Office Trash Talk: removing trash cans from individual offices changed Etsy’s culture

Etsy is an E-Commerce Company focused on handmade or vintage items. The site connects people to artisans all over the world. In fact, many of my zero waste contacts are shop owners on Etsy!

Etsy’s headquarters in Brooklyn, NY has been free of individual use trash cans since 2013. Of course initially, employees felt inconvenienced but the decision proved to be one of their best ones yet.

By creating communal trash stations with recycling, landfill and compost sections, “Etsy’s waste dropped 18%, while its compost rate jumped 300% and its recycling rate went up 20%” According to an article by Business Insider.

Etsy has long dedicated itself to lowering their environmental impact. Every night, Etsy weighs its landfill waste, recycling, and compost using custom built dumpster scales so it can measure its improvement over time. And guess what? They don’t have a commercial compost removal service. Their own employees hop on bikes to deliver their compost to Red Hook Community Farm.

That’s not all folks. Etsy eliminated disposable utensils, cups, and batteries, started using double-sided default printing, regulates office energy consumption, buys food and office supplies locally, and moved toward buying only bulk-packaged foods. Long sentence, lasting impact.

These aren’t just moves for our environment, these are moves for our community. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson says the communal waste stations are like “Etsy’s water-coolers” and that more spontaneous interactions with employees happen there than anywhere else.

So if you ever find yourself asking, “how can I make a difference?” know that any one of these innovations would have set off a chain reaction for change. You can be the catalyst.

Like my Eco-friendly friend has said, “think globally, act locally”



Zero Waste- Bathroom Swaps

Toilet Paper

Instead of bleached TP made from beautiful trees and then ultimately wrapped in layers of plastic… Try Bamboo or Recycled TP!

Who Gives A Crap?

Seventh Generation *this is not bleached and made from 100% recycled materials, however it does come wrapped in plastic when you buy in bulk!

Hello Tushy


4.7 Billion plastic toothbrushes are produced in the world every year. These do not break down. If you make one switch in your lifestyle… make this one!

Brush with Bamboo

Neem Tree Chew Sticks

BoGo Brush

Wooden Toothbrush


Not only does floss come packaged in single-use plastic, it’s made from nylon, teflon and synthetic wax. Google it… It’s depressing. But have no fear! You can still floss with these awesome alternatives!

Knotty Floss- Refillable and in a Glass Jar

Dental Lace- Refillable and in a Glass Jar


Toothpaste comes in a plastic tube that cannot be recycled. Boo. Not to mention, its filled with all sorts of artificial sweeteners and chemicals I can’t even pronounce. These alternatives are Dentist Approved and really work!

Bite Toothpaste Tablets

Georganics Toothpast in a Jar



Everyone has different hair and finding the perfect shampoo has been a life-long task for me. But I am glad to announce that there are more plastic-free options than ever before!

LUSH Shampoo Bars

Package Free Shampoo- Refillable Aluminum Containers

Ethique Shampoo Bars


Some people don’t need conditioner. I do. It has taken me quite some time to find a plastic-free conditioner that works! LUSH takes the cake for my unruly frizz, but check these other options out for your hair type!

LUSH Conditioner Bars

Seed- Post-consumer Paper Bottles *Shower Friendly!

DIY Conditioner


Ditch the plastic loofah! You could use your hand or a wash cloth as an alternative. However, I like the the benefits I get from my Loofah so I’ve included some sustainable and plastic-free loofah options!

Soap Saver

EcoTools- Bamboo Brush and Natural Loofah

Turmeric Loofah Sponge

Wool Loofahs


First of all, disposable razors are terrible. Second, why are women’s mechanical razors so much more expensive than men’s? It’s completely unfair. Check out these razors for all genders!

Safety Razors

Package Free Safety Razor

More Safety Razors

Make Up

Don’t wear it…? That’s definitely option #1. Most make up comes in plastic containers. I’m gonna be honest, I’m not really sure what’s in any of the make up I still have. So I wanted to give you some plastic-free and organic make up options!

Elate Cosmetics– their packaging can be planted!

Antonym Cosmetics



What’s in your tampon? Wouldn’t it be nice to know what you’re putting inside of your vagina? Me too. Here are some waste-less alternatives!


Diva Cup

Reusable Pads

Toilet Cleaner

Most toilet brushes are made from plastic and get gross and disgusting and eventually are thrown away. More plastic for the landfills! But we can change that. Here are some plastic-free toilet brush options!

