Water-Only Hair Washing

When I first got into zero waste a couple of years ago, I quickly discovered the baking soda method for hair washing, sometimes called “no poo”. It involves mixing a small amount of baking soda with warm water and then using that to cleanse your hair, followed by a rinse of very diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV).

The thing that intrigued me was the suggestion that using convential shampoo regularly actually causes your hair to get oily more quickly. As someone who couldn’t go more than a couple of days without washing due to oil buildup in my hair, I was totally onboard with trying this out.

Initial attempts left my hair very dried out, but that was resolved by using less baking soda. And then immediately out of the shower my hair would sometimes already feel greasy, but that I discovered by experimentation was the result of too much apple cider vinegar. Other than these lessons learned, my hair didn’t go through the adjustment period that I heard about everywhere else. Then again, maybe I just had lower expectations for my hair. As long as my hair wasn’t brittle or really greasy, I was happy.

I had been diluting the mixtures more gradually. A year after moving to this BS/ACV method, I was finally ready to get rid of the ACV rinse entirely. After a couple of experiments, this change turned out to be totally fine!

A few more months down the road, I ditched the baking soda. Again, no big difference because I was just moving from a super diluted solution to pure water. The baking soda has to be mixed fresh with the warm water to be effective, so I was super glad to simplify this part of my hair washing routine.

At this point, my hair washing routine involves massaging my scalp with warm water at the start of my shower. Then at the end of the shower I switch to cold water and massage my scalp under the water with my head upside down. I read somewhere that this gives your hair more body, but I’m not sure that’s effective. My hair looks the same either way.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably ready to see the results.

My hair one day after washing with water.

My hair at the end of the week (right before washing again).

Pretty consistent, huh?

Unfortunately, we already have highs in the 80s here in central Texas. And since one of my hobbies is gardening, that means I’ll be sweating a lot more very soon. So my once-a-week hair washing routine is about to become a twice-a-week hair washing routine. Still, it feels really good to be free from store-bought shampoo and conditioner. It’s one less thing to worry about.

The Not New Rain Gauge

As a kid, an occasional chore I had was to water the plants. I never wanted to, so I never had to be told to not water the plants. But now after getting into gardening a bit myself, that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn. That you can kill plants by overwatering them!

For a while, I wanted a really nifty rain gauge that would tell me exactly how much it had rained. After joining the Buy Nothing New project, I considered making one myself. It would just take a cup, a ruler, and a permanent marker to get my beautiful rain measurements.

But finally it dawned on me that I was still overcomplicating things. I threw a spare bowl outside and it now sits there waiting for rain. Sometimes it rains and then the sun comes out, and by the time I look at the bowl it’s empty or with only a few drops clinging on. No matter whether it was just a light rain or if the sun dried it quickly, it simply doesn’t count as a watering for my plants.

But today, oh, today. There was only some light drizzle when I woke up. I was disappointed that the forecasted rain had failed me again and most of the plants were likely still thirsty. Yet when I got outside the water gauge was full! This meant I could just leisurely stroll around the yard and admire the plants that were growing themselves. No need to even stick my finger in the dirt to check the moisture level. The plants will have their fill for at least a couple more days.

My rain gauge is perfect because I can read it even from the bedroom window, because it’s more durable than the flimsy plastic one I would have otherwise bought, and because once the neighborhood cat curled up inside the dry warm bowl for a nap. You’ll never see that with a store-bought rain gauge. 🙂

unnamed-4
The water gauge today reads “Don’t water the plants!”

Preparing for my first Urban Hike

 

Today is the first hike of my new year’s resolution to walk the Austin Public Library circuit. At 10.5 miles it’s also the longest urban hike that I’ve planned for the year. And with my lazy December, I figured I had better do some kind of prep.

Last week I did a virtual walk using Google Street View and made a few modifications to familiarize myself a bit with the route, reduce the amount of time spent walking along streets without sidewalks, and choose the best way to cross major highways. I ended up adding about a mile to the trip overall, but it’s safer and therefore totally worth it.

