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How To Use Up Leftovers A blue plate with uneaten sliced carrots ready to be stored in the fridge for later

How To Use Up Leftovers

Introduction

We waste a lot of food. So much that food waste accounts for 20% of what we send to landfill. Leftovers is one way to prevent it, but sometimes it’s hard to remember (or want) to eat them. I’m still falling victim to saving food just for it to go bad waiting in the fridge. In this post, you’ll learn not only how to properly store leftovers but also how to use up leftovers before they go bad.

Save Those Leftovers

Before we get to discussing how to use up leftovers, you have to remember to save them first! Don’t toss extra food into the trash after dinner (or even the compost bin if the food is still good). Even if it’s a few bites, it can add up over time to a lot of wasted food.

Container

The best way to store leftovers is in a clear, airtight container. The reason you want a clear container is so you can easily see what’s inside and if it’s gone bad. We still use plastic containers, but I try my best to avoid microwaving them. At higher temperatures, plastics can leech out endocrine disruptors into the food. Glass containers or jars are your best bet.

Fridge

If storing for a short time, you can keep the containers in the fridge. Make sure they stay towards the front and don’t get buried. Place newer leftovers behind older ones so you remember to eat the old first.

If it helps, add a strip of masking tape to the lid and use a pencil to write the date. Using a pencil allows you to erase and write a new date for another batch of leftovers. You could also use a grease pencil directly on the container.

Freezer

If storing for a longer period, you can put them in the freezer. Marking them with the date will be more important for frozen items.

If using glass jars, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, ensure there is space at the top for expansion as the food freezes. Wide mouth jars are better to freeze than ones with “shoulders”. If you don’t have any wide mouth jars, just leave even more space (a couple inches below the shoulder). Cap loosely until they are frozen, and try to keep glass containers from touching each other.

For all glass containers, let your food cool a bit before putting it in the freezer. Quick changes in temperature can cause the glass to shatter. Similarly, when you want to heat up frozen leftovers stored in glass, let the food thaw a little first before putting it in the microwave.

Tip #1: Leftover Day

The first way to use up leftovers is to dedicate one night a week to eating a leftover meal. Not only will you prevent food waste, but you’ll also clear up space in the fridge and save yourself some cooking time.

Leftover Day should be the day or so before you plan to go shopping. This allows you to know exactly how much food you currently have so you don’t overbuy. And as I said, eating up those leftovers will make space in the fridge so you have room for new groceries. Taking inventory of what leftovers you have can also inspire what you’ll make next, whether that means incorporating leftovers into a new meal or going in a different direction for variety.

Most of our days are Leftover Days because we meal prep a large portion at the beginning of the week and eat it throughout the week. It saves so much time to make everything at once! Plus, we don’t have to worry about perishable items like produce going bad while it waits in the drawer to be cooked some other night.

Tip #2: Leftovers For Lunch

Making lunch every night before work is an absolute breeze when you use leftovers. When I didn’t use this tip, I ate the same PB&J or bagel every day. But now, I have hot food for lunch pretty much every day, which to me is more filling especially if it’s cold outside.

When you go to store your leftovers, portion them out into smaller containers you can quickly throw into your lunch bag. Many times, our meal prep “leftovers” are a bunch of ingredients I can mix and match and season differently so it’s not exactly the same each day. These ingredients tend to include brown rice, quinoa, lentils, corn, beans, and broccoli.

If you’re bringing in leftovers that are just last night’s dinner, I suggest waiting an extra day or two before bringing them in. How many times do you want to eat the same thing you ate the night before? By spacing things out, you can create a bit of variety in your meals.

Tip #3: Mix It Up

I mentioned this in the section about Leftover Day. You don’t need to just eat leftovers as they were when you had them the first time. Spice them differently, like I do for lunch. Add in a new ingredient. Add the entire container to a new recipe.

Here’s some ideas for how to use up leftovers:

  • Add different spices, hot sauces, or condiments to your leftovers (soy sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, etc.) to give them a new flavor
  • Add leftover side dish veggies to a stir fry or pasta dish
  • Leftover roasted potatoes can turn into mashed potatoes seasoned with garlic or cheese
  • Make a burrito, taco, or quesadilla out of your leftovers
  • Add leftovers to a soup, stew, or chili
  • If bread gets stale, make breadcrumbs or croutons
  • Juice leftover fruits and veggies or add them to a smoothie
  • Use leftovers as pizza toppings
  • Make homemade veggie burgers using rice, beans, and veggies
  • Compost when leftovers produce, legumes, and grains have gone bad

Conclusion

Leftovers can easily be incorporated into your weekly meals without becoming boring by eating the same thing again and again. If you properly storing leftovers, you’ll make sure they aren’t forgotten. By scheduling out specific times to eat leftovers and getting creative with their usage, pretty soon you’ll be an expert on how to use up leftovers.

Curious about other ways to minimize food waste? Check out my 12 Ways To Reduce Food Waste!

How To Use Up Leftovers A blue plate with uneaten sliced carrots ready to be stored in the fridge for later
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Kitchen Swaps 12 Easy Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps A counter and cabinet with reusable wash cloths, beeswax wraps, and a glass spray bottle

12 Easy Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps

This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no additional cost to you. Read more on my Disclaimer page.

Introduction

The kitchen is the most wasteful room in the home. After all, our biggest trash bins are kept in the kitchen. Today we’re going to cut down on some of that waste by discussing various zero waste kitchen swaps to remove single use or plastic products in the kitchen. These swaps are easy to make and won’t cost much money. You’ll even save money over time by reusing a product instead of buying a new one over and over! For tips on reducing food waste, head over to this post to reduce kitchen waste even more!

1. Paper Towels

Many households go through paper towels like candy. Every spill is cleaned up with a few sheets. They’re used to dry or clean off hands and dishes, or cover food in the microwave. Switch to reusable alternatives instead.

Cloth towels are the easiest zero waste kitchen swap for paper towels. If you don’t have any, go out to the thrift store and pick up a few or make your own squares of terrycloth. Then hang them off handles or set out a little pile on the counter. After the dirty, just toss them in the wash.

If you’re very used to ripping off sheets, check out these “unpaper towels“. They are paper towel sized cloths you can either wrap together into a roll to stick on a paper towel holder. Same deal, just wash them after use.

2. Napkins

Similar to paper towels, most kitchens keep a stack of napkins at the ready. Switch out paper napkins with either cloth rags or cloth napkins. This napkin folds into a little snack bag too! I keep either a rag or cloth napkin in my lunch box and will bring one with me when I expect to eat while I’m out someplace. At home I just use a rag or towel.

3. Plastic Containers

Tupperware and other plastic containers are huge mainstays in most kitchens. Beyond being made from plastics that never break down, these containers can leech chemicals when heated. Many containers also lack in quality or durability.

So instead, switch to glass. While glass has its own environmental struggles (read about them here), glass is infinitely recyclable and inert so it poses no health issues.

Most glass containers still come with plastic snap-on lids, but we have these style containers from IKEA which have bamboo lids (with plastic gasket) (not affiliated). You can also use mason jars for food storage or just reuse other glass jars from pickles, pasta sauce, etc.

4. Plastic Wrap

Plastic wrap makes me so mad because it’s so wasteful. You always end up using way more than necessary because it just sticks to itself, and it’s a one-and-done single use product. You really can’t reuse it if you wanted to.

Wax wraps are great zero waste kitchen swaps because you can mold them to fit the container you want and can rinse and reuse them many, many times. The most common is beeswax wraps, but for vegans, you can get soy wax wraps instead. You can use these wraps to cover containers or to wrap up a sandwich or snack to replace a plastic snack bag.

If you need to cover a plate, there are washable cloth covers, or for the free option, place a plate over the top of the bowl in the fridge. This option is good because them you can easily stack other things on top.

5. Snack Bags

While plastic snack/sandwich bags are reusable a couple times at best, they are far from as reusable as these reusable bags from (re)zip. We like them so much, we bought a second set.

There are also reusable cloth snack bags you can buy or make yourself to reduce the plastic in your kitchen since (re)zip bags are still plastic. Cloth bags, however, are obviously not water tight.

To get around both these issues, small glass jars offer the solution. These zero waste kitchen swaps are both plastic free and provide a water tight seal to prevent leaks. I’ve used little jam jars to hold berries so they don’t get smashed, and since they are small, the weight isn’t much of an issue.

