Thursday, August 2, 2012

Zero Waste Shopping at the Co-op

by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Imagine doing your shopping, bringing groceries home, and eating them without throwing a single thing in the trash can. While it's difficult to be 100% perfect, here are some easy ways to reduce your grocery waste:

Brendan can answer your bulk questions!
Refill Your Own Containers in Bulk. Buying items from the bulk aisle automatically means less waste. However, you can improve your carbon footprint by bringing your own containers in to fill rather than using a new plastic bag or container each time. Wide-mouth mason jars work particularly well and are also great for storing items in your pantry, but any container will do. Try masking tape to label the jar - it stays on well and then comes off easily when you want it to. You'll need to at least put the PLU number from the bin and get the "tare" (weight of the empty container) at the registers so that the cashier can properly ring your item. A wide range of products are available: grains, snacks, beans, coffee, spices, olive oil, maple syrup, honey, granola, nuts, kombucha, olives...

Buy Local Dairy with a Bottle Deposit. Some of our dairy farmers provide milk, keifer, and cream in glass containers. You pay a bottle deposit up front, and when you bring the clean container back, the cashier will refund you. Look for items from Bartlett Farm in Concord and Brookford Farm in Canterbury.

Re-use Produce Bags. Whether you bring lightweight cloth, Ziplock, or re-use plastic bags, you can easily reduce your waste. Or buy items lose and transfer them into storage containers when you get home. Be sure to wash them regularly.

Bring Your Own Grocery Bags. Bring your own canvas (or any type of) bag to bring your groceries home. This saves on plastic waste and also earns 5 cents per bag for the Community Partner of the month.

Shop Fresh. Eating from the perimeter of the store, particularly our produce and bulk aisles, will automatically generate less waste... and is generally healthier for you, too!

Compost. Toss corn husks, peach pits, apple cores, kale stems, teabags, outdated leftovers, egg shells, coffee grounds, stale bread and the like in the compost bin. Even a lazy compost pile will eventually turn into great soil, and urban composters can try composting with worms. (Don't compost meat, bones, excess grease, eggs, or dairy products, though.)

BONUS: By eating more fresh foods and storing them in glass or cloth, you'll significantly reduce your blood levels of harmful BPA and other problematic plastic compounds within just a few days! Click here to learn more about the study.

What's YOUR favorite way to reduce waste when you shop? Let us know in the "Comments" section below!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Cheaper, Greener Way to Drink Water

By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Want a new water bottle for the car and office? Check out the Co-op's glass bottled water selection! Opt for stylish glass bottles with screw-tops, which are dishwasher safe, only cost a few dollars, and are perfect to re-use. Even BPA-free plastic water bottles can leach dangerous chemicals, and stainless steel water bottles often impart an unpleasant metallic flavor.
Lots of Great Glass Bottles to Choose From!

To drink clean water, you just can't beat glass. Once you finish the water in your bottle, refill it with filtered tap water. Seltzer fan? Check out the Soda Stream carbonator (available at Things are Cooking in downtown Concord) to make tap water fabulously fizzy. Add a squirt of flavor extract from the baking aisle (lemon, vanilla, orange...) or a few sprigs of fresh herbs from the garden to the bottle for a sublime summer sipper.
Lemon Verbena Leaves Infusing in Seltzer

* Glass is non-leaching, which makes your drinking water safer and better tasting (not to mention more elegant). Re-using a glass drink bottle is super cheap compared to buying any type of "water bottle," and it's even dishwasher safe.
* Refilling with filtered tap water eliminates waste, costs next to nothing, and has a low carbon footprint.
* Homemade seltzer costs less than bottled in the long run, eliminates waste, and offers endless opportunity for creative drinks.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

DIY Natural Bug Spray & Bite Remedies

By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Bugs are an inescapable reality for those of us who love the outdoors. One way to reduce the pressure is to use your own homemade natural bug spray. Here’s one of my favorite recipes that discourages black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks. Everything except for the vodka is available at the Co-op.

4 oz metal, glass, or PET plastic spray bottle
2 oz distilled water
2 oz vodka
20 drops lavender essential oil
20 drops geranium essential oil
15 drops citronella essential oil (optional)

Lavender Flowering
Combine all your ingredients in the bottle, shake well, and spray as needed on skin and clothing. Reapply each hour.

Don’t have the time or energy to make your own? Check out all the great natural insect repellents at the Co-op. My personal favorite is Quantum Buzz Away Extreme, but you may want to try a few to find the one that works with your body’s chemistry.

Get bit? Chew up a fresh plantain leaf (a common weed, but be sure you’re 100 percent positive on your identification) and place it on the bite for immediate itch relief. Or swab it with some old-fashioned distilled witch hazel or plain undiluted lavender essential oil.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mint to Keep the Critters Away

Recently I moved into a house with an existing compost bin.  It is a simple bin, the black one that sits right on the ground.  I decided to bring it back to life and began throwing my scraps and compostable items in the bin.  Living in the city, I was worried about critters getting into the bin.  Sure enough, within a few days I went out in the morning and found that somebody was sampling my scraps.  I kept filling the holes back in, putting bricks around the bin and looking for ways to secure it to the ground so it would be more difficult for the critters to get in.

Then I read somewhere that skunks and other small animals don’t like the smell of mint.  I thought, “What an inexpensive and friendly way to keep them out!"  I bought a small spearmint plant (see photo) and planted it right next to the bin at the place where they were digging.  You can buy a mint plant at any store or garden center that sells starter plants.  So far, no further invasions have taken place in my compost bin and it’s been about five weeks!  Maybe they decided that my selections didn’t have enough variety, but I’m going to assume that the mint worked.  The mint will also proliferate and surround the bin more each year.  AND, I can use the mint for Mojitos all summer.  That’s a bonus!

Here’s a great Mojito recipe if you haven’t tried one: