Sustainable Lifestyle Changes That Have Not Worked Out For Me

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Today I want to talk about sustainable lifestyle changes I tried that just didn’t/don’t not work for me.

The reason I want to shine a light on this is that many people new to sustainable living feel a need to be perfect. We compare ourselves to influencers who have been at the lifestyle for years and choose to show us only their best. This pressure makes changing your lifestyle less fun and most importantly makes the movement seem totally inaccessible.

People think if they don’t have bulk bins in their town or can’t find a natural deodorant that works for them that they’ve “failed” at green living. However, realistically we can’t all make every lifestyle swap. It’s much more important we get a lot of people doing some things than only a few people doing the lifestyle perfectly.

Especially with the COVID-19 situation, I feel this is a time we all need to need to practice compassion and loving ourselves. Particularly with green living, many common practices like using a reusable coffee cup or grocery bags have been prohibited. Not to mention the stress of the world situation itself making us all a bit less mindful, so I think it’s important to acknowledge that we all come up short sometimes and that’s OK. It’s more important to focus on what we CAN do, so for every sustainable lifestyle swap I’ve failed I’ll also share what I do instead.

Without further ado, and in the spirit of transparency and being forgiving to ourselves, I’d like to share some of the sustainable lifestyle changes I tried that just have not worked for me.

DIY Oral Care

The funny thing about my DIY toothpaste not working for me is that I actually loved it at first! It made my teeth whiter and my mouth actually felt cleaner than with conventional toothpaste. I thought it must be working because I didn’t have bad breath or visible plaque build up, however I was sorely disappointed when I went to the dentist. Turns out I’d gotten several cavities since switching, even though my mouth felt clean my DIY toothpaste didn’t have any anticavity protection. I did investigate buying xylitol or fluoride to add to my DIY, but it can only be purchased in industrial quantities I could never go through. I was so surprised because many people online reported using this type of toothpaste for years without any issues. I think one key difference is that many women I saw recommending this also ate very healthy diets low in sugar which I did not. Additionally, some people are naturally more prone to cavities due to the  chemical composition in their mouths and shape of their teeth. Instead, I now use toothpaste from Tom’s of Maine because it is a more environmentally conscious brand.

A Capsule Wardrobe

I found myself very swept up by the idea of a capsule wardrobe due to how popular it is online. However, everytime I stood in front of my wardrobe ready to take the plunge I really couldn’t find any items I never wore or wanted to part with. Sure, some items get worn more regularly but pretty much every item had its place in an outfit that would be worn at least once a month. Additionally, I love bold colors, prints, and patterns and with that sense of style it’s hard to cut down in a way that leaves a lot of cohesive outfits behind. Given that I liked and wore all my clothing and choosing outfits was fun, not stressful for me, there would be no environmental or personal benefit to cutting my closet down. Instead, I resolved to let the total number of items in my closet shrink over time as things wear out instead of more artificially cutting down to an arbitrary number of items that would be considered a capsule wardrobe. 

Buying Local Food

Buying local food regularly was something I really wanted to start doing. However, at least in my college town the farmer’s market was much more expensive than even organic groceries at the nicest supermarket we had. For a few weeks, I tried to buy all my produce from the farmer’s market, it started out OK because I had a small backlog of other foods in my pantry that I hadn’t been eating. However, after this initial period when I needed to replace the staples I couldn’t really afford to do that and buy farmer’s market produce. Instead, I made an effort to go the farmer’s market a bit more and buy one or two things any week I had a little extra cash. I also tried to get my fast food fix from local restaurants instead of the chains in town and also started buying things like locally made coffee or hot sauce as gifts. My experiment still significantly increased how much I buy food locally, however with my means it just wasn’t financially feasible to do all the time. I’ve seen some research saying farmer’s market produce is cheaper on average nationally, however that just wasn’t the case in my town. If you’re in a similar situation, don’t beat yourself up about not being able to afford a sustainable option.

Coconut Oil as Face Moisturizer

Like the toothpaste, this swap did work for me for a little while. However, even right at the start of this swap I did notice my skin being a slight bit redder and less even, honestly I’m not much a beauty person so this didn’t bother me much. I started doing this in the winter when people’s skin tends to be much dryer, however once I hit the summer months and my skin was regularly oily and sweaty it didn’t work so well. Instead I ended up switching to the light touch solid moisturizer bar from lush and I’ve repurchased it several times since. While many zero wasters online seem to have success with using pure oils on their skin it doesn’t work for everyone, myself included.

Coconut Oil as Conditioner

Alright, this is almost identical to the last one except it was horrible immediately. Once I got the coconut oil on my hair it was near impossible to wash out, I shampooed my hair 3-4 times after putting the coconut oil in and it STILL did not come out. In the end, it was about four days before I could really get it all off my hair. I doubled checked the instructions on the blog post I had read about this technique to see if I accidentally used too much but my measurements were correct. I still tried using less oil and applying it slightly differently however once again it was just very difficult to get out and didn’t really make my hair much softer. Instead, I’ve switched to a zero waste conditioner bar from Ethique and I love it.

Buying ONLY Secondhand or Sustainable Fashion

This was one of the goals I set quite early in my sustainable living journey. And I will say since I’ve started living greener at least 70% of my wardrobe is purchased second hand. However when it comes to specialty items like professional wear and swimsuits I’ve found it near impossible to find anything I like in my size in the second hand market. Often the only dress slacks I can find are so outdated as to be completely unprofessional, and second hand swimsuits are rarely in good condition. While I can’t always afford a sustainable brand, I can usually afford a more mid-ranged price piece of clothing that will last me longer than the true fast fashion alternative. So instead when I can’t find something second hand, I try to buy a quality version of the item in the $30-$40 mid range that I can wear for years to come. I really thought buying 100% second hand was a goal I could accomplish since I saw so many other people online saying they had done it, however for me I wasn’t able to commit to this one 100%.

A Menstrual Cup

I really wanted to love the menstrual cup, truly I did. Switching from tampons, it sounded like a dream to only have to empty every 8-12 hours and never have to buy another product again. However, my dreams were squashed when I discovered that my body really just doesn’t like having silicone materials down there and especially not for extended periods of time. Despite the silicone being medical grade after more than a few hours the material became irritating even though the fit was comfortable. Instead, I tried some reusable menstrual pads, the ones I bought were pretty inexpensive and not from a sustainable brand but I figured that was better than filling up a landfill with tampons the rest of my life. The reusable pads ended up being way more comfortable than any other period product I’ve tried and I haven’t needed to purchase any menstrual products in years.

Conclusion

So, this is the list of sustainable living changes I tried to make that just did not quite work out and what I’ve done instead. I posted it because I don’t think there should be any shame in not being perfect, and to really practice what I preach that means acknowledging some of the things I have not been able to do.

I would love to hear similar experiences from others so that we can all feel a bit better about ourselves. Please, share your stories in the comments below and challenge other sustainable creators you follow to do the same.

Remember not to be too hard on yourself and stay safe out there everyone.

What I Wish I Knew As a College Freshman

This past Tuesday I graduated from Ohio University with my bachelor’s degree in psychology. People asked me how it felt, and since “graduating” was marked only by turning in a final homework assignment really all I could say was anti-climatic. Four years gone and my closing thoughts are that the experience was… anti-climatic.

Graduating during the coronavirus pandemic is of course a bizarre time to be entering the workforce or doing anything of significance in your life. But the strangeness of this time isn’t really what I want to focus on, I want to get away from all the pomp and circumstance associated with college graduation and give my honest thoughts on the experience. 

So, incoming college freshmen and graduating high school seniors who are on the fence this post is for you. My real honest opinion about college. Not from people who went to college decades ago when it cost less and wages were higher. But from someone who actually knows what it’s like out there right now, here’s what I wish someone told me when I was in your shoes.

  1. You Don’t Actually Need a Degree

There’s an old statistic floating around that college graduates make a million more dollars in their career than people who don’t get a college degree. Well, that figure is decades old and the value of the dollar is less than it used to be. If you’re from an area where going to college is strongly encouraged you ought to be skeptical about the hype. Yes, a college degree is generally a good investment but like all things in life it depends on what you do with it. If you get a four year art history degree and end up working as a barista you’re probably going to fall financially behind everyone who went to trade school. In short, yes a degree is a good investment most of the time, but that doesn’t mean you can get whatever degree you want and it will just “work itself out” and you absolutely don’t “need” a degree.

  1. Beware the Liberal Arts Degree

Be extremely cautious of majoring in something like psychology, English, history, chemistry, or anything else that doesn’t teach you practical skills without having a strong plan. If you’re going to get a liberal arts degree, make sure to get good  internships and jobs throughout college or are planning to go to graduate school. Because if you’re not going to grad school and you don’t have good internships I guarantee you’re not going to have any marketable skills or anything to talk about in interviews. 

  1. Understand Most Degrees Are Based on an Outdated System

When the majority of current bachelor’s degrees were being designed over a hundred years ago the job market was extremely different. Your degree wasn’t meant to teach you anything practical since it was expected that you’d go through a long training period with your company upon graduation, so the degree was meant to give you broad generalized knowledge. Nowadays, employees tend to change jobs more frequently so company’s aren’t as willing to invest in training. Additionally, work is becoming increasingly specialized so a broad base of knowledge is not as valuable as it once was. You need to actually have some job skills when you sit down for an interview, and the vast majority of those skills are not taught in college classrooms. Only a handful of degrees such as accounting or nursing teach technical job skills, as a result everyone else should be mindful to develop their skills outside of class. 

  1. Your Degree May Not Pay Off Immediately

To illustrate this point I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve been applying for dozens of entry level jobs and the majority don’t require my college degree. However, the next level up positions I’d like to be promoted to in the next five years or so often do require degrees, or at least a degree is considered an acceptable substitute for experience in the field. When I entered my degree program I thought it would pay off in four years, but be mindful when planning that you may need to be even more patient with your investment than that.

  1. Be Engaged on Campus

This point is a broader form of the common piece of advice to get involved in clubs. However, I don’t  think it’s necessary for people to join formal clubs or anything like that. I personally  love being in student orgs but what is actually far more important is to make connections with other people. How you accomplish that doesn’t really matter. I made all my friends freshman year at a one off event, I didn’t need to join clubs to meet people (though they certainly are a good way to do so). Additionally, connect with and appreciate the broader community and campus culture. Explore the local businesses, go to open mics, visit museums, or attend community events. Especially if you’ve gone away for college it’s really helpful to learn about the local area and it will help you understand, appreciate, and feel more at home in your surroundings.

  1. Make Sure You Have Your Own Definition of Success

My freshman year of college I thought I knew exactly what I wanted and I carried my overachieving tendencies from high school right to university. So I set a bunch of goals that I swiftly proceeded to accomplish one by one. I had a 3.8 GPA, got the exact job placement I wanted, was accepted into a leadership development scholarship program, completed two leadership certificates, and had two leadership positions in student orgs all by the end of my freshman year. You know what happened next? I realized none of it made me happy or satisfied and the only way I knew how to judge my own success was by conventional external measures that didn’t do anything for me internally. You’ll learn a lot about yourself over the next four years and it’s important to make sure you lean into that, you need to find out what really will make you happy and satisfied. Don’t let the collective influence of parents, teachers, friends, and network cable run your life like I did.

  1. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously or Sweat the Small Stuff

As you’re graduating high school you’re sure to be realizing how little so many of the things you obsessed over actually mattered. Don’t lose sight of that once you get to college. It may sound strange but the specific degree you get or jobs you have aren’t that important as long as you’re learning something. I’ve watched students completely lose their minds over details like what residence hall they’re going to live in. Newsflash, no matter where you wake up in the morning you are still gonna be the same person inside and that applies to pretty much all of the weird details freshmen obsess over. If you’re gonna obsess over anything, don’t make it your room theme, the hall you’re living in, or the sorority you’re rushing. Instead obsess over improving yourself and growing as much as possible instead.

  1. Grades Still Matter

On the flip side of not taking things too seriously, your grades do still matter in college! I remember in high school I was so looking forward to college and not caring about my grades anymore because everyone said it didn’t matter. Well unless you’re completely made of money you should still care about your grades. You won’t be eligible for most scholarships or internships without at least a 3.0 GPA and it isn’t too uncommon for a good opportunity to request a 3.5. While when you graduate your grades won’t be too important in the job search, the internship your good grades got you will be instrumental. Plus, accruing as little debt as possible will give you more financial freedom, flexibility, and possibly allow you to choose job opportunities that pay less but align more with your desires.

Conclusion

I’ve been a bit critical of college in this post and it’s not because I hate it or think people shouldn’t go. It’s just because I feel that people aren’t honest about the realities of what college is actually like and what a degree actually does for you. I absolutely love my school and I can’t wait to be able to visit it again and give it a proper goodbye, but I realized halfway through getting my degree that I had let the dominant culture convince me I “needed” a degree I never actually wanted. Now that being said, I wouldn’t say I completely regret it either, but you’ll probably have to ask me and see where I am in ten years before I’m completely sure. 

Realize that a degree is a great thing to have in most cases. But on the other hand plenty of people live happy, fulfilling lives, without being completely destitute who don’t get four year degrees. There are a lot of other ways to make something of yourself.

What’s truly most important isn’t whether or not you get a degree. What really matters most is that you’re living life according to your own definition of success. Don’t get a degree just because you think you have to, get a degree because it will move you closer to achieving something that you actually want.

Sustainable Commitment Contracts

Happy Earth Day! I know I’m a few days late, but better late than never right?

Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic the amazing three days of climate striking and activism that were planned have been effectively cancelled. Like most other environmentalists, I had lots of plans for what I’d be doing this Earth Day none of which panned out. I had just gotten involved in planning my local strikes, but then covid hit and my university shut down and I was making a last second cross country move back to my hometown.

Luckily, a whole host of environmental groups banded together to make sure the 50’th Earth Day was still marked by celebration and activism. This resulted in the 72 hour long Earth Day Live stream from April 22nd until the 24th that involved discussion with a diverse range of activists, musical performances, and like any good earthy crunchy event yoga classes. While the stream is no longer live, you can still watch a lot of the content on the Future Coalition youtube channel and I highly recommend it.

For my part, I think one of the best things you can do to celebrate Earth Day is write yourself a sustainable commitment contract. Sort of like New Year’s resolutions, but it’s a list of things you can do to help the environment.

I wrote one for myself in October 2018 and it truly marked a turning point in my lifestyle and mindset. I was wanting to change my lifestyle for several months prior, but I was feeling overwhelmed with how far I felt like I needed to go to get my lifestyle where I wanted it. At the time, I was very focused on going zero waste and it felt near impossible to get to the point I wanted to be at.

Writing the contract helped me focus on a handful of tasks I felt were most important and accessible to me instead of getting overwhelmed trying to do everything all at once.  It was my way of setting specific goals instead of having a vague desire to align my lifestyle with my values.

Writing things down and getting to check them off of the list also helped to keep me motivated and celebrate my wins as I went along. It felt so good to be accomplishing what I set out to do.

However, there are a few things on my list I haven’t accomplished yet. For example, refusing excess packaging and utensils when I order take out. I tried this, but usually employees are so in their habits they’re just going to give you the extra stuff anyways. I’ve heard of some zero wasters being fairly aggressive with employees but I personally don’t feel hassling service workers is a good way to represent the movement. Instead, I now preference restaurants who allow you to bring your own containers in store or have environmentally friendly packaging. For example, there’s a burrito joint in my college town that just hands you your burrito wrapped in foil, no bag or extra napkins to deal with.

As you might be able to tell from the commitment I wrote, I was focused mostly on going zero waste at the time and wasn’t nearly as educated on the multi-faceted concept we call sustainability. Overtime my focus has changed and I’ve taken up activism, vegetarian eating, and local shopping as equally powerful ways to green my lifestyle. So even though I haven’t done everything on my list, it’s important to allow yourself some room for flexibility and growth.

Now, what types of actions should you set out to do? You can of course get ideas from the picture of my commitment above, but here are some other ideas:

Reduce consumption of animal products in your diet. Get involved in environmental activism. Green your transit as much as possible. Start picking up trash in your neighborhood. Campaign for green candidates. Shop locally.

These are just some of the goals you could set, and the are hundreds of other options. I encourage you to set whatever goals are exciting and accessible to you.

Now that we’ve covered a little bit on how you can green your lifestyle and how writing a contract can help you, how exactly should you go about doing it?

  1. Carefully consider why you want to live more green. What is your motivation? What will make you want to keep trying to change your lifestyle when you are tempted to go back to your old ways? For me, it’s because I want to be a part of the solution and not the problem as well as protect the future of humanity.
  2. Carefully consider which goals you want to put on the contract. Once you write it down you are committed to do these actions, so make sure you choose things you can actually do. If you’re like me and were overwhelmed by all the possibilities, it may help to brainstorm a larger list. Then highlight the things you want to do most and recompile a shorter list.
  3. Be as concrete as possible when writing out your goals. For example, “buy gifts locally” is a lot more specific than simply “shop locally.”
  4. Put your contract somewhere you’ll see it often. For me, that’s my journal but hanging it up on a wall is also a good option. Doing so creates a natural visual cue to remind you of your habit change effort to help prevent you from going on autopilot.
  5. Make it look nice. This is more optional but worth doing especially if you’re going to look at it a lot. I included a quote I learned from the Shelbizlee YouTube channel, “You can’t do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.” This quote always makes me feel better and energizes me when I reference my contract. Include any decorations that help inspire you.
  6. Sign the contract and get going!

The reason I love these sustainable commitment contracts for Earth Day is that they embody the concept of Earth Day every day. If you’ve been looking for the nudge or motivation to change your life for the greener consider this it! For me, when times are crazy like during this pandemic it helps me to have goals. I find the distraction beneficial and it helps me focus on something positive, so right now might actually be the perfect time to start changing your lifestyle!

That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not being that type of person. I know everyone is in different circumstances right now during this crisis and has different coping mechanisms. If for any reason at all you’re not up for a lifestyle change right now I 100% respect that.

Happy Earth Day everyone and stay safe.

16 Creative Ways to Upcycle Items in Your Home or Dorm Room

Hello!

This week’s post is going to be ideas for how you can reuse and upcycle items in your home. All these ideas are things that I’ve done whilst living in college dorm rooms.

Reuse is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental footprint, especially if that reuse allows you to divert waste from landfill. Personally, I’ve found that figuring out how to re-use items is as much about your crafting abilities as it is about your creativity and mindset. So I wanted to share my own most useful and most interesting examples of re-use because seeing what others have done online has been the most helpful thing for me when it comes to figuring out how to re-use.

These ideas are a good mix of easy and common zero waste swaps as well as some more creative ideas.

Mini Bookshelf

You can stack milk crates on top of each other or side by side to create a miniature bookshelf for yourself. Milk crates are the perfect size to fit a vast majority of books and can often be found in thrift stores or are given away when a local factory or plant shuts down. If you want to spice up the look a little bit you can also spray paint your crates like I did for an extra pop of color.

Mini Crate Seats

This second one is another milk crate hack. I created two of these miniature stool seats by cutting some bath mats to size to use on top for padding and then adding some ribbon so you don’t have to see the rough cut edge. This craft was fun, easy, and cheap to make and they’ve been awesome to have in the residence hall. The great thing about them is that they’re little so they can be easily stowed away when not in use and are great to have a around for moving as well.

Bedside Table

Need a bedside table? Stack two milk crates on top of each other, hit them with the spray paint, and you’re all set! You can also put a cute plate on top to prevent smaller items from falling through the holes.

Plant Stand

Alright, this is the last milk crate hack I promise. (It’s not my fault they’re incredibly versatile.) This one is great if you have a short desk or dresser but a taller window so your plants need some more height to get maximal lighting. In general, especially for a college kid I 100% recommend finding some crates before you go off to school. They’re perfect because they can serve so many purposes which is great when you’re moving around a lot like most students.

Soap Dishes

When I started using solid beauty products I didn’t really want to spend money on a nice sustainably made soap try so I just cut some holes in the bottom of this deli meat container (this is back before I went vegetarian). The lid is convenient because it makes it easy to carry my things to the communal bathroom down the hall and I can also rest the container on top of the lid to catch water so my dresser doesn’t get wet.

Conditioner Bottle

I was having trouble using my conditioner bar in its solid form so I decided to melt it down and add water to make it more like a conventional conditioner. I’d initially thought of buying or thrifting a pump top glass bottle like I have for my dish soap but realized I could reuse the old Dr. Bronner’s bottle from the soap I’d just finished.

Yoga Mat Bag

This is one of my favorite DIYs, its been so convenient and nice to have a proper bag for my yoga mat especially when I need to carry it in the rain. There are a ton of tutorials online about how to make jeans into a yoga mat bag and I also wrote a post about my personal experience doing so. This is a great way for you to save money and keep textiles out of the landfill.

Bulk Shopping Bags

The only thing better than buying bulk goods sustainably and package free is doing it upcycled bags you made yourself. There are a ton of bulk bags available for cheap on amazon but most have not been sustainably produced. Making some bags yourself is a great way to go the extra mile by diverting textile waste from landfill in addition to reducing your plastic waste.

Rags

This tip is such a quick and easy way to reduce waste. Instead of using paper towels and napkins you can cut up old t-shirts, towel, or any textile and simply wash them when you’re done using them.

Bulk Foods Storage

This is a classic and indispensable low waste tip. As you transition from packaged goods to buying bulk save jars from products like applesauce, salsa, or peanut butter. You’ll be able to store all types of food in them and even use them as cups.

Mouth Guard Case

Need a mouth guard for sports or late night teeth grinding? Save yourself a little plastic and store it in a re-used food container. Be sure to cut out a few holes in the bottom to make sure your mouth guard dries out properly.

Compost Storage

I’ve seen a lot of folks online who buy special containers to store their compost in, but because I don’t do my own compost and I bring it to a community compost location, I have no need for a special container. Instead of buying something I use empty yogurt containers or a disposable plastic bag.

Flower Pots

Are you like many Americans who have somehow acquired more mugs than a person could ever use in a lifetime? Well, if you answered yes and you’re looking to start potting plants, mugs are a cute substitute for flower pots. The one caveat is they don’t have drainage holes so you’ll need to be very careful about over watering.

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Organizational Trays

This is an idea that Marie Kondo has recently popularized that I’ve been doing nearly my whole life. Often, items come in absolutely adorable packaging that is reusable. Shown below, I have old teavana containers and cookie tins that I use to store office supplies and teas. I always keep a small collection of these boxes and often share them with friends and family who need organizational help.

Funnel

This is an idea I stole from a video on the Shelbizlee youtube channel. (I’d highly recommend her videos in you’re interested in zero-waste content.) You can cut the bottom off a plastic soda bottle and then you’ll have a funnel you can use for all kinds of purposes, I use mine the most when I’m making oat milk.

Toe Spacers

If you’ve got bunions or other foot problems like me you know that toe spacers are life savers. But personally I’ve found that the silicone ones never last more than a few months and there just aren’t any sustainable options. Solution, roll up some pieces of old t-shirt, throw a few stitches in to keep the spacer together, and you have upcycled and machine washable toe spacers. The other benefit to trying this is that you can customize your toe spacers to exactly what is most comfortable and beneficial for you.

That brings me to the end of my list!

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What are the most creative or helpful ways to reuse or upcycle items that you’ve done or have heard of?

Food Waste is a Ridiculous and Unnecessary Problem

Photo by Elina Krima on Pexels.com

Food waste.

I’m fascinated by this issue because it’s perhaps the stupidest, most unnecessary problem we face as a society today.

In a world with massive global poverty and millions of people starving I always kind of assumed the reason is that there isn’t enough food. That people don’t have food because there’s a limited amount so only the people and nations who can afford to pay top dollar have it.

But it turns out that’s not really the case, we aren’t living with scarcity of food and in fact it’s quite the opposite. We have an abundance of food but it isn’t distributed properly. The UN estimates that nearly one third of all food intended for human consumption is wasted globally, if that food were recovered, we could end world hunger.

Yup, the solution to world hunger is basically sitting right under our noses and we’re throwing it into the trash.

So, where does all this food waste come from and how did we get here?

The majority of wasted food is lost at the level of consumers, according to the USDA it is estimated that an average American family of four throws away $1500 worth of food a year (U. S. Department of Agriculture). Why? Consumer culture, food packaged in massive quantities, and changing consumer preferences are all a part of the picture.

Consumer culture encourages us to always buy more and more, this pervasive societal influence is believed to be a main driver of the regular over purchasing that leads to consumers tossing so much of it away. Especially in the US, food is often packaged in massive quantities that are really only appropriate for families, or you have to buy a large quantity of food to get a discount. One supermarket in Finland has even banned volume based discounts in its stores in an effort to address this issue (Bergen). Additionally, consumers have increasingly raised their aesthetic standards for produce and have become less tolerant to produce that does not look perfect. This means only slightly over ripe, misshapen, or bruised produce that is perfectly edible is often discarded.

These aesthetic preferences from consumers also effects food waste at the earliest levels of food production, the farm. Farmers usually sell their produce direct to grocery chains or to middle man distributors who refuse to buy any produce that doesn’t meet strict aesthetic standards. Otherwise they just can’t sell it to consumers, we just won’t buy it. This pretty produce is referred to as “firsts” and the “seconds” are often left to decompose in the fields or thrown away directly. Farmers often don’t even pick second fruit, so this produce is not even routinely used in the production of goods such as fruit juice, fruit leather, or desserts where you don’t have to see the fruit.

This takes us to another massive source of food waste, the middle men like supermarkets, producers, and restaurants.

Most of us who’ve worked a job in any kind of food service have seen this waste first hand.

My first job in college was at the Central Food Facility or CFF. CFF has no windows ,you aren’t allowed to use cell phones, or play music, there was no interview to start and there’s about a hundred signs in bold font telling you not to take pictures.

One of our tasks was to machine slide bread, you’d drop bread rolls in one end of a machine and a combination of gravity and air pressure would push the bread past a wire to cut it at high speed. The bread would speed out of the chute at and often get dented against the stainless steel of the catchment area on the other end.

All dented bread was expected to be put in the compost. Even if it was just a slight dent the size of a thumb print. If you didn’t toss the bread your supervisor would make you re-sort everything and throw out the less than perfect rolls. Of course, we were not allowed to take any of the bread home either. Some of us inquired about getting the machine adjusted so we didn’t have to throw so much out but none of our superiors were interested in doing anything about it.

CFF employees had a running theory that the reason for the strict no photos policy was to prevent the secret of the massive food waste from getting out. There really wasn’t anything else to hide, the facility was clean, safety standards were more or less followed, and I highly doubt anyone was trying to steal our recipes.

I requested an interview with my university’s culinary services department to discuss food waste but was told no one was available, they sent me a list of statistics claiming that less than 1% of their food is wasted.

And the bread at CFF is just one example from my university, everyone who has worked in our dining halls will tell you that they throw away uneaten hot foods at the end of meal periods. You can even see them do it if you happen to walk by the trash when it happens.

Yet of course prep facilities and dining halls aren’t the only sources of middleman food waste. Supermarkets regularly over purchase food, just like consumers do. Another factor is that supermarkets abide by sell by dates listed on food by manufacturers.

In the US, only infant formula is required to have sell by dates on it. Dates found on meat and dairy are completely voluntarily applied by the manufacturers themselves, since companies don’t want to be liable if a consumer eats expired food these dates are overly conservative and entirely unregulated by the government. Even the official USDA website says most products are still good beyond sell by dates and recommends using your own senses to decide if food is bad.

However, it’s no surprise that sell by dates have little to do with food freshness because that was not their original purpose. Initially, sell by dates were just the day companies hoped to have an item sold by in order to track how quickly they were moving inventory. So, that’s why most food is still good on its sell by date, however misinformation has made consumers believe food past its sell by is bad so supermarkets cannot sell it.

Thus far, we’ve covered a myriad of the sources of food waste to unpack how it is we got to the point we are throwing out a third of the global food supply. But, what really is so bad about throwing away food? Sure, it’s obviously wasteful but are the side effects really so bad?

In short, yes. When food breaks down in landfill it releases methane, a green house gas that is 25 times more potent in its warming effect than carbon dioxide. When food is eaten as intended or broken down in a compost facility it gives off significantly less or no methane.

Additionally, there is simply too much trash in our landfills already. Food waste takes up more space and forces us to continue to expand the amount of land we are using simply to store trash, when the land could be better used to preserve nature and biodiversity or farm.

Plus, food is essentially stored energy. A lot of valuable resources go into creating food from water, energy to power farm machinery, human labor, and a notably large amount of fossil fuels used to get the food from place to place. When an apple is thrown away it isn’t just the apple that is being wasted, but all of the valuable resources that went into getting that apple to you.

If we are able to reduce our food waste we can reduce consumption of water and fossil fuels and reduce the amount of landfill space and farmland used for food.

But, how can we reduce our food waste?

There’s no one size fits all way to do so, but there are a lot of interesting social campaigns, businesses, and governmental policies out there that are doing just that.

Let’s start once again with consumers, since we are the largest source of food waste it also means individuals have a tremendous amount of power to do something about this problem. Really all you have to do is be more intentional with your shopping and stop over purchasing foods.

Pay attention to what you throw away, if your family never quite eats all the fruit in the house buy one less bag. Make sure you know what is in your house before you buy more food, and if you accidentally buy too much of something put it in your freezer and save it for later. These strategies are simple, common sense solutions that can both help the planet and your wallet.

Now, the middlemen, like supermarkets, what can they do? Markets all over the world have been getting creative, most notably and quite virally S Market in Finland. Everyday, an hour before close during “happy hour”, S Market stores put all food that will be past sell by at midnight on dramatic discounts of up to 80%. This move has been a hit with shoppers and helped the store improve profits by reducing their losses on wasted foods (Bergen).

Some businesses have even built their whole model around reducing food waste. Imperfect Foods is a subscription service that “rescues” good food that would otherwise be throw away for not meeting ndustry standards by selling and delivering it to consumers at reduced prices. Misfit Foods is a company that sources second produce directly from farmers and distributors and mixes it with meat to make unique half veggie half animal sausage products.

Another popular way for restaurants and supermarkets to put food waste to use is to donate it to charity. France has essentially codified this practice into law by making it illegal for supermarkets to throw away food, which shows us a great example of how legislature and policy can help solve this problem (Bryant).

Denmark has been the leading nation on the issue of food waste for the last decade. Combining food redistribution to the needy and a robust consumer education program that functions through social media the nation has reduced its food waste by 10% in just six years. Charities in Denmark now have a nearly endless supply of food to give out and average consumers have been able to save money shopping discounted foods near their expiry dates.

Danish inventors have even been able to help other nations reduce food waste from restaurants with the startup app Too Good To Go. This app helps restaurants sell food near expiry to consumers in a convenient online marketplace for big discounts, the app is now widely available throughout western Europe.

Everyone on this Earth has a good reason to want to stop food waste, average consumers can save money, the needy can get the food they need, and businesses can increase profits all while protecting the planet. We have many solutions at our finger tips and nothing to lose, now we just need to get out there and do something about it.

Note: This post is an edited version of a paper I originally wrote for class. I was also required to make a “genre revision” so if you enjoyed this post it also exists in podcast form on a post titled “Food Waste Podcast” on my site.

Food Waste Podcast

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Hey all! So this is my “Food Waste is a Ridiculous and Unnecessary Problem” post in the form of a podcast! This is the first time I’ve ever made anything like this and I really had so much fun doing it. If you give it a listen please do leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

20 Minimalist and 20 Sustainable Resolutions for an Eco-Minimal 2020

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It’s New Years so that means resolutions!

I know that New Year’s resolutions get a bad rep, but I really love that we have a time of year that people are culturally encouraged to self develop. Sure, a lot of people won’t actually accomplish their resolutions but that isn’t the holidays fault.

For those of you looking to make some sustainable or minimalist changes in your life I wanted to provide some inspiration and ideas. Many of these resolutions are small goals because I wanted to highlight how little actions and changes can add up to big impacts.

Especially around New Years we’re usually feeling inspired and tend to set a lot of really lofty goals. However, thinking too big will lead to disappointment when we aren’t able to achieve what we hoped to and actually hamper our ability to make long term changes. Thus it’s better to make small changes over the course of time.

Therefore this list features primarily smaller goals with the intent that different “resolutions” from these lists can be built on top of one another over the course of time. So, without further ado here are my ideas for New Year’s resolutions to become more eco-minimal in 2020.

Minimalism

  1. Get rid of one item from your home each day in January.
  2. Declutter one new area of your home each week until you’ve decluttered the whole house.
  3. Unfollow/Unfriend social media accounts that don’t add value to your life.
  4. Start listening to minimalist podcasts and audio books.
  5. Learn to say no to things.
  6. Try a capsule wardrobe.
  7. Have a packing party.
  8. Don’t pick up or accept free swag or t-shirts from events and activities that you won’t use.
  9. Create a Level 10 Life journal spread to help evaluate your values and goals, use this spread to establish goals that are meaningful to you.
  10. Create a morning routine that will help to ground and center you.
  11. Tell your friends and family that you no longer want to receive physical gifts for special occasions.
  12. Live out of the dry goods in your pantry for as long as possible. You may be surprised how many unused and forgotten foods have accumulated.
  13. End a toxic relationship in your life.
  14. Start a daily journaling or mood tracking practice.
  15. Learn to meditate. (For skeptics just know that there are many forms of meditation! It doesn’t have to be just sitting criss-cross on the floor quietly.)
  16. Institute a “one out one in” policy for items in your home. Especially if there is a type of item you tend to accumulate like purses or shoes.
  17. Calculate your average spending for the previous year and try to reduce it by 10%.
  18. Start that passion project you’ve been longing to do. Whether it’s writing a novel or starting a business consider this your sign from the universe to go for it!
  19.  Experiment with minimalist eating. It doesn’t mean cutting calories, but simplifying your eating habits as well as the foods themselves (i.e. less processing and more routines).
  20. Clear one wall in each room of your home of any and all decorations. 

Sustainability

  1. Start carrying your own silverware to reduce single use plastics.
  2. Bring your own to-go beverage cup to coffee shops.
  3. Give up plastic bags and start carrying reusable produce and grocery bags for shopping.
  4. Try bulk shopping (even if your local shops don’t allow BYO containers you can always reuse the plastic bags they have available).
  5. Commit to always searching for an item second hand before you buy new.
  6. Create a “zero waste kit” for your bag that has reusable napkins, silverware, cups, and tupperware so that you’re never unprepared.
  7. Start shopping at the farmer’s market. (If your farmer’s market has limited selection or is too expensive try just buying one item a week there, anything helps!)
  8. When you need to replace your beauty and personal care products replace them only with natural/eco-friendly versions.
  9. Try doing a no-buy week or month.
  10. Participate in Veganuary.
  11. Cut animal products from your diet. It doesn’t have to be a lot! Try just doing Meatless Mondays and you can work your way up from there.
  12. Purchase carbon offsets to counterbalance your carbon footprint.
  13. Try to reduce driving miles. This can look a lot of ways like doing as many errands in one trip as possible, carpooling, or using alternative forms of transportation.
  14. Write and sign a “Sustainable Commitment” that shows all the sustainable changes you want to make this year. Hang it somewhere prominently in your home and check items off as you accomplish things.
  15. Participate in the Fridays for the Future Climate Strike movement.
  16. Organize Terracycle drives at your school or work.
  17. Start buying locally made foods and goods.
  18. Reduce packaging waste by preferencing goods with the most minimal packaging possible. For example, buying yogurt in large tubs rather than single serve containers.
  19. Call your senators! Write to your local representatives and let them know that you are concerned about climate change.
  20. Learn to sew so that your are able to mend your clothes and extend their life cycles.

Well there she is, 40 ideas both big and small to make your 2020 more eco-minimal. Now your friends can no longer say they have “no idea” what to do about global warming.

My personal resolutions are to grow this blog (announcements coming soon), institute a mindful morning routine, reduce my consumption of processed foods, and put a zero-waste kit in my bag.

I hope these ideas have inspired you and I’d love to hear what your New Year’s resolutions are in the comments below!

Sustainability as a Path to a More Meaningful Life

If I’ve learned anything over the last four years of earning my psychology degree it’s that humans are obsessed with meaning making.

Many things that are good for our mental health are things that drive a sense of meaning and purpose. Routines help life feel less random. Social connections moor us in an interconnected web of other people so we don’t feel alone. Volunteering and work let us feel helpful and fulfilled. Having hobbies and passion projects allow us to create and accomplish tangible things. And we’ve developed complex spiritual practices throughout all of history that help us make sense of our world, feel connected to it, and create meaning.

Having something to do and some kind of purpose beyond ourselves is a central aspect of the human habit of meaning making and integral to our mental wellbeing. Experiencing existential dread is essentially the opposite of experiencing meaning and is a major red flag signaling depression.

Personally, I’ve had plenty of experience feeling depressed and full of existential dread and I know that worrying too much about climate change is usually considered quite depressing. And sure, just sitting around and worrying about it is probably going to make you feel bad.

However, when you decide to start doing something about climate change every choice you make is suddenly an opportunity to do good by the planet and be part of the movement.

Picking up bamboo toothbrushes isn’t just a boring chore but your opportunity to vote with your dollar and tell companies you’re no longer interested in plastic. Every meatless meal or plant based substitute for an animal product is help in the fight against deforestation and animal cruelty.

The weekly grocery trip becomes a challenge to be as sustainable as possible and take advantage of as many low waste foods as you can. As you switch more of your conventional beauty and personal care products to eco friendly ones you’ll feel the pride within you grow by starting each day with a reminder of your sustainable commitment.

You’ll relish in the opportunity to mend something broken and feel a sense of stubborn pride when your friends and family roll their eyes at your insistence on buying your clothes and electronics second hand.

While your loved ones might think you’re strange, you also might see them change their behavior after a while too. A few folks might start using reusable shopping bags, wrap your Christmas gifts in old newspaper, and even come to you for advice on environmental issues.

You learn that every choice you make has an environmental impact. From what you eat, wear, and do to how you dispose of you things you don’t need. Therefore every choice you make is an opportunity to be good, or bad, to our planet.

This fact is at once overwhelming but the precise reason that sustainability is an ideal lifestyle change to help make your life more meaningful. Mundane and boring everyday activities now become a way to be part of a movement and help save the planet.

Beyond that, making your lifestyle more sustainable will naturally lead you to become more interested in other areas of sustainability. You might find yourself communing with nature, doing DIYs, or learning new skills as a result of your sustainable lifestyle.

I’m of course not saying that sustainable living is going to cure anyone of their existentialism or depression. However, sustainability is usually discussed as something that is just going to bum people out or make them depressed when that just isn’t the case.

If you’re able to focus on the positive impact you can have, rather than only the scary aspects of our climate crisis sustainable living might help you find some greater sense of purpose like it’s done for me.

I still have bad days, and like I said above sustainable living hasn’t fixed all my mental health problems. But overall it has helped a lot. Now, my actions align with my values and I don’t feel so guilty about things. I still worry about climate change, but I know that I’m doing something about it and am part of the solution and not the problem.

Trying to be as sustainable as possible also brings some excitement and little challenges to my day. I feel good about myself when I resist purchasing something I’m tempted by, bring my own container somewhere, or choose to buy the more sustainable version of something. All these little boosts in mood add up and living out my values creates a satisfaction unachievable through other means.

Overall, making my lifestyle more sustainable has helped my mental wellbeing and I can honestly say that I’m happier now than I was before. And this basic idea that aligning your lifestyle to your values improves your mental health can apply to pretty much any lifestyle changes you want to make.

As with all changes, there will be challenges. You’ll have to learn new things and it’s easy to beat yourself up when you make mistakes and slip into old habits. But if you get past these slumps and pitfalls you’re not likely to want to go back to your old ways when you experience all the positivity that comes with going green.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. How has sustainable living effected your mental health? Do you feel that sustainability or other lifestyle habits have provided you with more sense of meaning? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Receive Gifts as a Minimalist

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The holidays, simultaneously the most wonderful time of the year and also an annoyance to the minimalist crowd who doesn’t love all the consumerism or want a bunch of new stuff.

Especially if you’re early on in your minimalism journey it can feel stressful to know that people are going to want to buy you gifts. Particularly if your loved ones aren’t per se talented at gift giving and already tended to buy you lots of things you didn’t want before you became a minimalist.

Today I want to share with you my personal opinion on the best way to handle gift receiving as a minimalist during the holidays.

First and foremost you’ve got to have an open and honest conversation with the people who want to buy you gifts and tell them what it is that you would like from them. Maybe you want no gifts at all or just no physical gifts. Or perhaps you just only want gifts from a pre written list of items.

Make sure you can explain why it is you’re asking your loved ones to change their gift giving habits. If you aren’t able to communicate that this request is about your own personal desire to change your lifestyle and not about other people your requests may raise insecurities. Loved ones may jump to conclusions and think you’re ungrateful for past gifts, think you’re having this conversation with them because they’ve given bad gifts in the past, feel that you are judging their consumerist or cluttered habits, or they might be worried that you’re joining some type of minimalist cult.

Especially if people in your life have gift giving as a love language, they may also just be disappointed that they are missing out on the joy of giving and also have concerns about how else they can express their affection for you. Even if it doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal to you, there are a ton of reasons people might react poorly. So having a well thought explanation ahead of time can help curb miscommunications and combat people leaping to conclusions.

In the case that many people in your life have gift giving as a love language I think it’s best to not tell these folks that they can’t get you anything at all, even if you’d prefer that. Especially when it comes to family, I think everything is about compromise and it isn’t in the true spirit of minimalism to take that joy of gift giving away from others if it’s important to them.

That being said, sometimes people are just plain stubborn about changing their ways and their insistence on buying you a gift doesn’t have as wholesome an explanation as love languages behind it. I know some families can be petty and insistence on giving you a gift against your wishes is more about a passive aggressive power trip or disrespecting you. And if that’s the case than it ain’t really about the gifts and y’all got problems beyond the scope of this blog post.

But in general, what do you do if you end up with gifts you don’t want? Minimalist or not this a pretty common and hard to avoid occurrence. Maybe people just didn’t listen to your wishes, or you forgot to tell someone, or you just ended up with some random gag gift from an office party or yankee swap.

Option one, you can give the gift back or refuse it. However, I’d be pretty cautious with this method and make sure that you really know your audience. Personally, I only do this with people I’m very close to who respect my life choices and I know would rather get their money back if I’m not going to use the thing they got me. Additionally, I’d make sure you’re aware of potential cultural differences, for example, I was a summer camp counselor for Taiwanese students this year. Gift giving is a really important part of their culture and the kids had pre-packed souvenirs from Taiwan to give to the counselors at the end of their trip. I didn’t really want most of the things, but I knew refusing the gifts would have been insulting and upsetting to the kids and that just wasn’t worth it to me.

I accepted all the gifts, and with the rest I employed option number two which is re-gifting or giving away. Once again, be careful with this strategy, you generally don’t want people to know you’re regifting what they got you. I handle this by just making sure I don’t regift into the same social group I received from, so if you don’t have many separate social groups this may not work for you. Additionally, don’t just regift things instead of actually buying people unique gifts.

Much more often than I regift I give away, I just text my friends saying “Hey, I have x, y, and z things I don’t want do you want any of this?” Personally, I don’t find it immoral to regift or give away gifts. No one benefits from you holding onto something you don’t want, and personally I feel I am honoring and appreciating a gift more if I am able to find joy in giving it to someone else rather than being annoyed everytime I see it in my closet.

Options three, four, and five are to return the gift, sell the gift, or donate the item to charity.

Personally, my preference is for people to purchase gifts from a list I’ve written or just have a conversation with me to make sure they’re getting me something I’ll like. If I still get something I don’t want I usually just regift it or give it away. Even though I’m a minimalist I do still enjoy both giving and receiving gifts.

In general, try not to stress out too much about receiving gifts on the holiday. There are many ways for you to get rid of something if you don’t want it and prevent it from becoming clutter in your life. Plus, at the end of the day it’s a pretty privileged worry to have, it means a significant number of people in your life want and are able to buy you things! Which is actually a pretty comforting thought.

How do you handle gifts as a minimalist? Have your minimalist wishes ever caused conflict among your loved ones? Let me know in the comments below.

Green Gifts Guide

Happy holidays all!

Welcome to part two of my holiday gifts series.

Today I’ll be giving you a variety of resources and ideas for how you can buy more sustainable gifts this season. This post can help you if you yourself are trying to be more green and aren’t sure what to buy for other people or if you’re trying to buy gifts for someone who is environmentally conscious.

This post will be split into three parts. First up is marketplaces, these are online websites I’ve found that either only sell sustainable goods or have a lot of sustainable options. Second is the brands section, I will be sharing specific brands that I believe are sustainable and have good gifts.

Third is the alternatives section, which will feature alternative methods and styles of gift giving that are more sustainable than buying brand new, mass manufactured products. This section is important to me because I never want this blog to become only about giving brand recommendations for companies that produce new goods sustainably. I feel that this isn’t true to the tenets of sustainability and additionally isn’t accessible to most people price wise.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Marketplaces

Earth Hero

Earth Hero is sometimes referred to as the “eco-friendly amazon” of online shopping. Their goal is to carry at least one sustainably made option for every type of item you would need in your daily life and to take the guesswork out of figuring out if a product is greenwashed. They have a 5 step process to evaluate a product’s sustainability and only carry items that “pass”. Bonus, Earth Hero also has the guaranteed lowest prices for the goods they carry and they are having a site wide 20% holiday sale as well as planting five trees per order until Cyber Monday ends.

Etsy

Etsy is an online marketplace for small craftspeople and artisans to sell their goods. While Etsy the company has no particular sustainable mission, many of their sellers offer zero waste and eco-friendly products and their prices are generally lower than sustainable products from larger companies. Plus most sellers are small, women-owned businesses and most are having holiday sales right now.

Package Free

Package free is a zero waste online marketplace designed to carry anything you need to start and maintain a zero waste lifestyle with guaranteed plastic free shipping. The site was started by Lauren Singer, whose trash jar was one of the first to go viral and she has since been involved in a variety of media projects as well as opening a physical package free shop in New York City. The site carries everything from vibrators to candles to office supplies to items for babies. The selection is not as wide as on Earth Hero however they carry different brands so it’s still worth checking out.

Brands

Lush

Lush, need I say anything about them? Credited with inventing the bath bomb, this zero waste UK based company is known for their high quality, vegan, and cruelty free personal care products. Their lineup features body wash, shampoo, conditioners, lotions, cleansers, moisturizers, makeup (currently only in the UK), most recently fragrances, and more. Many of their products are in the “naked” line, meaning the product needs no packaging. Lush also has an in-store recycling program for all of their product packaging and reuses it for future products. I’ve been gifting their products for years and I can personally vouch that everyone has loved their products.

Sunski

Sunski is a company that creates lightweight, stylish, sunglasses from recycled plastics. Their frames come with a lifetime guarantee and they have a program to replace broken lenses and repair the glasses in order to extend their life as long as possible. The full price on their glasses tends to be high, anywhere from 58USD-89USD. However I’ve been watching their site for a few months and they run constant sales and always have options between 30USD-40USD as well.

4Ocean Bracelets

4Ocean will pull one pound of trash from our oceans for every bracelet sold. The cords and beads of the bracelets are made from 100% post consumer recycled materials, 4Ocean will even pay for you to ship your bracelet back to them when you’re done with it so it can be recycled. They release bracelets in new colors monthly that support slightly different causes such as jellyfish or the everglades. You can even sign up to volunteer at their clean ups so there’s no doubt that the operation is legit.

Kind Socks

Kind Socks prides themselves on creating socks that are fun, fashionable for every day, and ethical. Their founder Stephen Steele was inspired to start the brand after being frustrated that most sustainable socks were very plain and not fun at all. The socks are toxin free, made with certified organic cotton, and manufactured in safe factories with fair wages.The brand is based in Sweden and ships internationally.

Ten Tree

Ten Tree is an apparel brand whose name leads you quite intuitively to the business model, they plant ten trees for each item purchased. They even give you “tree codes” so you can find out exactly where the trees your purchase funded got planted. They have a full lineup of casual apparel and accessories including socks, hats, wallets, dresses, jackets, and of course the usual t-shirts, hoodies, and pants.

Stasher Bags

Stasher bags are an alternative to disposable plastic sandwich bags made from 100% silicone. I personally own a set that my mother found for me at goodwill, and I absolutely love them. Stasher has been blowing up lately and I’ve suddenly started seeing their bags everywhere, as a result they’ve been able to expand their line to include a variety of shapes and colors. The bags can withstand extreme temperatures  meaning they can be boiled and baked, the silicone zipper creates an airtight seal making the bags an excellent option for freezer storage as well. I recommend these as gifts partially because they are a bit expensive, so it’s something people may want but not be able to spend the money on for themselves.

Elate Cosmetics

Elate Cosmetics is a low waste, cruelty free, and ethical beauty brand. Their packaging is the most sustainable I’ve seen for make up and is made with renewable or recyclable resources. They also sell reusable magnetic palettes with refills sold in aluminum pans. They carry essentially every and any type of makeup you need, though their color range definitely will not be able to provide you with a full glam look.

Alternatives

Homemade Gifts

Another option is to make gifts at home! This can take it’s form in many ways, perhaps you create a piece of visual art, write or parody a song, make baked goods, write poetry, or give them coupons for different types of chores like cleaning the bathroom or doing meal prep. Sentimental crafted gifts like songs or poetry tend to really great for close family or significant others, chore coupons are great for friends, and baked goods are great for people you’re not sure what else to get! Even if your homemade gift isn’t made from totally sustainable materials it’s still likely to be more eco-friendly that the majority of mass produced goods.

Local Gifts

Shop local! Local goods are overall more eco-friendly because they did not need to be shipped from far away and therefore getting the item to you required less fossil fuels. Additionally, many artisans are environmentally conscious and have much more eco-friendly manufacturing processes than conventional companies. You can use Etsy to find locally made goods online but there’s also a variety of in person locations you’re likely to find locally made goods such as: any hippy dippy grocery store/bar/establishment, craft markets, flea markets, farmer’s markets, and literally any type of festival. I’ve gifted locally made coffees, keychains, soaps, candles, lotions, cards, and salsas with great success. Another bonus to locally made foods is that they are usually preservative free and therefore have better and fresher taste than conventional goods.

Second Hand Gifts

Second hand goods are another great way to decrease the carbon footprint of your gift shopping this season. This is especially good for tech and luxury fashion goods that have strong resale markets, this is also a great way to save money on these items or be able to buy a person something nicer than you would be able to if the item were new. Of course know your audience, some people will feel disrespected by a second hand gift so be careful. I personally have both given and received second hand gifts and it’s always gone well!

Wrap Up

I hope that these ideas and recommendations will be helpful to you this holiday shopping season. It can be difficult and overwhelming to figure out how to greenify your shopping habits so I aimed to provide straightforward options and easy to use advice.

As always, thanks for reading!