Co-op Owner Waste Reduction Tips

Co-op Owner and Shopper Tips for Plastic Free July!

The availability of bulk products at the Coop determines how well I am able to keep plastics to a minimum. Before the covid-19 restrictions, I brought jars, metal bowls with lids, and homemade fabric bags to get all of my herbs, spices, vinegar, beans, grains, oats, flours, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, tofu, produce (including salad greens and mushrooms), dish soap, shampoo, and more. As I patiently await the return of these items, there are a number of things I can still do in my effort to keep my plastic consumption down.

Many people may think it is time-consuming and even daunting to say no to plastic, but its really just like any habit change – a little challenging at first, but quick and easy once you get some experience.

  • Buy in glass: milk, ketchup, mustard, salsa, yogurt, olives, herbs, and spices, etc. This may mean branching out from favorite brands.
  • Purchase nut/oat milks in cartons, not plastic or tetrapaks. The empty cartons can go in the city compost (remove plastic spout first), and are good containers for messy or smelly compost items, possibly stored in your freezer until garbage day.
  • Make your own iced tea.
  • If you drink seltzer water, consider investing in a Soda Stream.
  • Make your own yogurt – easy and kind of magical
  • Put those fruits and vegetables loose right in your cart. The clerks at the Coop are very respectful of your produce, and you’re going to wash it before eating anyway.
  • If you must put produce in a bag (beans, mushrooms, etc.) use a paper or waxed bag. If the bag is not in good enough shape to reuse afterward, you can put it in your compost bin.
  • Store leftovers in jars. A couple of corn cobs fit well in a half-gallon mason jar, which can be stored on its side in the refrigerator.
  • Use bar soap, unwrapped, or wrapped in paper that you can recycle or compost.
  • Consider toothpaste sold in aluminum tubes.
  • Get dish and laundry detergents in cardboard boxes that can be recycled.
  • To treat stains on clothing, consider a bar of Fels Naptha, or other stain treatment products available in bar form, packaged in paper.
  • If you didn’t bring your shopping bags, put everything back in the cart and unload it into your trunk, where hopefully you have your bags and can use those, but if not, tough it out and deal with all of the items when you get home. 
  • If you order take-out food from a restaurant, tell them you do not want utensils, napkins, packets of soy sauce, etc.
  • At the Farmer’s Market, bring your own bags and juggle the produce into it, you don’t need a plastic bag for that one minute from the scale into your bag. You can also bring your plastic clamshells to reuse.
  • Do you really need a plastic liner in your trash can? If you’re composting the wet food waste, probably not. Use the inevitable pouches so many foods come in to throw the occasional gross stuff out.

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Make and Maintain your Own Beeswax Wraps!

Beeswax wraps are a great way to eliminate or limit plastic use in the kitchen. They make great bowl covers and can even replace ziplock bags! We have some premade in our Kitchen section of the Co-op and at the end of this blog, you can learn how to refresh them and keep them usable!

Wash your wraps with cold water. Using soap and a sponge will cause them to deteriorate faster, so only use if necessary. Often times, rinsing your wrap is enough! Do not use hot water or a scrub brush, it will cause the wax to come off the cloth.

Materials:

  • Cotton fabric
  • Beeswax pellets or block
Use a cheese grater to turn a block into pellets

Three methods:

  1. Oven and Cookie sheet 
  2. Paintbrush and Pot or Crockpot
  3. Parchment Paper and Iron

Cut your fabric into various sizes; 6” X 6”, 8” X 8”, or any special sizes you may need, I have a special 12” X 16” wrap for my 9” X 13” pyrex dish.

Oven and Cookie Sheet method

  1. If you are using a block, use a cheese grater or knife to finely chop
  2. Preheat oven to 300F
  3. Place a wrap or two, however many will fit without touching on your sheet and sprinkle some of the beeswax pellets on top. (see photo)
  4. Place in the oven for 30-50 seconds, until the pellets have all melted then remove from the oven. 
  5. Do not let the wraps cool on the pan. Carefully pick them up by the corners and place on a cooling rack (cookie cooking rack or collapsable clothes rack workes well).
  6. Once cooled (which only takes about a minute!) inspect to see if you added enough wax. The wrap should be coated lightly on both sides, with no bare spots.
  7. I think it is helpful to crumple them in a ball a few times and flatten back out before first use. 
Sprinkle the cloth with pellets, the more your use the thicker the wax coating will be

Crumble in a ball after it has cooled the first time you use it.

