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the hike inn: an environmentalist’s dream vacation

hike inn

This past Christmas, my mom gifted me a two night stay at the Hike Inn. Last week, I finally had the opportunity to use my gift, and I want to tell you all about my stay at the Len Foote Hike Inn, a back country lodge located in the Amicalola Falls State Park. The Inn is just a short hike away from the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. However, I mostly want to talk about how driven this place is towards sustainability and nature conservation. It really was an environmentalist’s dream vacation 🙂

Eco Conscious Architecture

You have to hike just under 5 miles to get to the Hike Inn. It’s hidden away in the woods of the Amicalola Falls State Park, and it really blends right into the trees. I took the facility tour (twice! – I know nerd alert!), and it was really interesting to learn about how the Inn was constructed so deliberately to coexist with the surrounding nature.

The whole building’s structure is on stilts to minimize its environmental impact and allow the natural flow of water on the mountain. I also learned that rather than sizing building materials to fit the design of the Inn, the Inn was designed around the sizes of building materials to minimize wasted material from cutting to fit materials. The ceilings and windows are high to allow optimal natural light. Also, the windows are positioned to assist natural air flow through the building and because of this, air conditioning is not needed.

Energy at the Hike Inn

There are solar water heating panels on the roof of the bath house and also at their laundry facility to help save energy. The Inn also has photo voltaic solar panels on the game room building. They are striving for these panels to generate 75% of the electricity consumption of the building in the near future!

Composting

My favorite part of the facility tour was checking out their composting systems. They vermicompost all their raw veggie and fruit scraps, egg shells, coffee grinds, and shredded office paper waste. It was really cool to see the red wrigglers at work. They eat about half of their body weight in garbage per day. The worm castings (basically worm poop…) are harvested twice per year and then used as fertilizer for the garden.

vermicompost
Vermicomposting!
vermicompost
Worms in Action!

Guess what else they do at the Hike Inn?? They compost human waste with a composting toilet system! This was absolutely fascinating to me. The toilets look pretty much like conventional toilets, but there’s no water flushing system. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that composting toilets do not stink, believe it or not. All of the waste from the toilets gets sent down to this big container in the basement, and it takes nearly 5 years for the container to be completely filled. When it’s time to empty the system, the waste is spread out to bake in the sun and sterilized to become “humanure” which can then be used as fertilizer for plants.

composting toilet
Composting Toilet
humanure
Sebastian inspecting the humanure… human waste composting system in the background.

There’s a third composting system at the Hike Inn as well, the Earth Cube. This system is used to break down everything else like meat, cheese, oil, etc.

Earth Cube
Earth Cube

Zero Food Waste

My zero waste friends will be excited to hear that the Hike Inn strives for zero food waste in their cafeteria. All meals at the Inn are served family style with reusable plates, cups, cloth napkins, and silverware (no disposables). Guests are encouraged to eat as much as they’d like, but to eat everything they put on their plate. The clean plate club is no joke at the Hike Inn! Each night they scrape the cafeteria food scraps into a bowl and weigh it. Their goal is no more than 1 ounce of food waste per 10 people.

Also, when you go to the cafeteria for the first time, you are given a mug and cup that will be used solely by you during your stay at the Hike Inn. You put a name label on your cup and rather than washing cups over and over every meal, this cup and mug is yours for the stay!

hike inn
Everyone reuses their own cups

Landscape & Garden

The Hike Inn is surrounded by all native plants. A lot of the plants have labels so it’s nice to walk the property and learn their names. They also have a special bat garden where they’ve planted night blooming flowers, provided a water source, and installed a bat house. Bats are important to the ecosystem so they’ve provided an inviting backyard for these animals. There’s also a small employee garden that was filled with gorgeous kale during my visit.

garden
Employee garden, check out that kale!

I had an altogether wonderful experience at the Len Foote Hike Inn last week. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions for me or if you just want to rave about the Hike Inn too! 🙂 And if you’re based in Georgia, do yourself a solid and book a night’s stay at the Inn!

 

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go vegan for the environment

Go Vegan

Go Vegan for the Environment

Transitioning to a vegan diet is definitely a tough decision to make, but it has a lot of advantages that are worth considering. Choosing to eat a plant based diet can make your body healthier, your waistline smaller, your pocket fuller and the earth safer.

People who have made the switch to a meatless diet are not only benefiting personally, they are also taking part in saving the planet. I am well aware of the very real repercussions of climate change. But for those of you who are new to the concept, infrared radiation from the sun normally bounces off the Earth and exits the atmosphere. However, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere prevents them from going out thereby trapping in the heat they bring. Experts refer to it as the greenhouse effect which is the main contributor to climate change.

A lot of factors supply the increased and rapid accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere. For this reason, experts are calling on the public to make an effort to reduce these gases.

