10 Uses for Mason Jars You Need to Know!

We’ve all seen Mason Jars adapted in to wedding centre pieces, lunch boxes and candles but here’s the ultimate hipster guide to using these versatile jars in ever aspect of life! We’ve collated the top 10 uses for Mason Jars that we hadn’t seen before, no chalk paint or glitter here!

  1. Mason Jar Bird Feeder

Perhaps you’re a bit starved of company right now or looking for things to do with the kids while you self isolate. If you have a mason jar handy you can make a bird feeder in under 10 minutes!

You will need a mason jar with a handle, a dowel rod or straight stick, some wire or strong string and bird seed.

Effortless Mason Jar Bird Feeder

Here’s what the finished article could look like. This version is from DIY Idea Centre and you can find all the instructions here!

2. Mason Jar Mini Green House

Our Sprouts!

Want to eat something fresh? Make your Large jar into a green house and sprout micro-greens at home. We use a handy mesh lid that we found at a garden centre to have Alfa Alfa and Red Clover sprouts on demand for sandwiches, avocado on toast, in salads, you name it! It’s fun to watch and the sprout are growing by day two, making us feel like we are supreme homesteading gardeners!

3. Mason Jar Mug

Adapters for Mason jars create the ultimate reusable mug. It’s basically a sippy cup with zero capacity for keeping your drink either warm or cold, however, you will look exceptionally cool.

Picture courtesy of Amazon

4. Mason Jar Soap Dispenser

As you may know, we’re big fans of the refillable soap dispensaries and the mason jar now has an attachment that you can order to convert your jars into a soap pump. The great thing about this is that when you want to refill, you just put a regular lid on the jar and head out to your favourite dispensary for a fill. If you’re looking for hand sanitizer at the moment, some of B.C.’s distilleries have begun making it, and will fill your container for you affordably or in some cases for free. The soap dispenser pump works either way!

How to make your own Mason Jar Soap Dispensers - Awesome tutorial with lots of photos! at LoveGrowsWild.com #diy #masonjar

How to tutorial for up-cycling existing soap pump! Thank you to Loves Grows Wild.

5. Mason Jar Sewing Kit

Feeling crafty? You can purchase an adapter pin cushion or make your own and keep your sewing kit safe in one place. If you have a sewing kit, you can probably make this easily.

Here’s a free tutorial from “It all Started With Paint.”

image

6. Mason Jar Money Box

The lids are available to buy, but I wold recommend making one yourself. After all, we are talking about cutting a small slit in the top of an existing jar lid. It’s not rocket science, but you’ll want some sand paper to file down the rough edges after you cut the hole. Beer fund? Holiday Fund? Kid’s piggy bank? the possibilities are endless!

7. Mason Jar Fermenter

Easy Fermenter Wide Mouth Lid Kit: Simplified Fermenting in Jars Not Crock Pots! Make Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Pickles Or Any Fermented Probiotic Foods. 3 Lids, Extractor Pump & Recipe eBook - Mold Free

This is a new one for me. I like making home made ginger beer but that’s about the only thing that ferments on my menu. Apparently you can make your own kimchi in one of these, we’re going to give sauerkraut a try! Apparently people who eat a fermented food as part of their diet are healthier and live longer! Our goddaughters parents use this one which they got as a Christmas gift. We’re not affiliated with this brand but our fiends had success with it. It’s available on Amazon.ca

8. Mason Jar Toothbrush Holder

Picture courtesy of Amazon

Again you can buy and adapted lid or make one yourself. It’s basically a lid with holes in it for toothbrushes to hang out in. Imagine how cool this will look next to the soap dispenser in your bathroom. OMG, chills….

9. Mason Jar Matchbox

I love this one for the fireplace or the camper van. Get the tutorial from The Burlap Bag!

10. Individual Bake Dish

Let them eat cake…or bread…or other baked treats!

Picture from Simple Bites

Since Mason Jars have long been used for canning, they can stand the temperatures in ovens! you can bake breads and cakes in them and then decide wither to use them straight away or can pressure can them for later. We’ve done both and they turn out great! Here’s a bread recipe from Simple Bites and if you’re interested in canning cake or bread, check out one of our favourite YouTube Channels “Simple Living Alaska.” Eric and Ariel make zucchini bread for canning and we found it works a treat!

So there you have it, 10 Ways you can be even more hipster by making use of Mason Jars! Have fun and stay safe! Happy Hipstering!

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

On average, Canada generates 720 kg of waste per capita (see the average by province).

Yikes!