Paint Brush and Pot method

Beeswax cools very quickly, this method does not work well in the winter! The wax cools too quickly on the brush. Do this method in a warm place.

  1. Place the pellets or block in a double boil pot set up or a crockpot. 
  2. Once melted, use a paintbrush to lightly coat both sides of the wrap. 
  3. Once cooled (which only takes about a minute!) inspect to see if you added enough wax. The wrap should be coated lightly on both sides, with no bare spots.
  4. I think it is helpful to crumple them in a ball a few times and flatten back out before first use. 

Parchment Paper and Iron method

  1. If you are using a block, use a cheese grater or knife to finely chop
  2. Place a piece of fabric on a piece of parchment paper, sprinkle some pellets on top and then top with another piece of parchment. 
  3. Iron on low for 15-20 seconds or until all the pellets have melted.
  4. Let them cool for a few seconds then place on a cooling rack (cookie cooking rack or collapsable clothes rack workes well).
  5. Once cooled (which only takes about a minute!) inspect to see if you added enough wax. The wrap should be coated lightly on both sides, with no bare spots.
  6. I think it is helpful to crumple them in a ball a few times and flatten back out before first use. 

How to Keep your (handmade or store-bought) wraps coated and sticky!

After a while, your wrap will gradually become less stick and have less beeswax coating. You can simply recoat it! The oven or parchment paper and iron methods work the best for re-coating!

Written by Madison Suoja, Education and Outreach Specialist

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Types of Green Washing and How to Avoid being Green-washed

Types of Green Washing

Green by Association

A company slathers itself in environmental terms and images so that the product seems to have environmental benefits. Products will use neutral colors or images of greenery, but in no way trying to improve their product.

Lack of Definition

A product advertises an environmental claim that sounds good but is too vague or general. Look out for terms like “green” “environmentally-friendly” “sustainable” without any explanation or certifications clearly displayed.

A common lack of definition you will see is the “Please recycle” symbol with no number associated. Shelf-stable liquid cartons, juices boxes, tetra packs, etc. are not recyclable in Davis. These packages are made of paper, plastic, and foil that need to be separated(using a lot of water!) in order to recycle. The materials in the cartons are also not likely to be used in the same process, instead, it is “down-cycled”. The plastic can be made into benches or rigid plastic plates that are not able to be recycled again.

Huggies: Pure & Natural

This line of Huggies is covered with green leaves and neutral tones. These diapers are made with organic cotton, aloe, and are hypoallergenic. However, there are still disposable diapers made with plastics in the fabric. These are landfill items and in no way benefit the environment or even coexist with it.

Tetra Pak Launches New Packaging Material Effects to Help Brands ...
Lack of Definition and Outright Lying: They claim to be recyclable but are only recyclable in a few counties in the entire USA
These fall under Lack of Definition and Green by Association

Unproven Claims

When environmental claims are made but the company will not or refuses to back them up.

Forgetting the Life cycle

Choosing one aspect of the product’s environmental life cycle/profile while ignoring significant effects that are not environmentally friendly. Reusable products are great, but if they are made out of silicone, they are not recyclable in Davis and are difficult to recycle if your county accepts them! Think of what will happen to your item once it tears or breaks? Can it be fixed? Can it be recycled or composted? If not, then it is not a truly sustainable product. The packaging is a big one for this type of greenwashing! Is your sustainable product packaged in filmy plastics? Does the company truly rally for environmental responsibility if their “sustainable” product is packaged in landfill materials?

Arrowhead Water

These disposable water bottles are made with smaller caps, which means less plastic. This is not lying but is not “being green”. This is still a disposable water bottle and this is not going to get recycled in most counties in the USA and all over the world.

Bait and switch

When a company heavily advertises environmentally friendly attributes of one of their products while bulk manufacturing other products that are harmful to the environment.  

