Posts from the “zero waste” Category

Zero Waste : 100 little steps

Posted on March 23, 2018


Am I doing zero waste right ?

This is a question that has been on my mind a lot. More so since I started blogging about it. I don’t know enough about sustainability and the optimized solutions. These simplistic low impact solutions to complex problems that I tout on the blog makes me uneasy. I haven’t asked “What is zero waste” until recently. Fitting a solution without properly defining a problem is just bad science. So what is zero waste ? Is it about sending nothing to our landfills ? ( One can dump waste into the oceans and the atmosphere too ! ) Is it about avoiding plastic ? Is it about switching to bamboo and glass appliances ? Should I adopt the essentialist version of minimalism ? I looked up.

A little history 

“The term zero waste was first used publicly in the name of a company, Zero Waste Systems Inc. (ZWS), which was founded by PhD chemist Paul Palmer in the mid-1970s in Oakland, California. The mission of ZWS was to find new homes for most of the chemicals being excessed by the nascent electronics industry. They soon expanded their services in many other directions.”

The Circular Economy 

“The Circular Mindset is a way to rethink our daily consumer and lifestyle habits to help us reduce our trash and plastic footprint. It’s also a mindset that encourages us to add value back into the things we use, the communities we live in, the food we eat, those who create the materials we consume and the resources used to make them. A circular economy seeks to rebuild capital, whether this is financial, manufactured, human, social or natural. This ensures enhanced flows of goods and services.

Transitioning to a circular economy does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear economy. Rather, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits.

The model distinguishes between technical and biological cycles. Consumption happens only in biological cycles, where food and biologically-based materials (such as cotton or wood) are designed to feed back into the system through processes like composting and anaerobic digestion. These cycles regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources for the economy. Technical cycles recover and restore products, components, and materials through strategies like reuse, repair, remanufacture or (in the last resort) recycling.”

Is it a consumer movement ?

There is only so much I as a consumer can do other than becoming vigilant about what I bring home. From what I understand, it’s a symbiosis between the manufacturers and consumers. Designing good products and making them accessible is important. Us making a good choice is equally important.

Problem Solving :

The right solution. We fixate on this a lot. Most of the criticism this blog gets is about how my solution is low impact and I should be doing something else.

I don’t know if there is the ONE miraculous solution to tackle this problem considering the complexity of our global economy.

Simplistic solutions like “buy second hand and it’s all good”, “buy less and it will all get fixed” or “buy sustainably made and continue consuming” are almost simpleton solutions. We need long term solutions which try to minimize the short term losses. During the World War 2, “loose the battle but win the war” was adopted after the Allies cracked the German code. They used mathematics to come up with the stratergy. We need AI and data driven solutions now more than ever. We need responsible citizens who will do their part.

And Me : 

Do I sit out this battle and wait for a good solution to miraculously drop ? I don’t think so. Zero waste is not as intimidating as I thought it would be, once I stopped caring about my ego and flaunting my empty trash can. You make a few switches and you can bring down the volume of waste. You stay vigilant, refuse things you don’t need, buy well designed products and manage the budget … it keeps going. The rest, I don’t sweat it. It’s a game of optimization given the time, money, resources and resolve. As a consumer, I made a list of 100 little steps that I think help. I do about half of them and am proud to be a part of this movement. I don’t need everyone around me to do what I do, but it makes me very happy when you do.

Our trash tells a story. A story about what we collectively value. We need to put meaning and value back into resources, materials, people, community and planet.

– Andrea Sanders.

1.Fly less.

Trash is not only the solid waste we send to the landfill. It’s what we release into the air and water. Take some solace in the fact that average hipster who flaunts mason jars but jet sets around the world produces lot more waste than an average householder who stays put. The emissions into the atmosphere are a problem too.

Frying economy is more eco friendly than business class / first class.

2. Do not go on a cruise.

It’s one of the most polluting ways to get from point A to point B.

3. Family Planning

I apologize for this and I couldn’t find a way to skirt around this. I don’t mean to associate children with waste but family planning definitely helps in this fight. Have one less child, it has been suggested. Oregon study puts the emissions at ~9,441 tons per child. Even if I recycle properly and do a few eco friendly measures, I would reduce ~17 tons over a lifetime. Everything else we do in terms of lifestyle choices is negligible in comparison. But it has also been found that the birth rate has decreased in developed nations while it has increased in developing nation. Overall average lifespan of humans has increased. There may be a time where retired aging population will outpace the working population. I, obviously don’t know the solution. But if someone wants to research and propose solutions, I want my tax money to fund it.

Women having access to birth control and family planning is cited as the 7th most effective way to combat climate change by Drawdown.

Have one less, applies to pets too. Consider adopting a rescue animal instead of shopping for a bred animal. #adoptDontShop

4. Live in a smaller home

Less wood used, less land needed == less deforestation.

Less material == less resources mined for earth.

Less sft == less in heating/cooling costs.

Less cleaning to do == less products to be used.

5. Use public transport when you can.

Own one less/no car per household. Buy a smaller car.

6. Bike to work for one day of the week.

If its not a realistic prospect, do not buy a bike and hoard it.

7. Find ways to entertain yourself that doesn’t need new stuff.

It could be listening to music, watching a movie, going for a walk, playing with a dog, cleaning, reading, walking around the city taking photos, cooking, playing a board game, solving puzzles, ….

8. With books, borrow from the library instead of buying.

Buy ebooks and read on your existing devices. Keep digital records.

9. Find joy in nature.

These are the folk who are likely to support efforts to conserve it. All consumer goods comes from the nature at it’s expense. Maybe one day, we will love it for more then it’s looks and beauty. We will love it enough to downsize our lives to conserve it. Maybe it will inspire us to live in a more sacred relationship with the natural world.

10. Go meat-less for few days of the week.

( Slowly get it down to eating meat only on special ocassions and weekends. )

If meat must be had, eat chicken instead of red meats like lamb, beef and pork.

11. Eat (much) less dairy if you are a grown adult.

( Am not qualified to give dietary advice. Please use some skepticism. )

12. Learn cooking techniques instead of learning recipes.

If we know what to do with locally grown ingredients, it solves a lot of fundamental problems behind food waste. Imagine buying what ever is in season and being able to whip up good food !

13. Be vigilant about food waste in the house.

Buy less and use it up. Eat the right amount. In some cultures, they advocate eating till you are 7/8th full. If possible, do the European style grocery shopping – multiple visits to the store and getting only what’s needed for the next day or two. Have a pantry with dry foods like beans and lentils to carry you over to the next grocery visit.

14. Instead of buying paper towels in the kitchen, use cloth rags.

In America, you can find 2$ tshirts in thrift stores. They can be cut into 4 rags on an average. They last months even if they are the only rags you own ( provided you live in a small home. Mansions need more back and core strength to be mopped. )

Use recycled toilet paper or a bidet.

15. Carry a handkerchief in your bag.

16. Use a cloth tote bag instead of leather bags.

17. Use less leather.

18. Pick up one piece of litter everyday from your surroundings.

19. Use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning the home.

Use rags and bar soap to get the stains out.

( Natural products work only if you clean often. Else, it’s a long day of scrubbing that will make you wish for harsher cleaners. )

20. Find a community to share resources with.

( I borrow tools from Fernando for repairs. I have a boss who gives me lemons from his backyard. I borrow Indian clothes from my sister/mother to wear to weddings. )

21. If you go on a hike, pick up the trash you see on trail.

22. Buy the best quality you can afford.

( Not to be confused with buy the best quality ever. )

23. Use products till the end of their life cycle.

Don’t throw out stuff because some minimalist on the internet did and is flaunting the aesthetic. Use up the things you own. Do not throw out stuff that you would repurchase after 3 years.

24. Learn a few repair techniques for your most beloved products.

Or go to the local repair shop.

25. Stretch the boundaries of what is considered ‘worn out’

“30 more wears, dear”

26. Re-write the mindset that calls something old.

Treat the older goods as more valuable, like one would respect their grandparents.

27. Tell yourself that you do not have the luxury of getting bored with the things owned.

Buy and cull is terrible for the environment even if you are buying well made products.

28. Refuse that plastic straw.

If it does make it to the table, politely take it back to the kitchen and return it to be put back. ( They trash unused straws when they clean the table. )

29. Refuse plastic water bottles.

Carry a small reusable bottle.

30. Be ashamed of shabby ideas, not shabby things.

( These are Einstien’s words, not mine. They helped me rewire my thinking. I won’t get rid of my old car. I am not ashamed of living in a tiny home. I love sleeping on the floor. I refuse to be ashamed of the stuff I own. I can say these words for the most part, but the society makes it very hard. )

31. Tweet/share good ideas on social media.

Even if you don’t have a following or if you don’t see a difference your tweet can make, it helps. The ranking of an article goes up with every share, like and comment. It becomes more searchable and and visible.

Share, tweet, comment and like. It’s free !

32. Read and converse.

If you are not in a monetary position to make sustainable choices, educate yourself on the issues. Support the ones who are fighting for the cause. The early adopters pave the way for the rest of the society. Some of these choices trickle down once the markets catch up.

33. Surround yourself with the right influence.

Do not read the blogs that is an endless parade of stuff that gets acquired / disposed / hoarded. My life has gotten easier since I detoxed blogs and magazines.

34. Become comfortable with empty spaces.

Imagine not having the itch to fill it up with stuff ….

35. Hit the flea market for your furniture.

36. Hit the thrift stores for household items.

37. When ever possible, try to avoid plastic packaging.

38. Try growing one vegetable/herb by your window/patio/backyard.

39. Try using multipurpose products at home – like coconut oil / mild bar soap / baking soda, vinegar, ….

40. Over-dye your clothes to give them a refresh.

I buy navy blue/black clothes because they don’t show stains. When the fabric becomes patchy, I dye them again in the same color.

41. Line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.

42. Recycle properly.

Batteries, medicines, electronics should not be sent to the landfill. Look up information on how your city recycles.

The thin plastic wrapping needs to go to a special facility to be recycled. Look up a place to drop them off. ( In America, grocery stores have a box for them. )

Write to your civic leaders asking them for better recycling facilities.

43. Take shorter showers.

44. Elect officials who give a shit.

45. Rethink electronic upgrades.

( if you work in the tech innovative field, consider renting instead of owning+discarding. )

46.Switch to email-notifications instead of snail mail from institutions you do business with.

47. Consider adopting a uniform. Call your self a minimalist and proudly announce it to people.

It liberates you from a race where we keep up with the Jhonses. They are less likely to judge you harshly or dump stuff on you if they know your philosophy.

“Your apartment is tiny”

I live a simple life.

“You should buy a new outfit for the wedding”

I am a minimalist.

“You eat lentils every day?”

I like simple food.

“Why aren’t you shopping?”

I am a minimalist.

” You still drive that old car? ”

I am zero waste. My car works !


48. Consider adopting a plant-based diet made up of local ingredients.

Make week day meals as simple as possible.

49. Adopt voluntary simplicity.

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle or build a more sustainable home?

One common mistake that people make is throwing money at a problem in order to be more “sustainable.”  Yes, you may be able to buy a giant photovoltaic system to meet all of your power needs without cutting back on anything.  But remember, those solar components don’t come out of thin air, and they don’t last forever.  Bigger system = bigger waste.  Scale it back first, and then look to technology for solving your remaining problems.”

– Jessie Kamm.

50. Do not declutter for an aesthetic.

Buying less is more important than decluttering. Using up what we own is more impactful than Marie-Kondo-ing. Throwing stuff away for a minimalist aesthetic is wasteful. Buying piles of ethically made/second hand stuff is hardly sustainable. It’s treating a symptom while keeping the disease alive.

51. When buying packaged goods for the pantry, save up and buy the largest bag available instead of multiple small ones.

52. Switch to a menstrual cup.

53. Switch to a reusable water bottle.

54. Carry a tote bag that can house a water bottle, some cutlery, a hanky and a small box at all times.

55. Switch from plastic disposable razor to a safety razor.

56. Carry your re-usable coffee cup.

57. Look for bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones.

58. When in the market for a hair brush, look for one made of bamboo.

59. Have a grocery store kit.

Have a few cloth bags in hand for loose produce. Have a bottle on hand for any bulk bin shopping you might do.

60. The thin plastic bags are notoriously hard to recycle. Some grocery stores take them back. Be vigilant about sorting the waste produced.

61. Buy conventionally-ugly fruit and vegetables.

62. Volunteer at a food back or soup kitchen.

63. Store the left overs properly or freeze the extras.

64. Meal prep to avoid wastage of food.

65. Use bar soap for cleaning and bathing.

66. Figure out a way to compost in your community.

If you have a backyard, you won the jackpot. If you live in an apartment, there are options.

67. Declutter responsibly.

Try selling the items instead of dumping them on a charity shop or into a landfill.

68. Build an attic responsibly. 

If you own doubles/ excess that can be used in the future, store it away. Bring it back as replacements.

69. Buy versatile easy to pair clothes.

70. Learn to dress up every day clothes for evening wear.

Buying a garment that can only be worn 5 times a year is a waste. Underutilizing a resource is also a waste.

71. Encourage folks around you to share.

Offer your possessions to be borrowed.

72. Say no to palm oil.

Look for ingredient lists before you purchase products.

73. Do not hoard unused items. Let someone else who have a need for it have them.

74. Avoid conventional dry cleaners. They use petro-chemicals. 

75. Buy clothing in natural fabrics that are durable.

76. If you have a toddler, toilet train and ween off diapers as soon as possible.

Use cloth diapers if your lifestyle and budget allows for it.