Wooden Toilet Brush Cleaner

Natural and Compostable

Drano Alternative

Most plumbers and handy dads will advise you against using Drano for a couple of reasons. The main one being that it can damage plumbing systems and is unpredictable when mixed with other products. Not to mention, you’re dumping all of those toxic chemicals into our sewage system. Gross.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Today, I got in an argument.

Today I got in an argument. It was over before I even realized one of us was fighting with the other. A man almost 3X my age sent me a link to a news story titled “This is the New Face of the Democrat Party: Charlie Kirk & Candace Owens Ambushed by Liberal Protesters”

The article was from Fox&Friends and I think that’s important because to me, I would have known that Fox&Friends tends to alienate readers and viewers by altering their language in their segments. But more importantly I noted it was of value because I was not engaging with someone who shared that viewpoint with me. So I couldn’t simply say “oh dude, that’s from Fox&Friends, of course it’s one-sided”. Instead I simply said “the atrocities of the few do not outweigh or speak for the successes of the many”. I followed up by saying that it would be unfair for me to say that white supremacists were the new face of the Republican party (which is an exaggerated comparison but one that should highlight how ridiculous it is to say that people protesting without violence are the new face of Democrats). My point was missed and just like that I was dismissed from an argument I wasn’t even aware I was having.

He then called me a silly girl and said that all of this was bullshit (referring to the white supremacist comment).

I’ve thought a lot about this exchange. I thought about all the other times a man or woman in my life has told me that my ideas and view on the world are “silly”. I’ve been called naive and misinformed. At the time when these insults were thrown at me I felt embarrassed or even upset. Looking back I can recognize that I felt that way because I didn’t know how to respond when someone shrugged off my perspective so blatantly.

In college I used to love confrontation. I used to love turning a battle of wits into a semantic word play. I thought I was doing it because I love language and the effect it can have on people. How a sentence that seemingly gets the same point across can use such different words. It’s probably why I repeat myself in my writing; I like to find new ways of saying the same thing. But I wasn’t doing it in a way that harbored understanding. I was doing it in a way that made people feel embarrassed or upset. I was acting this way because without being able to use words in my own life experiences to combat conversation bullies, I was becoming a reflection of the people who had hurt me. Instead of having a fruitful debate based in logic, I was forcing my adversaries to rely on emotion. It didn’t help either one of us understand the other.

When I started canvassing to get fracking banned in Maryland last year (which we did!!! YEYAH) I learned early on that not everyone wanted to have the conversation and even fewer people had the same opinion as I did on the issue. I talked with my field manager about this issue I was running into and she very bluntly said “it’s not your job to change their mind, opinion or voice, it’s your job to let them know that their voice matters and can be heard if they’re willing to take action.” I’m paraphrasing but that’s essentially it, right Madeline? So I took out “conflict words” from my opening statement at the door. Words like “Trump, EPA, global warming”. Not because those words didn’t have value but because those words drew boundaries around each of our understandings that made it unlikely that we could even have a shared shaded spot in a Venn Diagram. I didn’t take those words out because I was worried about having a Trump supporter get angry at me, I was taking them out because I recognized an opportunity for common ground that would not exist if I brought a name into our conversation that didn’t belong there. Look, Trump is our president. But how we treat the Earth is bigger than him and it’s certainly bigger than me. And do you know what I heard when I took those “trigger” words out of my rhetoric? I heard global warming deniers recognize the effect fracking would have on the Chesapeake Bay, a place that taught them how to fish. I heard Trump supporters apologize for his environmental policies while they signed my petition. I heard libertarians admit that if there was one thing worth rallying behind, it was protecting our planet and source of life.

So this man called me a silly girl and asked me, and I quote,  “What makes you so dam smart? what have you done in this world in the short time you’ve been here besides judging others?”

And it got me thinking, I spend so many of my conversations working toward finding common ground with the other person that I was completely dumbfounded by this question (the second question because “what makes you so dam smart” can just be answered with: damn.).

So I wanted to take a little moment to write down the ways in which I’ve impacted the world around me.

  • I’ve been a part of a fundraising team that raises money for blood cancer research, to date we have raised nearly $1 Million (shout out the Young Hearts Foundation!!)
  • I’ve volunteered at animal shelters and helped with adoption days
  • I’ve coached field hockey for 6 years
  • I’ve donated peanut butter sandwiches to homeless shelters
  • I’ve worked at soup kitchens and sat with patrons just to hear their stories and share mine with them
  • I’ve worked at an abused women’s shelter
  • I’ve rescued animals from shelters that were planning on euthanizing them
  • I’ve pledged to work my way toward zero waste
  • and most importantly, I’ve acknowledged that I have work to do and will always be becoming the woman (not girl), I want to be

Don’t lose your cool. See the opportunity for common ground in every conversation you have. And most importantly, know your perspective, your experiences, and your life have immeasurable value.