Tom’s is owned by Colgate

Although Tom’s of Maine brand is very transparent about ingredients, many of their products are not commonly recyclable. They have a program through TerraCycle, where you can send in your old tube and deodorant sticks. However, there currently is no available space in their program to start your own collection and this program is a financial barrier for many since you are required to mail in a large box and pay the postage. Colgate has no information on their website about their environmental efforts and it is estimated that 400 million toothpaste tubes are discarded every year in the United States alone. That is a lot of unnecessary landfill.

Burt’s Bees and Green Works are owned by Clorox Bleach

Similar to Tom’s, Burt’s Bees packaging is recyclable through TerraCycle which may be a financial barrier for some. The environmental effects of bleach are controversial, better to be safe than sorry! Choose a product you know is safe for your health and the environment.

Green Works is a tough one! The product is safe and ingredients are transparent. There is information on the product on how to successfully recycle. However, at the end of the day purchasing this product supports Clorox Bleach and is therefore still green-washed.

Rallying Behind a Lower Standard

When a product earns a third-party certification that validates them but the trade association has influenced the development of the relevant standards or actively lobbies against them. Avoid the Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade USA certifications, unless paired with other certifications. These certifications have gaps in their requirements that allow only one step in the process to be fair.

Outright Lying

Companies will bend the truth to sound better. For example, referring to palm oil as vegetable oil to avoid the unsustainable relationship.

Unfortunately, less than seven percent of the total production of palm oil is certified as sustainable, as most companies refuse or are unable to pay the cost associated with less-destructive farming practices. When purchasing an item that contains palm oil or palm tree derived ingredients be sure it has the Palm Done Right certification.

Questions to ask yourself and tips before purchasing a product

  • Don’t just assume something is truly natural because there’s a pretty sticker on the front label that claims so.
  • Ask questions! Be skeptical! Who owns this company? Is it a big corporation? Where do they source their ingredients? Are the ingredients hard to find?
  • Get familiar with companies, labels, and ingredients that you trust.
  • Support smaller, independent, or local brands as much as possible.

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Plastic Free July

We all know that we could do a little more for our planet every day. However, right now it feels harder than ever to avoid the use of single-use plastics. Because of the current concerns regarding the spread of Covid-19 many who would like to be more sustainable or were already in the habit of reaching for reusable materials can no longer do so as easily. In order to support ourselves and our community, it’s perfectly understandable to be buying plastic-packaged food, using single-use cups, or getting takeout from local restaurants. But if we all can pick just one area to reduce our consumption of plastic during this difficult time we can come out of this crisis with better habits and a cleaner planet. This is why we are inviting all in our community to participate in Plastic Free July and pledge to reduce their plastic waste. 

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July is a global movement that is meant to inspire people to do their part to reduce plastic waste. It encourages people to realize the role that they play in keeping their communities clean and the environment healthy. 

So instead of trying to make a permanent lifestyle change, you commit to avoiding single-use plastics just for the month. You don’t even need to quit using all plastic, committing to no longer using just plastic bags or straws is enough and maybe can even show you how easy it is to adjust to more sustainable habits. 

How do I get started?

 Permanently going Zero Waste can feel daunting for many of us, especially once you realize just how much waste each of us is generating every day. That’s why Plastic Free July is all about making small, sustainable changes to your daily routine. If you’re not even sure what you could change in your routine you can take the Pesky Plastics quiz to find out!

Until we can bring our own coffee cups to our favorite cafes or actually dine in at our favorite restaurants instead of eating out of plastic takeout containers, we just have to get a little creative in order to show our planet some love. This can mean finding a way to commute that lowers your carbon footprint trying out a plant-based diet or simply eating more home-cooked meals.

So instead of trying to make a permanent lifestyle change, you just commit to avoiding single-use plastics for the month of July. The little changes that we each make to our daily routines have the power to add up to big results.

Eat more consciously

One of the most challenging areas to avoid plastic waste is in the foods we buy, or rather, wrapped around the foods that we buy. Almost everything we eat seems to either be shrink-wrapped or capped with some sort of plastic material. You don’t need to stress about only buying things that are plastic-free going forward, this is especially hard right now because of COVID, but you can just choose one type of food that you normally buy and find a plastic-free version of it. For example, frozen fruit often comes in plastic bags but here at the co-op, we carry an organic brand that comes in paper.

