Category Archives: DIY

DIY Baby Shower

You’ve maybe noticed that I haven’t been around this here blog much lately – partly because I’m been busy over at – but that doesn’t been I haven’t been thinking and doing zero waste.

Case in point: one of my very good friend recently had a baby shower. No, I didn’t push my mandate on the hostess . . .she was right on board, and it worked out really well!

Food: The Mom-to-be’s Mom made all the food from scratch, including quiche, salads, cupcakes, and appies – right down to the fig jam! (we offered to help, but she said she was under control). Sure there was some packaging, but nothing like what you’d expect from a standard gathering, and they had bins for compost and recyclables (hurrah!)

Dishes: I have a case of wine glasses  (a souvenir from my cousin’s backyard wedding) that I keep in a kitchen cupboard for events, and her Mom rented real plates for only a few dollars that could be returned dirty to the rental company, making cleanup super easy.

Games: Yes, yes, what is a baby shower without games? One of our friends planned this portion, and she managed to avoid  gimmicky plastic oriented shower games altogether! We had to remember baby animal names (anyone know the technical term for a baby monkey?), guess the circumference of the Mom-to-be’s belly (with compostable cotton string), and guess the number of jelly beans in a baby bottle (which was then given to Mom as a gift). We also had a clothespeg game with wooden clothes pegs which the guest of honor took home for her new clothesline.

Decorations: This was my category, and I manged to do it DIY (and free). Grant had photographed a wedding that week, and the bride had handmade hundreds of pink tissue paper pompoms. I knew the sister of the groom well enough that I could ask about whether the decorations were headed to the landfill.  Turns out that the bride was ecstatic that her creativity would be given a second life at the shower, so I went home with a pack full of pompoms.  To balance the overwhelming pink theme, I also made a couple of fabric banners (way more time consuming than expected) out of scrap yellow, blue, and green fabric I got at the free store with the word “congratulations” in felt letters also made from scrap. The decorations were snapped up after the party for yet another shower.

Wrapping Paper: Ak! There was a lot of it. All I can say is that we salvaged what we could for reuse, and recycled some, and luckily there weren’t too many plastic bows or that sort of thing.

Gifts: My lovely friend is the practical sort, and I have to give her A+ because this was the first baby shower I had ever been to where second hand gifts were given the ‘ok’ right on the invite. She ended up receiving loads of lovely, quality gifts (some new, some preloved) that I think she will really use.

And while we’re talking DIY, one of the gifts I gave her was a pair of baby booties made out of felt I already had at home. I forgot to take a photo, but luckily Kim remembered her camera (thanks Kim).  I got the pattern from Heather Bailey (

So cute, aren’t they? I was so stoked about how my “bee booties” turned out that I promptly made two more pairs (with different designs) for future babies.

So truly, it was a group effort (with double points awarded to the Mom-to-be’s Mom), and we really did produce hardly any landfill garbage.  Whether it’s because of thrift or concern about waste, if you have more ideas on how to do a low impact party, please put them in the comments!



Filed under DIY

Buttery Goodness with Zero Waste House Guests

We recently played host to some friends and fellow zero wasters who were visiting from Iqaluit. I have to say, living in the extreme north, they definitely have a harder time of it finding low-packaging food, but, armed with a pantry of bulk food, they’re doing an amazing job!

After enthusiastically taking full advantage of all Vancouver has to offer in terms of restaurants, we got together for a home-cooked meal. It turned into a collaboration in local food; we picked greens from the garden, boiled spot prawns, and, most excitingly, we made butter from scratch.

I’ve made butter a couple times before, but I realized I hadn’t posted on it. It’s dead easy, and definitely worth a try. It’s especially fun in a group or with kids because you can all take turns shaking. All you need is a jar and some whipping cream.

Put the cream in the jar.

Shake shake shake until the cream turns to whipped cream. . .

which in turn becomes a solid lump of butter in a watery liquid (buttermilk).

You can salt it if you wish.

Drain the buttermilk to use for baking or making pancakes the next morning.

That’s it!

Quick note – if you are storing your butter for awhile, you have to wash the remaining buttermilk out of it or it will go rancid.  Ours never stays around long enough, so we skip this stage, but I gather that you either put it in a strainer or just knead the lump of butter in your hands while running it under cold water.

PS – If you’re still wondering how you can live zero waste in the Frozen North, check out  subzerowaste (the name of which cracks me up) .


Filed under DIY, food

Manual Coffee

I’m one of those people who loves the smell of coffee, but hates the taste (I’m more of a tea girl),  so it was no hardship to me when Grant’s coffee grinder broke.

But for those for whom coffee is the essential start to every morning, you’ll understand his panic. You’ll understand that having freshly ground beans is non-negotiable. And you’ll understand why, on the morning that the grinder broke, he opted for the next best option  – a hammer and a paper bag.

Besides creating a racket, a hammer reportedly does a mediocre job of coffee grinding.

