5 Healing Homemade Tea Blends

Friday, March 31, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Recently, I've been drinking a lot of tea: Two cups a day in fact. Why? Because, both my parents were sick and I needed to keep my immunity up. So, I've been drinking Yogi tea, specifically Echinacea Immune Support. And oh my goodness has it been working! I haven't gotten sick (fingers crossed) and have truly come to love the tea (its got a delicious warming flavor that relaxes me beautifully right before bedtime). But the real beauty of the tea lies in the ingredients: The tea blend, if you will. Because that tea is loaded with herbs and plants specifically designed to support the immune system (like Echinacea, rosehips, and mullein leaf), it was bound to work. And that's when I started thinking about making my own beneficial tea blends: Not just for immunity and keeping sickness at bay, but for other purposes. And thus, this blog post was born.
All the homemade tea blends I'll be talking about would be considered loose leaf teas, so you will need a steeping device (in other words, a tea infuser). You can find them for sale online or at a local tea shop (like Teavana). It's so easy to make loose leaf tea too, so don't be discouraged. All you need to do is fill your little infuser up with the loose leaf tea blend of your choice and place it in the mug you'll be using. Then boil some water and pour it in. Done. Literally as simple as making tea using a tea bag. That said, I highly recommend you do not throw away tea bags: They can be composted and added to your garden.  Personally, I like to add them directly to my indoor container garden: I just dig a little hole for the tea bag in the pot, plop it in, and cover it up with some more soil. It actually enriches the soil and helps my plants because everything in the tea bag is decomposable. Here are some other reasons why you should be planting your tea bags and not throwing them out. Just saying.
But enough about that: It's time to talk loose leaf teas! Are you ready? Please note that you can also add used loose leaf tea to compost (or directly to soil), as it's naturally biodegradable as well. Time to share some amazing tea blends! Lets hop to it.
 

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Sleepy Time Tea
If you're anything like me, sleeping at night can be an issue. That's why I always like to drink tea right before bed. Calms me down and helps me relax. Want it to do the same for you? Then try this delicious blend.
 
You will need:
  • 1 tablespoon of lavender buds
  • 1 tablespoon of chamomile flowers
  • 8 ounces of boiled water
 
Directions:
  1. Steep the tea for 5-10 minutes. If you'd like, add a pinch of honey (or organic sugar) for flavor. I usually don't add anything though, and suggest you try to do the same. Drink up!
Note: I notice the best results while drinking this tea when I shut off my television, phone, and any other distractions and just meditate on the flavor. I highly encourage you to just close your eyes and get lost in the tea's gentle taste. It'll put you in a sleepy state for sure. 
  
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Morning Burst Tea
This is the perfect sort of tea to drink in the morning to start your day. It'll give you a lovely boost of vitamin C, antioxidants, and energy. Not to mention it tastes really good.
 
You will need:
  • 1 tablespoon of green tea leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1 tablespoon of dried rosehips
  • 1 tablespoon dried raspberry leaf
  • 8 ounces of boiled water
 
Directions:
  1. Steep the tea for 5-10 minutes. If you'd like, add a pinch of honey (or organic sugar) for flavor.  I usually don't add anything though, and suggest you try to do the same. Drink up!

 
Note: This tea tastes great chilled too, so go ahead and drink it in the warmer months!
  
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Immunity Tea
If you'd rather make your own immunity tea (and not purchase the one I recommended above from Yogi's teas), I have a blend for you. This blend is perfect for cold and flu season, but should still be drank occasionally to keep your immune system in tip top shape. Also, if you notice people getting sick around you (in any season), drink this to prevent catching it too!
 

You will need:
 
Directions:
  1. Steep the tea for 5-10 minutes. If you'd like, add a pinch of honey (or organic sugar) for flavor. I usually don't add anything though, and suggest you try to do the same. Drink up!

Note: I suggest drinking this more than once a day if you really want to prevent getting sick. Twice a day or more is best!
 
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Beautiful Skin Tea
Everyone wants glowing skin! To get it, I recommend drinking this blend of tea at least once a day every week. All the ingredients mentioned are fantastic at keeping your skin youthful, glowing, and healthy. These particular ingredients can also be drunk on their own (ex: rosehip tea), but when combined together, they certainly pack a punch. Lets just say it's the only punch your skin will actually thank you for.
 