The grocery store is one place you can quickly reduce that number by making some simple changes.

grocery cart with item

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Re-usable bags have been a staple in Vancouver Grocery stores for a long time, but you can still choose to buy a plastic bag for 5c. if you need one. In Canada, the town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba banned plastic bags in 2007…countries like Italy, China, and Bangladesh have done the same (Read more), but Canada wide it hasn’t happened yet.

Here in Vancouver, I’ve found that reusable bags at the grocery store cost between $1.00-$5.00. You can buy fancy ones from lots of places now, garden centres, farmers markets, even our local library has them (generally more expensive)!

thomas-le-pRJhn4MbsMM-unsplashPhoto by Thomas Le on Unsplash

For fresh produce you can choose net bags. They are sometimes on sale in the produce section. We use a cheaper version: small laundry bags for separating delicate items. They are made of nylon usually, which is obviously a plastic but you can reuse them for years if you’re careful.

The completely plastic free option is to use paper bags. When you’re at the store, the mushrooms often have paper bags with them for packaging to stop them going soggy. I’ll grab a couple of these and write the bin number of bulk foods on the side to avoid the plastic bags. The checkout assistant has yet to complain.

Tea bags are no longer compostable in many cases! I know! I didn’t know either! To make the bags more durable and to stop them splitting, many companies have incorporated plastic into the fine mesh of the bags! You can check with the manufacturer of your favourite blend or try loose leaf teas.

nathan-dumlao-tCddc_YOGRQ-unsplashPhoto by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Coffee can also be bought at bulk stores, you can also visit smaller chain coffee shops like Bean around the World or independents and many of them will refill your coffee bag and give you a discount for doing so! This is also a great way to check that you’re buying free trade ethically sourced coffee.

Change your habits

This is a big part of it, the COVID-19 pandemic has given me plenty of time to reflect on this. We all want convenience, but it’s not difficult to make a few small changes.

If it’s bagged in the fresh produce area, don’t buy it. This may require a change in your shopping habits, but the truth is, there are plenty of smaller grocers (independent and family run) that sell their produce unpackaged. Coleslaw mix is convenient, but you’ll save money and get better flavour if you by the carrots and cabbage and shred them at home yourself.

Boycott Styrofoam – mushrooms and meats seem to be the main offenders here. If you go to a local butcher or the butchers counter in the supermarket you can get your meat hand selected and wrapped in paper if you ask.

Bagged frozen fruit and veggies: instead by fresh and freeze them at home yourself. Buying bulk dried beans and peas will save cash and save on plastic. They keep longer and you won’t get freezer burn!

In the cosmetics aisle avoid scrubs and washes with plastic beads in. They get washed out to sea are contaminating oysters, clams and other sea life, limiting their ability to reproduce (Read report here).

Cleaning products, this is a tough one. We’ve yet to find a toilet cleaner at the bulk store, but you can buy laundry detergent at places like The Soap Dispensary (Vancouver), or try making your own (see post).

You can also select shampoo bars instead of bottles. Looking for more tips? Take this quick inventory at home.

Bokashi Composting Review

variety of green plants

I was skeptical when the Bokashi Composter first came home, but I’ve become a convert. this is the best way I’ve found to accelerate the composting process and be able to compost in an apartment.

Traditionally, you need a yard and space to get a decent compost heap going, but above all, you need time. We live in 850 square feet in Vancouver and consider ourselves very lucky. We love to Garden and have a huge garden box that takes up most of our outdoor space.

Compost and garden supplies are expensive, and while we’re able to compost via a bin in the recycling room, nothing beats using our scraps to make compost that we don’t have to buy. The goal initially was to make the garden cheaper, the result is that it’s less work than going downstairs.

So what do you do? In a nutshell you take your food scraps and chuck them in the composter instead of the bin downstairs. Add some of the Bokashi bran and wait. The official wait time is 4-6 weeks. We live in Vancouver and maybe it’s our climate but it generally take a bit longer, I like to leave it 8 weeks if I can.

After its had two weeks in the bin with the bran, I drain the liquid (Which can be used as a tea for plants when diluted) and mix it with reclaimed dirt from the planter box in a tote on the balcony. It smells pretty bad, but its worth it! 6 weeks later the earth and compost mix is a rich soil that can be used to start seeds or plant out mature plants, and what’s better is that after the initial investment it’s free!

How does it work? I think magic, but apparently it’s microbes. Healthy soil is full of it and kitchen scraps are what they like to eat, the Bokashi bran aids the process and speeds things up!