6. Straws

I feel like most people aren’t constantly using plastic straws every time they have a drink at home, but they are common enough to need replacing.

Ditch the flimsy plastic and opt for metal, glass, or bamboo reusable straws instead. We have this set and often use them when we have smoothies, but sometimes I like to use them with glasses of ice water. They come with silicon toppers to protect sensitive teeth.

7. Dishware And Flatware

These may be more of a zero waste party swap than zero waste kitchen swaps, but there’s no need to use paper, styrofoam, or plastic plates and eating utensils.

While, yes, it is more convenient at parties to hand everyone things they can just throw into the trash, that’s a whole lot of waste. By swapping single use dishes and flatware for the real thing, you prevent multiple post-party trash bags and you’ll class up the party.

If you’re in the market for dishware or flatware, check your thrift store or online marketplace first. For parties and events, rent out real dishes. We did that for our sustainable wedding.

8. Cookware And Bakeware

Many pots and pans are coated in teflon to create a non-stick surface. Teflon is the trademarked name for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), and its fumes can cause harm to our health and the health of animals.

Switch to stainless steel, cast iron, or glass cookware instead. As always, check for secondhand pots, pans, and bakeware first. This goes for cooking utensils like spoons and spatulas as well.

9. Coffee And Tea

Our daily hot drinks can create a lot of waste. Single use paper coffee filters or individual K cups and tea bags (did you know many tea bags contain plastic?) can really pile up day after day.

If you have a coffee maker, keep using it. It’s always best to use what you have first. After using up your paper filters, switch to some reusable cloth coffee filters with a pour-over coffee maker. Instead of buying more disposable K cups, purchase a set of reusable cups and use your own flavors of coffee.

If you need a new coffee machine, consider a French press. They are metal and glass, and do not require filters. Search for one secondhand first, of course. That goes for traditional coffee machines too if you don’t want to go the French press route.

As for teas, use up your remaining bags and then switch to loose leaf teas. The tea bag gets replaced by a tea infuser which can be a little metal bulb or a fun silicon manatee that hangs on the edge of the mug.

10. Kitchen Appliances

There are a million kitchen gadgets and small appliances on the market, but many of these do one single task which could be easily accomplished by something you already own. For example, an apple slicer can’t do much else, but a knife does the job just as well (and is less scary to use in my opinion).

Think about what you actually need first. If you rarely use fresh garlic, do you really need a garlic crusher? Can something you already own do whatever job already? Look for tools with multiple uses instead of novelty one trick ponies. When you do go shopping for a kitchen appliance, look secondhand first.

11. Dish Soap

Some dish soaps are harmful to our health and the environment due to their ingredients, and they inevitably come in plastic bottles.

Many zero wasters have switched to Dr. Bronner’s castile soap which comes in many different scents. This soap is vegan and uses organic and fair trade ingredients. They’re plastic bottles are 100% post-consumer recycled content, although they also sell paper-wrapped bar soap.

You can buy a large jug and transfer it to a dispenser to lessen the total plastic packaging. Check your local zero waste shop of food co-op as they may offer bulk castile soap so you can refill your own containers.

12. Sponges And Brushes

That yellow and green sponge is an iconic dishwashing tool. These types of sponges are actually made of wood pulp, but foam sponges are made from plastic. You may also use plastic brushes or those brushes with a sponge on the end.

There are multiple zero waste kitchen swaps to replace your sponges and brushes. The first are wooden scrub brushes. I have one with plant-fiber bristles like this.  There are versions with longer handles where you just need to replace the head.

The next option is a wash rag you can hang to dry and wash when dirty to reuse again. You can also find cloth “unsponges” handmade on Etsy which are sponge-sized alternatives you can wash as well.

Conclusion

From food storage to cooking to eating to cleanup, these zero waste kitchen swaps will surely lighten your trash bag at the end of the week. Remember that it is best to use up what you have and looking for secondhand deals first. This way, you make the most of the resources we already have available instead of letting them go to waste. If you haven’t already, check out my post on reducing food waste for more zero waste kitchen tips.

Kitchen Swaps 12 Easy Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps A counter and cabinet with reusable wash cloths, beeswax wraps, and a glass spray bottle

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How To Have A Zero Waste Picnic A picnic meal with wooden utensils on grey blankets

How To Have A Zero Waste Picnic

This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no additional cost to you. Read more on my Disclaimer page.

Introduction

At least in the northern hemisphere, the weather is getting warmer, and everyone wants to get outside (especially because of the quarantine). I love going out and having a picnic, but if done “conveniently”, they can be huge waste generators. Between paper plates and plastic forks, there’s not only a lot to throw away, but a lot that could potentially blow away into the environment. So here’s a complete guide to having a zero waste picnic instead!

Blanket

The first thing you need for a zero waste picnic is something to sit on. If available, you can use a picnic table, but I like tossing out a blanket and sitting on the ground. Go through your linen closet and see if you have an old blanket or even a couple beach towels to lay out.

Or you can buy a blanket secondhand. We got ours at the thrift store, and although it’s covered in snowflakes, it works great in the summer!

Eating Supplies

Next you’ll need some zero waste eating supplies, including containers for food, dishes to eat from, utensils, napkins, and a basket or bag to store it all in.

Containers

Tupperware and other plastic containers work fine, but if you are going plastic free, opt for a metal or glass container. Mason jars are great for storing individual servings and doubling as a bowl to eat from. You can also check out this stainless steel snack container and 2-tier tiffin, or use these silicon stretch lids to cover bowls of food.

Dishes

While personally I’d just pack individual portions in separate containers, you may be having a potluck-style picnic. If that’s the case, you’ll need to pack plates. Paper plates are obviously better than styrofoam or plastic, but they are still a single use product. Try these metal plates and bowls instead! As I said, make use of mason jars (or just other reused glass jars).

As for cups, be sure to pack your reusable water bottle. My husband and I don’t go anywhere without our Nalgene water bottles. They’re plastic, but they are still going strong so I’ll keep using it. You could also bring a thermos with its included cup or this stainless steel cup.

Eating Utensils

Next you need to bring along a fork, spoon, knife, or all three. My husband has this 3-in-1 titanium spork. You can also find yourself a set of bamboo utensils like this one with its handy case, or the easiest option is to pack some flatware from home. I do it that way by rolling up my flatware in a cloth napkin and securing it with a rubber band.

Napkins

Speaking of napkins, don’t forget yours. I got my cute watermelon print napkin from someone at a little festival, but you can find fun prints online or make one yourself. Linen or cotton fabric will work best.

Basket Or Bag

What’s cuter than a wicker picnic basket? You can search your local thrift store or online marketplace for a nice basket big enough to hold your zero waste picnic materials, or settle for a big reusable bag. That’s what we use. Ours has a sheet of reinforcing plastic on the bottom so things stay in place better.

Don’t want to do all the leg work? Check out this zero waste picnic gift set from the ZERO Market (not affiliated). It comes with a 64 oz growler, a metal food container, two utensil sets with wraps, two steel cups, and a cotton sling bag.

Picnic Meal

So now that you have all the materials for your zero waste picnic, you need to decide what food to bring along. Here’s some tips for making it a zero waste meal as well.

What To Make?

A plant-based meal is best for the environment, and there’s loads of tasty recipes online like this tasty and customizable burrito bowl. Potato and pasta salads are picnic staples, so here’s an easy vegan potato salad recipe and a roundup of 15 vegan pasta salads.

Check your own kitchen and/or garden first. Try and build a dish from ingredients you have, especially those with shorter shelf lives. Googling the phrase “what can I make with [ingredients]” will help you figure out what to make.

Shopping

When you go shopping, try to buy local. Do you have a farmers market near you? Farmers markets are great because the food was grown close by and usually 100% package free. Some vendors may also take back packaging like egg cartons for reuse.

If you go to a normal grocery store, look for zero waste, package free items. It’s best to stick to the store’s perimeter because all the packaged and processed foods are found in the middle aisles.

Skip the produce bag and leave your produce naked. Be sure to bring your own reusable bags to the store too (although currently some grocers have banned reusable bags due to the health crisis). To get around no bags, just fill your shopping cart back up after checkout and unload directly into bags or a box at your car.