77. Shop local.

78. Do not throw out existing durable plastic wares for glass/bamboo just for an aesthetic.

79. Avoid skin care products with micro beads. Avoid clothing that contributes to mico-plastic pollution when washed. 

80. If you own pets, look for more sustainable protein / diet.

They need not eat salmon / lamb on an everyday basis.

81. Plant a tree.

82. Buy carbon offsets if you air travel.

83. When buying your clothes, consider the country in which they are made.

Does that country have strong laws preventing the dumping of toxic byproduct into the local water sources ?

84. Try out the baking soda toothpaste.

85. Use a compostable scrub at the kitchen sink.


86. Switch to a shampoo bar.

87. Reuse the plastic that comes into your home. Encourage up-cycling.

88. Do not smoke.

89. Weddings create a ton of waste.

Simplify the event and forego the unnecessary.

90. Stop buying blood diamonds and conflict metals.

91.Buy ethically made and fair trade. Buy from companies who use a circular economy. 

92. Consider environmental causes in your fund raisers and charitable contributions.

93. Stop supporting fast fashion companies.

94. Avoid coffee pods and tea bags.

95. Lay off the wild life.

Please don’t keep exotic pets for recreation. Please don’t buy tiger claws, ivory and exotic skins. Let the wild animals be. They keep our forests healthy.

96. Shop your groceries from the bulk bins.

97. Switch to an electric car.

98. Install solar panels on your property.

99. Buy vintage/antique wares.

100. Donate to environmental campaigns.

101. Sponsor a girl child’s education in an under-developed country.

102. Buy organic.

103. Switch to a more ethical bank.

104. Support corporate initiatives that encourage a cyclic economy.

105. Investigate supply chains of the organizations you work for, and make waste a parameter to optimize.

106. Slow Travel.

107. Lot of our ocean plastic comes from developing countries due to lack of good waste disposal system.

Raise awareness, raise understanding, raise money – if you can.

Zero Waste Vs Low Waste : Does the terminology matter ?

Everytime a layman hears the “zero” in zero-waste, it becomes a mission to prove me wrong. The conversation shifts into a personal attack and becomes an evaluation of individual failures. “What about the grocery store from which you bought your bulk produce ? Are they plastic free ? You zero wasters leave your trash elsewhere and pat your backs. ” We are an complex system with many layers. Each layer needs to be optimized for zero waste. I cant go design a supply chain for the grocery store to eliminate its plastic. The store cant force me to buy unpacked goods. But we can each do our jobs and work towards a better system.

Zero waste is not a personal egotistical mission. It doesn’t matter if I don’t send anything to the landfill if our fundamental economy is not circular. IT IS NOT. I won’t second guess if my actions make a difference because there is no other way to do it given the state of affairs. I won’t quit because I believe in community leadership having the power to make an impact. I think we have a long way to go. Zero waste a mind set and a collective goal, not a Pinterest board or a trash can paraded like a trophy. Instead of being intimidated by the word zero, I want us to never loose sight of the big goal.  Zero waste should be “our” goal. Once we understand the problem, we go about life with a different mindset.


The Real Big Picture

Astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev measured the energy needs of a civilization on the Kardashev scale and extrapolated this data to categorize the progress of civilizations :

Type I designation is given to species who have been able to harness all the energy that is available from a neighboring star, gathering and storing it to meet the energy demands of a growing population. This means that we would need to boost our current energy production over 100,000 times to reach this status. However, being able to harness all Earth’s energy would also mean that we could have control over all natural forces. Human beings could control volcanoes, the weather, and even earthquakes!

Type II civilization – can harness the power of their entire star (not merely transforming starlight into energy, but controlling the star). Several methods for this have been proposed. The most popular of which is the hypothetical ‘Dyson Sphere.’ This device, if you want to call it that, would encompass every single inch of the star, gathering most (if not all) of its energy output and transferring it to a planet for later use. Alternatively, if fusion power (the mechanism that powers stars) had been mastered by the race, a reactor on a truly immense scale could be used to satisfy their needs. Nearby gas giants can be utilized for their hydrogen, slowly drained of life by an orbiting reactor.

Type III, where a species then becomes galactic traversers with knowledge of everything having to do with energy, resulting in them becoming a master race.  In terms of humans, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution – both biological and mechanical – may result in the inhabitants of this type III civilization being incredibly different from the human race as we know it.

 Type IV civilizations would almost be able to harness the energy content of the entire universe and with that, they could traverse the accelerating expansion of space.

Type V might just be the next possible advancement to such a civilization. Here beings would be like gods, having the knowledge to manipulate the universe as they please.

And we are at ……..

Type 0. ( or 0.7 if you want a more encouraging number to use as a label. )

We still meet our energy needs from fossilized dead plants and animals while sending our trash to the landfills/the atmosphere/oceans. There may be planets out there in the universe with intelligent life that went extinct before they transitioned from type 0 to type 1. I hope we make it. ( In my personal opinion, the difference between humans perishing and thriving depends on if we can get from Stage 0 to Stage 1 in the next 50-100 years. Sustainability is important ! So are the technological advancements. )

Aren’t you inspired ? So much to invent ! So much to do !

Zero Waste Laundry

Posted on March 16, 2018


A drying rack :

Mine is from Ikea. ( It is made of steel with a polyethylene coating which is hard to recycle. )

Made with bamboo options : 1, 2 & 3.

This was the first switch I made way before I heard of the term ‘zero waste’. I learnt that using a conventional dryer wears out the clothes faster. If you own clothes with stretch, heat breaks down the elastane over time. I was tired of the buttons falling off, collars becoming frail and seams coming apart. Not having them tumble in a dryer helps. The garments from Zara last a while if they can be mended and taken care of.

Sustainability experts say that half of the carbon footprint of a garment is from the consumer’s side. I took a resolve to wear my clothes till I no longer fit in them or till they go thread bare. The rack helps keep them in shape.

I wash my clothes as little as possible. I wear them multiple times before wash. Having the rack to dry the clothes inside out between washes keeps them fresh. I spot wash the arm pits, hang them dry and wear them again. This rack has helped.

zero waste laundry

Fabric freshener 

I originally bought this from Laundress to keep my sweaters fresh between washes. It currently holds a DIY version of the same.

Washing :

A front loading washing machine is supposedly more efficient than a top loading one.

I have cleaning rags, exercise clothes, towels, pillow cases, handkerchiefs and every day clothes. I use grated soap for the delicates load and soap nuts for everything else. ( Using cloth rags reduced by landfill trash but added to an extra load to wash. I rinse and throw them in the washing machine till I a ready to run it. )

I get my soap nuts from my mother’s farm in India. Amazon sells them. They can be reused. I replace them with fresh ones every 2 weeks. The used ones go into the compost bin. Castile soap and olive oil soap work well too.

I do laundry as soon as I can fill up a load. ( I don’t want the fibers rotting faster with the help of sweat and body oils. ) We are lucky to live in a place which has the washer in the house.

