Reduce/Reuse: DIY Salad Dressings

As most of my friends and relations can tell you, I’m a very easy going person.  But, there are a few things in this big world that make me squirm.  One of them (as I’m sure you have already gathered) is excessive waste in all its forms.  Another big thing that really makes me go “squee” and have a mini-internal crisis is paying a lot of money for something I know costs very little to produce.  And when these two pet peeves team up, I’m very likely to vote with my dollars and refuse to buy a product.  So, last week, this is how the scenario went down:

Stage 1: Realization– It’s Saturday, grocery shopping day, and we are totally out of salad dressing.  Unluckily, all the available options at [insert the name of your local chain grocery here]:  (1) Are packaged in plastic, (2) Contain high fructose corn syrup, (3) Don’t have 1 or 2 but do cost more than 5 dollars.
Stage 2:  Moral and economic dilemma!– I sweat, I ask D Lo to make a decision, I get frustrated and say I need time to think about it.*
Stage 3: Denial– I don’t buy salad dressing and end up mooching off my roommate for the week, because she already bought it, so even if I have an issue with it…it’s there…   
Stage 4:  Acceptance– The next Saturday, I resolve to pay a little more and buy dressing in a glass jar from the Co-op, because I’m lucky and I have that option.  I shell out $5 for a 12oz jar of dressing.
Stage 5:  A) It’s delicious!– Eat my yummy dressing until I return to Stage 1, or B) It’s super gross!- I paid 5 dollars, and I’m super disappointed in the product, but I soldier through because…you know…it cost 5 bucks!
Stage 6:  Overcoming Resistance– Resistance is the force that keeps you from doing things that you really want to do/know you really should be doing.  Every time I bought that 5 dollar bottle (or just bought the plastic, high fructose version because I am a poor graduate student), I knew there was a better way. 

*This is the part where I always feel INSANE.  Am I the only person who has a moral crisis over salad dressing?

And this, friends, is really why I wanted to start this blog.  I know there are other people out there who really want to make some changes in their lives, but they don’t because they think it will be too hard/expensive/time consuming.  I totally feel you; I deal with that feeling daily.  What always helps me is reading a blog or talking to a friend who tells me how simple and fun these changes can be.  So, here is another small solution to our big ol’ ecological problems.  And, in this case, the solution takes about as much time as comparing the labels on your standard store bought salad dressings!

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Homemade Italian Dressing (modified from original instructions at Penniless Parenting)

Ingredients:*
1/2 cup of the vinegar (any type, I used ACV and some red wine vinegar)
~3/4 cup of olive oil or other oil (I used 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 cheaper vegetable oil)
1 Tablespoons of water
1/4 Tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 Tablespoon onion powder
1/4 Tablespoon honey, white sugar, agave nectar, or any other sweetener I would imagine
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 Tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 Tablespoons salt

* I halved the original recipe because my jar was not going to hold the original quantities.  I also doubt I added a full 1/2 T of salt because adding salt to things always makes me really nervous that I will destroy the product.  One too many slips of the hand I guess.


Homemade and yummy! 


Equipment:
The glass jar from your yucky-overpriced dressing…or any re-purposed receptacle
Funnel
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons

Instructions and Tips:
Literally dudes, this took me less than 10 minutes to make, and that includes the time I spent looking for my freaking onion powder.  You just put all the ingredients in, and shake shake shake.  Quite honestly, not my favorite Italian dressing ever, but I do prefer it to the ones I have bought most recently in the store.  There are, however, TONS of salad dressing recipes online, so try your hand at recreating your favorite flavor. 

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Final Word:  You can see the whole reason for why I think homemade solutions are more green here in my first DIY post. In this particular situation, it was all about not wanting to buy plastic (or a product pumped full of what I deem to be unhealthy ingredients) and not wanting to fork over a bunch of money. I literally had all of this stuff already in my kitchen. Major score, right?