You will need:
  • 1 tablespoon of dried rosehips
  • 1 tablespoon of dried rose petals (or buds)
  • 1 tablespoon of dandelion root
  • 1 tablespoon of green tea leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of dried hibiscus flowers
  • 8 ounces of boiled water
 
Directions:
  1. Steep the tea for 5-10 minutes. If you'd like, add a pinch of honey (or organic sugar) for flavor. I usually don't add anything though, and suggest you try to do the same. Drink up!
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Healthy Tummy Tea
Have a queasy tummy? Suffering from a little upset stomach or a devastating stomach bug? I've got just the thing for you. This blend will help ease your tummy as well as promote healthy digestion (so you can still drink it even if your tummy is completely fine!).
 
You will need:
  • 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon of dried peppermint leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of licorice root
  • 8 ounces of boiled water
 
Directions:


  1. Steep the tea for 5-10 minutes. Please try not to add any sweeteners to this (it may only upset your stomach more). Drink up!

 Important Note: All the ingredients you need to make these teas can be purchased on Mountain Rose Herbs. Just search for them in the search box. And as always, if you're allergic to a certain ingredient I recommend, simply leave it out. Happy drinking!  

Indoor Container Gardening: 3 Herbs to Grow This Spring

Friday, March 24, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
I have a problem: Most books and articles I find online about gardening always assume the gardener has this huge amount of space to work with. Even books or articles about container gardening make reference to "putting your plant outdoors" or "transferring plants outside" at some point. Ugh. It's so frustrating! What if you live in an apartment (like me) and don't have a garden?
What if all you have is two windowsills with decent sunlight exposure (no balcony, no roomy areas)? What if you cannot (at any point) move your container garden outside? I'm sorry if I'm ranting a little bit, but these what-ifs are often overlooked and I'm so sick of it.
That's why I decided to write this article about indoor container gardening. All too often articles and book tell you to move your container garden outside at some point. What the heck?! Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a container garden?? It's so hard to find an article that focuses on both... so I decided to create one. And if you'd like me to create more of these, please let me know. I'm even willing to take suggestions on what you'd like me to talk about.
For starters, I'm going to talk about spring herbs. Since it's spring now, you know? And I'm going to talk about which are best for container gardens...and don't need to be "transferred" at any point to an outdoor area (of any kind). So if you're ready to start gardening from the comfort of your windowsill (and nowhere else), lets hop to it!
 

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Chives


 
Chives are a great plant for indoor container gardening. I tried growing them once before and the only reason it didn't work out was because I put them in much too small a pot. Chives are great to add to just about anything: They can be used in soups, stews, rice dishes, and as seasoning. They are related to onions and garlic, so they have a similar taste to them. Here are some chive recipes I recommend you sink your teeth into.
 
You will need:
  • Chive seeds (preferably organic)
  • 6 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 6-inch clay pot with your organic potting soil you have pre-moistened. To pre-moisten soil, just scoop some soil, put it into a bowl, and "water" it with no more than 1 cup of water. It should form a ball when squeezed, but not be overtly soggy (or dripping wet).
  2. Now add some seeds to your pre-moistened soil. Don't worry about numbers or spacing: Sprinkle as many as you'd like. You can always thin them out if need be later (but more than likely you won't have to).
  3. Now cover the seeds with some more pre-moistened soil, about 1/4 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: You should start to see sprouts within 7-14 days: Now 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. Also, chives love humidity, so keep them near other plants and/or mist them even when they're fully grown every once and a while.
  5. Sunlight: Chives also need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Essentially, that means I don't even bother moving them away from my windowsill. If you see them reaching for the sunlight, rotate the pot to make sure they're getting sunlight evenly on all sides.
  6. Harvesting: Once they start to grow and get bigger, please note that the grass-like part of chives is the part you want to harvest. That said, if the chives start to flower, you can also harvest and eat the flowers. These don't have the same taste as the chives stalks though. To harvest the stalks, simply gather some (not all) of the stalks into a bunch and snip them off using a clean scissor. I recommend leaving about 1/2 an inch of stalk attached to the bulb, this way they can grow back! Remember not to cut all your stalks at once: You want to encourage regrowth and have more to harvest at a later time.
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Parsley


 
Okay, so next up is parsley. This herb is fantastic for adding to salads, turning into pesto, and marinating meat with. It's got a lot of great uses (here are some more), so it's well worth growing. As you'll notice, it's not that much different to grow from chives, though there are certain things to note that are in fact different (like how it doesn't need as much humidity). Also, please note that parsley does not take kindly to being transplanted into a bigger pot! With that said, please use a 6 inch pot (if not a bigger one, depending on your amount of space) to grow this herb so it has more than enough room.

