Tiny Tip

Tiny Tip #6- Compost, compost, compost!

Compost your food scraps. Compost your yard waste. Compost your soiled paper. If it was break down in the compost pile, compost it!


Recycling gets a lot of street cred for being the “green” thing we should all be doing. Well recycling better watch its back because there’s a new mean green machine in town – compost! Actually, composting is the more like the kid  comes back to home after college and is suddenly really hip. In elementary school, they were always invited to the birthday parties because everyone was invited. In high school, while struggling with a bad case of acne and braces, this kid fell out of touch with the popular crowd and found their place in the “alternative” crowd. After going off the radar for a little bit, they make a comeback and hot damn-they’re cool.

For ages, we let Mother Nature do her thing and break down organic material into compost. We composted because everyone composted. Then we realized that compost is a little stinky and if we send it to the landfill we can just ignore it – compost was feeling really left out and uncool. Now we’re realizing that we’ve been fools all along. Sure your food scraps are a little stinky (and brace face might have been “uncool”) but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. Composting may have been off our radar for a while but it’s back and hot damn-it’s cool. Read More »

Tiny Tip

Tiny Tip #5 – An ode to my spork

Long gone are the sad plastic sporks that bring back vivid memories of the less then palatable lunches of my middle and high school years.  Sporks are so often associated with unappetizing meals from places you’d rather not be – schools, hospitals etc. But it’s time to change the perception. Perhaps we can make it -dare I say – cool to carry a spork? Take a page out of Billy Madison’s playbook and say “You ain’t cool unless you pee your pants use a spork!”

Read More »

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Tiny Tip #4 – ditch the plastic straw

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Americans use 500,000,000 straws each year. That is a fuck ton of straws and it’s a really big problem.

Plastic straws (contrary to popular belief) are not recyclable. Generally, recycling facilities cannot handle materials that are smaller than two inches in two dimensions. Of course, you should always check with your local recycling facility if you have any questions but don’t assume just because something is plastic that it can be recycled. When we recycle plastics, we are essentially downgrading the material into a lesser quality plastic that will eventually have to be landfilled. Reduction and reuse are far superior options to recycling.

Many people don’t realize that plastic is derived from oil. We are using our dwindling supplies of this fossil fuel to create unnecessary products that are filling up our landfills. Gross. This is an issue that extends way beyond plastic straws, but I digress – lets stay focused.

Plastic straws are a real danger to wildlife. I knew that straws were a problem and was no longer using them at home but I was really having a hard time remembering to avoid straws when I was at a restaurant or a bar. This video was the catalyst for me to make a change. It’s pretty graphic and it breaks my heart to watch. It’s easy to be complacent and essentially ignore an issue until you see shit like this.

While far from perfect, I do my very best to order my drinks sans straw. My typical order is vodka, soda, lime and no straw, thanks! In Vermont, most bar tenders and servers don’t think this is weird request. Sometimes I still end up with a straw because it’s such an engrained habit to add a straw. Many times I’ve witnessed a bar tender from across the bar (yeah, I’m watching you!) put a straw in my drink, remember my request, remove the straw and throw it in the trash. Ugh. But you gotta keep on, keepin’ on. No time to be discouraged.

If I’m in a quieter place, I’ll say something like “I’m trying to reduce trash, can I have my drink with no straw please?”. When I’m traveling in a place that is perhaps a little less green, I tend to order something that isn’t typically served with a straw – like beer or wine. This is the safest bet, especially if I’m already a little tipsy.proclamation

When I was poking around the internet trying to find more facts about straws, I discovered that Burlington, VT has a Straw Free Proclamation on the books. One of the things I love most about Burlington is its commitment to the environment. But after living here for 5 years (holy crap, time goes so fast), I have rarely seen evidence of the proclamation being acted on – pretty disappointing. Burlington, you can do better. We can all do better.

Of course there are times when you don’t even have the chance for to ask for no straw. So often our water glass comes to the table with the straw already in the glass. I like to scan the scene as soon as I enter. I creep on peoples tables to see what they have as far as disposable napkins, plastic straws etc. This helps me be on the defense and avoid trash before it comes to my table-also I get a chance to see what delicious things people are eating. Actually, if I’m being honest, I’m mostly just staring at your food and salivating.

For those times when you just have to have a straw – I’m looking at you Bloody Marys – try any of the many reusable options that are out there. Personally, I use a stainless steel straw and love it. A lot of people use glass. Although I do have a few of them, I try to avoid the plastic ones. They are hard to clean and can get pretty germy. Also, if you put a plastic straw in a hot bevie you run the risk of leaching all sorts of nasties into your drink and then your body. Mmmm plastic.

I mostly use my metal straws in my reusable tumbler but sometimes bring them to restaurants with me. It’s a great conversation starter and can provide you with the opportunity to you can also casually mention to your server movements like EcoCycle’s Be Straw Free campaign.

Tiny Tip

Tiny Tip #3

Bust out the cloth napkins and not just on the special occasions.

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You might hesitate to do this because cloth napkins can be pricey. But they don’t have to be. All of the cloth napkins in this house came from the thrift store. The first set was white with little flowers and I found them in a box of textiles at a flea market. Cute but showed every little stain so I was scared to use them.

Oh hello dinner party guest! Here’s a napkin but please wipe your hands on your pants instead. I don’t want to ruin my napkins.

I’ve since picked up two sets at a thrift store that are darker and don’t show so much wear.  And I’m a slob so you know my napkins do heavy duty work. Cloth napkins serve a purpose beyond wiping up messes – I often use them to wrap up my lunch to bring to work or produce at the grocery store.

