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setting up camp in Denali, Alaska

Leave No Trace: Rethink Your Impact on the Outdoors

Fruit peels in the wild: do they or don’t they belong?

You might have seen them around: orange peels, apple cores, or leftover trail foods. These are just a few of the foods that have been making themselves more at home in the outdoors. Though they’re great snacks (we love them), when left scattered outdoors, they’re just trash. There’s this strange assumption that since fruits and nuts are compostable or biodegradable, it’s okay to leave them on the ground. However, these foods are not native to the wild environment and can destroy the natural ecosystem. In additional, nonnative foods are harmful to wildlife who become dependent on human foods and can’t fully digest it.

This got us thinking, “What is the role we, as travelers, have on the natural spaces we visit?” and “What is our impact on the outdoors?” We all want to explore the outdoors, but how can we continue to preserve it for generations to come?

Rethink the Leave No Trace Principles

backpacking in the outdoors (Denali, Alaska)

The idea to “leave no trace” when we travel means to leave zero trace of our presence in the places we visit. Realistically, it means to leave minimal impact on the outdoors to help preserve, protect, and respect the wild lands and wildlife. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics helps educate people with their Leave No Trace Seven Principles. These are to:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

You can learn more about the Leave No Trace Seven Principles here.

Other Ways to Practice the Leave No Trace Principles

backpacking in the outdoors (Denali, Alaska)
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Anything you bring with you to the outdoors must be carried back out. This includes food, wrappers, gear, and human waste. Consider picking up any trash you see on the trails as well (everyone will appreciate you).
  • Research the rules of your intended destination. Rules are there to help protect the environment and keep visitors safe. Each place you visit may have different rules and regulations. Research them and follow them!
  • Stay on the trails. Established trails help maintain the land, plants, and microbes that are a part of each special ecosystem. We risk permanently damaging wild places by going off-trail. Plus, many people worked hard to establish the trails we are fortunate enough to walk on. Staying on the trails is an ode to their hard work.
  • Keep sounds to a minimal. The sounds of nature are rare and remarkable. Being outdoors brings a sense of calmness and peace to a lot of people. If you want to listen to your music, please wear headphones – this will preserve the sounds of nature and allow other people to enjoy it too.
  • Respect wildlife. It’s normal to get excited when we see animals in the wild. But in order to protect them and ourselves, we must observe from a safe distance (most national parks recommend at least 25 yards). Refrain from feeding them, too. Yes, even the squirrels are off limits.
  • Leave each place better than you found it. Clean up after yourself, pick up trash when you see it, and take nothing but pictures. Flowers, pinecones, rocks, and leaves are a part of the ecosystem and belong outdoors, not in our homes.
  • Speak up! Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see someone doing something they shouldn’t. Approach with kindness and an open mind.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can protect the environment when traveling, read our Guide to Hiking Etiquette 101 and Guide to Backpacking 101.  

For anyone who enjoys being in the outdoors, we must consider our responsibility to help protect and preserve the places we visit. Wild places are a part of the fragile environment that took thousands and millions of years to form through various natural forces. They’re truly special. As we continue to invest in the development of cities, we lose more and more of our natural places. It’s so important to protect what we have now and to leave no trace wherever we go.

Did we miss anything above? We’d love to know how you Leave No Trace in the outdoors in the comment section below.

Jennifer and Vivian

Tinycaravan: On Environmental Optimism

Tinycaravan: On Environmental Optimism

It’s been a while since our last post on Tinycaravan. The truth is, we needed a mental break. For a few months, we’ve been feeling less than optimistic about the environmental space. Even with all the positive talks we’ve had with friends, there are days when we felt powerless to change. Maybe even hopeless? When we see trash littered on hiking trails. When we read about Scott Pruitt or Andrew Wheeler advocating for policies to repeal laws which aim to protect the environment. Or when we hear news about visitors who visited Joshua Tree National Park and destroyed the wild space. Yeah. On those days it’s hard to look at the world and be optimistic about the future of the environment.

And when the future looks so grim, we wondered, what can we do?

We had many conversations on this topic and spent a good amount of time expressing our feelings of hopelessness and frustrations. Yet, after sitting and sulking about the negative news around us, we realized it was not the most productive (or healthy) way to move forward or change the circumstances.

