Monday, November 11, 2013


How many different types of deodorant and/or antiperspirants have you tried over the years? How much money have you spent on them only to throw partially used containers away because you couldn't stand the smell or it just didn't work and you couldn't stand your smell? Did you switch to "natural" deodorants to get away from the aluminum and other toxic chemicals that are in these products?

Over the years I've probably tried most major brands of antiperspirants out there only to realize after really looking at the ingredients that I didn't know what most of them were; and, when I did look up the ingredients I was stunned and wondered how some of these are allowed in a product we put on and is absorbed by our skin every day.

Twelve years ago I met a fabulous fit woman at a library with our then year old daughters. She is an amazing athlete and a yoga and health/fitness coach and believes in sweating and letting your body do its natural thing. Sweat gets rid of impurities. Okay, so sweating and stinking while exercising I can handle but I can't handle smelly pits any other time. So, for ten years I've tried various natural deodorants (and not all are really natural) from the rock to expensive brands such as Dr. Hauschka, Weleda, Tom's of Maine, Nature's Gate, Desert Essence, JASON, and more. These all smelled nice but after a few hours of a normal work day (not even exerting myself) but sweating a little, I smelled! Yuck! It took some time to get used to, but I can handle a little sweat in my pits but not the smell. I worked around a lot of kids (and while middle school kids smell I didn't want to smell like them).

So, finally, 2 months ago I finally found a deodorant that works ALL day and into the next day. Expensive? Nope. Cheap, and I make it at home thanks to the woman I see for my indulgent organic facials every few months. If you live or visit Litchfield County or Berkshire County you must make an appointment to see Ren at Renew Skin Wellness.

Here is her recipe (adapted from research and testing it on herself):

  • 1/8 cup baking soda (I use aluminum free from the bulk bin at my local co-op)
  • 1/8 cup arrowroot (bulk bin) (can also use cornstarch)
  • 2-3 tablespoons organic coconut oil
  • 2 drops tea tree oil (I buy organic)
  • 3 drop lavender oil (I buy organic)
Or, use any combination of essential oils that you like. 

Mix it all up and put it in a pretty glass jar or stainless steel container (I don't use plastic). Use your finger to scoop out a little bit (about 1/4 tsp per pit) and spread it on. It rubs in nice and clear. The deodorant will liquify at temperatures about 75 degrees making it a little messier to put on; but, it works just as well. So, what are you waiting for? 

Monday, October 21, 2013

School Snacks

My daughter, like most kids I know, prefer to eat small amounts of food throughout the day. To me, a snack is a piece of fruit, a handful of almonds, or a small piece of cheese and a couple crackers. To many kids, a snack is often times something filled with sugar and not much nutritional value: a cookie, granola bar, and yogurt in a plastic tube (gross), chips or some other salty concoction. These snacks appeal to kids because they like sweet and salty and "everyone" eats them. Parents tend to like them because they are quick and easy to pack. With a little planning you can prepare healthy snacks and save money.

Below are some of the snacks that my daughter enjoys. I purchase these items come in bulk without plastic which saves money and waste. Snacks are packaged in small stainless steel containers or an insulated stainless container.

  • cheese (bring my own container to the deli and have them slice a hunk off their big cheese rectangles or rounds) and rice crackers.
  • hummus with crackers and carrots
  • applesauce (home made or purchased in large glass jars)
  • fruit: apple, pear, etc.
  • plain yogurt (Berle Farm in glass) with berries and/or granola and a little maple syrup
  • slice of homemade pumpkin or banana bread with apple butter
  • plain or dark chocolate almonds and/or raisins
  • granola pieces
  • an 8 oz. smoothie made from plain yogurt and fresh/frozen fruit
Any other ideas? Please share them.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Plastic Free Pantry (almost)

I wish I had done a "before" picture! I love my new almost plastic free pantry. It's simple and everything is easy to find and I can quickly determine what I'm low in when creating my grocery list for the week.