“Hothouse Earth”- Cutting Greenhouse Gases is Not Enough

What does it mean to enter a “Hothouse Earth” state?

We are currently hurtling toward a tipping point of irreversible damage to our planet. A “Hothouse Earth” state occurs when global temperatures reach 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 5 degrees Celsius) higher than preindustrial temperatures (other sources have suggested just 2 degrees Celsius will do the trick) and sea levels reach 33 to 200 feet (10 to 60 meters) higher than they are today.

What are the scientists saying?

They want to be clear that this is not yet a theory but is still an extension of existing scientific studies. We can all hope that they’re wrong, I’m sure they are hoping the same thing. Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and one of the study authors, has stated “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.”

What does this mean for humans?

It means that we either continue exploiting the Earth for it’s resources and deal with the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen, or we change our relationship with the Earth to one of stewardship.

What do I think?

I think we can’t wait for scientists to confirm or dismiss this potential outcome. I think that regardless of where we’re from, what gender we identify with or what cultures we celebrate, we are all from Earth. Everyone who went before us and everyone we hope to have come after us. We owe it to them to realign our priorities and fight to alter our behavior before we cause irreversible damage to the land we call home.

Inova Health System Removes Single Use Plastics from 5 Major Northern VA Hospitals

I’m not sure why I haven’t seen more talk about this monumental move by Inova Hospitals (the other article can be found here). But then I start to talk about it and I hear people pumping the breaks. I hear them say things like “a hospital is the one place we do need single use plastics!” or “that’s taking it a little far, don’t you think?”

So far there has been no declaration on Inova’s website (that I can find anyway) and no public press release.

Just to be clear: They are removing single use plastics from public spaces like the cafeterias and gift shops.

J. Stephen Jones, M.D., president and CEO at Inova was quoted

“We understand the health of our planet affects the health of our patients and community, and encourage others in our industry to join this endeavor.”

According to Seema Wadhwa, Inova Health System assistant vice president of sustainability and wellness, the hospitals use about 3 million plastic straws a year which is about 1 mile of straws being used every day. This is a huge step in the right direction. Hospital officials recognize that straws play an important role in accessibility for some patients and have a plan in place.

Acknowledging that straws can be essential for some disabled individuals and patients, the hospital will stock eco-friendly, paper straws for use when necessary. The target date to eliminate plastic straws from hospital public areas is America Recycles Day on Nov. 15.


This is amazing. A monumental move for Northern VA and for the Hospital Industry. I just can’t seem to understand why more people aren’t talking about this. Why are we so hesitant to explore the potential these big moves can have on our planet and our lifestyles? Why is this a hot-button topic and how can we change the way we speak about these issues in order to change the way they are received?

I hope that by not aggressively publicizing this move, that the action will speak for itself. When other groups have announced huge moves to get off single-use plastics, they have faced a lot of backlash from various groups and individuals. Maybe we’re not hearing about it because we can’t handle it until we see a viable example of a ban in progress.

3 million plastic straws a year. 3. Million. In just 5 years, we will have effectively prevented 15 million straws from entering our landfills, waterways and oceans. That’s right, I can do math too.

That’s pretty amazing if you ask me.




Litterati: Zero Waste Trending

Litterati contains some of my most favorite things: puns, maps, data collection, Geospatial analysis, pattern observation, accountability and global connections. Add some animals on the platform and I’m sold (jk, the app is free).

This app allows the user to photograph litter, tag it and upload the information to the global interface. I’m not sure if you guys are aware, but “geo-tagging” is all the rage these days. Remember Pokemon Go? What a great month for the U.S.

Geotags provide insight into problem areas, while keywords identify the most commonly found brands and products. This data will be used to work with companies and organizations to find more sustainable solutions.

Most of us go outside. Most of us are on our phones. Match made in heaven. Next time you’re out for a walk, take some pictures of the trash you encounter and share it on Litterati. Then… throw that trash away obviously. Catch up on their data analysis on the blog!

We’re all just doing what we can, and I know we can all do this.



Zero Waste Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

“Zero waste meal planning” doesn’t always mean “zero meal, wasted planning”… although, I’ll admit sometimes it does end up that way. Here are a few tips and examples of how I’ve survived without plastic in the kitchen.

