Earth Day 2018

We don’t typically go all out for Earth Day -- Every day is Earth Day, ya dig? However, since we’re retuning the blog and putting ourselves back out there, we thought we’d share a list of the top items and services we employ to keep us aligned with the earth. One huge part of sustainability is usability (like, are we going to have the energy to keep up that practice long term?), so we’re always down for services that make being more ecologically sustainable easy in the long run. (These things are listed in no particular order and the list is by no means exhaustive - there are a LOT of ways to be sustainable!)

So, let's dig in! First off, seven things we love that are available nationally (and internationally, in some cases):

Rachel was stoked about our Who Gives a Crap delivery!

Rachel was stoked about our Who Gives a Crap delivery!

1. Who Gives a Crap: Sorry, not sorry, to start this in the toilet, but toilet paper is a huge drain on resources, especially when folks use first use paper to wipe their bums. Who Gives a Crap’s recycled paper is BPA free and all their packaging is plastic free. 50% of all their profits go to build toilets for folks that don’t have them. The TP is decently soft and they are looking at developing a tube free option. (If you use that link, you'll get $10 off your first order!)

2. Spaghetti Scrubs: We just wrote a sweet review of these babies. They now use 100% cotton backing, so if you compost, you can send them back into the soil when they’re spent. (Apparently these are currently sold out pretty much everywhere, but will be available again around mid-May.)

3. Bike Sharing: There’ve been so many times that we’ve said we’d bike somewhere if only our bikes were fixed. Excuses are hard to come up with when there are dozens of bikes on every street corner. Bike sharing has come to many cities recently, and in Durham we have three different dock-less bike rental companies competing for the market: Ofo, Spin and LimeBike. Rachel has used Ofo so far to bike to work and loves it. (We do have our own bikes, but they’re both badly in-need of tune-ups. We’re planning to head to the local bike co-op soon so we can learn how to fix them up ourselves!)

4. Shopping at the Farmers’ Market/Co-op: This isn’t a specific service or product, but choosing to shop locally and put our food dollars back into the local economy is something we do intentionally every week. We know how hard it is to be a farmer (Rachel does especially, from first-hand experience) and so we want to make sure as much of that money as possible goes directly into their hands. Also, the closer to harvest you get the veggies, the better they taste. Being a member of a co-op means you are a decision maker and eligible for member discounts, and at some co-ops you might even get a dividend.

5. Kootsacs: We have been working hard to reduce our plastic usage because plastics are not too kind to the Earth, from start to finish. Kootsacs are made out of ripstop nylon or silk and used for getting bulk food from grocery stores. We have three of the silk variety and they last forever and are completely washable. We have put everything in them from sugar to nuts to lentils to spices. They recover completely in the wash and are ready for another trip to the store. Kristl always has at least one in her bag in case she finds herself at the store unexpectedly!

Aren't those whales so cute?!

Aren't those whales so cute?!

6. Use your own reusable utensils and straws: More than 100 million pieces of plastic utensils and move than 500 million plastic straws are thrown away in America EVERY DAY. One of the easiest ways to help the planet is to refuse single use cutlery and plastic straws - and if you want to go even greener, bring your own! We use this cutlery holder from Don’t Waste Durham (available for sale at that link or at a variety of events around Durham, if you’re local) - it comes with bamboo cutlery, a stainless steel straw + straw cleaner, and a cloth napkin, all in one easy-to-transport cloth roll. They sell them on their website (and at local events, as well). Prior to using the cutlery holder, Kristl kept two metal forks in her bag at all times, but the cutlery holder is much more useful (and Kristl’s way less likely to stab herself on tines when she reaches into her bag now).