You will need:
  • Parsley seeds (preferably organic)
  • 6 inch-clay pot with drainage hole(s)
  • Organic potting soil
  • 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 6-inch clay pot with your organic potting soil (you don't have to pre-moisten it this time). If you'd like, add a handful of sand to the mixture (this will help improve drainage but it's not necessary).
  2. Just sprinkle a few seeds onto the soil and cover with some more soil (an additional 1/4 inch of soil should do the trick, if you wanted a measurement).
  3. Sunlight: Now move the pot over to your chosen windowsill. It's going to need the same amount of sunlight as chives, so about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Make sure to rotate the pot every 3 to 4 days: This will help each area of the plant get an even amount of light.
  4. Watering: Keep watering it regularly, but make sure you don't overwater it. The soil shouldn't be soggy, just moist. You should start to see sprouts within 3 weeks time. Also, as your plant grows, if you notice their leaves becoming dry and brittle, they need more moisture. You can help them with this by misting them every once and a while, or keeping them near other plants (chives can even grow in the same pot as parsley!). If all else fails, set the plant on top of a tray of pebbles and add water to the tray (leaving the tops of the pebbles exposed). This will give it the proper amount of moisture it needs.
  5. Thinning: If you feel you have too many parsley sprouts, you can simply thin them out. Do this by clipping out the excess with scissors or pinching them out between your fingernail and thumb. Same rule applies to chives (although the more chives you have the better).
  6. Harvesting: Did you know younger parsley plants have the most flavor? That said, make sure you don't snip all your young parsley: You want some to grow big and strong! The reason I mention this is because you can literally harvest parsley at any stage of the game. That said, I'd wait until the leaf stems have three segments before snipping some off. Always cut at the base of the plant using a pair of clean scissors. This will actually encourage it to produce more stems (so more parsley for you)! That said, you can also just snip off a few leaves for immediate use: Just cut the outer portions (otherwise known as the old growth). This will help the plant focus on making new growth!
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Chervil
 

Alright, so this herb is not as well known as chives or parsley. But it's still worthy of being put into this list! Chervil is commonly used in French cooking. It's similar in appearance to parsley, so try not to get the two confused. Similar to parsley, chervil doesn't take well to being transplanted to other pots, so make sure to use a 6-inch one, or something bigger! Keep in mind this plant can reach 12 to 24 inches in height. If that's too height for the area you're trying to grow it in, no worries: Just keep it neat by trimming and using the herb frequently. Chervil flavors young vegetables, soups, salads, casseroles and a variety of other recipes.
 
You will need:
  • Chervil seeds (preferably organic)
  • 6 inch-clay pot with drainage hole(s)
  • Organic potting soil
  • A dish 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 6-inch clay pot with your organic potting soil (no need to pre-moisten it).
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. Sprinkle a little bit of soil on top to cover them gently. You can always thin them out gently later if there are too many clumped together.
  3. Watering: Make sure to water regularly, but not too much. Soil shouldn't be soggy, just moist, otherwise the seeds will rot.
  4. Sunlight: Chervil does just fine when it gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight, though it does like a little shade.
  5. Trimming: To keep your chervil in the best of shape, and not too tall, trim it often. Use the clippings you get while they're fresh for the best flavor. Trimming it helps reduce bolting. That said, if it does bolt, start new plantings every few weeks to maintain a continuous supply. The best cure for signs of bolting are trimming and reduction in light: Move the plant to a cooler location for 1 to 2 hours of the time it would've spent in the sun.
  6. Harvesting: Chervil has a long cropping period, which is great. I'd recommend harvesting the leaves from about 6 to 8 weeks after planting. As mentioned earlier, use the leaves as soon as possible: They tend to lose their flavor quickly. To harvest, just cut the leaves using a clean scissor as you would with parsley.
Which plants would you like to see me cover next in my indoor container garden series? Let me know in the comments below!



