New Fascination: Zero Waste

I saw a video on Facebook the other week from the blog “Trash is for Tossers” about fitting 5 years of trash into ONE TINY JAR. Like. I throw more than a jar’s worth of trash away in a day. My question is… HOW? The answer is simple and not simple. You have to change your lifestyle to be able to go “Zero Waste”.

What is Zero Waste? Well, friends, it’s when the life you lead doesn’t produce garbage or trash that will end up in a landfill. But Roxanne, (you’re saying to yourself), how will I buy anything ever? There’s trash connected to everything we buy. Food comes in packages, tags are attached to clothes, and electronics come wrapped in plastic, heck when someone gives you a present it’s wrapped in bows and paper.

The first step: Assess your life and think about what it is you are throwing away, and how to limit that. Are you getting food in wrappers that are thrown away on a regular basis, like chips, protein bars, and juice bottles? Well, make those granola bars instead of buying the box of individually wrapped ones. Buy and use fabric produce bags to prevent taking a plastic bag every time you need a few apples. It’s all about being conscious of what you are doing on a day to day basis and choosing different products.

It’s all about making better choices. Making smarter, healthier, and more earth-friendly choices.

The 5 R’s of Zero waste: 

Refuse: Just say NO! No to plastic bottles of water, wrapped candies, straws in your drink, plastic bags at the store. Say no to plastic cups of beer at parties. Yeah bringing your own jar for a drink might look a little weird, but you aren’t making trash so let them look at you funny.

Reduce: You can cut back on the trash that you accumulate by making some simple purchases, like the items in the photo below. You can get your produce from the farmer’s market and reduce the amount of packaging you throw away. Shopping in the bulk area of the grocery store, getting local soaps, meats, and other package free products are a great way to start.

Recycle: This is an easy one to understand. Get things in recyclable packages, and recycle. Make an effort to not throw your recyclables in the trash. Also, buy things that are compostable, biodegradable, or eco-friendly. Buying local products didn’t come from a large plant and use fuel emissions to get shipped to you is another smart choice.

Reuse: Looks like you’re gonna have to spend money to save money. Get yourself some “Zero Waste” gear. Get reusable produce bags, grocery bags, jars for bulk food, reusable water bottles. ALSO start getting cozy with your local thrift store because this will be the best way to find awesome gently used clothes, furniture, and other household items.

Rot the Rest: Start a compost bin! There are a ton of ideas on the web for composting in small spaces, in your yard, and how to get started. Keep your food scraps and make them into the dirt to grow some herbs and veggies if you have a small apartment patio, or make a larger compost pile if you have an actual backyard.

Follow the Litterless blog and check out this post on how to get started. Litterless also makes a great point here about why to go zero waste: “I think it’s really critical for several reasons. First of all, trash doesn’t decompose in landfills – instead, it sits there more or less unchanged forever, belching out greenhouse gases like methane.”

Follow my “Off the Grid” Pinterest Board for Zero Waste ideas!

Remember, you CAN make a difference. One person at a time!

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The Greens, The Garden, The Greenhouse

After much talk and deliberation on what to do with our adult hoods, my fiancée  has decided to become a professional gardener. He switched careers from a professional chef, to wanting to grow the food that people cook. We talked about it and now is the time for him to follow his dreams of gardening, growing, and selling his produce to the local restaurants to help them buy, and cook local foods. It’s his way of giving back, and motivating people to know what they are eating, and eat healthy. He’s a forager, a grower, and a mad scientist of dirt.

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Matt has been growing the micro greens indoors all winter. He plans to move them into a greenhouse in our back yard. He and a business partner grow micro greens and deliver them to local restaurants that they use to garnish fancy dishes. The wheat-grass is delivered to a local health food restaurant, which they juice for customers to drink in smoothies, or as a shot.

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Watering the garden.

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When I visit him at the indoor garden, I get bored sometimes because gardening isn’t really my thing.

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We borrowed two of these storage hoop house frames from his family to put up in the yard. He ordered thick clear plastic to put over the tops, and a shade cloth for hot days. Matt and his friends then added grommets to the plastic to tie it to the greenhouse along the bottom with cable ties, and has left one side only attached to the greenhouse with bungee cords so he can roll it up when it gets too hot outside. He plans to rototiller the yard on the left of the greenhouse to plant in the ground.

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The greenhouse is up and running! The seed starters he started indoors under artificial light will be brought out here, and then put in the ground when they are ready. He’s started tomatoes, kale, spinach, and other great veggies. He’s got a few space heaters and fans in the greenhouse, and plans to move all of the indoor greens out here too. One location for everything will make his job easier!

