Paris To Go

Building a Zero Waste Pantry



It's hard to do a post on this because a sustainable diet depends so much on location, culture,  values, socioeconomic factors, and dietary restrictions. Not only can I not eat gluten, but I can't tolerate grains, soy, or too much sugar or caffeine. Plus the way I eat was shaped by growing up in a country where celiac disease was considered a fake psychosomatic thing. For half my life, gluten free options were virtually unheard of, and I got used to eating mostly whole foods without a lot of additives. I also happen to like Korean foods a lot (duh), or dishes I learned to cook on my travels, and some of the spices or ingredients essential to making these are imported (to hear more about this listen to the Live Planted podcast).

As I wrote on Instagram, where I live now, it’s difficult to get necessary nutrients while relying exclusively on local produce year-round. Food miles account for only a fraction of our carbon footprint, dwarfed by emissions resulting from food production. However, Mama Eats Plants inspired me to be more aware of the impact of imported foods (like the cacao nibs and shredded coconut I love), not just in terms of emissions, but other important issues like water usage, farmer rights, and cultural erasure. The social benefits of buying local can’t be overlooked, including supporting community cohesion and reinvesting in the local economy. So I try to source imported ingredients from companies that divert food waste, like Perfectly Imperfect Produce. That way I enjoy out of season produce without feeling deprived, and support a local female-owned business.

The foods listed below are ones I use most often. This changes based on where I'm living or my circumstances. Your list will be totally different, especially given my strange eating habits. Zero waste is highly individual, so these posts aren't prescriptive- I can only write about my own experiences, but hopefully the principles (not buying too much, eating plant based, using what I have) can be adapted to your situation.


Flours

  • Coconut- Fresh Thyme carries organic, GF coconut flour. I use one quart size jar every three months or so.
  • Almond- it's cheaper and easier to make this myself. Just put almonds in a food processor and pulse! It's so easy. I use this in smaller quantities- only about 1 pint size jar every three months. I try to limit almond usage because of the energy and resources required to produce it, and the way the bees are treated (almond milk is still a lot better than dairy, however)

Beans / Legumes

  • Quinoa- not either of these things, but I eat one quart maybe 3x a year for the protein. It is imported, but I don't want to eliminate this from my diet completely for fear I won't be able to tolerate it again.
  • Chickpeas-  I like having two types of beans on hand at all times. In Paris, I bought these fresh, but in the US, I generally go through 1-2 quarts bulk dried garbanzo beans per month. I always keep a few cans on hand, or buy canned if I can't find gluten free bulk. In my area, Whole Foods has BPA, BPF, BPS, nylon, and polyester free cans. Eden Organics is another good brand for oleoresin lined cans. Click here for a full chart of BPA-free cans.
  • Black or pinto beans- 1 quart per month. People find this gross but I typically use these instead of pasta, just pour sauce directly on cooked beans. I add beans to everything- salads, bowls, curries, soups. I try to buy kidney beans or navy beans when I find them, for variety, but they aren't always available gluten free in my area. 
  • Mung beans- I usually eat half a quart in a given month, and soak a little in water (like ten minutes), then pulse in a food processor, mixing with onions or sour kimchi for a savory pancake. No need for any other ingredients
  • Green or red lentils- it's hard finding these gluten free in the US; in France, it was easy finding locally grown lentils. We even had bulk lentil pasta. I'll stock up on bean pasta if I'm traveling and find it in store, or buy bean pasta in a cardboard box if I'm cooking for guests.

Nuts

  • Almonds- one small bento bag raw almonds per month (more if I'm eating almond flour tortillas, which is not often), for flour or snacking. I like these in a grain free granola with pecans, berries, seeds, and walnuts.
  • Pecans- these grow locally (well, in Southern Ohio), so I get one medium bento bag per every one to three months. 
  • Walnuts- also local, one small bento bag per month
  • Cashews- can only find these imported, I get one small bag per every 1-3 months for milk and cheese. I generally prefer making nut milks and alfredo type sauces from nut butters, so if Fresh Thyme has cashew butter, I stock up on that instead.
  • Peanuts- I buy these less often in the winter, since I only use them for pad thai and spring rolls and I mostly make these foods when it's warmer out, I can't explain why. I can't explain most things I do