The Zero Waste Journey: Your Guide to Plastics

Friday, March 17, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
So, you decided to go zero waste. Wonderful! Or maybe you've been living the zero waste lifestyle for a while now. Still wonderful! But here's a topic that applies to all zero wasters at some point or another: Plastics. What the heck are you supposed to do with them? It's hard to avoid running into plastic, even when you are living a zero waste lifestyle. Maybe you have some plastic leftover from before you went zero waste (like Tupperware) that you haven't gotten rid of yet. Or maybe your doctor prescribed pills to you and they only come in a plastic container. The struggle is real. So what's the solution?
Here's mine: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Okay, okay, so you've heard that before. But in this post, I'm going to explain step by step what each one means and how to apply them to your life. Not to mention I'll also be explaining the wonders of recycling plastic. Did you know not all plastic can be recycled, or that some are more toxic to human health than others? Well, now you do. And you'll know more if you keep reading.
But before you do, I want you to know something: Go easy on yourself. All too often I see people in zero waste groups ready to pounce on those who haven't given plastic up entirely. Don't do that to one another. You want to set an example, not drive people away. If you still have plastic in your life and are trying to live as zero waste as possible, it can be done! You just have to know the three R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. So lets get to 'em.


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Reduce

Okay, so first up: Reduce. This one seems simple enough. Essentially, the best way to live a zero waste lifestyle is to reduce the amount of waste you create, right? So the same applies to plastic: Just reduce the amount of plastic you use. You can do this buy simply choosing not to buy products made out of plastic.

For example, lets say you're strolling along an aisle of a store. You're going to be hosting a party in a few weeks and have been thinking about what your guests will be eating on. Unfortunately, it's not a small gathering, otherwise you'd be happy to break out the silverware and fancy china set. But there's going to be more than 20 people there!

You happen to pass by a shelf loaded with disposable items such as plastic forks, knives, spoons, plates, and cups. Not only are they made out of plastic but they're also packaged in plastic. You're almost tempted to buy them, especially when you see how cheap they are. But you're stronger than that: Instead, you resolve to purchase something online from one of your favorite zero waste stores. You wind up buying a biodegradable set of cutlery, plates, and cups. Boom! You just reduced your use of plastic my friend.

By simply vowing to make better choices, and maybe doing a little research, you can easily reduce your plastic footprint by a ton load. And if you're unsure as to where you could find eco-friendly, zero waste options (like biodegradable cutlery), I have a few suggestions to make your life easier. Here are my favorite places to shop for zero waste anything: MightyNest, Tiny Yellow Bungalow, and Life Without Plastic. You're welcome.

Here are some other ways you can reduce your plastic waste:

  • Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw.
  • Stop using plastic bags and use a reusable produce bag instead. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Buy or DIY your own produce bag and wash it often.
  • Give up gum: It's made out of synthetic rubber (aka plastic). 
  • Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
  • Give up water bottles. Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop (like Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks).
  • Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag (this reduces the amount of Styrofoam waste, which is what most restaurants pack leftovers in). 
  • Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters (or invest in a cool looking refillable metal lighter). 
  • Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic (bummer). 
  • Don't use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
  • Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby's carbon footprint and save money. After all, the EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year (yuck).
  • Don't buy juice in plastic bottles: Make your own fresh squeezed juice or eat more fruit.
  • Make your own cleaning products and put them in glass jars.
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. There are some really nice ones in the shops I suggested above.
  •  Opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single serving cups.
  • Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.

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Reuse

Okay, you understand the reducing part. But what about the plastic already in your life? What are you supposed to do with that? Well, you could recycle it (which is the next section), or you could just reuse it. I like this option because it promotes upcycling, and upcycling is where your creative comes to play.

You don't have to be an art wiz to upcycle and reuse your plastic: You just have to think logically. Obviously, plastic Tupperware that's brand new shouldn't be dumped in the trash just because you're living a zero waste lifestyle now. In fact, plastic should never be dumped in the trash. Just keep reusing it until it's old and funky (then recycle it - assuming you can - see the recycle section as to why I say that).

Turn those plastic pill bottles into spice holders, or salt and pepper shakers. Just make sure to wash them out before you do it. Or, cut a plastic bottle in half and use the bottom half to hold pens and pencils in. The top half can be turned upside down (standing on the cap) and used to hold small jewelry (like rings and earrings).