I usually have one silk shirt / one sweater to wash per week. I wash it in the sink using olive oil soap. Fill the sink, melt some soap in, swish the garment in the soapy water, rinse, lay flat and dry. One garment to hand wash per week is manageable. I do not want to use petro-chemicals at the dry cleaners to wash my clothes. ( I had a person I know say “you guys won’t give up air travel or cars or dry cleaning but you want to take away my job in the fossil fuel industry? ” Dry Cleaning is the easiest to give up. So I took it off the table. )

I have the Laundress detergent that I reserve for my house guests. It is a wonderful product and I have loved it for years.

I had a guest “what-about” me on the plastic rim on my thrifted grater to prove that I am not zero waste. It truly deflated me. I don’t want to argue. I don’t have the energy to. I think I will keep zero waste a secret from now. Folks who cant handle criticism should not preach. One last post awaits and I will conclude it on the blog too.

Laundry is “meh” and “argh” to talk about it …. but anything that makes my clothes last longer while being greener is something I will try. My method is one of the many zero waste solutions out there.

Curious : Is there anyone out there who likes doing laundry ? 

A Tea story

Posted on March 9, 2018


Once upon a time, I wanted to be a tea scientist. I had two dozen teas, a thermometer, access to an electron microscope, a search engine at my finger tips and a lot of enthusiasm. I used to hang out in a tea shops in the Chinatown of San Francisco that carry tea that costs 1000$ a pound and ask them questions for research. In turn, they look at me with suspicion and follow me around in store to make sure I wasn’t trying to run away with a canister. I would pester my colleagues to get me some every time they travelled out of the country. I would ask favors from my Asian friends. “Can I come with you when you go buy your weekly groceries?”  They knew what it meant : a translation job of the labels in the tea isle. It became a mild obsessed. As with any of my hobbies, life had other plans. I could hardly keep up with one research job. I was running out of cabinet space and grocery budget. Too many things to learn, 24hrs a day. I had to declutter this obsession. Where did that leave me ? Where am I now ?

gourmand is someone who is excessively fond of eating and drinking, and has therefore allowed himself to become enslaved by pleasure.


gourmet is someone who has developed such discriminating tastes that he can no longer tolerate anything less than “the best.”


A connoisseur, it is simply a person who “knows.” And believes that knowing about something can dramatically increase the pleasure we derive from it.

That is me.

I now have a ” normal ” tea collection with a gourmand’s appetite for it. Adding a zero-waste constraint on top, this is what I am left with :



Tea is my comfort food. And scent is one of my strongest sensory input. I associate lavender with long nights chained to my desk waiting for the results. This tea keeps me company. It is relaxing and de-stressing. Nights are calmer. Work gets done. Life goes on.

Its caffeine free and pairs well with my other teas. It helps with my midnight cravings. It helps with making me feel less full after a big meal. Its nice to sip on something comforting after a dinner party that is not alcohol. I always serve it when I have people over. Its my trick to get them to stay longer and have deeper conversations …. tea can have that effect on people. Sitting outdoors, sipping on hot tea, smelling the flowers and talking into the night with my dear humans – what a joy !


White tea

There are things I can never buy for myself but would love to give as gifts to my loved ones : Candles. First hand clothing. And white tea. I got this to give as a present. When he realized how much I value it, a friend of mine returned his present. I accepted. This is my fav tea in the whole wide world.


Roasted Buckwheat tea

This is my afternoon slump help. I start to get hungry at 3-4pm and this tea prevents me from going to the nearest coffee shop to buy a sugary snack. The starch in the grain is a good filler. It has the earthiness of roasted grain and smells divine.


Layer, Layer, Layer

Tea is meant to be enjoyed layered. You use the leaves multiple times till they fade into the background. I work with leaves, not tea bags because it gives me control of the favor. Individual one time use packaging is something I no longer welcome into my home. I fill my tea pot once an hour. It has the following advantages : 1) makes you get up and move from the desk 2) makes you drink more H2O. 3) fresh tea. 4) Used leaves –> compost once done.


A routine 

Early morning before yoga : matcha ( another post for another day. )

Morning : Start with white tea leaves.

Mid morning : Add some florals to the existing leaves.

Late afternoon: Add barley to the existing leaves.

Evening – night : Start fresh with lavender. Lay off the caffeine.

Add ginger, lemon and grated turmeric as needed.


DIY Toner

At the end of the day, pour some water into the teapot with all the leftover leaves. Stick it in the fridge. Next morning, pour the concoction into a spray bottle and use it as a face refresher at your desk. (Discard leftovers every day.) I don’t know if I can officially call it a toner but it is quite refreshing.

My friend Peng.

Peng is a brilliant mathematician. He is a devout Buddhist who takes a month off every summer to go live in a monastery. The way he lived his life was very mindful. At work, he used to set an alarm that would go off every 50 minutes. The next 10 minutes of the hour would be spent walking around, stretching, greeting people, filling up his tea pot, replying to emails, texting back, …. Once the next 50 minute duration would begin, he cut out every distraction and would slip into his intense concentration mind frame. He won’t answer if you knock on his door. He was very productive and managed stress well. Perhaps this is one way to find that work life balance ? Perhaps this is how he prevented burn out after the long hours he worked ? He owned this very beautiful red tea pot that would sit on his desk. It once belonged to his great-grand-father and was well over a 100 years old. His ancestors were rich aristocrats who was driven out of their land during a feudal war. When they had to flee in the middle of the night during an attack, this was one of the possessions his great-grand-mother choose to take along.  Talking about an heirloom pieces, this is the jewel he inherited. He uses it every single day, once ever 50 minutes.

( I purchased mine as soon as I heard this story. Some of my favorites if you are in the market : 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. I would love to be that old lady with a tea pot collection. But I believe in the one tea pot per lifetime philosophy. I wish I bought the one I liked instead of the cheapest one I could find. )

A Case for a traditional tea pot

It is really well designed. It will last you a century if you take care of it. It’s made of cast iron and not breakable like the ceramic/clay/plastic/glass pots. It keeps its warmth till I finish my pot of tea. Its designed to add leaves in layers. Its gorgeous to look at. When its cold, you can warm your hands by holding your pot. At the end of its life, I can bury it in my backyard without it poisoning the soil. It’s heirloom material. One tea pot per person for a lifetime – the way things should be designed and loved. I have mine.

Wish List

This Parisian brand : Mariage Freres makes a very popular blend called Marco Polo. I need to get my hands on some to taste. My friend got back this Earl Grey lavender blend from London which blew my tea snobbish head off my body. I think blends are in general over priced. I look up the base notes and attempt to make my own. Lastly, I always want this white tea from China. Its the best I have ever tasted. Since going zero-waste, I found a few local loose tea shops that have great imports. San Francisco’s China Town is the place to go to get lost in exploration. Red Blossom Tea Company and Vital Tea Leaf deserve honorary mentions. My local Sprouts and Whole Foods always have a few varieties in bulk. My 3 teas were “super-curated” from the local bulk bins I have access to. It has been an straight forward and simple love story when it comes to tea.

copper kettle



And then I know

what the time for a cup of tea means.

