Less Waste: Nix Paper Towels All Together

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I have not bought paper towels in over a year. Mostly as a direct result of my steely drive to avoid all things disposable, as best I could. Partly, to save the planet, partly to save money. Which is all fine and good, since I’ve spent countless years throwing these sheets of paper like confetti on a new year’s eve, celebrating what, exactly, I’m not sure. Convenience?

I find paper towels to be extremely unnecessary. I tried to make a list of all the things I used paper towels for in the past, and I have found that I could always substitute a re-usable, washable, sturdier piece of cloth. For example, for wiping messy mouths and hands at the dinner table, substitute linen napkins. For wiping down newly washed dinnerware, substitute kitchen towel. For wiping down surfaces sprayed with chemically-laden cleaning supplies, substitute rags. For straining oil from deeply fried foods, leave it to a strainer. Or may I suggest, eliminate deeply fried foods? Except maybe for extremely moody days, when nothing will comfort you except freshly pipetted churros. Then, strainers it is.

Despite my history with paper towel use, I think there was always a part of me that was inclined against its extravagant use. I could thank my mother for this, as images of her tearing off corners of paper towel sheets, rather than the perforated lines that were meant to dictate how much could be used at a time, surface to my mind. As is the usual case, we turn into our parents whether we mean to or not. I remember when Mike and I started living together, and he noticed my funny paper towel use, something I was oblivious to. He asked one day, with a little exasperation in his voice, “Why do you tear them like that?” I look up, surprised at the jagged edges at the end of a paper towel roll hanging limply in the kitchen heat, not realizing what I had done. Reflexively, I answered, “So as not to waste it.”

When I decided to reduce waste, paper towels were one of the first things I let go. Nevermind that they were paper, which is a biodegradable material. They were unnecessary. That, and they seem to only come sold in plastic packaging. It seems that reducing waste and simplifying life came hand in hand in my story, so it was fairly easy to justify nixing the habit. What do we use instead?

Linen napkins, for every day dining.

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We got these for a wedding gift, and we use them all the time! Whether we are hosting for a party of twelve, or eating burgers by our lonesome selves, these are always at hand, you know, to stay proper and all. I love linen, mostly for the way it looks and feels. It softens up over time, and the grey color allows me to dig into barbeque sauces and dribble mustard without worrying about staining (as if I can help the dribbling!). Like all cloth alternatives, I simply toss these in the wash along with other towels and rags and call it a day.

Kitchen towels, from drying hands to drying dishes.

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These are always hanging from the cabinets, and each one has a designated role. The one under the sink is for wet hands, the one underneath the stove is for dry hands. There is one for drying dishes, and one for wiping down the coffee machines. Sometimes, they are used to cover resting dough, to keep the draft away. Sometimes they are used to top bowls of fruit left on the counter. Their uses are never-ending, and they are as reliable as an old friend.

Old tees, turned into rags.

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Last week, we were hosting our usual boardgame night at our loft, when as chance would have it, a friend knocks over a glass of beer amidst a dramatic hand-gesture, and then catches it mid-air, but alas, with beer sloshing all over the floor. As laughter fills the room and apologies are brushed to the side, Mike gets up from the table and grabs a kitchen rag. Or, in our case, an old tee. My friend immediately picked up on the cloth, and credulously inquired, “Did you just grab a T Shirt?!” To which we had to explain that, in order to reduce waste, we had re-purposed T shirts into useful cleaning supplies. The roommate herself even pitched in on the “up-cycling” and donated her own used tees to our communal rag pile sitting underneath the sink. “I guess…”, the guest says dubiously. But when the beer spills for the second time that day, up the guest gets and grabs the tee and wipes down the mess. Which goes to show that habits can easily be shifted, perceptions easily changed, differences easily made. So what if it’s not glamorous, or matching, or new. It’s functional, and practical, and kind to the environment.

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An old tee, catching the drips from a bamboo drying rack.

How about you guys? Ways to rid of paper towel use? How many years abstinence have you got? Words of wisdom welcomed.

For the curious, we absolutely love our collapsible bamboo dish rack, easily stored when guests are over and brought out on a busy weeknight. We got ours from Mother’s Market, but a similar one can be found here. The grey linens are a wedding gift from Restoration Hardware, although similar and more ethically made ones can be found here.