Want to get more creative? Here are some ideas to jump start your brain:
  • Make those plastic bottles into pencil holders, watering cans, bird feeders, lanterns, or jewelry holders. 
  • Collect bottle caps and use them to create 3D art.
  • Create a 3D plastic painting. All you would need is a piece of paper, a few plastic bottles, scissors, a hot glue gun, acrylic paint, and some brushes. You could decide to wing it, or plan out exactly what you want to create.
  • Paint plastic bottles or containers and use them as 'vases'.
  • Use plastic bottles to grow plants in: Just cut the top off, add soil, seeds, and water. You can even poke little drainage holes in the bottom, if need be.
  • Carefully cut the inner section out of a plastic bottle so there's a hole on one of it's sides. Fill it up with plastic bags, or store other items in there.
  • Turn a milk jug into a bird feeder.
  • Donate your plastic-anything (cups, Tupperware, toys) to your friends, family, or stores so it will be reused by someone else (if you truly don't want to reuse it yourself).
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Recycle

Last but certainly not least: Recycling. Yes, I'm fully aware you want to avoid having to recycle anything. After all, doesn't recycling mean you're still technically creating waste? Yes and no: The good news is when you recycle, the plastic isn't going to a landfill to sit around for 1,000s of years. The bad news is...not all plastic is created equal. What does that mean? Glad you asked.

There are different forms of plastic and each one is unique in terms of how easy it is to recycle and how toxic it is to humans/environment. Greeeeat. Thankfully, there's a way to tell what sort of plastic something is made from: Symbols! On most plastic containers, there are these weird looking symbols that look like this:
Yeah I know. Strange right? Thankfully, I'm going to help you decode them. This will give you a better sense of which plastics you need to recycle, which you need to reuse, and which you need to completely eliminate (ahem, reduce) in your life.

Here's your full guide to those weird symbols on plastic:


Plastic #1 – PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  • Plastic #1 is usually clear and used to make soda and water bottles. It's picked up by most curbside recycling programs. Some consider it safe, but this plastic is known to allow bacteria to accumulate.
  • Thankfully, it is recyclable: Plastic #1 is usually recycled into tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, fiber, and polar fleece.

Plastic #2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
  • Plastic #2 is typically opaque and picked up by most curbside recycling programs. This plastic is one of the 3 plastics considered to be safe, and has a lower risk of leaching icky chemicals.
  • It’s found mostly in household cleaner containers, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, juice bottles, detergent bottles, cereal box liners, motor oil bottles, butter tubs and yogurt tubs.
  • Plastic #2 is recycled into pens, recycling containers, picnic tables, lumber, benches, fencing, and detergent bottles.

Plastic #3 – V or PVC (Vinyl)

  • Plastic #3 is used to make food wrap, plumbing pipes, and detergent bottles, and is seldom accepted by curbside recycling programs.
  • These plastics used to, and still may, contain phthalates, which are linked to numerous health issues ranging from developmental problems to miscarriages. They also contain DEHA, which can be carcinogenic with long-term exposure. DEHA has also been linked to loss of bone mass and liver problems. Um, say what? Don’t cook with or burn this plastic.
  • It’s found in shampoo bottles, clear food packaging, cooking oil bottles, medical equipment, piping, and windows.
  • This plastic is recycled into paneling, flooring, speed bumps, decks, and roadway gutters.


Plastic #4 - LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
  • Low density polyethylene is most found in squeezable bottles, shopping bags, clothing, carpet, frozen food, bread bags, and some food wraps. Curbside recycling programs haven’t been known to pick up this plastic, but more are starting to accept it. Plastic #4 rests among the recycling symbols considered to be safe.
  • This plastic is recycled into compost bins, paneling, trash can liners and cans, floor tiles, and shipping envelopes.

Plastic #5 – PP (Polypropylene)
  • Increasingly becoming accepted by curbside recycle programs, plastic #5 is also one of the safer plastics to look for.
  • It is typically found in yogurt containers, ketchup bottles, syrup bottles, and medicine bottles.
  • Polypropylene is recycled into brooms, auto battery cases, bins, pallets, signal lights, ice scrapers, and bicycle racks.