I waited in the crowded and noisy station building

for the one who was late for the appointment

to appea on the bitterly cold winter day.

I carefully heled a full cup of hot tea,

carefully added to it sugar and milk,

stirring gently,

sipping gently.

You carefully opened the slim collection

of Issa’s haiku that you had in your luggage :

‘A world of dew; yet

within the dewdrops — quarrels …’

This crowded station was a dewdrop within

a dewdrop, dropped

in the tea deeper with every sip.

A cup of tea,

at first hot, turned warm, and then cold.

Things on my mind

ranged from poetry to dreams to reality.

In ancient times —

in the world of Chinese serial novels or

tales of chivalry —

it would be the time for a cup of tea,

in which a swordsman drew his sword wiping out the besieging rascals,

and a hero was enraptured and enchanted before the bed of a fair lady.

But modern time has changed its speed.

Within about the time for half a cup of tea,

you drank up a cup of golden fragrant tea.

A cup of tea

going from far to near and then into nothingness.

The one for whom you had waited long finally appeared

and asked if you would like one more cup of tea.

Chen Li.

( Tea brings out the romantic in me. I always have a kettle boiling water on the stove when I am home. I have ideas on how it should be paired, a sincere admiration for the leaves, find immense comfort in the subtle fragrance of the tea, …. My work starts with me getting to my desk with a pot of tea in the morning. It’s a ritual and a way of life. There is a philosophical side to it too that I don’t think I have the depth to go into, at this point in time. A few good books that have re-read : The Book of TeaThe One Taste of Truth: Zen and the Art of Drinking TeaWabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.



Do you speak tea ?

Hair Care Routine : Zero Waste Edition

Posted on February 23, 2018

What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

zeroWaste hair routine

Shampoo bar : Moisturizing Formula Bar Shampoo by J.R. Liggett

Wet the bar. Work up some lather on the palm of your hands. Transfer the lather to the scalp and massage. Wash it out.

There was no learning curve/transition period with switching to a bar shampoo. My hair was doing alright from day one.

I am keeping track of number of washes I get from one bar. Will report back with a cost analysis.

This has been an easy switch. I was using klorane shampoo which was a good natural shampoo.

I tried no-poo method and failed each time. I couldn’t wait out the transition period. I intend to try it again in the future.

Finding a bar shampoo has been a relief. I put off trying zero waste for a long time because I was scared of giving up a shampoo. I even wrote the comment : “I can never be zero waste because I need my shampoo” on Ariana’s blog. It’s been a relief. One by one, the list is getting checked.

Hair oil : Dry Remedy by Aveda

Using an oil of some sort creates a barrier between the hair and environmental elements. It’s moisturizing. It’s nourishing. It tames the frizz. It adds some shine. I have been using this oil for 3 years now. A bottle lasts me for about 8 months. For the length of my hair, I use 3 drops and concentrate on the ends. It’s light weight and works for my fine hair. Anything heavier than this takes out all of it’s natural texture and makes it flat.

hair accessories

Scissors : Utopia Care.

Hair pin : Sylvain Le Hen.

Bun screws : Goody.

Hair cut :

I chose a hair style that requires no skill to upkeep. I trim my hair on my own.

( I try to save where I can so that I can afford the sustainable choices I make. )

Hair style :

I like the messy unkept look. Combing my hair makes it straight. So I don’t. Day 1 hair has curls and volume. Day 2 is straight hair with some bounce. Day 3 is oily hair which looks flat and limp. I try to not interfere and let it be.

Frequency of washes :

I can go 3-4 days without washing if I don’t do intense workouts. If I go for a run/bike/hike/camp/play a sport, I wash it more often. I wash my pillow case every week.

Bad hair days :

We go camping often and it has taught me to not sweat these little things. A hat hides it well. When in the civilization, I often put it up in a bun or braid it. My scalp shows the signs when it’s expecting a wash. I tell it “one more day dear” and make it wait a little.

Shower cap : Klorane

Fully recyclable and washable. Helps keep the frizz at bay. I sometimes wear the cap when I cook to prevent food odors from settling into my hair. I refuse to go out smelling of curry and it saves me from washing my hair after a cooking session. It looks silly but it really works !

Towel : 100% cotton, Made in India.

Flipping the damp hair upside down and putting it in a turban gives me some volume. I don’t use any heat styling tools. ( Once upon a time, I used to flat iron it. It fried my hair and ruined it. It took me years to grow it out. I have since embraced what comes naturally to me and quite like it. )

Notes :

I have a conventional shampoo and conditioner for my house guests. I do offer my products to try out if they are up for it. The shampoo bar seems to trigger what-about-ism but the the hair oil has been a huge hit.

My husband does a water only method that works great for him. He sometimes uses a shampoo after he plays outdoor sports to get the dirt out the hair.

I have a medical grade dandruff shampoo stored in my bathroom cabinet. I use it as a treatment if I ever need to. I don’t sweat about it in the name of zero waste.

I had massive hair loss in the last few years when I was in grad school. Stress, erratic sleep routine and bad eating habits were the culprits. I have been eating well in the last two years. I now live with Harsha and Cinco who are two very humorous beings – helps with stress. Life has improved since and my hair problems slowly abated. ( Not looking for medical advice. )

I don’t think I have the perfect hair to model for a shampoo bar. Mine is normal. This is what comes to me naturally and I am content.

What else does one need to keep their hair healthy ? I think I have it good without foregoing anything. This routine is sufficiently nourishing given my hair and body type. Some folks can get away with less and some folks need more tropical nourishment. (Apparently, elasticity and porousness of the strands matter. Classifications like fine and thick hair don’t often translate across the board. Scalp health matters. Genetics play a role. I do not have knowledge in these matters to give out generic advice. ) My solution is one of the many zero waste solutions out there.

Zero Waste Dental Routine

Posted on February 17, 2018

What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

zero waste dental routine

Bamboo Toothbrush :

Imagine winning a zero-waste badge just for switching to a different kind of brush ! They look much prettier in the bathroom. Imagine how cheap these brushes can get when the factories in China that make bamboo chopsticks get into the business … Let’s increase the demand for them and the markets will start to price them better. ( Costco sells them if you live in America. )

Tooth Powder :

This is an Indian apothecary find. This powder is called triphala. It’s an Ayurvedic remedy that was suggested by my elderly relatives who lives in my ancestral village. They have been using it for decades. A few of them are in their 90s and have lot of their teeth intact. So why not ! I tried the baking soda DIY tooth paste and disliked it. This powder tastes tangy and is good for health if ingested. ( In India, you can find it packaged in cardboard boxes or in bulk near farming communities. I apologize for showing a non-scalable solution. )

( My husband doesn’t care for any of this. He uses toothpaste and a plastic toothbrush. My house guests are glad that there is toothpaste in the house. )

Please do not take my advice on the tooth paste. This is something that I am doing for now as a experiment on myself. It may be quack science that I am promoting. Try at your own risk. 

