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My Favorite Vegan Meal Prep Recipes Oven roasted potatoes and peppers in purple baking dish

My Favorite Vegan Meal Prep Recipes

Introduction

After a two week break from the blog, I’m back. I’ve decided to slim down to one post a week due to my increasingly busy schedule. Today I wanted to share my favorite vegan meal prep recipes.

My husband and I rotate through this list along with a handful of other recipes each week. All of them are very tasty, super easy to make, and healthy vegan meals you won’t get bored from!

Most of these vegan meal prep recipes were improvised and change a bit each time I make them depending on the ingredients I have on hand. I don’t really time or measure things, so I tried my best to give you proper amounts and instructions. If something seems way off, let me know so I can fix it.

Squash Pasta

I actually just made this vegan meal prep this week, which is what inspired me to do this post. Pasta is already an easy thing to make, and adding veggies makes it so much tastier and filling. You can add other vegetables if you want, but I would advise against adding bell peppers. We tried them once and didn’t enjoy the result.

This recipe and many of the others utilize “super firm tofu.” I highly, highly recommend this over firm tofu or softer versions because it holds up so much better.

Vegan squash pasta with veggies in saucepan and pasta in pot

Ingredients

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta
  • 1.5 jars of pasta sauce
  • 1 package of super firm tofu (16 oz)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Spices to taste (basil, oregano, etc.)

Directions

  1. Chop zucchini and squash into small pieces about fingernail size.
  2. Cut tofu into chunks.
  3. Peel and finely chop garlic cloves.
  4. Start cooking pasta according to directions.
  5. Sauté garlic cloves in saucepan.
  6. Add squashes, tofu, pasta sauce, and spices. Cook on low/med until pasta is finished.
  7. Drain pasta.
  8. Combine pasta and sauce in large container. Add a bit of each at a time so all the pasta gets coated.

Shepherd’s Pie

My husband really likes shepherd’s pie and suggested we make a vegan version. This recipe is taken from The Forks Over Knives Plan cookbook that we bought at a thrift store, but we’ve changed a few things to suit our tastes. We also decreased the ingredient amounts compared to the book’s recipe.

Vegan shepherd's pie with mashed potato top layer in red pan

Ingredients

  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 package of super firm tofu (16 oz)
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup corn
  • 3 cups unsweetened plant milk
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Spices to taste (salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, oregano, etc.)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Cut potatoes into chunks.
  3. Dice onion.
  4. Peel and finely chop garlic cloves.
  5. Slice carrots and green beans to desired sizes.
  6. Place potatoes in large pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and shimmer covered until tender. Drain and mash potatoes. Add additional plant milk as desired.
  7. Sauté onion, garlic, tofu, and carrots in saucepan on medium until onions are translucent. Stir and add water occasionally.
  8. Add peas, corn, and green beans to saucepan. Cook until heated through. (Our saucepan isn’t big enough for all this so we pour the onion mix into the baking pan then add these vegetables with the milk mixture below in the saucepan.)
  9. In bowl, combine plant milk and cornstarch and whisk until blended. Add to saucepan along with spices and cook until thickened.
  10. Transfer vegetables to 9 x 13 inch pan. Spoon and spread mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle with paprika.
  11. Bake until bubbly and lightly browned, about one hour.

Veggie Stew

This vegan meal prep is pretty similar to the shepherd’s pie due to the ingredients, but it’s cooked in a slow cooker instead of baked in the oven. I like mine a bit more watery than my husband does, so you can judge for yourself how much cornstarch to add as a thickener at the end.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb kidney beans
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 package of super firm tofu (16 oz)
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 tomato
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 3/4 cup corn
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • Spices to taste (salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, etc.)
  • Cornstarch as desired

Directions

  1. Prepare beans according to directions. (Soak overnight then boil for around an hour until tender.)
  2. Dice onion.
  3. Peel and finely chop garlic cloves.
  4. Cut tofu into chunks.
  5. Sauté onion, garlic, and tofu in saucepan on medium until onion becomes translucent.
  6. Cut potatoes, carrots, green beans, and tomato into chunks or pieces sized how you want.
  7. Combine all ingredients except cornstarch in a slow cooker.
  8. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.
  9. Add cornstarch during the last 20 minutes or so as desired to thicken the stew.