My kit (free of disposable items) is ready and waiting:

  • Light jacket for the cool morning
  • Baseball cap for the sunny afternoon
  • Phone, fully charged, and with the map saved as an image for guaranteed offline viewing
  • Reusable water bottle, pre-chilled
  • Various snacks: rolls, pecans, and a tangerine
  • $20 in case I need other sustenance (in my wallet)
  • Cloth napkin
  • Dry deodorant to freshen up at the stop points if needed
  • Library card (on my keychain)
  • Bag to hold everything
img_20170103_072251
Zero waste supplies for my urban hike

In addition to supplies for the walk itself, I also have my bus pass ready in order to get back home in a more timely manner and a plan for an easy and replenishing dinner. Based on my previous walk, it’s probably best if I don’t eat much in the morning or on the hike so I’ll definitely be ready for a good meal after.

I even went on the library website and have a couple of books picked to check out from each branch. Good thing my new year’s resolution wasn’t to be more sponanteous!

Not New Doorknobs

I wish I could do a complete Buy-Nothing month but there’s too much work needed for the house that I’ve been putting off for too long already. To at least avoid buying brand new items when perfectly good ones already exist, today I headed over to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store to pick up some items from my list.

I started off in Hardwares with the goal of finding some curtain rod brackets so I can add window treatments for the last few windows. Unfortunately it’s an uncommon item so rather than finding them easily on a shelf I had to dig through several different buckets along a row of some-sorted, some-not miscellaneous hardware.

img_20170102_092658
A few bins in the Hardware section at the Re-Store

In the end I found four of them, but in those four there wasn’t a single matching set and I had to walk away from that section empty-handed.

img_20170102_092706
Failure

Later in the trip I found a section with some wooden curtain rod brackets, but once again they were unmatching individuals. 😦

Fortunately, my second item on the list was a resounding success. The light on the back porch didn’t have a cover. (Or a bulb for that matter, but we found one in the closet.) There were several rows full of different kinds of lights and I ended up choosing a whimsical bubbly globe thing to add a bit of personality to our home.

Next up was some white paint for the indoor trim. I had a bit of trouble identifying the container to purchase because these were custom blend paints and there wasn’t much more than a dab of paint on the lids to show what color they were inside. But in the end I found one that should work well.

After browsing the second-hand cabinets, sinks, leftover tiles and other goods, I stopped by the doorknobs section to pick up a couple to replace two that haven’t been turning all the way. (It turns out that it was a plastic bit that failed in our old ones, and these new-to-me knobs are metal where it counts. They could use a little oil to turn more smoothly, but I can take care of that later.)

Finally, I found a couple of really nice textured curtains that I wasn’t looking for. (It turns out that one’s a shower curtain and the other is just a nice sheet, but they’ll do.)

img_20170102_114227
Haul from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store

All together these items cost a whopping $12 plus tax. Not much unnecessary packaging to dispose of. And better quality than I would have splurged on if I was buying new. So other than still not having the curtain rod brackets, it was a pretty good trip. Someday when we get our real (not-just-a-flimsy-plastic-shell) bathtub I’ll be back, if not for the tub then at least for the tile. It’s awesome that these places exist!

Single-Stream Recycling: A Tour

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to tour the Balcones Recycling Facility as part of Austin Resource Recovery’s Zero Waste Blockleader program. For those of us north of the river, this facility is where all of our single-stream recycling goes for sorting. This facility is full of both advanced machinery and probably a couple of dozen human sorters at any time to get everything sorted.

img_20161109_161309
Huge pile of residential recycling ready to be processed

After loading everying onto a conveyer belt that feeds into the system, the first step in the process requires human sorters. They stand on both sides of the belt picking out plastic bags or utensils or other things that would interfere with the facility’s machinery. They also pick out some of the larger pieces of trash and things such as wood, which they actually support recycling for also.

img_20161109_162311
The turnoff for broken glass

After this, the machinery starts separating different types of materials. Any glass gets broken early in the process and falls through to its own turnoff.

img_20161109_162545
Looks like trash, doesn’t it?