Seeds and dried fruit 

  • Hemp- I get these at Fresh Thyme because the Whole Foods bin is generally contaminated, people are not careful! I go through one small bento bag raw hemp seeds per month (about half a quart size jar)
  • Sunflower / flax seeds, raw- one pint size jar of each lasts me six months, idk if it's ok to keep them that long but I haven't gotten sick yet
  • Pumpkin seeds, raw- Lately I've been buying one small bento bag every two weeks, but other people have been eating the burcha I pack so this might not accurately represent my rate of consumption. During the season, I didn't buy these at all and just ate them from pumpkins or squash 
  • Dried flaked coconut- one medium bento bag per every three months
  • Cacao nibs- one pint every three months 
  • Sesame seeds- one pint twice a year

Oils

  • Avocado- I buy this packaged, once every six months. I try to use sparingly 
  • Olive oil- one quart size jar every month
  • Coconut oil- (packaged) I mostly use this for my body, hair, and under my eyes, one pint size jar every month
  • Hemp oil- packaged in glass, I use this just for pesto or as a supplement

Sweeteners

  • Local Ohio maple syrup is all I use! Sugared and processed directly into my own jars (Fresh Thyme also carries this on tap). Six quart size jars last a year.
  • Ok, I use dates also, I forgot. I go through one pint every two months, I like to just eat them whole with almond butter and dipped in cacao powder, like Amanda from Mama Eats Plants.

Other

  • Tahini. I eat hummus every week, so I buy a giant glass jar (as big as my head, is the most accurate measurement I can give you) from the Middle Eastern store that lasts up to six months. I buy sesame seeds unpackaged (my quantities are irregular though) but I haven’t tried making tahini yet.
  • Vegan mayo- I can make this, but sometimes I really screw it up, aquafaba is so difficult for me. I buy one jar of Fabanaise every one to three months, for those times when my vegan mayo is inedible.
  • Cacao powder- one small bento bag lasts me, like, a year. You can buy organic cacao powder in bulk at Sprouts (throwing it back to when I was in Arizona) or Fresh Thyme, but next time I'll just buy fair trade in packaging.
  • Cashew, peanut, or almond butter- one jar per month or less, and I only have one jar of nut butter at a time. I use this in place of flours for pancakes and mug cakes or cookies, or to make nut milk / creamy sauces more easily (thank you Archana for the tip).
  • ACV- one quart jar every six months (on tap at Fresh Thyme, although you can make it at home)
  • Applesauce or pumpkin- I use this in place of eggs for baking, and make it myself
  • Coconut aminos- purchased in a glass bottle, once every six months or less
  • Activated charcoal- also in a glass bottle, I use this very infrequently, mostly just to whiten my teeth.
  • Xylitol- (packaged, one 1 kg bag per every two years) this is a sweetener but I don't want to scroll up. I really just use this to strengthen my enamel, I don't like it as a sweetener in food
  • Olives- from the salad bar, I go through like a jar a week, I think people would be grossed out by how many saturated fats I ingest in a day
  • Celery, garlic, mushrooms, and onion are staples of my cooking, as well as tomatoes. I eat tons of local greens and root vegetables in the winter, and berries and apples for fruits- but again, I like avocados, oranges, lemons, etc (a family friend just gave us some homegrown oranges, I never had oranges grown at this latitude before! They were delicious but had a lot of seeds). My family tried growing avocado here, the plant grows like crazy, but never produces any fruit.

Herbs / spices

  • Turmeric- the following applies to all my spices; I purchase these in very small quantities for freshness (like one Weck mini mold jar every three months). Mostly my friends from Sri Lanka and India bring back their homegrown spices, but they are stupid cheap at Whole Foods if you buy them unpackaged. In Cleveland, I like Chuppa's for bulk spices, and in Paris, Marche d'Aligre. 
  • Cinnamon
  • Whole black peppercorns (I like my friends to bring this, it's much spicier than the stuff I find in stores)
  • Basil (fresh, always, I soak this in olive oil for a nice dressing)
  • Chili (whole peppers usually)
  • Ginger
  • Clove
  • Nutmeg (whole)
  • Salt (I only buy finishing salt, a practice I picked up in France)
  • Oregano (fresh or dried, I always have oregano essential oil on hand for fighting colds but don't like it in food)
  • Rosemary
  • Cardamom
  • Gochujang- my grandma or her sisters bring this, organic, from Korea, in their own containers
I used to buy tea in bulk but I can't handle caffeine anymore, it makes me too wild. And I don't like cumin or curry much. For recipes, I usually like Detoxinista, Minimalist Baker, My New Roots, Mama Eats Plants, or Live Planted. I tend to use cauliflower and beans instead of rice and roast a lot of veggies and just heap hummus or guacamole or tomato sauce over everything, although I do get fancier for guests. 

