i heart my barrista

Note: Americans use 25-50 billion disposable coffee cups each year.

I’ve been going to  the same (nationwide chain) coffeehouse for years. I started bringing my own mug, but I forgot last time. When the barrista determined that I was staying at the cafe, she asked if I wanted a mug. I didn’t even know that was an option. I asked if this was a new policy- she raised an eyebrow and shook her head. Instead of throwing away a cup, lid and a coffee sleeve, ask for a mug or bring your own!

If you’re already doing this- kudos to you. It takes a while for some of us to catch up…

quiz yourself: recycling

How much do you recycle? See how you stack up:

Novice: You recycle easy things, like soda cans and paper, when it’s convenient. Off to a good start!

Intermediate: Your recycling can is twice as full as your garbage can. Your neighbors are in awe.

Pro: You’ve reduced the amount of single-serve cans and bottles you use, so you actually recycle less than before (because you have less to recycle). You’ve started recycling programs at work and in the local schools.

cardboard

photo by justyn nakoiecz

My family orders a lot online. You might too- online sales are now almost 10% of all U.S. retail sales according to the Department of Commerce. Which means more cardboard boxes showing up at all of our houses. Luckily, cardboard is easily recycled. It’s clean, easy to reprocess and saves 17 trees per every reclaimed ton.

Flattened boxes maximize space in recycling trucks (I always wondered why we have to do that!). A little plastic tape is ok, but remove the heavy-duty, wide stuff. It can muck up the paper mill machinery during the recycling process .

foil vs parchment

photo by sarah gualtieri

Which is more environmentally friendly- aluminum foil or parchment paper?

Parchment paper is bleached or unbleached paper coated with silicone. Tin foil is actually a thin layer of aluminium. Mining and processing aluminium takes a lot of energy and resources. And although clean foil can be recycled, once you pull it off something like a lasagna, you have to trash it.  Parchment can’t be recycled, but is created from a renewable resource. It also has nonstick properties that most tin foil doesn’t. So parchment wins in the big picture. I’ve started using parchment paper when I bake cookies, roast vegetables, or broil fish.

Go one step further using silicone baking mats, which serve the same purpose and last for a long time. They’re on my shopping list to try out!

seal it up

photo by juan pablo serrenas arenas

I’ve been walking around my house feeling for cold drafts from windows and doors. I actually found one window that was slightly open (oops!). If you can feel cold air or see daylight when your exterior doors and windows are closed, it might mean the seal around them (called weatherstripping) is cracked or just plain gone. Weatherstripping comes in all sizes and price ranges at the hardware store, and usually just stick right on. Not only will your house feel more comfortable and your heating bills will benefit, but fewer insects can get in. That seals the deal for me!

wrap recycled

Can you tell the paper, bags, bows & ribbons are all reused from last year?

It takes my family a long time to unwrap presents, especially big ones, because everyone knows they’re supposed to try and save the wrapping paper. We keep a brown paper bag nearby to recapture gift bags, ribbons and bows too. Americans spend over $7 billion on wrapping paper a year, but why use beautiful or fun paper just one time? We even have a joke of regifting the same green and white polka-dot gift bags back and forth each year. They’re older than my kids now!

What can you reuse this holiday season? You can also recycle wrapping paper and holiday cards as long as they’re not metallic or glittery.

good & ugly

styled by Barbara Pelet

I’m eating out a lot this holiday season, and tossing the one-use containers I bring home doesn’t feel very festive. So I’m emulating my Aunt Betty, a grand lady who loved good restaurants, but who never left food on the table. I think the waste of good food, the effort that went into making it, and the fact that she wasn’t big on cooking played into the rumor that she always kept a bag for leftovers in her designer purse. I tucked a reusable container in my bag this week- no one even noticed when I scooped up the rest of my meals. It doesn’t make for a pretty photo, but this was the best of the lot!