#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

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 5: Carbon Footprints!

Have you ever wondered about carbon footprints? Maybe you want to offset your emissions somehow…well it’s a thing you can do and I talk a little bit about it on this episode!

Episode 4: Twenty-Something Environmentalists

Hey guys! I’m finally back with another episode. I know it’s been quite some time since I posted one, but it has been a couple of crazy weeks for me. Nonetheless, I’m back with another episode and this time I’m accompanied by one of my fellow classmates, Adrian Figueroa. He is a senior, like me, at Florida International University studying Environmental Studies. We kind of talk a little about everything relating to our field and what it is like being environmentalists in this world and at our age. We touch on some issues regarding diversity within our field and things that we would do to help move that forward.

I hope you enjoy this longer episode and I will talk to you guys in a week (hopefully!).

Until next time,

Dani

Episode 3: Zero Waste Journey

Hey everyone! I’m back with another podcast episode. I’m still trying to figure out what the best upload date and recording date is best for me. On this episode I discuss my journey to being zero waste so far. I’m far from being completely zero waste, but I’ve given you some tips and definitely tried to guilt you into becoming zero waste in this episode. I hope you enjoy it! Let me know if there are anythings you would want me to change or what other topics I can discuss on the podcast. If you would like to be on the podcast, don’t hesitate to comment and let me know!

Zero Waste Holiday Tips!

So, I’ve been AWOL for some time, but I’m back with some zero waste tips!

This holiday try not to forget your “zero-waste” mentality. I know it’s going to be really hard, but you have to try.

First thing is first: WRAPPING PAPER.

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That’s actually me every year when I see the two giant black (plastic) garbage bags only filled with wrapping paper at my house.

You might not know this but wrapping paper is really hard to recycle. Some can be recycled, but before recycling, you have to remove any sticky tape and decorations such as ribbons and bows as those things can’t be recycled. Wrapping paper can only be recycled if it passes the scrunch test. Simple wrapping paper can be recycled but foil or glitter-decorated paper cannot and needs to go in the general waste.

Those very thick wrapping papers generally cannot be recycled because there is some component to them that has plastic, aka it’s not simple paper.

Some great alternatives can be kraft paper. That brown paper that is easily recycled and looks like something your kids probably used in their kindergarten class to drawn on. You can easily customize the wrapping paper with drawings and designs, if you have the time, if not you can just wrap some burlap around it and make it some cute, rustic-feeling wrapping style.

If you use paper bags at the grocery store, you can also use that as gift wrapping and reuse!

Some other alternatives (that might be weird, but are recyclable):

  • Recycled paper
  • Newspaper
  • Scrap fabric
  • Old men’s button down
  • A bag that’s part of the gift
  • Vintage scarf
  • Pretty dish cloth
  • Literally any fabric-like thing

You can decorate your wrapping with real plants, old jewelry, sticks, or cards written on recycled paper or cardboard to amp up that rustic style.

If you want to splurge on some fancy recycled wrapping paper, the Container Store has some at their stores.

This was wrapped with an old men’s button down. Picture from trashisfortossers.com

If you’re going to insist on going out and buying something new to use for wrapping, try to use gift bags. Those are always reusable and if you or the person receiving the gift is anything like my family, that gift bag will be reused over and over again. This does not reduce the waste, but it definitely delays it.

You can use reusable bags, like a cotton produce sack, that the present receiver will be able to use after opening their gift.

A produce bag. Picture from trashisfortossers.com

Here is a video on how to use fabric to wrap presents, it’s a little overwhelming, but at the end of the day, you are going to be reducing your waste…even if it takes a little longer to wrap.

Besides the wrapping paper, tape is also another major waste product that comes with the holidays. Paper tape is easily accessible and can be a great alternative to normal plastic tape. You can also use twine or any other (plastic-free) type of cord to close your present.

Recycled paper/Kraft paper can be used to make the card for the outside of the present.

I know it takes a little bit more effort, but you have to care just a little bit. The amount of wrapping paper that gets thrown out is insane. Americans throw away 25% more trash during Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of the year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million TONS of garbage, or about 1 MILLION EXTRA TONS PER WEEK.

If you’re not sure what to give people around you, you can try to go to the Package Free Shop. They have some really handy Zero Waste Kits that are easy gifts and come with their own reusable bag. You can encourage those around you to start their own zero-waste journey!

I hope these quick zero-waste holiday tips help you be zero-waste this holiday season.

Happy holidays!

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Dani

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

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

I’ve been away for around a week and for good reason.

This summer I had the chance to be an intern at Everglades National Park through a program called Latino Heritage Internship Program, LHIP for short. I was one of two LHIP interns at the Everglades. My job was to work with the education department and help them make their Nike Missile Site Program better.

