Rebranding?

Hey everyone!

I am rebranding to broaden up the scope of my reach. I am still going to focus on nature and all things nature, but I also want to write more things like my previous post. I want to put my essays out there whenever I am inspired to write out my feelings.

With all of this, though, I am going to need your help. I want to hear about topics you want me to look into or want me to talk about on here. The topics don’t always have to be about nature and the environment, but they can be about anything.

I want to be able to make this blog about everyday life with a focus on the environment and what we can do to help it. I also want to dedicate some space to talk about mental health, since that’s something I personally deal with and know people who deal with it, too.

So, that’s pretty much this entire blog post…let me know in the comments or to my email latinatreehugger@gmail.com with any post suggestions!

Until next time,

Dani

Giving Amazon up…

I think this is the hardest thing I have ever had to give up. Do you know how convenient Amazon is? Incredibly convenient…you get the lowest prices and two-day shipping? There’s Prime Now, where you can get emergency things delivered in maximum of 8 hours! How much more do you want?

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Well…let me tell you something. Amazon is extremely wasteful. Not just because they send something like an eyeliner in a box where you could fix two 8×11 papers….but because even if you buy “waste-free” or “eco-friendly” items, they still come in plastic packaging or there’s plastic bubble wrap wrapped around it. Recently, for some insane reason, this crazy packaging has been happening. I have ordered some makeup items that I can’t find in stores and both items, a mascara and an eyeliner, came in these giant boxes… Have they ran out of reasonably sized boxes/packages? I honestly don’t know, but I think it’s time.

It’s time to quit Amazon.

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Sure, you can recycle the box since it’s cardboard, but it’s so wasteful when you’re ordering normal sized things and receive them in these giant boxes. You also can’t recycle the plastic bubble wrap.

Tons of big stores like Target, Walmart, Michael’s, and more offer online ordering and in-store pickup. You can leave them a note in the instructions not to package it in anything so you can bring your own reusable bag and put your things in it. They send you an email when your order is ready and you can just swing by, spend 5-10 minutes waiting, and you’re out the door.

If it’s something you need urgently your best alternative is just to go to the store. Going to the store can ensure that you buy the items with less or no packaging. You can also reduce the amount of waste that you’re producing just by purchasing the things on Amazon. I have been trying so hard to stay away from Amazon and so far it’s been working. I have been going into stores more often and I have been getting back into my thrifting habits. The other day I got two 100% recycled glasses for $1 each. I would not have been able to find those super cute, recycled, vintage-looking cups for my makeup brushes on Amazon, or at least not for a dollar each.

With the holidays coming up and all of the Cyber Monday/Black Friday sales coming up, I know it’s hard to refrain from using Amazon. I know it’s hard, but try to limit the amount of things you purchase from them and maybe try to group your purchases to only one package instead of 10 different ones. If you are going to buy from them, then please recycle your cardboard boxes. At least this way you will be limiting the amount of damage that you might be doing to the environment.

CBS News Canada did a story on how online shopping increases your carbon footprint and they shared this graph. They wrote: Faster shipping completely changes what’s needed to get your order to you, and that drastically increases the carbon emissions generated in the process — the MIT study found online shopping with rush delivery was less environmentally friendly than going to the store. They do state that in store shopping will increase carbon emissions more than if you just order the thing with REGULAR shipping.

The argument for online shopping versus in store shopping is actually really interesting. Various sources say that UPS, for example, and other delivery carriers have been working towards more eco-friendly cars and that since they are on a single route delivering to multiple stops, they have less emissions than if each individual person were to go out individually in their, possibly, not-so-eco-friendly cars. That kind of makes sense to me, too. So, I think it just depends on how much online shopping you do and how much in person shopping you do. This blog started with me telling you not to shop on Amazon anymore, because their packaging is awful, but now I don’t know. I do know that you should try to group your purchases into the same packaging, but maybe it isn’t too terrible.

What do you think?

#PlasticFreeJuly: Days 6-10?

Honestly, I was going to write a blog post for everyday of this month, buuuuut….I already do a lot of things to reduce my plastic waste so I think I’ve hit a wall.

