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.
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.
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?
I want to say Happy Fourth of July, but I’m not sure if I’m feeling extremely patriotic. BUT that’s beside the point.
For some reason, this challenge has inspired me to go back to DIYing everything instead of ordering it off of Amazon and making more trash. I’ve been trying to find some zero waste skincare since my new job has required me to sweat almost all day. I forget every day when I come home to wash my face and don’t think I have the proper skincare products anyways for my type of skin.
I’ve always liked rosewater toners since they help balance the face’s pH and helps reduce excess oils, which I produce plenty of. Toners are meant to help remove the rest of the bad things on your face after you’ve exfoliated and cleansed it. It’s supposed to help bring back your face’s pH back to normal. All of the sprays that I’ve used previously or found online are packaged in plastic bottles, which are most likely not recyclable and I really wouldn’t know what to try to use it for.
I have one bottle currently that I can definitely use though, which inspired me to find a recipe online. I say recipe, but it’s really just a methodology on how to make my own rose water that will be good for my skin. So I found one. This one by Going Zero Waste. I went out and got myself some red roses, for decoration and for this recipe. I found myself some witch hazel, which I had never used before, but apparently is really good for cleansing your face.
I put around 6-7 roses-worth of rose petals in a small pot and filled it with filtered water from my fridge. Remember that this is going on your face, so if your tap water isn’t the best, make sure to use filtered water. I set it to simmer on low and covered it with a lid. And left it there to do its thing, for around 30 minutes, checking in on it every so often. You will notice the color of the petals changing and the water’s color changing, too. I poured the water into a sangria bottle we had laying around at home and mixed equal parts witch hazel and rose water. I waited until it had cooled down a little bit and put it in the fridge to cool. Everywhere that I’ve read recommends keeping your rosewater toners and such in the fridges to keep them cool and help maintain their benefits.
The next thing I worked on were cotton rounds. I have been dying to buy some anywhere so I can stop using my towels for cleaning my makeup off. I finally found a good alternative to makeup remover, the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm. It came as a sample in some sort of birthday thing at some point months ago and I still have at least half of it left. It’s a little bit pricier, but it seems to last a surprisingly long time. I do have to disclaim that I don’t wear a full face of makeup, I just wear eye making most of the time, but it seems to do an incredible job of removing that without insane amounts of rubbing or the need for wipes after.
The second thing I’ve found that helps me reduce my waste when it comes to skin care are Makeup Eraser towels. Ulta sells a cheaper alternative, but they are incredible. They have to sides: one to remove makeup and the other to exfoliate. You can use them for months and years and wash them when they get too dirty in the laundry. It’s incredible and I highly recommend it.
Anyways, I decided that it was time to make my own cotton rounds so I could use them with my new rosewater toner and any other skincare items that I might need to use on my face. I went out to Goodwill, the color of the week was yellow. I looked at the $1 T-Shirt men’s section to find any with the yellow tags that were 100% cotton. I found at least 6 of them and only paid $0.50 for each. I can make so many rounds with just one shirt. I made variations of two pieces, three, and four pieces. I definitely recommend three or four pieces and this way it’ll hold more of the liquid inside. It was fairly easy to get back into the swing of sewing with my mom’s sewing machine. Even the imperfect ones are still useful, so none of them will go to waste.
I am pretty proud of the two things I was able to make today that will help me reduce both my plastic waste and my general waste. If you have any questions about anything in this blog post, comment below or get in touch with me.
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….
I had not one…not two…not three, but FOUR PLASTIC STRAWS still in their wrapping.
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.
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.
That time of year where we have to discontinue our binge-watching and get our lives together for.
BACK TO SCHOOL!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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!
Well, some garbage, mainly plastic, has been drifting onto their beaches. I’m not talking about some garbage, I’m talking about A LOT of garbage!
Let’s talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch first, then we’ll get into what is happening in the Dominican Republic.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is this awful idea that some terrible humans had. They said “Hey! We have no more space for unrecyclable plastics in our landfills. Wait! There’s plenty of space in the ocean!” The GPGP is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s ocean. It’s between Hawaii and California. They estimate that 1.15 to 2.14 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Sinc plastic is less dense than water, the plastic just kind of floats on the top and creates a patch.
The GPGP really sucks because of its size. The big plastics that are in the ocean will eventually deteriorate into microplastics because of the sun exposure, waves, marine life, and even temperature changes. These microplastics are literally the worst thing ever because they’re so incredibly hard to remove and the marine animals confuse them for food…
So now that you know about the patches of plastic in our oceans (still the worst idea ever), let’s talk about the Dominican Republic.
This is what it looks like right now:
Beautiful? Nope. Depressing? You bet.
For a country that thrives on tourism of their beaches, this is probably a nightmare right now. So far, sixty tons of garbage has been collected on the beach since last week. Yeah, that’s only what they have collected. The garbage being collected has been mostly plastic bottles and Styrofoam takeout boxes. The worst two unrecyclable things in the world.
Apparently, they love to throw garbage in their rivers, which eventually ends up in the ocean and then it’s not their problem anymore, right? Wrong. It comes back in the form of garbage waves. It happens quite regularly actually. I just found this out through this New York Times article. Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley for the Oceans, says this happens especially when there is a strong rainstorm.
Single. Use. Plastic. Sucks. Guys!!!!
Now let’s talk about how to really stop using single-use plastic. Sure, you don’t get a straw with your drink anymore! Great! But what about your detergent bottle that you just threw out? Or the plastic bag you just took from Walmart? Or the tons of toothbrushes you throw out every year? And don’t even get me started about the Chinese takeout box that you just threw away…
It’s so hard to change something you’ve been doing your whole life, but it could really make a huge difference.