We’ve had our composter a year and got two bags of bran with it. I’m still working through the second bag. our “soil factory” (the tote) cycles through easily, its sealed so it doesn’t smell and irritate the neighbours and we haven’t spent a penny on compost in the last 6 months.

If there’s a downside, it’s the smell. It’s like sour fish garbage, but like our tote the composter is completely sealed so you’ll only get a whiff when you open it to deposit your scraps. We’ve found that thinks like nut shells and avocado pits take too long to break down but I generally add them anyway. When I add scraps I rough chop them first to aid the process. I wash our composter out whenever I empty it. It’s a quick rinse on the balcony, and it’s way better to do little and often, than leaving it until you can’t bare the smell, trust me.

Our composter came from “Bokashi Living” and we’ve found their service super fantastic. I’ve not shopped for anything else related to the composter since then so I can’t compare, but the experience was good. If we ever live somewhere bigger, I’ll probably get a second one. I know some people start out with two, so that they can keep filling while one is breaking down in it’s two week “sit” before it goes in the soil garden.

At the end of the day, our cash is hard earned, composting is always the right thing to do for the planet, but I’d rather find the saving in my wallet than give our food waste away.

Photo by . ▃ on Pexels.com

The Religion of Less Plastic

I received a calendar from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network covering the season of Lent, each day with a suggestion of how to use less plastic. Why? Well it turns out that Anglicans in Canada promise to strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth when they are baptized.

Interesting.  If being religious means relating to or believing in a religion, then can refusing, recycling and reusing based on faith become a religious practice?

Looking at this calendar it’s easy to argue yes.

I shared this calendar with a couple of non-Christian friends and asked them for their feedback. They could agree that it made sense, and expressed that it was a cool thing for the church to be doing. Beyond that, it wasn’t an evangelistic moment, merely something to be noted.

Shopping with one of them for groceries later in the week I watched as my friend opted specifically to buy peppers that were not already in a plastic bag, despite them being more expensive than their value pack alternative.

“I’ve never thought about it before,” she said. I put that calendar up on my fridge for the kids and realized there’s a whole bunch of stuff on there I don’t do.”

If a behaviour is repeated based on a belief that it is good for the environment and a “small thing” one can do, are we doing it religiously? Perhaps the answer depends on your use of language. I hope you enjoy the calendar and perhaps find some tips or reminders about saying no to plastics.

The Last Straw: Zero Waste at Home, a Quick Inventory with Solutions

assorted plastic bottles

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

We continue our journey to living a cleaner life and we’ve been inspired by the recent decision in Vancouver to ban all plastic straws. Single use plastics are the latest thing under scrutiny, so aiming to live clean we took an inventory of the single use plastics in our apartment and have begun compiling a list of ways to reduce. The goal is to cut them our altogether.

The inventory and the solutions

Kitchen

Plastic bags

  • Take your own reusable bags to the super market.

Plastic and foil single use food wraps.

  • We’ve tried reusing paper bags which we can then compost, and are going to give some of the beeswax reusable wrap products we’ve seen advertised a try.
  • Use existing jars and containers to store food in rather than wrapping it up
  • Use a lunchbox that you take to and from work instead of Ziploc bags.

Food and beverage containers of almost every kind, bottles, containers, bags

  • Save jars and make condiments like salad dressings, ketchup & other sauces from scratch.
  • Purchase grains, pasta, cereal, beans, herbs, spices, vinegar and oils from refill centres like The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and reuse existing containers.
  • Instead of buying drinks in cans or bottles, take an on the go bottle with you whenever you are out and about. Keep a cup in the car for water, coffee or tea, so there’s no excuse for using a disposable cup.
  • Craft beer lovers, buy a glass growlers and then get it refilled with your favourite brew. It’s reusable and more affordable! Our favourite Brewery? Storm Brewing in Vancouver

Cleaning supplies for surfaces and dishes

  • Get refills in existing containers for dish soap from dispensaries. If there isn’t one near you, look up local places that sell unwrapped soaps.

Plastic bags on fresh produce

  • For fresh produce, don’t use a plastic bag to separate ranges, apples etc. It will take a bit longer at check out to get everything on the scale but not by much.
  • Some places will let you use your own bags. It is better to check with the store before you check out.
  • Go to a farmers market to get your fresh produce, you can put it straight into your reusable shopping bag!
  • For smaller produce there’s a simple cheat. Go to where the mushrooms are in the supermarket. There are generally paper bags available there. Use those and write on the bag what’s inside ready for check out. Then re-use, recycle or compost the bag.