Plastic #6 – PS (Polystyrene)
  • Polystyrene is Styrofoam, which is notorious for being difficult to recycle, and thus, bad for the environment. This kind of plastic also poses a health risk, leaching potentially toxic chemicals, especially when heated. Most recycling programs won’t accept it - so don't buy or use it!
  • Plastic #6 is found in compact disc cases, egg cartons, meat trays, and disposable plates and cups.
  • It is recycled into egg cartons, vents, foam packing, and insulation.

Plastic #7 – Other, Miscellaneous
  • All of the plastic resins that don’t fit into the other categories are placed in the number 7 category. It’s a mix bag of plastics that includes polycarbonate, which contains the toxic bisphenol-A (BPA). 
  • These plastics should be avoided due to possibly containing hormone disruptors like BPA, which has been linked to infertility, hyperactivity, reproductive problems, and other health issues. Um, no thanks.
  • Plastic #7 is found in sunglasses, iPod cases, computer cases, nylon, 3- and 5-gallon water bottles, and bullet-proof materials. It is recycled into plastic lumber and other custom-made products.


So which plastics should you and shouldn't you recycle? 


Avoid recycling plastic with the symbols 3, 6, and 7 on them. Also, while number 1 is generally consider safe, try to avoid this plastic. If you do have any in your house, find a way to reuse it.

The sort of plastic that you can definitely recycle (and are the safest) are ones with the symbols 2 and 5. Plastic 4 is a little harder to recycle, so try to avoid it if you can. That said, all 3 plastics are considered safe for humans and animals to consume edibles from. That said, try to reduce using these as much as possible.

Conclusion

There's no denying our world has a plastic addiction. That said, there are ways to help the environment without feeling like you need to get rid of all plastic right off the bat. Just put this reduce, reuse, and recycle guide into action and you'll be off to a great start. And if you make a mistake? Learn from it. It's not the end of the world. 

Review: St. Tropica - Organic Coconut Hot Oil Hair Mask

Friday, March 10, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Ever want lush, voluminous hair? Me too. I have thin hair, but a lot of it (so I tend to fool people into thinking I don't). The problem with my hair isn't that it's thin though: It tends to be pretty flat and lifeless. That's not to say it can't look pretty (I have ways of giving it extra ump and volume), but it does mean I need to give it a little something extra from time to time. That's where St. Tropica's organic coconut hot oil hair mask* comes in. I received it in a giveaway I entered over the summer and never got around to using it! But recently I caught myself eyeing it and said, "hey, why not?"
Unfortunately, the packaging is made out of plastic (though it is BPA-free plastic, which is a plus). However, I didn't want to let it sit around in my room any longer than it needed to (not to mention I'm not into wasting things).  As much as I want to live a zero waste lifestyle, I am still adjusting to it and am far from accomplishing being completely plastic-free. Baby steps! I'm sure I'll get there eventually, but until then, I will continue to approach it one step at a time. I intend to recycle the package (but needed it to finish writing this review - I mean, hey, it's got the ingredients and directions on it), so no worries.
As far as hot oil treatments go, I like to limit them. My hair holds onto oil a lot. To give you an idea of what that means, I pretty much have to wash my hair every other day (if not every day). If I don't, one word: GREASE. And no, not grease lightning. So this hot oil hair mask was kind of intimidating for me: I wanted it to condition and volumize my hair, but didn't want the oil to get stuck in it. Trust me, its happened in the past (flash back to when I tried deep conditioning my hair with pure coconut oil). So, want to see what happened this time around? Prepare yourself...
  
 
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St. Tropica
 
 
Why you want it: If you have dry, brittle hair (or suffer from split ends - AKA me), this mask will make your hair super soft and hydrated!
 
Its value: $15 - $48* (Depends on how many packets you want. There's the 3 pack, 6 pack, and 12 pack).
 
