Monday, April 8, 2013

A must read! Zero Waste Home - Arrives on Amazon tomorrow!

For those of you who have not been introduced to the Zero Waste Home blog, you are in for a treat.  Bea Johnson is an amazing person who has created a lifestyle with no trash.  She has been a huge inspiration to me over the last year and I strive to follow in her zero environmental impact footsteps.  Her book comes out tomorrow - you can download it on kindle as a pre-order on Amazon.  The link below should direct you to her new book:

If you want a look inside a Zero Waste Home, check out Bea's blog at

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Unwanted mail, unwanted waste

In an effort to expand on being paperless, it can be taken one step further in your own home.  If you are anything like me, you have been added to every mailing list possible.  I use to go to my mail every day and it was packed full of advertisements, credit card offers, useless magazines, flyers or anything else someone could possibly send through the mail.  Of course all of it would immediately go into the recycling bin and take time away from my family to sort.
In my mission to prevent waste, I found a website that really helped me through the process.  It is a company called Catalog Choice and their website is  This website offers an easy solution to ensure you are removed from mail service; you can search for the mail source and send them a notice through this service. 
I would take my unwanted mail in my bag to work and when I was stuck on hold, I would hop on the website and enter my junk mail.  Viola, after a couple months it was gone!  It was so nice to just get the essentials and no extra waste.  Of course we try to pay all bills through electronic banking, but sometimes you get stuck with mail regardless of your efforts.  As a warning, you have to stay on it, otherwise other offenders find you.  It’s a never-ending battle, but it feels so good to have an empty mailbox and not create any garbage.
Although this usually solved most of my mailing issues, there was one remaining.  Some of the vendors were not on this website or they were not listening to my requests.  In that case, I would send an email to their customer service or call their customer service line.  The Red Plum advertisements were the most difficult.  It felt great to take a stand against Companies who add your name without your consent and create waste that is harmful to the environment.  Perhaps you feel the same way? 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thrift Shop Style

I found these wool sailor pants for $1 while Thrift shopping this fall. I have gotten a ton of use an compliments on these babies. Very warm and fun. The only downfall is the bizellion button but they add to the look :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Paperless – It starts with you!

Businesses are one of the biggest natural resource abusers, especially when it comes to paper.  For years I told myself I couldn’t manage without paper, assuming my Company should be taking the lead-until I had enough!  My job includes a large amount of legal paperwork – especially while managing lawsuits or insurance claims.  I use to drag large binders, in a box, on wheels to proceedings and then bring binders with paper back to my office, which was overcrowded.  I became pregnant with my second child; I was managing several lawsuits and over a hundred insurance claims.  I just needed to simplify my life and cut down on the waste.  I couldn’t physically drag heavy binders and paper around, let alone spend time filing paper.  I decided to utilize what I already had available to make my life easier.  I soon discovered by best assets at work – a scanner and a large Company shared drive (on a server). 
I started small; each file on my drive had a name, date and location.  I organized each folder as if it was my binder or office drawer with files.  I contacted all of my vendors/business partners and notified them I could no longer receive mail – only electronic documents via email (this cut down on my scanning activities and mail).  I took any spare moments available to scan and organize documents.  All old documents were placed back in my printer, to print on the other side and then once both sides of the paper were used, they were shredded and recycled.  When I receive an email, I drag and drop the attachment or email into the folder, then hit delete!  I must admit, it took about 2 years to become completely paperless.  It also allowed me to share documents with remote co-workers.  I could also reduce my annual budget for office supplies, because paper, printer ink, folders, binders, etc. are no longer needed.  I donated all of my office supplies to other co-workers and I have an office of empty drawers and clear desk top space.  Ahhhh, it is so nice and simple.  Also, if I am remote, I have all of my documents at my fingertips through logging into my drive.
I have reduced my impact on the environment through reducing business waste.  Don’t want until your Company claims they are “paperless”, it starts with you.  Even the small steps make a difference.  Reduce paper, reduce stress!
-Heidi Bastien
Cousin to Melissa West & Guest Blogger

Green ER Days

I recently joined a crew of awesome people that have one common goal... making the little town of Elk Rapids a green community check them out at  I am hoping that this will inspire you to get involved in making your community green. Here is a awesome mini documentary   by

Friday, March 15, 2013

American Waste, Waste less

My 4 year old and I took what he likes to call a "home school field trip" to American Waste yesterday. WOW!!! Their operation is nothing less then inspiring and impressive. We were taught about what we can recycle.  Almost everything is recyclable, all plastics, all types of paper, even pizza boxes. The rules of thumb we were given is "when in doubt recycle it". 