Leftovers

After your zero waste picnic, keep the food waste to a minimum. Americans waste over six pounds of food every week. Pack up leftovers into containers to bring back home, and compost if possible. Be sure to keep those leftovers in a highly visible spot in the fridge so you don’t forget about them! You can find some more tips for reducing food waste in my post here.

Things To Do

Obviously, you’re going to eat at your zero waste picnic, but that’s a bit boring, don’t you think? Soak up some vitamin D and relax in the fresh air. Take a nice walk and appreciate Mother Nature. Be sure to protect your skin with some zero waste sunscreen though!

Getting outside is super important for our mental health during this time, especially as the weather gets better and the world starts opening up again. Be sure to continue taking proper social distancing measures.

Socialize

Get off your phone and have a real conversation. We spend so much time looking at screens in our daily lives, it’s good to look at something real for a while. Catch up with friends and family, have deep conversations, shoot the breeze, or just enjoy being together in silence.

Games

Instead of just eating and talking, get up and play some games! Throw a pack of cards in your basket or bring a ball along to play catch. If you’re someplace with pavement, have fun drawing with chalk or playing tic-tac-toe, making a maze, or playing hangman. In a large enough space, you could bring along some yard games.

Other Things To Do

Bring that new book and read a few pages while listening to the birds. Or perhaps you’d like to listen to music instead. Get your creative brain thinking and watch the clouds. Just do something you’ll enjoy!

Clean Up

After you’ve finished your zero waste picnic, you don’t want to leave anything behind. Be sure to leave your space better than you found it. If you need to, throw out any waste you’ve created. For some brownie points, clean up a few pieces of litter too!

Conclusion

It’s pretty simple to turn a typical picnic into a zero waste picnic. You just have to do a little extra planning, which is true for pretty much everything with zero waste. Although it requires a bit of extra work, it’s definitely worth it for protecting our planet.

What are some of your favorite picnic activities or games? Leave a comment below!

How To Have A Zero Waste Picnic A picnic meal with wooden utensils on grey blankets
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Five Ways To Dramatically Reduce Your Carbon Footprint Hands cupping a little green sapling

5 Ways To Dramatically Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no additional cost to you. Read more on my Disclaimer page.

Introduction

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon emissions (or equivalent) that you produce directly or indirectly. Greenhouse gas emissions and human activities are causing damage around the globe through climate change, mass extinctions, and pollution. So let’s look at five ways you can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint to have a smaller impact on our planet.

1. Refuse Single Use Items

Single use items are the bane of my existence. It’s hard to get around them. They’re everywhere, especially as litter on the street and in our oceans. The Ocean Conservancy hosted an International Coastal Cleanup Day in 2017 and tallied the results. Every single one of the top ten items (over 10 million of them!) collected on beaches worldwide was a single use item. Imagine if all that unnecessary litter disappeared.

Refusing to use single use items saves a lot of waste and energy and reduces demand for those products. By switching to reusable alternatives, you are voting with your wallet. Single use brands will see profits dipping (if enough of us make the switch). They will reduce the amount they produce to meet the lower demand, and if we’re lucky, they might realize the problem and change or discontinue that product.

The more times you use an item, the less impact it has per use. If you keep reusing and making do with what you have, you can make a huge impact on your carbon footprint. Remember, cutting something out completely is even better!

Here’s a quick list of ten common single use items along with their reusable counterparts:

  1. Plastic bags from the store → Your own reusable bags
  2. Plastic straw → Reusable metal straw
  3. Saran wrap → Beeswax wraps
  4. Paper towels → Cloth towels, rags, or “unpaper” towels
  5. Pads and tampons → Reusable pads, menstrual cup, or period-proof underwear
  6. Disposable plastic water bottles → Reusable water bottle
  7. Tissues → Hankies
  8. Tea bags → Loose leaf tea infuser
  9. Plastic pens → Refillable fountain pens
  10. Plastic floss → Silk floss

2. Eat A (More) Plant-Based Diet

Animal agriculture is responsible for 44 percent of human-caused methane emissions and five percent of human-caused carbon emissions. Converted to CO2 equivalent, animal agriculture emits 7.1 gigatons every single year (7.1 billion tons). To put that into perspective, the average car produces under five metric tons per year.

A large portion of the food we grow is fed to grow animals. Because of this energy funnel, it takes over eight times the water to create one pound of beef and over two times the water to create one pound of chicken as it takes to create a pound of pasta (using this source for numbers). Compared with a pound of a potatoes, the numbers are 54 times and 15 times respectively. This news story from Cornell claims the US could feed 800 million people with the grain it feeds to its livestock.

And it goes much deeper than just raising the animals. Animal agriculture is responsible for much of the deforestation around the world, especially in places like the Amazon. Land is cleared for grazing as well as growing animal feed. Because 45% of the world’s land is devoted to livestock, animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction. In addition, herbicides and pesticides used on animal feed also run off and pollute water ways and deplete soil nutrients making it even harder for native species.

A Mediterranean diet produces 2.8 tons of CO2 per person per year, a vegetarian diet produces 1.7 tons, and a fully vegan diet produces 1.5 tons (2.5 is the average omnivorous diet). A study by Oxford University found a vegetarian diet can reduce your carbon footprint by 73%.

Those following a Mediterranean diet do not consume much red meat. Most of their protein comes from seafood, poultry, legumes, nuts, and oils. There have been many studies that show positive health effects of the Mediterranean diet, as well as with vegetarian and vegan diets.

For help on transitioning your diet, check out this article or this one. Start small and just cut out meat one meal a day, or one day a week (Meatless Mondays). Eating less meat and animal products, no matter how much less, will contribute a lot to reducing your carbon footprint.

Travel Sustainably

Everything and everyone travels. You go to and from work every day along with most other people. Items on store shelves can travel thousands of miles by boat, railroad, and truck before it reaches the store. Fifteen percent of global emissions comes from the transportation sector.

There are many ways to cut down on your transportation emissions. First of all is, of course, drive less and carpool. Make big round trips to multiple stores instead of a bunch of single trips back and forth from home. Take public transportation if available in your area. Walk or ride a bike or scooter to nearby places around the neighborhood.

Instead of big vacations to far off destinations, discover what your area has to offer. Have a stay-cation or just travel closer to home (the nearest big city or the next state over for example). My honeymoon a few hours north to New Hampshire was just as fun than a vacation to the Caribbean would have been. There’s exciting activities, great hikes, and places to get some R&R pretty much anywhere you look!

Choose road trips over plane rides. While maybe not the best with small children, road trips can be fun both on the way there and back and at the destination itself. If you still want or need to fly, you can buy carbon offsets from airlines or other organizations to cancel out your portion of the flight’s carbon footprint.

Shop Local

This way to reduce your carbon footprint stems from the previous two: eating a better diet and reducing transportation. Take those a step further by combining them.

Switching to a more plant-based diet also involves giving up all those processed and packaged foods. You won’t find Ho-Hos at the farmers market. That’s good for both your health and the planet. You won’t be eating boatloads of sugar, preservatives, and artificial dyes, and you’ll save on all the packaging waste.

This tip doesn’t actually require you to convert from omnivore to herbivore because can still get meat, dairy, and eggs from local providers. As I’ve said though, reducing your animal product consumption will reduce your carbon footprint. But if you are going to eat animal products, please get them local.

Buying locally produced items drastically cuts down on transportation emissions since items are moving across town or the state instead of around the globe. Try walking or biking to your local store or farmers market to reduce emissions even more. Locally made items may also have greener production practices, more ethical treatment of workers, and use local materials. Do your research first!

Shopping local for groceries (and beyond!) also supports your neighbors’ livelihoods instead of lining the pockets of corporations. Buying local is another way of voting with your wallet to say you don’t want global production that harms workers, communities, and the environment. For specific examples, take a look at my post on fashion to learn about the horrible problems this one industry causes.

Have Fewer Children

Some people don’t like to hear this one, but it’s true. Human overpopulation is a serious concern. More people means the need for more food, more water, more energy, more living space, just MORE. Each person on average is responsible for around 360 metric tons of carbon during their lifetime (given 5 metric tons per year and a life expectancy of 72 years). Currently, humans are using over 1.7 Earths of resources, but our population is still expected to increase by two billion people in the next 30 years.