Tinycaravan: On Environmental Optimism

Instead, we started to talk about environmental optimism and began to –

Change Our Perspectives. On a single day, there will be bad news in the world, but there is also good news too. Rather than let the bad news continue to fill our sense of hopelessness, we needed to change how we responded to it. We talked a lot about using the “bad” news as motivation to continue to take action, to be more vocal, and to share how we can work together for the betterment of the planet. There’s always the potential to do more, but we’re trying to understand that sometimes it’s okay to just do what you can and go from there. In the grand scheme, we still believe that our individual impact matters.

If you’re interested, we wrote an article on ways to stay environmentally and politically active.

Surround Ourselves With Those Who Do Care. It’s very important to surround ourselves with those who are consciously aware. Recently, we received a message from a dear friend who was excited to talk about how she got her office to be more green by reducing single-use plastics in the office kitchen. Another friend messaged us and said he started to carry reusable utensils with him inspired by our post, Dining Tip: Bring Your Own Reusable Utensils. It’s motivating and up lifting. We’re trying to feed off all this positive and proactive energy as much as we can.

If that made you happy too, read more inspiring stories from our friends in our Zero Hour Story series.

Stay Inform About the Good News Too. As citizens of the world, we feel that it is our responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest news around us. But again, sometimes the news can be dangerously negative. We think it’s just as important to fill our minds with other stories, particularly those that engage us and you know, gives us hope. Influencers like Kaméa Chayne from Green Dreamer podcast, Sara Tso from Matchbox Kitchen, Celia from Litterless, Chris Burkard, and Levi “Save the World” Hildebrand create a positive space that helps remind us of just that.

We hope Tinycaravan serves that purpose for you, too.

Take a Step Back to Breathe. And of course, self-care. We cannot stress how important our mental well-being is. The things that are happening in the world can be overwhelming – we’re human, we’re not perfect, and we can only take so much. Give yourself time to take a step back and focus on your mental and physical health. And breathe. That’s important too.

Have you been feeling the same way? What do you do to stay optimistic about the future of the environment?

P.S. Thank you to all those who have continued to support and follow us through it all. We love you and appreciate you. Take care, until next time ~

Jennifer and Vivian

Photo of a gray whale's tail

What We’re Watching: “Mission Blue”

Mission Blue is a documentary about famed oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle, and her passion for the ocean. Dr. Earle’s lifelong mission is to bring public awareness to the current state of the ocean and to protect it like we do with national parks. The film dives deep into her journey as an oceanographer, the vast beauty of our oceans, and the importance of understanding it for the sake of all living things.

Many of us know the ocean by what we see at the beach, never diving or looking further. With Mission Blue, we join Dr. Earle as she dives deep into the unknown waters to see beyond a couple hundred feet, to miles below the ocean. We saw the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry), overfishing, climate change, and plastic pollution. It’s shocking and sad to see a place that was once brimming with colorful corals and diverse sea animals, consumed by plastic bags, fishing nets, and dead corals. The ocean that was alive with life, is now dark and bleak.

It’s difficult not to feel hopeless with the images presented, but still (maybe because we’re too optimistic), we were uplifted by Dr. Earle’s passion for the ocean. She states in an interview, “If we fail to take care of the ocean, nothing else matters.” And it’s true. The ocean plays a large part in balancing our ecosystem and sustaining life on Earth. The film truly made us reflect on our own everyday habits & actions. We hope this film brings about a new perspective on everyone who sees it too.

“In the same way that humans have the ability to consciously shift the balance of the Earth, which we’ve done, we also have the capacity and capability of stopping it.” – Michael deGruy

You can watch Mission Blue on Netflix now.

Jennifer and Vivian

what's in my bag: low impact toiletries kit

Travel Tip: Zero Waste Toiletries Kit

When I’m traveling, most reasoning is thrown out the window. Eating healthy? Debatable. Staying active? Nah. Practicing zero waste? I’ll try… my best?

Without a lot of planning, practicing zero waste when traveling can be a struggle. Between a new city, camping trips, and hotel rooms, there are many moments where I’ll encounter items that are not eco-friendly. Will I give up street food – if I really want it – because it’s packaged in plastic? Truthfully, probably not (and that’s okay). There are some things I can’t control and it can be very discouraging to enjoy a trip when the constant guilt is on my mind. Though, this is where I have started to make small changes elsewhere.

One of the easiest things I can control is what I pack at home. In addition to bringing along my set of reusable utensils and reusable alternatives with me on trips, I’ve made the transition to packing a zero waste toiletries kit too. Shared a few tips below!


bar shampoo in reusable metal tin box
Repurposed an old first aid kit tin box to hold my shampoo bar and body bar.
bar shampoo
Cut half an inch of bar shampoo from Meow Meow Tweet.

