastics. All of the ones I have listed I have done myself, or am still trying to master. Please use this as a guide, not as a bible. If you mess up, learn from it and do your best to try again the next time.
 
Say "no" to plastic on produce - Buy produce package free.
When you go to the farmers market or grocery store, make sure to avoid any produce wrapped in plastic. Most of the time, this is non-recyclable plastic anyway. Opt for the loose produce and place your produce in a big tote bag instead. Either that, or invest in some produce bags. The Tiny Yellow Bungalow has some great options (just go to shop - kitchen - and click on bags at the top of the screen to find them). They have some with really pretty and cute designs. I use the produce bags with the herb and lemon design on the front and love it! They're washable and help me shop completely zero waste while at the farmers market. Grocery stores might be a bit trickier: I haven't taken my produce bags with me there yet, but I know when I do I'll feel almost all eyes on me. Just remember: If you're allowed to put produce into plastic bags, you can certainly put produce into cloth bags you bought with your own money. Just as long as you pay for the produce, there's nothing to worry about. It's not like you're stealing it (which is a thing I feel most people would automatically assume). Use the opportunity to educate others who question you instead.
 
Say "no" to plastic straws - Ask for no straw in your drink as you order it.
While I was on vacation this summer with my boyfriend, I made sure to do this religiously. I had my reusable straws with me at all times, so I was prepared. When the waiter came over, I'd simply say, "water, no straw", and they'd give me exactly that. Then I'd place my reusable straw in the drink. Even my boyfriend started doing it!
 
Say "no" to plastic cups and bottles - Use a reusable water bottle or cup.
Just like anyone else, I get thirsty while out and about. Instead of buying a water bottle, I just reach inside my bag and pull out my own. I really recommend getting a water bottle that has a filter, or investing in a filter you can add to your water bottle. I use a stainless steel water bottle, so naturally it doesn't come with a built in filter. Instead, I use bamboo charcoal to filter any impurities that might be in it. When at a family event, just use your reusable water bottle instead of drinking from a red solo cup, or a water bottle. If you do happen to drink from a single-use plastic cup, try to hold onto that cup for the entire time you're there, so you reduce the amount of cups you have to use. Just make sure you put it in the recycling when you're done with it! Of course, if the event your at supplies drinks in glass cups, drink from that instead.
 
Say "no" to plastic utensils - Use reusable cutlery whenever possible.
When at home, make sure to eat with reusable cutlery and no plastic disposables. As far as going out, I highly recommend you get a multi-utensil pack so you can properly store some reusable cutlery with you at all times. I have one from a brand called Straw Sleeves, and they make great multi-utensil kits. Of course, you could always make your own (if you love DIYs and are good with sewing), but personally, I'm not. I carry around a stainless steel fork, spoon, and knife at all times, just so I'm prepared for anything. At most restaurants, I don't have to use my utensils because they usually don't offer plastic utensils (which is great). But at one restaurant I really like, they (unfortunately) do use plastic utensils, so it's good I carry reusable cutlery. I also notice most food courts only offer single-use disposables, so I avoid this by using the cutlery I have on me. If you're at a family event and see plastic cutlery, try to avoid using it and using your own stash. If someone asks about it, you can use the opportunity to talk about zero waste living! If you'd prefer not to stick out like a sore thumb, try eating only finger foods at the event, so you can avoid cutlery all together.
 
Say "no" to plastic wrap - use Bees Wrap, or cloth bowl covers.
I know how hard it can be to give up using plastic wrap. It's so handy! Unfortunately, it's also very wasteful and cannot be recycled (at least not here in NYC). Instead, say no to this cheap but wasteful product and switch to Bees Wrap. Bees Wrap is a fantastic plastic wrap substitute and is made out of organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. It comes in many different sizes, so you can use it for almost any sized item you can think of. If you're vegan and prefer not to use Bees Wrap, you can also look into getting some cloth bowl covers. Check out Etsy to find some sellers (they're a loads that have really cute patterns and designs on them too!). You can also store food in glass jars too. No need to get any fancy mason jars (though that works too): Just use upcycled jars from food you finished, like jam or coconut oil jars.
 