Be more conscious about what you use, accept to take, and then throw away. I know everyone has heard “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Those are steps: (1) Reduce the use of anything that you know won’t be recycled or reused, (2) Reuse that awful take out box and reuse that plastic bag, don’t just throw it away, (3) The last step, if you’ve done everything you can to not throw that detergent bottle away, recycle it.
Not every type of plastic can be recycled and that’s the biggest misconception. Everyone tries to recycle every plastic, but you can’t recycle all of it, hence the PATCHES OF PLASTIC IN THE OCEAN.
Your plastics have this the little recycle triangle with a number in it. The number is super important.
The image above is super helpful and provides some examples based on the number of the plastic. Save it to your phone and the next time you want to buy something that comes in plastic, it might help you decide whether or not to take it. If the plastic is not recyclable, maybe if you really need the product, you have to find something that it can be used for after you don’t need it anymore. Plastic 1 (PETE) is recyclable, but 25% of the bottles in the U.S. are recycled. So, yes, they are recyclable, but that does not mean that your country will recycle all of it.
My point is: if you can avoid buying it, then don’t do it. Sure, it can be more convenient to go to Publix and buy your detergent in the plastic bottle, but you can take a big mason jar to your local zero-waste store and you won’t feel guilty. Just think about that DR beach. You won’t want to buy it anymore.
You can shop from brands that support reducing plastic waste and actually act on it. Take Adidas, for example.
They partnered with Parlay for the Oceans to repurpose the millions of pounds of plastic currently polluting the world’s oceans. Instead of remaining waste, Adidas found a really cool way to use recycling to their benefit (the shoes are pretty cool, too). They actually are aiming to ONLY use recycled plastic when making their shoes by 2024. It’s already 2018, so yeah it seems far away, but come on…they’re trying. They are the only ones (at last shoe company) trying for real.
Be more aware and be more conscious about what you spend your money on. It might not affect you directly, but any day now we could have Garbage Beach here in the U.S. or in your country.
Today I had the chance, alongside Cesar, the other LHIP intern, to take out 20 latinos out into the swamp.
As an intern with the Latino Heritage Internship Program, we were tasked with creating some sort of event or program to help bring out Latinos into National Parks, ours being the Everglades. We decided that hosting an event would be the best idea.
I started with maybe hosting a night bike right through Shark Valley’s tram trail during the sunset…but that was kind of boring and something everyone does anyway.
My second idea was a slough slog! Earlier in the summer, I was able to go on a slough slog with my boss and the rest of the interns as part of our orientation of the park. Some of you might be thinking “What in the world is a slough slog?” Well…it’s the best way to experience the Everglades, in my opinion. It’s essentially a wet hike, but it’s not just a wet hike out into the sawgrass prairie. It’s a wet hike in waist deep water (my waist deep…I’m 5′ 2″) through a cypress dome. Cypress domes are the coolest things ever. They are composed of cypress trees.
They’re super skinny trees with giant bottom trunks. They like to grow in disturbed areas with a lower elevation than hardwood hammocks. Usually, in a cypress dome, there is an alligator hole where it all started. The trees in the center, closest to the alligator hole, tend to be the taller ones and as you move away from them, you start seeing shorter ones, thus, a cypress dome is created.
In our slough slog, we started out in the sawgrass prairie outside of the dome where you can find periphyton. When you first look at periphyton it looks like poop or something close to that, but really it’s all algae, bacteria, and little tiny organisms. Three kingdom groups in tiny, sponge-like material. They help filter the water as well and retain it when it is the dry season so the things inside of it can continue to grow.
Here we are popping our visitors’ slough slog cherry!
Everyone seemed pretty excited after a couple of minutes because it was the hottest day and the water was actually really refreshing. We stopped for a while and Ranger Dylann gave a talk about periphyton and how the domes form. We gave everyone some time to adjust and become accustomed to the floor and being in the water.
Once out of the sawgrass prairie, we moved into the cypress dome. We walked around and talked about the bromeliads (air plants), we found a butterfly orchid in bloom and a cigar orchid that seemed to be coming back to life after Hurricane Irma.
When we got deeper into the dome, one of our visitors, who apparently has an incredible eye for wildlife, found a barred owl on one of the cypress trees.
We continued and stopped every once in a while to admire the silence inside the dome. It was incredible to see other people, who love our National Parks and nature, enjoy something that to me has changed the way I see the Everglades. Since I have started my internship, I have now gone out to slough slog three times. Trust me, there will plenty of other times. If anyone out there lives near the Everglades and is tired of the same trails, go past the Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail and go into a cypress dome. Of course, if you are going to do this, don’t forget to let someone at the visitor center know.
It was so awesome to see so many young Latinos come out and want to try something new. Everyone was so trusting of us and just went right into the prairie, no questions asked. Sure it was the hottest day to this day, but everyone forgot about that the second we stepped foot in the dome.
We also had a super special guest at our event: John Morales. For those of you who are not aware of who John Morales is, he is the person who we, South Floridians, watch for out weather. He is the one we watch during hurricane season. He is the senior meteorologist at NBC 6/Telemundo. He is honestly one of my greatest inspirations. Like everyone else, he seemed to enjoy the experience, even dropping pins whenever we would stop so he could bring some friends on another day.
I really hope this event won’t be a one-time thing and that our local national park won’t forget that the majority of the population around it is made up of Latinos. Even though I won’t be with the park after my internship, until I graduate maybe, I want to leave an impact. I want the park to create a program where they do outreach for students my age who are mainly Latinos and have never been anywhere near the Everglades. I want everyone to come out and do something they would never do on their own. I want everyone to experience the Everglades the way that I have been able to this summer.
Visit your closest National Park. Be one with nature.