Green Alternative to Single-Use K-cups

Oh how the weeks are flying by.  Seems like summer just started, but it’s already the middle of August! With a new day job and plans to move, I haven’t been knitting nearly as much (hence the lack of posts), but I did want to share another eco-friendly product with you.

I love coffee, and back in the spring, Nate and I got a great deal on a single-serve coffee maker that uses those little K-Cups. Now, K-Cups themselves are outrageously expensive and super wasteful.  You get one use and then throw away tons of plastic and foil packaging.  But we like the idea of making just one cup at a time. We waste less coffee (vs. dumping out the last few cups in the bottom of a large pot that sat for too long), and the coffee is always hot when you want it (vs. re-heating in the microwave all day).

Instead of being wasteful, we invested in a simple re-usable K-Cup.  It may not be the “perfect” eco-friendly product (it is made from plastic after-all), but I will say it’s much better than creating all that waste with single-use cups. I’ve been using it for a while, and am very happy with it.  If you have a coffee maker that uses K-Cups, I suggest getting one.  You can fill it with you own flavored coffees or even loose leaf tea!

I picked mine up at Wal-Mart, but you can just as easily get them online if you want something fancier.

Product Review: Lodge Cast Iron Reversible Griddle

This past Christmas I got this awesome cast iron griddle as a gift.  It was definitely on my list (I’m a huge fan of cast iron), and was intrigued by the idea of a double-burner griddle/grill when I read about the one Tammy and Logan Strobel use in their tiny house on wheels.

I’ve been a big fan of Tammy’s blog, Rowdy Kittens, for a quite a while.  That lead me to her husband’s blog, and ultimately this post about their kitchen, where I clicked on a link for “a perfect fitting cast iron griddle and indoor cast-iron grill for the stove.

I found a slightly larger model, the Pro Grid Reversible Griddle, on the Lodge website and immediately added it to my gift list. It quickly became a staple in my kitchen.  Ok, so on to the review.

cast iron grill pan

Photo Credit: Lodge Manufacturing

This griddle is awesome.  Here’s why:

  • Covers two burners to increase your cooking surface
  • Is reversible so you can grill veggies or burgers on one side, then use the other side for pancakes
  • Roasts veggies in the oven PERFECTLY
  • Is a great way to grill indoors
  • Both sides have a recessed ridge to catch any grease or drippings
  • Cast iron is basically indestructible and will hold up for years and years and years (so I’ll have this the rest of my life)
  • Heats evenly and holds heat better than other metal cookware
  • Pre-seasoned and easy to clean
  • Lodge is the only remaining U.S. manufacturer of cast iron (my patriotic Buy American sentiment)
  • Lodge has been around since 1896, has a strong reputation, and makes a high quality product
  • Bonus: I get a nice arm workout (it’s pretty heavy)

Since January, I’ve used this pan more in the oven than the stovetop (though I’ve used it on the stovetop plenty too).  It’s essentially replaced my baking sheet, which was unexpected.  Though I haven’t attempted to bake cookies on it, I now use it to roast all sorts of veggies or make potato wedges on it. So far, every dish has turned out amazingly well–better than my previous non-stick baking sheet.  The even heat makes sure the veggies are nice and brown, but none of them burn (even the smaller or thinner pieces), which was a problem with my baking sheet.

I’ve used it on a glass stove without any issues, and have made pancakes on it quite a few times.  If I was still eating meat, this thing would be even more versatile, but I find plenty of uses for it with my plant-based diet–like these delicious roasted radishes.

roasted radishes

Now that summer is here I’ll be using the grill side much more often–I’m thinking black bean burgers and grilled zucchini. Yum!

When I started downsizing and simplifying my life, I knew the kitchen would be the hardest part. It’s my domain; it easily has the most items of any room in the house, and it’s where I spend a lot of time.  So part of my goal was to whittle down to a few key pieces that I love, that are versatile, and that will stand the test of time. This pan fits all that critera, and will be in my kitchen for years to come.  Another item that makes the list: my crock pot.  But that’s for a future post!