When I go shopping, I only take one or two jars for wet items (olives, vinegar, oil) and bag the rest, transferring them later (transferring really doesn't bother me, it takes two seconds to pour everything into a jar). So it's not like I'm carrying around a ton of stuff with me all day. I have a car now, but in Paris I carried everything, and when I first started zero waste, I took a bus to go grocery shopping, which taught me to pack light. I always tare my jars at the store because the scales vary, and take a photo of the tare and PLU number so the cashier can subtract the weight at the register. I don't call the store ahead of time or wait to shop when they're not busy, because usually I can only shop on my lunch break, also who calls people on the phone? In eight years of zero waste, only once has anyone ever said no to putting something in my jar (ice cream at Amorino, and a week later they complied with my request). In fact, usually cashiers round up the tare weight of my jars, or they get sick of subtracting so they call the manager over to void transactions and give me a lot for free. Like, I think I've paid for olives only once since moving to the US.

Certain things are cheaper in bulk- tea, nut butters, beans, spices, cacao anything, coconut, seeds, and vinegar. Olives, oil, nuts, pasta, and flour are pricier (not almond flour), but it evens out because I'm not buying disposable or unnecessary items over and over again. In the Midwest, I prefer Fresh Thyme over Whole Foods for bulk because their bins are more likely to be gluten free (plus they have bulk nutritional yeast which I go through in quantities I’m not comfortable sharing here) and I generally stay away from the kind with a scoop, sticking to lever bins. I know Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, but... it's so cheap (cheaper than Fresh Thyme), so I continue shopping there, if only for things like unpackaged mushrooms, Fabanaise and salad bar falafel.
Paris to Go

Zero Waste Men


When Zero Waste Toronto invited Bea Johnson to speak in their city, I wasn’t surprised by how packed the auditorium was. What shocked me was how many men attended or were involved in planning the event. Even though No Impact Man was one of the first things I read when going zero waste- I didn’t read Zero Waste Home until several years later, after moving to Paris- before then, I was only dimly aware of the presence of men in the circular economy conversation. “Where are all the zero waste guys?” one friend lamented. “Don’t question it,” my colleague, who asked to remain anonymous, warned. “White men get everything- let us have this,” she said. 

I can't tell if she was joking, but since my presumed relatives aren’t taking US recyclables anymore, there's a pressing need for as many people as possible to adopt reusables. This post isn’t meant to be exclusionary by any means. However, as @mariagomezdeleon points out, one perception fostered by online communities is ecofriendly behaviors are typically feminine. “I think this is an issue worth looking into,” she writes. “Why is zero waste primarily [portrayed as] female?” According to marketing professor Aaron Brough, “There is this gender gap in environmentalism... men are sometimes reluctant to go green because they want to maintain their gender identity.”

One causal theory I just made up is that historically, women are more affected by the consequences of environmental degradation than men, so they are more likely to be aware of environmental issues and take action. “Zero waste is often associated with home making skills, traditional female roles, etc. I think this is limiting in terms of representation. There is so much, albeit mostly not about home making, but more about frugality and thinking through decisions,” wrote Marie of fresh.open.air, whose husband @trail.to.sky is zero waste. "It seems a lot of things that create waste are marketed towards women," one Canadian, who is not my friend, pointed out, particularly when it comes to cosmetics, clothing, or hygiene. "You don't see dads carrying wipes or snack packs with them at all times. When my dad took me out as a kid, if I got hungry, I ate when I got home. He was more likely to have me blow my nose on a washable t-shirt than be 'ready' with Kleenex." "There's more pressure for women to get new clothes every season to fit in with the latest trends," one commenter said. "I've worn the same sweats since college, and nobody cares." 

Similarly, a Canadian photojournalist told me when he buys something, he buys it for life. However, he suggested the way women present themselves on social media could be different. One woman noted of her husband, "He never felt the need to show his followers his closet or our refrigerator. I want affirmation and support, but he doesn't need to be recognized that way... when his food comes at a restaurant, he doesn't like waiting for me to take a picture of it with our reusable napkins and straws. All he wants to do is eat." An eco-friendly engineer who made his own essential oils said something similar that he probably did not expect me to include in a blog post. "I don't see the need to make a big deal of how a person eats or lives. I’ll never feel the need to tell someone I'm vegan. If I'm ordering at a restaurant and someone asks why I'm not eating meat or dairy, I tell them I don't feel like it."  When Justin- one half of a zero waste power couple (TM Sophi) with Tori- goes to the co-op for bulk staples, he doesn’t post a picture of Tori refilling jars on Instagram. Rather, he sends me one via direct message. 

