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

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

Shopping: Plastic-free!

One of the hardest things to adjust to is bringing my own reusable bag everywhere I go. It’s so hard to not forget it, especially because we are so accustomed to just conforming to the norm of receiving plastic bags. Well, it’s time to break that terrible habit.

Here’s why:

For starters, oceans. Everything about the oceans. The animals, the actual water in the ocean, the reefs, everything. Sea turtles eat jellyfish and jellyfish look very similar to plastic bags. We might be able to tell the difference, but the sea turtles can’t. When they digest them, it causes blockages within their digestive system and eventually, they will die because of it.

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On the left, a plastic bag. On the right, jellyfish.

Plastic bags are petroleum-based and so they don’t biodegrade. According to the EPA, Americans use more than 380 BILLION PLASTIC BAGS! BILLIONS!!!! A 2015 study estimated that there are more than 15 TRILLION pieces of plastic trash in the ocean.

Now that you know all of those super depressing facts, let’s talk about how to change our habits and thus using less plastic.

If you shop anywhere, you can find reusable cloth bags. Walmart sells them for a dollar. H&M sometimes has them on sale for $0.50. Ross has the big ones for $2. You can find them anywhere for less than $5 each. They sell them in different sizes so you can use them wherever and for whatever.

When you shop for groceries, think about how many produce plastic bags you use….it’s probably a lot. What you can do is just bring your reusable bag or you can spend $5 on a pack of 5 reusable produce bags from Target. You can use one bag for more than one vegetable or fruit and so you won’t need many.

You can also try to stop buying cherries in plastic bags. Cherries don’t need to be in plastic bags. They have this super cool natural skin that protects their insides. Wow, nature is great! But seriously, you don’t need to have cherries in a plastic bag or grapes or strawberries in a plastic container. Try to go to farmer’s markets where they don’t put their produce in plastic containers.

If you can avoid it, try to not buy things that are obviously not supposed to be in plastic containers. Did you ever read that article about the peeled oranges in a plastic container? It was from Whole Foods….so people make mistakes? Sure, but sometimes those mistakes end up with animals being found on the beach with dozens of pounds of plastic in their stomachs.

You can also avoid plastic bags through buying in bulk or at package-free stores like Whole Foods. They have a section in their stores where you can bring your own container (I love using mason jars since they’re glass and serve many purposes), tare it (zero the weight), pour your food in it and then pay by the pound. I think most Whole Foods only have things like oats, chocolate covered almonds, quinoa, possibly rice, trail mix, and other such things. Just by doing this, you can already reduce half of your plastic waste when shopping.

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I could talk about this for days, but I will leave you with what I have written for now. If you have any questions, comment them down below!

Until next time,

Dani

Verde Market – Wynwood, Miami, FL

Since working at the Everglades, I have made some new friends who, like me, are very aware of their waste. We talk a lot about how we always get side-eyed when we tell the Publix cashier that we don’t need plastic bags.

It looks something like this:

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We talk about starting our own composts and how difficult that could be depending on your living situation.

We also talk a great deal about zero-waste supermarkets because if there is one thing we really hate is pasta inside a plastic bag. Or cherries inside a plastic bag. Or grapes or anything that has a natural shell, inside a plastic bag.

Yes, Whole Foods has things in bulk where you bring your own container and fill it up, but I live in Kendall and the only Whole Foods in Miami is in Coral Gables (approximately 45 minutes away with traffic). Sure, Wynwood is not any closer, but a new store of this kind opening up gives me hope for the future of zero-waste stores in Miami.

Verde is owned by two Latina women, one from Mexico and one from Colombia (like me!). They were tired of having to make such an effort to live waste-free and so they dwelled on starting their own business for two years until they finally decided to go for it! The store is not the biggest, but they do have some things that Whole Foods don’t.

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They have SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER IN PUMPS!!! Let me explain why this is exciting. I have thick Latina hair and those Lush shampoo bars are not cutting it. Their shampoos and conditioners are all organic and made of just the right stuff. They also have bulk dish soap, all kinds, too.IMG-4318

 

They have metal straws, every type of wooden brush you would ever need, their own plant spices growing right there. OH! and they have a nut butter-making machine! They have all of the nuts you would want to but in your nut butter and then you just make it (One of their employees gave me a great tip on making nature Nutella…)!

Since today was my first visit, I only purchased the things I was looking for originally. I still have some shampoo left, but I needed some conditioner. Their conditioner is $1.12 per oz. I purchased some Castille soap, which works for everything, but mainly as a body soap. This was $0.45 per oz. The last thing I purchased and created was my very own trail mix. I think this must have been the most expensive item that I bought, but it was still relatively cheap. The only price I can remember were the peanuts, which were $4.99. I obviously did not buy a pound of just peanuts, but my trail mix did fit in my 1/2 gallon mason jar. My total for everything ended up being $22.56.

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Left: Conditioner, Right: Castile Soap

 Thinking about my regular conditioner, body soap, and trail mix (that all come in plastic containers), I would have spent around the same, if not more, but this is guilt free.

Typically:

OGX Coconut Milk 25 oz. bottle = $11.99

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap – Unscented 32 oz. = $15.49

Planters Nut Trail Mix (for only 6 oz.) = $5.99

Total = $33.47

Tell me you see the difference…

In conclusion, stop making excuses. If you live in Miami, FL and want to start removing plastic from your life, this is a great way to start. If this is too far, then find your nearest farmer’s market, grab your reusable grocery bag, and get to reducing your plastic waste.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments!

Until next time,

Dani

Why zero-waste?

Two years ago, I was still using those awful single-use straws. I was drinking Starbucks three times a week and each time I would use a new cup. I wouldn’t even bother recycling it. Not because I didn’t want to, but because there are no recycling bins at Starbucks.

I saw a video one time…you know, the one where the turtle has a straw in its nose and there’s blood everywhere? That one. (I’ll link it for those of you who don’t know which video I’m talking about). It’s a terrible video and I cry every time I watch it.

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We are doing this. There is no one else to blame. Elephants don’t use straws. Chimps don’t use straws. No other animal uses straws except for us. And the problem isn’t even just the straws. It’s just plastic, Styrofoam, non-recyclable items that are the problem.

I know we all live very busy lives and we are not always aware of home much waste we are creating in a day, but trust me, it’s a lot.

Here are some eye-opening facts that might help you stop the use of plastic.

– Over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement and ingestion.
– In the United States, we throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour – about 42,000 per minute, and about 695 per second.
– It takes 500 years for average sized water bottles to fully decompose.
– According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year. To put that in perspective, it’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year.

It’s not easy, I know. I am still struggling. I could watch 60 videos on the people who have achieved the zero waste lifestyle and still forget to reject a plastic knife for my bagel at Starbucks.

Hopefully, this blog will help you reach some of your person zero-waste goals. I know I still have a lot to go so this will be a learning experience for both of us.

Until next time,
Dani