Building a Better Zero Waste Resource

Bulk shopping guide for zero waste folks | Litterless

Over the next month, I'm excited to be tackling a major project around here: updating my guides to where to shop in bulk and where to compost throughout the United States and Canada. Before I dive in to making those changes, I'm curious to hear from you about what updates you'd finde most helpful.

The guides work like this: I wanted to make a central place to corral geographically-specific zero waste knowledge, like grocery stores and compost sites, so that readers could have an easier time transitioning to zero waste habits, even if they weren't yet plugged into a supportive zero waste community in their area. I've found that there are certain local "rules" that are best learned by experience, whether your's or a friend's: which chain groceries have bulk aisles but don't allow you to bring your own container, negating the benefits of said aisle, which compost pick-up service will service your apartment, where to find the best -package-free and palm-oil-free bar soap locally, and so on. The goal of the resource pages is to put knowledge like that, whose transfer often happens by word of mouth or not at all, in one central place, so that you can use to it to set up a zero waste routine at home, or to aid in traveling to new places where you don't know the lay of the land.

With that said, the Where to Shop guide doesn't include a grocery store if I haven't been able to verify that they welcome folks bringing their own containers (I do this by combing through their websites or relying on reader tips). That's why you won't find many Whole Foods or other large chain grocery stores listed on the page, since stores' willingness to accept brought-from-home containers can vary so widely. And, this also means that not every medium-to-major city in the United States and Canada is included in the resource, though most are; for those that aren't, I haven't been able to find or haven't had a tip about a truly zero waste-friendly store in the area.

So, in this guide refresh, I'm looking forward to doing a few things: Auditing all of the existing links to ensure that the stores and compost services listed are still accurate and active, to the best of my knowledge. Adding in additional resources that I've found on social media and elsewhere. Reorganizing the pages so they're more clear (the geographical categories have in a few cases proved confusing, so I'll be moving some states around to make it more clear, if not eliminating the geographical categories completely). Writing updated explanations to help new users understand how the guides work. And so forth, with the goal of making the pages an even more vibrant and helpful resource.

Before I get started, I want to hear from you! Have you wished the guides were organized slightly differently, or found that something in your area was misleading? Do you have a minute to read over the paragraphs for your city and suggest additions, subtractions, or other tips or resources to highlight? One note: the guides currently only extend to the United States and Canada, since I can't claim a knowledge of anywhere else. International readers, you're off the hook for this request!

I've put together a (very) short survey here, and I'd be grateful for your feedback (it should take you less than five minutes). You can also leave a comment below or send me an email. Thank you for taking a few moments to help out - without you, this resource wouldn't be what it is.

How to Store Bread Without Plastic

How to store bread without plastic for a zero waste kitchen | Litterless

It's no secret that I don't always have all of the zero waste answers (because, shhhh, nobody really has all of the zero waste answers). But when I've gotten stuck, I've posed questions in this space, and my genius readers have picked up the slack. Thank you!

A few months ago, I asked how folks store bread without plastic. At the time, I didn't have a great answer: either I stored my bread in a cloth bag - making it stale in merely a day or so, or I used an increasingly ratty ziploc bag to keep it fresh for longer. Well, you weren't about to let me carry on like that, were you?

Storing bread zero waste style | Litterless

Among the many smart tips that readers suggested, the one that's worked best for me has been to store bread in a bag in my enameled dutch oven. It basically functions like a breadbox, keeping out extra air and keeping the bread fresh. I love this for method for several reasons: first, and most importantly, it really works! Bread stays fresh so much longer, even without the benefit of plastic. Plus, this method doesn't require me to buy any new tools, makes good use of something that I already own but 90% of the time stands empty (in a small kitchen, saving space wisely is key), and it holds even the largest round loaf of bread that was tough to squeeze into said ratty ziploc anyway.

Here's how I now store bread without plastic:

When I buy bread at the grocery, farmers' market, or bakery, I put it directly into a cloth bag. If the loaf is too large for any of my bags, or if all of my nicely-sized bags are dirty, I might wrap it up in a cloth, furoshiki-style. Then, I put the cloth-wrapped bread straight into my dutch oven, pictured above. In my experience, the bread lasts about a week this way. That's if I can avoid making avocado toast five times within the first two days.

Other ideas from the crowd:

-Store the cloth-wrapped loaf in a bread box, old wooden box, or even a kitchen drawer. I bet a stainless steel soup pot would work just fine for storage, too.

-Wrap the bread in beeswax food wrap and then the box, drawer, or dutch oven for even more staying power.

-Buy less bread more often, to keep it from going stale so quickly. A reader suggested purchasing a couple of individual buns as needed.