I recently made the switch to bar shampoo (will write more about this in a future blog post!) as a zero waste alternative. I love the Rosemary Shampoo Bar Soap from Meow Meow Tweet because it’s easy to pack and is not a liquid item – which means I don’t have to worry about it being under 3.4 ounces. I just shave off enough for the trip and place the soap in a reusable metal container. Hassle-free, TSA-compliant, and eco-friendly.


travel tip - low impact toiletries kit -3
Bar soap purchased from a vendor from a local farmer’s market.
travel tip - low impact toiletries kit -4
One inch think cut – shaved off a thicker piece compared to my shampoo bar.

I’m guilty of buying travel-sized items from Target in the past. Although they are cute and convenient, there’s not much product in the container. After one weekend, it’s empty and the bottles will end up in the landfill. Fortunately, I’ve rediscovered bar soap again. I’ll do the same thing with bar soap – shave off just what I need for the trip and place this in the same metal tin box.

A few bar soap companies I love are: Zum Bar (can be purchased at Sprouts), Meow Meow Tweet, and any packaged-free soap I can find at my local farmer’s market.


Left to right: Containers I found in my mom’s old toiletry bag. Using the left container for lotion and the right container for eye cream.
reusable toiletries kit from REI
Reusable containers can be used for a variety of toiletries. Got these in my toiletry kit from REI.

Love love love my reusable toiletry kit from REI (I bought mine from an REI store back home and can’t find the same one on their website, but this toiletry bag comes close). The bag comes with many containers for liquid shampoo, conditioner, and body soap, but also face wash, serums, moisturizers, mouthwash, and anything else you need. I like them because they are made from silicone and the same plastic as my Nalgene bottles – meaning they’re BPA-Free and will last a long time! Silicone makes it easier to squeeze liquid soap too. I also camp a lot and these always come in handy.

Do you have an alternative to packing for a zero waste toiletry bag? Maybe a more affordable version of the REI toiletry bag to share?


Cover Photo of cashews, water, and honey to make cashew milk

Zero Waste Month: Week 4 (Vivian)

It’s a little late but we’ve made it to our last week of the zero waste transition. Before you read on, catch up on Zero Waste Month: Week 1, Zero Waste Month: Week 2, and Zero Waste Month: Week 3.

What are your thoughts on the transition to a zero waste lifestyle so far?
With any new change to a lifestyle, at first, it’s going to feel exciting, different, and out of the norm. For me, the hardest part of the transition was planning ahead of time and feeling “guilty” from time to time. Overall, it was a positive experience because this transition gave me an opportunity to think outside of the box, find better alternatives, and gain a new outlook on waste.

What did you find most surprising about the zero waste transition? About yourself?
It was surprising to find how much plastic we use in our everyday lives. Even when we’re conscious about it, it’s hidden in places you wouldn’t even think about. You can’t escape it! We all know plastic waste is a big problem for our environment, but visually seeing the amount we consume makes the thought a reality.

What I’ve learned is to take the big picture and scale it down to what you can do so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I’ve learned to let go of “perfection” and create a balance between my zero waste lifestyle and my happiness. I enjoy making my food from scratch and finding new ways to cut down my waste. We live in a world that isn’t created to be “zero waste”, but knowing that I’m doing the best I can is all anyone can ever ask for.

What habits do you think you’ll be more flexible about?
I’ll be more flexible about my frozen Asian food, especially since I don’t live in an area that has much at all. I won’t be eating them as much, but I also won’t stop buying them completely. I do hope more Asian companies will consider the environment when making their products and packaging. It’s important to voice your thoughts to businesses and bring it to their attention. Email, write, or call them on why they should be eco-minded; speak up and question their process.

Any tips for someone who’d like to transition to a zero-waste lifestyle?
First and foremost, write down your “why”. Understanding why you want to live a zero waste lifestyle will determine your mindset and your action. When it comes to these changes, take it slow, and set yourself up with small, attainable goals. Remember, you can’t change your habits overnight (if only!). I recommend reading this book called Life Without Plastic: The Practical Guide to Avoiding Plastic to keep Your Family and the Planet Healthy.

Most importantly, have fun and be creative! No one is perfect so don’t be so hard on yourself if you bought something with plastic or produced XYZ waste. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and when all else is lost, remember your “why.” I want to emphasize again that this lifestyle isn’t about giving everything up; it’s about finding better alternatives for yourself and the planet.

