Back to School? How to be waste-free at school.

It’s that time again for a lot of us.

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That time of year where we have to discontinue our binge-watching and get our lives together for.

BACK TO SCHOOL!

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I’m entering my final year at my university, but this year is different. I’m trying to be zero-waste this year, which makes shopping for school supplies a bit complicated.

I headed to Walmart with my brother the night before my semester starts, which was the worst idea I could have ever had, but we started to hunt for our supplies.

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I then realized, that I have to be as zero-waste as possible. It’s really hard to do that when all of the pens, pencils, markers, and other writing utensils come in plastic wrappings. Sure, the backing is cardboard (which we can recycle), but the wrapping covering them is plastic.

One of the blogs that I follow for zero-waste inspiration and shopping is called Package Free Shop. In this store you can find all sorts of package-free items like razors, toothbrushes, shopping bags, and other such things.

For back to school, they added some school supply items that are package free and sustainable. They have recycled paper notebooks, binders, and folders. They also have 100% cotton pencil pouches and book bags. I also recommend if you already have pencil pouches or notebooks that are half filled, just keep using them. If they have a rip, just do some basic sewing and fix it. That is one way that we create waste: by just throwing things way because we don’t like the anymore. There are DIY ways to just revamp something that we do not like anymore. Try to find those ways. If you really don’t want to keep it anymore, but it is still a good item, then just donate it to Goodwill or other secondhand-stores around you.

If you can’t get your supplies from this website and Walmart is just closer, then try to find the least wasteful things.

Pilot has pens that are called B2P (Bottle-2-pen), which launched in 2010. The gel ink and ball point pens are made from 89% and 83% recycled plastic bottles respectively. They are all 100% refillable.

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Notebooks are for the most part recyclable, but you can always try to reuse the ones from the last semester or school year. This way you can reduce the amount of waste you are causing. Always try to save things you used from the previous year so that you can use them for the following semester.

If you are in the market for a new notebook, there are these super cool reusable notebooks that I found out about last semester. They are called Rocketbook. It is a reusable, digital notebook. There is an app that the notebook goes with where you just upload the pages to and then erase it when you’re done.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write notes.
  2. Choose a destination. You use symbols at the bottom of the pages that connect to your Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, iCloud, iMessage, or Email. Each symbol represents a course that you are taking or a specific destination.
  3. Scan your pages.

To erase your notes, you just have to wipe them clean with water and a cloth. It’s really simple and can be used an endless amount of time.

It’s always a little difficult to be zero waste, but you just have to be conscious about the items you are grabbing and buying and how you can reduce your waste. Will it be recyclable? Can I refill it? Can I donate it when I’m done?

Good luck!

Until next time,

Dani

Breaking up with plastic!

Everyone has some terrible habit that they just haven’t been able to get rid of like biting their nails or shaking their leg. The one habit that we all in common is accepting single-use plastic everywhere we go. I was having a conversation with my friends and they were asking me “well what about…” in relation to situations where it was “inevitable” to use plastic.

It really got me thinking about how difficult it is to stop using plastic. Especially in a city like Miami, where the population is mostly Hispanic. In most, if not all, Latin American countries people don’t have the privilege to even think about going zero waste. If the only meat you can afford is inside of a Styrofoam container and wrapped in plastic, then that’s what you are going to get. So when these people move to the United States, they are not used to thinking about which plastic is recyclable or whether they can find an alternative. It’s just what we’re accustomed to.

I’m currently trying to educate my family on things they can do to reduce plastic waste. After I went to Verde and showed my mom my mason jar filled with soap and conditioner, I think she realized that it’s something that is feasible. In this country, we are so lucky that we can be and do anything we want. So, why not change those terrible plastic-related habits?

I’m going to try and answer some of the questions my friends had and see if it will make the transition to zero waste a little easier.

Question #1: What if I’m going out to the movies and I get thirsty, do I just buy a water?

Answer: No, try to have two (metal) reusable water bottles. One to keep, empty, in your car and the other that you use on a day-to-day basis. If at any point you don’t bring your day-to-day one then you already have a backup in your car.

Question #2: Protein (meat, fish, chicken) comes in plastic, what do you do?

Answer: Not everyone has the willpower to own a farm, raise their animals, and then slaughter them so…I looked it up online (because this question stumped me) and I found that if you bring your own container, most butchers are willing to use it to put your meats in. They will place your container (mason jars, Tupperware, tin container) and zero it. Then they will place whatever quantity of meat you ask for and you’re good to go. They will only charge you for the pounds of meat that you got.

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Now, I haven’t tried this out yet, but I think it’s something that can be done. If you live in Miami and buy your meat at Latino-owned supermarkets like Sedanos, Presidente, or Publix you for sure will get weird looks. They’ll definitely talk about how weird you were for the rest of the day probably, but you will have lessened the amount of waste you normally make.

Question #3: How do you store food in the fridge? Is foil okay to use?

Answer #3: You can use beeswax wraps as an alternative. They are a bit pricey, but they are reusable for a while and they can be dumped into your compost. You can find them anywhere on Amazon, Etsy or the link I provided, which is a store solely dedicated to beeswax wraps. The foil is not really an alternative because it is a bit more wasteful than plastic wrapping, believe it or not.

At the end of our conversation, one of my friends made a good point: To be zero-waste you have to think more.

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I’ll include a picture of my lunch box today, but I’ve been really good about not using single-use plastic in my lunch. My main lunch will always be packed in a glass pointer with a plastic lid (sadly, but not single use), my snacks will be packed in reusable snack bags. I found a pack of three at Marshall’s for $3.99 by a brand called Yummi Pouch. Today I reused the bag my trail mix came in to pack my chips. I had breakfast in the office so I brought my own milk in a mason jar and of course, my reusable utensils.

It is true, you have to think more because you are trying to break some habits that you’ve had since you can remember. You have to be more self-aware of everything that you accept at a grocery store or when you go out. You have to remember not to take the straw or not use another cup for a new drink when you go out. You have to be more conscious of your decisions, but once you start getting used to it, it becomes a new habit, a good habit.

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