Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and the guilt has been setting in. Guilt for not being further on my dissertation, guilt for not using my blog as a creative outlet, and now guilt for spending the last week traveling and NOT being more waste-conscious.

But…baby steps.

I thought I’d dedicate this post to all the things I wish I did better while traveling. I have a lot of ideas, but this time, I just dropped the ball. To make up for it, I’m putting a few waste-conscious vibes into the atmosphere.

Here’s what I will be doing the next time I travel.

Five Steps for-2

  1. Give yourself TIME and PLAN ahead.

If you are a last minute travel planner/packer/organizer, waste-free travel will be a difficult transition. As it is, you are essentially adding a few extra steps to your “to do list,” so be easy on yourself and start to think about how you can reduce waste before you start packing your bags the night before.

Also, the kind of traveling you will be doing will change your waste-free plans. Whether you are traveling for work, school/research, family, or vacation etc., I am convinced that you can greatly reduce your waste.


Being thoughtful of what you pack is essential for waste-free travel. Based on the kind of travel you will be doing, anticipate what your needs will be. Here are some things you can bring that will reduce waste and save you money right off the bat:

Snack Bags copy

  • Water bottle

A water bottle is essential. This is something I did bring on my last trip, and I am convinced it saved me and my travel buddy at least $100.00, and the environment a lot of plastic. I scoped the price of water at the airport and then again at a few convenient stores around New York, and bottled water ranged from $2-5! With a reusable water bottle, we were able to fill up wherever their was a fountain, or at coffee shops and restaurants all for free!

  • 1-2 reusable shopping bags (the kind that fold down or are not as bulky)
  • 2-3 reusable snack/food bags (you can fill these with snacks before you leave/see below)
  • 1-2 cloth napkins


Obviously one needs to eat and stay hydrated while traveling. Well, with a little waste-consciousness, you can also save some money too. This takes a bit a forethought and planning (see above), but it is well worth the effort if you are strapped for cash and are trying to reduce your waste.

Pack your own snacks. Period. For a small bag of nuts at an airport snack stop (complete with extra salt, fats, oils etc. and wrapped in plastic) you could be paying the upwards of $5-10. Do yourself and the environment a favor and go purchase some bulk nuts, trail mix, whatever suits your fancy and pack in your reusable snack packs. Veggie sticks, fruit, and chocolate are also great airport or road trip pick-me-ups. Whatever you usually like to snack on, purchase or make beforehand and then pack for the trip. Once you are finished snacking, you will have empty snack bags to refill once you reach your destination.

Snack Bags

Another thing I wish I did was keep a collapsable mug, or small mug in my backpack. I have never been to a coffee shop that wasn’t happy to fill a clean mug. That being said, I had coffee several times a day when I was traveling and felt sad every time I had to toss the cup, lid, and heat protector in the trash each time….next time I will do better. In the summer, you can pack a variety of reusable cups with stainless steel straws–I have never done this, but I don’t see why they would have any problem if they are willing to refill mugs.

Eating out– when traveling one does not always have the luxury of handpicking and preparing their own food. Again, be easy on yourself! These suggestions I realize are not completely waste-free, but they are waste-conscious–which is a start.

When traveling with a companion, split meals…that way there is no wasted food and no need for to-go containers.

Try to shop or eat at places where you can sit and enjoy the meal on their regular/reusable plates, silverware etc. While usually cheaper, grab-and-go establishments are heavy on the packaging. Where you can help it, ask the sandwich shop if they can simply give you your sandwich (or at the very least wrap in paper, which is more easily compostable).

Refuse the bag when grabbing a pastry, or other items that you can either carry or put in your own reusable pack. If you are not in a hurry, sit a moment and enjoy your food without all the extra to-go packaging, napkins etcs.

Pack a simple set of utensils. Most places you are eating at will have their own for you to use, however, if you happen upon a place that only offers plastic or some one-time use variety, whip out your own and enjoy!

4. Ditch the Paper

Ditch the Paper

Today, traveling and shopping of all kinds offer paperless options. For example, most airlines and trains now offer online boarding passes that you can download on your mobile devices. Also, many stores are moving toward e-mail or text receipts. Take advantage of these options in order to save paper and avoid contact with receipts, which researchers have recently linked to high levels of BPA exposure.

Finally, if you pack 1-2 cloth napkins, you can avoid reaching for those paper take-out napkins.

5. CHOOSE Attractions, Entertainment, and Sightseeing Wisely

There are many  wasteful things travelers could indulge in in any location and on any trip. Try to avoid things that require extra gas (vehicle emissions), food/package/paper waste, or attractions that exploit natural resources, animals, or human beings.