7. Reusable menstrual products: We promised a post on these years ago and haven’t yet delivered, but it’s coming! We both use Lunapads and Kristl also uses a menstrual cup (GladRags is also a well-known reusable pad company). While reusable menstrual products can cost more than disposables up front, they are significantly cheaper in the long run. Our Lunapads have been going strong for well over 5 years (probably even longer) and a few of them are just now starting to show signs of wear. Most recently Kristl used the Lunette menstrual cup and loved it, but the silicone showed some cracks after 3 years of use, so she decided to try out the Stem Cup from Tulip Cup this time around. The Diva Cup is the most well-known cup around, but there are a ton of different cups out there - and a number of guides on how to find the best cup for you. We like this recent one from Wirecutter.


Now on to five things we love here in Durham, NC:

Making use of our GreenToGo membership!

Making use of our GreenToGo membership!

1. GreenToGo: In Durham, a local non-profit called Don’t Waste Durham sponsors a reusable take out container program called GreenToGo. If you follow us on instagram (@SustainablyQ) you will have seen a couple of pictures of us with the telltale hard plastic green clamshells (like the one on the right). We just learned yesterday that GreenToGo is expanding into pizza boxes, soup containers, and more. The yearly membership is $25 for one box (they also have multi-box plans) and they just keep adding restaurants. No more styrofoam! If you live in Durham and ever get take out, please get GreenToGo!

2. CompostNow: Just this week we got our first bucket from CompostNow in Durham and we couldn’t be more excited. CompostNow is a door-to-door compost pick up service with weekly or biweekly service. We eat a lot of veggies and eggs, plus this service accepts meat scraps and bones and soiled cardboard (e.g. dirty pizza boxes). We’ll be able to divert a huge amount of waste out of our garbage and our recycling. Compost NOW and forever. (P.S. You bank the compost you produce and can use it for your own personal garden or choose to donate it to community growers, isn’t that amazing?)

3. The Scrap Exchange: “The Scrap Exchange is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse.” The essential awesomeness of The Scrap Exchange is how they accept and sort and sell an amazing collection of almost anything you could imagine and everything you couldn’t. They’ve got scrap wood, fabric, paper, test tubes, bottle tops, CD’s, sewing machine cases, tubes, picture frames - and that’s barely scraping the surface. It’s the epitome of one person’s trash is another one’s treasure. You really have to experience it to understand it. If you have any clutter whatsoever in your home, the patrons of The Scrap Exchange will find a way repurpose most of it. They also recently opened a thrift store as well, for more “traditional” second-hand goods.

We got this sweet little cactus at Urbane Terrain today.

We got this sweet little cactus at Urbane Terrain today.

4. UrbaneTerrain and The Zen Succulent: We are still settling into our apartment in Durham, and being plant loving people, we have gradually been adding living things to the space. The Zen Succulent and Urbane Terrain are two separate local plant shops that are owned and run by people who are not cis white men and we're always looking for ways we can support local businesses run by marginalized folks (we haven't asked specifically how they each identify, though, so aren't including that information here). We are so excited to add beautiful plants to our home from each of these businesses and we hope they (the plants and the businesses) continue to thrive.

5. Fillaree - A zero-waste business that makes refillable, sustainable soap and cleaning products! Small batch, handmade, organic, vegan, synthetic-free - it doesn’t get much better than that. They also make body butters and bath soaks. There are refill stations available at a number of places in Durham and they also recently opened a storefront. More exciting, they’ve just launched a mail order subscription service, so you can use their refillable products anywhere you live!

There you have it! A roundup of 12 products and services we love that help us live more sustainably. What are your top tips for sustainable living? Let us know in the comments. :)

How We Do Sustainable Living - Year Two

Hello friends and readers! We have just entered the second year of this blog and another year of concentrated sustainable queerness! Last year, shortly after starting our blog, we provided you with an introductory post about why and how we live sustainably and call ourselves Sustainably Queer.  We decided that as a means of looking back and celebrating our one year anniversary, it would be fun to revisit that post.  Please find a revised and annotated version of "How We Do" below! Spoiler alert: there have been some pretty big changes!

Note: This may go without saying, but new actions/changes are listed in bold, things we are no longer doing are crossed out, and notes are in green. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions.