Next: foraging for wild ramps and morels!

Foraging for Wild Ramps

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The Ramp in it’s natural habitat.

Dating a chef has opened my eyes to many new foods. Truffle salt, sautéed kale, scrambled eggs with sour cream mixed in, and wild ramps to name a few.So, what is a ramp? The wild ramps are a wild onion in the leek family that grow about 3 weeks out of the year then they are gone. They grow wild, in parks, and woods, in moist nutrient rich soil, and if you’re lucky, you can find them in your backyard in the city. They grow sometime in the month of May, depending on what the winter was like. This year, they came later. We are lucky enough to have them grow in his parent’s backyard in Door County. We can only pick them sporadically so they come back the next year which isn’t a problem, because there are too many of them to pick them all!

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All that you see that’s green are Ramps!

Ramps have a mild, onion flavor, rich in a fresh garlic scent when they are fresh from the ground. You can tell if what you have is a ramp or not when you pull it from the ground because of the look and smell. If it smells like an onion, it’s probably an onion. They grow in bunches, and you can’t just pull them, you need a shovel to pull the roots out. (This is a lot of work!) There is a white bulb at the end, and a purple stalk with a dirty thin membrane around the bulb that easily slides off for easy cleaning.

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Here you can see the purple stem and when the white bulb.

What can you do with a ramp? You can cook the WHOLE thing when they are fresh! (After a while the green part will wilt and you should discard it.) Peel the thin membrane off and cut off the roots, give them a wash, and they are good to go. Chop the whole thing and put them in mashed potatoes, or grill the ramp whole and eat next to some good grilled chicken or put on a bratwurst.

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The woods where we found the ramps was pretty gorgeous, even in the beginning of spring when the leaves weren’t on the trees yet.

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Collecting our ramps for later cleaning and distributing.

We sold the ramps to the restaurant we used to work for in Green Bay, and the one that the fiancée works for now. They will turn it into an awesome cream of ramp soup, and the restaurant that he works for now does an amazing ramp pizza with white sauce and mushrooms, a dish with grilled ramps and asparagus with a fried egg, and a wild ramp risotto. The fiancée even dehydrated them and powdered them for a year round flavor additive. If you get to experience ramps at a local restaurant or from a friend, how lucky you’ll be!

Happy foraging!

DIY: Rain Barrel

At the beginning of summer, boyfriend and I built a rain barrel out of an 55 gallon Rice Syrup barrel we got on Craigslist for just $8 a piece. We made a trip to Menards for the supplies we needed (we spent under $10!) Here’s what we got:

  • A on/off spout (shown in pictures below) with 1/2″ threading on the inside
  • 1/2″ rubber washer to go between the spout and the  barrel on the inside
  • A small piece of 1/2″ PVC that was threaded on the outside to fit into the spout and go on the inside of the barrel to hold the spout in place.
  • Supplies for the overflow: two pieces of 1/2″ coupling that screw into each other, and PVC that’s 1/2″ across, a 90 degree elbow to connect the pieces. I will show pictures of this below.

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Nothing too fancy, but it’ll do.

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 We cut a hole in the top of the rain barrel with a Saws All.

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We pre-drilled the four corners for the Saws All to go around easily. It’s about 10″ x 8″. The syrup was REALLY sticky and a little annoying to deal with throughout the project. Our arms got covered while even after rinsing it out.

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We used a hole saw bit to drill out the hole for the spout.

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I apologize again for not having a picture of the stuff we bought at Menards for the barrel! It’s pretty easy to explain though. This is an after picture of the spout on. We had to reach inside to screw the PVC coupler to the spout. It worked best to lay the barrel on the side while having your arm in there. We also got silicone glue that adhered to plastic.

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We propped the barrel on some pallet pieces and bricks to raise it up so that we can put a pitcher or bucket under the spout.

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Here’s the overflow. We plan to hook it up to a second rain barrel in the future. It almost always overflows when it rains. I’m still surprised we catch so much rain.

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Here’s a close up of the overflow. We simply drilled a hole in the side near the top, and got two coupling pieces that fit in each other to hold the PVC pipe. Make sure to get one with the hexagon on it that you can glue to the barrel. The other piece can screw into it from the inside.