Less Waste: For All Menstruating Persons, with Lunette

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

It undertook a lot of internal debating (a few months worth, actually!) before I had enough guts (read as wits?) to start writing this review about my beloved Lunette cup. The hesitation, off course, came from a silly, socially-instilled instinct to be wary of ever saying the word period outside the context of grammar class, literary works, and historical recitations. We’ve been taught that periods are something to be ashamed of, and not talked about. (Also taboo, sharing personal stories about monthly cycles, esp. for the entire world to read.) But while the topic of Mother Nature remains uninvited to dinner parties with the in-laws, I figure that my blog already teeters between the norm and the unspoken, so I might as well bridge that gap here and feel all the more relieved about it. In fact, I would consider it a social responsibility to alert all menstruating persons of the existence of Lunette period cups (ah, that felt much better, writing it aloud), and to speak about Mother Nature openly for the sake of Mother Earth. Why keep the silence when half of the population consists of menstruating persons?

Before Lunette cups….

I struggled about the monthly wasteful habits I was engaging in. Specifically, single-use tampons in plastic capsules and the occasional single-use pads.  TMI? Read on anyways. If you think about it, assuming each menstruating person uses an average of 4 tampons a day for seven days a week, twelve times out of a year, for thirty seven years, basic math tells me that each menstruating human uses 12,432 tampons over the course of time that Mother Nature chooses to visit. Multiply that number by all humans favoring tampons, and you’ve got a whole lot of tampon plastic applicators covering up that landfill. Now, not everyone prefers this method, so say they use pads instead. The math comes to something similar, and the visual of a piece of land covered with a mountain of pads is just as stark. So when I started to consider the planet’s needs and wants, I started to fret about my monthly decisions.

I considered many different alternatives.

First, I switched to recycled pads and tampons without plastic applicators. But still, knowing that I threw these away at the end of the day really bothered me. Then, I thought of the reusable rags that remind me of medieval times. A doable deed, but then I didn’t love the idea of walking around in soaked rags all day, and what of swimming? So then I looked into underwear that is made from materials that soak up the leaks. A fan of the new wave engineering, but then what of the smell? This post just gets worse and worse doesn’t it? And still, it didn’t solve my problem with the swimming. (Why the obsession with swimming you may ask. In high school, I was part of a swim class that required me to be in a pool every day, at a time when I was just starting recurring menstrual cycles. So yeah, the problem of periods and swimming still go hand in hand, and always will.) But as with everything that seems like it can’t get any worse, eventually, it gets better.

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I found Lunette cup…

…right when I was about to give up. If I am being completely honest, what caught my attention at first was the fact that I could choose whatever color I wanted. This post is becoming all around shameless. For new users, what is a menstrual cup you may ask. For lack of a better image, think of a literal cup used to catch your flow. It’s reusable, safe, odorless, eco-friendly, and most importantly, comfortable. So comfortable I forget about Mother Nature all together, for up to twelve hours at a time! Which is such an upgrade from the typical 4-6 hours with other single-use tampons and pads.

The first question that I asked was, “How safe?” We’ve all been taught to care about the food that goes into our bodies, so why not the other things too? Lunette cups are made from medical-grade silicone that is FDA approved, hypoallergenic, toxin-free, durable, and isn’t harmful to human tissue. This Finnish company has thought of it all!

The next question obviously is how to use. The packaging comes with a very simple diagram with light verbage to walk every first user through the steps. After washing your hands (duh!), you simply fold the silicone cup and insert, allowing you to go about your day for up to twelve hours, worry free! Depending on one’s flow rate, you may have to remove and empty the cup more often than twelve hours. For convenience, there are two cup sizes, one larger than the other to accommodate heavier flows so that days are not bogged down with emptying cups. Once emptied, rinse, and repeat. The rinsing simply involves using cold water and then hot water. If you are concerned about needing to do this at a public restroom with only one common sink area, Lunette has got you covered with their Lunette CupWipes! But honestly, 12 hours is a long time, so as long as you remember to empty right before you leave the house and right after you get home, then there really is no need for the CupWipes. Then again, not everybody is a homebody. At the end of the cycle, I always boil my menstrual cup in a pot of water for 20 minutes. Lunette sends a small pouch with every purchase to store your cup in during non-menstruating days, which allows me to carry it around at all times, in case of surprise visits.