Until then, happy cooking!

Product Review: Pyrex Glass Storage Containers

Pyrex dishesLast year (maybe the year before?) I decided I wanted Pyrex glass storage containers to replace all my plastic-ware and other various plastic containers from who knows where.  Why?

  • Plastic can leach chemicals into your food, especially if you reheat them.
  • Tomato sauce stains are pretty permanent and unsightly.
  • Lids never fit, or I had to try several before I found the right match
  • Stacking and storing was always a problem
  • I’d lose a lid, or a bottom, and then having extras floating around I didn’t know what to do with
  • I realized that all this plastic will end up in a landfill much sooner than glass, because plastic bubbles, melts, stains, and gets dingy a lot faster

While I really wanted to just go out and buy myself a whole set, I knew that was a little crazy (and more than my budget allowed), so I slowly started acquiring different pieces.  For Christmas I got Pyrex bake ware and storage bowls.  I found a few more pieces at a thrift shop.  I did break down a buy a small set from the store, which is where I got the two rectangular pieces.  The largest bowl in the back of the picture I got from my grandmother.

Finally I feel like I have a decent set, and am proud to say I no longer own or use any cheap plastic containers. Surprisingly, I feel most of my storage needs are met with just a few different sizes, and I think the only size I could use more of is the small 1 cup bowl.

Wondering how just two shapes and only 5 sizes can storage all my possible leftovers?  Here’s what I use them for:

Round containers

  • soups
  • salads
  • lunches
  • leftover pasta, beans, couscous, rice
  • cut up fruit or vegetables
  • applesauce
  • mashed potatoes
  • largest bowl holds my spinach or lettuce for salads

Rectangular containers

  • pizza
  • sandwiches
  • salads
  • bread sticks
  • packed lunch (i.e. baked potato nestled next to steam broccoli)
  • carrots, celery, cut zucchini or any other long vegetable

I can’t think of a single instance where I felt like I didn’t have the right container or the right size. So if you think you won’t be able to store all your food, don’t worry, it will all work out.

Now on to information that’s more suited to a proper product review, if there is such a thing.

Why choose glass?
I chose glass because it’s more environmentally friendly (can be easily recycled), and because it’s non-absorbent. I don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into my food, or my food seeping into the plastic.  It’s easy to clean, and honestly just looks nicer than plastic

Why choose Pyrex?
I choose Pyrex for a few reasons.  First, it was a name I know and trust, and that my family has used for years. I also couldn’t find another brand that had such a strong reputation in kitchenware.  It’s heat resistant and drop resistant, which I tested when I dropped my dish of applesauce on a concrete floor at work.  Applesauce flew everywhere and my dish skidded halfway across the room, but thankfully it didn’t have so much as a crack in it.

Do I recommend it?
Yes! I’m sure you probably figured that out pretty early on. Overall I simply recommend that you get rid of your plastic-ware, even if it’s just replacing one container at a time.  That can be done with glass (like Pyrex) or with stainless steel containers. If you’re worried that glass will be too heavy to carry with you for packed lunches, then certainly try the stainless steel.  I just don’t have any experience with those containers to make specific recommendations at this time.  I also tell myself that carrying around heavy glass is somehow a workout for my arms.

*Please note that Pyrex manufactured before 1998 is made from borosilicate glass, which is completely clear and very heat resistant.  This type is more likely to be found secondhand in thrift shops and garage sales.

All Pyrex sold in the U.S. today is made from tempered soda-lime glass, which has a blue or green tint and is more shatter-resistant when dropped, but it is less heat resistant than borosilicate glass. Keep this in mind if working in extreme temperatures where the glass may be exposed to sudden changes in temperature and shatter. Most of my Pryex is this soda-lime glass, and you can see that the edges look more green on most of my pieces pictured.