What-about-ism(s) I heard this week :

” what about the factory in which the toothbrush got made ? Did the factory use plastic at all? ”    ( good question )

“what about the plastic inside your laptop? you are not zero waste”  ( Not zero waste. Am low waste. )

“what about the leather shoes you wear ? You have lots of shoes. ”   ( Guilty as charged. But everything else I do cant be clouded by the shoes I own ! )

“what about the plastic cap on that glass bottle ? ”    ( now, now, you are just picking on me. )

” What about all the plastic parts inside your car ? ”  ( errr … you are right. )

” What about the plastic brakes on your bike? ”    ( blank sad face )

” Please don’t do this to your children. These are the kinds of children who grow up with no immunity and fall sick all the time. They build resistance by exposure to plastic. ” ( I wanted to punch him in the face )

“If you want to make a change, do what the likes of Bill Gates is doing. Donate a lot of money. That makes a difference. Who cares if you save one plastic tooth brush from being made? ”    ( Absolutely. Its a life goal. )

” I know a single mom on minimum wage. She can’t do it. What about her? ”   ( She is not the problem. I am. )

” I cant do any of this. Being nice to fellow humans is what matters the most. I am a good person. ”   ( Plastic pollution hits the underprivileged humans the most. )


The word got out that there is a woman trying to avoid plastic. It’s making folk around her go defensive. The thing is : it’s alright that I get criticized. Please propose better solutions that you have acted upon. I want this problem tackled from all possible angles. But understand that I am struggling too – not just to do these swaps but to come in terms with my failures.

Also, where can I sign a petition to change the term ‘zero waste’ to ‘low waste’ ?

Zero Waste Period : Menstrual Cup

Posted on February 9, 2018

What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

Its been two years since I made the switch. There is no going back.

I impulse bought it. When it arrived, I was terrified to try it. I threw in the back of my bathroom cabinet and vowed to rectify my impulse buying habit.

A resolve to go Zero Waste made me pick it up again.

This is one of the best things ever made for women, on matters related to menstruating. I have said these words multiple times. I started off with using a cloth rag at age 14. It was very uncomfortable. Then came those bulky pads you buy in stores. They were uncomfortable but a big step up. Then came the thin pads. The words ‘this is the best thing ever made for women’ were first uttered. Moving to America introduced me to a lot of choice on products. Tampons were one of em. I called all my Indian girl friends and told them : ‘this is the best thing ever made for women’. But a menstrual cup is better.

Pros :

Cost effective. Buy once and use for a long long time. I always took the expenditure incurred from buying tampons/pads as a given cost – cost of being born female. Not anymore. I am a fan of great design and sustainable solutions. This is one. No more buying pads/tampons on repeat.

Comfortable. I can forget that I have a foreign body inside me.

I can quantize my menstrual flow. I knew I have a terrible day-one that drains me. It helps to know that I am not imagining it. I have to empty my cup multiple times on day 1 of my period. It works for women with a heavy flow.

You get to learn a little about your own anatomy.

Was told that its a revolutionary product for women in some under-developed countries. Girls in certain regions of the world skip school when they have their period because of social stigma/lack of access to bathrooms in schools. Now, its a quiet personal affair and nobody needs to know.

India needs this product. I talk about it to ALL the women I know. I talk about it to all the doctors I know. I want to spread the awareness.

I have gone swimming, camping, running, … wearing it. I do yoga wearing it.

If you go backcountry hiking/camping, you can not dispose your tampons in the wild. You have to carry it out in a plastic bag. But you can dig a hole, empty your cup and cover it up. It’s allowed.

You no longer send these products to the landfills every month. Tampons and pads have chemicals that may be harmless to us, but might be harmful to other organisms once they reach the soil. They take a while to decompose. Cotton used in pads/tampons has a carbon footprint, an appetite for pesticides and depletes the soil. Silicone used for the cup is not exactly a green product but ranks way better.

Zero Waste Kitchen

Posted on January 26, 2018


What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

Zero waste Vs Low waste :

I don’t presume that I am solving the global food waste problem in my kitchen. But I want to educate myself on why its happening and subscribe to some of the solutions suggested. Not sending organic matter to the landfill is an ambitious under taking. Avoiding anything that comes in plastic takes effort. Switching to locally grown food for the sake of reducing ones carbon emissions takes sacrifices. How ever impossible zero waste may seem, we can try to reduce the VOLUME of trash you make. We can cherry pick what we absolutely need in our home that comes wrapped in plastic. We can make do without some products. We can change our eating habits. We can simplify how we eat. Like always, my take : Make a lot. Buy some. Forego some. 

Zero Waste grocery shopping tote

1. Easiest things first : Grocery shopping kit

A few sacs and a tote. Easiest switch to make. Plain cloth, old shoe bags, worn out pillow cases, knotted t-shirts, …. do the job. If none of those options are viable, this cloth bag kit is nice to have on hand. I think I would look cute carrying this wicker basket to the farmers market but the totes I have on hand are good enough.


2. Less meat

In terms of environmental impact, if I were to make a guess : eating a plant based diet makes the most impact. This has nothing to do with our spending capacity and the ability to afford bulk food stores. Meat is expensive when compared to vegetables/lentils/beans. Less meat is something we can all attempt.

I tried cutting it out completely but couldn’t. I was vegan for 2 years and was miserable by the end of it. I cook meat once a week. I gave up eating lamb, goat and beef. We cook pork when we go camping. At home, it’s usually chicken biryani or chicken curry. There is a fish recipe of mine that has reached legendary status among friends and family. I only make it when I have guests.

This is as less as I can go for now. With time, I think I can phase it out completely. If lab grown meat appears soon enough, I will keep my once a week habit. The truth of the matter is : vegans hold the ethical and moral high ground. There is nothing I can say to justify my eating meat.

A confession : I wish every one else cuts down their meat consumption so that I may continue to eat it once a week. With the current rate at which the humans consume meat, my eating once a week is also too much. I know that.

3. Buy groceries in small amounts. Practice portion control. 

I rather have us run out of groceries before the end of the week than buy the excess that rots. Our pantry comes to the rescue and sustains us till our Saturday farmers market run.

I am old enough to know the portion sizing that works for me. Eat less is a controversial thing to say. There is a thin line between energy and lethargy. I try to stay under that line.

Our grocery list usually looks like this :

2 greens, cilantro, ginger, garlic, turmeric, 2 root vegetables, 2 non-leafy vegetables.

We get fresh fruit in summer. In the winter, we rely on frozen blueberries bought in large 4 lb bags.

4. Have a few cheat meals down

I have 4 one pot recipes that I can whip up in < 20 minutes with minimal effort. They are not the most nutritious but they are not unhealthy either. Prevents me from stocking up on packaged/junk food for ‘just in case’/’too tired to cook’/’too famished to wait’ scenarios.

