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

Latino Conservation Week 2018 – Everglades National Park

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.

These guys:

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Until next time,
Dani

(Photo credits to Cesar Zamora and myself)

 

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