Zero-waste or Bust. What’s New in my Zero-waste Lifestyle

Please don’t take my lack of zero-waste posts as a sign that I’ve been slacking on trying to become one with Mother Earth. On the contrary, I’ve still been doing what I can to cut down my carbon footprint and even save a few bucks in the process.

So, just how have I been keeping up my zero-waste lifestyle? Well, I’ve made the usual tasks such as recycling part of my everyday life. I recycle at home, and when I’m out, I try to recycle whenever and wherever possible. If you read my last zero waste post, I don’t use plastic utensils or straws anymore– I bring my own now 🙂 And I always make it a point to specify that I don’t need utensils or a straw to whoever is helping me if I’m dining out or getting a drink that requires a straw. Don’t be afraid to speak up about these things! Sometimes I would notice that people would seem annoyed when I would mention it and I didn’t get it. I’d be thinking: “hey, I’m saving you money by not using your stuff and bringing my own! But I can sometimes personalize things, and so I had to realize that it may have had nothing to do with me, and even if it did — who cares! The purpose of me forgoing plastic serves a much greater purpose than worrying about a 5-minute interaction. My point is that once we start becoming more vocal about things and take charge of our user experiences when dining out or getting food, if this is something you’re not use to doing, the slightest sense of resistance can feel uncomfortable or discouraging but don’t let it distract you!

I also still bring my reusable bags with me when I get groceries. This has actually been great because I added a couple of more bags to my arsenal, starting out with two and now owning four. These bags not only help with cutting down on plastic, but they truly are useful! If you pack them correctly, you can carry so much more stuff in them than plastic bags! In one of my reusable canvas bags, I can fit about as many groceries as would probably fit into three to four doubled plastic bags. And the even weight distribution coupled with the sturdy strap of the canvas bag makes carrying it way more comfty and easy than the plastic bags, which usually start slicing into my hands after only a minute or two.

Other than the stuff I started doing when I first determined I was gonna try going zero-waste, here are a few newer things I’ve started incorporating into my life to help me get there:

I Got Reusable Towels

To cut down on my paper towel use, I started using reusable towels. I bought a pack of

reusable towels pic
Some of my reusable towel arsenal.

about 10-12 plain, white cloth towels, and I use them to wipe up spills and clean general things like kitchen counters. Honestly, this has been one of the more difficult things for me to do. Why? Well, everyone has their weaknesses right? For me, I used to be a HUGE germaphobe. It was bad. I was that person who would literally use an entire roll of paper towels to clean up a smaller spill if it was something gross because I didn’t want anything to get on my hands. My naturally evolving self has calmed down from such extremes, and that was the case even before I went vegan. But starting a zero waste venture did help with my germaphobe ways even more. But using the towels for really gross stuff is still not an option. If I ever have to clean up vomit or bodily fluids, I don’t think I’ll be using these towels. I mean, it took some– okay, a lot of getting used to when I would clean my very dirty, greasy stove and then told myself I was gonna wash that towel with my only semi-dirty clothes. I envisioned stove grease penetrating every piece of clothing I owned. An irrational thought I’m sure, but I was so tempted to grab for paper towels! That’s why I haven’t stopped purchasing disposable towels completely. And there’s another reason. I have no problem using a towel if I am eating certain foods with my hands– even the messy foods (yum). But if I have guests or family over, I don’t want to force them to use towels over paper towels. although the intention may be pure, it just doesn’t seem fair or right. But remembering and reminding myself that this is a journey and a marathon not a sprint has helped. And when looking at the bigger picture, I’ve still made vast improvements in my own usage of the disposable stuff. I’ve gone from using an entire roll of paper towels to clean up one spill and wipe down the kitchen counters, to using about 1 roll of paper towels per month. That’s pretty freakin’ good if I do say so

old reusable towel
This reusable has been through it but it’s still holding on strong.

myself! And also, keep in mind that trying to reduce waste kind of flows naturally into a vegan lifestyle when it comes to some things. For example, if the bulk of your diet is fruits, veggies, and grains, you’re not gonna have as much mess to clean up in your kitchen anyway! So you’ll naturally use less disposable paper towels and will likely not mind using a reusable towel to clean up the minor messes you create. And even if you fry, saute, roast, or do whatever else to tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. you’ll probably still create less mess than when cleaning, prepping and cooking with meats. Just sayin’

 

 

I Started Making My Own Cleaning Supplies

I decided to go all-natural with my cleaning supplies as well. That goes for hand-soaps, household cleaning supplies, and everything else. If I do purchase something, it has to be made by a brand that is known for having all-natural products with non-toxic ingredients like Miss Meyer’s, or a brand I found out about more recently, Ecos. But cleaning supplies are one of the areas you can cut down on buying and start saving some extra

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Ecos dish soap.