We all know Instagram isn’t real life. Is social media a microcosm of the circular economy in general? Could the disproportionate number of female voices online skew its representation of the zero waste population offline? As it turns out, many women messaged me that their boyfriends/husbands were eco conscious, they just didn’t post about it on social media (four guys messaged me, and the other messages were either suggestions of male zero waste Instagram accounts or pleas to find more). The way they approach zero waste is different, in terms of research and practice. "My partner had no intention before I mentioned it, and still I've done mostly all the leg work: finding bulk stores, getting groceries, encouraging new habits. I have more hype in general about it," wrote Phil. "I see it as a challenge. I like the sense of accomplishment when I make something myself instead of buying it,” one Canadian says. "We started the zero waste journey together," wrote 12stielen. "I was the one reading all the books and articles on the topic, but he immediately took the practical things, like taking containers, into his life."

"Guys totally nerd out about it," said Meredith, whose husband bikes to work year round and keeps reusables in his office and backpack (he even likes Meow Meow Tweet). "Justin was always really conscious," Kathryn of Going Zero Waste said. "He brought his own bags and water bottle everywhere, but he definitely... worked to eliminate a lot before meeting me. He accredits a lot of his mindset to growing up in a culture that was full of people using reusables. When I first told Justin I wanted to go zero waste, he said, 'But we already do so much!' But it was important to him."

“I mentioned it to [my partner] and expressed an interest. He was the the one who bought me Bea Johnson’s book! I think we were both open to ways of improving. He resisted the tooth powder and deodorant at first. Now he loves it, talks about it, shows off," Zoe from @aintnoplanetb wrote. “He always has a backpack or we have a reusable bag with mesh bags in the car for produce and the like,” said Sophi of her husband. “I go to zero waste places and he supports me. He talks about it with a lot of people he meets. He often comes home saying, 'Did so and so start following you?' He picks up litter a lot... he’s thoughtful in that way. He didn’t want to support zoos or aquariums- that’s before me doing zero waste.”  

“Fernando usually carries a backpack with his water bottle or hand carries it," Monica@girlforacleanworld, said of her husband. "He takes his lunch with reusable spork in a reusable bag to work. He found out about zero waste through me, but he was already half way there. When we met he was making his own deodorant and toothpaste, was conscious about litter, but he would use plastic bags and make waste out of habit. He’s very conscious now, and goes above and beyond to refuse bags, cups, straws, etc. but there are some areas where he still creates waste. For example, his hair product comes in plastic (he tried making his own and didn’t like it). He prefers a plastic toothbrush. He went back to buying Tom's deodorant, but after a beach clean up we did where we picked up 900 lbs of plastic, he was shocked and went back to making his own because he didn't want to buy plastic." Several women wrote that their partners were shocked by imagery of the Pacific garbage patch. The piece de resistance of this paragraph was going to be what Amanda from Mama Eats Plants had to say about her vegan husband, who is instituting composting measures and diverting waste in the restaurants he manages. I accidentally deleted it when I was trying to copy and paste her message into this post, but I love when she wrote, "I don't know how eating meat became equated with being strong, masculine, etc. but it's pretty ridiculous. We've got to empower men to eat better, regardless of veganism. I want my husband to live a long and healthy life with me that's not cut short by a heart attack or disease from a lifetime of unhealthy habits." I think the same could be said for zero waste.

For some, the motivations for men and women to reduce waste seem to differ slightly. “Mine comes out of a need to nurture and care for things,” says one woman, whereas her husband does so because “it doesn’t make sense to extract resources and put so much energy into something that’s going to thrown away.” "My motivations are mostly environmental but also I think it’s just a healthy way to live in general,” said Jason. My ex appreciated the aesthetics of zero waste (and liked his bamboo toothbrush and homemade mouthwash), whereas Archana once wrote her husband found zero waste economical, a sentiment many shared. "Since he's already from the PNW, he already had a bit of a green heart," wrote Rachel. "Certainly outdoorsy and did his recycling and all that. I've been more of an influence on what sort of belongings come into our apartment and how we minimize stuff." One Parisian, who bikes instead of taking the metro, uses an unpackaged alum stone instead of Axe body spray, grows his own food, washed his hair with Castile soap, and reduces leftovers, simply says he “hates waste." "I think our motivations are the same," wrote Olivia, @ofbranchandbone. "I tend to want to do more to impact others to change habits, and he is fine just focusing on what he personally can do."