Another type of food that it is especially hard to find without plastic is meat, but there’s an easy workaround for this. You can walk up to the meat counter at the co-op and ask the butcher to wrap your meat in paper. Or you could even take it a step further and consume a plant-based diet, which could allow you to forego a large amount of packaging altogether. Plastic Free July is all about making changes that you feel you can maintain going forward so it’s whatever works for you.

DIY

Many of the products that we use to clean our homes would be easy to make ourselves, which is better for our wallets and the landfills. We have a post about making your own disinfectants, and there is a natural solution for just about anything you can think of out there on the internet.

This tour is meant to highlight many of the common areas where shoppers encounter plastic and to suggest ways that you can avoid adding it to your basket! We hope that this helps some of you decide to take the pledge and go plastic-free this July.

Links with ideas:

https://trashisfortossers.com/plastic-free-july-during-a-pandemic/

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@mariacanfora asked if i could post ideas for someone who wants to start zero waste in a new home. these are the easiest switches we use the most. (PLEASE KEEP IN MIND I’VE BEEN COLLECTING ITEMS FOR OVER 5 YEARS – you don’t need as much as I own) •I have dads old work rags (about 12), but a cut up old towel or T-shirt work great! •newspaper to clean windows, mirrors, make trash bin liners •luffa gourd cut up into pieces for dish sponge, cleaning sponge, body sponge, soap dish •olive oil for cooking, taking off makeup, moisturizing, taking sticky labels off, buffing wood •block of soap (this was made by a friends grandmother) can be cut up to clean dishes, body, clothes, hands, even hair if your scalp isn’t sensitive •citrus vinegar cleaner (steps in older post) to clean almost everything in the house, get rust off metal lids, help unclog drains •reusable cloth tote (I’ve seen folks DIY from shirts) to serve as shopping, lunch, beach, going out bag (I have 3 use the most but own 7) •my favorite jars are ones I bought food in – salsa, jam, applesauce, olives, etc. – let lid and jar sit in the sun a couple days to get smell out after washing (I have too many jars to count) •utensils don’t have to be fancy cutlery, take what you have at home on the go (we own about 15 of each) •the best cloth napkins I have feel like bedsheets (you could diy) and were from the thrift store (we own about 15) and I use them on the go as well •i like bamboo reusable straws because they can be composted at the end of their life and are the cheapest option (we have 15 variety) •metal tiffins, if you need them, I have found cheaper at asian markets than online sellers (we own 3) •the produce bags pictured were free – grey bag was what my bedsheets at Marshall’s came in (organic cotton too!) and the other two fancy shoe bags were given to me by friends (we own ~15) 🌱of everything shown, my olive oil is the priciest. trying to be mindful of your waste should not be expensive or complicated. what are some cheap changes you made?

A post shared by Heidi Violet (@zerowastechica) on

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Composting Guide

Compost can be used as a fertilizer for your plants and garden with no risk of burning like with synthetic fertilizers. It also contains many beneficial microorganisms that keep away plant disease.

There are two types of home composting, Hot Composting and Cold Composting. Cold composting takes very little effort but will take much more time to produce compost. Hot composting requires more effort but will produce compost much quicker. Here is guide for the two:

Cold Composting

What you will need:
  • A large bin or hole in your yard
  • Worms (if you are digging a hole in your yard you wont need to buy many)
  • Dried yard trimmings (leaves, small pieces of wood)
  • Paper or egg cartons (and egg shells!)
  • A little healthy nutrient dense soil
  • Food Waste (can be added as you produce)

Food Waste:

Stick to leafy greens and produce with low acidity:

  • Banana peels
  • Chard, Kale, Cabbage, Lettuce, Spinach, etc
  • Carrots, beets, and other roots

Avoid high acidic produce:

  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks

Instructions:
  1. Prep your bin or dig your hole. 
  2. Add yard trimmings and paper to the bottom on the bin.
  3. Then add your nutrient dense soil and worms. 
  4. Add food scraps as you acquire them.
  5. Mix the compost pile whenever or never. 
  6. It will take 6 months to a year to get completed compost