The next morning, still intending to buy a new grinder or at least look for a second hand one, he came up with another option: the cast iron mortar and pestle. It’s heavy enough to grind beans and deep enough to stop them from popping out, it uses zero electricity, and it makes much less noise than either the hammer or the electric grinder.


Apparently the grind is not fine enough to make a satisfactory espresso, but it works perfectly in the french press which means that our fancy espresso machine is going on craigslist, our broken coffee grinder is going to the e-waste depot, and our household is suddenly lighter by two appliances.

I’m sure glad he didn’t just rush out to get a new grinder.


Filed under Around the house, DIY, food

Making a Move – The Dirty Truth

So we moved. And moving tends, well, to generate garbage.

It’s not just the boxes and packing tape, it’s the years worth of “stuff” you’ve been storing in the basement, thinking you’ll get to later. Stuff that you don’t really want at your shiny new place.  . . . I figured I owed it to myself (and you) to be open about the garbage that came from our move, so here’s the good and the bad on the waste front.

The Bad We had to wade through 7 years of “stuff” in the basement, and came out with: a grocery bag of odds and ends destined for he landfill (scraps of cloth, broken things, dried up paint and epoxy from art projects, 2 broken ski poles -someone help me with these), a few bags of recyclables (paper, soft plastics, scrap metal), and a woven rope rug which looks moderate on top and is disintegrating underneath (I’m considering using it to line a raised garden bed). I also (guiltily) used way too much of a roll of plastic packing tape that we had laying around.

The Good I borrowed a bunch of Rubbermaid containers from a friend which dramatically cut down on the number of cardboard boxes we used (if you don’t have a friend who moves so often that they actually bought a set of containers, try a service like frogbox). The cardboard boxes we did use were salvaged from the local beer store (saving both resources and our pocketbook). I used sheets, towels, and reused cardboard to protect dishes and such, eliminating the need for packing paper or bubble wrap. We also avoided the dreaded transfer station by getting rid of lots of stuff on craigslist and the local thrift stores.

I calculated we saved about 7 pounds of carbon by forgoing a huge moving truck and relying on people power, but we probably more than made up for it running “extra items” to a temporary storage locker.

In the end, our single bag of moving waste contributed to our 2010 garbage total being well above our Clean Bin Project year. I didn’t measure it, but I’m thinking it was at least 4 or 5 grocery bags for the year. Kind of sad, but also much better than we ever were before the project started.

Any green moving thoughts?


Filed under Around the house, DIY

Making A Move – Eco Style

Grant and I have lived in the same awesome 100 year old duplex in Vancouver for 7 years. We’ve been lucky to have  a variety of great roommates at various times as well as a landlord who lets us have free reign in the garden, but at the beginning of the month, we decided to make a move into a place of our own.

Because it was just a couple blocks away and because we seem to talk a lot about living sustainably these days, we figured we’d forgo the traditional moving van and make it a DIY people powered deal.

I borrowed a huge cargo bicycle trailer from the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (you guys are awesome!), brought out my own little trailer, and invited friends to come over with dollies, wagons, and bicycles.

Moving this way was basically free. I borrowed a bunch of rubbermaid containers from a friend (thanks Becky) and found boxes at the wine store. Grant bought some beer, my Dad made some chili, my sister baked bread, and my mom made muffins to thank the 15 superheros that came out.

I think we all had a pretty good time. Thanks to everyone who helped out!!!

Waste related details to follow. For now, here are some pics.


Filed under Around the house, DIY

Deodorant Evolution

Continuing on the personal hygiene theme. . .I’ve been making my own deodorant for awhile now.  It started off with a powder – equal parts baking soda and cornstarch applied with a powder puff (or old sock in our case).

It worked pretty well, in fact Grant still uses it, but I felt it didn’t last very long.  By the end of the day, I smelled like BO.

So I tried making a solid deodorant with equal parts baking soda and cornstarch mixed in with a bit of coconut oil (it’s solid at room temperature, so you have to melt it to mix) and some essential oil.  The only essential oil I had was peppermint (which I use for the toothpaste), so I ended up with peppermint deodorant. It smells and looks a lot like our toothpaste, so it’s no surprise that the first day it was in the cabinet, Grant accidentally brushed his teeth with it (good thing it’s all edible ingredients).

The solid is much better for me.  It lasts all day – even two days, and there’s no BO.  Sweating, yes, but BO, no. The only problem was that it was a bit awkward to apply.  You have to scoop some out with your fingers and try to smear it on your armpit without it crumbing to bits and getting all over the floor.  So, I decided to reuse an old antiperspirant container for my next batch. I just packed the mix in there while it was still soft and waited for the coconut oil to firm up.

Perfect!  It goes on just like a store bought one.  It’s a little more grainy, but definitely more convenient than the glass jar.  The only thing I’m worried about is whether or not it will melt on hot days and ooze out through the bottom of the container.  I know some people keep theirs in the fridge, but since we’re on the road right now, I’ve been keeping a close eye on it.  So far so good! Anyone else had luck with natural deodorant options?


Filed under DIY, Hygiene