All of the trash is put on this crazy maze of contraptions that sorts out recyclables and approx 38% is recovered to be recycled. Recyclables that come in sorted are run though separately from trash on this same "maze" and approx 99% is recycled!!

American Waste also creates their own compost they use as a top soil in the landfill. The cleaner the recyclables are the more value they have when they are sold. Therefore we will be better about cleaning and separating our recyclables to show our support for this business that is locally owned, employees so many and is doing awesome things for the environment. Who is your waste company? Are they making an initiative to be green? Something to think about...

Just the choosing your waste company wisely could make a huge difference on the environmental footprint you are making.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Reusable Paper Towels

After growing up together then living apart for a few years, my sister and I rented a studio together. In our years apart Lindsay had developed some environmentally friendly habits. Me, being a person that is not big on change reverted back to being the whiny little sister that I once was. Cleaning with vinegar. "Ewe, you clean so that your house smells better, not worse!" Cleaning with vinegar was something I stopped when I moved to my own house. But during my pregnancy to avoid the chemicals I started using it again and I have not quit. I put a few drops of citrus essential oils in my sprayer, the vinegar smell fades I am left with the smell of citrus. I like that when kids are in the tub or eating food off the table I am not worried about what chemicals they may be getting. I now love cleaning with vinegar!

Paper towels.... my guilty pleasure. Before this time of my life that Lindsay "deprived" me of paper towels I never thought about how wasteful they really are. Recently I have been keeping a roll of paper towels in the house but used them sparingly and feel guilty when I do. When I think about what it is that I love so much about them, I have narrowed it down to one reason, CONVENIENCE. I like that they are right there when I need them. No digging for towels, no rag that is cluttering my counter. When I am cleaning up something disgusting I like to throw it in the garbage and not have to deal with it. I have recently come up with a solution. I have set aside old rags that are on their last leg for the nasty clean ups. I saw this idea and decided I would make my own easy access reusable paper towels. DISCLAIMER!! I AM NOT A SEAMSTRESS! I can only sew in a line (notice I do not say straight line) so all of my projects must be very easy.

How I did it:
 I found a pattern that I wanted in my kitchen and few old towels that we didn't use anymore and washed them.

Measure the wanted size. I added a 1/2 inch around the edge to make room for the seam.
Sew fabric and towel together on 3 1/2 sides then turn it inside out through 1/2 that is not sewn shut.
I put one button hole in each towel (you could use snaps or Velcro). Then sewed a button on the other side. I decided to put 3-4 seams through the towel so that it would not bunch as much when I wash them.
Finished product is guilt free, easy access, cute, reusable paper towels.
With my leftover fabric I made a few dish towels.
Let me know if you have any questions :-)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Reducing waste at the grocery store.

Grocery Shopping..... There are a few reasons it is not on the top of my "favorite things to do list". My biggest frustration is looking at labels while my little hooligans push the mini carts around, darting out in front of the elderly. Ahhh grocery etiquette is an ongoing teaching point in our family.  Recently I have enjoyed paying attention to reducing my waste in the grocery store. Taking notice of how products are packaged. Opting for cardboard over plastic and big over small containers.  Then looking at how much gas it has taken the product to get to our grocery store. We have recently decided we will buy all of our milk locally. We want to put our money where our mouth is :-) Shelter Family Dairy is a local business with many reasons to support them. The milk is healthier to drink, tastes better, is in glass reusable bottles and with their mission statement being:
"We at Shetler Family Dairy would love to be your personal farmer
Making you feel at home when you visit
Bringing you the healthiest, tastiest milk
products from happy cows
That will make you smile
Created by our care of the soil, animals and resources
that God has given us
To leave it better for the next generation of
farmers and community"

The milk costing a bit more it well worth the benefits. We have decided to drink one gallon of milk instead of two per week. And in the end we will have better milk, less waste, drink more water and support a local business that cares. I know that Shetler Family Dairy may not be a local business for you but I urge you to look at local business's that are doing good and support them. I am on the hunt for more! Please send some my way :-)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Heidi's Zero Waste Project- Plantings