I had the chance to explore new places in the park and around the park. Sadly, my internship has come to an end. To conclude it, LHIP hosted a conference in Colorado.

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We started our conference in Denver, Colorado in the Intermountain Regional Office for the National Parks Service. We got workshops relating to USAjobs.com and federal resumes. We also had the chance to present to the other 42 interns about our projects or what we spent all summer working on or doing. After the workshop, we started our travel to Boulder, Colorado, where we would have dinner and drive to Estes Park to sleep. Estes Park is the town right before Rocky Mountain National Park on the east side of the mountains.

The plan for the Rockies was to get an exclusive tour of the park since only one of the interns within the program had been working there. We had three “breakout sessions” where the group would be split into three and each person was able to go to two sessions. The three were fire and rescue, llamas, and trail maintenance. I chose the trails and llamas (of course). We were able to see how the rangers in the park are able to keep the park clean and maintained. They use horses for trail work and llamas for the backcountry bathrooms since the park is composed of mountains and you can’t exactly get up there by car.

Here are some pictures of the llamas. We were able to walk them and be with the three llamas that the park leases for a couple of months. Their names were Dorito, Wilson, and Hector.

We were also able to make some stops before getting to the breakout sessions.

The park rangers that guided us took us to the highest peak in the park, where the altitude was no joke.

This trip was an incredible experience. I was able to connect with 41 other Latinos who were also heavily interested in working towards saving our environment. I had never been around a group as incredible as this. We all connected right away and still talk to each other every now and then. We’re already planning a reunion!

The point of this blog wasn’t just to talk about my trip, but to maybe persuade you to going to the closest national or state park. Get out and experience nature for an hour or a whole day. Disconnect and enjoy what this earth has provided you with. Get out there and find your park!

Until next time,

Dani

Why should we care about the environment?

I think this question has a pretty simple answer: if we don’t, then we will seize to exist.

Morbid, but true. Our overall temperature is increasing. I remember sometime in 2014, scientists were saying that if we increased in overall temperature by two degrees Celcius, then we were all going to burn to a crisp. Here we are, in 2018, just a degree away from the two. If that doesn’t make you care about the environment, then I honestly don’t know what will. According to NASA, 2017 was 0.9 degrees Celcius warmer than average temperatures. THAT’S ALMOST A WHOLE DEGREE!! IN JUST ONE YEAR!!!

This video was from 2013, since I couldn’t actually save the 2017 one (which I linked in the above paragraph).

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The Earth is warming up people!

Yes, using and throwing away plastic is awful because it ends up in ocean and in fish and eventually in our bodies, but there is another reason why single-use plastic sucks: it’s made from fossil fuels.

If that sentence didn’t just give you an epiphany, then let me break it down (see it what I did there? It’s punny) for you further.

Plastic in the United States is now most commonly sourced from the nation’s production of “abundant and affordable” natural gas. Natural gasses like ethane and propane. Do those sound safe? Because they’re not. These are also byproducts of petroleum. So, yes, both the oil and gas industries in this country are so happy that this nation makes so many single-use plastics. This is also why they have not been banned in our country. Sadly, everyone in this country and its politicians only care about one thing: MONEY.

In the US alone, producers of polyethylene are expecting to increase production capacity by as much as 75% by 2022. Why? We don’t need to do that. This is why I’m trying to encourage everyone I know to stop using single-use plastic. All we’re doing is releasing awful toxins into our ozone layer. An ozone layer that is already being extremely polluted by our cars, our businesses, factories, trucks, and anything that releases carbon dioxide.

But carbon dioxide isn’t even the worst chemical we are releasing into the ozone. Methane! Cows release methane every time they go to the bathroom. So by eating less cow meat and products, you are decreasing the supply of cows needed to produce the products. Hence, you are already helping the environment so much.

Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, in terms of its contribution to global warming. I’m not telling you to become a vegan, because God knows I can’t do that, but maybe try eating more fish or find alternatives for meats. Veggie burgers are delicious. Almond milk is way better than cow milk and it makes you feel better. Chicken meat is just as versatile as red meat.

I’m not here to try and force you to do anything you don’t want to, but I am here to try and make you more conscious about your decisions and how it will affect the rest of the planet.

Sure, it’s easy to just say “oops forgot I can’t use this spoon” when you get one in your delivery, but it’s also easy to just use your own utensils and write in the Special Instructions box that you don’t need a plastic fork or a straw.

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I’ll leave you with this image by www. bezero.org that I think helps.

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I personally believe in all of you. If my posts make every one of you make a small change, I will have been successful. It’s hard, I know, but you can do it!

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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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