Say "no" to plastic bags - Use a reusable bag for shopping.
Sometimes, you just don't know when you'll need a reusable bag. I mean, sometimes impromptu shopping happens! That's why I really recommend keeping a reusable bag in your car or purse. Mine is from a brand called Blu Bag: It's really cool because it comes in a little pouch, making for easy storage. I just plop it into my purse and when I need a reusable bag, I open the pouch and pull it out. It's definitely an important purchase, considering plastic bags can take 1000 years to disintegrate. The less plastic bags around the better! The important thing to remember is to tell the person behind the counter about your reusable bag. Don't forget it in your purse or car! Simply ask them kindly, "Hey, can you just put that in here?" and hand them your reusable bag before they put it in a plastic one. Always make sure to say thank you too, because it'll leave a big impression on them. After all, who doesn't want to work with someone who's being nice to them? Of course, self check out is always an option too: Just make sure to place all your items in your reusable bag and not the plastic ones. If you do wind up getting a plastic bag somehow, make sure to research give-back centers near you. Plastic bags aren't recyclable, so don't mix them with your recycling! Give back centers will take them and reuse the bags properly. I've seen a few in Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, and CVS, so be on the lookout!
 
Say "no" to plastic leftover containers - Use a stainless steel container for collecting leftovers while dining out.
I'll be honest, I still have to do this. Thankfully, I do usually leave any trace of food on my plate when dining out, so it hasn't been much of an issue. That said, it's important to ask the waiter if your food can be wrapped up in your own container. Have you noticed most restaurants (and food courts) use Styrofoam to store food? It's not cool, because Styrofoam is one of the hardest plastic to recycle. I highly recommend getting some sort of portable container specifically designed for food storage, especially if you eat out a lot. Or if you know you rarely finish meals while dining out. Just ask the waiter "can you wrap this up in here?" and hand them the container of your choice (stainless steel is just the first that popped to mind). Done!
 
Say "no" to food packaged in plastic - Buy dry foods in bulk, whenever possible.
If you don't have access to a bulk food store, stick to foods packaged in paper and cardboard.  These can be composted or recycled easily. Here's a great resource to see how many bulk food stores are in your area. 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. Shopping in bulk also means getting other items in bigger sizes (ex: Soap, laundry detergent, etc.), which helps reduce the amount of smaller plastic bottles you'd eventually have to buy in the long run. For example, getting a big plastic container of liquid castile soap is better because then I won't have to purchase more for a while. I can make it last without having to create more plastic. Plus, rigid plastics are easier to recycle than other forms.
 
Say "no" to disposable coffee (or tea) cups - Enjoy your coffee (or tea) sitting down.
Most of us order coffee or tea to go and don't think twice about it coming in a disposable cup. Instead of rushing out the door, try ordering it to stay and opt for a ceramic cup and saucer. It's nice to give yourself a break and unwind for a bit. Use that moment to just enjoy your coffee (or in my case, tea). If you really do need to run off in a hurry, bring your own reusable cup with you. You can find so many different variations online, and I recommend combing through Etsy for one you love. Simply ask the barista "could you put my coffee (tea) in here?" and they'll more than likely be happy to accommodate you. After all, good service creates loyal customers. If you don't have a reusable cup yet, need to get going, and want something cold to drink, make sure to ask for no straw. While your drink will probably come in a plastic, disposable cup, it'll at least have no straw, so that way you can add your own reusable one to the mix.
 
Most importantly, explain your "no".
 If you're refusing single-use plastic and someone shows interest as to why, tell them! It's not easy to express yourself to a complete stranger (or a judgmental loved one, for that matter), but it could help boost confidence and spread the zero waste message. While on vacation, there were so many waiters who complimented my reusable straws and asked about them. It was refreshing to see, and I couldn't just not say anything. So, I told them why I was refusing plastic and explained I was a green beauty and green living blogger. Some were so interested in knowing more I actually gave them my card. In total, I gave out my card more times on vacation than I ever do at home. Ironic, huh? It really helped me solidify what I was doing was right, and helped me feel I'm making an impact. By saying "no" to single-use plastic, I was able to inspire others, and you can too! Who knows? Maybe you'll make a zero waster out of them. 

Did this help you? What are some ways you practice the art of saying "no" to single-use plastic? Share them in the comments below!

Indoor Container Gardening: 3 Fruits to Grow This Summer

Friday, August 25, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
To me, there's nothing better than eating watermelon on a hot summer day. The juice that drips down your chin is sublime, and for a moment you can almost forget any woes of the day. That's probably why I love fruit so much: Their sweetness comforts me without making me feel guilty (can't say the same after eating ice cream). In summer, fruit is at their peak, and there's an overwhelming abundance of it that needs savoring.
There's only one problem I have with fruit: Most of it is hard to grow indoors. For someone like me, who has very limited space (no balcony, no deck), it's close to impossible. Or is it? After doing some research, I've come to the conclusion that it's not. You can too grow fruit indoors without ever having to transfer it outside. You just have to pick the best fruit for the job and be smart about it. 😉 So, if you're tired of hearing "transfer this plant outside" or "move outdoors", this article is for you. Welcome to part six (the last in this series!): Summer fruits.
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, my fourth post was about summer herbs, and my fifth post was about summer vegetables. If you enjoy this series, be sure to let me know (maybe I'll do more for different seasons). Until then, I wish you a happy container garden filled with beautiful plants!
 