So now, the specifics…

…to the Lunette cup for me personally. TMI continues. And yes, I created questions for myself, then answered them. This is such a peculiar post…

  • Color: Pink! Erm, well, violet, technically.
  • Size: Lunette Size 1. This is the smaller size. I am 5’1″ and am barely over 100 pounds. I chose this one because to me, it seems it would be more comfortable for my petite frame.
  • How many times do you empty the cup? 4 times a day for the first few days, 2-3 times for the later days. I could probably empty it less frequently if I get the larger size.
  • How long have you been using the Lunette Cup? I have been using Lunette cup for the past four months. I can’t believe I have lived so many years without one!
  • Have you ever used their cleaning products? No, not yet. I find that boiling the cup upon first receiving it and after every cycle is sufficient.
  • Is there a time where you’ve found it inconvenient? Yes. Only once. When we traveled to Mexico City and I was not confident that faucet water was as bacteria free as I would like. I had to keep waiting for a time and place where I was able to take a bottled water into a private bathroom with me and use that to rinse the cup. This may have been the only time I would have bought the cleaning products, if I thought of it ahead of time.
  • Is it difficult to use? No! The learning curve is flat as a valley, it’s so easy! And it teaches you so much about your anatomy. I think we all need to start learning more about our bodies, in general, instead of always trying to hide away from it. I think everyone should give this a try.

For those interested in trying Lunette for the first time, use the code EarthDay18 to get 20% off of all Single Lunette Cups! Feeling charitable? Try the Charitable Buy One, Give One Menstrual Cup, benefitting girls and women in need around the world. 

Getting to Know: Lindsey McCoy and Alison Webster of Plaine Products

Zero Waste Tumeric Red Lentil Fritters Tomato Bowl with Tahini Dill Sauce

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Rumor has it that my co-worker’s wife makes the best lentil soup, and vegan friends have sworn that lentils make for an amazing alternative to meat, whether in burgers or in meat-less meatloaves. So when Mike came across a recipe for Lentil Fritters and voiced a willingness to try a vegetarian alternative to meatballs, I decided to give it a go. This recipe in particular included tumeric, a spice that previous to this post, I have not tried for myself, despite seeing it on every shelf at Mother’s Market and Whole Foods in every edible form imaginable. The benefits of tumeric still escapes me, so anybody able to shed light on this is entirely welcome to! Either way, while curiosity killed the cat, in this case, it got two humans to try a vegan meal in a normally very-non-vegan house.

Happily, I was able to get all ingredients in zero-waste fashion from the bulk aisle of our local Whole Foods. Initially, there was no inkling amongst the both of us that lentil was a grain. For some reason, I always imagined a leafy green. But we finally found it after a quick Google search, and carted away red lentils, chia seeds, and unhulled sesame seeds in self-brought containers. Determined not to buy pre-packaged tahini sauce, I decided to be generous in the sesame seed purchase, so that I could make tahini from scratch at home. And in my efforts to continue with the zero waste, we used some day old bread to create the bread crumbs that we needed to add some texture to the fritters. Biased-ly enough, any recipe that allows me to curb landfill waste is a great one! So I hope you enjoy the nutty, seedy, earthy fritters atop a refreshing bed of salad as much as we did.

Ingredients:

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Seedy Lentil Fritters
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/3 tsp or more cayenne
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, washed and drained
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup packed chopped spinach
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

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Tahini Dill Sauce
  • 3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
Bowl
  • Lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes & cucumbers

The Process:

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. DSC05007
  2. Add all the spices and drained lentils. mix and cook for only a minute.
  3. Add salt and water and cook for 11 minutes partially covered. Uncover, fold in spinach and parlsey and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and all the liquid is absorbed. The mixture will be soft. Taste and adjust salt and heat.

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  4. Add chia seeds and sesame seeds and mix in. Chill the lentil mixture for half an hour (in our case, we just placed it right in the fridge!)

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  5. Meanwhile, make croutons from day old bread using our Basic Crouton Recipe. Once croutons come out of the oven, crush them using either mortar and pestle, or a rolling pin.  DSC05056
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 deg F / 220ºc. Mix in 1/4 cup breadcrumbs in the lentil mixture. The mixture will be soft but should get easily shaped into soft balls without too much sticking or squishing.