Grocery Shopping List

  • Black beans (byo container)
  • Butternut squash
  • Quinoa/Rice (byo container)
  • Broccoli
  • Onion
  • Fish (byo container)
  • Turkey- deli (byo container)
  • Cheese- deli (byo container)
  • Bread from the bakery (byo bag)
  • Olive oil (refill container *I do this at Earth Fare in my area*)
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Carrots

Some of these items I can find at my local farmer’s market which is the best option for sustainability. I have had a lot of success grocery shopping in bulk at Whole Foods. They always take my containers with a smile and never make me feel like an inconvenience. For some of my more obscure bulk purchases, I head to Earth Fare (i.e oil, vinegar, spices, etc.).

Tips: BYO Containers

Mason jars are amazing for food storage! However… they are fragile and can be very heavy for those of us who have to walk or bike to the grocery store. I typically opt for plastic tupperware when I head to the store. It can be stacked in your reusable grocery bag so it wont take up much space and its lightweight. My suggestion: transfer your bulk rice, quinoa, beans, nuts, flour, etc. to a glass mason jar once you get home. It will keep your items fresher longer and let’s be honest, mason jars look better than tupperware.

Plan out your trip before you go to the grocery store. On your shopping list, make note of which items will need containers and what size containers they may need.

**make sure you have weighed your containers before you fill them. Either take them to the deli and have them weigh out the containers all at once or make sure you do it at each counter you visit. For bulk food items, at Whole Foods at least, you will need to weigh your containers at customer service first or at the deli counter.**

Things to Keep in Mind

  • buy local
  • choose glass or metal over plastic
  • bring reusable produce bags and shopping bags
  • plan your shopping trip! or… always be prepared for the munchies once you get there


Depending on how the farmer’s market went on Saturday, I’ll have a few different things for breakfast.

French Press & Apples/Bananas and Peanut Butter

A little fun note about french press coffee: it is one of the most zero waste coffee options out there!! If you haven’t tried it out, I strongly suggest it. Your coffee grounds can be composted when you’re done!

Homemade Juice & Oatmeal or Toast



I just really like sandwiches. Sometimes I’ll let myself have chips. Late July chips come in a recyclable bag with TerraCycle… which isn’t zero waste but I’m grateful for it.

Turkey Sandwich & Avocado




Dinner is my most creative meal. Normally I’ll do fish, quinoa/rice, and roasted broccoli, butternut squash and onions. But sometimes… I get creative!

Quinoa & Salmon Bowl

Fish Tacos & Homemade Guacamole/Salsa

Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Mayo & Tortilla Chips


Try it out!

Going zero waste is about changing our behaviors and habits. It doesn’t just happen, we have to actively challenge ourselves to be accountable.

Bidet Mate!

Hello lovely humans!

It’s been a busy and stressful week. I have one word that touches on every emotion I felt the past 7 days: S.H.I.T. Butt not for the reasons you may assume. nailed it.

I treated myself to an adorable bidet from HelloTushy and my life has been forever changed.

When it comes to zero waste I’ve hit 2 roadblocks- 1. periods. 2. toilet time.

I tried, you guys, butt I am seriously not ready to use reusable toilet paper aka butt rags. I may be on that track now that I have a bidet, butt… baby steps. For now, this is what my bathroom set up looks like:

0718181525a.jpgBooty-ful. Don’t worry, I stacked the TP Pyramid just for that picture, I’m not actually that anal. Goodness this is fun.

We got the bidet for $69 (spend $15 more and you can get the “Tushy Spa”, complete with heated water! Oo lala!) and 12 rolls of bamboo toilet paper for $18. I opted for bamboo toilet paper over recycled toilet paper because… well because of these articles: HuffPost, The Healthy Home Economist, The Eco Mum, The Cheeky Panda, and a bunch more. Bottom line: bleach is bad for your butthole (unless.. you do that I guess?), the fluffier our toilet paper is the worse it most likely is for our environment, and the process of turning recycled paper into recycled TP can leave dangerous chemicals behind. Ladies, I’m not gonna sugar coat this: 9 out of 10 conservatives agree, your butt is right next to your vagina (that one just doesn’t want to openly admit it). I may not be an expert when it comes to anatomy butt I do know that most people wipe both… Ideally. And our vaginal PH is very delicate. Not knowing what’s in our tampons and our toilet paper is something we should not settle for anymore.

Butt back to this bidet. It takes 10 minutes to install. No electric connection necessary and all parts included. Except a flathead screwdriver. You’ll need that. The dial helps you control the water pressure and the little lever thingy let’s you position the spout. It’s amazing and I have truly never felt cleaner in my entire life.