Vegan Chili

This is probably my favorite vegan meal prep, even when it’s not winter! I absolutely love this chili, and the tofu chunks are my favorite part. I only wish we had a bigger slow cooker so we could make more at once.

Delicious vegan chili cooking in slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 1 lb kidney beans
  • 1/2 lb black beans
  • 1 package super firm tofu (16 oz)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • Spices to taste (garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, etc.)

Directions

  1. Prepare beans according to directions. (Soak overnight then boil for around an hour until tender.)
  2. Cut tofu into chunks.
  3. Dice onion and tomato.
  4. Peel and finely chop garlic.
  5. Sauté onion, garlic, and tofu in saucepan on medium until onion becomes translucent.
  6. Cut green bell pepper and tomato into small pieces.
  7. Add all ingredients to slow cooker. Cook on high for 1 hour then cook on low for 3 more hours.

Stir Fry

My mom used to make stir fry frequently while I was in high school. It’s an easy dish to make and has a nice change of flavor due to the soy sauce instead of the broth or tomato-based recipes above. Feel free to mix up what veggies you add in. Sometimes I do buy the frozen stir fry mixes, but usually I just add whatever vegetables I have on hand.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta (spaghetti or linguine works best, but I often use penne)
  • 1 package of super firm tofu (16 oz)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • Soy sauce (enough to cover the bottom of the pan and soak into the veggies/pasta)

Directions

  1. Chop onion and bell pepper into bite size pieces.
  2. Cut tofu into chunks.
  3. Sauté onion, bell pepper, tofu, and broccoli florets in soy sauce in saucepan on medium.
  4. Cook pasta according to directions.
  5. Drain pasta.
  6. Combine veggies and pasta in saucepan or container (if saucepan would overflow).

Oven Roasted Potatoes and Peppers

This is actually a recipe from McCormick (the spice company) which you can find here. I discovered this because I happened to have onion, bell peppers, and potatoes that I really needed to use up. A quick Google search led me to this awesome recipe I’ve made many times since. It’s so easy but tastes like it’s much more complicated than cut up veggies in oil and spices.

Oven roasted potatoes and peppers in purple baking pan

Ingredients

  • 3 potatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Spices to taste (salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  2. Cut potatoes into chunks.
  3. Chop onion and bell pepper into small pieces.
  4. Combine all ingredients in greased baking pan with spoon or hands to fully coat potatoes with oil.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Conclusion

So there you have it! Six of my favorite vegan meal prep recipes. I hope you find some inspiration from these recipes and try them out for yourself. You won’t regret it! Which recipe are you most excited to try out?

If you struggle to eat leftovers/meal prep batches before they go bad, head over to my post on How To Use Up Leftovers.

My Favorite Vegan Meal Prep Recipes Oven roasted potatoes and peppers in purple baking dish
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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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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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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!

12 Surprising Benefits Of Simple Living A house plant and desk lamp on a white desk with a wooden clock on the grey wall
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How To Transition To A Sustainable Wardrobe Woman sorts through jeans and shirts to decide which garments to keep in her new closet

How To Transition To A Sustainable Wardrobe

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

Last week we discussed how the fast fashion industry is harming both people and the planet as well as the definitions and importance of ethical fashion, sustainable fashion and slow fashion. If you haven’t read that post yet, click here! Today you’ll learn how to transition your current closet to a sustainable wardrobe built on both secondhand and responsibly made garments.

Start With Your Current Wardrobe

Throwing out and starting over is the antithesis of zero waste. You can still work with what you have and build, replace, and swap over time.

Going Through Your Closet

Before you can make any plans for the future, you have to figure out exactly what you own. You may think you know, but I’ve surprised myself many times by actually looking through my dresser and closet and finding items I totally forgot I owned.