Product Review: Eco Jarz Lid

Early last week, my Eco Jarz lid finally arrived in the mail.  What’s an Eco Jarz lid you ask?  It’s an awesome invention I’ve been wanting to try for a long time–it’s a lid that turns any mason jar into a to-go cup!

Eco Jarz lid

I was searching for an eco-friendly travel mug for coffee, and just wasn’t too happy with what I was finding.  Sure, there are plenty of stainless steel travel mugs and thermoses available that don’t use plastic, but I wanted something I could easily microwave as well, especially if my coffee got cold.

Solution: the Eco Jarz lid.  I’d already been using glass jars as drinking glasses as a way to pare down my kitchen items (glass jars are incredibly useful and multi-functional), but I couldn’t take them in the car without spilling my drink everywhere. This lid solved all that. And all I have to do is unscrew it and pop my coffee in the microwave when I need to!

It’s basically 3 parts:

  • a stainless steel lid that’s raised up and has two holes (one for drinking out of, one for venting)
  • a food-safe silicone ring to create a seal and prevent leaking
  • a metal band to screw the lid onto the jar (the exact same kind you’d use for canning)

It’s super easy to use, and I can just unscrew the lid to heat up my coffee in the jar whenever I need to.

BONUS: The Eco Jarz site lets you choose if you want to receive your lid with or without retail packaging, which is a great eco-friendly option if you’re just getting this for yourself.

They offer both regular and wide mouth lids, and you can choose to get the metal band or use your own.  There’s plenty of other accessories as well, just as mason jar mugs with handles, stainless steel straws, and silicone versions of the lids.

I love mine, and if you’ve been looking for a more eco-friendly way to take your favorite drink with you, then I recommend you give them a try!, and if you’ve been looking for a more eco-friendly way to take your favorite drink with you, then I recommend you give them a try!

Eco Jarz lid

Product Review: Tooth Powder

tooth powder

I believe the greatest way to help the planet is to simply REDUCE the waste we produce.  If we can reduce the waste, then there’s less to worry about reusing or recycling.  The first big area I’ve been tackling is personal hygeine.  The last two product reviews covered the waste-reducing solutions I found for women’s monthly gift from Mother Nature, and this week we move on to brushing our teeth.

Problem: Commercially-produced fluoride toothpaste produces garbage by way of plastic tubing and emerging evidence shows sodium fluoride to be harmful to our health.

Solution: Tooth Powder! Fluoride-free, vegan, and comes in a biodegradable container!

I purchased this tooth powder from Rex Organics on Etsy.  They’re based out of Portland, Oregon, and so far I’m loving the tooth powder I got from them!

Now, I’m imagining you may be a little hesitant about tooth powder.  After all, it’s really very different from the toothpaste we grew up using.  It’s weird, and honestly I had to force myself to use it when it first arrived in the mail.  It was so much easier to just grab my boyfriend’s toothpaste tube and squeeze some on my brush.  The tooth powder is a little more work (like, all of 10 seconds more, I was just being whiny) in that you can’t just dip your toothbrush into the powder, you have to scoop a little out and put it on the brush.  If you dip your brush into the powder, moisture and bacteria will ruin the whole thing. No one wants that.

It comes in a thick paper tub, which I will be moving to a little mason jar (as soon as I have an empty one in the kitchen). The tub is biodegradable, so you can just toss it in your compost pile if you want!  Or keep it and refill it when you need more powder.  Personally I’m too afraid of the container getting wet if I set it on the counter and then seeping through to the powder and ruining it, but that’s just me. Eco friendly bonus: using all natural ingredients means you’re not rinsing harmful chemicals down the sink and into the water supply!

tooth powder

Since there aren’t any sodium lauryl sulfates or other surfactants in it, this tooth powder doesn’t foam up like regular toothpaste does.  Don’t be surprised by this! The first time I used it, it was so odd.  It felt weird when I first put it in my mouth,and while there is a hint of peppermint from essential oils, its not nearly as sweet or minty as commercial toothpaste.  Again, don’t be surprised!  That’s how it’s supposed to be. The main job is to clean your teeth, right?  Not feel like you’re having a mint candy in your mouth.

