Nov 28, 2016

Less Waste Hand Soap

Less Waste Hand Soap SkipTheBag

I have soap by every sink. I think most people do. But that means 4 soap dispensers which could lead to a lot of waste. So what are some less waste ways to have hand soap?

1. Bar soap 

This probably would produce the least waste. You can likely find soap that isn't packaged or minimally packaged with paper or cardboard. However I find that a bar of soap usually needs a soap dish and I don't have any these. And, unfortunately, many of soap dishes are plastic.

2. Refill Hand Soap Dispenser

For years this is what I would do. I bought a plastic disposable dispenser to use. Then when it was about to run out I'd go and get the largest container of hand soap I could find. From there I would refill each container. It uses far less plastic than purchasing dispensers every time they run out. 

3. Refill Foaming Hand Soap Dispenser

When I was in Hawaii someone taught me how to make your own foaming hand soap. All it needed was the "special" foam dispenser. She said that there was a particular brand that would fit in a mason jar. That's all I needed to hear. So of course I went hog wild in the Bath and Body Works store buying many more hand soap containers than I would ever need. And, of course, that is NOT the brand that fits in mason jars. Oh well. So instead of using them for mason jars I've just be refilling the Bath and Body Works jars. 

What is the recipe for refilling a foaming soap dispenser?  

Fill the bottom of the container with liquid Castile soap. Then top off with water. Seriously it's that easy. A little goes a long way so you might be surprised how little soap is actually needed, I would say less than 1/8th of a container. But if the foam doesn't feel quite hearty enough, just add some more Castile soap to the mixture. If there is a particular scent you want you can add some essential oils or use scented Castile soap. An added bonus some places refill Castile Soap containers so that would be waste free.

Update: A reader gave me this life changing tip: Fill the container most of the way with water and then slowly add the Castile soap. This helps prevent foaming and bubbles. Such a no-duh moment, but it's a game changer. 

4. Reusable Soap Dispenser

Of course you don't have to start with a disposable soap dispenser. There are many options available that are intended to be reusable and durable to last a long time. So if you find one you love you can have it and refill it for years to come. 

What do you use for hand soap?

Looking to reduce your waste in the bathroom further? Read about 5 simple plastic free swaps for the bathroom. Or maybe you think you're ready for the advanced plastic free swaps for the bathroom. Either way check out the 7 zero waste shampoo methods.

Shared on Waste Less WednesdayHealthy Happy Green Natural

Nov 25, 2016

Chickens Eating Eggs

I have learned a lot of things about chickens, like that they can get avian pox. But one thing that surprised me was that chickens like to eat eggs. Chickens can eat eggs cooked or raw. It's not uncommon for them to peck at the eggs left in their nesting boxes. I would have thought it's some cannibalistic thing and they would avoid eating eggs, but I was wrong.

So we started keeping an eye out after learning eating their own eggs was a risk. But we had gone several months without an issue so it sort of fell to the back burner. One of the major suggestions that I read was to clean spills quickly so the chickens didn't get a taste for eggs and start viewing eggs as food. So the few times we'd have a couple of cracked eggs, we would wash up the buckets and make sure that the chickens didn't get too interested.

We generally put broken eggs and discarded egg shells in our compost pile. The hope is that it will make our compost more nutritious, but since it is open there is a risk that the chickens could wander over and find an eggshell. So we try to break up egg shells before putting them in the compost pile.

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Since the chickens need calcium (although most of it is provided in their feed), we also tried to feed the chickens their old shells. Recycling in it's finest. We made sure to dry out the shells and crush them up so the 'calcium treats' we were giving them didn't look or smell anything like the fresh eggs they were producing. Fortunately our chickens eggs haven't seemed to need any additional calcium since the majority of their diet comes from layer feed. It was a pain to keep the egg shells clean and dry them so we've stopped supplementing the chickens and diverted most of the shells to the compost pile.

Chickens eating eggs may be a sign of nutritional deficiencies. They may be lacking calcium or protein. However make sure that you are feeding them good feed appropriate for their stage in life (chick vs layer) and that they have enough calcium. Don't forget grit too. Providing them commercial feed this is less of an issue than if your chickens are free range and at the mercy of your yard. However it chicken pecking at their eggs may mean your chickens are just jerks, so don't freak out.