When you think about it, you are responsible for the carbon footprint of your child, your child’s child, you child’s child’s child, etc. By having fewer children, you essentially save an infinite amount of emissions in the present and the future.

If you still want to have children, by all means have them. But please teach them to be responsible caretakers of the earth. Raise them to be content without a toy chest exploding with toys they rarely play with. Teach them homesteading skills like sewing, gardening, and cooking. Raise brave leaders who know to speak up against the injustices in our world and to help their fellow man, animal, and plant.

Conclusion

While perhaps you can’t or don’t want to make every one of these changes and do so perfectly, perfection is not the end goal. We need lots of people going zero waste imperfectly rather than a few people doing it perfectly (whatever perfectly means since actual zero is impossible). Do what you can and encourage others to do what they can too.

Want to learn about some more ways to reduce your carbon footprint? Check out some of these other posts:

Five Ways To Dramatically Reduce Your Carbon Footprint Hands cupping a little green sapling
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Profits Over Planet Amid The Pandemic Climate strike cardboard sign stating "No business on a dead planet"

Profits Over Planet Amid The Pandemic

Introduction

While the pandemic rages on, the United States government is using the virus to pass “shock doctrine.” The term “shock doctrine” was coined by author Naomi Klein who wrote a book describing how leaders will exploit national crises to pass unpopular policies that would have faced much more push-back in peace times. It is possible you don’t know about the many ways our government is putting profits over planet during the pandemic, so take a look. Then do something about it.

EPA Reduces Environmental Regulations

On March 26, the Environmental Protection Agency released a memo stating it would temporarily allow companies to violate testing, training, and other obligations without punishment. There is no indication of how long “temporary” means, and this broad new policy opens the door for negligence. If companies can make a strong enough case for noncompliance due to the pandemic, they could get away with cutting corners to increase profits.

What Does The EPA Memo Say?

The memo addresses the effect the pandemic may have on a facility’s ability to properly monitor and test as required, move or store property and waste, and even train its employees. The memo says “these consequences may affect the ability of an operation to meet enforceable limitations on air emissions and water discharges, requirements for the management of hazardous waste, or requirements to ensure and provide safe drinking water.”

The EPA “does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance”.

The Agency provided an expectation that all facilities should continue operating in compliance with environmental regulations, but it will not punish those who defy those regulations. While the policy does not apply to any criminal violations, the EPA stated it would work with the Department of Justice to “exercise enforcement discretion” with regards to companies that pollute during this time.

It is important to note this policy also does not apply to any imports, Superfund activities, or RCRA Corrective Action enforcement instruments. The EPA memo stated it expects public water systems to continue normal operation and maintenance activities, including timely sample analysis of water systems.

The Agency says it will distinguish between noncompliance that stems directly from the pandemic and noncompliance that was avoidable. It is unclear how that determination will be made.

Nine States Sue Over Memo

On Wednesday, nine states sued the EPA over the reduction of regulation and oversight. California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia filed a lawsuit on the grounds that “the policy is too broad and not transparent.” They argue the EPA does not have the authority to waive the obligation of entities to inform the public about about pollution hazards. A month ago, multiple environmental groups filed a similar lawsuit regarding the temporary policy.

Fossil Fuel Bailouts

The Federal Reserve’s bond buyback program will benefit at least 90 fossil fuel companies and over 150 utility companies, many of which heavily rely on coal (). The total expected worth of the program is estimated at $750 billion, but the portion these companies would receive in still unknown.

An Oxford University study said investing in a green recovery from the pandemic would create more jobs and produce larger economic returns over investing in the fossil fuel industry, but the Trump administration continues to prop up a dying industry. This decision puts profits over planet by providing a lifeline to fossil fuel instead of investing in our future.

Big Oil and Gas companies also received over $72 million in “small business” bailout money despite having a value over the $2 million maximum. Despite all these bailouts, members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump complaining that banks are not using enough of their own bailout money to invest in the fossil fuel industry. They argued discrimination against fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy companies.

Some members of Congress are still searching for ways to provide more relief to renewable companies who did not receive access to tax benefits like oil and gas companies did. This slight stems from conservative lobbyists who urged Congress to reject renewable energy relief on the basis that “Climate change is not an immediate threat to humanity.

States Increase Fossil Fuel Protest Punishments

Right now Americans are urged to stay inside, but three states (Kentucky, South Dakota, and West Virginia) passed laws to increase penalties for those who participate in fossil fuel protests within days of each other. Last week Alabama moved forward a similar bill, which is much harsher than the others.

On March 16, Kentucky officially designated natural gas and petroleum pipelines as “key infrastructure assets.” The new law makes causing over $1,000 in damage or tampering that may make operations unsafe a felony for first degree criminal mischief.

Two days later, North Dakota’s governor signed into law a bill that reclassified oil, gas, and utility equipment as “critical infrastructure.” Causing interruptions to these facilities now carries a felony. The next week, the governor passed another measure which defines a felony riot as “intentional use of force or violence by three or more persons” that causes any property damage.

West Virginia then followed at the end of March the a similar reclassification of oil, gas, and pipeline equipment as “critical infrastructure” and will now be charging fines up to $20,000 on those guilty of causing over $2,500 worth of “damage, destruction, vandalization, defacing or tampering.

The proposed bill in Alabama would make the same “critical infrastructure” designation, prohibit where pollution watchdog groups can fly drones, and make actions that interrupt or interfere with pipeline activities or facilities a Class C felony. This felony carries at least one year in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.

After the end of the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2017, other states passed their own laws protecting pipeline infrastructure against protesters. These states include Indiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

Executive Order Opens Up Offshore Fish Farms

On May 7, Trump signed an executive order that will make fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico and other waters less regulated. Specifically, the order calls for the removal of “unnecessary regulatory barriers” to increase domestic fish farming.

Marianne Cufone, executive director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, opposes the order and pointed out how often the floating fish pens fail. She believes the measure was taken now so it could slide past while most concern is focused on the pandemic.

While fish farming is efficient, it poses many environmental risks. Escaped fish can damage the surrounding ecosystems by out-competing wild populations. Viruses can wipe out the farm population. And fish farming would mostly benefit large corporations and wipe out smaller family operations. This executive order will reduce regulations which will cause even more harm to our waters.

Administration Opens 2.3 Million Acres To Hunting And Fishing

While Americans are stuck inside, the Trump administration announced plans to open 2.3 million acres of federal lands to hunting and fishing. Fishing will now be permitted in several wildlife refuges including San Diego Bay in California, Umbagog in Maine and New Hampshire, and Everglades Headwaters in Florida. Alligator hunting will be allowed at refuges in Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas.

Hunters will soon hunt mountain lions and mule deer at Cabeza Prieta as well as mountain lions, bobcats, and fox in Buenos Aires. Both of these national refuges are in Arizona. Hunters may also go after migratory birds for the first time in Oregon at the Wapato Lake and Hart Mountain refuges. What is the point of a national wildlife refuge if humans can still kill its animals for sport?

Reduced Fuel Efficiency Standards

At the end of March, the Trump administration announced the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule which will apply to vehicle models from 2021 to 2026. While this rule is an improvement from the administration’s initial plan to freeze emissions standards, it only requires 30% of the annual improvement the Obama administration’s standards required. Now vehicles must improve emissions by 1.5% per year instead of 5%.

The justification for this dramatic decrease is that it would make vehicles more affordable and encourage families to buy newer cars. Officials estimate this new standards would save around $1,000 on a $38,000 vehicle compared to the Obama era standard. This is only around 2.5% of the vehicle cost. I am unsure how much sway that small discount will have on potential consumers. To me, it sounds like a marketing campaign to sell more cars.

Leases and Land Auctions

On March 18, the US Department of the Interior auctioned off 78 million acres in the Gulf Coast for oil and gas leases. The following day, the Bureau of Land Management announced plans for a 45,000-acre auction for lands in New Mexico and Texas for even more oil and gas development.

The Bureau has also not given any indications of postponing or cancelling other scheduled auctions in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

The pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia dropped oil prices. This mean these auctions are not even bringing in as much money as they could be. Companies are buying up rights to drill on public lands at rock bottom prices. The government is giving companies the best deal, putting industry profits over planet and even their own profits.