cash too. That’s because it’s pretty simple to make your own cleansers. I use two different cleansers that are both homemade. I use them when cleaning the kitchen, stove tops and all. It’s also great because I have a cat (Atreyu <3), and I love knowing that as she’s walking around the kitchen while I’m cleaning, she isn’t breathing in any toxic fumes– and neither am I for that matter! But I do still use bleach to clean with and that is definitely a toxic product. I mostly use it only when cleaning the bathroom and definitely the toilet! I feel like bleach just can’t be beat when it comes to super-duper cleaning power. I usually dilute it and don’t use it for much else (except on my white clothes when doing the laundry), but eventually I would like to ease into using it even less than I do now. As far as my natural, homemade cleansers, one is citrus oil-based and the other is vinegar based. If I want a stronger cleanser, I’ll combine the two for ultimate cleaning power. Vinegar is great for cutting through grease and cleaning things. I’m going to write a separate post about these two cleansers, exactly what I put in them, and more on how I use them to clean so stay tuned!

ecos soap specs
Ecos uses all plant-based ingredients!

I Also Started Making My Own Laundry Detergent

I discovered the beauty of castile soap! This is a hemp and coconut oil-based cleanser and it’s one of the most versatile products I’ve ever seen in my life! It’s also the main ingredient in my homemade laundry detergent. I mix the soap with water, white vinegar castile soap detergentand apple cider vinegar to create an amazing detergent. I package it all in a mason jar and bring it with me to wash. Now I will say this– it took some getting used to using this as my detergent. When I first used this instead of store-bought detergent, it was weird because there were no frothy bubbles coming up in the machine window. I was skeptical that my clothes were actually being cleaned. But they were! And the funny part is, some of the clothes actually felt cleaner and a few things even smelled cleaner than they did when I would use store-bought detergent! This is one of those things that may take some getting use to for others also. Additionally, taking into account how much to use to feel like your stuff is clean can take some time. I am currently one single adult, so the amounts I use are also easier to figure out because I’m not washing a massive amount of laundry. Not to mention, some people may just have that psychological hold of feeling like their clothes are only being cleaned when they use store-bought detergents filled with a lot of fragrance. But fragrance isn’t what cleans your clothes. And frothy bubbles aren’t what clean your clothes. So, keep that in mind and consider giving castile soap a try! As mentioned above, for my whites I use the castile soap detergent in addition to bleach. I

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Castile soap laundry detergent rocks my socks.

don’t know if I’ll ever stop using bleach for my laundry because of my white clothes. But that may be another psychological hold I’ll have to work on getting rid of. And if I can find another method to get white clothes super white other than bleach, I’d certainly be willing to give it a try.

So that’s it. At this point of my zero waste journey, I’ve started using reusable bags for groceries, cutting down on my plastic use with metal utensils and straws, continuing to recycle whenever possible, cleaning with reusable towels, and making my own household cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. Slowly but surely I’ll keep at it, trying to get as close as I comfortably can to a zero waste life that works for me. And I say “comfortably” because at this point, I’m unsure if everything that can be done to live a zero waste life is something I would do. And I’m okay with that. It goes hand-in-hand with not judging others for the type of vegan lifestyle they choose to live. We are all trying to live our best lives in the vegan community, and doing anything at all is going toward the bigger and greater cause. That logic applies here also. Similar to how I don’t think I would stop purchasing paper towels completely but have made major waves in the amount I use on a daily and monthly basis, I will try new things and begin new things in my zero-waste life too. Some things may stick and some may not. But I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep sharing them with you all in the hopes that you’ll try them too. Maybe some of the things that don’t last with me will last with you and that’s another way we can all help each other. By picking up the slack where our fellow zero-wasters may have fallen. Good luck on your zero-waste journeys and stay tuned for my next update! 

 

 

Some Natural Remedies I’ve Been Using for Inflammation and Pain

Inflammation is one of the body’s natural reactions to injury or infection. When we have a sore throat, our tonsils may become inflamed. When we break bones, tear ligaments or simply overuse parts of our body, those areas may also become inflamed or cause other body parts nearby to suffer the same swollen fate. I personally learned this the hard way several weeks ago. I woke up one morning and all of a sudden, I had pain in my hip area, around where one of my hip flexors are. I wasn’t sure what caused it, but I self-diagnosed myself using a bit of logic. I work on my feet all day— somewhat vigorously at that, because my job requires me to go up and down stairs often, and I had recently been training more than usual, including my lower-body. I also tend to go harder during leg days because I know that it is both the largest and strongest muscle group in the body, so I like to challenge myself. All of these factors seemed to spell out a recipe for disaster. I knew any one of these things could have caused my injury, but it was likely a combination of all of them.