We thought we were doing the right things, but none of that seemed to matter as last week we lost 2-3 eggs to the chickens.

So what did we do to combat it? We bought ceramic eggs and placed them at the front of their nesting boxes. The way the boxes are set up they can only stick their heads in a little bit. The eggs help as it will teach them that eggs in the bucket are hard and not for pecking. It has the added bonus of they will lay in front of these eggs, so they can't physically reach the real eggs from outside of the bucket.

Nesting Boxes With Ceramic Eggs
That helped for a while and did teach them that not to get at the eggs. However when we upgraded our coop and redid the nesting boxes we made sure that the buckets had a slight slope back. That helps prevent the chickens from standing outside the nesting box and pecking at the egg.

What have you done to prevent your chickens from eating their eggs?

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Shared on Homesteader HopWaste Less Wednesday

Nov 21, 2016

November Garden Update

We are in the middle of our Fall Garden!

We discovered that while our garden gets full sun during the spring and summer, it is only getting about 3 hours of sun right now. There are two trees that are blocking the sun right now. One is a huge one in our yard. That would be nearly impossible to remove, or very $$$. The other is in the neighbor's yard and I doubt we are going to convince them to cut it down.

A few spots are eeking out a few extra minutes, but that lack of direct sunlight has meant that things are growing a little slower than they were in the spring.

The tomatoes are doing well, well we've got one runt, but we've also got plenty of green tomatoes just waiting to ripen.

As you may remember from last month I've got an unknown plant. I'm thinking it's a watermelon, but not sure.

The broccoli is doing ok, but hasn't produced anything.

The lettuce is just sitting there.

So is the cabbage.

Our jalapeno is still going strong. It's in 3 main bushes and as you can see it's still producing several peppers.

Do you have a fall garden?

Nov 18, 2016

Our Chickens Have Pox!

It's true, chickens can get pox. While not technically chicken pox, it is a related virus called avian pox. Our chickens started having spots on their comb and waddles. I searched black spots on chicken comb and got some options.

1. Mites. 

The mites show upon the comb and on the body of the chicken itself. The black spots of mites look like tiny pin pricks of black on the comb. Our spots were bigger than that so I was able to quickly eliminate that as the culprit. Thank goodness cause I'm sure they are a pain to get rid of!

2. Chicken fights.

The next possibility I read about was that it could be due to the girls figuring out their pecking order and attacking one another. I hadn't really see our girls be aggressive toward one another, and I saw it on several of them. None of the spots really looked like they were bleeding or scabs so I doubted it was this.

3. Avian Pox. 

This was the third thing mentioned that it could be. I immediately googled a picture and sure enough it's what my girls have.

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So what is Avian Pox? 

It is a viral infection called Avipoxvirus that is spread by mosquitoes, from bird to bird, or contact with contaminated food or water. Living in Florida I'm guessing my flock got them from a mosquito.

How can you prevent Avian Pox?

There is a vaccine available. However once it gets in your flock it is too late for the vaccine. Besides we bought $3 chickens to have as pets and/or an egg source. We weren't going to pay for that.

Is Avian Pox harmful?

There appear to be two forms of the disease, a wet form and a dry form. The dry form seems to mainly affect the comb and waddle and is less serious. Blisters form in non-feathered parts of the birds, like the comb, the blisters rupture leading to the black scabs.

The wet form affects the mouth and throat and can make it painful/difficult to eat, drink or breath. These, of course, are more serious effects which can lead to death.

How do I treat Avian Pox?

Unfortunately since it is a virus it just needs to run its course. If you have a chicken who is having difficulty eating or drinking you may need to get her to drink by getting a syringe full of water down her throat.

Can humans catch avian pox?

No, humans cannot get avian pox. The chickens are contagious to one another, but not to humans. If you see a chicken with symptoms you could try and isolate her, but most likely it has already spread to others in the flock and they will begin to show symptoms themselves.

Does Avian Pox affect the eggs?