The toilet paper came wrapped in paper packaging and the bidet came wrapped in paper packaging as well, you can check out my instagram post for more information on that @alteredecoplanet

P.S- The other title for this post was “Crapshoot- a bums guide to choosing the right bidet”. There really aren’t nearly enough bidet puns out there. Even the Europeans couldn’t help me out!



Straws vs. the Disabled

That’s Potato. She was born without eyes and I love her. Get it? Cause Potatoes have those dimples called “eyes” but they can’t see? Good stuff.

It’s not either/or.

I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me about this topic and while I find it important to acknowledge that everyone has a right to sit at the table and engage in the conversation, I’m not sure we’re all talking about the same thing. I want to point out a couple things about the “straw bans” that have been popping up around the U.S.:

  • so far Seattle is the only U.S. city to ban plastic straws
  • Starbucks is phasing plastic straws out by 2020
  • there is no ban on the production of plastic straws. at all.

Those 3 bullet points are facts. Now I’m going to share my opinion based on those facts.

A straw ban will not save our marine life (that’s probably a fact too). But look how many of you are talking about it now. Look how many people are talking about how this will affect the disabled population. Life is about uphill battles, it doesn’t get easier and every win we celebrate will be met with infinitely more questions than answers. No one is claiming that a ban on plastic straws is more important than the comfort of our fellow human. I can’t think of anyone in my network of zero-wasters that would win a ban on straws and then stop there. This isn’t about straws vs. the disabled. It’s just about us.

There are 2 reasons I choose to use plastic in my life

  1. Health and medical reasons
  2. Legal and safety reasons

Now I’m about to say something that might genuinely offend people so if you have a short fuse, please skip ahead.

If you want to help disabled people, don’t attack a ban on straws. Focus on the next step. Focus on getting legislation in place that will require restaurants to provide plastic straws for customers who need them. If you want to help the disabled, get off your butt and volunteer, get off your butt and vote, and get off your butt and fight for equal access to healthcare. If you want to help people then you want to help the environment. And if you want to help the environment then you want to help people. It’s not either/or. It’s just each of us doing what we can. And most of us can forgo a plastic straw.

So if you’re truly concerned about what a ban on plastic straws will mean for disabled people, then start discussing ways to navigate that issue in a productive manner. We don’t need to keep throwing potential solutions out the window because they alienate groups of people. We need to start including those people in the conversation. We need to invite them to the table and ask them in which ways their needs can be addressed.

Be a part of the solution, get creative, get involved and help each other out.



All of that being said: I am happy that everyone is talking about these potential bans. I am happy that people have been reaching out to share in the excitement or to inquire further. I am happy that big businesses are going out on a limb to try and make a difference in their waste production. But if I could be completely candid for a minute… ya’ll need to calm down about this straw ban. See the straw ban as the small step that it is and keep fighting the good fight. Keep reminding your roommates to grab their reusable bags for the grocery store. Keep picking up trash when you walk your dog. Keep fighting for equal access for disabled persons. Keep volunteering, keep donating. Keep leading by example because you can. And if you can’t lead by example then tell the world why and I promise we will fight for you.

Disabled people need clean air, clean water, clean food and a clean environment too. This is about all of us and we owe it to each other to fight like mad.


Sud Duds: Jury’s still out on DIY laundry detergent

Hello! Thanks for taking a break from your daily Grit and Grind (#GoGrizz #GrizzNation) to explore my most recent trip down the slippery slope that is zero waste living.

Also, free make up remover pads and homemade detergent to the person who can caption the title image. What the heck is going on there?

I made my own laundry detergent. I plopped my butt down on the couch last Sunday, binge watched the new season of UnReal, and grated bars of soap until The Bachelor looked like a down-right reasonable way to find love in our current dating culture. If you are unfamiliar with those shows (thank you, you are whats right about society) then I grated a ding-load of bar soap. Mixed it with 2x baking soda and voila! Laundry detergent.

Sounds like a lovely way to spend an evening doesn’t it? And wouldn’t it be nice if I told you that the story ends there; a picture perfect scene of a stereotypical 20-something doing her part for the environment while feasting on satirical pop culture shows? If only. Like most people I went to class with in college, as soon as I accomplished my task at hand, I immediately hopped online and tried to dismantle the logic of what I had just done.

I typed “DIY laundry detergent is stupid” into the google search engine (because thats what it is, its a search engine. It’s not a verb you crazy Gen Z-ers). This is who I am. I’m the kind of morbid person that feels an ounce of joy or success and instantly I want to debate myself on why I’m wrong. And I always win. That’s the beauty in questioning yourself. You’re always right. Anyway, turns out a lot of people on the internet have some serious beef with homemade laundry detergent. One word: surfactants. Read More

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