5. Simplify food. 

I simplified my closet and developed a signature style. Blue dresses. Navy blue shirts with black pants. Every day all year long. I did the same to food.

I like food but I don’t want to prioritize it above other things in life that I want to do. We have a meal plan.

My formulae for supper : one lentil stew + one vegetable curry with rice.

My formulae for breakfast : Green smoothie bowl.

My choices for snack : Nuts. A cup of dark chocolate. Tea with barley. A small portion of supper. 

The routine is optimized for time, cost and nutrition. Its hard to do zero waste if you are struggling to feed yourself. Learning how to cook is a life skill.

I started cooking in my early 20s and struggled a lot during the initial years. I was latching on to a few recipes and ingredients to keep my head above the water. I then devised a plan to learn it the academic way. Started with taking a knife skills lesson. Then read a few ‘science behind cooking‘ books. Would pick one recipe and cook it 30 times with slight variations like one does a chemistry experiment. The interaction between salt-fat-acid-heat with the vegetable should be understood. At the end of it, one graduates from following a recipe to understanding the technique. Cooking becomes effortless. I now get what ever is in season/cheap/local from the farmers market and cook it intuitively. Cooking is just like science and engineering. Learn the underlaying theorems first and apply them to various applications.

We go out to eat when we socialize. Its alright. To me, one of the best things about America is the diversity. I want to try out lots of cuisines and kinds of dishes. They inspire me to experiment at home. They give me a taste of lands far away while saying put in one place. They help me expand my spice directory and fill up my pantry.

Zero Waste compost

6. Compost

This took out the majority of the volume of my trash at home. Returns the nutrients to the soil to sustain agriculture. Win, win.

To start a compost is an easy thing. All you need is a bin and some twigs/dried leaves. But to keep it going and to have it decompose aerobically is 8th grade science that anyone can learn.

I really recommend finding a place to drop off your food scraps if you are lucky enough to live in an agricultural state / community. If you know a farmer, ask him if he wants it. For a little while, I was freezing mine in a plastic bag, taking it to Whole Foods and dropping it in their compost bin. I now have my own bin in my backyard.

Not every food scrap belongs in the compost. The professional composting facilities measure the ph, temperature and moisture levels to modify their additions to the bin. They have the supplemental ingredients on hand to balance out carbon to nitrogen ratio. Since I can’t do that, I direct some scraps to the landfill and its fine.

[ The government should help us out with this one. I cant do it on my own. I don’t know what to do with my compost when its ready. Do I go around asking the sellers in my farmers market if they want it ? Is it legal to dig a hole in some remote area and bury it ? Should I list it on Craig’s list ? I don’t know ! It feels all wrong to waste these nutrients when the farmers complain about the decline in the quality of the top soil. I would pick throwing my finished compost on a remote lot of land, to sending it to a landfill to anaerobically decompose. Letting the rich soil go to waste feels very wrong. ]

Zero Waste dish cleaning scrubs

7. Cleaning 

Bar soap : currently using an olive oil soap. Its wonderful. My hands feel nourished after I am done cleaning. A true Luxury ! Works as a hand soap by the kitchen sink.

Coconut scrub : Is gentle on the seasoned cast iron. Gets the job done. Has enough traction to scrub the grits. Compostable at the end of its life. Comes not packaged in plastic.

Copper scrub : gets the rust out if I ever need to. Scrubs the hard to clean pots. Lasts years.

Zero Waste dish rags

8. Cleaning rags

I come from India where majority of humans use rags for cleaning and kitchen towels. This is not a downgrade for me. It’s only natural that I have navy blue rags because most of my clothes are in this color.

Zero Waste chefs knife

9. The ONE knife

Most home cooks don’t need a knife block with 10 different knives. I have one chef’s knife, one pairing and one serrated one. I get them sharpened once a year at my farmer’s market for 5$ each. Knife skills can be learnt. I dislike buying specialized premium items to be used like layman. So, took a few lessons with a chef. Chopping is no longer a chore but a skill to be polished every time we cook. Its meditative. Its fun. I can keep the plastic appliances that exist to chop, out of my house.

Zero Waste wooden cutting boards

10. Cutting boards

I can’t imagine using my precious knives on a plastic cutting board. It dulls them faster. ( Marble and glass cutting boards are terrible for the knives. ) I got my plank of wood from a lumber yard in Tucson 6 years ago for 30$. The cheese boards are thrifted. I season my boards with mineral oil, bee’s wax, olive oil – what ever I have on hand.

Zero Waste cast iron skillet

11. Cast iron cookware

No to sending non stick cookware to the landfills at the end of their life. Cast iron lasts a lifetime and is cheap. You can find them in second hand shops and flea markets. Rust is easy to remove if it does happen. Seasoning a skillet/dutch oven is easy. These days, you can find enameled cast iron for those terrified of rust or seasoning technique. They are heavy but it builds arm strength. I believe that I can do more push ups because of the pots I own. Its a win win.

( Using wooden ladles keeps the seasoning intact.  )

Zero Waste glass steel containers

12. Glass/steel containers

To pack lunch. To store in the fridge. To pack food when traveling.

13. Single use plastic vs plastic that lasts a decade

One time use plastic is definitely the devil. I try to avoid them like I am allergic to it.

I own a plastic broom. My blender has plastic parts.

I don’t plan to throw out the plastic I already own to replace it with glass/bamboo till it wears out on me. I don’t need to do the zero waste aesthetic. I need to not waste stuff.

I live with a partner who doesn’t care about any of this. I have tried my best to keep plastic appliances at the bay. An instapot did sneak in. I moved in with my husband last year. I came with an army of cast iron vessels and he moved in with his one pot. It’s a slow cooker, pressure cooker and rice cooker with a timer – which was a boon in our tiny kitchen. If there should be that one appliance, let it be an instapot and/or a high speed blender.

Zero Waste travel tote

14. On the go kit

Tote bag. Thermos that holds water/tea/coffee but can also carry snack/leftovers if needed.  I have this tote by our front door / in the car / under the desk.

When eating out, order less. I bring my leftovers back home in my thermos and its fine. I make it a point to tell them to not give me a plastic straw, but it usually arrives if I ask for water. If they are serving food in a styrofoam plate in the restaurant, I leave and find another place to eat. Some more awareness in the media might fix this problem.

I carry a handkerchief in my purse at all times. It helps with resisting using paper towels.

15. Farmers market

When I lived in Arizona, the farmers markets were more expensive than whole foods and had much less variety. We were in severe drought and it’s a desert – I understand. California is an agricultural state and we have access to fresh food without spending a fortune. It’s local and might help with cutting down packaging waste / food waste associated with the supply chains of grocery chains. Produce wrapped in individual plastic wrapping is my pet peeve. This is my way of avoiding it.