Projects related to housekeeping:

  • Making orange infused vinegar for cleaning   - We decided that we don't mind the smell of vinegar enough to go through this process regularly, plus the one batch I made last year lasted almost an entire year. We may do this again, but it's not high on the list.
  • Woodworking with reclaimed wood - We took one class from the Rebuilding Exchange, but we haven't continued woodworking. We still have three unfinished table tops chilling in the basement, so hopefully eventually they will become tables, but who knows when.
  • Using rags instead of paper towels - We do this as much as possible, though we still haven't found a good substitute for paper towels for draining bacon (we're going to try some of these options soon).
  • Buying post-consumer recycled paper products and aluminum foil
  • Giving away two items for every one item we bring into the house - This is still the rule, but we've been scaling way back on our buying, so sometimes we give away things even without buying something new. A larger purge is planned for early summer, so we can put stuff away without feeling cluttered about it.
  • Trying to buy things with as little packaging as possible
  • Switched to wind powered electricity (it’s cheaper too!) - Still going strong!
  • Using homemade washable swiffer pads - Love these still!
  • Recycling basically everything we can - We are planning a "How to Effectively Recycle in Chicago" post at some point, there are tricks to it.
  • Leather-working with Chicago School of Shoemaking - You can check out our blog about the experience here. We're currently saving up to take Leatherwork 201, with the end goal being saving up enough to take the Beginning Shoemaking class because, really, what's more awesome and sustainable than being to make your own shoes?!
  • Large-scale refrigerator/freezer organization - Things got real about a week ago when we bought some Fridge Binz. Yes, we try to avoid bringing more plastic into our home, but we also try to avoid wasting food. We weighed the pros and cons and decided to go with the plastic bins for now, with the idea of switching to bamboo or metal sometime in the future, if we find something that fits our needs. 

Projects related to self care:

  • Using baking soda as shampoo - It took her years, but Kristl finally figured out a way to make this work for her hair. She's planning a post on it soon.
  • Making homemade deodorant - Rachel uses this exclusively, Kristl's pits are more delicate, so she's still searching for a recipe that her skin can handle.
  • Making homemade lotion/balm
  • Making homemade facial oil blend
  • Using Chinese medicine/natural healing home remedies instead of Western medicine cures - With the addition of epilepsy to her life, Rachel is now obligated to take a Western medication to control it, but otherwise, we are mostly reliant on acupuncture, chiropractic, and herbal medicine to keep us healthy.
  • Using OraWellness tooth oil instead of toothpaste
  • Receiving acupuncture/chiropractic/massage regularly for health and balance
  • Meditation practice - We both really could stand to meditate more often and for longer, but it's still helpful even in small doses!
  • Using eco-friendly, reusable menstrual products - We're planning a post about menstrual cups and cloth pads/liners in the next few months. 

Projects related to food:

  • Making stock with veggie scraps and chicken bones
  • Saving bacon fat and using it to cook other things (like sweet potatoes, yum!) - This isn't actually a new thing, we just forgot to include it on our initial list.
  • Making staples for the week (baked/boiled eggs, congee, etc) - We still do this, though the staples themselves have changed.  Recently, we've been making a lot of breakfast bars, and soups/stews that are good for eating over 3-4 days. 
  • Making bigger batches of the meals we create so we can freeze portions for when we aren't able to cook - This has saved us on many occasions! We can pull a container out of the freezer and have it for lunch or dinner instead of going out to eat or getting takeout. 
  • Making homemade drink syrups (to flavor carbonated water)
  • Infusing liquors (vanilla vodka and ginger vodka so far) - Rachel has infused vodka with all manner of things, including pineapple, blueberries and a specific spice blend to make it taste like gin.
  • Drinking vinegars, a.k.a. shrubs  - We love a good shrub, but we make so much kombucha now, making drinking vinegar also would be too much
  • Making our own kombucha - So much cheaper than buying it!  
  • Making ricotta, yogurt, mustard, cheez-its, etc from scratch - Again, the actual things we're making from scratch has changed, but we are still committed to buying as few packaged/processed foods as possible.
  • Canning, fermenting, and dehydrating food for long term preservation
  • We bought an upright freezer - We can keep more meat and veggies in the house and put up fruit and veggies from the summer without messing with as much canning. We now have more versatility in how we "preserve" produce.
  • Bringing lunch to work/school
  • Trying to eat locally sourced, humane and organic food as much as possible
  • Signing up for CSA and egg share  - We've changed our approach on this since Rachel is in farm school this year.  We will probably have some access to vegetables that we didn't have before and hopefully we will be able to grow more than we did last year.  The egg share we had last season has been restructured to only be offered to CSA members, so we are no longer getting a carton of eggs a week.  This is kind of a relief, as at one point last summer we had 4 dozen eggs in our fridge.
  • Joined a meat and egg co-op - True Nature Foods has a relationship with a local, pastured farm where the consumer pays $60 a year for membership and is then able to order/purchase a wide variety of meat products and eggs for a reduced price.  This makes eggs cheaper than our egg share and we only have to buy them when we need them. We are doing our best to only eat meat from local, pastured, humane farms.
  • Using all of an item if we buy it, e.g. whole chicken, eating beet greens and broccoli stems
  • Choosing to eat at restaurants that serve sustainably sourced food - This is a huge consideration especially where meat is concerned.  Every choice you make about where to spend your food dollars impacts how safely and sustainably food is produced, in general. Cheaper food is almost always cheap due to government subsidies or externalities (pollution, run-off, inhumane practices, lack of oversight, diminished workers' rights, etc), higher quality food is often more expensive because care was put into it's production and little harm was done to third parties (consumers, workers, animals). Not only do you vote with your money, you also farm with your money, by proxy.
  • Participating in community food events, like the Chicago Food Swap, Soup & Bread, Good Food Festival

Miscellaneous Projects:

  • Not buying cable
  • Homemade gifts - We didn't buy any Christmas presents in 2013.  We either created or re-gifted everything we gave out or we didn't give gifts at all.  It worked out perfectly.
  • Feeding our cat and dog grain free/raw pet food
  • Using community garden plot and backyard to grow food - We just got clearance from our landlord to use some of our backyard space to grow more things.  This is a very exciting development and we are still deciding how to make it functional and beautiful.
  • Reusing jars and bottles for all forms of storage
  • Worm composting - Worms and composting took a little bit of a hiatus over the winter.  They hung out in our basement because the "earthy" smell was a bit much for us in the apartment.  The basement was cold, given our wily winter, but I have seen signs of life, so hopefully worm composting will be back in order soon. 
  • Bugeting via You Need A Budget (YNAB) - With Rachel quitting her full-time job and Kristl going through an office relocation, we knew 2014 was going to be a different picture financially.  We took the pro-active approach and started zero-sum budgeting in December with a program called You Need A Budget.  Things have been going very well so far.  We have been able to save in advance for big bills (like car insurance) and put money away for upcoming big expenses (new car?).  It's pretty awesome. They offer a free trial, so you have no reason to try it out for a bit. Full disclosure, if you sign up using the link above and subscribe after your trial ends, we'll both get one month free - it's a win-win!
  • Tithing/giving to projects and people who are trying to make the world a better place in a sustainable way
  • Kristl is moving her practice to a location with-in walking distance of our house - This exciting for all kinds of reasons, but primarily because she will not need to use the car!

Well, that's about everything, it is a bit overwhelming, but we're managing ok on a day-to-day basis.  As always, feel free to check out anything we link to and ask us more questions about the products/processes.  We are always willing to write posts based on reader interest, so if there are specific topics you want to hear more about, please let us know in the comments below!

Thank you for all your support! Here's to the success of year one, and plenty of sustainable queerness to fill year two and beyond.