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CTWW: Eating In and Reducing Waste

This week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge on the Reduce Footprints blog was the following open-ended challenge:

This week, suggest a challenge. This can be a repeat of a past challenge, a version of something we've already done or something completely new ... anything which you feel we should address.

And/Or ...

Tell us about something you're struggling with ... a green-living activity which is difficult to adopt in your life.

On my blog post on Wednesday where I posed my challenge idea, I wrote:

I am going to combine the two options this week and choose a challenge that will benefit my wallet as well as the planet. I struggle sometimes with remembering how must waste is generated by eating out. It often feels easier to just buy food for lunch instead of preparing it at home, and stopping by Starbucks often sounds delicious... But most fast food or to-go establishments generate waste--not to mention it costs more money than just eating the food already at home, and it often isn't the healthiest choice. This week, I'll challenge myself to say no to eating out as much as possible... I am living at home until Sunday when I go back to school, so we'll see if I can convince my family to join me!

So, did it work out well? Yes! Did I break the challenge? Yes, once, but let's take a closer look to see how I alleviated the broken challenge...

On Wednesday night, my sister headed off to Big Basin with my dad to go camping, so it was just my mom and I for dinner. She suggested we eat out, but I had just committed to the challenge and wasn't about to break it the first night. I'm supposed to be practicing cooking since I won't have dining hall service this year at school, so we decided to have a cooking class in our own kitchen! I made nachos with bean chips, Daiya cheese, guacamole, and turkey burger cooked with onions, garlic, and mushrooms. We also roasted some sweet peppers with a little olive oil in the oven. All in all, we generated less waste than if we had gone to a restaurant where they give you napkins, wrappers on your food, drinks, straws, etc. And I got to learn how to make an easy meal that is packed with yumminess.

Sweet peppers with a little olive oil sprinkled over them in a baking pan.

Tip from my mom, who learned it from an Italian woman: If you typically wash your mushrooms before cooking them, why not just peel off the outer layer with a knife? Saves water and you don't end up with soggy mushrooms!

We typically cook with coconut oil because it doesn't burn as easily as olive oil and vegetable oil.

The sweet peppers after roasting them in the oven. Yum!

The turkey burger after cooking.


Sweet peppers, roasted and ready to eat!
On Thursday, I took the train and two buses over to Santa Cruz to table at orientation. Lunch was served for free to those who were tabling, so in a way I ate out. However, I had thought ahead and brought my own fork and napkin, as well as my reusable mug and water bottle so I wouldn't have to waste one of their cups (although, they are compostable, but it's better to reuse in the first place). The meal was organic, as well, and delicious! The only waste generated was from the paper plate, which ended up in the compost bin. UCSC is great about having zero-waste events, complete with guides at the waste stations directing people to the correct containers for their waste. (For more on UCSC Zero Waste and our goal of zero waste by 2020, click here!)

Public transportation is the way to go! I was able to get SO much done on the train and bus, and some services has free wi-fi so you can surf the web while you're cruising to your destination!

The deliciously organic meal served at the UCSC Orientation. I brought my own silverware, as well as my own napkin, water bottle, and reusable coffee mug. I was tabling for the UCSC Sustainability Office, so I hope I set a good example for those who stopped by our booth.
That afternoon, my dad and sister swung by Santa Cruz to get me so I could explore Big Basin State Park with them. My sister cooked us pasta with huge shells and then we had a campfire. We roasted marshmellows and made s'mores! I literally ate out that night in the openness of the redwood forest, but only generated waste through the packaging of the s'mores & pasta ingredients and the paper plate for the pasta (which actually ended up becoming air pollution because we burned it in the fire...). I still had my silverware from lunch, so I was able to reuse it for dinner.

Friday, I was at home most of the day. Had my usual cinnamon and sugar toast with Earth Balance and homemade black coffee so breakfast. I think I ate the ramen my sister had cooked but decided not to eat for lunch with an egg cooked in it and lots of hot sauce poured on top. For dinner, I had incredibly yummy enchiladas from Trader Joes. They were frozen, so there was packaging around them, unfortunately.

Saturday morning, same routine as Friday. Picked up some Indian bread at the farmers' market (read more about that here), and for dinner, I broke the challenge by getting In-N-Out. However, I tried something out there that I was glad to see worked. Knowing that it's easy to blow through 9358 napkins and that I always crave the satisfaction quenching my thirst with soda in one of their disposable cups (burgers and water just sounds boring to me, but I suppose I should just get over it), I brought my own cloth napkin and a glass from home to fill up with soda. Fortunately, the cashier barely blinked an eye when I asked if I could use my glass cup instead of theirs. He had no problems with it, and I figured I could just show someone my receipt if they thought I was stealing their precious sodas. It worked well, and the only waste I generated personally was from the fries container, burger wrapper, and some leftover french fry food waste. No straw, no cup, no napkins!

You can see my 2-year-old cousin's water cup in the background. It seems so natural for babies to carry around reusable water and milk containers, yet as they get older, we start replacing those reusable containers with disposable soda cans and water bottles. Once they outgrow their sippy cups, just graduate them to a reusable water bottle and reusable mug for their favorite drinks, and don't encourage disposable habits, or soda, for that matter... I usually don't drink soda, but on occasion it sounds more refreshing to me than water. I really should work on going completely soda-free... I don't like chemicals!

Yesterday, I had toast and coffee for breakfast yet again, and then enjoyed lunch at my grandma's house (be on the lookout for an upcoming post about the great sustainably minded things my grandma has been doing at home to reduce paper towel and plastic waste!). For dinner, I had dining hall food since I'm back at school now. I did bring my own napkin, though, and ate all the food on my plate to avoid any food waste.

I have today and tomorrow to continue with my challenge, but I don't think it will be difficult. I have the dining hall and some snacks in my room to feed me. I can't wait to see what the new challenge will be on Wednesday, and I look forward to reading everyone else's posts about how their challenge was for them this week!

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal


  1. Wowee ... you did an amazing job! I love the challenge and that you took it on for the week. I'm guessing that your cooked-in meal was much more delicious .. and a lot more fun than eating out. What a special time with your mom!! And I'm so impressed that you remember to bring your own utensils & napkins, etc. to restaurants ... and that they have no problem with it. WhooHoo! Well, you are totally inspiring! Thanks so much for the idea and for the updates ... this will definitely be showing up on a CTWW (you'll be a pro at it by then).

    1. Fantastic suggestions! Coconut Oil is such an all round helper for Health and Wellness

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