Chickens that are under stress, including illness, may not lay as many eggs. However, they eggs they do lay are perfectly fine to eat. Remember humans can't get avian pox.

How long does it last?

It takes roughly a month for it to make its way through one bird. Since it is spread slowly through the flock it may take a couple of months before everyone has healed.

Fortunately ours healed up nicely and their egg production has bounced back. Don't forget to check out how we made their nesting boxes from 5 gallon buckets!

Want to read more on Avian Pox?

Michigan Dept of Natural Resources
National Wildlife Health Center
Mississippi State Diseases of Poultry

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Nov 14, 2016

Easy DIY Garden Fence

As you may remember we recently got a new puppy named Maggie. We love her to death but she has caused many more headaches for us than we had with our other dog Lexy. She is a chewer, we've lost several cat toys, shoes and DVD cases to her. She's also a digger. She used to dig holes under the fence to come visit Lexy when she was still the neighbor's dog. Now she's moved from trying to dig under the fence to digging in the garden and yard.

We didn't want to lose our garden due to her digging and the chickens have started to scratch the mulch so we decided to put in a fence.

We knew that we needed something that was taller than Maggie to discourage her from trying to jump over. We'd probably have to have a 6 foot tall fence to completely eliminate that risk, but we figured if it was taller than her it would serve enough of a deterrent.

I didn't want it to cost too much because we weren't expecting to buy a fence and I didn't want anything too permanent as I'm hoping the animals would just magically stop going in the garden. The holes are about 2 inches by 3 inches. Big enough that you can see through it, but it keeps the animals out.

Garden Fence 

We went to the home improvement store and looked to see what they had. We finally settled on a 50 foot length of wire. The area we needed to cover was about 56 feet, however. So we knew we would need a gate.

Hubby had a cart full of lumber to build a gate when he saw the prefabricated piece of fence that he was able to just split in two to make a door. He attached it to two pieces of lumber so it is more sturdy.

Garden Fence Gate
We are just waiting to attach the lock, but it's been working great even without that. We've found no evidence of dog or chicken since putting up the fence.

Do you have a fence around your garden?

Shared on Our Simple Homestead, Waste Less WednesdayHealthy Happy Green Natural

Nov 11, 2016

5 Simple Plastic-Free Swaps To Make In The Bathroom

plastic free zero waste

Plastic shampoo bottles, plastic razors, plastic toothbrushes, plastic, plastic, plastic.

As I was started on my journey I realized how much waste was created in the bathroom. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out where to get started, but I realized there were some easy swaps that could be done.

1. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars 

I'll admit, I never thought twice about throwing my empty shampoo and conditioner bottles in the trash. Most of them are recyclable, but who has a separate recycling can in their bathroom? Not me, so into the trash they went.

Now that I've been using shampoo bar for months, I'm really surprised how easy the transition has been. I can't even call it more work, it's just a slightly different routine and you have eliminated a source of plastic from your life. Read my review and tips for using a shampoo bar here.

Information about what a shampoo bar is and how to use it to wash your hair in a zero waste and plastic free way.

I highly recommend you check it out. And commit to using it for a while, a whole month or even the while bar. I've heard different brands can have different experiences (especially if homemade), but I've been happy with J.R. Liggett's. I also have been trying out a conditioner bar and that seems to be working well too (review here).

Update: I also recently found out about Plaine Products. They have shampoo, conditioner and body wash in aluminum containers. Their products are organic, vegan and sulfate free, so good products, but their packaging is awesome. They try to avoid plastic at every step. You can even order the containers with or without a pump! Their goal is to refill the containers which saves a ton of resources. If the container is too damaged then they recycle it back into more containers! They also pay for the return shipping! You really should check them out. Read my review of their conditioner here. Plus for a limited time they are offering my readers a 15% discount when you use the coupon code: skipthebag. 