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I can still maybe give some tips and ways that I have kept up with my reduction of plastic waste like having a reusable bag always in my car, that way if I have a random and unplanned trip to the grocery store, like today, I will already have a reusable bag with me.

The other thing I love to talk about is TerraCycle. Sometimes you just can’t replace something in your life or it is just easier for you to buy that one toothpaste at the grocery and maybe cheaper. When this happens, you might want to recycle it, but sadly your local recycling program won’t recycle it. Like mine?

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I’ve been using Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, just because David’s (the beloved one in the Zero Waste Community) can only be bought online and it is a little pricier, too. I love the toothpaste, it is fluoride free and makes my teeth feel really, really clean. It is also reasonably priced and can be bought at Target (the love of my life). I am going to harass anyone I know to give me their deodorant bottles, toothbrushes, toothpaste bottles, mouthwash bottles, and the other accepted items so that I can send it out to be recycled.

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If people won’t do it themselves, I will gladly help them recycle and maybe also convince them to use more environmentally friendly or sustainable in their everyday life. I have slowly made everyone around me use a reusable bottle, which I am so proud of, but then something like my mom going grocery shopping and bringing home a gazillion plastic bags happens and I feel a little discouraged. BUT, it’s okay. I am trying my hardest and I can tell that some people around me are changing their wasteful ways, too.

ANYWAYS, I was feeling a little ranty and in the mood to type something, even though it was kind of empty. If you are in Miami and want to recycle any of the items in the picture above, please, please, please let me know! I will pick them up from you or meet you somewhere. I just want to recycle them and prevent them from going to the landfill!

Until next time,

Dani

#PlasticFreeJuly: Day 5

Let me just begin by saying: Sorry to my Target.

I did something that now seems a little crazy, but….I took a basket home. One of their shopping baskets home. I didn’t want to use a plastic bag and I didn’t have my reusable ones. I didn’t just want to buy a new one and I didn’t want to carry the things I had bought in my hands. So we just put everything back in the basket after paying and took it to my car. It was terrible, but I did prevent myself from using at least 3 plastic bags.

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Now it’s just staring at me while I write this blog post…

In other news, I’ve successfully gotten rid of 1/3 of my closet (clothes and shoes), which for me is a great step in the right direction. I know it doesn’t really have to with plastic, but it does have to do with being less wasteful. I’m trying to reduce the amount of “fast fashion” pieces that I own, and stick with more basic pieces that could last a while. I have found some really good basic pieces in Target and thrift stores before, like jeans, jumpsuits, and dresses that will help me limit the amount of trendy fashion that I take part in.

SO now I have a Target basket, but I also have three paper bags filled with clothes to donate. I think that’s definitely a win. I definitely have a long way to go in terms of my closet, but I’m making progress.

I also, very aggressively, stopped my best friend from using a plastic straw at the restaurant we went to. I have to try and help those around me stop their bad plastic habits. And I did. Very aggressively.

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I think on Day 6, today I’m going to just stay at home or try and go to my local bulk/zero waste store, Verde Market. It has been extremely rainy, but I will try to get out there and challenge myself to not use any plastic.

Are you taking part in the challenge? If yes, what have you been doing?

 

Until next time,

Dani

 

#PlasticFreeJuly: Day 2

Yes, you read that right…day 2. I kind of forgot about this challenge and started a day late. At the end of Day 1, I realized that I desperately need to complete this challenge.

I was in my car on my way home from work and I looked down….

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I had not one…not two…not three, but FOUR PLASTIC STRAWS still in their wrapping.

Image result for fainting gif This gif was me…because how COULD I???

This is how: I am too lazy to make breakfast and stopped at the same fast food place a couple of times a week to buy some breakfast…and every time I grabbed my carton orange juice, I didn’t reject the plastic straw even though I didn’t really need it for my drink. I am just as ashamed as you probably are because my arch nemesis are plastic straws and here I am with FOUR unopened ones in my car. I also haven’t thrown them out or done something with them because of this shame that I feel.

I know I sound dramatic, but let’s be real, it’s a big deal. I don’t know what has changed within me that makes me forget to reject the straw, but whatever it is is not good. I need to go back to my plastic-free lifestyle, hence, this challenge.

