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. :)

Earth Day Equals Beef Stock

Happy Earth Day! I think it's a rule somewhere that if you have a blog about sustainability and green living you HAVE to post on Earth Day. Oh, it's not? Well, it should be. We went back and forth about what to post today - recipes? An in-depth look at sustainable shampoo options? An entire entry about how excited we were that our community garden opened today only to find out that the plot they assigned us doesn't exist? (Don't fret, they're working on a fix!) And then, it hit us... A couple of weeks ago we were in Madison visiting some friends and we went to Tornado Steakhouse for dinner. They have local, grass fed beef and all sorts of seasonal fruits and vegetables. We were excited! We ordered the 18oz. prime rib special to share, but somewhere along the line there was a mix-up, so while we did split the salad, we each got our own prime rib entree. That's 18oz. of prime rib PER PERSON. We both did our best, but definitely ended up taking a lot home. We ate what we could, but were left with some really fatty ends that we didn't want to throw away or give to the pets, so we decided to make beef stock.

A quart of homemade beef stock.
A quart of homemade beef stock.

Listen up, y'all, this is the part that may change some of your lives (I mean, it certainly changed ours once we figured it out). We try our best not to waste any of the food we bring into our home. That means eating what's edible and then making use of what is often seen as inedible. We keep three gallon-size freezer bags in our freezer at all times. One is for meat/bones, one is for veggie scraps, and one is for worm food (which we'll get into in a later post). Whenever we get a rotisserie chicken or some sort of meat, we put the skin, bones, and a little meat in the meat/bones bag. All of our veggie scraps go into the veggie scrap bag. We also save the rinds from hard cheeses and throw those into our stocks as well. When the veggie bag is full, we make stock. If we happen to have meat/bones, we'll make meat stock, but we eat way more veggies than meat, so sometimes we'll just make veggie stock. If you don't make stock at home, you should try. It's incredibly easy and is always SO MUCH BETTER than store-bought stock.

So, back to our beef stock. We didn't have any bones, so the stock wasn't quite as flavorful as it normally is, but it was delicious. Unfortunately, once we made it it sat in our fridge for a bit because we don't normally cook with beef broth. I was at the market trying to figure out what food to make for the week when I remembered the beef broth. I knew we had onion, celery, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and rice in the pantry, so I decided to make a soup. I picked up some ground beef (I wanted to do chunks, but the ground was the most humane available - grass fed, pastured - so I went with that option) and headed home. A little browned ground beef, sauteed mire poix, and chopped potatoes went into the crock pot, was covered with beef stock, and cooked on low for about six hours. Then we stirred some rice in and let it sit on warm overnight. YOU GUYS. THIS SOUP. I CAN'T. It was perfect for that weird snowstorm we had on Friday. Gotta love spring snowstorms.

Check out our recipes after the jump! Also, we still have 1.5 quarts of stock left. What are your favorite recipes that use beef stock? Let us know in the comments!

Basic Stock

We usually use a 5-quart crock pot for this, but have made it in a stock pot on the stove as well. We don't usually measure what we put in, we just eyeball it and let 'er go.

Veggie scraps

Chicken carcass or other meat/bone combo (optional)

Hard cheese rind (optional)

Water to cover

Vinegar (if using bones)

Put the scraps, meat/bones, and cheese rind into the crock pot. The crock pot should be about 3/4 full, loosely packed.

Fill with water until it's about 0.5-1 inches below the rim of the crock pot.

If you're using bones, add a couple glugs (2-4 Tbsp) of vinegar (we use apple cider vinegar) and let it sit for about an hour. This helps draw out the minerals and will help the stock to gel.

Turn the crockpot on low and let it cook overnight. Your stock should simmer, but never boil, so make sure you keep an eye on it, especially if you're cooking it on the stove.

Strain out the solids and pour into jars.

Let cool before storing in the fridge or freezer.

We usually end up with 3.5-4 quarts.

Beef and Vegetable Stew

1 lb grass-fed, pastured ground beef

6 red potatoes, cubed

3 carrots, chopped

1 onion, large diced

6-8 celery ribs, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 quarts beef stock

1 cup rice

dash Sage

dash Rosemary

Salt

Pepper

2 pats Butter

Melt 1 pat butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the diced onions and sauté until translucent. Add the ground beef, sage, rosemary, and a pinch of salt and cook through, stirring every once in a while.

When the beef is cooked, transfer the beef and onion mixture to the crock pot. Put the pan back on the stove, melt the other pat of butter, add the celery and carrots and cook until slightly softened.

Add these to the crock pot as well. Add the potatoes to the crock pot and cover everything with the 2 quarts of beef stock.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Add 1 cup of rice, switch the crock pot to warm, and let sit for another few hours (or overnight).

The rice will absorb a lot of the cooking liquid and it will turn from a soup into more of a stew.

If you want more of a soupy consistency, feel free to leave out the rice. Sprinkle with sea salt (we like Sel Gris) before serving.