 My wonderful cousin Heidi will be adding to this blog in hopes of givng a larger variety of ideas and thoughts. She is a wealth of knowledge and good ideas and we are very excited to do this together. Her family of four lives in southern California. Through there very busy schedule of both working full time and raising two beautiful little girls they have made the zero waste lifestyle a priority for their family.   
I live in suburbia, the classic San Diego suburban area where my neighbor’s garages are overflowing with “stuff” that they could never use nor find.  On garbage day, their bins are overflowing.  We have gone down to two small garbage bags per week with the use of glass jars and mesh bags only shopping in the bulk isle (foregoing packaged foods).  Certainly not perfect, we are working toward less every week.  A compost bin is located next to the garbage can, as an alternative to “trash” and the recycling bin is the second alternative.  We use the compost bin to fertilize the very poor soil in our area, which has increased the greenhouse’s productivity, as well as the succulents.  Here is a photo of beans growing out of pots in the backyard… 

I try and pick one zero waste project per weekend, given my busy work schedule, it can be a challenge to come up with fun kid projects with no waste-that fit our zero waste goal. Here is the latest project in the garden.

Here is a project for repopulating succulents in areas where the soil is too rocky for regular plants.  The secret is…creating new plants out of old plants without waste or a trip to Home Depot or other gardening centers and using egg cartons to start new plants.
Once the succulents start to grow roots, we will replant them around the house in areas where we can reduce the use of water.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What? Why? Here are our answers

“What? Why? Why in the world would you want to do this? How much money are you saving?” These are the questions I heard most frequently when telling people about our plan.  I will start off by answering them for you.

“What?” That’s right! We are not going to buy anything new for a whole year. “What about food?” Of course we are going to buy food. We have made a few exceptions such as food, toiletries, crafting goods that run out, undergarments and replacement parts.

“Why?” I had one of those nights that you stay up chatting and trying to solve the world’s problems over a glass of wine with a couple of good friends. It was 2011’s holiday season and I had been bombarded with coupon mailings of everything that I should buy. I had been rushing through crowds making sure I had the perfect gifts and I had plenty of them. I felt like every corner I turned I needed to buy more, more and more.  Knowing that the end result would be finding a place for them to settle and collect dust like all of our “stuff”. We started to talk about the waste. All of the natural resource we were using to make all these goods. Then I asked myself the questions that have changed my way of thinking, “What can I do about my over consuming?” “What kind of difference can I make for my children?”

“Why in the world would you want to do this?” I am an all or nothing type of girl. This is something I know about myself. I have only been successful about making big changes in my life if I fully commit. If I don’t, I fall right back into my same old habits.  I knew I needed to set a goal in order to be able to follow through. So my husband and I set a firm goal that we would not buy anything new other then the exceptions we made for one full year in order to change our consumption habits.

“How much money are you saving?” I am not a money motivated person. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. I knew that if money was my motivation I would fail immediately. Lessening my environmental footprint was my motivation and having some extra cash was a benefit. If you can fuel yourself with the want for money I can see this lifestyle change being great for you.
 Not only will you be helping Mother Earth you will also be helping your bank account :) 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Medicine for the people

The music from the group Medicine for the People has been my soundtrack for the past year. They inspire and encourage change. "Make the movement move"

Solar and Wind Powered Dryer

This is by no means a new idea but it deserving of rebirth. We found this clothesline on craigslist for free last spring. Every morning before I took the boys to the beach I would hang my laundry on the line. When we got home it would be fresh crisp and dry. Over the summer I grew to love this clothesline. It combined something I am not fond of (doing laundry) with something I love (being outside). It was my time of  peace and quiet and when I would put on my fresh smelling crunchy clothes it would remind me that I was saving energy.

Laundry Detergent

 I have always had very dry skin and unfortunately my boys got it from me.  A combination of my homemade skin oil and laundry detergent has made an incredible difference. I prefer the dry over the liquid.
 1 cup washing soda
 1 cup borax
 1 cup baking soda
 1 1/2 cup Fels Naptha (this comes in a bar and will need to be shredded) and mix it all together.

I do large quantities at a time because I don't like to feel like I am making it all of the time. But you may want to do a tester batch. You can add any essential oil for more smell. Sometimes I add Lavender and other times I leave it plain, I LOVE the smell of the fels naptha.

A place to share

I started this blog as a place to share ideas on how to have an environmentally friendly lifestyle. I would love to share some of the steps that we have made to lessen our footprint and here of the things that you are doing and post them for others to see. My dream is that this will become a page to inspire like minded people to want less and waste less.  My family has recently been in the Elk Rapids News here is our story.