Try to answer these questions:

  • What do I actually wear on a regular basis?
  • What actually still fits me?
  • Which items have I never worn?
  • Which items do I need for special occasions? (Cocktail dress, heels, suit and tie, etc.)
  • Do I have duplicates of this item? (Meaning if you have three green t-shirts, you probably only need one.)
  • Which items are showing too much wear? (Stretched out, holes, etc.)
  • How many of each type of item do I need? (How many shirts, pants, socks, etc. could you comfortably live with?)

Answering these questions will help you split up your items into a few different piles:

  • Keep
  • Repair
  • Return
  • Get Rid Of

Put the Keep pile back into your closet or dresser. Repair garments yourself or find someone to do it for you (a tailor, a friend, Craigslist, etc.). Return items you have never worn and don’t plan to wear if possible.

Getting Rid Of Clothing

There are many ways to get rid of unwanted clothing, and you likely won’t have to throw any of it into the trash.

Unwearable Garments

If an item is too stained to wear or beyond repair, can it be used as a cleaning rag? Fabrics like cotton, linen, or other natural fibers make good cleaning rags. Cut the garment into squares and hem around the edges. Old socks are great because they work like mittens. They don’t need to look pretty; they’re for cleaning messes!

For fabrics that won’t do well, you can recycle them! Goodwill stores will take stained or worn out clothing and other fabric items for recycling. Click here to find you nearest Goodwill location.

Some brands like Patagonia (Patagonia only) and H&M (any brand) will take back clothing items for recycling or resale as well based on quality.

Friends And Family

For items that you just don’t need anymore, check if friends or family want them first. Host a clothing swap and encourage others to bring their unwanted items for exchange. Give hand-me-downs to siblings if you’ve outgrown items. By directly going providing clothing to its next owner, you save on the resources used in selling it yourself or donating to charity or a thrift shop.

Selling And Consigning

Reselling clothing secondhand has never been easier. There’s loads of websites/apps where posting a listing is as easy as snapping a picture. Here’s a quick list:

You can also always stop by a local consignment shop and consign there. This supports local businesses and reduces transportation emissions.

Donating

Lastly you can donate clothing to charities or thrift shops, but I do have to give you a warning about donating.

Charities that donate clothing to underdeveloped nations have caused some unforeseen problems. Kenya used to have a thriving garment industry while imported donated clothing was distributed for free. In the 1980s, thing changed.

Donated clothing began to be sold for cheap to undercut new garment prices, and the garment industry workforce has since declined by over 96%. In addition, when organizations send these garments overseas, they wrap them in giant plastic bundles like this.

I’m sure you’ve seen those big yellow bins in parking lots for Planet Aid, but this organization has been linked to the cult-like organization called the Teachers Group and little to none of your donations ever go to helping others. Instead, an investigation found donations get sold for personal use by members of the organization. Employees are forced to give up personal rights, salary, and all of their time to the will of the Teachers Group.

Wait It Out

As a final tip for paring down your wardrobe, if you’re hesitant to give things away, try this. Set aside your get rid of pile in a box or bag for a few weeks or a month. If you miss something, pull it out and keep it. Many times you’ll realize you never gave that bag a second thought, and it will be easier to let go.

Start Building A Sustainable Wardrobe

Let’s start transitioning that wardrobe into sustainable wardrobe. Sustainability and minimalism go hand and hand, especially when it comes to how much we own. I have a bunch of tips for prevent your closet from ballooning back to its original size as well as how to properly shop for replacement items.

Minimalist Wardrobe

Now that you’ve reduce the amount of items in your closet, how do you keep it that way? Many people love shopping and use retail therapy to deal with stress. It can be hard to quick those habits, but here are some tips.

Stop Impulse Buys

First, figure out what is causing you to shop or seek retail therapy. Is it stress, anxiety, or all those flashy sales emails? Work to combat emotional triggers (check out these tips on reducing stress and anxiety) and unsubscribe from email and mailing lists.

This tip can work for physical stores, but I think it works better online. Wait to make a purchase. After finding something you like, go home and spend a couple days thinking about if you actually want or need it. You can leave the wallet at home to remove temptation so all you can do is window shop.

