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Zero-Waste Popcorn

Popcorn!

This recipe is just too simple and too good not to share again! The original idea/recipe comes to you from my friend Brittany, who made this delicious popcorn for one of our girls-night-happy-hour-chillouts. This easy to make, waste-free popcorn recipe is now my go-to afternoon writing snack.

So ditch that terrible/wasteful pre-bagged microwave popcorn and enjoy! Don’t forget to compost your additional kernels!

What you need:

  1. Large cooking pot with lid
  2. Organic coconut oil (about a tbsp.)
  3. Popcorn kernels (I buy mine in bulk at Sprouts or Whole Foods)
  4. Sea salt (optional)

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Directions:

  1. Heat oil and 1-2 test kernels over high heat.
  2. Once kernels pop, pour in enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pot. Cover and shake kernels around to warm up (about 30 seconds).
  3. Return the pot to the burner and then watch and wait for the magic.
  4. After about 2-3 minutes the kernels should be popped and ready to enjoy.

Easy!

 

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Don’t Toss that Banana!

Today’s idea is a pretty common one for sweet overripe bananas…make bread. When I bought my ugly mangos, I also purchased this overripe banana for a whopping 5 cents, I believe. I can’t remember, but it was basically FREE.

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I used the banana to make my version of Chia Seed Walnut Banana Muffins. Really, I just throw whatever I have left into the batter. This one was especially yummy– tell ya what I did!

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Chia Seed Walnut Banana Muffins

Step 1: Preheat the oven 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat muffin tins with a little butter, or cooking oil. You can also use compostable liners like THESE.

Step 2: Procure an ugly/overripe banana, or two. I squish these up a bit while they are still in the skin to save me from having to do it once its in the bowl.

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Step 3: Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Put this aside.

Step 4: Combine squishy banana(s), 3/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/3 cup melted butter in a large bowl.

Step 5: Fold in the flour mixed until the dry ingredients are combined, but don’t over do it. At this time add a handful of walnuts and several tablespoons of chia seeds (3 should do the trick). Scoop batter into each muffin tin.

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Step 6: Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Let cool and then enjoy!

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Once you have enjoyed your delicious muffins, be sure you compost your banana peel and be mindful of the waste other ingredients might produce, especially with packaging! I buy most of my ingredients in bulk and store them in jars like these:

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When you purchase ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, chia seeds, and walnuts in bulk, you are significantly reducing the plastic and paper waste these products typically produce via their packaging.

Best of luck and send your ideas for reducing food and food packaging waste my way! I am always eager to learn.

 

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Ugly Mangos

If you’ve been following the growing movement against food waste you’ve probably heard of the new efforts to salvage food deemed “too ugly” to sell. If you haven’t heard of these recent efforts to buy, salvage, and ban food thrown out for their aesthetic appeal check out a few of these interesting websites and articles here:

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Before “ugly food” became a trendy thing, I started purchasing less than perfect produce, as well as fruits and veggies at the end of their shelf life in order to save money. A lot of grocery stores have a bin or a special shelf in each section marked down up to 75% simply because the food is either not aesthetically pleasing or is nearing its shelf life. Take for example these wrinkly mangoes I found on one such shelf for a whopping 25 cents for the pair of them. Let me say that again, I purchased these two delicious wrinkly mangos for a QUARTER! To add a little perspective, each mango in their prime would have gone for $1.00-1.50.

Originally, I was going to make some yummy pudding with the wrinkly squishy mangos, but I started cutting and I made the mistake of tasting a piece. One bite led to another and BOTH mangoes were devoured, seriously, some of the best mangoes I have ever eaten. So instead of a nifty little recipe for “ugly mango pudding,” you get a gorgeous picture of what was left over. Mango waste. Food waste. Which brings me to the second half of this post. In observance of Zero Waste Week, I have committed to producing ZERO food waste for the week of this challenge. Thus, pretty bowl of mango seeds and skins.

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If you already have a compost, all you have to do is chuck the mango skins and seeds in your bin or worm cycler! Easy! Done! You have successfully completed today’s challenge. If you don’t have one, check out these past posts for ideas for starting your own composting center no matter what your living situation is:

If you don’t have a compost and are not interested in starting one just yet, BUT still don’t want to throw these skins and seeds in the trash because, Zero Waste Week, then go outside and find a nice shrub, or area with soft soil, mulch, etc. Dig a shallow hole (6-12 inches) and place your food scraps in the hole. Cover with dirt and feel good about the rich nutrients you have just gifted back to the earth.

You can repeat these steps for composting/regifting food back to the soil so long as it does not have any animal fats, oils, or animal bi-products. Stick to fruits and veggie scraps, paper, and organic waste material so not to attract unwanted guests digging around your yard.

 

Good luck and stay tuned for more Zero Waste Week ideas!

 

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Zero Waste Week 2016 KICKOFF

It’s finally here!

Zero Waste Week has official begun and this year’s theme is reducing FOOD WASTE for an entire week!

Zero Waste Week was started in 2008, and has grown into an annual awareness campaign to reduce landfill bound waste.

Follow yours truly as I explore ways to help you SAVE MONEY and PRESERVE precious resources.

Join me September 5th- September 9th and see just how much food you can keep from ending up in the waste bin!

View my official pledge HERE:

“Stephanie is interested in the equitable ways diverse communities might imagine themselves (and participate) in waste-conscious movements, which are often very white and upper/middle class in orientation.”