Greenlit New Projects

The Bureau of Land Management approved a 497-acre expansion for a gold and silver mine located on public lands in Mojave County, Arizona. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved construction of both the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal and the Pacific Connector Pipeline which will stretch 230 miles. The terminal will be located in Coos Bay in Oregon, which is already seeing the effects of pollution.

Other Environmental Damages

The EPA has moved forward with expanding the proposal to restrict scientific research used to make environmental regulations. The Fish and Wildlife Service closed the public comment period regarding a proposal to weaken migratory bird protections forever.

The administration tapped Anna Siedman, a lawyer from Safari Club International, to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service’s international affairs department. She had sued the Fish and Wildlife Service many times over her career at the trophy hunting advocacy group. Someone against protecting the lives of animals should not have a position within the Fish and Wildlife Service.

What You Can Do

With federal and state governments putting economic profits over our planet, you may be asking what you can do about it. The best thing you can do is make your voice heard. Contact your elected officials. Be sure to turn out to vote.

Join or support one of the environmental groups below.

Get active on social media and in your community to spread awareness and support for environmental and sustainable policies. The #FridaysForFuture campaign started as a way to organize protests. The new #ClimateStrikeOnline campaign moves those protests online in light of the pandemic. Do not let quarantine keep you silent about environmental issues.

You can learn about more ways to get involved in protecting our future by heading over to my other post!

Conclusion

The main takeaway of this post is to not let the health crisis blind you to policies and laws that our government is passing to increase the profits of destructive industries. Keep speaking up even when it needs to be online. Stay informed about what’s going on in our country beyond the pandemic. Do not let them get away with destroying our future by placing profits over planet!

Today is Friday. Head over to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and post your own #FridaysForFuture post calling for climate action and calling out the profiteers only looking to make a quick buck.

As always, get your information regarding the pandemic from trusted sources, like the CDC or WHO.

Profits Over Planet Amid The Pandemic Climate strike cardboard sign stating "No business on a dead planet"
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Uses For Hemp: From Clothing To Concrete Dark green hemp leaves

Uses For Hemp: From Clothing To Concrete

Introduction

You may have heard of hemp and thought it was another name for marijuana. I know I did. On the contrary, hemp and marijuana are different plants. Hemp has dozens of applications in many different industries, and using hemp over conventional materials is better for the environment. So let’s take a look at some of the uses for hemp to see how this one plant could help our planet.

What Is Hemp?

First of all, what is hemp and how is it related to marijuana? According to Leafly.com, “[b]oth hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species, but are genetically distinct and are further distinguished by use, chemical makeup, and cultivation methods.” Hemp does have some THC (what gives you a high), but it is less than 0.3%, which isn’t enough to affect humans.

Hemp and Sustainability

What makes hemp so sustainable? Hemp grows very quickly (just a few months) and can be harvested every year in perpetuity. It is a hardy, frost-tolerant plant that can grow on every continent except Antarctica.

The plants grow up to 15 feet tall and grow close together, which prevents weeds from sprouting up. This means there is no need for herbicides. They are also resistant to pests. No pesticides needed either.

While most plants steal much of the nutrients in the soil and degrade it over time, hemp returns 60-70% back to the soil after harvest and prevents erosion. Because of this, many farmers use it as a rotation crop to help maintain good soil.

The fast growth is due to the large amounts of CO2 hemp plants absorb from the air. Their efficiency actually makes hemp a carbon negative plant. Its quick growth and resistance to pests and disease allow hemp to produce more biomass than any other plant which can be put to good use.

History Of Hemp

With all of these great qualities of hemp (and we haven’t even gotten to the material qualities), why don’t we all grow it? Surprisingly, we used to. A lot. There are records of hemp being used in Asia all the way back to 8000 BC. In America, many of the founding fathers like George Washington grew hemp, and up until 1937, hemp was a major crop in America.

As a result of the movie “Reefer Madness” spreading fear of cannabis in the US, the Marijuana Tax Act passed in 1937, which regulated both cultivation and sale of cannabis, including non-psychoactive hemp.

Then the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all cannabis forms as Schedule I drugs so hemp became illegal to grow or possess. The War on Drugs and fear of cannabis destroyed the hemp industry in the US and other countries around the globe, although some like the Soviet Union still produced large amounts (3,000 km² in 1970).

Current Politics

Commercial hemp production resumed in Canada, Germany, and the UK in the 1990s, requiring special licenses that certify the hemp grown will contain less than 0.05% THC. China is the highest producer of hemp currently, followed by France, Austria, and Chile. Hemp grown in the EU can even be certified as organic.

In the US, however, hemp production remained very restricted, although some legislation in recent years has opened the doors. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to grow hemp for research and development purposes. The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) estimated that $620 million worth of hemp products were sold in the US in 2014.

In 2015, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in the House. This act would have amended the Controlled Substances Act such that it would be legal to grow and possess industrial hemp so long as it is in accordance with state laws, but it was never brought to a vote.

Luckily, the 2018 Farm Bill created the USDA Hemp Production Program, authorized hemp production in the US, and removed hemp and hemp seeds from the DEA’s list of controlled substances. This opens up so many possibilities for this amazing plant.

Uses For Hemp

So now that you’ve learned all about hemp its history, let’s talk about its many uses. As discussed, hemp has been used for thousands of years for food, textiles, paper, and other products. With today’s technologies, we can process hemp into replacements for fossil fuels and plastics too.

Most products come from the double layer stalk. The outer layer with long rope-like fibers is used for textiles, while the inner woody layer is used for other purposes like fuel or construction materials.

Textiles And Clothing

Hemp textile production began in the Iron Age (around 1000 BC). In fact, the oldest woven fabric was made from hemp. Today China produces 70% of the world’s hemp textiles.

Textile Production

Hemp fabric comes from the outer layer of the stalk. These long strands are separated from the bark during a process called “retting“. The strands are then gathered and spun into a thread to be woven into fabric. Many phases of production can be done mechanically without the aid of chemicals, although some companies use chemical processes instead to save time and money at the expense of the environment.

Benefits Of Hemp Textiles

Hemp is the strongest natural fiber. This strength and flexibility made it the best rope-making material. It has also been used for twine, netting, boat sails, and ship rigging. But there are even more uses for hemp fibers.

Hemp clothing is very durable and retains its shape, but it is also lightweight and breathable. These great properties convinced Levi Strauss to make the first pair of jeans using hemp fabric.

The fabric resists mold, bacteria, and UV ray damage, and is not susceptible to shrinkage or pilling. It is also thermo-regulating, meaning you will be kept cool in summer but warm in winter.

It is common to blend hemp fibers with another material, usually cotton or silk. Combining with silk creates a fabric that is softer than hemp but still very strong and durable.

Hemp Versus Cotton

Compared to cotton, hemp is the clear winner. It uses half the water needed to grow the same amount of cotton and, remember, none of the herbicides and pesticides. On the same patch of land, hemp will produce 250% more fiber.

Hemp softer than cotton but will last twice as long. Unlike other fabrics that wear out with use, hemp keeps its strength but gets even softer with use. Its porous nature also gives it a better ability to retain its dyed color than cotton and other fabrics.

Paper Products

Hemp has been used to make paper for thousands of years, and it’s actually much better than paper made from trees. First of all, hemp produces two to four times as much paper as the same area of trees would. This makes hemp more economical and environmentally friendly than trees. Switching to hemp paper products will help prevent deforestation and habitat loss caused by the logging industry.

Hemp paper does not degrade or discolor like tree paper, allowing it to last for hundreds of years. Additionally, it can be recycled more times than tree paper products and requires less chemicals to process.

Nutrition

The hemp plant has many uses for human nutrition. Leaves can either be eaten as a salad or pressed into a healthy green juice. Hempseeds contain lots of proteins, minerals, and fiber. They are also high in Vitamin A, various B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, iron, copper, and magnesium.

Hemp is actually the only plant that contains the important fatty acids and all nine of the amino acids humans cannot produce themselves. Their fatty acid content makes them a great alternative to fish oil supplements. The production of those supplements contribute to overfishing and ocean pollution.

You can eat hempseeds on their own, or they can be crushed into a flour for baking or a cooking oil. As with many types of nuts, you can make hemp milk from the seeds, but hemp can also be used to make beers, wines, and other alcoholic beverages.

