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Zero Waste Juice for Kids!

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This post has been updated as of 03/12/2024

I originally wrote this post at the beginning of my zero waste journey in 2017. Oh how much I have learned since then! I have learned that the term “zero waste” is a misnomer of hope…especially if you have children! The most important thing I have learned is that most zero wasters still produce waste.

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It’s inevitable in modern western societies and is becoming a big problem in developing nations. It’s almost impossible to live a completely waste-free existence unless you live a manner similar to the Amish. I suspect even they produce waste that cannot be composted. So my goal quickly shifted from being completely waste and plastic-free to becoming a low waste household, thereby lowering our overall waste–especially disposable plastic. This does not mean eliminating plastic or even disposable plastic completely. Non-disposable plastic is a versatile material. There are some products that just work better with plastic.

“Most zero wasters still produce waste.”

The zero waste movement also has a PR problem. It’s expensive to be a zero waster and it’s not relatable to the average working family. I have felt lost in the zero waste movement, not able to afford many aspects of the “lifestyle,” which defeats the point of this lifestyle. Which brings me back to what the movement IS actually about.

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Bea Johnson, zero waste guru and creator of the movement, reiterated the mantra of refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, and recycle. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. We should not have to purchase expensive products to live a zero waste lifestyle. So my goal is not necessarily to purchase everything in glass but to examine each choice I make with regard to transportation emissions, reuse, and sustainable materials.

The purpose of this post is to make zero waste more accessible through my own difficult journey. I’m a busy working mother of young children. So my refrigerator is usually stocked with milk and juice. You can see my zero waste milk discussion here. I’m sure some zero wasters stock their refrigerators with freshly squeezed juice but ain’t nobody got time for that and the amount of fresh fruit needed to juice is expensive. Sometimes the best option is not necessarily a paradigm shift, but a better alternative.

After eliminating the low hanging waste fruit such as paper towels, menstrual products, toothbrushes, straws, plastic bags, etc., it subsequently becomes more difficult. I would wager that food products are the most difficult aspect of zero waste. Most of our food comes wrapped in plastic…and more plastic. When you start to be cognizant of it, it’s upsetting how much plastic the average consumer uses.

“The zero waste mantra is refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, and recycle. That’s it.”

Before I became a zero waster, I purchased juice in disposable plastic containers by the boatload and pre-mixed drinks in large cartons with plastic tops. As an average consumer, I simply didn’t know another way. Up until as recently as 2018, I didn’t know of another way to purchase apple juice without disposable plastic. So listed below is everything I tried, so you don’t have to!

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Zero Waste Juice

Fruit Infusion Water Pitcher

Following the zero waste mantra of refuse first, I decided to refuse juice in disposable plastic containers. The best option I could come up with was cold fruit infusion, so I purchased a Prodyne Fruit Infusion Pitcher. If you enjoy fruit-infused water I would recommend this product, but unfortunately, it didn’t work for us. My littles didn’t like the fruit water and neither did my husband. The fruit would go bad in the infuser after a day or so, needing replacement. If you drink fruit infused water frequently and have the time to replace the fruit on a daily basis (and can afford the fresh fruit required) then this is the method for you.

<img decoding=async width=396 height=493 src="fruit-infusion-water-pitcher.jpg" alt="best zero waste fruit juice infuser pitcher">

Pre-Mixed Drinks

I love lemonade. So whenever I went to Costco I would pick up one of these cartons. If I made lemonade a few times a week this canister would last a few months. The bulk container is made of cardboard with a plastic top. Neither the container or the plastic top are recyclable in my municipality, so the packaging goes directly to the landfill. It’s 82.5 ounces (2.4 kg) and makes 34 quarts of lemonade. This converts to 8-1/2 gallons (32.2 liters). I originally nixed this option when I tried to go “natural” and purchase lemons instead, but I am coming back to this one. 8-1/2 gallons from one container is a good use of resources. 