Hot Composting

What you will need:
  • A large bin or hole in your yard
  • Worms
  • Dried yard trimmings (leaves, small pieces of wood)
  • Paper or egg cartons (and egg shells!)
  • A little healthy nutrient dense soil
  • Food Waste (can be added as you produce)
  • Water

Food Waste:

Stick to leafy greens and produce with low acidity:

  • Banana peels
  • Chard, Kale, Cabbage, Lettuce, Spinach, etc
  • Carrots, beets, and other roots

Avoid high acidic produce:

  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks

Your pile should maintain 1 part food waste and 2 parts dried yard trimmings. A healthy pile will 141F to 155F. This temperature will kill all weed seeds and disease pathogens.

Instructions:
  1. Prep your bin or dig your hole. 
  2. Add yard trimmings and paper to the bottom on the bin.
  3. Then add your nutrient dense soil and worms. 
  4. Add food scraps as you acquire them.
  5. Mix the compost pile 2-4 times a week. Check the temperature during each mix.
  6. It should stay damp, add water if needed.  
  7. It will take at least a few weeks to make compost.
  8. Use it in your garden and mix it in with soil when repotting indoor plants!

Written By Madison Suoja, Education and Outreach Specialist

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Staff Fair Trade Picks

Throughout the month of May, we celebrate Fair Trade products and the partnerships that produce them. In-store we will have signage for our staff’s favorite Fair Trade Certified items, and we will update this list throughout May with any new favorites that we find!

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is both a philosophy and a business model. It keeps small farmers and artisans an active part of the marketplace by fairly compensating them for their work, and through various labeling systems allows consumers to shop in a way that aligns with their values.

It also:

Raises the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans

Equitably distributes the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods

Supports democratically owned and controlled organizations

Promotes labor rights and the right of workers to organize

Promotes safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions

“Matr Boomie makes such cute accessories that you can feel good about buying because you know that you are supporting a good cause. They pay the artisans that they work with very well and reinvest a portion of the profits back into their communities.”

Karla, Wellness and General Merchandise Manager

“I love the rich flavor of this tea, it has notes of bergamot just like a proper earl grey should!”

Derlina, Front-end Supervisor

“Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil is an amazing product because of how versatile it is! I use it in baking, to make my own toothpaste, and as a lotion during Spring and Summer to help keep mosquitoes away!⁠”

Madison, Education and Outreach Coordinator

“Divine uses only Fair Trade Certified chocolate from farms owned by their farmers, so you can feel good about indulging in these bars. The white chocolate strawberry and milk chocolate toffee are my favorites.”

Matt, Bulk Department

 

“Coffee is what keeps me going and I love that I can support the farmers that produce it by buying from conscious companies such as Equal Exchange and Pachamama.”

Rocio, Operations and Facilities Manager

“A high-quality olive oil is great for entertaining or using in special meals, I like this one for its flavors of almond and spices. La Riojana is an Argentinian farmer-owned co-op that is the biggest exporter of Fair Trade wine in the world.”

Roberto, Front-end Supervisor

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Staff Sustainability Picks

In celebration of Earth day we thought we would share some of our staff sustainability picks with you!

Ryan from our Deli department loves our selection of glass jars! They’re a great storage option that look pleasing in your pantry and help you buy in bulk. These jars in particular have a vacuum seal that keeps out bacteria.

Rheanna from our Produce team loves using beeswax wraps instead of traditional cling film. Beeswax wraps are washable and are a great way to keep foods fresh and covered. They’re also a great choice for carrying snacks! We carry a variety of wraps with eye catching prints in our store.

Madison from our Marketing team is a big fan of this Booda Butter deodorant that comes in a glass jar. This deodorant is made with pure, organic ingredients and the sustainable packaging that it comes in makes it a part of your self-care routine that you can feel great about!

Aster from our Deli team is a fan of the Stasher bags that we carry. These bags aren’t only great for storage but a perfect choice for marinades and sous vide cooking as well!