I’ll also hand it over at the bakery or deli to have a to-go order wrapped up. Sometimes I get weird looks for this one (most notably at a Publix in Florida-I thought their heads might explode when I asked for this!) but often, especially in Vermont, people are more than happy to do it. I find this a really simple way to reduce trash and to make whatever treats I’m getting feel even more special. Isn’t it better to have something wrapped up in a pretty napkin instead of trash?




Tiny Tip

Tiny tip #2- downsize slowly and often

For many people, the thought of living in a tiny house is scary because they would have to go to extreme lengths to downsize. Admittedly downsizing was relatively easy because I did not have that much to begin with. When I decided to build my tiny house I hadn’t yet had a lifetime to accumulate nice things (also, I was broke) – most of my furniture was hand-me-downs, craiglist steals or found on the side of the road. It was easy to part with these things because they didn’t hold much monetary or sentimental value. Recognizing that others have very different situations, here are a few tips for downsizing

  1. Be ruthless: If it has holes, stains, damage, doesn’t fit, is broken, ugly, not used, it goes. Don’t hold on to things that you might fix or use someday, because odds are that if someday hasn’t already happened it’s not going to. Make a decision and stick to it. If you decide it’s going (whether it is going to be donated or it’s really at the end of it’s life), then actually get rid of it.
  2. Try life without it:  If you’re not sure of your decision to get rid of something box it up and hide it. Use the space under your bed, in your garage, the spare closet to “hide” things from yourself. If you go six months without reaching for it, then you don’t need it and it’s time to let it go.
  3. Perma-loan: A few sentimental or valuable things were given to friends on “perma-loan”. If in a few years, I realize that I can’t live without the antique blue velvet chair that I loaned to a friend, I’ll ask for it back. We might have to fist fight for it, but she knows that might happen and that I’ll definitely win lose (she’s feisty).
  4. Can it be replaced?: So much of what we have are things we purchase on impulse and are relatively inexpensive. While this may go against a zero waste philosophy, I say get rid of it (hopefully you will donate it) and if you regret it later, buy it again. The second time around, ask yourself why you got rid of it in the first place. Buy a replacement that addresses the issues of the item it’s replacing. Try to buy second hand first and if you must buy new make sure it meets your needs and is durable enough to last a lifetime.


Don’t expect that you’ll ever be done downsizing. It will take constant attention to keep your junk drawer stays in check. Getting rid of crap should be done often. Almost every time I do laundry, I go through all my drawers to tidy up and get rid of things I haven’t worn in a long time or that are damaged. I’m constantly spilling food down my front (slob) and frequently have to say goodbye to something that I can’t get the stain out of. When I first started this habit it took monumental efforts because I had a lot of clothes – most of which were ill fitting and cheap (we’ll save the fast fashion conversation for another day). As I’ve refined my wardrobe, this has gotten easier.

Tiny Tip Tuesday

I like blogs that have weekly series that I can look forward to. Also, I’m hoping if I publicly commit to posting a weekly tip, I’ll actually do it and will be less likely to neglect this space. Every Tuesday I’ll post a little tip about going zero waste,  sustainability or tiny house living. I want to create content for others to enjoy, so if you like a post and want to see similar ideas in the future let me know. If you don’t like the post and want to hear more about other topics, let me know.


tiny tip #1 – bring a reusable cup with you

For some this might be a no brainer.I agree, it is a no brainer! If you’re not already carrying your own mug for coffee, get your shit together and start bringing one. (Too harsh? too bad!) I’m always surprised when I go to other states and people hesitate to refill my own cup. One time at a Starbucks (Please support your local coffee shop instead of a chain!) in Staten Island -land of the orange- the barista made my drink in a disposable cup even though I had handed over my cup. When I pointed out that my reusable cup was right next to her, she said (cue Staten Island accent) “don’t worry, I’ll pour it in there after so it stays hot”. Ugh. Face meet palm.



Despite the occasional hiccup, I bring a reusable cup with me almost everywhere I go. I carry a mug in the winter for hot drinks. In the summer I carry a tumbler for iced coffees, water, lemonade at the farmers market and boozey cocktails on the beach. I upgraded from plastic to metal – plastic leech toxins (ew!) into your drinks (especially hot drinks) and are not nearly as durable. Also, plastic holds on the taste of whatever you put in there. So if you usually use your plastic cup for coffee but use it for water in a pinch, be prepared for your water to have notes of coffee. Stanley Stainless Steel Classic Mug (18 oz)

This past winter, I lost my beloved coffee tankard. Seriously, a tankard – it was a giant mug that was metal on the inside and super well insulated. I could write a love song about this mug. But alas, despite many weeks of wishing and returning to the last know location, the mug remains at large. I have to get something else before the cold weather returns.I’ll take my time picking out something just right, making do with what I have for now. I hope you’ll do the same.


It’s tempting to rush out and buy new things to help you along your zero waste journey. I would encourage you to slow down, look at what you already have and make do for a while. Mindless and rushed purchases will lead to products that are not quite as helpful as you might have hoped. But one cheap and easy option I’d like to suggest (if you have nothing else already at home!) is the Cuppow! which can be used to turn any wide mouth mason jar into a to go cup.

A few things to think about

  1. Does it have a lid that seals tight? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tossed my mug in my bag and later realized there was still a few drops of coffee in there – Coffee stains aren’t a good look.
  2. Does it fit in your car cup holder? I unfortunately don’t have the luxury of public transportation to many of the places I need to go. As a road warrior, I need a cup of coffee whenever I head into battle. The previously mentioned tankard had one downside-It didn’t fit in the cup holder.
  3. It is durable? You don’t want to invest something that will crack, grow mold, hold onto odors/tastes, shatter  etc. It’s nice to have something that will last for years and you can toss in your bag without a second thought.