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For Day 2, I posted on my Instagram (@latinatreehugger and @danialviz) about my new reusable 12 oz coffee cup. I had been looking for something small to hold my cafe con leche and I found one at Walmart. It’s sealed super tight so it’s really hard for me to spill it since I’m such a clutz. I tried using a mason jar as my coffee cup and burned myself real quick, but this one works great and fits in my lunch bag or the cup holders on the side of my work backpack. 

I have really been making an effort to dedicate some time in the morning to make my own coffee at home if I’m really craving it. So far, so good. I’ve learned how to make my cafe con leche the way that the Cuban viejitas do at those Cuban bakeries.

 

For Day 3, I’m not sure what I’m going to advocate, but I’ll definitely keep this challenge going and I will try to document every day on my blog. Maybe at the end of each week, I’ll record a podcast on the revelations I’ve had during the challenge that week.

Until next time,

Dani

Collecting Things to Recycle in Miami!

Recently I decided that I am going to be collecting razors and their packaging, Febreze air care (not including aerosols), mascara wands, and single-use coffee cups, K-cups, and such. Make sure to email me at latinatreehugger@gmail.com or DM me at @latinatreehugger on Instagram if you have questions or want to drop some off to me!

No-Stink Summer 2019 (and on)

I started working recently in a job that requires me being outside A LOT. And here in Miami, that means heat and 90% humidity almost every day. Most days most of the A/C we get is from the cars we use to drive around and the lunch breaks in the office. It’s also officially summer, which means everyone needs to please, for the love of God, wear deodorant. I don’t want to have to be around stinky people (including myself) this summer. 

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Also recently, I finally finished my last deodorant stick. So, I decided that I would try to find a recipe for a deodorant that could help me stay dry and smelling fresh through my work days.

I googled a bunch of recipes and I decided that I wanted it to be as vegan as possible, so I didn’t want anything with beeswax in it. I found a really great recipe from BeautyMunsta (here). Her recipe only includes coconut oil, corn starch, baking soda, and she uses lemon eucalyptus essential oil. These are all things that most common households have in either their kitchen or anywhere else. I know I had most of these at home and the eucalyptus essential oil can be replaced with any essential you have at home.

So, I started the recipe by doing exactly what she said in her post. I mixed 4 tablespoons (more or less…I couldn’t actually find my tablespoon measure anywhere) of coconut oil, 5 of corn starch, one and one teaspoon of baking soda, and 20 or more drops of the essential oil, which in my case was eucalyptus.

The baking soda and corn starch as supposed to absorb the sweat and neutralize the stink. The coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, it moisturizes the skin, and it will prevent skin irritation and rashes. Something I didn’t know was that the lemon eucalyptus can also work as a bug repellant….so I guess this deodorant can also help keep the bugs away if you live somewhere that’s very buggy, like Miami.

You start by combining the ingredients, except the essential oil, in a pan over a low flame. Stir until everything melts and combines. Then let it cool off for around a minute and pour it into a glass jar. Not plastic because it could melt. Once in the jar, stir in the essential oil and you’re pretty much done.

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At first, my deodorant had a really, really liquidy consistency so I decided to add some more corn starch and some more baking soda. I was extremely impatient and realized that I probably had to let it sit for some time harden up.

I let it cool and harden overnight and VOILA, it worked!

It was not really a paste…so maybe sticking to the original recipe might have made it into a paste, but mine was more of the hardened deodorant consistency that I am used to. The only difference is that this one is in a glass jar and I have to scoop it out with a popsicle stick.

 

So, after I used it a couple of times in places like Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando and my job in the Everglades, I’ve come to the conclusion that it works. I do have to give you a warning that generally when I sweat, I don’t stink so much, but I haven’t been stinking at all at this job that would probably make me smell. I did add too much baking soda, which makes my armpits burn a little when I recently shave them, but it works otherwise. Just follow the recipe from BeautyMunsta and have patience and you should be good to go.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or head over the original recipe’s blog post. Definitely try this and let me know how it goes! Happy summer!

Until next time!

Dani

Episode 6: Plastic-Eating Fungi and Florida

Hey guys! I’m back with a quick podcast episode on some interesting environmental stories that I came across this week. It’s a short one, but do let me know if you have seen or heard of any other news stories that you would like me to dive further into!

Thank you for listening as always!

 

Staying Eco-Friendly at Orlando

This week I’m going to be headed to Orlando, FL to hang out at the Universal theme parks (possibly Epcot at Disney). I can’t to release some endorphins and be pumped full of adrenaline. Something I love doing and going is Universal Orlando…there’s nothing like being able to ride roller coasters one minute and then enjoying Harry Potter World the next minute.

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Something that I always forget about at these parks is staying true to the zero waste lifestyle because of what’s easiest. I know that’s another sad excuse, but it’s the truth. I just want to get on the next ride or not miss the next show so I eat whatever is easiest.

Lately, I’ve been pretty good about not creating so much waste at these theme parks. It’s so easy to just be comfortable and grab a cup of water at whatever restaurant or use their plastic utensils and throw them out. The coolest thing is getting the reaction from people waiting in line when they see my giant 64-ounce water bottle in my hand. Everyone always asks me the same thing, “you carry that around all day?? Don’t you get tired??”

My answer is simple: not really, I don’t want to use the plastic cups.

And I always get the same look and the same answer, “wow, you’re right. That’s awesome.”

Then I go and have a conversation with them about how easy it is to just add a reusable water bottle to the backpack that they already have to lug around. They don’t have to carry a giant one like I do. What most people don’t know, because they might not frequent the parks like I do, is that the vendors that have soda fountains can refill your water bottle and add ice if you ask. Free of charge. How cool? For the longest time, Universal/Island of Adventures used to give 8 water bottle vouchers for annual passholders to use in that year. Instead of that, they decided to give water for free, which they definitely should have been doing from the beginning. Anyone, annual passholder or not, can ask for free water. They obviously will give it to you in a plastic cup, hence the reusable water bottle.

Image result for universal orlando city walkThe only thing about bringing your water bottle is you have to make sure that it is empty before coming into the park, but that’s not a problem since you can have it filled up right away once you go onto City Walk. If you’ve ever been to these theme parks, you know that there is that area where the road splits between Islands of Adventure and Universal (on the GIF it’s where the screen is), where the fountains are. There’s a circular vendor station that sells snacks and drinks, I always get my water bottle filled up there, free of charge, of course.

If you want a soda, they sell “souvenir cups” that you can refill the entire day and even bring back any other day. All you have to do if you bring it on other days is pay the fee to activate it. Beats using new plastic cups and new plastic straws the entire day and any other time you go to the parks.

This time around, I want to bring my own food and my own utensils. If I bring my own reusable water bottle I won’t need to use a straw or anything, so I typically leave my straws at the hotel.

Image result for steel bento boxI want to pack my own lunch in my steel containers and take it to the park. They are okay with things like sandwiches in bags so I’m going to try and get my salad in my steel container through. I’ll definitely update on that in either another blog or the updated podcast. I really love going to these parks and I want to find new ways in which I can reduce my waste on my trips.

Here is what’s on the Universal Theme Parks website:

Outside Food And Drinks

We offer a variety of food options at restaurants and concession stands throughout our resort. However, we understand that guests may need to bring outside food and drinks. Please note the following guidelines:

Acceptable Items

Bottled Water (maximum 2 liters)

Small snacks that do not require heating

Any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements

Any food required for special dietary needs

Baby food/baby formula

Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep

Prohibited Items

Glass containers

Open containers

Hard-sided coolers

Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep

Picnic lunches

Food that requires heating or refrigeration

Folding chairs

So…I take my salad as being a part of my special diet since I have PCOS and am also a vegetarian? It’s a risky move, but I am willing to risk it if it means I get to save some money while also reducing my waste! It’s also more sustainable since I am the one purchasing my produce and I know where it has come from. I’m not throwing shade or anything at Universal, but I don’t know where they get their food from…

I don’t know of any other ways that I can reduce waste. I was thinking of bringing my own small cloth for bathrooms instead of paper towels? I just thought about that one right as I was writing this blog post.