For me, this means that instead of that fancy tour that includes lunch and a bus ride around town, I opt for self-guided tours where I can walk and choose my own dining option. Apps like “Field Trip” and “Google Maps” are great for exploring new areas on foot. I’m sure there are other out there too!

Instead of spending money on tickets to a zoo or similar attraction, I’ll visit a local nature conservancy or park (usually free) and make a donation. Or, instead visit a free public institution like an art museum, historical society, or nature/science museum.

Rather than go four-wheeling in the mountains or when we visit tropical locations, I prefer kayaking or a non-motorized water-activity, or hikes.

When you travel, you “vote” with the choices you make when spending money and/or producing waste. Each time you choose a more waste-conscious option/solution, you let cities, airlines, and other businesses (like hotels) know that you prefer options that are less wasteful. If you are a frequent traveler on a particular airline, or to a specific location, think about ways you can encourage those business you frequent most to reconsider their waste production as well!

Enjoy Free (waste-Free)Adventures


Homemade Gnocchi using Waste-free Ricotta

I’ve been having a hard time finding bulk bin pastas, which has been a bummer because we eat pasta 1-2 times per week. At first, I just stopped buying pasta and our small stash of store bought noodles slowly dwindled away until it was gone. In my desperation one week I brought myself to try homemade gnocchi (I don’t have a pasta maker). Admittedly, it wasn’t hard to make, but it was pretty time consuming for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. For a beginner, I would allow one full hour and a half, if also making your own ricotta. Without homemade ricotta, you can probably whip this dish up in 30 minutes.

My gnocchi turned out pretty good for my first time (I think), and I used my homemade pasta sauce and fresh parmesan to top things off with a side of swiss chard.

Here is what you need:

  • 1.5 cups of ricotta cheese (I made mine fresh!)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Here is what I did:

  1. Combine ricotta, egg, salt, and pepper in mixing bowl
  2. Using a fork, slowly beat in 1.5 cups of the flour until you can form a ball of dough
  3. On a lightly floured surface kneed in the last 0.5 cups of flourIMG_0681
  4.  Divide the dough into eight smaller balls
  5. Gently roll out each ball with your hands to form one long noodle that is about the width of a finger (your little finger if you have big hands lol)IMG_0683
  6. Cut each noodle into 3/4th inch pieces and then poke the middle and pinch the sides of each piece. I also tried pressing the middle with a fork, but didn’t like the way they looked.
  7. Add your gnocchi pieces to boiling water and then remove them with a slotted spoon once they rise to the surface (3-5 minutes). Allow gnocchi to drain in a colander  before tossing them into a sauce of your choice.
  8. Enjoy!!!


Waste-Free CHEEEEESE: Ricotta

Last month I tried my hand at making some homemade ricotta cheese, and I am convinced this is the easiest thing in the world to make, because I did not screw it up!

I borrowed the recipe from one of my favorite blogs: Modern Hippie Housewife.  She has a lot of other great ideas and recipes for homemade products that end up being far less waste-full than store-bought options.

This was my first attempt at making ricotta using just cheesecloth, whole milk, salt, and vinegar.  *Next time I think I will add some herbs.

Here is what I did:    


1. Combined milk and salt in a large pot and then heated over medium. I stirred the mixture every 30 seconds – 2 minutes until the milk heated to 203 degrees Fahrenheit, or 95 degrees Celsius.


2. At tempture, I removed pot from the heat and stirred vinegar in a figure eight (MHH recommended “about 4 times,” so that is exactly what I did). The vinegar curdled the milk and separated the curds from the whey. I let this stand for 30 minutes.


3. I covered a large bowl with folded cheesecloth (mine was HUGE!). You should at least fold your own cloth in half (double-lined). Also, be sure that your cloth is long enough to tie up the corners. I scooped the curds using a slotted spoon into the cheesecloth bowl.


4. Once curds are all in the cheesecloth, tie up the corners and tie it somewhere to strain for 30 minutes. I copied MHH and tied to our wet bar sink.

IMG_06805. That’s it! You can keep the ricotta in the fridge for up to 4 days, but I used mine right away to make ricotta gnocchi (Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro, that fresh ricotta is delicious mixed with great olive oil, mint, basil, and parsley, and then topped on roasted or grilled zucchini.

Check out the MHH recipe–> here.

How I made this recipe waste-free/waste-conscious:

This recipe used minimal waste because I purchased my whole milk in a returnable glass bottle, and used salt and vinegar that was purchased either in bulk or in a recyclable container. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, by making this delicious fresh cheese at home we stayed away from extra store packaging.

Give it a try!