This injury set me on a whole new path physically, but perhaps more importantly, psychologically. I had become so used to physical activity being part of my current lifestyle that the idea of not being able to exercise was crazy to me, and it made me feel very uncomfortable. So I sought to try to fix the problem— but the catch was, i was going to heal myself naturally. I told myself that if things get worse, if the pain becomes so bad that I can’t walk or no longer have a full range of motion, that’s when I’d obviously have to see a professional. Otherwise, one of my new goal’s in life was to utilize professional help as little as possible and try to solve issues homeopathically. And in this case, this route felt even better after doing a bit of research and finding out that ligament tears and small fractures could totally heal without any sort of surgery. I started researching natural remedies for pain and inflammation. I found many suggestions, and started to incorporate them into my daily diet and life whenever and wherever possible. Here are a few that I find to be key to helping with inflammation and pain, but do some research of your own because there is a wealth of knowledge to be found when it comes to homeopathic remedies for these types of ailments.

Turmeric

Turmeric has great healing effects when it comes to inflammation reduction. It is also used to help aid in managing infections. The agent in the spice that helps with inflammation reduction is called curcumin. This is also what gives turmeric its yellow hue. I started drinking more golden milk lattes to ingest turmeric, and also added it to my herbal teas and of course, I already have it with foods such as tofu scrambles. You can also add it to soups, sauces and sauteed veggies. Making curries is a great way to add turmeric to your diet without even noticing it, because the strong flavor blends in well with the other flavors often found in curries. However, there is a catch. Pure turmeric will not help with inflammation on its own. For turmeric to do its job in the body, it must be absorbed from the gut — this is only possible if there is a fat source present. Otherwise, little turmeric will be absorbed. This is an easy fix — in food, make sure you are using some sort of carrier oil; this is yet another benefit to sauteing and cooking with olive oil! I often use olive oil to grease the pan even for tofu scram (I rarely use vegan butters such as Earth Balance for greasing the pan — I primarily use it for baking purposes and as a spread on bread), and I always use it for my sautes. This will ensure that the spice has a fat source to ride along with as it enters the body. You can also add coconut oil to your golden milk lattes and herbal teas to ensure absorption. Black pepper is also helpful when it comes to turmeric absorption. The compound piperine which is found in black pepper, blocks the metabolic breakdown of turmeric in our guts. So ingesting turmeric with black pepper will allow more turmeric to stay in our system and not be broken down. From there, the fat source (i.e. oil) will help that extra turmeric be absorbed into our bodies. Check out my recipe for a delicious golden milk latte which includes turmeric, black pepper and coconut oil to ensure you get your daily anti-inflammatory dose of turmeric!

White Willow Bark

White willow bark is often touted as “nature’s aspirin”. This is because it has comparable effects on pain relief as the man-made medicine. This herb is derived from willow trees that are at least 2-3 years old. You can find it in many forms, including pills, teas, and tinctures. The goal is to absorb salicin, which is the active ingredient in the bark that has pain relieving properties. When ingested, about 80% of salicin is absorbed into the body. White willow bark can help with all sorts of pain, from menstrual cramps to severe pain and inflammation.

Peppers and Black Pepper

Practically all pepper contain capsaicin — the compound in them which causes all that hot, hot heat. In fact, all varities of peppers are originally derived from one single plant, the capsicum annum — native to the tropical regions of the Americas (a.k.a the bountiful Caribbean!) Capsaicin works in an interesting manor: when we consume peppers containing the compound, it binds to certain heat receptors in our body — even though there is no real danger at hand, the body thinks it is being exposed to extreme heat, and therefore will desensitize painful stimuli via our pain nerve cells. That’s actually pretty cool. Capsaicin may also help to improve blood flow circulation in the body when taken internally. This was helpful for me because I discovered that ligaments may take longer to heal because there is a poor blood flow to those areas. Therefore, improving blood flow may help with healing.

Black pepper uses that same compound mentioned earlier, piperine, to combat inflammation. The compound may reduce pain and inflammation even at low levels of ingestion. I already add pepper to most of my food — this is probably one of the easiest natural remedies to incorporate into your diet as most people use pepper on a daily basis. As mentioned before, you can also add the spice to your teas or other drinks. You can balance out the heat from the black pepper with some brown sugar or agave, or other spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Or, if you like the extra heat in your food or drinks, pile it on!

Ginger

Ginger may have anti-inflammatory compounds that work similarly to existing meds used to treat pain and inflammation. When taken in relatively higher doses (at least 2 grams or more) it can have great effects on the body, not only for pain and inflammation, but also to help those with pain associated with conditions such as arthritis. Ginger can be added to foods, teas and other drinks, or even ingested raw (although it might upset your stomach this way). It is another easy one to add into your daily routine. Like capsaicin, ginger also helps with blood circulation when taken internally; so, when it’s combined with pepper and turmeric (maybe in a ginger turmeric latte?) or even on its own in ginger tea, it can help with the healing process of ligaments by improving blood circulation to that area.