2. Safety Razor

This is another switch I wish I'd made earlier. Hubby has used a safety razor for years, but I always just used disposables. I would use them forever, far longer than I probably should, but at the end of the day it was still plastic trash. Don't know much about safety razors? Check out my post All About Safety Razors

I'll admit I was really nervous about using a safety razor. I thought I would have to find a different way to hold the blade and move it up and down my leg. I watched several videos about shaving legs and armpits with a safety razor. And my actual experience? So easy! I haven't had to change my shaving process. I'm maybe a little more careful around the knees, but really it's been no different. In full disclosure I did get a small cut the front of my shin once. I have no idea how it happened or what caused it, but it was very small and healed quickly. Read my tips for how to use a safety razor and not get cut!

Hubby has always used a Merkur classic safety razor. I used it once when I was trying to decide what I want and realized immediately that I wanted a longer handle so I got a Merkur Long Handled Razor. We use the Astra brand razor blades and have been really happy. 

Tips and tricks for how to use a zero waste and plastic free safety razor.

3. Bar soap

For years I have been firmly in the body wash and poof loofah camp. Well once this last bottle of body wash runs out I'm going to be rejoining the bar soap and washcloth camp. Some soaps have left my skin feeling dry afterward, so there may be some experimenting to find one that works. However  if I'm remembering correctly I've not had that experience when using Dove soap.
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Easy ways to ditch plastic in the bathroom, from washing your hair, shaving, and personal hygeine

4. Cardboard Applicators for Tampons

I was never exclusively using tampons with plastic applicators, but I also wasn't avoiding them. I typically would buy whatever was on sale. However like many other single use products once I started analyzing my waste it seemed like a no brainer to switch to cardboard applicators. Yes there are other options (no applicator or menstrual cup), but these are SIMPLE swaps. Those will be featured in part two more advanced swaps.

Common Kitchen Items that can be used in the bathroom for personal hygiene.

5.  Bamboo Toothbrush

This is another swap I made in the beginning of my zero waste/plastic free journey and question why I didn't do it earlier. It's a toothbrush...just not a plastic one. Yes, the bristles are still plastic (nylon), but it's a whole lot better than the alternative of an entire plastic toothbrush. I have not found a commercially available toothbrush with natural bristles. If you find one please let me know. I'll try it for you, and the environment, but honestly the thought if putting boar hair in my mouth gives me pause (Although I love it for my hair brush!). I discovered I push too hard while brushing my teeth, but since lightening up on that these Earth's Daughter's toothbrushes work perfectly well.

So there you go, 5 simple swaps you could make today to help reduce your plastic use and waste in the bathroom.

Want more of a challenge? Try the 5 Advanced Plastic Free Swaps For The Bathroom.

Menstrual Cups, Oil Cleansing Method and more!

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Nov 7, 2016

Inside the Garbage of the World Documentary

Inside The Garbage Of The World Documentary. What I found interesting and my thoughts on the film.

I must be on a documentary kick. I watched Just Eat It and then decided to watch Inside the Garbage of the World* documentary. I feel like this documentary illustrates all of the reasons why I started SkipTheBag and want to move towards being plastic free and zero waste. I was able to watch it for free on Amazon Prime. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial*

I felt like I was writing down great points and quotes throughout the entire film. I want to share with you some of those discussion points I found most interesting. It also talks about chemicals from plastic in the food supply, the amount and extent that plastic has polluted our earth,

  • Most people think of gyres as an island of trash floating in the middle of the ocean. However, in reality it's more like a weak plastic soup with bits and pieces of plastic swirling around in it. Not being an island makes it far less visually impressive (so it's harder to motivate people), but also much more difficult to clean up. 
  • Mrs. Robinson, the woman from the movie The Graduate, was correct. Plastics have become the next big thing. Plastic has taken over everything!
  • It talks about how clothing made from synthetic fibers (read: plastic) are making their way into the waste water from each load of laundry. Clothing manufacturers could make clothes in a way that reduces this, but they view it as more of a waste water treatment facility's responsibility. Until the population cares about the issue, there will be little incentive to change. Read about waste water. 
  • Green washing is when companies make their items look environmentally friendly, but they aren't actually making a positive impact on the environment. Recycling and the America Beautiful campaign are examples of this. It was advertised that as long as people recycled the world would remain pristine and healthy. But the reality is we've had recycling education for over a decade and the volume of plastic polluting the earth is still increasing. The documentary mentions a couple of times that there is no place called 'away'; we can never throw anything away it just stays here on Earth and in the environment. 
  • Americans discard 4.5 pounds of trash per day and 7.5% of that is recyclable plastic. The best way to keep it out of the ocean is to reduce consumerism. Every nickle we spend is another vote for the world to be the way it is. The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. We all can and must be a part of the solution. 
I really feel like the documentary pointed out some really great issues related to plastic use and consumerism, however I would have liked it to display some more real world tips and actionable items.