Brushing with Bamboo




Yesterday evening our new bamboo toothbrushes came in the mail! Nothing too exciting to tell you about them yet, other than they work! I also like the idea that these brushes in particular are compostable. However, before I had them to the bin, I plan to use them either as garden markers or tile cleaning brushes.




Price wise, we purchased them in a pack of 4 for $12.00 on Amazon Prime, which IS cheaper than the regular plastic ones we were buying individually at Target.


Looking forward to trying them out with the new waste-free toothpaste I’m planning to whip up next week.


Until soon!

Waste-Free Pasta Sauce

Level of difficulty: WAY EASY!

In fact, I made this pasta sauce in 35 minutes while on a conference call with colleagues. I was able to whip up this yummy sauce AND listen in on the call– so clearly, it is not too difficult. The “recipe” below may frustrate most people. When I cook, I just kind of throw things together. Sometimes I might start with a recipe to get an idea, but I am constantly adapting and improvising. Be easy. Be flexible, and give waste-free pasta sauce a try! Create your own recipe! I’d imagine tomato sauce is pretty hard to mess up (since I didn’t). 🙂

Here is what I used:


  • Some tomatoes (ha! I just piled some in a bag at the store. I think it was about 8-12 Romas)
  • 2 smaller-ish yellow onions (chopped)
  • Some sprouted garlic (chopped)
  • Teaspoon Salt
  • Tablespoon sugar
  • Handful of fresh basil from patio (chopped)
  • Some dried Rosemary, and Parsley
  • Some pepper
  • Olive oil

Here is what I did:

  1. saute garlic and onions in some olive oil
  2. add roughly chopped tomatoes + everything else
  3. brought to a boil and then simmered for 20 minutes, stirring absent-mindedly



4. blended stewy tomatoes in small batches until sauce was smooth











5. poured over some penne and then topped with some left over cheese we hand on hand



6. enjoy with red wine and follow with sleep (I climbed in bed directly after around 7:40PM). Because grad school is hard and you just made F*CKING pasta sauce from scratch. Because the environment! And you deserve it!


7. Don’t forget to put the leftovers in a jar. Because…jars!



  • Simmer 1-2 hours total, instead of 20 minutes.
  • Try different herbs and different varieties of tomatoes.

I used what was on sale– Roma Tomatoes @ $0.69/lb

  • Try adding roasted peppers, when on hand and with extra time

Shopping Bulk = Maximizing Graduate Student Dollars

It is no se20150328_125418cret that graduate students make ZERO DOLLARS. Living in Los Angeles, California on a graduate stipend further complicates this precarious situation. Over the past four years, I have been discussing with several friends and colleagues the various kinds of financial gymnastics we do in order to get bills paid and keep food on the table. And I must say, Corey and I have it extremely well! Many students are not living in dual income households, or may even be using their stipend to support other family members beyond their own personal monthly expenses. No matter where one finds themselves in the financial struggle of pursing a PhD– one sure way to stretch funds a bit further is to BUY FOOD IN BULK. If you are not in graduate school but are interested in saving some money AND practicing waste-consciousness– bulk buying is a good place to start. Even at places like Sprouts and Whole Foods, bulk food buying can be cheaper than prepackaged options. Let me show you…

Don’t forget to bring your bags and re-usable packaging when you go shopping!

Here are some of the options near me that offer and/or support bulk food buying and self-packaging: 

  1. Whole Foods
  2. Sprouts20150328_125554
  3. Grand Central Market
  4. SuperKing Market

There are many more around L.A., but these are the ones close to us and the ones we frequent most often.

Here are some of the things I regularly purchase in bulk:

  1. Steel Cut Oats
  2. Granolas
  3. Rice
  4. Beans
  5. Nuts
  6. Trail Mixes
  7. Peas
  8. Flours
  9. Salt
  10. Peppercorns
  11. Spices
  12. Sugar
  13. Couscous
  14. Chocolate
  15. Dried Fruits
  16. Popcorn Kernels
  17. Oatmeal
  18. Oat & Wheat Bran
  19. Dried Fruit

Here is what I bought today and about how much things cost:

*Also, I usually try to buy things when they are on sale or in season




Long Grain Brown Rice ($0.99/lb)

Total Paid: $2.57





Steel Cut Oats ($0.99/lb)

Total Paid: $1.85




Unsalted/Roasted Cashews ($8.99/lb)

Total Paid: $8.81





BBQ Seasoning/Rub ($7.84/lb)

Total Paid: $1.01






Italian Seasoning ($15.84/lb)

Total Paid: $2.05




Broccoli Crowns ($0.98/lb)

Total Paid: $1.56

Green Beans ($1.69/lb)

Total Paid: $1.22


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