So, here is my "before" and "after" pantry overhaul. Some of my glass jars are repurposed, such as my glass yogurt containers (with the names of the cows listed on it) with plastic lids courtesy of Berle Farm. Others are Mason jars (cheap and made in the U.S.A) which I also use for some canning. And, I did purchase some 2.1 quart hermetic storage jars (made in Italy) and 12 oz. french terrines from The Container Store (they had great prices and shipped in paper packaging as requested). For my bulk bin shopping I bring my own cloth muslin bags (see previous post).

Pasta in plastic bags or boxes with plastic “windows”
Pasta purchased from the bulk bin and put in a glass jar (no plastic)
Rice in plastic containers or plastic baggies (from bulk)
Purchased in bulk and put in a glass jar (yogurt container w/ plastic lid)
Almond butter – purchased in glass jar or in plastic tub from bulk bin
Bring my own glass container and fill it at the bulk bin or at the grind your own machine
Honey – purchased in glass jar
Bring my own jar and fill from bulk
Cereal – purchased in boxes with plastic liners or from bulk in a plastic bag
Bring my own bag and fill from bulk bin
Baking supplies such as powder, soda, flour, sugar – in plastic bags, paper bags, boxes, or plastic containers
Bring my own bag and fill from bulk bin. For cleaning I use cheaper baking soda and buy in large cardboard box.
Cocoa powder – plastic container
Can’t find it in bulk ( yet) so still buying in either plastic or plastic lined cardboard container.
Crackers – box with plastic inserts
Can’t find a way around this yet and not sure I am going to spend the time to learn how to make crackers. Trying to find alternatives instead to cut down on crackers.
Tortilla chips – paper bag lined with plastic
Love these and haven’t found a solution yet. I was going to try and buy from a local restaurant but they closed/moved.
Nuts and Snacks – in plastic bags or containers purchased or from bulk.
Trying out new snacks from the bulk bins such as sesame garlic crackers, rice crackers,  or mixing my own using granola, chocolate or yogurt raisins, almonds, etc.
Sardines – cans lined with BPA
Now buy from Wild Planet (awesome company!). Sardine cans are BPA free and recyclable.  Sustainably caught fish.
Seaweed – plastic bags
Can’t find non-plastic and not in bulk. Seaweed lasts quite awhile in my house since we use it more as a condiment or in cooking (Khombu for beans) and the bags can be recycled. So, will keep looking for options.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ice Cream


We've had some gorgeous days lately and the desire for ice cream on a warm fall afternoon. However, since we are trying to go plastic free buying ice cream in a container (the most economical) is out since the paper containers are lined with plastic.  Yes, we can just go to the local ice cream store and purchase it in a cone, but I do like to bring a pint home to share. So, I have contacted our locally made ice cream store (SoCo Creamery in Great Barrington, MA) to find out if they will pack ice cream into a stainless steel pint container for me at the same price they sell their pre packed pints. I'll keep you posted. Please comment with any other ideas you have; but not making my own ice cream because that isn't going to happen. I'd go without or go with just buying a cone once in awhile.

Monday, September 9, 2013


I love fall! The smell of the air, the cool nights, leaves changing color, replanting my garden with fall veggies, and apples. Love the apples! Thanks to my neighbors trees, Rob and I picked 32 pounds of apples yesterday after cleaning up from our tag sale (fall is also a great time to clean out!).

This morning I opened with windows for that fall air while I peeled, cored, and cooked 24 pounds of apples into applesauce, just over 10 quarts. 5 got processed in the canner and the rest is in the crock pot bubbling away for apple butter, some of which will become Taylor's teacher gifts for the holiday's. The smell is divine!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Can't beat $1 per pound for slightly overripe organic heirloom tomatoes (thanks to Taft Farms in Great Barrington, MA)! 15 pounds or so have been skinned and cooked down into wonderful marinara and are ready for the freezer in my Weck canning jars.

While the tomatoes simmered I took the opportunity to gather basil and parsley from the garden to make pesto and basil cubes (chopped basil in olive oil, frozen in ice cube trays).

Ahhh, yummmn...will be so nice this winter!

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Most of my garbage is plastic, so I decided to really take a look at the amount of plastic I recycle and throw away each week and find ways to do better and reduce  it.

This past week (8/24-8/31/13) I had over 70 pieces of plastic.

The plastic on the left 2/3 of the picture is recyclable, the right third is not and goes to the landfill.

Here are some ways I am going to reduce my use of plastic:

  • Bring cloth bags and get as much as possible from bulk bins (pasta, rice, cereal, flour, etc.). I started using these great organic cotton muslin bags
  • Bring glass bottles and fill in bulk (maple syrup, olive oil, body soap, dish soap, almond butter, etc.)
  • Use cloth bags or no bags for produce items (and try to support the local farm markets)
  • Continue to bring my own cloth bags for lugging the groceries home
Not only is buying in bulk better for the environment by saving huge amounts of packaging and shipping costs (for the manufacturer which provides savings to the consumer), it costs me less money. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


We've been composting all our acceptable food scraps, yard waste, etc. for several years. Did you know you can compost cat litter (as long as it is natural)? Meat and fish bones? Not in the same pile you compost your food scraps and yard waste, but it can be done.

Found a great blog with tips on how to compost cat litter: glenbrookzerowaste Got mine set up today and since it was such a beautiful day I turned the regular compost (it's lookin' and smellin' good). The EPA has helpful tips on composting too! Click here.

Tomorrow I will be digging the hole to bury the chicken carcass we had for dinner last night and was used today to make broth. I'll keep you posted on how it works out. Click link for tips on composting meat bones.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Picked the last of the organic blueberries of the season with Taylor and Papa at Blueberry Hill Farm yesterday. Delicious no sugar jam made in my beautiful Weck canning jars (no plastic or BPA).

Blueberry Jam Recipe
8 cups mashed blueberries
1 1/3 cups thawed apple or grape juice concentrate (I used Cascadian Farm Organic apple)
1/4 cup bottle lemon juice (I used organic, not from concentrate)
6 Tblspns Ball RealFruit Low/no sugar pectin

Combine fruit, fruit juice, and lemon juice in large saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin and bring mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Taste. If you must, add a little sugar, honey, or maple syrup to sweeten further.

Ladle into hot jam jars (no need to sterilize - they should be clean and hot) and leave 1/4-1/2 inch headspace (refer to your specific canning jar instructions). Apply seals and place into a canner of hot water (jars must be covered wtih 1-2" of water). Bring water to gentle, steady boil. Process for 10 minutes (adjust for altitude). Remove jars and cool. Check lids/seals per manufacturer instructions.

My Waste:
Blueberries - none
Pectin -  came in a plastic container (which I can recycle) so I'll need to figure out a way to can without pectin to avoid plastic or find a brand in a cardboard container (Pomona's?). You can go without pectin if you use sugar (which I am trying to avoid). It is easy to find sugar in bulk. For more info:
Lemon Juice -  bottle can be reused or recycled. Not sure why you can't use fresh lemon juice for canning. I'll need to research this further.
Juice Concentrate - The juice can is recyclable except for the plastic (ugh) pull thing that seals the container.

Okay, guess I have some work to do. But, a good start and I can't wait to dig into my jam!
Follow me on Twitter: Renee Slonaker @EcoM8sRenee Slonaker


“Life is short, Break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.”

~ Mark Twain

In June I spent two weeks with my husband and 11-year old daughter camping and hiking the canyon lands of Utah and NW Arizona. It was so wonderful to be disconnected from the "real world" and to leave our technology devices turned off and put away (for most of the time). Camping forces you to simplify, reduce your waste, and to pack lightly. Hiking and quiet driving time allowed me to reflect on what is important to me (and my family) and where I/we go from here.  I decided I want to laugh more, spend more time with my family, find more time to travel, and to simplify my life. So, I've embarked on a new journey...I quit my job (since I wasn't happy there) to take time to change my journey and life for the better.

My goals (for me and my family) are:

  • to laugh more often and not stress over the little things and make them bigger issues.
  • to simplify life by working towards significantly reducing our family waste, especially plastic.
  • to spend money wisely - buy the things we actually "need" rather than on things we "want."
Let's get started...