Personal Products

Hemp is also good when used outside the body. Hemp oil is non-comedogenic so it doesn’t clog up pores like ingredients used in many lotions. It contains beneficial oils and is soothing to the skin, which is why it is now being added to many skin, hair, and cosmetic products. Hemp contains EFA which moisturizes and heals dry, cracked skin and reduces dandruff caused by dry scalp.

Animal Care

Humans aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of eating hemp. The proteins and other nutrients in hemp make it great for pet food and dietary supplements. Hemp can be a substitute for corn-based animal feed, which is worse for both the environment and the animal.

The inner layer of the hemp stalk can also be used in animal care. Hemp bedding is available for small pets like guinea pigs, rats, and hamsters, and hemp can substitute in for cat litter.

Biofuel

As with corn, hemp can be turned into an ethanol biofuel to replace diesel. This hemp fuel is more renewable than fossil fuels and results in less greenhouse gas emissions. Before electricity, hemp oil was used to fuel lamps and lanterns for centuries.

Hemp biofuel meets the ATSM D6751 and EN 14214 standards for biodiesel quality and is better than other plant-based fuels. Hemp produces 800 liters of fuel per hectare, which outperforms other plants. It even outperforms diesel in every category except oxidation stability, although that can be remedied by the addition of antioxidants.

If you’re curious about the production process, here’s a quick look. It’s called cellulolysis and has six stages as outlined by the Hemp Gazette:

  1. “Pre-treatment to make the cellulose content in hemp suitable for hydrolysis.
  2. Breaking down the molecules into sugars using an enzyme that converts cellulose into glucose (cellulase).
  3. Separation of sugar materials from the lignin.
  4. Fermentation of the sugar solution.
  5. Distillation to extract the ethanol.
  6. The use of molecular sieves to increase ethanol concentration.”

Bioplastics

Fossil fuels power our cars and machines, but we also use them to make plastics. And hemp can help with that too! Hemp-based bioplastics are non-toxic alternatives to plastic that are usually biodegradable. Remember though that bioplastics are not 100% natural and still contain some conventional plastic that will never fully break down.

These bioplastics are lighter and 3.5 times stronger than petroleum-based polypropylene. They also have high UV and thermal stability. Since the plants are renewable, we don’t run the risk of running out of it like we do with fossil fuels.

Hemp plastics have been used for many different items including shower curtains, DVD cases, packaging, and even car bodies. Speaking to that last point, Henry Ford himself designed a car body using a hemp bioplastic back in 1941, but it never went into mass production.

Construction Materials

The last main category of uses for hemp is construction materials. Construction is a resource-intensive industry, using “about 40% of the world’s global energy, 25% of the global water, and 40% of the global resources“. Substituting in hemp products can help reduce those figures.

Wood And Other Products

Hemp materials can replace wood in many applications. Hemp fiberboard is both stronger and lighter than wood. Hemp-based products can also replace wood for walls, shingles, and paneling. There are hemp-based paints and varnishes that are non-toxic and even pipes made from hemp.

Hempcrete

The most interesting building material using hemp is called hempcrete. The inner layer of the stalk is mixed with a lime- or clay-based binder to create a bio-composite concrete material. The result is a great insulating material that weighs seven or eight times less than concrete.

Uses For Hempcrete

Hempcrete is not normally used as a structural element, although ten story buildings and bridges using hempcrete have been built in Europe. Instead, it is commonly used as building insulation, plasters, and floor slabs. It can, however, be used in some structural and load-bearing applications.

Benefits Of Hempcrete

Using hempcrete is great for the environment. Hempcrete sequesters lots of carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere. For example, an “un-rendered 30 cm thick hemp concrete wall enables a storage of 36.08 kg of CO2 per m²“. The use of lime over cement saves 80% of the released CO2, and using clay binders instead of lime will increase those savings even more.

Since hempcrete is a great insulator, the building will require less energy to maintain a given temperature. This will reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, hempcrete is easier to work with and less brittle than conventional concrete.

Here is a list of even more benefits of hempcrete from the National Hemp Association:

  • “Non-toxic
  • No off gassing
  • No solvents
  • Mold resistance
  • High vapor permeability
  • Humidity control
  • Durable
  • Sustainable
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Fire and pest resistance
  • Passive self-regulation of temperature and humidity
  • GREAT insulator”

Other Uses For Hemp

Finally, I wanted to just add a quick sections on even more uses for hemp that weren’t covered in the categories above.

  • Candles
  • Detergent
  • Ink
  • Lubricant
  • Soil contamination cleanup

That last use deserves a bit more detail. After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, industrial hemp fields planted at the site helped decontaminate the soil. The plants helped to clean areas contaminated with fly ash, sewage, and heavy metals, proving it has huge potential for fixing our environment.

Conclusion

As you can see, the uses for hemp are nearly endless. This one plant can replace many ingredients and products that are harmful to ourselves and our planet. It can clean up and add nutrients to soil, and it grows so much so quickly that it is a nearly renewable resource capable for use in dozens of applications.

I believe expanding production and use of hemp products along with algae products could turn the tide of climate change and environmental destruction. Want to learn more about what algae has to offer? Head over to my other post!

Uses For Hemp: From Clothing To Concrete Dark green hemp leaves
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Low Waste Mother's Day Gifts A child's hand between white flowers and a handmade Mother's Day card

Low Waste Mother’s Day Gifts

This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no additional cost to you. Read more on my Disclaimer page.

Introduction

Reminder: This Sunday is Mother’s Day! Struggling with finding the perfect gift for her? Don’t want to give something that just ends up in the trash? Want to make sure it’s meaningful? I’ve compiled a huge list of low waste Mother’s Day gift ideas that range from physical objects to experiences and activities so you can bet there’s something here your mom will love.

Coronavirus Caveats

Sadly, this weekend is going to be a bit different than usual due to the virus. Many of us may not even see our moms in person, but thanks to technology we can still call, text, and videochat. I know some of these gifts ideas are not necessarily possible this year, but I hope you’ll be able to use some of them in the future.

Physical Gifts

Physical gifts don’t always need to be wasteful. There are plenty of low waste Mother’s Day gifts that can be tailored to your mom and show her how much you care.

Potted Flowers and Plants

Flowers are usually the go-to gift for Mother’s Day, but a fresh-cut bouquet doesn’t last very long. In the US, most flowers are grown internationally and shipped. That’s a lot of emissions for a few days of color.

Give her a gift that lasts instead. Buy her a potted plant, herbs, succulents, or flowers she can keep for months or years. You could also buy her seeds or bulbs you can plant together.

Zero Waste Makeup

Surprise your mom with some ethical, zero waste makeup. Lots of makeup contains ingredients that actually aren’t great for your skin. Check out this list from Going Zero Waste to find something she’ll love that’s more natural and not in a plastic compact!

Food and Drink

This low waste Mother’s Day gift kind of straddles the line between physical and experience, but I’ll put it here. Cook up your mom’s favorite meal or bake something sweet for her. Cookies, cupcakes, a cake, banana bread, whatever! You can decorate the treats too to make them special for your mom. If your mom herself likes to cook/bake, do it together to create a fun memory.

If she’s a big tea or coffee drinker, why not get her some of her favorite blends in loose leaf? When I was at college, the city had a loose leaf tea and coffee shop. I asked if I could use my own container, and they agreed. It made a wonderful gift for my mom. In addition to the actual tea or coffee, you could buy her a little infuser (that replaces tea bags) or a French press coffee maker.

Hobby Supplies

What does you mom like to do? Garden? Read? Sew? Workout? Get her something you know she will use and love by honing in on her interests. If she likes reading a specific magazine, buy her an electronic subscription. You can likely find supplies secondhand either in a local thrift shop or online. If not, try your best to reduce the waste involved and/or buy from responsible companies.

Secondhand Gifts

Speaking of secondhand, peruse the aisles of your thrift shop to find something unique for your mom. You can find jewelry, clothing, cookware, books, decor, and more!

I’ve bought plenty of gifts secondhand for others. Remember the tea I bought my mom? I put it in a sealable flip-top jar I thrifted that came with a little wooden spoon for scooping. Last year, I bought my mother-in-law a cute cat mug.

Handmade Gifts

Moms love handmade gifts no matter what age her children are. Handmade gifts are a labor of love, which is why they are so appreciated. For smaller children, have them draw pictures or make an art project for Mother’s Day.