Day 21

Photo of Day 21

Day 25

Photo of Day 25

Day 28

Photo of Day 28

What ended up in my jar?

Photo of waste from week 4
From left to right, top to bottom: snow cone cup (given to me at a tabling event), candy wrapper, plastic spoon (given with the snow cone cup), twist tie from lettuce, plastic wrappers from tabling event, plastic packaging of an Asian snack.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in San Francisco for work. I brought my food waste and compostable items up with me and dumped them in a compost bin. It felt so satisfying knowing that these won’t go to the landfill. People living in San Francisco, you’re so lucky to have a great compost system. Take advantage of it!

Photo of Vivian with food waste in plastic bag
Standing next to a compost bin with my food waste in a plastic bag.
Photo of Vivian dumping food waste in compost bin
Dumping my food waste and compostable items in the compost bin!
Photo of Jenn and our friend, Juliane.
Reunited and it feels so good! Yes, it was very windy. Left to right: our friend Juliane, Jenn, me!

Thank you for following me on this journey. If you have any questions, comments, or tips please leave them in the comments section below. Feel free to email Tinycaravan at as well!


Peaches on a cutting board

Zero Waste Month: Week 4 (Jennifer)

We’ve made it to the last week of documenting our zero waste transition. Before you read about week 4 (which was written 2 weeks late), catch up on Zero Waste Month: Week 1, Zero Waste Month: Week 2, and Zero Waste Month: Week 3.

What are your thoughts on the transition to a zero waste lifestyle so far?
Two words: not perfect. I think the level of difficulty depends on how much you want to do. When I started the transition to zero waste, my goal was to be more active in a journey to limit my plastic consumption. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to change my lifestyle in one day. There were many factors involved – shifting my lifestyle, using the things I already owned (super important!!), being more conscious about buying things I needed (do I really need it?), and overall, enjoying the continuous learning experience. There are days where it’ll be hard and I will be frustrated, but in those moments, I try to remind myself that small impacts contribute to the bigger picture.

What did you find most surprising about the zero waste transition? About yourself?
Sometimes I am still reluctant to open up my bag and take out reusable utensils. I know I shouldn’t mind what others think, but I just do not like bringing attention to myself. Luckily, I’ve found most responses to be positive and people are curious to learn. Once at a ramen shop, the waitress asked if I brought my own utensils because I didn’t trust that chopsticks at restaurants were clean. When I told her it was for sustainable reasons, she thought it was very cool! The support and positive responses I’ve received from friends and strangers are exciting and I love that people want to learn more about how they can help save the environment.

What habits do you think you’ll be more flexible about?
I definitely won’t be keeping track of my waste in a mason jar. I think it can be counterproductive to the transition. When I documented the transition, I found that when I buy something which cannot be recycled I will think, “Oh I can’t buy this because I’ll have to add it to my jar,” instead of, “I shouldn’t buy this because it’s going to pollute the environment.” Down the line, I think that mindset can make me lose track of what’s really important and why I’m doing this. I’m doing this for the planet – not to prove anything to anyone. I understand that it’s a great motivator for some (and that’s great!), but it’s not something for me.

Any tips for someone who’d like to transition to a zero waste lifestyle?
I really believe having the right mindset, tools, and support system are important for the transition. Understand that it’s going to be an ongoing journey. Gather the tools you need to replace plastic in your life. You can start off simple with a reusable water bottle, stainless steel straw, reusable utensils, or produce bags – most of these things we already have at home. I talked more about that in my Zero Waste: Week 2. Then, have a conversation with friends who are going through the same transition so that you can continue to motivate and teach one another. If you don’t have a group of friends who are on the same journey, join groups online. Two Facebook groups I’m in are: Journey to Zero Waste and Zero Waste Minimalist.

Day 21

Waste from day 21
Waste on the ground is from week 4. Waste in containers is from previous weeks.

Day 25

waste from day 25
Waste on the ground is from week 4. Waste in containers is from previous weeks.

Day 28

waste from day 28
Waste on the ground is from week 4. Waste in containers is from previous weeks.