What do you think?  Do you have any amazing salad dressing recipes?  Or maybe an inspirational story of overcoming resistance?  We’d love to hear it!

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Reduce: My Green Holiday Swag

Well, I have been absent.  The holidays.  Life.  FINALS.  I will not discuss in detail the coffee induced hell that the first two weeks of December entailed.  I also will not detail the lovely time I had at home with my family, friends, and the many many dogs that live at my parent’s home.  I will, however, share with you a few choice, blog inspired Christmas gifts I received this year.  I’m a really lucky girl.  I have a very talented and environmentally minded mother, so when she asks me what I want, I give her ideas.  Here is how she executed:

Homemade reusable cosmetic rounds!

First, check out these reusable make-up remover pads!  After I made my DIY eye make-up remover, I realized I would need some cotton pads to use the product the way I wanted.  Those convenient little cotton pads you buy at the drug store seemed sub-optimal for several reasons.  First, they are wrapped in plastic.  I promise I will write a full out post about the drawbacks of plastic soon.  It’s on the list.  Second, I don’t know a ton about the cotton industry, but anything that takes resources to make and is explicitly one use, seems iffy to me.  So, I asked my mom to come up with a solution.  She made me about 20 reusable cotton rounds.  Over half of them are washcloth material on one side, and the other half are just all cotton fabric.  She made them all from stuff she had laying around the house too, so no new stuff needed!  She also re-gifted to me this amazing airtight container for them.  I think it has some beer cheese in it when she first received it, but it’s really pretty and the pads fit perfectly.  I’m going to use them for make-up remover, toner, and, as per my cousin’s suggestion, I’m thinking of putting some mixture of stuff in the container to try and make a reusable version of those pre-moistened pads.  I will report back.

Bulk bags!

Second, she made me these awesome bulk bags to be used at the co-op and the Farmer’s Market.  I have a few of these, but I always run out and end up using the old brown paper bags I have been saving hording for…probably too long.  Needless to say, most of those have seen better days, and my mom comes to the rescue.  Bad on me for not putting something in here for scale.  There are a variety of sizes, the biggest one could hold lots of produce or a ton of rice if it’s on sale.  The smallest one would be perfect for those things I’m buying in bulk for just one recipe.  These were also made from fabric scraps she had around the house.  They are so cute, right?

Last, I cannot leave out the cool presents made for me by my crafty little sister.  She made me these super cool headbands out of old t-shirts!  As headbands pretty much equal my grad school hair uniform, these are amazing and thoughtful.  I wear them all the time.  She tells me she learned how on Pinterest.  I will try to find the link and post it to my own Pinterest page.  If you’re so inclined, you can follow me on there, here.  She made some other pretty amazing gifts for the rest of the family.

Final Word:  Basically, my family is amazing, and they really know me.  I also love that they are into downing the waste that is often associated with the holiday season.  I’m super excited to try them out, and I’ll make sure to report back.

What do you think?  Did you get any cool gifts for the holidays?  I know it’s a little late…but eh.  Any cool eco/green/sustainable gifts you’d like to gab about?  I’d love to hear about them!          

Reduce: Make your own eye make-up remover

When I started this blog, I had big plans of putting awesome peer reviewed, scientific literature into each and every post.  PhD school is too real ya’ll, and that’s not going to happen.  I will be writing solid scientific posts weekly or biweekly, depending on how things go.  I have some good topics planned, and I think you (and I!) will learn a lot.  In the interim between those posts, I’m going to post some content structured around one of the oldest green concepts:  reduce, reuse, recycle.  The focus will be on the first two because, for reasons I will explain in depth later, I think these are the most important.  Each of these posts will be about things I’ve done, and my reasoning for doing them.  
  