  7. Once the lentil mixtures have been shaped into fritters, place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to rub olive oil over the surfaces, for an extra crisp texture. Bake for 20 minutes.

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  8. Blend everything under tahini sauce in a food processor, starting with toasted sesame seeds and olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients after the tahini sauce has reached the desired consistency. Taste and adjust, adding salt and lemon as needed. For a garlicky dressing mix in 1/4 tsp garlic powder.DSC05040
  9. Assemble the bowl with greens, juicy tomatoes or cucumbers, and as many Lentil fritters as you like. Drizzle dressing generously.

This makes way more fritters than necessary for a party of two. Good news is that they refrigerate quite well. Reheating in a toaster oven makes them good as new, so batch cooking these babies can really come in handy on a busy day. I would also venture to predict that future self will be substituting these for beef patties, on the regular.

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Refill, Reuse, Rejoice with Plaine Products

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I’ve already said my piece here regarding reducing plastic waste in my daily hygiene routine, by switching to bars of shampoo and conditioner and soap. But what of lotion? What of wintry dry skin, flaking away at the shudder of a cold, harsh winter wind? We live in sunny Southern California, but nonetheless, sensitive, scaly skin prevails in this dry desertland. Surely, there is no lotion bar? At the very least, I have yet to discover it.

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There is, however, the introduction of a new company called Plaine Products. Focused on the idea of reusable containers, sisters Lindsey and Alison Delaplaine created a way to offer shampoo, conditioner, body wash, AND lotion in aluminum reusable bottles. The stuff itself is quite lovely and aromatic, with two scent options. A rosemary, mint, and vanilla combination for the fall and winter, and a citrus lavender for the spring and summer, or so I like to think. Associate with the scents whatever seasons tickle your fancy. I must admit that I was ready for an alternative that would allow me to switch back to liquid conditioners. Bar soap shampoos are fine in my book, but my hair was starting to hang a bit too heavy, giving it a sadder appearance than my cheery personality would like. Nothing Plaine Products couldn’t save. After one day of switching to liquid shampoo and conditioner, the flounce of the hair has been returned. And the lotion has got my skin feeling silky, without my conscience feeling plastic-guilt. It’s a thing, I swear!

The concept behind the refillability (not a word?) of the bottles is simple. It’s a wonder why it is not more widely implemented. A subscription can be shipped to your door in a box (made of 95% post-consumer waste and 5% post-industrial waste), which can act as the same vessel to return your already used and empty bottles back to the company. The bottles are then refilled, thus giving them a new life. You can opt to order the new bottle without the pump, if you already own a pump that’s easily reusable. The box is reused, the bottle is reused, and the plastic pump is reused. Multiply that to account for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion, and we’ve got ourselves quite an impact. Currently, face wash, hand wash, and face moisturizer products are in the works.

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In an effort to be all around environmentally friendly, the contents are well considered. The products avoid animal testing of any kind, is devoid of sulfates, parabens, and pthalates, and is designed to biodegrade more easily than typical, chemical products. The specifics of the contents can be found here, if microanalysis of such details are your thing, just as they are mine. Proudly vegan, the main component of their products are none other than Aloe Vera. The same extract that my mom would scrape from the plant leaves and weave into our hairs before a night’s rest. Less sticky, less messy, less fuss and crying and wails of discontent (sorry mom!).

I must admit, I do still have to deal with the internal struggle of whether the back-and-forth shipping of subscriptions really outweighs the long-term consequences of the plastic that never degrades. The elusiveness of the topic at large feeds the frustration I feel when well-intentioned actions are unclear in their effects. It’s as if a cloud is purposefully shifted above the whole matter, making it difficult to really measure the impact of hauling our goods versus increasing plastic waste, which alternatively blankets our ability to measure the opposite as well. While we could discuss this topic for a long time and perhaps stay stagnant in our search for an answer, I would like to say that for now, Plaine Products gives us plastic-avoiders a welcome alternative. As does nixing shampoo all-together, a step I admittedly am not ready to make.

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Care to give them a try? Order your first Plaine Products today! The shipping was quick, and hassle-free, with an option to subscribe to their products for regularly spaced deliveries, if simplicity is kind of your thing.

This post was sponsored by Plaine Products. All opinions are my own.