low waste valentine’s day

 

Valentines zero waste

Disclaimer: I’m really not into holidays much- I grew up with a mom who was a Jehovah’s Witness so we never celebrated them.  Therefore, it’s not something I have strong connections with- no nostalgia, memories, or traditions tied in.  I know this sounds really ascetic and miserly, but it wasn’t and I’m actually really grateful, because I don’t feel pressure to participate in what I feel can tend to be overly materialistic aspects of holidays.  It’s pretty freeing to just spend time with family and give small and meaningful gifts from the heart as I feel inspired to, instead of on a specific date set in place by capitalistic white patriarchy:  I love the quote from that article- “practically everything in every store you walk into has some sort of Valentine’s Day limited edition, overpriced junk. Rational people ransack the joints, and leave with packages of third world manufactured festivity supplies that will tomorrow find their way to third world landfills. Sentiments, probably born in some gray cubicle, are expressed in cards written by someone else, somewhere else.”  Anyways….I’m not really an expert on holidays so forgive my mistakes if I overlook aspects of them.

Zero waste kids valentines

At Carmela’s school, they exchange valentines.  I can’t control what things are given to her, but I can control what we give out.  I volunteered to make the cookies for their class party so that they were healthy-ish and not bought in plastic from Costco as has happened in the past.  She makes her own valentines every year, from recycled materials such as brown paper bags, the backside of once used paper, old wrapping paper, even pretty chocolate bar wrappers we’ve cut up and used.

Valentines

Gold foil from chocolate make a great decoration to cut out too.  For paste, I do an easy homemade flour and water paste– its messy and it doesn’t hold up forever but it’s fun and biodegradable.  Be careful to find out if any kids in the class have gluten sensitivities if you use it since it does have flour.

Zero waste valentines

As little favors to go with the Valentine’s in lieu of plastic toys or candies, we made some candied orange peels with the leftover peels from local organic navel oranges we ate.  They’re really easy- just basically peel, slice into thin strips and then boil in simple syrup- this recipe works great.  I dip in melted chocolate after.  A good quick option would be bulk candy in a little paper bag or diy envelope/pouch.  We are also adding in little “treasures”- a marble, bit of sea glass, crystal, shell, pretty rock, dried flower, bead- I’ve found that younger kids really love these things and they can be free things you’ve found or repurposed.

Shells treasures beach

I attach the Valentines to the paper pouch with a bit of biodegradable jute twine.  One year, we gave sunflower seed packets and they were a hit, too.

orange peel candy

For the cookies, the teacher requested I make the same ones I made for their Christmas party, which are these Hot for Food gingerbread cookies.  I’ll cut them into hearts and add a little beet juice or cranberry powder to the icing for a natural pink. You could probably sub chilled coconut oil for the vegan butter but one of the kids in the class has an allergy.  I bring them in on one big plate and the teacher uses compostable paper napkins to serve (the school has a worm compost in their garden!)

valentines

If you’re thinking about giving flowers to someone, I’d suggest a gorgeous living plant instead to bring joy and life into your loved ones’ space for much longer and its so much more environmentally friendly.  Or homegrown flowers!

orchid

Plus, who isn’t obsessed with plants?  From a little succulent to a big handsome fiddle leaf fig, there’s an option for everyone.  Orchids are beautiful and the blooms last several months, and can keep blooming for years.  Below is a monstera that my husband gave me a couple years ago.  Since then I’ve propagated and divided it into a couple new plants, given a few away to others, and it’s brought me joy every day.

Monstera

If you can, choose fair trade and organic chocolate or ideally, buy locally if possible.  If you’re in Sacramento, Ginger Elizabeth’s is delicious and really nice about putting stuff in your own container.  You can also DIY this 5 minute chocolate bark from the archives that is infinitely customizable and looks like a million bucks.

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

For cards, personally I always appreciate getting a handmade card or even just a piece of pretty paper with heartfelt words rather than a premade card with a regurgitated message and signature.  I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel loved and appreciated to receive a lovely note, poem, etc.  A wonderful gift on Valentines is a book that celebrates self love- like Rupi Kaurs Milk and Honey + The Sun and Her Flowers.

zero Waste wrapping

However you celebrate or don’t celebrate this February 14th, I hope you have a wonderful day and bask in your self love.  If you get a teddy bear and unethical chocolate and lingerie and red roses and a hallmark card it’s ok too.  It’s wonderful to be alive and I love you all xx

zero waste inspiration: in the city with Stevie

Welcome to a new series on the blog of zero waste inspiration: I’ll be interviewing different people from all kinds of locations, lifestyles, ages and backgrounds to share how they make zero waste work for them.  My hope is for you to be inspired to start somewhere reducing your waste…no matter what your situation.

This week we are talking to Stevie Van Horn- someone I’ve followed for a while on Instagram and continue to be inspired by daily.

stevie sustainability plastic free straw

Stevie is an all around amazing lady living a zero waste lifestyle in New York City.  She is an advocate for living sustainably, self love, positivity, and getting outside in nature (one of my major goals to work on in 2018!!).  She thrifts her clothes, she recently adopted & tamed a stray cat lurking around her building, and she absolutely radiates joy + love.

Zero waste vegan food

You can find her inspiring people on Instagram @stevieyaaay, on her blog tradingwasteforabundance.com, and her YouTube where she fuses environmental topics and DIY recipes with dancing + general hilarity.  She makes living without the trash seem effortless.  Read on to find out how she does it all.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!  What’s your daily life like?

My name is Stevie, I am zero waste and a sustainability activist. My daily life varies day to day! I have a couple projects coming out this year so some days its embroidering for long days, writing, and creating!

Embroidery body positivity

What prompted you to live zero waste + did you make the transition gradually or all at once?

What inspired me to be zero waste was actually a bit odd. I started an obsession with fungi and mycelium. Mycelium is known as the neurological network of the forest and the fruiting bodies is mushrooms. This organism regenerates, rebalances and communicates with its environment and without it, the forest would be in shambles.

Mushrooms sustainable mycelium

I started really asking myself what the role of humans are and realized there are so many things we can do to be more harmonious with our environment. Zero waste is one of those things that I started doing and realized Ill never go back to my old way of consuming. I decided to prepare for a couple months before I started so I can be more successful but since I had all these trashy things to begin with, the transition is ongoing even today!

mycelium

What was your biggest source of trash pre zero waste + how did you get rid of it?

My biggest source of trash was food waste and food packaging! I never liked leftovers, I opted for plastic packaged everything and filled up a trash bin like once a day in the kitchen. I got rid of it by composting food scraps, being more mindful of utilizing all my food, and shopping in bulk, and fresh and organic. I’ve completely remedied my biggest source of waste just by paying more attention and being more mindful!

How easy or hard is it to live zero waste in your area?  Are there any specific challenges you’ve had to find a work around for?

It’s easy for me to be zero waste in NYC because of all the options I have. There are farmers markets often, there are co-ops in manhattan and I can find a bulk store in almost every borough. They have a compost pick up at our house too for easy composting. The challenges, I think, would be traveling to certain stores or finding a convenient time to do it. It was a habit switch for me though so gradually it got a lot easier to trek to these areas just by this mental switch and I really enjoy doing it!

Zero waste shopping

What’s your grocery shopping look like?  How often do you go, where do you go, and what kinds of foods do you typically buy?

Grocery shopping for me is heading to the farmers market for seasonal, organic fruits and veggies and then I head to a bulk grocery store or Whole Foods for the rest. I shop mostly organic and try for mostly local with produce. All my staple items come from the bulk section such as rice, lentils, nutritional yeasts, gluten free flours, nuts, dried fruit etc… Lately I’ve been on a kick of making cashew coconut milk, burcha, and sweet potato toast!  (note: Stevie’s post on how to lower your FOOTPRINT is so helpful)

You live with a roommate- has this been tricky on your road to zero waste? Does she share your values in this respect?

My room mate is also my best friend and she supports what I do 100%. She backs up the lifestyle and tries her absolute best to minimize her waste too!

Composting is a huge part of reducing landfill waste and everyone does it differently depending on where they live.  How do you compost in the city?

Composting in the city is easy for me! My neighborhood finally has a compost pick up every Thursday I believe. Before I would take it to the farmers market which I find it was just as easy.

compost travel

What’s your view on recycling and how much do you rely on it?

Recycling is great if you can recycle it 100% ! I used to buy a lot of cans but recently looked into what I can actually make instead of using them and cut that by like 75%. Beans, soups, and coconut milks were big for me.  I find that if you find the alternative and its easy to handle, then reducing the amount you recycle would be awesome. If I don’t have time to go to a specific bulk store, then I just opt for paper packaged, aluminum, or compost packaged items and I think thats totally fine!

vegan zero waste groceries

Some people worry that zero waste is expensive- what’s been your experience here?

Zero waste I thought would be expensive and I find that there are certain things that can be more expensive but as a whole you are getting more bang for your buck and often times we are spending more on the actually packaging and labels of it. I also used to buy packaged foods because they were just tempting. I would buy like 20 granola bars, cereals, bottled drinks, and all that just because they did a good job at branding and now I find that I can make things at home for way cheaper. You realize there are so many things you can live without that was just being given into by good advertising.

It seems that you travel a fair bit- how do you avoid waste while traveling?

Traveling takes some prep and some good tupperware. If you have a mason jar, produce, and prepped snacks you can avoid all waste. Home made popcorn, bananas, veggies, and rice bowls are all things I usually take with me and the food scraps go in the mason jar until I compost it or bury it next to a tree if I can’t. This is a habit switch that just takes a bit to get used to since you do have to make room for that time you spend prepping but its worth it !

sustainable zero waste travel

I know you’re palm oil free and it’s something I’m just starting to be aware of looking for.  Could you explain a little about why this is an ingredient you avoid, and what ingredient names to look out for in products that are palm oil derivatives?

Palm oil is one of those secret ingredients not a ton of people know about. Palm oil extraction takes place in plantations where they were previous peatlands and forests. A main hub for these plantations is in Indonesia in the Sumatran rainforest. Not only are they burning down vast forests everyday to meet the demands we have for this oil, but they are treating elephants, orangutans, and tigers like they are rodents where they are electrocuted, shot, and poisoned.

sustainable palm oil is a lie

These forests are the only place where these amazing, intelligent species all dwell symbiotically and we are losing it so fast just for us to buy detergent, peanut butters, lipsticks, chips etc… There are so many different alternatives to this ingredient and to brands that carry products with this ingredient inside it. Some names it goes by are: Organic Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Palmate, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Palmitate, Sodium Laurel Sulfate.

Palm oil not sustainable

note: “sustainable” palm oil actually isn’t sustainable at all- don’t be fooled and please just avoid this ingredient all together- everyone should do this, but especially if you are vegan, buying palm oil products DIRECTLY contributes to SUFFERING- which is why I don’t consider palm oil products “vegan” even if they are, in fact, animal product free.  Dr Bronners is one well known brand that uses “sustainable palm oil” BUT this is an ecologically destructive ingredient whether or not there are animals involved.  Consider this information from Big Spoon roasters:  “ ‘Sustainable’ palm oil claims have arisen recently to represent an approach to oil palm agriculture that aims to produce palm oil without causing deforestation or harming people. However, “sustainable palm oil” has rightly been under fire for several years from environmentalists and organizations that have compiled evidence that such claims are nothing more than greenwashing schemes. This view did not improve within the environmental community upon the formation of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) in 2004. The RSPO is a not-for-profit organization and currently the largest sustainability-focused organization within the palm oil sector, however its standards do not ban deforestation or destruction of peatlands for the development of oil palm plantations.”

I’ve heard people comment that living zero waste is too time consuming.  You DIY a lot of products like toothpaste, cleaning spray, facial moisturizer + cook healthy homemade food- what’s your experience been with fitting these into your life?

zero waste on the go

I think zero waste can be considered time consuming like eating home cooked meals can. There’s no way around prepping but much like having a Sunday prep day, you can make it a fun routine, where once a week or the same day as meal prep you can stock up, create, and prep for the weeks or months ahead depending on different products! I tend to run out of a couple things at the same time which makes it perfect for remaking it all at the same time too!

What would you say to someone who is curious about zero waste, but feels overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start?

My advice to someone who wants to start zero waste but seems a bit overwhelmed is to take it easy! This is supposed to be an incredibly eye opening and fun transition and that takes time. First notice what you waste within the next week or even a month. Once you identify where you waste, you can then look for alternatives which is where the fun begins!

Stevie yaaaay

Another big piece of advice is do not expect perfection, you will not get it! Every positive action you take is a HUGE WIN! So celebrate them all and learn from the ones that are accidents or giving in cravings!

talking trash: 4 months

vegan zero waste trash jar

Time is just flying by and it’s already time for another trashy post.  A few of you asked me to document my recycling this month too so I’ve added that…although I don’t know if I’ll do it every month because it was kind of a pain to keep it around this long… but I will if its really helpful/interesting for you.  Let me know.

This is everything my family of four wasn’t able to reuse, repurpose, or rot (compost) this month…so our landfill trash and our recycling.  For more info on how we keep waste so low, check out the first post in this series: month 1.  And for past months of trash documentation: month 2, and month 3.  For a post about a zero waste kit to reduce trash on the go, click here.

Lets get into it.  First, here’s all the actual “trash” or landfill waste we made.

zero waste landfill trash jar

landfill trash:

plastic seal from Just Mayo: I haven’t ventured to experiment with DIY vegan mayo but will when we run out of this guy.  I reuse the glass jars and plastic lids for storage and bulk buying.

tabs from Carmela thrift coats, Joel sweaters, Vin tops: we needed some clothes this month as it got colder and even though we thrifted them, they come with little plastic tabs that attach the paper tags. (click here to read how+why we shop secondhand for almost all clothing)

tape from copper pots- also at the thrift store I found this amazing set of vintage copper pots (not even a brand on them and so well made) and they had a bunch of plastic shipping tape wrapped around them to keep the lids together with the pots.

plastic for your protection seal from oregano oil- this is my go to, heal all potion for immunity, infection, my mom even uses it to remove suspicious sun spots.  I was out so I bought another (it lasts forever) and it had this plastic seal.  I reuse the bottles for my own tinctures and refilling extracts.

2 small pieces of scotch tape from the sleeve of handmade local soap: these bars of soap was minimally packed with a thin strip of paper, held together by a sliver of tape.

tag from a bunch of parsley: usually I buy these at the market but occasionally I forget or run out and this label was attached to the twist tie.  It has a #5 recycling symbol on it, but its so small I worry it will slip right through and get trashed.

Clearly kombucha label: my husband picked this up before our own kombucha was ready to drink and although it had a metal lid and glass bottle (which i washed and will reuse for our own brew), it had this giant plastic label on it.

Nature’s Bakery fig bar: this I found at the bottom of my daughters backpack and she said it was a prize for winning the reading contest in her class at school.  I’ve talked to the teacher and asked if I can bring in a few jars of various bulk treats for her to give out instead of the bars, goldfish crackers, and plastic wrapped toys she usually gives.  The teacher didn’t mind whatsoever and I’m so happy to have this option.

Volunteer sticker: I volunteer at my daughter’s school a few times a week (I co chair the garden program there) and usually I sneak by the office so I don’t have to check in (and get this huge plastic sticker) but this time I needed a key and was forced to check in, hence the sticker.

Produce stickers from avocados: thankfully the avocado stand from Southern CA is back at the market.  I recently read this piece about avocados and sustainability too that I found thought provoking.

Gold plastic seal from a sesame oil bottle:  I usually buy this in bulk but I ran out unexpectedly one night after being almost done with a recipe it was essential for- I will wash +reuse the glass bottle it came in for hot sauce.

2 plastic windows from mail: I have all my bills on paperless, and have followed this great post years ago to stop virtually all junk mail- but I did get 2 envelopes this month with plastic windows for a security alert from my bank and new membership to a local art museum.

2 non dairy yogurt starter packets: experimenting with ways to get consistent results on dairy free yogurts and I wouldn’t recommend this brand.  I could have not bought this but I’m really sad without good non dairy yogurt.  We have a couple coco yogurt brands in glass here but they’re expensive and not very good.  All others like almond milk and cashew yogurt are in plastic here.

Next, here’s all the recycling we had this month.

recycling zero waste

recycling:

6 beer bottles + 3 beer cans + 1 wine bottle:  as you can see, this is the majority of the recycling.  My husband manages a restaurant here and receives free samples of beer and wine from alcohol reps and companies.  I wish he didn’t accept them and we bought beer and wine in growlers/our own bottles, but I’m working on it and at least there’s no plastic involved here.  If you’re in Sacramento area, Cork it Again, Revolution Wines, and Berryessa Brewing Co. all offer refilling.  All the beers are local to CA (where we live), and the wine is from Washington- better than from Europe or Australia, etc.

3 cans of coconut milk: I haven’t been able to make homemade coco milk as creamy as canned for texture in curries and such, but I’m continuing to experiment.

2 cans of beans: baked beans and chickpeas.  I make our own beans 99% of the time but I’m not above buying canned beans in a pinch.

assorted paper: from mail, Carmela’s schoolwork, cardboard 6 pack box from the beer.

 

That’s it!  If you guys have any questions about specific things, feel free to comment below or on Instagram @mamaeatsplants , I’d love to hear about what your biggest sources of trash are.

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package free: fermented hot sauce

fermented red Fresno Chile habanero hot sauce probiotic vegan

This year I’m trying to reduce my recycling and rely less often on store bought products in the interest of sustainability- and also just because its fun for me.  I already buy very little pre made foods- see package free: veggie broth , everything bagel spicepackage free: hummus, pickled onions + beets and sauerkraut. but certain things I just haven’t gotten around to DIY-ing: mustard (although I have a great recipe a friend on IG gifted me with), ketchup, mayo, and previously: hot sauce.

I love a good hot sauce to spice things up, and after I watched BA Brad make this amazing fermented hot sauce I just had to try it.  Turns out, it’s super easy, delicious, and cheap to make your own.  Plus I got all the ingredients sans packaging.  My husband even rescued some empty Tabasco and Cholula bottles from his work that were heading for the landfill.  I washed them out and they work perfectly for my own brew.  Zero waste win!

A note about fermenting:  some people are scared of fermenting, fearing botulism or food poisoning.  I’ve been fermenting for years and only had something go off on me once: a batch of kraut that grew mold on the top (I didn’t properly submerge it under the brine).  Not saying it can never happen, but just use common sense: use CLEAN hands, tools, and vessels when fermenting; discard anything that looks or smells bad.  WHEN IN DOUBT THROW IT OUT (compost it).

If something is off, it will smell terrible/skunky/strange/alcohol-y or have weird colors/textures.  If it smells delicious and tangy, its fine.  Use your common sense and you’ll be good.  If you’re unsure about something, you can send me a pic of it on instagram if you want!  Two really great books that go into depth on fermentation are Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation.  I found these at my library and they’re so interesting and helpful.

Chiles zero waste habanero red Fresno fermented

This recipe was written down from the verbal directions in this video which I highly recommend you watching….its not only hilarious, its super informative and shows you how to do it step by step.

BA brad’s fermented red chile hot sauce:

ingredients:

20 red fresno peppers

3 habanero peppers

3 dried hibiscus flowers (sometimes labeled flor de jamaica or in the tea section)-optional

4 mixed peppercorns (or just all black peppercorns)

4 cardamom pods (optional)

1 teaspoon Aleppo or Maras Biber chili flakes (optional but adds depth)

4 cloves of garlic

6 tablespoons kosher sea salt

6 tablespoons sugar

2 quarts of water

method:

Deseed the peppers- you can leave some seeds in, all of the seeds, or none of the seeds.  It will still be really spicy even without seeds from the habaneros.

In a large glass jar, add 1 quart of water and all the spices, salt, and sugar.  Put the lid on and shake it or stir it up until the sugar and salt dissolve.  Add in the peppers and the remaining quart of water.  Stir again gently.  Replace lid loosely (so a little air can escape still) and place jar in a dark spot (like a cupboard or closet).

The ideal temp to ferment in is 70-80 degrees.  Keep in mind that if its colder, your ferment will take longer, if its warmer, it will take less time.

Let ferment for 2 weeks and open jar daily or every other day to release gas. After 2 weeks, open jar and press on peppers with a wooden spoon quite firmly to release juices and break down cell walls a bit, and stir jar.  This is what my jar looked like after 2 weeks- bubbly but nothing crazy, smelling super savory and delicious.

Fermented Chile hot sauce garlic hibiscus

Let ferment another 2 weeks. Continue to open jar daily to release gas.  This is what my jar looked like at this point.  See that white waxy/filmy stuff?  Thats totally normal and fine- don’t get freaked out if you see this.  Its just natural yeasts from the chile skins.

Fermented Chile salt brine hot sauce zero waste

Strain the liquid, reserving it for later.  Remove whole spices if desired.  Add rest of jar into blender. Add half a cup of liquid from straining and blend smooth, adding more liquid as needed to attain desired consistency.  Bottle and enjoy!

 

 

talking trash: 3 months

Family Trash jar zero waste landfill

All right, trash voyeurs!  Here’s a peek at all the trash our family of four made this month.  In my first post in this series, I share more about the HOW behind the jar- shopping and lifestyle habits we adopted to reduce our trash drastically.  I checked in for month two to show you what I added, and now it’s already month three!  This is everything that I couldn’t reuse, recycle, repurpose, or rot this month aka all our landfill trash.  I’m toying with the idea of also photographing our total recycling for the month, too: let me know if that would be interesting to you!  Now let’s get down and dirty-  let’s talk about each piece.

trash jar zero waste landfill

plastic wine “foil” + synthetic cork:  I asked J to bring home a cheap wine for cooking and he brought one that had PLASTIC foil AND cork!!!  Ugh…you couldn’t really tell until you opened it.  Learned my lesson there!

supplement seal: my glass bottle of chlorophyll supplement came with a plastic seal all over it (even though it was already sealed in a paper box!)  so I won’t be repurchasing.

various tiny plastic tags:  from thrift store clothing, 2 new dish towels, and a metal tea strainer.

kombucha seals:  my SCOBY isn’t quite ready to brew yet, and for Christmas I wanted to have something a little bubbly to share with the kids.  I bought two health-ade kombucha which come in glass bottles, but both had a black plastic seal around the lid. My SCOBY is almost ready to brew ‘booch, so this should be the last time I have to store buy, and I’ll repurpose the bottles for my own brew.

“sealed for your protection” plastic seal:  I can’t remember where this guy came from 😦 but these types of seals are the bane of my existence, as I’ve mentioned before.

broken hair tie:  one of my daughter’s synthetic hair ties broke after months of use.  I might look into alternatives like clips, cotton hair ties, barrettes etc.

gochujang sticker: the mother-in-law gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste) I bought came in a lovely glass jar with metal lid that I will reuse, but the label on it was purely synthetic. I may try making my own as I have access to both bulk koji and bulk gochujaru (the Korean chili flakes).

price sticker:  from a mug I bought at world market.

produce sticker:  from a rogue kiwi I bought.  Usually I buy these at the farmers market.

3 admission stickers:  from a trip to a local museum.  I saw a ton of them stuck outside the door on a pole, ostensibly from people ripping them off immediately upon leaving- who likes to wear a sticker?  We’re not in kindergarten.  I wish they could use something more sustainable.  I’m planning on emailing them to voice my discontent and support for an alternative.  I still feel the value of supporting art, local business, and exposing my kids to culture outweighs the trash.

That’s all!  Here’s what all the 3 months of landfill trash looks like all together:

Landfill trash zero waste family

Things I could do better:  Inspect items more closely before buying to ensure they’re not plastic…ie the wine and the supplement.  Also, I could have gotten by without buying the two kombuchas.  But, all in all, pretty good although I feel like we still recycle a good bit of cans, glass, and paper.

Also, a goal for next month is to shop for food as needed to reduce compost waste and fridge clutter.  Let me know what you think, what you’re curious about, and what you’re doing to lessen your waste in the new year- I’d love to hear.  If you’re starting from scratch, this post on a zero waste to go kit may be helpful to you ❤️

Love to you all,

xx Amanda

 

low waste christmas

Curious about our low waste Christmas?  Here’s a little recap of how we tried to keep waste, consumerism, and junk to a minimum this Christmas while still keeping it cozy and fun, plus all the goodies we gave + received.  My philosophy is to keep gifts simple, minimal, useful.  (You can see my gift guide here if you’re interested)  Let’s go!

vegan kid christmas zero waste
A little last minute grocery shopping with this cutie for Christmas Eve

Wrapping: I wrapped everything in brown paper I had saved from shipping materials or upcycled paper gift bags.  For ribbons, I chose to use jute or cotton string (biodegradable and compostable).  Decorations included bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, fresh herbs, flowers, and clippings from the Christmas tree.  Check out this YouTube video from the lovely Alli for tips on wrapping sans tape.

Zero waste plastic free no tape wrapping present christmas

Tree: we did buy a tree this year, it’s not my ideal choice BUT the kids and J outvoted me on this one.  We bought it from a local business + I saved the string that we tied it to the car with for tying gifts.  All the ornaments/decorations on the tree are from when I was a kid, or glass ones handmade by my mother in law.  There’s a few paper and ceramic ones Carmela has made at school over the years.  I don’t buy any new ones.  We’ve been using the string lights for a few years and thankfully they have been fine!  Our city picks up the trees with our normal green waste (compost) and chips them to make mulch for city parks.

Christmas tree zero waste compost wood chips

Gifts:  Joel and I don’t exchange gifts (it’s just not our thing, we never have) BUT we give the kids, Joel’s mom, and a few friends gifts.  For my best friend, I gifted: a bottle of local sparkling wine from a cool winery, a bottle of good local, sustainable olive oil (from the farmers market which sells it in bulk!), and a jar of homemade green olive tapenade.

zero waste recycle Christmas present plastic free
that’s the olive oil wrapped in recycled paper and fresh bay leaves

For another friend, I gifted: a bottle of wine + one of my favorite books (picked up a cool vintage copy at a used bookstore) and wrote a little note on the inside flap.

wine secondhand book Christmas gift zero waste
He’s a minimal kind of guy, that’s why the wrapping is naked on these.

Carmela received: a tiny metal music box that plays Für Elise (her favorite song to play on piano), a hand knit beanie from her grandma, locally made soap, a new notebook, a pretty amethyst crystal, and a stack of books (her favorite gift always).

secondhand Christmas book zero waste kids
cracking a book open already

Vincent received:  a thrifted large metal tin filled with thrifted cars, a hand knit beanie from his grandma, a subscription to Click science based magazine, replacement pieces to the Operation game we own (thrifted by his grandma), and a book with cut-out paper airplane dragons.

Hot wheels car kids tin zero waste Christmas gift

For Joel’s mom, we gave her some local bulk coffee, a locally made apricot rose palm oil free soap bar, and a locally made candle in a glass jar.

As a family, from our lovely friend, we received a membership to a local museum which was the most thoughtful gift and one we can use all year long.  YAY

For others like: teachers, mailman, acquaintances etc we gave gingerbread cookies in thrifted metal tins lined with parchment paper.

no waste plastic free family Christmas holiday
this is how she wrapped it- totally waste free and beautiful!

Food: Christmas Eve dinner, we had stuffed cabbage rolls + festive red salad and baked vegan latkes.  

Christmas dinner vegan latkes gluten free radicchio winter

After dinner we drove around to look at lights with bulk homemade popcorn (air popper, tamari to season) to snack on.  The kids really enjoyed this as you can see.

Christmas kids eve

In the morning we had this v/gf monkey bread.  For appetizers: local baguette + cashew cheese, bulk olives, bulk in shell mixed nuts (so fun to crack), apples, tangerines all on a platter.

Vegan appetizer zero waste nut cracker
I thrifted the ceramic bowl and the ceramic coasters a few years back!

My mother in law brought homemade limoncello in a upcycled glass jar to share.  We received some plastic wrapped, non vegan cookies for our neighbors that I refused (which wasn’t fun to do, but I couldn’t just accept them and throw them away year after year). At least they will know for next year.

Music: on Spotify: Christmas jazz + Bossa Nova Christmas- for a more swanky, calm vibe.

minimal style french red lip
a little red lip for Christmas morning. Buon natale!

Passing the time:  board games, going on walks, watching A Christmas Story, cozying up and reading with a good book…I’m enjoying this one right now-

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We are having a fantastic Christmas + if you celebrate, I hope you are too.  I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who read my blog and/or follow on Instagram!  You guys are so kind and positive + I’m so happy to have been able to connect with you through this online platform.  I love sharing and inspiring you, and being inspired by YOU in return!  Thanks for being a part of this little space.   All my love xx Amanda

zero waste: on the go kit

eco bag sustainable vegan zero waste to go kit less trash mason jar tiffin

Let’s be honest, being on the go is the trashiest situation you can have as someone trying to reduce waste.  You’re away from home and put in a compromised situation.  Especially when you’re hungry, it can be really easy to make a bunch of trash like plastic cutlery, to go boxes, plastic cups and straws, and more.

It can really add up, especially when you’re out and about day after day.  With just a little planning ahead, most of it is completely avoidable.  Here’s a simple kit to either bring with you or stash in your car.  Even if you just choose one thing to swap out for a reusable, you’ll be making a huge difference and others who see you may be inspired to make the swap too!

reusable grocery tote: Did you know the world uses 1 MILLION plastic bags a minute?  Sick, right?  They’re used ONCE for, on average, 12 minutes, and last forever.  If you don’t have a reusable tote yet, check your local thrift store, or there’s  a ton on Etsy , or these Eco Bags string bags.  The key here is not to forget them, or if you do, just carry your stuff out.

plastic pollution trash animals vegan zero waste ocean

a small cloth bag:  I keep one of these folded and tucked in my purse always.  They’re really convenient when you’re on the go.  Let’s say you’re out in the morning and stop at your bakery for a croissant.  You can get it in your bag instead of the paper one.  OR say you’re at a store getting lunch and you want a bagel or a cookie from the case, or some almonds from the bulk bin, or a few tangerines.  Pop them in your reusable cloth bag and you’re good to go!  I love these linen bento bags , also these organic cotton bags work super well (and double as a good nut milk bag).

a glass mason jar with lid: glass jars are perfect utilitarian multi-use vessels.  I keep one in the car and my bag all the time.  You can find one at a thrift store and basically just about anywhere these days.

Plastic single use cups are the worst.  To-go coffee cups that look like paper are actually lined with a plastic coating, which means they can’t be recycled and are also terrible for our health.  Starbucks alone contributes 4 BILLION cups a year to the landfill.  If you get coffee or tea everyday, pick up a reusable coffee cup with lid or use a mason jar with a sleeve on it.

Starbucks plastic cup single use ocean pollution zero waste

I use my jar to buy drinks in on-the-go like juice, smoothies, coffee, tea, kombucha, water from a drinking fountain- I’ve even bought ice cream in it when all they served in was disposable cups.  Take your jar to a party, BBQ, festival with you if you’re not sure if they’ll be using plastic cups.  If you can’t take glass into an event, this stainless steel pint is lightweight and durable.

a set of reusable utensils to keep with you:  plastic cutlery is really easy to avoid.  Just keep a set with you like this bamboo one or this foldable stainless spork.  I just use a small fork + spoon from my home set and keep them in my purse. Wash them off in the bathroom when you’re done.  Include a stainless straw in your kit if you’re a straw person.

seahorse q tip ocean pollution zero waste single use vegan

a cloth napkin: there’s so many pretty cloth napkins you can choose from at really any store to get away from those paper thin disposable napkins that shred and don’t do much anyway.  I bought a bunch on clearance at World Market years ago.

a reusable water bottle: I usually just use my mason jar for water out and about, but if you’re going to the gym, hiking, or just drink a ton of water, a reusable bottle is a must.  Plastic bottles are not only the scourge of the earth, they are terrible for our health too- plastic leaches chemicals into the water, and is especially destructive to kids growing bodies.

Americans throw away 2.5 MILLION plastic bottles every HOUR.  Plus, it’s basically just tap water with no safety regulations sold back to you for a huge profit.   This stainless one is very durable and plastic free.

Making this swap is one of the easiest things you can do, and saves you so much money.  I know because I used to buy flats of Smart Water at Costco (embarrassing and expensive).

Ocean pollution plastic single use zero waste vegan

a stainless steel tiffin: If you buy takeout a lot, the plastic containers can really add up.  Keeping a stainless steel tiffin or other reusable container with you is the easy solution.

Call ahead first to ask if it’s ok to use your own container if you’re worried.  One time I did get turned down, but later the guy apologized and said it was ok.  If you’re getting food at the salad bar, have them weigh the container first so you don’t get charged for the weight.

If you pack your own lunch for school or work, or hike a lot, these are fantastic for bringing your own food in.  I also bring mine to events that have food stands to use instead of the plastic coated paper plates they use.

Eco bag net bag green sustainable zero waste family to go tiffin reusable trash

Keep in mind that you don’t have to make all these swaps overnight.  If you feel overwhelmed, just choose ONE thing to swap out.  Then, once you’ve got that down and feel like it’s comfortable and easy, move on to swap out another thing.  Also, if you forget, don’t feel bad.  The point is, you’re trying + doing your best every day to make the best choices you can.  And every time you refuse single use, you’re voting with your choices and sending a clear message to businesses and others around you. Spread the inspiration.

All my love,

xx A