I think for now those are the things that stand out the most to me when I think about wasteful things at theme parks. I will definitely make a podcast at the part (possibly?) if I am appalled by the amount of waste that I see.

If you have any questions specific to the park, I might have the answer so feel free to comment or message me! Make sure you catch the latest blog post here and my latest podcast episode here.

Until next time!

Dani

Microplastics in the AIR?

Hey guys, so I’m taking a little break from posting only podcasts and I’m going to get on here and write some short and sweet blog posts for the times that you or I can’t do the podcast thing.

Let’s talk about plastics…again. This time let’s focus on microplastics.

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I don’t know if you have been following any news source lately or if it’s just my college department’s newsletter, but I have been seeing a lot of news regarding microplastics. I’ve always known that they are an issue, obviously, but I didn’t think it was getting this out of hand.

Nature and NPR released articles relating to finding microplastics in the air in France’s Pyrenees Mountains.

Microplastics….in the air….

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Now we can’t breathe in either…first, we couldn’t eat salt from the ocean or fish and now we can’t even breathe in France and around the world. Incredible…

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These are the mountains in France, the Pyrenees Mountains.

All jokes aside, this is actually really alarming. Apparently, high amounts of microplastics are raining down on a remote and seemingly pristine part of the mountains and according to scientists, they could potentially be floating everywhere. So now it’s raining microplastics, too. I honestly don’t know how this isn’t extremely alarming to anyone else besides the professors that are sending the students these news articles.

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Let’s go back a little bit and talk about what microplastics are really. They are small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life. Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. According to NOAA, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as cleansers and toothpaste. They easily pass through the water filtration systems and end up in the ocean and they pose a potential threat to aquatic life.

We need to be more aware of the way we are affecting our environment. Now it’s not even a matter of not using a plastic straw, it’s a matter of just completing stopping the use of plastic or generating better ways to recycle it or to reuse it in products we “can’t live without” or products that everyone uses. If we can find ways to repurpose all of this plastic we are wasting and throwing away, we could definitely make a huge difference. Obviously, completely getting off plastic worldwide is the goal, but we have to start somewhere, right?

So how did they find the microplastic in the mountains? Well, one day the researcher who was part of the team dreamed up the experiment, Steve Allen, thought about what happens to something like a plastic bag on a fence flapping away…the plastic has to go somewhere once you don’t see that bag there anymore. Allen’s team set up some collectors there for like five months to trap the plastic particles and they said they expected some, but not as many as they actually found.

They found…. get this…365 plastic particles on average every day on a square meter collector. They found several types of microplastic floating on the wind in the Pyrenees like fibers from clothing, and bits from plastic bags, plastic film, and packaging material.

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This is the kind of example of plastics stuck somewhere that will eventually break down into micro ones.

Apparently, it isn’t even local. The closest villages around the mountain are within 60 miles of the study site. In the NPR article, they said that scientists know how dust travels, like from the Sahara across the Atlantic, but scientists basically don’t know anything about how microplastics move. It’s not something that people have been observing in nature for decades…. this is something that has been happening recently.

So, this next part is the part that kind of shocked me a lot, besides the already shocking conclusion that there are microplastics in a mountain range that is 4,500 feet above sea level. Allen says that if this much micro plastic manages to get halfway up the Pyrenees mountains, it could theoretically be everywhere. And that probably means that we are most likely inhaling them right now. Another scary thing is that if we are inhaling them, what will happen to us? We don’t really know how our human systems will react to microplastic. Chelsea Rochman, a plastic researched at the University of Toronto found microplastics as far away from civilization as the Arctic. So, it doesn’t matter that you personally don’t use any plastics, if the person in another country is still using it. The broken-down plastics will find their way to you, apparently. Obviously, this is all speculation, but scientists believe it’s probably what’s happening.

If you want to read the NPR article yourself here it is. It’s really alarming to think that plastics are in our air now, but that is something for you to have an opinion, or not, about. Tell your friends about this and make them aware of what is going on in our environment. This is in France, but the trade winds and all the other wind systems make these things travel to us or to you.

Until next time and don’t breathe too much! (haha…just kidding?)

Dani