Edit: We still currently use Country Time Lemonade but I am actively looking for a healthier option. In 2017, I was preoccupied with packaging. Now I’m more of a holistic zero waster or a conscious consumer, which means I look at the systems that create the product and the ingredients.

  • Who makes the product? Is the company ethical?
  • What are the ingredients in the product? How is the product made?
  • Lastly, I do look at the packaging. Can the packaging be reused, recycled, or composted?

Not only is Country Time a sugary drink, but it also contains artificial colors which can increase hyperactivity. Despite the label, Country Time lemonade has questionable food dyes that are banned in Europe, but still legal in the USA.

  • Yellow #5 (Tartrazine) is associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in sensitive individuals.
  • Yellow #6 (Sunset Yellow) is linked to hypersensitivity in some cases and has been flagged for further review by regulatory agencies. (Credit: Is It Bad For You). 
<img decoding=async width=201 height=368 src="country-time-lemonade-bulk.jpg" alt="best zero waste fruit juice mix lemonade">

Concentrate

Real lemon juice is my go to lemon juice concentrate. There are a few other options, but I found to prefer the ingredients in Real Lemon Juice, which doesn’t have the yellow food dyes that Country Time lemonade does. I mix 1 cup (236 ml) of Real Lemon Juice with 1 cup (236 ml) of sugar with 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water. I use the Rubbermaid gallon pitcher. It has a tangier taste than the Country Time lemonade mix but my kids seem to like it. I also use Cane Sugar or Sugar in the Raw versus plain white sugar, which is a healthier option.

Juicing

As I progressed in lessening my waste stream, I decided to try to make lemonade using real lemons instead. I used fresh lemons and sugar, all of which could be composted. And then reality set in. Making lemonade from fresh lemons sounds like a great idea, but lemons are a winter fruit. They flower in the Spring, grow in the summer, and are harvested in the winter in Zones 9, 10, and 11. Lemons are also highly susceptible to temperature fluctuations and drought. One-half gallon of lemonade requires 6 fresh lemons.

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<img loading=lazy decoding=async width=562 height=543 src="breville-compact-electric-juicer.jpg" alt="best zero waste fruit juicer compact quality">

I live in the southeastern US. The majority of lemons I purchase are likely from Florida, which makes transportation emissions minimal. If however, I purchase lemons out of season from Spain (the world’s largest lemon exporter), then the transportation emissions are significant. The emissions from purchasing fresh lemons from Spain would be higher than purchasing a carton of pre-mixed lemonade from Costco.

Then there is the juicing itself. I recently purchased the Breville Compact Electric Juicer. I love it! I made fresh apple juice and cider with no additives, just sweet delicious apples! If you want to enjoy the fall season with simmering hot apple cider or fresh apple juice, then I highly recommend this juicer. It’s wonderful and super easy to use.

RELATED POST: HOW TO MAKE A HOT TODDY.

My goal is not necessarily to purchase everything in glass, but to examine each choice I make with regard to transportation emissions, reuse, and sustainable materials.

As for making juice on a daily or weekly basis, I soon discovered that the “juice is not worth the squeeze” literally! One-half gallon (1.9 liters) of apple juice required about 3 lb (1.37 kg) of apples. This was not concentrated (and I even added additional water to get to the half gallon). Like lemons, apples are typically in season during the fall and winter. If I want fresh apples all year round I would have to purchase apples transported farther away, thereby increasing my emissions.

Juice in Glass

I looked for glass options for both lemonade and apple juice. I found apple juice packaged in glass, but it was expensive. I paid $2.50/half gallon of apple juice in plastic. Edit: The same container is currently priced $3.50/half gallon. The best-known brand packaged in glass is Martinelli’s is $5.22 for 50.7 ounces (less than a half-gallon). Edit: Needless to say, prices have skyrocketed since this 2017. The glass packaged Martinelli’s apple juice is now sold in 12 pack 10 ounce (295 ml) containers for a whopping $37 (34 euro). Martinelli’s also sells a 128 oz (3,785 ml) container in plastic for around $11 from Walmart (10 euro).

Glass packaging is not necessarily beneficial. It’s heavier. It’s heavier for me to transport and for the manufacturer, which means higher emissions. If the glass was returnable (which it isn’t), then these emissions would be offset. Instead, the glass is sent to recycling or to the landfill. If your municipality uses mixed use recycling, it’s less likely to properly recycle glass. Broken glass is recyclable, but broken glass often contaminates other recycling such as the easiest to recycle (PETE 1 and HDPE 2).

<img loading=lazy decoding=async width=348 height=396 src="Martinellis-gold-medal-100-pure-apple-juice-glass-bottle.jpg" alt="best zero waste apple juice glass bottle">

Juice in Plastic Bottles

If you do buy juice in plastic containers, be sure to buy the largest container you can find. The more product you can get in one package will reduce your overall packaging waste. It’s a similar method to what Bulk Stores do. The largest I’ve found is 1 gallon (3.785 liters) containers. Most juice comes in PETE #1 or HDPE #2 (highly recyclable) plastic jugs. SO THAT’S A PLUS, but examine the ingredients closely. I’m not sure how healthy Mott’s Apple Juice is or what type of preservatives are in it.

Frozen Concentrate

After some hair pulling, I tried concentrate in spiral cardboard packaging, aluminum, or plastic. Most of the spiral cardboard packaging (other than the aluminum ends) is not recyclable and the ingredients have the same food dyes and additives that the other options do. Carving out refrigerator and freezer space is another negative. I believe one of these cartons creates two servings (of 1 gallon pitchers).

<img loading=lazy decoding=async width=459 height=277 src="grape-juice-concentrate.jpg" alt="best zero waste juice concentrate">

Conclusion

I now purchase concentrated lemon juice. The lemon juice concentrate comes in a bulk plastic container (also from Costco). The Costco brand contains 48 ounces or 6 cups. Here’s my quick recipe for my 1 gallon (3.785 liters) container:

I use 1 cup per half-gallon, so 1 lemon juice concentrate makes 6 half gallons of lemonade.

  • 2 cups (473 ml) of lemon juice concentrate
  • 1 gallon (3.785 liters) of filtered water
  • 1-1/2 cups (354 ml) of cane sugar
  • 1 slice of lemon!

I also purchase other types of juice in concentrate, such as apple, orange, cranberry, pineapple, grape, and blueberry. The concentrate comes in 11.5-ounce containers and makes 48 ounces of juice (a little less than a half-gallon). It’s funny because this is how my mother and grandmother made juice in the old days, before the disposable plastic revolution. Prior to this, I was purchasing 6 half-gallon juice containers. Now I purchase one 48 ounce lemon concentrate container. The difference is a 1 to 6 ratio. A LOT LESS PLASTIC.

<img loading=lazy decoding=async width=640 height=480 src="IMG_2352.jpg" alt="lemon juice concentrate less plastic zero waste">

The frozen concentrate in in what’s called spiral cardboard packaging, similar to biscuit dough packaging. The metal ends should be recyclable if they don’t contain plastic. Discard the cardboard portion (which is typically lined with plastic). If the tops are plastic, cut the tops off and dispose of in trash. I also purchase concentrate in an aluminum can, which are easily recyclable. 70% of aluminum cans are from recycled materials.

P.S. This type of packaging was invented in the 1930s by attorney, Lorber Charles. I believe the appropriate description is “spiral wound cardboard cylinder center with plastic or metal on the top and bottom.”

Side note: If you’re wondering why I have old apple juice containers filled with water, it’s because I use old plastic bottles for emergency water storage.

“The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” Psalm 118:24


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on my favorite zero waste juice options for kids! If you have any ideas or suggestions, please share with me in the comments or on Instagram






#zerowasteliving, #plasticfree, #juice, #ecofriendly

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