Here are some previous posts that do have some suggestions on ways to reduce your waste and/or reliance on plastic.

*This is an affilitate link. Read my disclosure.
Shared on Waste Less Wednesday

Nov 5, 2016

Zero Waste Gift Ideas

Most people think that it is hardest to go zero waste during the holidays, but that doesn't have to be the case! There are a number of ways to reduce waste while still celebrating the season.

First, look long and hard at your list and decide if you need to give that person a gift at all. If it is an acquaintance who you are no longer close to maybe it would be OK to just get them a card or cookies rather than a present. If it's someone you've been trading cookies with for a while, maybe you can have a talk about waistlines and decide to forgo cookies this year.

Zero Waste Gift Ideas | SkipTheBag | Ideas to reduce waste while celebrating holidays and birthdays. Homemade gifts and experience gifts with zero waste.
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If there is a large group of people who you get gifts for (a large family or office for example), perhaps rather than all trading presents you could a draw names. For years one side of my family would buy Christmas gifts for all of the aunts and uncles. It got to be a little overwhelming so they went to drawing names, it went from 5 people to buy for to one. Eventually they even gave up on drawing names and decided to only give presents to the grand kids and the grandparents (usually pictures of grand kids). Everyone ended up far happier not having the stress of buying presents or ending up with something they didn't like. Finally it brought the holiday season a little more about spending time together rather than presents.
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At an office or work party you could do a white elephant or ornament exchange instead. A white elephant is where everyone participating brings a single wrapped gift under a specific dollar amount (say $20). Numbers are drawn and the first person takes a gift and unwraps it. The second person either takes an already unwrapped gift or selects a new gift. If they choose an unwrapped gift the person the gift was taken from can now select an unwrapped gift (but not the one that was just stolen from them!) or a new gift. I've found limiting a present to only 3 steals helps move the game along. The game continues until everyone has a gift. Some variations on this are to give humor gifts, or to give ornaments.

Zero Waste Gift Ideas | SkipTheBag | Ideas to reduce waste while celebrating holidays and birthdays. Homemade gifts and experience gifts with zero waste.

If you have gone zero waste be sure to let gift givers know your wishes. For example bags can be easily reused so maybe you request that over wrapping paper. However, even if someone doesn't follow your wishes, be respectful and gracious and say thank you. Remember, you can always recycle or donate the item later if it doesn't meet your needs.

Whether it is for Christmas, birthdays, or other gift giving events I've found the best way to give no waste, low waste, or zero waste presents is to give experiences rather than an item.

Here are some examples of experience gifts:

  • Museums
  • National Parks
  • Zoo
  • Plays
  • Movies
  • Babysitting for date night
  • Spa Day
  • Manicure
  • Trip to the gun range
  • Dinner at a nice restaurant
  • Go to a favorite park or a new park
  • Tickets to a local festival

The next way to  help minimize waste is by giving something useful or consumable.

  • Dried fruit
  • Cookies
  • Homemade Vanilla
  • Jam
  • Homemade liquors
  • Floral arrangement
  • Fruit Basket
  • Freezer Meals
  • Fermented food (Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled jalapenos)
  • Homemade bath scrubs
  • Homemade soap

Some other low waste gift ideas:

  • One year we did a book exchange, we gave the person a copy of the book we had read during the year that we thought they would enjoy.
  • Give a magazine subscription
  • Donate to charity

Some gift ideas if the person is starting their own zero waste journey:

Want to some other ideas? Check out these from other bloggers:

Traveling for the holidays? Check out this post on how to create less waste while traveling.