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!

Sustainability and Privilege: an Image Problem

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Is a sustainable lifestyle only the pursuit of the privileged?

Let’s talk about it.

First of all, let’s define what we’re talking about when we say a “sustainable lifestyle.” To me, a person living a sustainable lifestyle is anyone putting forth significant effort and thought to do good by the environment.

However, often times I see people online saying they can’t “afford” to be sustainable, usually in the comments of a post in which some sustainability creator is showing all the expensive zero waste swaps they own. That commenter is seeing a small aspect of that creator’s life and making broad assumptions about the sustainable living movement.

I’ve also had similar experiences in person, I’ll tell someone I’m vegetarian for environmental reasons and they’ll make an oddly aggressive comment saying “Well y’know sustainability is a privilege.” To which I usually respond with the fact that meat costs 5-6X more per pound than tofu and other vegetarian protein sources. The other person will then say something about veganism being expensive which is equally confusing to me because I’m not vegan and don’t promote that lifestyle. (No shade to vegans though, really just do what works for you.)

Yet, zero waste swap content and veganism really don’t represent a full picture what sustainable living is.

Let’s analyze what it means to live a sustainable life from the broader perspective of the five tenets of zero waste.

Refuse – Not accepting things you do not need.

Reduce – Not acquiring new items you do not have purpose for. 

Reuse – Turning items you already have into items you need, but do not have. Preference buying second hand.

Recycle – Recycle as much material as possible and preference items that come in recyclable packaging.

Rot – Compost

Nothing in these five tenets encourages you to go out and buy a bunch of new, fancy, expensive zero waste swaps or vegan yogurt substitutes. In fact it’s quite the opposite. When we view the tenets of zero waste away from social media and minimalist, polished aesthetics we are encouraged not to buy anything at all if we can help it. If we need something we’re encouraged to be resourceful and creative and use what we have or buy something second hand.

This difference between how sustainable living is portrayed in social media and what the core values of it really are frustrates me for two main reasons.

First, it discourages people from becoming a part of the movement. As a member of the American middle class, I’m financially privileged from a global perspective. Yet even I felt like there was no possible way for me to “afford” a sustainable lifestyle at first. This was the direct result of learning about how to be more sustainable from influencers online. However, there’s not really any other information source I’ve found that is as easy to get to and goes in as much depth as these influencers do as far as the minutiae of how to live more sustainably. So for better or worse these influencers are the face of the movement to a lot of folks.

Second, this idea that you need “a lot” of money to live a sustainable life gives people an excuse not to try. This may be an issue somewhat unique to the US, but there’s a lot of research that shows Americans are very unlikely to identify themselves as upper class and are reluctant to admit to financial privilege. Even people in the top tenth percentile of wealth are likely to consider themselves middle class, despite obviously being upper class.  Because over 90% of Americans don’t see themselves as upper-class, when sustainability gets the image of being only for the financially privileged over 90% of people just aren’t going to try.

And, as we’ve already discussed, the principles of sustainability aren’t about spending money. It’s about buying as little as possible and saving money.

Now, all this is not to say that there isn’t privilege involved in pursuing a sustainable lifestyle.

When we talk about saving money and cutting back on consumption there’s an inherent implication that there is some excess to cut back on. If you live in poverty and already cannot afford the things you need there’s no way to cut back. Additionally, if you are relying only on the foods you can get for free you don’t have the privilege of being choosey about your diet.

There are also issues that hinge not on socioeconomic privileges, but access more broadly. You may be wealthy but that doesn’t mean you have access to public transit or bulk bins. Maybe you do have access to bulk bins but have allergies and therefore cannot use them without cross contamination concerns. Maybe you’re a teen who lives at home with your parents and they just won’t accommodate the changes you’re interested in making. There is all variety of life situations such as illness, family structure, work, and geographic location that affect each individual’s ability to do, or not to do certain sustainable practices.

However, the conversation is often simplified down to just socioeconomic privilege and sort of implies that it is only the absolute wealthiest people who are privileged enough to live sustainably. Yet that just isn’t the case.

Making the feasibility of a sustainable lifestyle solely about financial privilege is pretty reductive. There are plenty of sustainable changes that can be made for free or for the same cost as their alternatives as well.

It’s also important to expand our ideal of what living a sustainable lifestyle really means. Yes, pursuing the perfect social media airbrushed picture of sustainability full of expensive swaps and farmer’s markets would be costly. But that isn’t all that sustainable living is and we can’t define sustainable living through unattainable zero waste perfection.

To me, it’s more about putting the effort in.

Don’t have access to bulk bins or public transit? Don’t worry, there are still other things you can do to lower your footprint and you don’t need to beat yourself up about things outside your control. And, if for whatever reason your situation really doesn’t allow you to make lifestyle changes you can always engage in activism which has equal and potentially greater value than individual changes.

Even just talking about climate change in everyday conversation is powerful. There’s a lot of misinformation about climate change here in the US where moneyed conservative interests have spent exorbitant amounts over the years to create confusion about it.

I just don’t want this skewed idea that you need tons of money to even try to be sustainable to discourage people. Even if you lack money, access, or time to take part in certain sustainable practices there is always value in doing whatever bit you can and talking about the issues.

So, is there privilege in leading a sustainable lifestyle? Yes, of course. But at least by the standards of a developed nation you by no means need to be rich to do so and there is so much more that goes into it than money alone.

The expensive version of sustainability we are so used to seeing online isn’t reality, it’s a narrow image that’s become the face of a movement that is so much more than that and we have got to expand our view of sustainable living to be more inclusive to all kinds of life situations and get new people on board.

This is a complex topic and I could write about it forever, I of course can’t cover every example and nuanced situation in my post but I’ve done my best to offer a balanced perspective. 

Now I would love to hear from you all in the comments. What are your thoughts on this topic? Is sustainable living only achievable for the wealthy? Do you think social media has distorted the true values of the movement? Let me know below!

Actually Eco-Friendly Journals You’ll Love Writing In

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While bullet journals are amazing tools for productivity and mindfulness, one of the best parts of having one is the totally superficial fun of getting to shop for new journals when you finish one!

Not only are you coming off the high of filling up the old book but you get to order a new one too.

For me, my bullet journal is an essential tool that is with me all day everyday. So it’s a purchase I like to spend a little time deciding on and honestly I just really love an excuse to spend a few hours browsing stationery online. (Yes I’m kind of a nerd, you caught me.)

I found my current journal at a T.J. Maxx and it is made with recycled leather and eco-friendly paper, I was considering repurchasing from the brand but I can’t find a trace of them online so I can only assume they went under. So now I’m looking for a new eco-friendly bullet journal.

However, when I googled “eco-friendly journals” the majority of products and listicles I saw were greenwashed products. Specifically a large amount of Italian made journals that had covers made with recycled leather, which while that is nice, simply having a recycled cover isn’t enough in my opinion to make a journal “eco-friendly.”

Journals are made from paper which is made from trees, which are those plants that literally suck the greenhouse gases causing global warming out of the air. In my opinion, if the paper in a journal isn’t Forest Stewardship Council certified, recycled, or the company doesn’t otherwise provide information on the sustainability of their paper the product is greenwashed. (If you’re not familiar, greenwashing refers to products that are marketed as eco-friendly but actually are not.)

So, I’ve decided to compile this list for you all of the journals and notebooks I’ve found that are truly eco-friendly and not just greenwashed.

Decomposition

Decomposition is a full line of notebooks made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials. They sell composition books, spiral notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals in a variety of sizes and they have designs available in blank, ruled, and dot grid paper. They’re most known for their beautiful cover designs that all have a very instagrammable and hipster vibe. Unfortunately, their journal line is limited compared to their notebooks and the journals don’t share the distinct decomposition design style. However, their journals are still a good choice and you could also choose any of their notebook offerings as a bullet journal as well.

Price: $5-$17

Paper Type: Recycled

Onyx and Green

Onyx and Green is a full service office supply wholesaler that creates products with recycled and sustainably sourced materials. Their journals are very unique because the paper isn’t made with trees at all but with stone! As a result, the paper is both water and tear resistant. The journals are available in ruled paper with 5 different cover designs. You can’t buy directly from Onyx and Green as a consumer but their journals are available on Amazon.

Price: $13-$15

Paper Type: Stone

Dingbats

Dingbats is a journal company who displays endangered species and ecosystems on the front of their bright and colorful covers. The products boast a variety of sustainability features including Forest Stewardship Council paper certification, biodegradable toxin-free covers, and being 100% vegan. Their Earth line features all the bells and whistles ideal for bullet journaling including numbered pages, dot grid style, two ribbon markers, back pocket, index pages, and key pages. Their Wildlife line offers more multipurpose journals available in specialty sizes and a full range of paper types including ruled, blank, dot grid, and square grid. 

Price: $20-$23

Paper Type: Forest Stewardship Council certified

Rocketbook

Rocketbook creates a line of fully reusable notebooks. You write on the pages like a regular notebook and then use their app to take photos of your notes and upload them to cloud storage. After your notes have been uploaded you can wipe off the notebook pages and reuse them indefinitely! The major downside however is that the product itself is not produced sustainably. I debated whether I wanted to include this on the list as truly sustainable, and decided to include it because if the book is reused for years and years and years as intended it would have less impact than conventional alternatives. I’d recommend this option for anyone who likes high tech gadgets and prefers to have digital access to notes.

Price: $32-$35

Paper Type: Reusable

TRUEGRASSES

TRUEGRASSES is a Taiwanese company selling a small collection of sustainable home and office products with the slogan “bring nature into culture.” Their journals feature sleek and simple design and are made with Forest Stewardship Council certified recycled paper. TRUEGRASSES is also a member of 1% for the Planet and is partnered with three other environmental NGOs in Taiwan. In the US, their products are available on Amazon and there are two journals with a square grid and one with blank pages available.

Price: $7-$13

Paper Type: Forest Stewardship Council certified recycled

These next three headings don’t contain specific product recommendations but are other methods you can use to find sustainable journals.

Etsy

If you aren’t familiar with it, Etsy is an online platform for small scale artists and craftspeople to sell their goods. It’s generally more sustainable to support small scale productions and a lot of craftspeople are environmentally conscious. This is the best option if you are looking for a custom notebook as the majority of Etsy sellers provide or will accommodate customization. Just type “eco-friendly journal” into the search bar and you will see a ton of unique, artsy journals made from recycled paper to choose from.

Locally Made

Another option is to search specifically for a notebook that is made locally. You can search by geographical area on Etsy or shop retailers that carry local goods in person. My hometown has a craft market in the mall and my college town has  co-op shop that sells goods from local artisans. You can also keep your eyes peeled at local festivals as I’ve seen local hand made journals at music fests, art fairs, flea markets, renaissance fairs, block parties, and harvest festivals. This method is of course not possible if no one happens to do notebooks in your area and tends to be quite expensive. However, it’s worth looking into if you have a big budget and enjoy supporting local businesses.

Second Hand

Last but not least, you can often find journals and notebooks at second hand shops, yard sales, and flea markets. This is a good option if you just aren’t picky and are very frugal. Usually these items will have minor cosmetic issues and might be missing a few pages but are still perfectly usable. I’m more sentimental about journals so I don’t tend to buy them this way but have found a ton of good notebooks for my classes this way. You could also ask around among friends and family if anyone has an unused or mostly unused journal laying around, as many people get enticed by cute journals in the store but never end up using them. You may also be able to find journals via freecycle, Facebook trading groups, or an app like Bunz. All of these methods allow you to use something that has already been purchased that might otherwise have gone to landfill.

Wrap-Up

I hope this list helped you find an actually sustainable journal you like and will enjoy using until you’ve filled up every page. Or perhaps just given you a better idea about how to go about shopping in an environmentally conscious way.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day.

What did you think of this post? Do you write in a journal or bullet journal regularly? What sustainable journal/office supply companies do you buy from? Let me know in the comments below.

Eco-Minmalism vs. Minimalism: What’s the difference?

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Eco-minimalism is a rather new term that’s been popping up more and more online lately. But what exactly is the difference between minimalism and eco-minimalism? Isn’t minimalism already eco-friendly? Why does this new term even exist?

Well fear not, I ,your friendly neighborhood eco-minimalist, am here to help. The term was coined by late architect Howard Liddell around 2000, it was originally used in the discussion of green construction projects to make builders more carefully consider the impacts of the building process, not just creating flashy environmental features.

Though when the word started being used as a lifestyle term is a bit harder to pin down, and by my personal observation it seems to have quite suddenly exploded. I’d never heard the term last October when I began exploring minimalism and environmentalism, and despite hardly changing who I’ve been following online I’m suddenly seeing the word everywhere used by creators who had been living the principles without calling it eco-minimalism previously.

Alright, with that brief history out of the way, what does eco-minimalism actually mean? In short it describes someone who strives to live a life style that is both eco-friendly and minimalistic. Because environmentalism and minimalism have principles that are easily aligned many people interested in one are attracted to the other.

Those initially attracted to environmentalism will learn that consuming fewer things is one of the best ways to reduce their footprint and those initially attracted to minimalism usually begin by wanting to minimize their belongings and then become interested in minimizing their footprints as well.

However, there are some instances in which minimalist and environmental principles can clash, and that is where the term eco-minimalism comes in.

Let me give you a common example to explain what I mean. Say you are decluttering your pens, you realize you have more than you need and want to get rid of some. A minimalist will keep only the number of pens they feel they need and say sayonara to the rest, they’re likely to throw out, donate or give away the rest.

What might an eco-minimalist do differently? The most environmentally friendly thing a person can do is use up everything they already have before getting rid of it, and an eco-minimalist is more likely to keep the pens. Why?  Donating supplies is admirable but donated items are often not used or resold and will end up in the landfill unused anyway unless given to specialized programs. The pens could be given away to friends or family but unless those people are environmentalists too they likely also have way too many pens and won’t use them. So the best way for our eco-minimalist friend to avoid these pens being sent to landfill without being wasted is to keep them.

This is the most environmentally friendly choice but not the most minimal.

Another example from my personal life. Bobby pins. I currently have a bob length haircut and plan to keep my hair this length for the next year or so. At this length I just don’t have any use for bobby pins and won’t need them anytime soon. But, when my hair was long I utilized bobby pins pretty frequently.

Should I get rid of the pins? Someone focused only on minimalism would say yes, as an eco-minimalist I say no. Sure, I won’t need them soon but I will definitely grow my hair out again in my lifetime and therefore it is worth it to me to keep the bobby pins to avoid impacting the planet in buying new pins a few years from now.

Now of course there are some complications to this. Because minimalism is often defined as striving to do only the things that add the most value to your life, if being eco-friendly is valuable to you than eco-minimalism is minimalism. No new term needed. However, I think it is still important to add this new terminology to our collective vocabulary and explore the differences.

Focusing only on minimalism is just going to look a little different than striving for both lifestyles. An eco-minimalist will probably own more, especially the first few years of their journey because they’ll be working through a backlog of whatever it is they might have previously been stockpiling if they aren’t able to get rid of it sustainably. Whether it be pens or bobby pins or anything else.

Now, if before you began your eco-minimalism journey you never fell into the trap of buying months or even years worth of a good by accident, congrats! That’s awesome!

But for most of us that is not not the case, several eco-minimalists online including Shelbizlee and Heal Your Living on youtube talk about being shopaholics prior to beginning their current lifestyles. And even if you weren’t a shopaholic, you likely just went along with consumer culture like myself and ended up with way more pens than you ever needed.

So, why is this important to talk about? Because you can definitely be an environmentalist and clutter your house with second hand goods or dumpster dive treasures. You can be a minimalist and be wasteful by getting rid of all your stuff to buy a whole bunch of new things in fulfilling a “minimal” aesthetic.

It’s important to acknowledge that while minimalism and environmentalism attract similar people the lifestyles can still clash. Acknowledging that fact makes it easier to reconcile the differences between minimalism and environmentalism; reduce the pressure people often feel to get rid of something when it’s more environmentally sound to keep it, and stay focused on the true values of the movement.

Which I believe benefits both people and planet.

Are you an eco-minimalist? Leave a comment and share a story about a time your minimalism and environmental goals have clashed.