How Going Vegan Helps Reduce Greenhouse Gases

The burning of fossil fuel to produce electricity and heat remains the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, animal agriculture is still a very significant contributor to pollutant emissions. And just as importantly, it’s a factor that we can easily influence by reducing meat consumption.

Meat production contributes to the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in two ways: deforestation and emissions of pollutant gases from animal manure.

Deforestation

The increasing demand for meat urges livestock owners to expand their pasture land and additional land for growing feed crops. Trees play an important role in converting carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen through photosynthesis. A lesser number of trees through deforestation means a lesser number of natural carbon dioxide converters. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, or UNFAO, livestock agriculture is responsible for 9 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

Animal Manure

Manure from ruminant livestock, such as cattle, emits methane. It is a type of greenhouse gas which is 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Ruminant animals have a unique digestive system compared to other animals which may be the reason why their manure releases methane.  Findings of the UNFAO showed that livestock agriculture is responsible for 37 percent methane emissions.

Furthermore, the same records from the UNFAO showed that raising cattle creates a bigger problem than raising other livestock, such as poultry and pigs. This is mainly because beef production requires more land, water, and fertilizer than producing poultry meat and pork.

Choosing Plants Over Meat

UNFAO also pointed out that eating plant foods can help lower greenhouse gas emissions. For example, producing a pound of vegetables creates roughly about three to five times lower gas emissions than producing a pound of meat. The explanation behind this is simple. It is more efficient to grow crops and eat them directly than to grow crops, feed it to animals to make them grow, and then eat them.

Greenhouse gas emissions from meat production may not be as problematic as emissions from fuel combustion used to generate electricity and heat. However, taking part in such a great cause should not be underestimated. Choosing to help save the environment by going meatless is a win-win, because it also makes your body healthier!

Tips for Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

  • Slow changes are good changes

Your gut needs time to adjust to the changes in your diet. Don’t expect to go from a meat eater to a plant eater in just one day. A slow transition is a good transition. Diets focused on plant foods are usually higher in dietary fiber which can have unpleasant effects on your digestion. This is especially true if your meat eating gut is not used to it. Start by going meatless one meal a day the first two weeks then gradually pick up the pace as you go. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water to aid digestion.

  • Consume a variety of plant foods.

One of the pitfalls of switching to a vegan diet is not eating the right foods that meet your body’s nutrition needs. You are not going to bring positive changes to your health if this is the case. Protein, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 are key nutrients you should be sure to focus on. These nutrients generally found in meat are slightly harder to come by in plant based foods.

What are your favorite vegan recipes? Have you tried eating more meatless meals to help the environment and improve your health?? 

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zero waste deodorant

zero waste deodorant

For the past several years, I’ve been hunting for a good, natural deodorant option that actually works. Perhaps my pits are just extra smelly, but I’ve really struggled with finding one that’s effective. My hunt for a natural deodorant started long before my hunt for a zero waste deodorant. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to find a both natural and plastic free deodorant a few months ago. But we will get to that later. So let’s talk about why I decided to switch to a natural deodorant first!

Why Go Natural?? 

There’s been much debate in the past few years over the safety of standard deodorants. And to be honest, there still isn’t a clear answer as to whether or not standard deodorants are dangerous or not. Recently, many researchers are discussing the theory of breast cancer being caused in part by the use of deodorant with the ingredient aluminum. Doctors have stated that most cancerous tumors are found in the upper fatty tissue quadrant for those with breast cancer, and this location generally comes in quite a lot of contact with deodorant and antiperspirant products.

It’s a correlation but not necessarily cause and effect. Much more research and studies need to be done to make a clearer conclusion about the effects of deodorant. However, until then, I’d rather be certain to keep my body safe from harmful chemical so I believe it’s best to find a natural deodorant that works for your body. In my opinion, the smaller the amount of chemicals in your body, the better!

Which Natural Deodorant Is Right For Me? 

From experience, I can tell you that the best way to find a natural deodorant you like, is to try several different kinds. I tried a few natural but not zero waste deodorants in the past and didn’t like them because they weren’t strong enough for my pits. I would be quite smelly by the end of the day, not cool! I’ve also tried some others, and they’ve made my skin burn probably due to a skin allergy. Do some research on your own and purchase a few different kinds to find your best fit! Everyone’s body is different and you might find a deodorant that is compatible with your skin but might not be a great pick for someone else.

BUT let’s talk about my favorite zero waste and natural deodorant, that we just recently started carrying in the shop. At the beginning of the year, I ordered myself a jar of the Elevated Pits Natural Deodorant. I wanted to try it out myself before sharing it with you guys in the shop. Like I’ve stated before, I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to natural deodorants so I wanted to make sure it was something super great before carrying it in the Tiny Yellow Bungalow shop. This deodorant is the bee’s knees. It comes in a glass jar (yay zero waste) that you can reuse infinitely or recycle. It’s made in the USA, vegan, and MOST importantly in my book, it works!! This deodorant has been able to withstand my stinkiest of days (knock on wood).