When shopping online, go ahead and add items to your cart, but wait to check out. Don’t buy them right away. Let the cart sit for a few days before coming back and making a decision. (Bonus: some sites will send you a coupon code if you leave items in sitting in a cart!)

One In/One Out Rule

I like this tip because it not only prevents stocking back up on loads of clothing, but it also makes you think about both what you currently own and what you want to buy. The one in/one out rule means for every item you purchase, you must get rid of one. For example, if you want to buy a new shirt, be prepared to give up one you own (using the methods above to reduce waste of course).

This rule will prevent a lot of purchases because you are forced to take inventory of your current wardrobe. It will help limit you to purchases you actually need instead of just buying something new to buy something new.

You can also follow this rule in reverse. Once an item kicks the bucket, go out and find an ethical and sustainable replacement for it. This mirrors other aspects of transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle in which you get as much use out of what you own and slowly replace things over time with better options.

Capsule Wardrobes

One day I really hope to have a capsule wardrobe. Capsule wardrobes are highly limited wardrobes usually based on the season which contain a small number of versatile garments that can be used to create many different outfits.

Many capsule wardrobes consist of neutral tones because they are easier to match with everything, but in my opinion that’s kind of boring. Feel free to create a sustainable wardrobe around a specific palette of colors (like warm autumn shades) or use a single color as an accent found in multiple garments.

Wardrobes range widely in size, but based on guide online, 30-40 items seems to be average (although some wardrobes don’t include underwear, socks, and the like in that total). Check out this post by Candace from Just Posted to see how 28 items can create 60 different outfits.

Secondhand Sustainable Wardrobe

Shopping secondhand is the easier (and cheapest!) way to create a sustainable wardrobe. Some people are really turned off by “used” clothing, but there is absolutely no reason to be. Buying secondhand is great for our environment, and I think shopping in a thrift store is a better experience than a “normal” clothing store.

When secondhand shopping, keep in mind the quality of the items although the store is pretty good about only putting up things in good shape. Check for stains, holes, or other damage that may compromise an item. Also try to limit the amount of synthetic fabrics in your items to prevent shedding of microplastics in the wash.

Thrifting

Pretty much all the clothing I’ve bought in the past two years has been secondhand (the other portion is responsibly made). Being able to pop into the shop and find something new is great because you don’t need to worry about doing all that research into clothing brands.

In fact, I wrote an entire post on why everyone should be thrifting. Not only will you find a wider variety of clothing, but it’s already proved its worth so if there’s quality or fit issues, you’ll already know. Read the post for more reasons to thrift shop.

When buying secondhand clothing online through sites like Poshmark, you can see where the buyer is located to source clothing closest to you. This cuts down on transportation emissions (and you’ll get your items faster).

Clothing Swaps

In addition to buying clothing secondhand, you can be on the receiving end of someone else’s wardrobe transition. Accept items from others, and pick up a few new things from that clothing swap we talked about.

Clothing swaps fill in the desire for new things without needing to buy anything. You can keep your sustainable wardrobe looking fresh by swapping out just a few items every now and again. Swaps are also great for getting others involved in sustainability and they save items from going to waste.

New Sustainable Wardrobe

When you want to buy something new, make sure it’s not fast fashion. I discussed the problems with fast fashion in last week’s post as well as the alternatives: ethical fashion, sustainable fashion, and slow fashion. You can read the post here!

Here’s the aggregated list of good brands from that post:

When buying new items, I keep in mind a handful of requirements and questions. These are just what I follow. You can choose whatever you desire.

Requirements

  • Garments should be made from natural fibers (cotton, linen, lyocell, hemp, bamboo, leather, wool, alpaca, etc.) or recycled fibers (recycled polyester or recycled nylon).
  • They should be built to last multiple years, fit well, and feel comfortable.
  • They should avoid being part of a trend so they won’t go out of style.

Questions To Answer

  • What are the ethics of this brand? Are employees paid well and treated fairly?
  • Where are their factories located?
  • How transparent are they about their practices?
  • What is their commitment to sustainability? What programs do they run/participate in?
  • Do they give back to the community?

