12 April 2019

How We Reduced Waste at Home

It's been one year since we moved into our new home. And one of the biggest goals I set when moving was to try and eliminate (or at least reduce) the amount of waste we create day-to-day, you might remember my post from last year on #wastefree living. Our township picks up garbage every other week and limits a household to two large bags per pick-up. And quite frankly I find two bags outrageous when you consider how many households there are.

I'm very passionate about waste reduction, so I challenged us first to not go over the two bag limit. To my surprise we were only creating one bag of garbage every two weeks anyways, so I challenged us to keep reducing this amount. Its been fairly easy, with both of us being actively aware of things that end up in the trash. Some weeks we barely have enough trash to bother dragging the bin out to the road, but our recycling and green bin are ALWAYS in motion. This is how we do it...

Switch to reusable.
Stasher bags, Abeego bees wax wrap, silicone baking sheets, mason jars and fabric produce bags. These are all items I initially invested in and will keep on using to eliminate waste from items such as Ziploc bags, Saran wrap, aluminum foil, plastic produce bags and more. The initial investment is always a little alarming, but when you realize the money you’re saving by not buying plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, foil, etc., you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I know you're probably thinking "more stuff I have to buy?" which seems counter-intuitive given we are trying to STOP using products, but think of the amount of waste you are going to stop creating with just a few small purchases. Also check out a previous post of mine on waste-free period products.

Shop Stasher bags here.
Shop Abeego bees wax wrap here.
Shop my favourite mesh produce bags here.
Shop the best silicone baking sheets here.

Until May 18, 2019 use the code "simplysera319" to save $10 off your first well.ca order, so you can stock up on sustainable products, health foods and clean beauty products!

Put EVERYTHING in the green bin!
And I mean everything. Even toilet paper. Since we’re on a septic tank we need to be careful about what we flush ... so in every bathroom I have a compost bin beside the garbage. In the kitchen, the compost bin is basically my Sous Chef - there is a very cute one from Dollarama (similar to the one shown above) that looks great on the counter and is super inexpensive. In the summer we use a compost which is at the very back of our property, and make sure everything that CAN be put in the compost, goes IN the compost. I essentially have a meltdown when I see something in the garbage that can be put in the green bin / compost! A reminder to mamas and papas, diapers can be composted so put a compost bin in your nursery and say goodbye to garbage bags full of poopy diapers. It feels good to fill the green bin, but filling a garbage bag actually hurts my heart.

Learn more about what can go in Toronto green bins here.
Learn how to start composting here.

Don’t accept plastic bags.
If I’m shopping and the store asks if I’d like a bag I always ask if it’s plastic or paper. If it’s paper I usually take it and reuse it as gift wrap. If it’s plastic, I say no thanks! I also carry around a Baggu reusable shopping tote, from Well.ca, that folds up small and weighs next to nothing. I don’t even notice it in my purse! It comes in handy when I'm shopping at stores where plastic bags are the only option.

For produce, I have reusable mesh bags that can be thrown in the washing machine, but I have to credit Trader Joe's for their compostable produce bags. Even Tyler was impressed on a recent trip to Trader Joe's when he realized the produce bags doubled as bags for our green bin. Win-Win!

Recycle and reuse.

When you're shopping look at how things are packaged. If they are packaged in plastic wrap, pass. I always look for products that are packaged in cardboard because I know cardboard can be recycled. I also love anything in a glass jar, because I can reuse glass jars for Bulk Barn visits, or to organize my pantry and craft cupboard.

This goes for produce too. I buy field cucumbers over English cucumbers because field cucumbers don't come wrapped in plastic! I don't buy any produce in bulk bags - i.e. apples, lemons, avocados. And I opt for celery and carrots in bunches rather than the ones in plastic bags. Just be aware when you're shopping and you'll notice a big difference in the amount of waste you're creating!

Shop in bulk, or buy package-free.
Bulk stores are all the trend right now, and this is a trend I won't be hating on. I love the idea of buying in bulk with reusable containers. And I don't just mean buying food in bulk (i.e. at Bulk Barn), you can also buy personal care items such as shampoo, conditioner, even FLOSS, in bulk at stores such as Bare Market and Saponetti. I am hoping a bulk store opens in Newmarket soon!

For items such as soap and shaving cream, opt for package-free products. One of my favourite clean swaps has been switching from shaving cream in a container, to bar shaving cream. I LOVE the Rocky Mountain Soap Co. peppermint shave bar. I love it more because it is travel-friendly, and package-free.

Shop the Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Pepper Shave Bar here.