-Immediately stash half the loaf in a cloth bag in the freezer. A few readers mentioned slicing it before putting it in the freezer, so that it's easy to pull out just one or two slices at a time.Caveat: be sure to use it up fairly quickly so that it doesn't acquire that terrible freezer taste.

How to store bread without plastic for a zero waste kitchen | Litterless

To read the full gamut of reader tips, visit the comments section on the original post. Other bread storage techniques you've found? Or any questions you'd like answered via crowdsourcing?

Previously in Q & A: Baking-soda-free deodorant for sensitive skin folks, and tips for using a safety razor. The comments sections of each contain some true, helpful gold.

Baking Soda-Free Deodorant?

Baking soda free natural deodorant | Litterless

This is NOT a post where I talk about the armpit rash I had for a week or so from the baking soda in my natural deodorant, which irritated my skin. You don't need to know about me trying to ignore the itch or applying aloe to my underarms. Nope, that kind of thing is best kept private. This is simply a post where I note that something like that may have happened to me and to other friends too, and a post where we now turn to you: do you have a favorite brand of natural deodorant that doesn't use baking soda?

At the moment, I use the Meow Meow Tweet deodorant pictured above. It doesn't contain baking soda, so it has proven to be gentle on my skin. As a deodorant, it works fairly well, but it's expensive, and I'm interested in what else is out there. Maybe you have a brand you love, or - even better - a slam dunk recipe for making your own. I've been wanting to get into the world of DIY deodorant, but since my store-bought deodorant works okay at best, I'm wary of having to try out multiple concoctions before settling on a recipe that actually works.

So, if you also use deodorant sans baking soda, I want to hear: what brand? What recipe? What's worked for you?

Plastic-Free Bread Storage?

Plastic free bread storage | Zero waste kitchen

Zero waste people: HOW DO YOU STORE YOUR BREAD. I'm not happy with my current method, and I'm sure one of you has an answer I've been looking for. Let me explain:

I'm happy with the routine I have in place for buying bread. I head to the farmers' market or bakery or merely the bakery section of the grocery store, and pop a loaf into my own bag like the one pictured above. These breads tend to be so much tastier than the supermarket pre-sliced, pre-bagged versions anyway, and at some stores and bakeries I can even ask them to slice the loaf for me. Convenient! (But that's where my really where expertise ends).

When I get the cloth-bound bread home, it lasts for two days on my kitchen counter tops before beginning to dry out. Many's the time I've forgotten about a loaf during a busy week and picked it up to find it curiously rock-hard, fit for nothing but a crouton or crostini. And those are beautiful things, but sometimes I want sandwiches. And toast that doesn't shatter into a thousand shards when I bite it. And other things that bread is for.

Plastic free bread storage | Zero waste kitchen

What I currently do about that problem is this: I cadged a large ziploc bag from a family member, and it's my go-to for bread storage. I pop the cloth-wrapped bread in there, seal it up, and the bread lasts so much longer. However, the bag is getting increasingly ratty: it's splitting down the sides, and I think there's got to be a method that doesn't require me to pilfer a plastic bag from friends and family every few months. (Also, to be frank, it's not a solution that's lovely to look at. And sometimes you just want that, you know?).

Of course, I recognize this isn't the biggest of deals. Instead of seeking out the ideal zero waste bread storage solution, you could call it good enough and move on - which is perfectly fine, too. There are other things to do, like calling your elected officials and going on a summer walk and sitting down with a bowl of blueberries and finally getting around to doing the dishes. I wholeheartedly support all of those things.

But, if you have a good idea, would you share? A few other solutions that I've seen floating around: wrapping bread in Bee's Wrap (are there even sheets big enough for a full loaf?). A breadbox (do these actually work?). Placing the bread under a cake or cheese dome (love this idea, but my apartment doesn't have enough counter space to house this comfortably).

So: what do you do with your bread? I'll accept my solution if I must, but I have a hunch one of you knows something better. I'd love to hear.

Safety Razor

safetyrazor

I've only recently gotten on the stainless steel razor bandwagon. I had a few older plastic razors from before I began making the move away from disposables, and I was intent on using them up before purchasing a new, long-lasting one. But, a friend pointed out that I could save the plastic razors to take on airplane trips when a safety razor with removable razor blades might be frowned upon. So, I've now entered the land of single-blade shaving. And, ouch, you guys! I've had a hard time getting the hang of it and have quite a few nicks on my legs to prove it.

So, I want to hear your tips for making it easy and pain-free. I haven't used shaving cream in years, but I'm starting to think I should use something. Do you use bar soap? What kind? Any other tricks you swear by? Please share - I'd love to hear.