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 Blueberries

 
 
I can't be the only one who thinks blueberries taste amazing in salad, right? Their sweetness is very...tarty, less subtle. I also love blueberries piled on top of pancakes (have you ever eaten whole wheat pancakes with blueberries, strawberries, and bananas piled on top? No? You haven't lived yet). Plus, who could deny the delicious taste of blueberry jam? Yup, these little guys are a favorite in my household, but for good reason too (besides taste). They're also loaded with powerful benefits like Vitamins C and E, which both help keep skin firm and toned. Their deep blue skins also contain anthocyanin which boosts skin elasticity and connective tissue. In other words, anyone with sagging, wrinkled, or aging skin needs to add blueberries into their lives! While I can't say I have those problems, eating plenty of them now will probably help me ward off advanced aging. 😉 So I still win!

You will need:
  • Blueberry seeds (preferably organic - Dwarf versions of this plant are best for indoor container gardens)
  • 8 inch (or more) 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 1 seed per pot.
  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 a sprout 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 sprout, not on it (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. Blueberries really love water, so you might want to consider watering daily.
  6. Sunlight: Blueberries need 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 blueberries, simply pick them off the miniature bush once it's mature. This will also encourage new growth.

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Tomatoes
 
Tomatoes are a fruit, even though they're treated like vegetables. I won't lie: In my heart, I view them as veggies too. That said, I couldn't not include them on this list, since they're perfect for container gardening and are scientifically speaking, a fruit. Plus, what's not to love about tomatoes? At the farmers market, I cannot get enough of them (heirloom tomatoes to be exact). Have you ever bit into an heirloom tomato? There is no comparison. The taste is so much sweeter, so much more flavorful. You won't even want to turn back. Plus, tomatoes contain lycopene, which defends against UV damage (a culprit known to cause wrinkles, age spots, and lines). They're literally the perfect summer treat that's both tasty and healthy for you!

You will need:
  • Tomato seeds (preferably organic and heirloom - cherry tomatoes are best for indoor container gardening)
  • 12 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)
  • A tomato stake or cage
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)
 
Directions:
  1. Fill your 12 inch clay pot with your organic potting soil
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. I recommend no more than 1 seed per pot, as tomatoes take up a lot of room.
  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 tomato seedling has sprouted and reached four inches tall, tie a stake to it or a tomato cage to it. This will help it from slumping over your clay pot. There are certain tomato varieties that may not require staking though, such as the Patio tomato, Pixie tomato, Tiny Tim tomato, Toy Boy tomato, Micro Tom tomato, Floragold tomato, Early Girl tomato, Stakeless tomato, and the Big Boy tomato. Look into these varities to see which is best for you if you'd prefer not to bother with staking.
  5. Watering: Once you see a sprout, now you can use your watering can (or for me, my upcycled glass bottle). Make sure you water around the sprout, not on it (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.
  6. Sunlight: Tomatoes need at least 6 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 tomatoes, just pick off the ripest looking ones when the plant is mature.

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Raspberries

 
Did you know raspberries are good for strengthening hair and nails? It's all thanks to Vitamin B7 and biotin - two nutrients found in the cute little gems. They also contain a slew of other nutrients that protect the skin from aging, as well as build collagen in the skin. So the next time you pick up a raspberry, don't let their size fool you. They're a powerhouse of nutrition! I must advise people to steer clear of growing them if they have a very tiny gardening space though. They need a pretty big pot (at least 24 inches to be exact), so if your area can't handle that, I'd try one of the fruits listed above. That said, you could always wing it and see what happens in a smaller pot (trust me, I've been known to do this). Either way, I highly advise you purchase some raspberries the next time you head to the farmers market to enjoy their benefits, regardless.

You will need:
  • Raspberry seeds (preferably organic)
  • 24 inch clay pot with a very good drainage hole (not ideal for those with an extremely small windowsill for gardening)
  • 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 24 inch clay pot with your organic potting soil.
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. I would recommend no more than 1 or 2 seeds per pot. You could always thin the one that isn't growing good or big enough.
  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 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 raspberries, just pick them off the vine as soon as you see ripe ones on a mature plant.  
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Want more indoor container gardening? Check out the rest of the series here (this list will be updated):
 
 
 
 
This series has ended, but please feel free to leave your feedback in the comment section below. As always, thanks for joining me!

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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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