DIY Deodorant 

If you’re feeling really spunky, you can try making a natural, zero waste deodorant on your own at home. I know lots of zero waste bloggers that have experimented with DIY deodorant recipes. Nadine from The Zero Journey uses 1/4 cup each of coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch or arrowroot powder. She also adds lavender oil for a little scent and says it’s a really great, effective DIY recipe! You can read more about her zero waste bathroom routine here. Also, My friend Eva over at Kind Planet has a zero waste deodorant recipe on her blog, you can find it here. Another option is to just do a quick Google search. There are lots of recipes for homemade deodorant online! They generally have coconut oil as the base due to its antimicrobial qualities. DIY deodorant is a great option if you have a tighter budget. Let me know if you do some deodorant experimenting, would love to hear what works best for you!

 Have a wonderful chemical-free day guys! 

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minimalism by choice

minimalism

Once a person has lived through being a war refugee, they will tell you that they had all of their belongings in one bag, agile and ready to mobilize at any moment. Think of it as a go-bag. I know this because I was that person, and I’ve now come full circle to living and sharing my journey and lessons learned of minimalism and a zero-waste lifestyle, but this time it is my choice. The emphasis here is on “practicing” because it’s a journey, and for each step I’m taking, I’m improving my version of agility, but the work of fine tuning minimalism doesn’t stop, it’s a continuous process of mindfulness, as life ebbs and flows.

Hello, I am Chi.

Hello, I am Chi. If you met me now, you would never know that I once fled Vietnam to avoid political persecution when the North Vietnamese Communists won the decades long civil conflict. I’m in mainstream America now. I have raised two successful Millennials, married my high school sweetheart, and feel like I’ve achieved the American Dream. I’ve always thought that I was somewhat a minimalist and not a wasteful person, to American standards. However, I have discovered the unsettling truth when I left my “other” career to publish my refugee story.

Kick the Clutter for Focus, Sanity, & Serenity

Step 1: Purging from Years of Collecting

My first few weeks of being a full-time and full-fledged author, I sat down to edit years of writings and couldn’t concentrate. I was surrounded with such an obscene excess from years of raising two kids, being married for thirty two years, and pursuing the American dreams that my household gradually and slowly indeed stored more stuff than I can comfortably admit, most of which is no longer needed. I stopped writing and started sorting, purging, and repeated the process from one room to another. It’s a process I’ve always used, but now I do it with hyper vigilance.

I will readily admit that like everyone else, I was busy working full-time with competing priorities that left me too tired to maintain some semblance of minimalism.  I had become complacent and let things go and they eventually got out of control. From this admission, I declared to my family that I’m now on my renewed journey of minimalism, and made a point of not asking them to join or preach about it (by this point, there’s only my husband and I living at home). Besides purging my household and donating it to my favorite charity, the Disabled American Veterans, I have subconsciously been undergoing a zero clothes purchase hiatus for seven months now.

Step 2: Mindfulness & Deliberate Consumerism

Once I mindfully practiced minimalism, I reclaimed my sanity and have serenity in my home office environment. Now, I can comfortably focus on writing. Instead of taking a writing break to work on severe purging of my home, I began to share my journey and lessons learned with others on my author’s page while working on my book.  It became my new found passion to share and discuss minimalism, not only it’s therapeutic personally, but it’s rewarding to have a community with whom my thoughts and experience resonate as I made this lifestyle change.

It’s not only about purging physical goods, but about a mindset change of deliberate consumerism, of only purchasing well-made and functional items that we love to have in our homes, where every piece has a purpose, instead of acquiring the latest gadget, or mindless consumption, which sets us back from achieving our financial goals and freedom, in order to pursue our life’s dreams and purpose.

Step 3: Repeat!

The next phase in my minimalism journey can be compared to peeling an onion. I started with the first pass in one room. I got rid of the obvious excess, followed by the second pass in the same room weeks later, and more get added to the donation bags. Each subsequent pass, more of what I previously held on now became extraneous and donated.

Minimalism Came First, Then Zero Waste

Five months into minimalism, I’m now compelled to live even a leaner existence, minimizing what I send to the landfill that couldn’t be composted or recycled.  I declared to my family that I started my new zero-waste and zero-plastic lifestyle, which proved to be extremely difficult to do, especially with our legacy household inventory. The pet food bags are not recyclable. Their poop bags currently aren’t. The thermal store receipts aren’t, as well as other “green” products shipped to our house with non-recyclable packing materials.