For older children/adult children, you can still put art skills to work. If you’re good at drawing or paint, create a portrait of the family. If you have woodworking skills, perhaps construct her a rocking chair or stool. Last year, I gave my mom embroidery piece I sewed and framed.

Zero Waste Gear

If you’re still stuck for ideas, gift your mom some zero waste gear. I recently posted a list of 15 zero waste online shops which are full of great finds! My local store, the Boston General Store, has a specific Mother’s Day section with a variety of different options which might match your mom’s style.

A list of low waste Mother's Day gift ideas

Experiences

The best low waste Mother’s Day gifts are experiences. Memories last a lifetime, and many of them can create little to no waste. Because of the pandemic, it may not be possible to do some of these just yet, but you can promise or buy tickets for more in the future.

Breakfast In Bed

This one is really only possible if you still live with your mom. Cook up a delicious breakfast for her and surprise her with breakfast in bed. You could even get creative and, say, shape the pancakes into hearts.

The Day Off

Moms are busy people and usually have a lot of housework to do. Lighten the load for her and do the chores around the house like dishes, laundry, or sweeping the floors. Have younger children clean their rooms and pitch in where they can.

Coffee Or Dinner Date

Take a few hours to just sit and talk with your mom over coffee or a meal. Like I mentioned in the section above, you could cook the dinner together at home, but you could also go to a restaurant (post-pandemic) or order in.

Spa Or Massage

Moms are busy, and they do a lot. She deserves a day of relaxation and pampering. Book her an appointment for a spa day or a massage, or buy her an e-gift card. I did that for my mom this past Christmas, and she was overjoyed.

Hair Or Nail Salon

To continue the pampering ideas, take her to get her hair or nails done. Better yet, do it together and make a day of it. My mom and mother-in-law both love having pretty nails to show off to people.

Movies

If your mom’s a movie buff, spring for a pair of tickets and see the latest flick together. My mom and I like seeing scary movies together and then discussing afterwards how lame they were or pointing out plot holes. It’s just something fun we enjoy doing.

Museum

Some people think museums are boring, but others disagree. This experience works best if the museum has an exhibit of a particular interest to your mom. Perhaps her favorite artist or maybe she loves women’s history and there’s an exhibit on women’s suffrage.

Concert Or Sporting Event

Both my mom and my mother-in-law love going to their favorite bands’ concerts. My mom absolutely loves 80s hair bands and will see a couple concerts a year. If your mom’s into sports, get her some tickets to see her favorite team. Concerts and sports games are really fun because each one is a unique experience.

Scavenger Hunt

I’m not talking about the game you played in scouts. ScavengerHunt.com lets you do fun scavenger hunts using your phone. My mom actually discovered this herself, and she and my dad have done a few of them together. They bought one for me and my husband, which we were planning to use on our vacation this month, but we obviously aren’t going anywhere for a while now.

ScavengerHunt.com has scavenger hunts all over the globe. There’s even one you can do at home! You just find the requested item and take a picture of it. The app determines if you’ve collected the correct thing and will give you the next item if you’re right. Sometimes the pictures are funny things, like “someone’s fancy socks”, but other times it’s more normal things like particular iconic buildings and places around the city. It may also ask you trivia questions or a riddle!

Picnic

Celebrate your other mother on Sunday with a picnic out in Mother Nature. Enjoy the weather and share a meal and conversation together. Being outside, especially during this time, does so much good for our mental health. The fresh air and sun really helps us relax and get away from our day to day lives. If in the evening, light a fire outside and listen to the crickets. Be sure to pack reusable utensils!

Outdoor Activities

If your mom is an active mom, don’t just sit around. We do enough of that in quarantine. Get up and get moving. Take a long walk, a hike, a bike ride, or kayak in the local pond. Spend the day hanging out outside together. She’ll really appreciate the time together.

A list of low waste Mother's Day experiences

Express Thanks

Mother’s Day is all about giving thanks to your mom for raising you so be sure to actually thank her! Instead of buying a $4 card at the drugstore and signing your name, sit down and write a heartfelt letter acknowledging the things she has done for you.

One year, I wrote a bunch of little poems for my mom that she really loved. If you have the talent, write and perform a song for her. Mention a specific memory or thing she has done for you. Let her know how much you appreciate and love her.

Gift Wrapping

We waste a lot of wrapping paper and gift bags and bows and ribbons just to not spoil the surprise. Go a step further and make sure not only your gift is low waste but its wrapping is as well. Here’s a list of options:

  • No wrapping at all!
  • Reuse a gift bag
  • Reuse wrapping paper
  • Color a pattern on a paper grocery bag and cut it to use as wrapping paper (especially good for a gift from children!)
  • Furoshiki (wrapping with fabric)

Instead of ribbon, try natural twine or yarn. Utilize natural items like leaves or dried flowers in place of plastic bows. If wrapping with paper, you can use paper tape to avoid plastic scotch tape.

Conclusion

Second reminder: Mother’s Day is Sunday! I hope these low waste Mother’s Day gift ideas will come in handy for finding the perfect way to say thanks. Be sure to pin this post so you have it for next year!

Low Waste Mother's Day Gifts A child's hand between white flowers and a handmade Mother's Day card
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The Impacts Of Coronavirus On The Environment A city skyline covered in dirty smog

The Impacts Of Coronavirus On The Environment

Introduction

Our lives have really changed over the past weeks. The global economy has slowed tremendously as non-essential businesses have closed and many people are stuck in quarantine. Stress and worry have become everyday emotions, but there is some good in all of this. The impacts of coronavirus on the environment and its future are a bright spot in a time of darkness. Let’s take a look at some of the effects I’ve noticed.

Less Air Pollution

Perhaps you have seen photos online comparing pre-pandemic and current skylines or landscapes where smog has cleared up. These photos show that it is possible to quickly clear our air of toxins and particulate matter that harm human health and wildlife. With less industrial business and much, much less people driving around, emissions have plummeted which leads to cleaner air for us and the other life on this planet. According to this article, “the northeastern U.S. has seen atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution decline by 30% in March compared with the same period last year.”

Less GHGs

For the same reason, less carbon and methane are released into the atmosphere. With global energy demand predicted to fall 6% this year, greenhouse gas emissions will see their largest drop ever recorded (8%). By reducing the amount of additional greenhouse gases (GHGs), we can slow climate change caused by global warming. If companies adopt working from home opportunities after the pandemic, this reduction can continue.

Wildlife Resurgence

Although I live in the city, the return of wildlife is noticeable. The Boston subreddit was full of turkey photos taking strolls through empty streets. My parents live in a more rural area and are constantly sending my photos of deer and turkey and other animals that visit their yard. Reducing our presence and noise levels invite wildlife back into the land we have stolen from them.

Slowing Wasteful Industries

Many governments around the world have forced shutdowns of non-essential businesses. People are consuming less than before, which causes industry to produce less. Airlines and global shipping industries have seen significant declines. The fashion industry which preys on cheap Asian labor is being squeezed from both ends: slower production and decreased demand.

While unfortunately this affects workers, the slowing of industry provides an opportunity to re-evaluate supply chains and manufacturing choices. I have heard/read many news stories (like this one) that specifically point to global supply chains as a weakness, especially in times of crisis. I am hopeful this pandemic will shift manufacturing to domestic factories and stabilize our consumption levels.

Less Buying Of Non-Necessities

When shopping trips involve long lines and social distancing measures, most people are only going out when it is necessary. This leads to multiple benefits. Coronavirus has basically wiped out shopping as a hobby. People are not buying things they do not need and creating waste. They are not driving around to stores as often, thereby reducing emissions even more.

People are trying to make do with what they have and stretching resources to make them last. While it is unfortunate it is under these circumstances, these practices could easily extend beyond the pandemic and become a normal part of our lives.

Appreciation For Nature

Being stuck inside has led to an increased appreciation for the outdoors. Walks, hikes, or bike rides outdoors have become essential to both our mental and physical health during this time. Most of us have much more free time and use it to get outside (away from others) and appreciate Mother Nature. The peacefulness while walking alone in a forest really helps connect us with nature, and hopefully many people will maintain that connection in the future.

