January 27, 2022
All over the world, people are staying home, a surprising challenge for many who actually longed for a break. We know it doesn't feel like a break, and we know the world is in a state of emergency, but many people still feel the need to be productive. While it's perfectly fine to get through the days as best we can, especially if we're socially distant and isolated, we still need to pass the time somehow.
If you've been interested in waste reduction for a while or have been looking on Pinterest for something to do while you're stuck at home, think about some tasks you can do and perfect your skills over the next few weeks, because honestly, you and the people you live with can only eat so much sourdough.
Eventually, we'll be able to go out again, and you may start thinking about what you want to keep in a zero-waste bag. Learning to fold a simple furoshiki can be helpful when you're out in public without a bag and want to ditch the packaging.
The reason for all the recent changes is, after all, a virus. Contrary to what many "zero wasters" have touted in the past, vinegar and baking soda are not the perfect cleaning products of years past. While vinegar and baking soda are great for cleaning surfaces, they are not disinfectants. Alcohol-based cleaners are also not disinfectants.
A cheap and widely available effective disinfectant is regular bleach. It is always, and especially now, more responsible to clean with an approved disinfectant than to trust a blogger with no sources who claims her grandmother's all-purpose cleaning spray with vinegar kills 99% of germs and is completely natural and non-toxic. Read more here.
According to the American Center for Disease Control, you should use about four teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water and let the mixture sit on surfaces for about a minute before wiping it off.
With everyone baking sourdough bread these days, it's safe to say that many of us have returned to the homestead in some way. Canning food at home is actually quite simple and only requires a large stock pot and some time, which many of us have in abundance right now.You can find the full guide here.
Making a vegetable or meat broth is the perfect way to utilize food waste and feel a little more independent in the kitchen. While many recipes call for whole vegetables or new cuts of meat, you can save kitchen scraps of tasty vegetables and animal bones for canning. You'll have plenty of time and (hopefully) plenty of leftovers to do it right.
If you need inspiration, here are some recipes for vegetable stock, chicken stock, and beef stock.
You know that single hot bag in your freezer? Or that half cup of Acini di Pepe you've had in your pantry for two years? It's time to eat those leftovers. Remember that food is a resource that can also be wasted. Use your time at home and your creative energy to prepare some of the ingredients you had forgotten about.
As a vegetarian, I feel like most people still eat meat, even though vegan and vegetarian dishes are becoming more popular. Yet, it has never been easier to give up meat and other animal products. So I challenge you to perfect a vegetarian or vegan version of your favorite meat-based dish at home during this time. If you need help, some of my favorite recipe blogs are Minimalist Baker and Hummus Sapien, although not all of their recipes are vegetarian or vegan.
If you're not used to cooking without meat, one ingredient you might like is Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), which resembles ground meat and is an easy way to jazz up vegetarian or vegan dishes.
If you're looking for a zero-waste action with little effort, try using products you have at home. Six tubes of hand lotion? Then it's time for a moisturizer, which you'll need anyway after all that hand washing. Combine leftover similar products and make sure they're used up. Use what you have before looking for more waste-free options.
I grew up sewing, and I can assure you that it is incredibly easy. If it weren't, Victorian children would never have been able to embroider the alphabet on pillows.
If you don't know what to sew, simply joining two pieces of fabric together and sewing a straight line is a good place to start. A small sewing kit for repairs is all you need to get started, and old clothes or rags are ideal for practice. If you're ambitious, rip off one of the buttons attached to the label of a shirt and try sewing it on. Small repairs to clothing can extend the life of the garment and ensure that existing resources last longer, reducing the need for new resources.
It's time to learn what you can actually recycle where you live. For example, I didn't learn until I had been living in my current city for a month that there is a completely separate disposal and recycling process for glass. Learn where everything belongs and what you really shouldn't recycle. Recycling the wrong things will contaminate the recycling, making it even less likely that anything will be recycled; anyway, less than 10% of all plastics ever made are recycled.
If you're lucky enough to have a garden during this time, it's time to start a compost. I'm lucky enough to live in a country where organic waste is publicly disposed of, but most of us are not. The EPA recommendations for starting a compost pile at home can be found here. In general, most plant materials can be composted.
If you're not already familiar with this blog: We're big fans of not buying things. Not only does it prevent money from flowing to companies that exploit people and limited resources, but it also laughs in the face of all the forces that tell us we need to buy, own, and pursue material things in order to be happy. For a full rundown of why you should ban shopping when you switch to Zero Waste, click here.
Finally, to get really practical, try repairing something. Like I said, taking care of what you have keeps that thing in circulation and decreases the need for new resources. If your blender needs a new part because the plastic is cracked, look online to see if you can order the replacement part. These days, while it's unlikely that a repairman will come to your house, you can at least try to figure out what you can fix yourself.
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