My review: Okay, so as I said above, my hair tends to be oily. However, I did have a lot of split ends when I tried this out (now I don't, just got a haircut!), so I figured it would help nourish them a little. I wanted to give my hair a nice treat, plus needed an excuse to use this (it was sitting on my desk for months!). So, I decided to give it a try. It's pretty simple to use too. I took the packet and laid it unopened flat in a microwave (as if I was about to make popcorn or something), then heated it for 20 seconds. The directions say to remove the packet at this point with caution, as it might be hot, but honestly, it wasn't really that hot. It was just warm to the touch. That said, if you do this and the packet is too hot for whatever reason, let it cool off a little bit. You can always reheat it in 10 second increments, if need be. After that, I opened the packet by cutting along the dotted line in the corner of the packet. Then I squeezed the contents into my dry hair and scalp. Suffice it to say, this was a little messy. No, the contents did not burn my head (it was just warm), but it did drip all over the place (so don't do this over a rug!). After I had emptied the entire packet out (and into my hair), I made sure to run it throughout every part of my head, massaging it into my scalp and into my split ends. It smelled really good and made my hair smell just as amazing (like coconuts harvested on a tropical island, far, far away). Ahem, back to reality. After I felt I had spread it out evenly enough, I wrapped my hair in a towel (you can use a shower cap or plastic wrap if you want, but I didn't want to create more waste - plus I don't even own a shower cap). The directions recommended I leave the treatment in my hair for at least 20 minutes, or let it sit overnight. Since I did this in the middle of the day, I decided to leave it in as I wrote some freelance articles. In total, I let it sit in my hair for about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I'm sure the time you let it sit in your hair effects it, so keep that in mind if you decide to do this. There's really no wrong amount of time to leave it in. Anyways, after that, I pretty much just took a shower. The directions said to shampoo hair  twice, so I did. Unfortunately, as I feared, it wasn't enough. When I got out and blow dried my hair, my hair was super oily. Exasperated, I had to go back in the shower and wash it out two more times. Ugh. You know, I should've seen that coming in the long run (it happened to me before when I tried using pure coconut oil as a leave-in hair treatment), but I was hoping it would be different this time. BUT...That said, once I washed it out of my hair 4 times, and blow dried it (again) I actually did notice a difference. My hair was so freaking soft for starters, and it was also voluminous (as promised). So I have to hand it to the company for not failing to disappoint! The only problem was that, since I washed my hair so much, my shampoo bottle was like, dead by the time I finally washed the stuff out. Lesson here?: Thin, oily hair rarely needs hot oil hair masks. It's something I would do only once a month (or maybe even once every 3-6 months), because it's not really necessary. While it does certainly make a difference, and my hair did love it and feel amazing afterwards, the hassle it took to get there wasn't really worth it. HOWEVER...for those who have thick, dry hair (especially curly hair), I highly recommend this. I'm sure your hair will eat it up and adore every second of it. It's certainly not a bad product (I wouldn't have reviewed it on here if it was), but I don't think I'll be using it again any time soon. The other thing I truly love about it? The ingredients. Check them out below (they're 100 percent natural, vegan, and cruelty-free!). Not to mention this product is certified organic (no easy feat)! For that, and for the super-soft hair, I commend it.
 
Ingredients
Organic virgin coconut oil, organic biotin, organic horsetail, organic amla, organic hibiscus, organic green tea, organic coconut butter, organic coconut fruit extract. 

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The (quick) rundown
 

This was the grease stuck in my hair after washing my hair TWICE. I had to go back in the shower to wash it again, twice. But check out the finished results at the end of this post... 

The pros: The pros outweigh the cons.
  1. I really admire how this product is certified organic, cruelty-free, and vegan!
  2. It has a fantastic, tropical smell (smells exactly like coconut)!
  3. The ingredients list is 100 percent natural and nothing to worry about what so ever.
  4. This mask is made with zero chemicals: It's paraben free, sulfate free, gluten free, soy free, and contains no additives, stabilizers, preservatives or fragrances.
  5. It has a score of 1 on EWG's Skindeep Database (which is the highest possible score and means it's completely safe!).
  6. The product actually worked and made my hair super soft, smooth, and voluminous (as promised)!
  7. I won this in a giveaway, so honestly, I didn't have much to lose!

The cons: Not too many, but there certainly are some.
  1. I really wish this wasn't packaged in plastic (though it is BPA-free, which is a plus).
  2. It was messy to apply (kind of dripped everywhere).
  3. I hated how it took 4 washes to get the oil out of my hair (more my hair's fault than the product, but still).
  4. My shampoo is completely eaten up now (it used up, like, half the bottle)!
Conclusion: I think this hot oil hair mask is a good product, for sure, but isn't the perfect one for me. In fact, I think I should steer clear of hot oil masks all together. While it certainly does make a positive difference in my hair, the effort it takes to get the stuff out is a deterrent. I adored how soft and volumized my hair was afterwards, but rinsing it four times was way too excessive. However, I do recommend this product all in all (I wouldn't be writing about it if I didn't), especially to those who feel their hair is thick, dry, and needs hydration.
 