Along with access and diversity in waste-conscious movements, I am also passionate about reducing food waste through composting specifically. If you are just getting started, check out a few of my past posts on composting below:

 

Thanks for supporting the Waste-Free PhD and for giving Zero Waste Week a try!

Click here for Zero Waste week

Thumbs Down for Thred-UP

My dissertation is in and I can finally sit down and publish some of my recent musings on our waste-conscious journey! Recently, I was appointed as an ambassador for the UK’s growing movement “Zero Waste Week,” and I am excited to start targeting my upcoming posts to my commitment to cut food waste, and to explore the equitable ways diverse communities might imagine themselves (and participate) in waste-conscious movements, which are often very white and upper/middle class in orientation.

So to begin this work leading up to Zero Waste Week, I wanted to circle back to my last post– Waste-Conscious Clothing— before switching to food focused posts.

In this past blog I featured the online clothes buying and selling company “ThredUP.” I was intrigued by their mission and goals, and impressed by their charge to recycle rejected items “responsibly.” I decided to give it a try.

In mid-April, I shipped a large “Clean Out Bag” to ThredUP. This process was easy and free, which I liked. They delivered a bag to my door and I filled it with my clothing items and dropped it off at my local Post Office. They sent confirmation of my bag’s receipt on April 25th, 2016.

Then the waiting began. I was a bit shocked to find out that it would take an entire month process my order, something to keep in mind if you are doing this in order to earn a bit of extra cash.

Finally, on May 24th, 2016 my order had been process and I received the following e-mail.

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That’s right, four items were selected from my bag stuffed with 16 items, all to earn me a whopping $3.35.

Thumbs down for thredUP

So what’s the big deal?

I made $3 on 16 items of gently-used clothing items, this was a major loss. $3 is barely worth the time it took me to drive to the post-office, time that could have been spent driving to other local recycling options (Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Women’s Shelter, etc.).

Despite the long wait, thredUP’s process was easy enough and their e-mails and website were clear and informative. However, this scheme (like many others), does more for the company than for the environment or those participating. This is not new. Just unfortunate.

The negatives (thinking waste):

  • The plastic “Clean Out” bag
  • The post materials and the oil/emissions clothing requires to travel across country
  • Time (orders took a month to process)
  • Useable clothing “recycled” (<–this is in quotations throughout because while their website boasts sustainable and eco-friendly recycling practices, these could be as “good” as Goodwill’s, which sells clothing into international markets that are often exploitative)
  •  Pay out is meager, so the incentive (to waste/not to waste) is low

Alternatives to thredup

So what’s a body to do with their clothes?

The first thing that came to mind: friends.

I wholeheartedly regret not giving my friends the items I was trying to sell through thredUP. A lot of the stuff was seasonal and ready to wear, I had simply needed to downsize and purge clothes that never saw the outside of my closet. In future, I might try to stage a clothing swap between like-sized and fashioned friends. This will probably take more work than dumping items into a “Clean Out” bag and shipping it off, but it could prove more sustainable and keep both yourself and your friends from having to buy new items at the beginning of each season.

The second thing: donation, donation, donation.

Typically, I like to donate my clothes to women’s shelters in Los Angeles.  I know these items are much needed and will be well-used. Rather than 12 of my 16 items going into some clothes “recycling” scheme, they could have been used to clothe those in my city who are in need.

Finally, money is a big reason for swapping out wardrobe pieces and I know a lot people rely on services like Buffalo Exchange, CrossRoads, and others to maintain their wardrobe. If money is an issue and a reason why you need to sell your clothes, consider a few of these more labor intensive options to get the most out of your items:

  • Ebay, Craigslist; online sites where you can name your price
  • Gather with a group of friends and stage a garage sale
  • Consignment stores, local boutiques, and clothing exchanges

In my humble opinion and after trying several of these options, all would be better than bothering with the thredUP route. That is, unless you have some wildly expensive pieces you are looking to sell, the payout is simply not worth the time, effort, or the waste.

 

 

Waste-Conscious Clothing

Thredup

Since beginning this journey I’ve been seeking out new and less wasteful ways to shop for clothing. Admittedly, I don’t have the monetary resources to always choose the most eco-friendly brands and thrift stores overwhelm me.

Recently, I heard about the online retailer thredUP, which seems to me to be the online equivalent of a Buffalo Exchange but with more thoughtful practices and without the hassle of actually going to a Buffalo Exchange.

I just requested my first “clean out” bag, which allows me to send in gently used clothing items for them to be sold on their site. Whatever they don’t sell they recycle–I receive cash, store credit, or can donate to charity. Sounds like a good way to waste less clothing… so I’m giving it a try!

If you would like to give it a try and get $10.00 towards your first upcycled clothing purchase, check them out here: http://www.thredup.com/r/QMBQ6E

I’m not completely sold yet, but it seems like a better option than buying cheap clothes that are brand new from some store that is less than thoughtful in their practices across the board.

Check out their blog here: http://blog.thredup.com

What are some of your ideas/solutions for being more waste-conscious when shopping for clothes?

 

Personal/Academic Website is HERE!

 

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Dear Friends, Family, and Zero-Waste/Waste-Free Communities,

After much guilt from colleagues I have finally made a simple academic website. I am sharing it with my waste-free and zero-trash networks in hopes that you’ll help me get it to the top of my google search! Right now it is buried somewhere in the depths of all things Stephanie, Sparling, and/or Williams.

 

 

Please click this link to check out my newly developed website (still under construction):

Stephanie Sparling Williams 

Excited to hear your thoughts!

More soon,

Waste-Free PhD