What’s in my jar?

waste from week 4
Left to right, top to bottom: sticker from bar soap, a ticket from Giants vs. Dodgers game (will probably keep this in a memory box), receipts from eating out and grocery shopping, plastic spoon from an ice cream sample, back of sticker from a name tag

Thank you for following my transition and journey to zero waste. If you have any questions, comments, or tips to help with my ongoing transition, please leave them in the comments section below or email me at


Katherine exploring nature

Zero Hour Story: Katherine, Engineering Technician

Katherine is an Engineering Technician at a landfill in LA County. She is beginning grad school this coming fall to further her education in Atmospheric Science. Katherine’s dream is to work in public service to help improve our air quality while protecting our public & environmental health. When she’s not working, she enjoys visiting national parks, seeing waterfalls, traveling, running, and mountain biking. Fun Fact: Katherine and her coworkers would mountain bike during their lunch break.

What does sustainability mean to you?
For me, sustainability means to do more than “maintaining what we have” –– that’s not enough. Sustainability is about protecting and preserving the environment now and for the future. To be sustainable is to do what we can to ensure that all living things can survive and flourish. We must give back to an environment that has already given us so much.

How did you become interested in the environment?
During my third year of college, I participated in a 10-day cultural immersion and sustainability trip in Costa Rica with the UCI Costa Rica Program. My group and I stayed on a sustainable farm and got to see how everything on the local farms functioned cohesively. We witnessed how aware farmers were of their impact on Earth and how they tried to find ways to minimize their ecological footprint. Farmers would turn their waste into compost or use it for biodigestion (a biological process that occurs when organic matter is decomposed by bacteria due to the absence of oxygen, creating biogas). Compared to the United States, the rural farmers in Costa Rica seemed to have limited technology, yet, they were able to think of innovative ways to be sustainable. It made me feel as though I can also make an impact even though I too, have a limited amount of resources.

Why is the cause important to you?
My trip to Costa Rica truly inspired and reinforced my passion for the environment. Being there was amazing – seeing the rich biodiversity, the resourceful methods of constructing green spaces, witnessing the entire process of “farm to fork”, embracing the natural space, and so much more. It made me aware of all the things that I wish to protect, but it also made me realize that we aren’t doing nearly enough at home. The environment is the basis of everything; without land, air, or water, we can’t survive. I want to dedicate my career to the environment because without it, no living thing can survive.

“The environment is the basis of everything; without land, air or water, we can’t survive.”

You’re currently an Engineering Technician at a landfill. Can you tell us more about that?
I like to say that I am protecting the public and environmental health [haha]. My job is to ensure that we are in compliance with air quality standards enforced by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). We engage in stormwater sampling, landfill gas monitoring, surface gas monitoring, ambient air monitoring, etc. to make sure no gas migrates outside of the site. A cool thing about the landfill gas is that our site is under a gas collection system. Because methane is the most prominent gas in the decomposition process, we send it to a power plant to generate electricity out of it. The experience I’ve gained with this job has made me think, “How are air pollutants being distributed within our atmosphere and how does it affect us as well as our environment?”

How has your job impacted your mindset on our waste?
I think about trash more often now. In the past when I threw my trash away, I never thought about it again. I didn’t even know what a landfill looked like! Now I think, “Where is my trash going? What type of trash am I throwing away?” Landfills aren’t dumping ground where trash magically disappears. There are rules and regulations that we must comply with and quality standards that we must meet. All this information can be exhausting, but it has made me more conscious of what I buy –– the packaging and the materials that go into the product. I’ve started to feel guilty when I use single-use items, so I’ll try and buy items that can be reused.

You’re not alone; we definitely understand how that feels. Have you made any switches to use more sustainable products?
I recently bought wool dryer balls to replace dryer sheets. Wool dryer balls have the same functions as regular dryer sheets, only, they’re an eco-friendly alternative. Before our water heater was fixed at home, I used to collect water from the faucet in the bathtub (as the water was heating up) to water plants outside. I’ll also collect the water used for washing fruits and vegetables to water the plants. At restaurants, I’ll refuse straws and make sure to have a reusable water bottle with me at all times. I’ll try to repurpose my things too; if I do have a plastic bag I will try to reuse it as many times as I can before it’s no longer usable. When I shop, I’ll think to myself, “Is this something I need? How much packaging went into this product?”.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve seen in the landfills?
There are a few things that surprised me since working at a landfill. Like I mentioned earlier, I had never seen a landfill before working here and I lacked knowledge on how they were constructed and regulated. I expected it to just be a dumping ground for waste, but it’s more than that. To my surprise, in the areas where no more trash is being added, there is an abundance of wildlife such as deer, coyotes, rabbits, snakes, red-tail hawks, and more. There are also areas that provide habitat to native plants and flowers such as the California poppy, California sagebrush, and the California bush sunflower. Aside from the fauna and flora that exist at the landfill, it’s unfortunate to see how much waste we produce as a society, along with the items people throw away. There is so much plastic –– and some items thrown in the landfill are either still usable or brand new. I’ve been working here for over three years now and the landfill continues to grow. People who live near the landfill don’t want it to be in their neighborhood, yet, they are still producing the same amount of trash –– they’re not doing anything to help the situation. No one ever stops to think, “If we can’t throw our trash here, where will it go?” Eventually, all landfills have an end date and once it closes, cities will cover the land and put a playground or golf course over it. But that’s not always the best solution; the trash will eventually decompose and the ground will continue to settle for years to come. Instead, we should all be doing what we can to minimize our waste.