Appreciation For Slow Living

The previous two impacts of coronavirus on the environment both play into this one. Slow living is based on appreciating what we have, taking time for what matters, and reducing the waste and excess in our lives. You can read about the surprising benefits of slow living in this post. Slow living involves buying less and extending the lifespans of the objects we own, which most of us are now doing.

It also involves self-sufficiency skills. Many people have picked up new hobbies that fall into one of these categories. I have seen lots of posts online of people trying their hands at cooking, baking, sewing, and other activities that perhaps they would never otherwise try, and they see how fulfilling and fun they are. And skills like gardening or even slow living’s mindfulness practices heighten our appreciation for nature.

Coming Together For A Single Cause

While coronavirus has many impacts on our lives right now, it also can impact our environment in the future. The pandemic has brought us together. We are helping those who need it and share a sense of comradery because we are all in similar circumstances. This shows that it is possible to come together and fight for something.

The fight against climate change should be no different. We will all be affected by it, no matter who we are or where we live. We need to band together, help those who need it most, and demand policies that will protect us.

In addition to coming together, we all have changed our behaviors rather quickly. Our day to day lives have changed significantly since the winter. We do things differently: working from home, staying inside, wearing masks, socializing virtually. While some still refuse these behavioral changes, it is important to realize their success and how they can be applied to the environment. We could change our behaviors to reduce consumerism, waste, and pollution so long as we realize their importance.

Political Action

This impact also refers to future applications. Governments have had to work quickly to help citizens get financial aid and needed supplies. They have found trillions of dollars to provide assistance to individuals, small and large businesses, and governments. In the US, that figure is over $2 trillion. In Canada, it is over $60 billion, and in the EU, it is $3.7 trillion (all figures in USD). While this shows money can be found in times of crisis, if we take climate action measures now, they will cost less and can be spread out over time to reduce impact.

In the US, the CARES Act passed in a matter of days instead of months, showing policy can move through quickly. There is no reason climate action should move slower. We have seen that substantial bills can become law quickly and begin having an effect on the nation.

Conclusion

While most of the impacts of coronavirus on the environment may be temporary, it is possible for many to persist as we create a “new normal” post-pandemic. I, for one, am hopeful because coronavirus has taught us we can make big changes if enough of us realize their importance to our health and our future.

As a final note, always make sure you are getting information regarding the pandemic from reliable sources, such as your government or the science and health communities.

The Impacts Of Coronavirus On The Environment A city skyline covered in dirty smog
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12 Surprising Benefits Of Simple Living A house plant and desk lamp on a white desk with a wooden clock on the grey wall

12 Surprising Benefits Of Simple Living

Introduction

Simple living means different things to different people. To some it just means reducing clutter; to others it means living a holistic and intentional life. I really like this definition from the Frugal Village: “making the most out of what you have and not letting anything go to waste.” To me, simple living is about being a responsible human and building a life based on the values, relationships, and activities that matter most to you.

While that in itself sounds great, some may still be hesitant. Isn’t “simple living” just another phrase for giving up a lot of things and making the bare minimum work? Yes, you are giving up some things, you aren’t giving up what truly matters to you. Need some more convincing? Here’s 12 surprising benefits of simple living you may not have thought of.

1. Less Clutter

Yes, this benefit isn’t too surprising, but what is surprising is how good you’ll feel with a clutter-free home. Without tons of things to take care of, you’ll spend less time cleaning, organizing, and remembering if you already have that thing or need to go out and buy one. You also won’t have to rush to clean up before guests stop by or feel embarrassed when they do unexpectedly.

2. More Space Inside

Less possessions means more floorspace. So long to the full shelves and storage solutions, the crowded garage, and the guest room that’s become a catch-all for extra stuff. Turn that extra space into something beneficial: a play space for the kids, an exercise area, a home office, or back into the guest room it was supposed to be.

3. You’ll Lose Things Less

Like I said, with less clutter around, you’ll have less to keep track of… and less places for things to hide from you. It will be harder for things to get lost or to remember what you own. Simple living will save you time, hassle, and potentially money because you won’t get frustrated looking for something just to give up and buy a replacement and find the original when you get home.

4. Less Stress

Just being around mess can cause you stress. It can be hard to relax when you’re stuck thinking about the kids’ toys strewn across the floor. When you cut out the clutter, you’ll be able to feel more at ease. Owning less makes it easier to stay organized and on top of things. Plus, you’ll have extra time to relax without wasting your weekends cleaning up.

Most people’s main stress trigger is work, but simple living also means spending more time with family rather than at work. Imagine how much better you’ll feel without working all those extra hours!

Simple living and slow living are very similar in that you take time to rest and use time intentionally on what makes you happy. By having time to take a break and removing extra items on your to-do list, you’ll be less stressed throughout the day.

5. Better Physical Health

Mental health and physical health are linked together. When you feel good, you’ll make better choices for your health. Where before, you may have felt too beat at the end of the day to exercise, now you may be more motivated. By choosing to walk places instead of driving to save on carbon emissions or live slower, you’re already exercising more than you used to.

Simple living usually extends into mealtime by eating a whole foods, organic diet, possibly with ingredients you grew yourself. Eating well along with exercise will also improve your physical health.

6. More Money

Simple living not only means getting rid of clutter. It also means keeping it out. People who live simply are not “keeping up with the Joneses” and buying the latest and greatest. Many stick to a budget, which is easier when you’re choosing to cut the fluff and make only necessary purchases. These practices will help you pay off debt and save up for other purchases (whether they are big purchases like a home or a fun vacation).

Need some extra help avoiding over-consumption? Check out my post on the subject here. While it’s specifically related to avoiding consumerism while going zero waste, it has loads of tips that apply here as well.

7. More Freedom

This next surprising benefit might need a bit of an explanation. Living simply means having a clearer schedule so it’ll be easier to say yes to impromptu get-togethers with friends or family. Less overtime hours at work and fewer chores at home will open up your calendar.

Many children are enrolled in multiple different activities, sports, or clubs. By paring down to one or two favorites, evenings and weekends won’t be a rush from place to place. Both you and they will have more freedom for other things even if that’s just doing nothing for a while to recharge.

8. Easier Decision-Making

This benefit ties in with more freedom. The week only has so many hours. It will be easier to schedule events and appointments and say yes to the things you really want to do instead of having to disappoint the other party.

Simple living reduces options but in a good way. You won’t struggle as much with choosing between things. Decisions based on your budget are easy to make. By keeping your priorities in line, decisions become easier too. For example, family first or buying only organic groceries or limiting the amount of work you take on are rules that basically make the decision for you.

9. Higher Confidence and Self-Esteem

Exercise has been shown to not only reduce stress but also increases self-esteem. When we feel good and look good, we’re more confident in social situations.

With simple living, sometimes you’ll have to speak up. One of the best ways to gain confidence is by doing. Practice makes perfect after all! It’ll be easier to say no to excess the more times you do it. When you have time to slow down and decide what really matters to you, you can make these decisions more confidently as well.

10. Increase Attention Span

Technology is great, but we’ve become addicts to extreme amounts of quick content. A study by Microsoft found our attention spans have reduced to just eight seconds! By cutting down on our screen time and preventing our kids from getting addicted to tech, we can raise that number back up.

Simple living activities are mainly focused on intentional reflection (journaling, meditation), connecting with nature (gardening, outdoor exercise), or attentive family time (playing games together, having meaningful conversations). None of these require a screen, and in fact, they’d be inhibited by including one.

11. Better Relationships

As I just mentioned, attentive family time is important for those simplifying their lifestyles. Taking time to have conversations with others helps build strong relationships. Fights will be less common with less chores, activities, and stress. I also mentioned having the freedom and time to meet with friends. You’ll be able to finally set dates for grabbing a coffee together instead of just saying you should sometime.

12. Teach Children Good Values

Children learn by example. By being brought up to live simply, they’ll be taught the importance of relationships instead of materials. You can teach them how to successfully keep a budget, eat a healthy diet, and be stewards of our planet. Since simple living includes self-sufficiency activities, you can also teach them valuable skills like cooking, gardening, or sewing (and have the time to do that in the first place!).

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s loads of benefits to living with less. You’ll have a clearer mind, more time and money, and better relationships. Simple living brings us back to our roots and what matters beyond possessions. What benefits have you found by simplifying your life? Let me know in the comments below!

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