Bring your own tumbler.
Guilty of going to Starbucks daily? Skip the cup and bring your own mug. Not only are you saving the planet, but Starbucks will also give you a 10 cent discount for caring about the planet. Coffee cups from coffee shops are never recyclable. Even though you might think they are because they are made out of paper, the lining is coated with plastic or wax which cannot be broken down therefor coffee cups all end up in landfills. Sad, I know. So bring your own cup to avoid this excess waste.

Shop my favourite Joco tumbler here.

Support sustainable brands.
Two items I didn't even consider wasteful before were toothbrushes and razors. To me, they are necessities so I didn't see the wasteful side of them. But it's true, standard toothbrushes and razors end up in land fills, and while they're so small they barely contributed to waste production, it still bothered me knowing where they were going. I switched to an epilator just over a year ago to basically eliminate razors (I still use a Well Kept razor to shave my underarms), and did some research on bamboo toothbrushes before deciding to make the switch. Bamboo is one of the most sustainable crops and requires little to no pesticides and watering. Bamboo also self-generates and grows quite quickly, so the crops are never endangered. Bamboo items are also 100% recyclable, so again nothing is landfill-bound.

Shop my favourite Braun epilator here. (I want the Braun FaceSpa too!)
Shop the best bamboo toothbrushes here.
Shop Well Kept sustainable razors here. (This brand is Canadian, from Vancouver!)

Do you have any other waste-free living tips? If so, leave a comment below :)

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08 April 2019

Travel Guide: A Long Weekend in Ann Arbor

I got a few questionable looks when I told friends and family we were headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a long weekend. Why? I guess we are the only folks who like pretty little college towns. Truth be told, when I started planning this trip I knew Tyler and I would fit right in in Ann Arbor. We both love to eat, try local craft brews, and any place that is bicycle-friendly. And Ann Arbor has all of those things!

We stayed in the sweetest AirBNB in the "Old West Side" of town, amongst rows and rows of Victorian homes. There are a few hotels in the area but we wanted an authentic experience, and to feel like locals for the weekend. We were so happy with our stay we plan on going back this fall for a Wolverines football game and will stay in the same spot. If you want a link to our exact AirBNB location, send me a message!

Three days really isn't enough in Ann Arbor, but it's close enough to Toronto we don't mind going back to hit up all the places we didn't have time for this time around. We would also revisit a few really great spots we found this time around, because we loved them so much.

Interested in seeing how you can fill three days in Ann Arbour? Here's how we spent our long weekend there.

Day One

We arrived Friday midday and after checking into our AirBNB went for a walk through downtown to scope out the area. Our AirBNB was about a ten minute walk from the centre of everything. The first spot we stumbled upon was Graffiti Alley. It's a pretty cool little alley littered with art by local graffiti artists. I spent quite a while checking out all of the different images.
When we left Graffiti Alley, it was time for happy hour. So many places in Ann Arbor have happy hour from Monday to Friday 4pm to 6pm. I had done some research before we arrived and saw that Aventura, a local tapas restaurant had a pretty great happy hour menu. Here you can find $5 Sangria, Old Fashions, and other cocktails, half priced draft beers and 25% off tapas.

The Sangria Espumosa was delicious, and their red wine sangria had such a great cinnamon kick. For tapas, the lamb meatballs, stuffed peppers with short ribs and three cheese croquettes were amazing. To be honest we thought about going back and ordering everything else on the menu because it was all so good that we felt like we were missing out - but our wedding diets stopped us!
When we left Aventura, I was craving something sweet. That's when we stumbled upon Le Bon Macaron. I can't even tell you how happy I am that we stumbled upon this little gem. We ended up going there again on Saturday because their macarons were so good. After my first bite I said to Tyler, "these are the best macarons I have ever had," and I meant it. I've had a lot of great macarons before, but oh. my. word. these were AMAZING. Don't miss out on this spot if you're ever in Ann Arbor. The Cake Batter, Mimosa, Champagne, and Blueberry Vanilla were my favourites, but every flavour we tried was good!
Once I satisfied my sweet tooth, we started our weekend of beer tasting (I stuck to cider). Our first stop was Arbor Brewing Co. Their beers are brewed in Ypsilanti, a short drive east of Ann Arbor, but their Brewpub in Downtown Ann Arbor serves all of of their beers, sours and cider. Their sours are amazing, though pretty pricey - aren't all sours? And their Arbor Heirloom Cider was the best I drank all weekend!
Next up, we stopped in at Grizzly Peak, a huge bar at the corner of West Washington and South Ashley. Tyler aggressively got a flight of all ten of their beers to try, while I sipped on a local cherry cider. Their menu looked really good, and their brunch is spoken highly of by locals. You can also add a mimosa or bloody mary to any brunch item for just $5 on Sunday's!
After all of the beer we had a hankering for a salty snack. We went for a walk to see which places were busy, and when we saw the line at Chela's we knew we had to go in. (I snapped a pic of it in daylight the next day; See below) Chela's is a local dive serving up authentic Mexican tacos and Horchata, a rice-based drink that tastes like rice pudding. I had a pork taco and Tyler tried the chorizo and steak. The tacos were pretty good, but one thing I didn't like was their double corn tortillas, it was carb overkill.