“Making a difference doesn’t have to be an in-your-face type of action, it can just be small changes in your lifestyle.”

You spend a lot of time in the outdoors. How has this affected your view of the environment?
Being out in nature has made me realize how beautiful the untouched, natural world can be. I always make sure to practice the “Leave No Trace” principles. I want to preserve our natural spaces and protect wildlife. We’ve destroyed so much of their habitats and have endangered many species –– we must do what we can for them to survive. Many people go to the outdoors to recharge and escape from the hustle & bustle of life. We need the outdoors. But water pollution, trash, and smog can take those wonderful experiences away.

What would you tell someone who doesn’t think they can make a difference?
It’s like what Tinycaravan always reminds me of, “Small changes make a difference.” I believe collective action is powerful. One person’s habits can make others think, “Maybe this is something I can do too.” One person’s lifestyle can change many others –– it’s a domino effect. After the Costa Rica trip, one of my friends said he wanted to pursue an education in this field. My family now recycles at home and people have asked about our water bucket (which has allowed me to start a conversation about water conservation). Making a difference doesn’t have to be in-your-face, it can just be small changes in your lifestyle.

Any last words?
Every individual plays an important role in helping our environment and protecting it for our future.

what's your #zerohourstory (blog)

Read more about our Zero Hour Story: What’s It All About series.

*This interview was modified for the purpose of the series.

Cover photo with garbonzo beans, hummus, and soaked almonds, all in glass jars.

Zero Waste Month: Week 3 (Vivian)

Can you believe we’re at week 3 already? Zero Waste Month: Week 1 is about my expectations and why I wanted to transition to a zero waste lifestyle. Zero Waste Month: Week 2 is about my essentials and the changes I made. For week 3, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on what I’ve enjoyed most and least during the zero waste transition.

What’s one change you’ve enjoyed during your zero waste transition?
Lately, I’ve enjoyed making my own food. So far, I’ve made hummus and almond milk, both of which are simple to make at home. Best of all, you can buy most of these ingredients plastic and waste-free. They also turned out better than I expected.

To make the hummus, I used garbanzo beans, garlic, water, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. The only plastic waste produced from the homemade hummus was the plastic bottle of the tahini sauce. I only had to buy the garlic and garbanzo beans, which were luckily available in bulk.

To make almond milk, all you need is water, honey (to sweeten), and almonds. I also bought these ingredients in bulk. The leftover almond pulp can be dried in the oven and use as an almond meal.

Ingredients for homemade hummus: Tahini, olive oil, salt. I don’t have a food processor or a big blender, so I used my roommate’s Magic Bullet.
Ingredients for homemade hummus: Tahini, olive oil, salt. I don’t have a food processor or a big blender, so I used my roommate’s Magic Bullet.
Homemade hummus in glass jar
My homemade hummus!
Squeezing almond milk from a cloth reusable bag
After I blended my soaked almonds with water, I put it in my cloth ECOBAGS and squeezed for the almond milk. I don’t have a cheesecloth, but my reusable bag worked perfectly.
Homemade almond milk in glass jar
Ta-da, my almond milk!
Homemade smoothie with almond milk
Made a mango apple smoothie with my almond milk.

What’s one tip you would give to someone who wants to start making their own food?
My suggestion is to take it easy and find what you’re interested in making at home. Making your own food can be more affordable and healthier. It’s also fun because you can experiment and customize each food to your liking. I love garlic so I made sure to add extra cloves to my hummus for a strong garlic flavor. I also rarely follow an exact recipe and don’t measure anything out to the T (unless I’m baking). If you fail the first time, that’s okay! Keep trying and trying until you get your desired flavor and texture. Don’t stress about the small stuff and just have fun with it.