The machines are able to separate large cardboard from smaller papers. Plastic containers and metal cans head down their own route for processing.

img_20161109_162816
Sorted cardboard heading over to be bundled

So much of the material was cardboard!

img_20161109_163142
Cardboard, cardboard everywhere

Sadly, anything containing multiple materials (such as packaging for a doll that I pointed out with both paper and plastic) gets sent to the trash. Economically, they just can’t support separating out the materials that are attached together. So please do this before tossing things in the bin. It’s easy enough when you don’t have a full conveyor belt of materials coming at ya.

img_20161109_161757
Picking rogue items from the newspaper belt

Similar to Lay’s potato chip machines that can detect burnt chips and blow them out of the main processing, there are electronic sorter machines that quickly detect the composition of materials coming down the belt and use blasts of air to sort them to the correct place.

img_20161109_164029
I think that was actually a soda can. It wasn’t really glowing, it was just moving very quickly.

The output of these machines goes through a human sorter also to handle anything that was misplaced, but the amount would be too insane for a single human to get through.

img_20161109_163355
We got a strong whiff of laundry detergent walking past this section

At the opposite end of the facility were bales of paper, cardboard, cans, plastic, and a huge pile of glass, all ready to go on to their next destination.

img_20161109_164238
Tons of paper and cardboard baled up
img_20161109_164508
Cans and plastic bales outside

Some would be taken in semis, but some would be transported by train.

img_20161109_162317
Train behind the facility, ready to cart some of it away

It was awesome seeing so much material converted to a format that could be reused rather than sent to a landfill. The only sad part was this pile at the end. The facility has to pay to send to the landfill everything that didn’t get filtered out into one of its recycling streams.

img_20161111_191333
Behind this worker and boxes, you can see the trash pile growing

 

But, well, that pile is an awful lot smaller than the everything else that does get recycled so it’s not so bad. I know that not everyone is going to want to embrace a true zero waste lifestyle which would prevent much of this refuse in the first place, so I’m enormously grateful that this facility exists and that it’s easy for folks to just toss recyclable items in their blue bin instead of contributing to our landfills. 🙂

Yet Another Way to Prevent Food Waste

At my office, on most days there is some kind of a meeting with leftover food. It usually winds up in one of the kitchen areas for people to randomly find. Some gets eaten, some ends up in the trash. At my office, we also use a chat program for communicating, so I created a chat channel called #free. This has worked great for not just meeting leftovers, but has included some items culled from folks’ pantries at home, personal lunch leftovers, non-food items, and a successful call to eat (or take home for banana bread) the very ripe and spotty bananas in the kitchen one day before they would have been thrown out. This has to be one of the easiest ways to keep food out of the landfill in an office. We’re up to 59 members now who share info on food that needs saving or at least will happily eat some of it. 🙂

Here are just a few of the many recent postings with successfully adopted items:

freestuff

 

Zero Waste Week – Day 5 – Goodwill Tour

Woohoo! It’s the last day of Zero Waste Week and I’ve made it through with, well, minimal waste. Today the Austin Zero Waste Lifecycle Meetup group went on a tour of the Goodwill Resource Center in south-east Austin. If you give something to Goodwill instead of throwing it in the trash, that’s no guarantee that it won’t end up in the landfill but they definitely do a lot working towards zero waste.

It started out with what definitely wasn’t a Zero Waste lunch, but I was prepared for this and had already eaten before arriving.

img_20160909_115234
Now I really want a Cheeto 😦

A few of the nice folks from this Resource Center and from Goodwill Central Texas shared some more information as other folks finished eating. The mission of Goodwill Central Texas is to empower people through work. That’s not just temporarily working at Goodwill but building the skills and experience to continue on to other opportunities. They’ve even done a ton of advocacy, going so far as to get laws changed, so they can offer the training and GED programs necessary for people to be successful in the workforce. Finding a job isn’t always easy for folks who are trying to make a life for themselves after getting out of prison, who have a disability, and other groups of people, so I’m glad that when I shop at Goodwill any profits are going to a good cause.