I wish I could have included everyone's comments and insights into this post, but here are some zero waste men to follow on Instagram. Please comment if you know any more, and thank you to everyone who responded so thoughtfully! I hope I did your comments justice.

Zero Waste Guy
Sustainable Joes
Zerowasteguru
Rob Greenfield
Sougowei
Eating With Max
Isaac Kramer
Tidy Guy
Semisustman

Paris to Go

My Outfits



I'm going to regret this, but here is a sampling of outfits from my 28 piece wardrobe. They're more "combinations" than outfits, since all I mostly do is change my shoes. This isn't a capsule- it's everything I own. There's nothing in storage or rotated seasonally. People ask if it was difficult for me to stop shopping or minimize my closet to this point. Well, I grew up poor, and then I was in a relationship where one partner had complete financial control. So, I guess it was easier for me. I was used to not having much, and I had to consider another person when shopping before. 

Now I have the luxury of choice and can spend my own money again, but my wardrobe is a lot smaller than when I moved to Paris. I only kept things I bought or chose, that told a story about me alone- not the person I disappeared into. It's funny, I actually dread shopping now. I don't even enjoy browsing secondhand. I didn't get to this point until I found these clothes, so I guess it's a little like love- once you find the right stuff, you're happy, so you stop looking.

As my wardrobe shrinks, I don't replace much (actually I can't think of anything) due to wear and tear (UPDATE: Immediately after posting this, I caught my tights on something sharp and they ripped. I weirdly mourned them, because I'd had them so long, I got attached to them without realizing. I got another pair of Swedish Stockings). I only replace items as my size and aesthetic change. I have enough that clothing rests between wears, and though some things are over a decade old, nothing looks like they'll wear out anytime soon. I also have color! Green and blue and peach and touches of red. Psychologically I prefer muted shades that don't make me stand out much though. This stems from a traumatic experience I had going to my chic Parisian neighbors' apartment in a gingham shirt with floral print jeans, which is the most Ohio outfit ever, and being the only Crayola colored one in a sea of neutrals. Catherine Baba can get away with that-  not me.

I don't have to do laundry as often as people might think, since most of my clothes are natural fibers like wool, which is moisture wicking and resistant to odors (I don't know where my tights were when I took these pictures- I NEVER wear ankle boots with bare legs, the very idea makes my skin crawl). I mostly just wash clothes after a trip (at the very least once a month, washing dresses, my wool skirt, and coats less frequently- once or twice a season). I like to freshen them with shower steam between washings, and spot clean as much as possible. If you don't have a steam iron, dampen a white, lint-free cloth and press a hot iron lightly over it to remove wrinkles and gently clean coats or dry clean only items. 

I try to be strategic about fabrics. That way I can layer and prepare for unexpected weather without bulk. Linen is seasonless, and my 40+ year old lightweight camel hair coat is the warmest thing. It's temperature regulating, so I use it from spring to the dead of winter without sweating on the metro. I only have a handful of synthetics- even though I eat vegan, I think secondhand wool and leather are less harmful overall, and more practical for harsh climates. I don't really know what's worse, microplastic pollution or the cruel ways we abuse animals (and people!) for clothing. To me, nothing uses less resources or does less harm than something that already exists, although the secondhand market mirrors the fast fashion model in many ways.

Now to my favorite part- the math. I have ten tops and five bottoms and they all (technically) match each other and most of my shoes. For example, one black t-shirt or ribbed top yields approximately 17 outfits. That's over 150 combinations excluding coats (I say 150 because I don't really like mixing knit fabrics with woven fabrics. One of my friends wore the button down with my knit circle skirt, and she looked cute, but I have all of these weird hangups about mixing textures). I've even worn the Oui shirt with my midi length skirt and heels before. I didn't like it, but it's an option.  

I need to wear dresses a few times a week. Mine are cut so I can wear them layered under skirts or tops, and two I wear with sneakers, netting over 25 combinations. To factor in both coats, I multiply 175 outfits by three for 525 combinations, or around 18 outfits per piece. These calculations are probably wrong, simply illustrative of the fact that you don't need many clothes to have options. However, just because I have 28 items doesn't mean everybody else should too. If you have a large closet, don't take this as a personal affront. I maintain that a minimal wardrobe is not necessarily a sustainable one, and the pursuit of a perfect capsule wardrobe is largely a waste of time. I'm usually too busy brushing out my pin curls to care what you wear anyway.

Paris to Go