What’s one thing you did not enjoy about the zero waste transition?
I didn’t enjoy seeing all of my food waste and giving up some of my favorite snacks & foods. There were some snacks and foods I intentionally didn’t buy because of their excessive and unnecessary packaging. I knew I would feel really guilty if I bought them. However, with the new mindset, it led me to make my own food and to find other options. It’s not the end of the world and I was able to compromise and try new things. I’m still human and there are some snacks I’ll never give up like my Asian snacks and Lays Ketchup chips (best chips ever).

Day 15

Day 15

Day 17

Day 17

Day 19

Day 19

What ended up in my plastic container?

Packaging from Lay’s Ketchup chips, clothes from online, receipts, wax-lined paper from an ice cream cone, Asian dumplings, eyeliner, toothpicks, sample cup, gum wrappers, and frozen fruits
From left to right, top to bottom: packaging from Lay’s Ketchup chips, clothes from online, receipts, wax-lined paper from an ice cream cone, Asian dumplings, eyeliner, toothpicks, sample cup, gum wrappers, and frozen fruits

Some of my waste included food packaging I bought before I started the zero waste transition.


Cover photo of compost in a stainless steel container

Zero Waste Month: Week 3 (Jennifer)

First, catch up on Zero Waste Month: Week 1 was about my expectations. Then, Zero Waste Month: Week 2 was about the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle. Now, week 3: what I’ve enjoyed most and more.

What’s one change you’ve enjoyed during your transition to zero waste?
I’m very grateful to be able to compost (yes! It’s the little things). This is my life now and this is what gets me excited. I am a lot more conscious of the food waste I produce and I love finding other alternatives that are better for the Earth. This includes freezing food I can’t finish before the expiration date, turning over ripen produce into green juices (great way to get those servings in), and then as a last resort, only composting leftovers and the peels from fruits & veggies. It truly feels great being able to limit my waste just by living within the means of a mindful lifestyle. One more thing I’d like to add is my love for my stainless steel lunchbox from ECOlunchbox. It’s lightweight and I can carry it anywhere. They’re great for packing up leftovers when I eat out –– no wasted food and no wasted take-out containers.

Leftovers in a stainless steel container
Leftovers in a stainless steel container

What’s one tip you would give to someone who wants to compost at home?
Food waste is the number one waste for most people and I feel very lucky to live in a city that offers composting. I also know this might not be available to everyone, which is quite unfortunate. My advice is to seek out a compost facility or garden in your community (if available) and utilize what they offer. You can also make DIY compost bins at home whether you live in a house with a backyard, an apartment with a small patio, or limited space. Recology also offers free compost bins in selected cities. Contact your local Recology for more info!

I’ve also tried to limit my food waste by planning what I want to eat for the week, then, only buying that amount (something I learned to do recently). Cooking at home has proven to be healthier, waste-friendly, and money saving in my opinion.

Photo of my grocery for the week: fruits, veggies, and a tuna can

Week 3: I decided to make tuna sandwiches for lunch so for week 3, I only stocked up on fruits and veggies. Other ingredients like bread, mayo, salt, pepper, green onions, sesame oil, and sriracha, I already had at home. I also ate out often this week for work and dinners with friends so this was enough to last me. I also had leftover pasta from a previous week and made that for dinner.

What’s one thing you did not enjoy about the zero waste transition?
I can’t say with confidence that there was one thing I did not enjoy. Overall, the catch 22 was, being more aware of the amount of waste I produced and finding plastic waste in the little things: stickers from fruits & veggies, tape from packages, and plastic from jar containers. I’ve been able to cut back on plastic packaging from snacks by eating alternative snacks (that I do enjoy) in fruits –– which is a lot healthier anyway. I do feel guilty inside when I make a purchase that cannot be recycled or composted, but the number of times I said “yes” compared to “no” is significantly lower. I do put my happiness first sometimes and I tell myself, “Jenn if you want that chocolate bar, just GET IT.” And I think that’s totally okay. I want to stress over and over again, it will never be perfect, and I’m not striving for that. But I have noticed my waste has been significantly less during this transition (thank goodness for deciding to take photos in the beginning). Overall, it has been quite a happy transition for me. I’m excited to do more.