Next up, time for the tour! We all put on some orange vests and unfortunately for those of us who weren’t wearing glasses, we had to use some packaged glasses. (They were returned at the end of the tour.)

img_20160909_115415
I have a pair of lab goggles/glasses. If only I had known I’d need them!

The tour was worth it though. First up we passed through the Goodwill Outlet Store where as much as possible of the goods are sold. And then we passed along through the curtained doorways to where the real magic happens. Here a bin of unsold clothes gets loaded into the baler and ready to ship out to whomever is willing to pay for it.

Next up, we saw the sorting area where tons of hanging signs showed where to put almost every conceivable type of item. Depending on the type of commodity, these boxes and bales can then be sold for anywhere from $0.03 to $0.55 per pound.

img_20160909_121042
The sorting area has boxes and bins for small toys, luggage, paper, sports balls, vacuums, and so much more

Beyond that there are just boxes and boxes of stuff. All tagged and organized with what they have in them. Some are things that are ready to be sold either at this Outlet Store or shipped to one of the local Goodwill stores to be sold there. But it must be that that type gets disbursed fairly quickly because the majority of labels I saw was stuff that didn’t sell in the stores and is waiting to be sold on the commodity market.

img_20160909_121151

Computers are a special item because if they’re in working condition, they go to the MacFarlane store to be refurbished and resold. The machines and parts that are hopelessly broken just go to the recyclers.

But wait, that doesn’t look like a computer…

img_20160909_122126
A bale of stuffed animals hanging out among the electronics

Towards the back there are just stacks and stacks of bales of different materials, but definitely more clothing than anything else.

img_20160909_122318
Just a few of the clothes bales
img_20160909_122137
Oh hey, there’s some bales of plastic at the end of a clothing row.

And then of course, there’s the eCommerce department. Jewelry, books, expensive stuff. That all gets sold online so Goodwill can get the most possible value from it to put towards their mission.

img_20160909_122613
This could be a beautiful library, but they’re all being listed online
img_20160909_123800
Small items being packed up to ship
img_20160909_123924
And larger boxes for larger items

It’s not perfect, but Goodwill Central Texas is able to divert about 80% of the resources that come its way away from landfill, which is pretty amazing considering all the crap that people send to Goodwill constantly.

So that’s it, Zero Waste Week is over. I failed a bit at the end just because I missed eating out. Our final meal of ZWW was some fried rice from a chain not far from home. They still have real plates and real silverware, but at some point since my last visit they switched over to disposable cups. I survived without a cup of my own, but my husband’s cup of water tonight knocks off a few points for me. (And probably also his fortune and cookie wrapper, since he wouldn’t have gotten those had I not suggested eating out.) Oh yeah, and the receipt. At least I was prepared with my own containers for the leftovers and those will disappear tomorrow for sure.

img_20160909_193757
Don’t worry about the chopsticks. They’re from a previous meal that I’ve been reusing.

Zero Waste Week – Day 4 – Blog Bites

We’re almost through Zero Waste Week and I’ve read so many inspirational blogs that for today I just want to share some of my favorites. Enjoy!

Gippsland Unwrapped has a ton of ideas on how to make use of food scraps that would normally go to waste.

Zero Waste Chef shares how to repurpose jars, including removing those labels and some brilliant advice for defunkifying those really strong smelling lids.

Over at gaygeekzero he’s been in the garden but also taking it one step further with some tips on energy waste and repurposing to avoid buying new.

Waste-Free PhD describes her experience that ugly fruit is delicious.

I need to get start growing some lemongrass to try out this awesome zero waste bug repellent idea.

Westywrites gets into food waste prevention with some serious food planning.

As Lard tell us,

Unless you care, no-one else will...

So I hope these inspire you as much as they inspire me to be a better person and to continue striving to enrich this world.

Zero Waste Week – Day 3 – Gratitude Journal

Going zero waste isn’t about denying yourself the good things. In fact, the things that are trying to frustrate me this week don’t have anything to do with zero waste at all…. Well, the soda has been beckoning me and it’s hard to resist and it’s quite wasteful, but I have much better reasons to not drink it than Zero Waste Week.