Back story.  I showed up to my new graduate program fresh off of three previous years of crazy (getting my Master’s Degree) and a 2 month long camping/road trip…so basically I looked a little busted and I didn’t care.  There is a well documented relationship between time in graduate school and how much you worry about how you look (view the graph here), and all these fresh faced new graduate students looked SO nice.  What happened?  Did they not get the memo?  In any case, years of social conditioning dictated I step up my personal up-keep regime.  Jokes aside, it needed to happen anyway, and it has made me feel good to actually look in the mirror in the mornings (I literally hadn’t looked in a mirror in weeks while writing my M.S. thesis).
My uniform for the summer.  Not pictured, my buddy’s socks
and sandals combo (she is also a graduate student)
I’m still a make-up minimalist, but over the past month or so I have managed to throw a little moisturizer, blush, and mascara on in the mornings.  After about a week, I added “eye make-up remover” to the grocery list.  That Saturday, post farmer’s market, I found the item in the grocery store and DANG.  I know I haven’t purchased this product in years but when did it get so expensive?  Then I looked at all the ingredients.  What the heck was some of this stuff?  I have really sensitive skin and a really thin pocket book, so I passed on the store bought stuff.  The older I get, the more I realize that a lot of my “green living” decisions also save me tons of money. 
So, what makes homemade a greener option?  Let’s look at what goes into this project, then revisit this question at the end.
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Homemade Eye Make-up Remover (based on these original instructions)
Really, this is all you need!
Ingredients:                                              
2 T Witch Hazel        
2 T Olive Oil        
2 T H2O                  
Equipment:
Small bottle for storage
Funnel
Tablespoon

Instructions and Tips:
Literally, just put all the ingredients in the storage vessel of your choice, shake it up, dab a bit on a wash cloth, and go for it just like normal eye make-up remover.  The hardest part of all of this for me was cleaning out my old travel conditioner bottle.  I found I have to let it sit on my eye for a little while longer than store bought versions, but it leaves the skin around my eyes feeling soft as opposed to overly dry.  It passed the ultimate test of make-up remover in my book when I got out of the shower, dried my face, and did the obligatory “under the eye towel swipe,” there was no mascara residue.  Score.  I’ll mention two things that might go without saying.  First, oil separates from water, so you have to shake this up each time you use it.  Second, getting oil in your eyes can suck, so make sure and wash off your eye area with warm water to remove excess oil.
Note:  You can use any oil you want in this recipe (almond, jojoba, etc.) but I chose olive because it is cheap, and I can use the rest to sauté veggies and what not. 
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So, why is making your own product greener than buying something in the store?  Number one in my mind is the fact that homemade products generally require less plastic.  You will see in this tutorial that my version of the eye make-up remover was not plastic free.  However, I needed olive oil anyway and I am lucky enough to be able to buy olive oil in bulk from my food co-op (next time I won’t forget my reusable glass container).  The witch hazel did come in a plastic bottle, but I will use this same plastic bottle to make countless batches of eye make-up remover (as opposed to having to buy a new bottle every time I run out), and then use the plastic bottle itself to hold other homemade goodies after the original contents are long gone.
Homemade solutions also allow you to purchase the basic ingredients for products and learn about where those ingredients come from and how they are manufactured.  For example, my olive oil comes from a local grower!  It’s a lot easier to find out the methods used to produce simple products with few ingredients (e.g.: olive oil!) as opposed to complex, chemically laden products where finding out where and how each ingredient is produced can be impossible and unduly stressful! 
Final Word:  I hope you guys like these lifestyle posts.  I’m going to use them to identify topics that I want to discuss in more depth.  In just this post, I see I need to talk about the importance of plastic reduction, why buy local matters, why reduction and reuse are more important (in my opinion) than recycling, and (maybe) graduate student fashion.  That last one could be more painful than it is really worth, and the ecological relevance is shaky at best.
What do you think?  Are there any opinions/claims I’ve expressed in this post that you would like to know the ecological/scientific basis for?  Will you be trying this DIY project?  Tell me how it works for you!