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Zero-waste Home Cleaning Tips

There are many things that we could all do in our homes to be a little more environmentally friendly. Ditching products that come in single-use plastic or contain harmful chemicals is a great first step. A total rehaul of your cleaning supplies and routine is not only overwhelming but unnecessary. After all, it would be wasteful to throw out functional cleaning supplies only to replace them with better versions. This guide is meant to help those who are interested in transitioning to more natural products and less wasteful solutions for taking care of their homes. We hope that you find some of these tips helpful!

There are a lot of simple swaps that many of us can make:

  • Use what you have. It can be very tempting to buy new eco-friendly cleaning products. But if what you currently have is still functional, we urge you to use it until it no longer works in order to stem waste.
  • Avoid single-use materials. Instead of buying paper towels, use reusable cleaning cloths. You might not even need to buy cloths as you likely have old clothes or towels lying around that you can cut up and use as rags instead of throwing out. 
  • Repurpose whatever you can think of. Instead of tossing out an old toothbrush, keep it for cleaning nooks and crannies. 

Conventional cleaning products can contain a myriad of ingredients that are irritating to the skin, eyes, and throat. Unfortunately right now, irritating products such as bleach are the most reliable at keeping you safe from bacteria that can get you sick. It is important to be adequately sanitizing surfaces that things from outside your home have come in contact with to prevent the spread of disease. But for everyday cleaning in many parts of your home using such strong products is unnecessary. Gentler solutions are suitable for areas where there isn’t a  concern about outside contaminants.

Below we have outlined two cleaning products that are two simple to assemble yourself and will hopefully bring extra joy to your cleaning routine!

Simple All-purpose Cleaning Spray

We promise that this cleaning spray will have you saying goodbye to the mists that you usually purchase to clean surfaces in your home. This recipe will keep your surfaces clear of toxic compounds and save you the guilt of buying single-use plastics. 

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • The essential oil of your choice(optional- we love using lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus)
  • Spray bottle(preferably glass, but if you have an empty plastic one lying around you can repurpose it for this spray)

Assembly:

  1. Fill a spray bottle halfway with water
  2. Fill the remaining half of the bottle with distilled white vinegar
  3. Add in about 20 drops of essential oil of your choice to give the solution a pleasing scent
  4. Shake well to combine ingredients

Instructions on how to use:

  • Shake and spray on any surface of your choice!(You do not want to use this on granite or marble as vinegar can damage these surfaces)

Toilet Cleaning Fizzers

Unlike conventional toilet bowl cleaners, these fizzy toilet bowl cleaners are made with non-toxic ingredients and easy for you to assemble yourself. While these little fizzers are doing their thing in the bowl they are releasing their active ingredients, which work to neutralize odors, disinfect, and remove stains. 

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid 
  • 25 drops essential oil of your choice(we love using lemon, orange, or eucalyptus)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 orange or lemon zested (optional- will make these look more appealing and won’t clog your toilet*)
  • You will need a silicone mold of some sort to press the mixture into to give these fizzers shape

*It’s a good idea to always zest fruit before juicing it even if you don’t need a zest for the recipe you are following. If you save zest in the freezer then you will always have it on hand when you do need it and you will waste fewer parts of the fruit!

Assembly:

  1. Combine citric acid, baking soda and orange/lemon zest in a large bowl, mixing them well.
  2. Add the oil you have chosen to the dry ingredients. Stir well to combine, adding more if you’d like a stronger scent.
  3. Add water a little bit at a time, mixing with your fingers until it holds together when squeezed but isn’t soaked. You want it to be just damp. Don’t add the water all at once, this will cause your mixture to fizz right away and make a mess. 
  4. Press the mixture into the mold of your choice firmly*. Make sure to press out all the air and compact it together nicely. It might bubble up a bit – if this is the case, consider adding it back to the bowl and putting in more dry ingredients. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water to it.
  5. Place your mold into the freezer and let the toilet fizzers harden, this part only takes about two hours but you can leave them longer if you want to be sure that they’ve set. Store them in an airtight container such as a mason jar.

*If you do not have, or do not want to use, a mold you can keep this mixture as a powder in an airtight container and use it that way. 

Instructions on how to use:

  • Drop a fizzer into your toilet bowl and let sit for five minutes. Once enough time has passed scrub and flush the bowl. 

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