Does it work?  Yes!  I’m happy to report that it does!  I’ve been using it for over a month now, and my mouth feels squeaky clean after each brushing.  I’ve even noticed some whitening, though subtle, and I’m quite satisfied with the results.

So if you’re looking for a way to clean up your teeth brushing routine, try tooth powder next time you’re out of toothpaste.  The environment (and your mouth) will thank you!

Product Review – Halulite Tea Kettle

I found this Halulite Tea Kettle  through one of my favorite blogs, Rowdy Kittens, where Tammy listed it as an essential for her tiny kitchen. I initially posted about it when it first arrived in the mail, but I wanted to do a more formal product review after using it for almost a year. I would have to agree with Tammy, it’s become a kitchen essential!

GSI Outdoors Halulite Tea Kettle

tea kettle

I decided to buy the kettle after my previous one (a large stainless steel model with a giant curved handle that proved difficult to pack or store) developed rust on the inside.

It’s only a 1-quart size, but I love that it’s so small.   It’s the perfect size for making two cups of tea, heats up quickly, and is compact with a folding handle and short spout.  To me, this is the most important feature.  Nate and I have moved 5 times in the past 4 years, and every time I packed up the kitchen the large awkward tea kettle never quite fit in a box very well.  It also means that I can neatly tuck it away if I need to use all four burners on the stove, which is great when you don’t have a lot of extra room to just leave things out.

I know this is probably seems like a small, insignificant detail to most, but tiny living (and an ecofriendly lifestyle for that matter) is about purposefully making choices. This small addition to our kitchen reminds me daily of the goals I’m working toward.  It motivates me to keep researching ecofriendly alternatives and tiny living practices, keep saving for our tiny dream home, and keep creating wonderfully organic knits for those who want to help the planet.

Product Review – Lunapads

Ah, that time of the month again….for another product review!At the end of October I reviewed the Mooncup, an ecofriendly alternative to tampons.  In addition to the menstrual cup, I also ordered and have been using a Lunapad mini pantyliner for about two months now.

LunaPads Panty Liner

While I find the Mooncup doesn’t leak, I still needed some kind of protection for the beginning and end of my period when the flow is light–not enough for the cup, but too much to go without any protection.  Enter the Lunapad, a reusable washable all natural cotton pantyliner free of harsh chemicals and fragrances.  Lunapads also offers regular pads for heavier flows, but I choose a pantyliner since I only needed something thin for light days.I choose a pattern that was mostly black, but there are many other colors available to suit your taste.  I may eventually end up buying another to have as a backup, likely an organic version which I just found out was available.So far I’ve really enjoyed using the Lunapad.  It’s soft and comfortable, and unlike so many disposable pantyliner, doesn’t cause me any irritation (I had trouble with allergic reactions to pantyliners before, it was terrible).  I simply throw it in the wash when I’m done, and if you find yours is getting stained you can soak it in cold water to help before washing it.  Please note, it WILL shrink in the wash, so go a size bigger if you’re worried.
The snap in the gussets help keep it in place, and I haven’t had any trouble with it moving around too much, even when I sleep. Overall a great experience! I recommend giving it a try, especially if you have any sensitivities to the chemicals in disposable pads or pantyliners.  Even if you don’t, think about the bleached, plastic-lined, fragrance-doused materials you’re putting near your most sensitive parts every month.  It’s not a pretty thing. Wouldn’t you rather have something more natural and comfortable?So if you want another option to make your monthly routine a little more ecofriendly, try a reusable cotton pad or pantyliner!  I’ll admit, it’s a much easier switch than the Mooncup, so it may be a good starting point for most people.

Until next time, stay green!