 

Here's the finished result, after I washed my hair 4 times. Well, at least my hair looked (and felt) great!
 
 
* Marks an affiliate link. Please be aware that affiliate links simply mean if you make a purchase from the link I provide, the company pays me a small commission. It doesn't mean you pay me anything. Any money earned from affiliate links is used to continue creating stellar content for this blog. 


25 Ways to Go Zero Waste

Friday, March 3, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Recently, I have become fascinated with the zero waste lifestyle. Why? Because it's one of the most eco-friendly things you can do for the planet. Think about this: The average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day. That's 1,600 pounds (726 kg) of waste produced in a single year. If that number startles you, it should. In order to help the environment, we need to become more conscious of what we're buying, not less. Easy conveniences like "disposable plastics" and coffee cups are not worth the purchase. Instead, by focusing on a zero (or low) waste lifestyle, you can truly make a difference. And I mean pounds worth of difference (hey, this time it's measurable). Want to know some simple ways to go zero waste? It's actually not as hard as you think.


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  1. Buy a reusable water bottle made from glass, aluminum, or stainless steel. Make sure you drink from reusable cups too (not made from plastic). Here's my favorite stainless steel drinking cup.
  2. Use an ecofriendly water filter system, like bamboo charcoal.
  3. When you're out at the grocery store, buy in bulk: Large, “family size” containers require less packaging per pound than small “single serving” packages. Plus you generally save money!
  4. Use cloth bags to put fresh produce in, instead of plastic bags.
  5. Buy durable products made from good quality (you won't have to replace them!).
  6. DIY your own all-natural makeup and place your creations in upcycled glass jars. Or, make the switch to pre-made organic cosmetics (there are even some that have zero-waste packaging!).
  7. Look for items with little to no packaging. Extra packaging just creates more unneeded waste.
  8. Use an eco-friendly toothbrush, like TwigBrush (if you don't like the idea of using a TwigBrush, try another alternative, like a toothbrush made from bamboo).
  9. DIY your own toothpaste and mouth wash (just search Pinterest for some inspiration)!
  10. Make these 5 simple ecofriendly swaps.
  11. Buy reusable products: Look for reusable cameras, razors, lunch bags, cloth diapers, cloth napkins and towels, and rechargeable batteries.
  12. Buy a reusable coffee cup and have them fill it for you at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, instead of using a "disposable" coffee cup (which, FYI, cannot actually be recycled).
  13. Make your own all-natural cleaning products, or purchase from a zero-waste brand, like The Simply Co.
  14. Buy organic cloth pads or tampons that you can hand wash, instead of the disposable ones (the disposable ones also have toxins lurking in them)! 
  15. If you wear contacts, use 2 week or 1 month contacts. Make sure to recycle the container and the box they come in!
  16. Use mason jars to store grains, spices, and leftovers (instead of Tupperwear).
  17. Mason jars are also great at storing makeup brushes, toothbrushes, pens, pencils, and so much more (get creative!).
  18. Keep at least one or two big cloth bags stashed in your car (in case you go on an impromptu shopping trip).
  19. Don't toss out food scraps! Make your own compost with it instead. Don't have a backyard to do it in? No worries: Just take a big bowl and dump all your food scraps in it, then put it in the fridge. This will prevent it from rotting. Most farmers markets will accept compost, so just take it with you to the farmer's market every week!
  20. Donate any clothing you no longer use and purchase organic, fair trade clothing. Too pricy? Shop vintage pieces instead!
  21. Shop at your local farmers market using your reusable cloth bags.
  22. Learn how to shop zero waste by finding a bulk food store near you. This website can help.
  23. Buy products or packages made from recycled materials. Some examples include writing paper, toilet tissue, and paper towels.
  24. Look for organic, non-GMO, and fair-trade labels. But don’t limit that to just food. Buy organic beauty products and clothes too!
  25. Watch Trash is For Tossers on YouTube: She makes a bunch of videos about how to live a zero waste lifestyle, no matter where you are.

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