Garbage bags

  • Compost, if you’re doing all the recycling you can and refilling other containers, there should be nothing to put in the garbage. Zero Waste is the goal.

Take out containers and plastic cutlery from delivered and takeout meals.

  • We’ve trialed this where we live. If you take your own container to places you order food from, we have found that the restaurants are generally happy to put our food in them instead of using their Styrofoam or plastic take out containers.
  • Carry a spork or pair of reusable chopsticks with you and you can say no to single use cutlery.

Living Spaces

  • Packaging on hard and soft goods

Contact your local municipality about recycling Styrofoam and plastic bags. It is possible, but you can’t put them in your recycling bin (Vancouver).

Bathroom

Shampoo & conditioners

  • Refill shops like The Soap Dispensary let you refill shampoo, conditioner and body wash! Stores like LUSH have shampoo bars that have no packaging, take less energy to make and as there’s no bottle, there’s nothing to recycle. If you’re traveling, pop the bar in a tin, it takes up less space in your luggage and won’t explode all over your clothes in flight!

Face and body wash, toothpaste containers

  • Refill on the body wash
  • Toothpaste? Open to suggestions on this one. I’m going to ask my dentist because I can’t find a refill for this. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!

Vacuum packaging on soaps

  • Don’t buy soaps with vacuum packaging!

Toothbrushes (while we use them more than once, they are disposable)

  • Toothbrushes! Try these bamboo toothbrushes – sustainable, non-plastic from Giving Brush We’ve tried these brushes and love them. At first getting used to the feel of them on the inside of the mouth while brushing was a bit weird, but that passed. Highly recommend these.

Cleaning supplies

  • This one we’re looking at refills as well, but you can make some of your own cleaning products that have the added benefit of being natural and thus safer for pets and children. Keep the spray bottles you have and reuse with your home made cleaners. Yet to try this, but this looks like a good place to start if you are going to try and make your own.

The list isn’t exhaustive, but we had to start somewhere so this is what we’re doing! As we go, we’ll share any up-cycling tips we discover. So far cleaner living feels pretty good. We’re also going to take the Zero Waste Pledge Come join us!

 

Waste and Wonder, 7 Sustainability Tips for Christmas

man in santa claus costume

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Christmas is fast approaching, and like lots of families, we find our budget not only stretched, but when people ask what we would like for Christmas, they’re met with a long uuuhhhhh… We don’t need anything. Our wants are whimsical wishes like, a lottery win, so we can travel, pay off our mortgage and set up a university fund for our goddaughter!

Some of the strangest gifts I’ve received in the past were, toilet paper that looked like American money, a calendar with fish and quotes about fish, and a shovel (we live in an apartment). Don’t get me wrong, gifts are wonderful and I know for kids, Christmas is that time when they might get that remote control car, but ask yourself, do you need to spend $25.00 on a pumpkin spice scented candle?

Then there’s the wrapping (I’m heading back to the garbage room here, read my first post if this makes no sense). Christmas wrapping. You better make sure you’re the first one into that recycling room, because if not you will need a ladder to climb to the top of the paper pile to add yours to the bin. What a waste.

So here’s 7 sustainability tips for Christmas:

1. Keep the tissue paper or gift bags that arrive from Amazon, come from gift baskets in the run up to Christmas and use it for wrapping paper. If you have to ship gifts, keep the boxes too!

2. Save the Colourful Christmas ads from the newspapers or reuse old comics as wrapping paper.

3. I have a friend with a big family, so rather than buying his adult siblings a random ornament or gift, he writes them a letter and invites them to spend the day with him doing an activity and having lunch, so they can connect and catch up one on one.

4. Give something handmade, like a chutney, jam, baking etc. It’s easier than you think and people will love the personal touch, knowing that you went to the trouble of making something specifically for them.

5. Give vouchers by you! Instead of a plastic gift card, make up your own vouchers personalized to the person you’re gifting. For example: A night of Free babysitting, An afternoon of gardening, Dog walking hours. Be creative and try to come up with something unique for them.

6. Re-gift. It might not sound too classy, but people are more open to it than ever. Give something in good condition that is not being used, you’ll be de-cluttering and saving it from the scrap heap.

7. Buying for someone who seems to have everything? Consider a charitable gift. Sites like FH Canada have fab selections of gifts that make a big difference in the lives of people in places across the globe. You can even buy that sibling who is always sending the poo emoticon a Piece of Crap!

What are your ideas for Christmas sustainability? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!