I kept track of the items I couldn’t recycle or compost. Not shockingly, a lot goes to the landfill, even though I’m quite conscientious about it, mostly because of the said “legacy” purchased household items. Most products are packaged in plastic containers like clothes and dish detergents, yogurt containers, etc. Albeit, some are recyclable as post consumer product materials. Read more about my lessons learned from my first 15 days of zero waste here.

My Simple Zero Waste Switches

  • Plastic Tupperware >> Mason Jars & Stainless Steel Containers – Plastic containers leach harmful BPA into food and water.
  • Plastic Toothbrushes >> Bamboo Toothbrushes – This is a greener, compostable, farm produced alternative.
  • Say No to Plastic Straws When Eating Out
  • Carry a Stainless Steel Water Canteen
  • Carry a Stainless Steel Food Container When Eating Out for Leftovers
  • Use Cloth Napkins and Kitchen Towels instead of Disposables
  • DIY Skincare & Household Cleaners
  • Bringing Mason Jars & Cloth Bags for Grocery Shopping & Farmer’s Market Visits
  • Husband Maintains Garden, Hunts, Fishes, Cures & Pickles
  • Conscious and Deliberate Purchase of Selected Natural Fibers Clothing

Freedom in Minimalism

Even though I don’t wish to be live the austere, monk like lifestyle, I embrace the freedom of the one bag, go anywhere, at anytime ready state, and not be holden to material goods. Now, I can. I do what I love, writing about my refugee experience and minimalism, my lessons learned, and its benefits to me thus far.

I’m doing this because I love how it makes me feel. It has nothing to do with how anyone lives their lives. I started this journey to reclaim my sanity and serenity, not making a statement or a protest; I’m not making an apology for it. I most definitely not judging those who do not share my point of view and lifestyle. I’m happy, content, feeling sane and finding serenity. This is enough and sufficient for me, and I hope that my experience resonates with you. I wish you well in your life’s journey and that you will also find peace and happiness.

minimalism

Bio: Hoàng Chi Trương is the author of TigerFish, a memoir of coming of age in America as a Vietnamese refugee (The book will be available March 30, 2017).  Prior to writing, she served as the GIS Chief to the California Office of Emergency Services from 2013 to 2016.  Her current mission is to advocate and bring awareness to the issues of refugees in America. Learn more about her writing at www.chibeingchi.com

Also, please check out HoĂ ng Chi’s latest article for Huffington Post on What it Means to Be a Refuge!

Connect with Hoàng Chi and her community at these Social Media platforms:

Twitter: @chibeingchi

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/chismith/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hoangchitruong.author/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/beingchi (Author Page)

Facebook Group for Minimalist + EcoConscious Living:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MinimalistMe/

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homemade natural mouthwash recipe

Homemade Natural Mouthwash Recipe

homemade natural mouthwash recipe

So I found this gorgeous decanter at an antique shop a couple of weeks ago. My mom had this great idea to fill it with mouthwash and store it in the bathroom. I’ve spent the weekend experimenting with various homemade mouthwash recipes to find one that I really liked.

Why did I choose to make homemade mouthwash rather than purchasing store bought? Well, I’m trying my best to reduce waste in my home, and I figured the plastic mouthwash bottle is one less thing we could keep around the house. The second, more important reason is because I’m trying to avoid the chemicals (Sodium Benzoate, Triclosan, SLS, Alcohol) often found in conventional store bought mouthwashes. I prefer to be able to pronounce all the ingredients in my household products, especially those going into my mouth! Another benefit of homemade mouthwash is that it’s dirt cheap to make.

Be sure to also check out our zero waste tooth paste and tooth powder, that go together so nicely with homemade mouthwash!

homemade natural mouthwash recipe
Peppermint Oil, Homemade ACV, & Hydrogen Peroxide

Mouthwash Recipe Experiments

Baking Soda Mouthwash: 1 cup distilled/purified water, 1 tsp baking soda, two drops of peppermint essential oil. The baking soda will eventually settle so you’ll need to shake it up a little before use.

Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash: 1 part hydrogen peroxide, 1 part distilled/purified water, and two drops of peppermint essential oil.

Apple Cider Vinegar Mouthwash: 1 cup distilled/purified water, 2 Tbsp. homemade ACV.

And The Winner Is!

I chose the baking soda mouthwash to keep stored in my bathroom for regular use. I loved the saltiness of the baking soda mixed with the freshness of the peppermint oil. It also is the one of the three that is most similar in taste to conventional mouthwash. I also liked the ACV recipe, because it had a really mild flavor. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the aftertaste of the ACV mouthwash. I didn’t dig the hydrogen peroxide mouthwash, but everybody’s taste buds are different so might be worth a try for you!

homemade natural mouthwash recipe

Have you experimented with homemade mouthwash recipes?! If so, what’s your favorite??