Day 15

Day 15
The left jar is from week 1, the middle jar & coffee cup is from week 2

Day 17

Day 17
Waste not in the jar is from week 3

Day 19

Day 19
Waste not in the jar is from week 3

What ended up in my jar?

What ended up in my jar?
Left to right, top to bottom: Plastic bag from pasta, twist tie from lettuce (I will probably find a way to reuse this), black plastic layer from blackberry container, receipts from eating out, top of a soda can, stickers from fruits, and a wax paper wrapper from ice cream. So happy with the little waste I produced this week!


Zero Waste Month: Week 2 (Vivian)

This is week two of my zero waste transition. You can read about my Zero Waste: Week 1Week 1 too. This week, I’ll be talking about my essentials, changes I’ve made, and my thoughts on what it means to live with zero waste.

What are your daily zero waste essentials?
My To-Go Ware utensil kit, a stainless steel straw, cloth napkin, and my 32-oz Nalgene bottle are with me at all times (when I have my purse). I leave my glass jars, reusable containers, and reusable bags/produce bags in my car for when I go grocery shopping or any last minute, out-of-the-blue moments.

reusable bamboo utensils
Reusable bamboo utensils from To-Go Ware and stainless steel straw from Life Without Plastic store.

What changes have you incorporated since starting to live more mindfully?
Everything I do now revolve around trying to avoid single-use plastic and packaging. From what I eat to what I buy to what I do, I keep the plastic-free idea in mind. When I buy groceries at Sprouts, the first thing I do is head to the bulk section to see if I can buy anything I need in bulk. I never understood why stores sold food in bulk, but now I’m so thankful Sprouts has over 300 items in bulk. I try to opt for paper or glass packaging when I think about making purchases.

I also keep in mind to first reduce what I purchase, then reuse what I already own. This week, I had to buy face wash and toothpaste. Instead of going to Target and restocking like I normally would, I found an old glass bottle, went to The Refill Shoppe, and filled it up with face wash. As for my toothpaste, I decided to switch it up and order toothpowder in bulk from The Refill Revolution. They ship their products in paper packaging and the toothpowder I ordered came in compostable packaging. I had a couple of the small 4-oz mason jars at home and used that to put my toothpowder in.  I also made hummus for the first time and that turned out better than I expected!

But I’m not perfect. Sometimes I just can’t avoid plastic entirely. When I want something important like Asian snacks and cheese, I’ll get them. No need to beat yourself over it; we all need to live a little.

bulk products
Shampoo, conditioner, laundry liquid, soaps in bulk at The Refill Shoppe.
waste free beauty products
Face wash from The Refill Shoppe and toothpowder from The Refill Revolution in my reusable containers.
homemade hummus
I made my homemade hummus (loosely) following this recipe.
bulk food
Buying some granolas in bulk. I usually write the tare weight and the PLU number on my hand — it’s just easier for me.
grocery shopping
“Plastic-free” grocery shopping at Sprouts with my reusable produce bags and bags. Some of the items include fruits, veggies, and spaghetti sauce.
stainless steel water bottle
I went to a BYOC (bring-your-own-cup) event at the Patagonia store in Ventura.

Have you noticed a significant reduction in the waste you’ve produced?
Not so much my food waste, but in other aspects of my life, yes! It can be hard at time to stay disciplined and avoid food packaged in plastic, but I’m trying! Thankfully, I have The Refill Shoppe and other “zero waste” websites to turn to for household, bath, and beauty products. I wish there were more brick-and-mortar stores that focus on zero waste or a grocery store that is package free. One day!

How has this transition help shaped your idea of what it means to live with zero waste?
It’s all about balance and rejecting the ‘throwaway’ mindset. It’s creating a circular cycle (think the chasing arrows symbol) instead of a linear system where, after disposal, things just end up in the landfill. It’s taking the next step after the disposal process and bringing it back into the cycle (e.g. recycling, composting, repurposing). Living with zero waste is also not about perfection and creating absolutely zero trash. For many of us, that’s unattainable. As long as you’re trying your best and constantly learning and looking for ways to reduce your waste, that’s already making a big impact. Living with zero waste doesn’t mean giving up things you love; it’s looking for better alternatives.

Day 9

trash in mason jar

Day 11

trash in mason jar

Day 13

low impact month week 2 - vivian-7

What ended up in my 32oz. jar?

low impact month week 2 - vivian-12
From left to right, top to bottom: Plastic packaging from cheese and bread, Asian snack, spaghetti jar sticker, vegetable ties, receipts, and more stickers.