There is a Wednesday flea market in San Jose where the farmers bring overly ripe fruit that would be thrown out soon if not sold. I get some to use for my smoothies. I meet folks who like baking and canning in these places. At the end of summer, you can find 20lb of tomatoes for pennies. I celebrate a tomato week in our kitchen when we can get hold of some. California has been helping.

[ If there are no farmers markets in my city, I would go back to a conventional grocery store. I would work on lessening the volume of plastic I bring in and recycle it properly. ]


16. Bulk Bin shopping

We get a few things like oil from Costco in large sizes. We get granola, salt, spices, dried coconut … from the bulk bins in Sprouts. There are a few things that make me pay a visit to Whole Foods. I dread that visit. It’s like walking around with a hole in your wallet. There is the Rainbow grocery in San Francisco where you can find everything in bulk. I dislike how zero waste becomes a matter of being able to shop at these places. ( I know deep down that I can make a budget for it if I stop buying clothes. I am trying. The irony is : I gave up eating out to afford sweatshop free clothes. If I buy lot less clothes, I can go zero waste to the dot. Living the simplest frugal life is the only way I can be eco-friendly. )

Even without the bulk bins, a lot can be done to reduce the volume of waste being produced. We get a few things like oil/ACV/Alcohol in glass containers. Its a work in progress.

Zero Waste bulk smoothie bowl

17. Make some. Forego some. Buy some.

These, I couldn’t phase out. That cat, I cant keep away from my flat lays. They are my chosen ones.

This amazing green powder that has 30 amazing ingredients that I would never find in bulk and acts like a protein powder in my smoothies.

Ghee that my mother makes from the produce from my family farm. Yes, I am spoilt. I still get fed by my mom. I get it double sealed in plastic.

18. Not chasing the zero.

We make a small amount of trash per month in the kitchen.

I can’t cook every damn thing. I have my total exhaustion days.

Friends and family come home. Food is a part of it.

I get some food from India double sealed in plastic.

I sometimes need a sugar high before a deadline and Oreos help.

I don’t sweat it. I am doing what I can. I wont let that stupid trash in a mason jar trophy make me feel like I lost the race.

19. Zero Waste by another name

Two of my neighbors are elderly retired couples. They live frugally. They don’t go out to restaurants or order stuff online that show up home in packages. They visit the grocery store and home cook all their meals. They eat simple suppers. There is nothing coming into the house for it to go out. They have been wearing the same outfits for ages. They don’t even put their trash cans by the curb every week because they don’t fill it. When they do fill it, its the size of mine after all these switches. No incoming == no outgoing.

20. Miles to go before I sleep

If we eat less Indian food, I would cut down a lot more of the dependancies. Once my mother’s cookbook is done, I will phase it out. I want to eat what ever is local. I want to eat like a global citizen.

Be less dependent on mom for ghee and other pickled food. I want to stop bringing food from India.

Find some snacks to have on hand, for when people visit. Giving them bananas/apples hasn’t exactly been winning me any favors with the kids nor the adults. Recently, a friend showed up at home with his own groceries claiming that I don’t serve snacks that he likes to eat. Ouch ! Very ouch ! It’s only adding to them mocking the zero waste movement and writing it off as a huge sacrifice.

My husband has an Indian belly that needs yoghurt everyday. I have to convince him to make his own. I cant help out because it gives me a gag reflex. I cant stand most dairy products.

Find a re-usuable coffee filter instead of the paper ones.

Buy ugly produce at the farmers market. That is the kind most likely to not get sold and goes waste.

Individual level decisions are fine. I want to support the ones who are reducing waste in their supply chains. Those are the big fish.

We volunteer at Second Harvest food bank. I want to put in more hours.

Waste is generated by land, air and water. There is a larger picture here than what I have listed in this post.

21. Reasons not to do it

It can be more expensive unless you forego lots of kinds of food. Budgets are important. I don’t mean to be self righteous to a fault and to my own demise. We are programmed to buy the cheapest option. I put the cut off at 20% more than the base. I am willing to pay a little more but I have my limits.

Not everything can be found in bulk. We eat rice instead of pasta/ramen/soba/… because I can find rice in bulk. I don’t want to drive around Bay Area hunting for groceries.

If there are no bulk stores, what can one do ? You got to eat ! Donating to the cause instead is one way of supporting the movement.

Time : if we all had plenty of time, we would make everything from scratch. But we don’t. We have exhausting days and lot going on. Food is sustenance. I would pick eating packaged food over slaving in the kitchen when I don’t have the energy to.

Its harder than the conventional way.

The society is not structured into a cyclic economy. One has to swim upstream against the current tide.

Everyone tells me its not worth my time either. I get mocked incessantly.

My husband thinks individual contribution hardly makes a difference. But he is on board 90% of the time. I suspect he does it for me.

Few of my business owner friends tell me that even the bulk stores get their products in plastic bags that they empty into the dispensers. No one should pay the extra just to not bring plastic into the house when its made its way to the grocery store.

The silicon valley big shots tell me that tech will solve this problem in the future. We will one day suck the plastic out of the oceans and invent a solvent that biodegrades plastic miraculously. We needn’t waste our time with the low impact solutions now. Work on growing the economy. Wait till the better solutions arrive. ( I don’t like the beat your wife but donate a lot of money to the women’s shelter later, sort of arguments. )

AI is here and home cooking will become extinct due to automation. We have to buy it from a vending machine after a robot cooked it from a grocery store like setting. There is no escaping packaging.

I don’t have children. I don’t have a stake in the future. If I die on schedule, I may escape the consequences. Let the next generation deal with it and inherit the problems.

22. Zero waste is a nascent movement.

Its not perfect. If you slip into ‘what-about-ism’, one could find the justifications to not give it a try. As long as we make it an important constraint in our problem statement, I am sure we will figure out a good solution. I want those high impact solutions too. I want it to be convenient and easy. I want those restructured supply chains. I want regulations and legislation. Since its not happening any time soon, this is what we can do to keep the momentum going that will lead to the big changes. This is what I can do for now. This is what I have to show for year one of making an effort.

The purpose of this exercise is not to characterize ourselves, the humans, into waste creators and zero-wasters. The journey is the destination. The best advice I was given was ‘find a way to make zero waste work for you.’ Make one switch per month and you eventually get there. Four years ago, I never once considered plastic pollution when making my everyday decisions. Today, its made its way into my blog. It’s a result of the awareness of the problem. Nobody will come and solve our problems. We are the ones we have been waiting for. Its made me very optimistic for all the good solutions to come.

Zero waste is exciting. You do one thing and it sets off a chain reaction. You slowly start climbing up a check list. One by one, the list gets ticked. You want to climb up the ladder. You want to do more. Just by association, you inspire folks around you. Some mock you. Some join the club and you encourage each other. It’s a wonderful movement ! I am doing all this because I was inspired by Ariana. It went from ‘that is impossible‘ to ‘woah, it can be done‘ to ‘I can do it too‘.

I hope you guys give it a try and have a lot of success. Lets starve those landfills and eat well. Cheers !