And I definitely have the things that really matter, so without further ado, here are just a few of the things that I’m grateful for this week….

I’ve said it before, but first and foremost, I’m grateful that we have healthy and inexpensive tap water available so there’s no need to resort to a bottle.

I am grateful that we have a refrigerator and stove, which together make eating leftovers a breeze. (We ate yesterday’s leftover soup for dinner tonight, this time remembering to add the chickpeas and mushrooms.)

I am grateful that one of our local farmers at the market had tons of delicious cucumbers last weekend, and our local grocery sells package-free carrots, cabbage, and salad mix.

img_20160907_052326
Breakfast salad

I am grateful for working somewhere with a foosball table and plenty of coworkers willing to play a game or two. When your job involves staring at a computer screen all day, getting up, moving around, and maybe letting out a bit of aggression is a very welcome option. And other than the occasional drop of rod grease used, it’s zero waste entertainment.

I am grateful that my husband and I were able to afford this house and that it has a great yard that was (and still is) rich with weeds. There was plenty of clover adding nitrogen to the soil and dandelions loosening up the soil by sending down their long tap roots. Without them, we wouldn’t have these happy cowpea sprouts and squash baby.

I am grateful that even though I didn’t realize until after I picked it that this canary melon wasn’t fully ripe, it turned out to still be sweet, crisp, and satisfying.

img_20160907_201419
If this melon was ripe, the flesh would be white

I am grateful that although some insects are in the biting mood lately, most of them are totally harmless to me.

img_20160907_192121-1
On a melon leaf

What are you grateful for?

Zero Waste Week – Day 2 – What Makes a Soup?

Growing up I only knew one kind of soup. It required chicken, white rice, carrots, celery, corn, cabbage, salt, pepper, comino, garlic powder, and part of a can of tomato sauce. That was the only soup I knew, so if I had planned to make soup for dinner and didn’t have one of those ingredients on hand, I ended up eating something else instead.

Well, that was just silly. Soup can be made from anything, and it’s a perfect way to use up random veg in your fridge.

So today, into a pot half-filled with water I added veggies that I had on hand: carrots, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and corn. At the last minute I also discovered a potato hiding away and threw it into the pot. There’s so much potential for food waste prevention here. I had a couple of bell peppers, so I chose the one that was slightly softer to add. (Sometimes bell pepper seeds add a nice texture, but unfortunately my pepper today was not seed-rich.) Got ugly carrots? Slicing and boiling them makes those cosmetic blemishes totally disappear.

For seasoning, I added the standard salt and pepper. Plus some red pepper flakes (I have a ton of flakes from pizza lunch leftovers at work), comino, coriander, and oregano. If I had other seasonings in my pantry, I’d use those instead. Just don’t add something like cinammon unless you’re really adventurous. We’re trying to keep food out of the trash, remember?

Did I need chicken? Not quite. Strangely, I saw two of them walking through different parts of the neighborhood on my way home from work today, but I wasn’t tempted to slaughter them for dinner.

Of course, if you have a half-eaten chicken leg in the fridge or other random leftovers, throw those in too. It’ll only add value.

Some people use mushrooms as a meat replacement. I had some in the fridge, as well as some chickpeas that were ready to go. I totally forgot about them. Did the soup suffer? Nope, it was still delish. (The shrooms and chickpeas will get eaten later this week, no worries.)

For carbs, I added a bit of everything–brown rice, wild rice blend, and also barley for texture. Every once in a while I’ll throw in a bit of quinoa because my husband loves it. Other times we’ll just throw in some kind of pasta. Pretty much anything will work here. The only thing is if you use something that generally cooks fast, wait a bit longer before throwing it in to keep it from getting too mushy.

That’s it! Water and whatever else you have on hand. That’s what makes a soup.

img_20160906_203620
So good I ate most of it my bowl before snapping a picture. 🙂

What recipes do you have to help prevent food waste?