As of the publishing of this blog post, my hip and leg are still not fully healed. However, I have done more research and found many sources that say that even a minor tear of fibers that hasn’t limited my mobility may still take weeks to heal. Right now, I’m attempting to isolate the pain. I spoke with a co-worker a little while ago who is well-versed in bodily functions as well as a trainer who I met at, of all places, Vegandale. They both stated that my hip flexor pain could actually be a result of issues from another location. As in, if my knees or feet aren’t doing great, my hip flexors may be doing extra work to compensate, thus resulting in the pain and inflammation. The trainer was great– she explained so much to me about what might be going on and how that area of the body functions, and even offered a small suggestion to start to alleviate the pain. For now, I’m focusing on my hip area, and then I’ll make sure my feet are okay. My knees feel fine but if anything, I’ll check those out too. I’ll update this later when I’m back at 100%. Until then, I hope these natural remedies help to aid you on a more homeopathic journey as they have helped me. And just to be on the safe side, you may want to check with a doc to make sure everything is okay before starting any sort of regimen, even a homeopathic one. And of course, avoid any known allergens, such as black pepper — even if they can help with the pain!*

[Edit:] As of January 7, 2019, the current state of my hip/leg has improved drastically. I still experience some discomfort which lets me know that my leg is not completely healed yet, but I am very mobile and able to carry on with my daily life. Here’s the condensed version of how this injury affected other areas of my life to date– I ended up having to leave where I was working because the pain was unbearable at the time. It was bittersweet but my health was more important. I ended up working at another restaurant (and luckily got the gig not too long after leaving the last place thanks to a pal) but was blessed that I finally got to work at a vegan spot! Funny enough though, this place was also dual-level! More stairs! But I had bills to pay and I needed a job and it was a vegan restaurant so I was in no matter what. And I think that a combination of not carrying heavy stuff anymore and not going up and down the stairs as often helped contribute to the healing process. I was also completely or mostly homebound on my days off which helped too. A negative aspect however, was that I couldn’t exercise. As of this update edit, I haven’t been to the gym in almost four months. It was kind of depressing and messed with my confidence a bit too. But everything happens for a reason so I was able to focus a lot on my mental state and why something like not being able to exercise had such a negative affect on me to begin with. I was also able to save more money from not getting as much food or going out to eat because since I couldn’t exercise as vigorously, I didn’t want to indulge as much because I was fearful of putting on weight. More mental love I had to give myself to work all that stuff out. But it was easier to save money anyway because I also had to accept a pay cut at my new position and that wasn’t fun, but like I said, everything happens for a reason. Flash forward to now and all thanks to this injury I’ve been able to work a lot more on my relationship with food– something I thought I’d worked out simply by going vegan but it wasn’t until I couldn’t exercise and had to focus more on my diet and the food I was consuming (and not consuming) that I realized that being vegan doesn’t fix everything.

[Edit:] As of April 24, 2019, I have started taking ibuprofen to help with inflammation and any lingering pain in my hip joint. I am also aware that it’s likely my hip joint/socket and not a ligament that had been the cause of all these leg issues, as there technically isn’t a ligament in the hip area, but being that I never went to the doctor, I don’t know if a ligament elsewhere was the culprit, although I doubt it at this point. I’m not changing anything in this article however, because my mistakes are part of my learning process 🙂

The ibuprofen has been amazing. I feel absolutely no pain from inflammation or anything else when I’m physically active. And it’s not just because ibuprofen can “numb” the pain. But instead, as an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), it has the ability to block COX enzymes within our body that aid the production of prostaglandins which actually promote inflammation. That’s all explained in more detail in this article.

However, I am still extremely proud of myself for letting my leg heal naturally. This injury happened several months ago, and if I would have went straight to using ibuprofen, even combined with non-medicinal methods (i.e.- no pressure on the leg, wrapping it, etc.), I would have run the risk of 1) becoming dependent on it, which is something that we are warned of even while we are told to use the drug daily to help with inflammation, 2) falling prey to some of the side effects of taking too much ibuprofen, and/or 3) building a tolerance for it, meaning it wouldn’t have the amazing effects it’s now having on my body.

The point is, I’m not completely averse to using modern medication, but for all the above-mentioned reasons, I think it’s vital that we try to solve as many issues as possible taking the homeopathic route first before automatically turning our bodies over to modern medicine. Natural meds were created by nature and will likely interact with your body wonderfully. Modern meds, although stronger in some instances, were created by man, and therefore may not necessarily interact with our bodies so seamlessly. I’m taking the ibuprofen just a couple of times a week to see how it goes. But I’ll tell you this: I never worry about overdosing or experiencing side effects from sniffing too much peppermint.