Day Two

For Day two, we started light with brunch at Wilma's, a hip little spot serving up healthy toasts and smoothies. I had the Nova Toast, which is basically smoked salmon with veggie cream cheese and pickled onions on toast. Tyler had a breakfast burrito!
We walked off brunch by checking out main campus at the University of Michigan and I snapped a few photos of the iconic Michigan Theatre and State Theatre.
Then we headed to Kerrytown. To me Kerrytown is comparable to Toronto's Cabbagetown; Very hipster meets hippie, with some amazing vegan spots, a famous deli and an indoor / outdoor market. The Ann Arbor farmer's market is an outdoor year-round market open every Saturday from 8am to 3pm. It has some amazing vendors selling artisan products, farm-fresh food and cool plants. One thing we noticed though, was the insane price of maple syrup at the market - I was glad to be Canadian when I saw those steep prices!
Zingerman's Deli was on our lunch list, but it started to rain and the line up was out the door and around the corner. It must be amazing because there were easily 100 people in line so we saved that for next time.
Instead, we headed back downtown and went to Frita Batido's a local Cuban hot spot for some authentic Cuban frita's (burger), fried plantain, cilantro fries... and accidentally ordered a delicious tropical batido (milkshake), instead of a tropical juice. Oops! (It was delicious even though it killed both of our lactose-intolerant stomachs)
After that heavy meal, we took a long walk to Teaspressa where we ordered fancy lattes and waited out the rain. Teaspressa is a tea shop that takes a coffee-spin on tea, by whipping up cool tea lattes like the Iced Lavender Earl Grey Latte I enjoyed. Tyler had a Cappuccino - with coffee! (He says he isn't into tea...) I wish they had a chai tea latte on their menu because I LOVE chai tea and love to try new chai latte's wherever we go. The London Fog I had was delicious though!
We don't do much shopping on our trips, but I had heard that the Ann Arbor Shinola boutique was pretty cute, and had a really great cafe in the basement so we stopped in to check out some watches and see the store. Shinola is a brand of watches from Detroit (40 minutes away) so it only makes sense that they have an awesome boutique in Ann Arbor.
By dinnertime, we were still so full from lunch we decided to do a cheese and chocolate tasting at Blom Meadworks while we tried a flight of all of their meads (fermented honey) and cider. Blom is so special in my eyes because they are so supportive of other local businesses - selling local Michigan chocolates from Mindo, and doing cheese tastings with cheeses from local dairy farms. I love supporting small and local businesses so I was happy to spend plenty of time at Blom Meadworks. If you go, be sure to try the Pear Ginger Cider and the Raspberry Mead - they were both of our favourites!
Our last stop was a sour beer tasting at Jolly Pumpkin. Tyler is really into sour beers right now so we tried a lot of sour beers over the weekend. Jolly Pumpkin is known for their sour beers and amazing food; We shared another snack board - is there such thing as too much charcuterie? - and each had a flight before heading home to bed.

Day Three

We checked out  of our AirBNB before breakfast and with sad faces headed for breakfast before our 6 hour drive home. We liked Wilma's so much we went back again on Sunday. This time I had the ABC toast which is brioche bread topped with almond butter, banana, maple syrup, cinnamon and cacao nibs. Yum! Tyler had the Nova Toast.
Before leaving town we had to check out Michigan Stadium, the largest stadium in the United States. I love football so it was really cool to see such a massive stadium, and I can't wait to head back in the fall to check out a Wolverines game! FYI - If you're in town during the week you can go for tours of the stadium for $25 per person.
Shopping

Looking for places to shop in Ann Arbor? There are so many cute boutiques and thrift stores throughout Downtown, but I especially loved Arbor Hills, a cute outdoor shopping centre with some of my favourites - like Anthropologie and Lululemon.

We had such a great time in Ann Arbor, just like we do on all of our little trips. Thanks Ty for always being down for an adventure, thanks Mom and Dad for watching Colby, and thank you to our amazing AirBNB hosts for letting us inhabit your sweet little guest suite. Until next time ...

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