The black tubes coming out of there are aerator stones to kill bugs and also kill chlorine when we have to fill the barrel with city water. We also have a system going on here with drippers that take the rain water and pull it from the barrel with a pump, and there are little drippers coming out of the tubing that are laying along the roots of a lot of the plants and they are watering them automatically. I would have to ask boyfriend how all of that works exactly. He’s the mad scientist of the garden. I just help.

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The top isn’t anything too fancy. We can’t really glue the screen down because we need to be able to pull the aerator stones out if need be and stick a hose in.

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Here you can see the barrels in the top left corner of the photo. The dripper system comes out, and waters the pallets.

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Here it is! Our $18 rain barrel. Happy gardening!

Project: Backyard Garden- Part 4

It’s August and the garden is in full swing! I’m so excited to finally be harvesting some goodies in the backyard. I got so excited in fact, that I went out and bought fresh Mozzarella and Balsamic for Caprese salads we can make with the tomatoes and basil in the garden.

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Here’s a view from above. I love the stones and the mulch really makes it pretty.

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Here’s a view from above that shows the pallets on the garage wall. They have really exploded in the last week!

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Don’t know where this guy thought he was going…

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Always my favorite, snap peas. These didn’t last long in the garden when I was a kid because I would sneak outside and eat them off the branches.

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The yellow zucchini is finally growing! For a while I thought we got a plastic starter plant…

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So that entire bush is cherry tomatoes. We’ve been bringing them in by the handful.

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This is the first batch of hundreds.

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So we got all this mulch for FREE when boyfriend’s grandfather cut down an old birch in his front yard. We got the chopped up stump and it has been doing a great job of keeping the weeds at bay. And it’s gorgeous. More so than the hay we had down before.

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I love that we haven’t bought lettuce in weeks. We have our own little lettuce patch.

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I love this view. We decided to yank the radishes out because they took up too much space for the small amount of yield.

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Basil! I don’t know what it is about the smell of basil but it makes me so happy. This picture was taken just after we harvested 3 pounds for the restaurant boyfriend is head chef at.

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The very pretty free mulch surrounds the tiny “watermelon” coleas and right beyond that is our carrot patch. The tomatoes coming out of the pallet are getting a little out of control…

Do you have a garden in your backyard? Or, front yard? What do you grow? Happy gardening!

Project: Backyard Garden, Part 3

I have to say, after a month or so of hard work, (mostly on the boyfriend’s behalf), the garden is looking awesome!

Garden collage 2Here’s a before and after from just a month ago, and today. I’m amazed! The pallets are growing like crazy! We already went and pulled lettuce and arugula off the top pallet shown to make a salad the other day.Garden Collage

Here’s another before and after. The bottom before and after shows the patio we re-assembled that cost me half a fingernail.

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The onions are coming up really nicely. We got a starter pack at the Home Depot for those.

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One little yellow zucchini!

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Mint. I’m ready for Mojitos.

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Those tomatoes are taller than me. Taller than boyfriend. Who is over 6 feet tall. I remember him planting them in the fall and seeing them grow to what they are now.

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MORE tomatoes. We will soon have enough to start a small italian restaurant.

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We built this A-Frame out of two pallets and filled it with dirt, and basil plants.

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We built a rain barrel out of a 55 gallon food grade tub we got on Craigslist for $8. We got about $10 worth of parts at the home depot to finish it off. I’ll do a post about that next!

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No strawberries yet, but when it happens, I can’t wait!

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And this may be my favorite part of the yard… The patio, the path, my patio furniture put to use! I can’t wait to start harvesting the cucumbers, snap peas, strawberries, carrots, onions, radishes, lettuce, arugula, herbs, zucchini, broccoli, peppers… and the many other investments we’ve made in the yard! Happy Gardening!

Temporary Outdoor Sofa with Pallets

Catching a cold as of late, boyfriend told me to take it easy. How am I supposed to hold up on the sofa when it’s 65 degrees and sunny out? I decided to make a little makeshift sofa out of materials laying around so I could “get rest” outside while he gardened.

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We had some pallets in the yard from a project we hadn’t started on yet. I leaned one up against the fence, and stacked the others.

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We happen to have a sofa in the garage that didn’t fit into the apartment. It’s not in the best shape, so I’m not calling it a complete loss. But I didn’t want to toss it, so in the garage it sits. I took the cushions and placed them on top to make a “sofa”.

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You could bring out your own cushions, I suppose to do this yourself, or for guests.

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I set it up in a cozy spot under the trees.

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The view from the sofa.

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Our little farmer wanted to join. Happy outdoor napping!