I do my research before making new purchases so I know I am buying from brands that are ethical and sustainable and so I can be proud to support their efforts.

Caring For Your Sustainable Wardrobe

Transitioning to slow and sustainable fashion doesn’t stop at what’s in the closet. You have to take care of those items to make them last as long as possible. By stretching the lifespans of items, you reduce how often you buy and how much you buy as well as saving on resources for new items.

Laundering

Washing and drying our clothing uses lots of water and electricity or gas. It also puts wear on our items by tumbling them around and scrubbing them against other garments.

Wash Less

Mom may have told you to make sure you wear new clean clothes every day, but in reality our clothes don’t usually dirty after a few hours of use. You can wear garments a few times before tossing them into the laundry bin, especially jeans and sweatshirts.

Here’s two different charts for reference (Chart 1 and Chart 2), but you can adjust based on your needs/wants. I wash my work jeans once a week and wear t-shirts a couple days before washing (I really only wear t-shirts at home and as pajamas).

Washing And Drying

When you do need to clean your clothing, take care to do it properly and conserve resources. Wash laundry only when you have a full load. Many washing machines also have a knob to adjust the size of the load so it knows how much water it needs to use.

Most items will clean just find in cold or warm water instead of hot so you can reduce energy use. You can also opt out of the dryer altogether and line dry your laundry. Here is a similar drying rack to what I have, and you can also string up a clothes line and use clothespins.

Be sure to read the tags to ensure you are properly washing items. Some garments should be hung up to dry or laid flat instead of going into the dryer. Others require a delicate wash cycle or handwashing. Be sure you know if and how items can be ironed. Here is a guide to reading all those laundry symbols so you can be a laundry pro.

Washing And Drying Aids

Now what do you use to clean your clothes? I’m talking about detergents, softeners, and dryer sheets. Liquid detergents are mostly water and come in plastic bottles. Better options are homemade detergent (click here for a recipe), detergent bought in from a bulk refill station, soap nuts, or powder detergent that comes in a cardboard box.

Softeners and scent boosters aren’t really necessary at all. I have never used these and see them as wasteful. If you want a scent boost, try this lavender dryer bag that also eliminates static. A more natural alternative to single use dryer sheets are wool dryer balls. They can be used for hundreds of washes!

To remove stains, try a stain stick or natural remedies. P.S. The sun is a good stain remover!

If you still wear synthetic clothing that can release microplastics in the wash, check out the Guppyfriend bag or the Coraball which will capture the tiny bits of plastic and prevent them from entering our waterways. You can read about the dangers of plastics in our oceans here.

Repair Your Wardrobe

Repair is the Xth R in Bea Johnson’s list of R’s for a zero waste life. We touched on it in the beginning, but repairing your clothes is a great way to extend the life of your garments. I’ve collected a few different ways you can mend you garments so you can choose the look you want.

Invisible Mending

This is the most common way to mend clothing: making it look like it was never mended. Invisible mending will match thread color and stitching will be hidden inside. Here are some tutorials:

Here are some photos of work I’ve done. I didn’t take before photos on most things, but I did get one of the jacket and a pair of jeans (see Patching And Other Repairs section for that after photo).

Visible Mending

I absolutely LOVE visible mending because your sustainable wardrobe becomes a talking piece. People will notice your repairs and ask about them. Now you have the opportunity to talk about why you choose to fix your clothing instead of tossing it out and buying new. You also get to modify your garments to be truly unique and match your style. Check out these tutorials:

Here are some photos of work I’ve done. The heart was sewn in the side seam of a pair of jeans at upper thigh level, and I just decided to use bright pink thread to sew up a small hole in my gloves.

Patching and Other Repairs

Sewing on patching can either be decently invisible or very visible, and it’s the easiest way to fix holes. All you have to do is cut a piece of fabric to size and stitch it on or you can buy easy iron-on patches.

I’ve also added some links to other sewing tutorials for things like buttons and zippers.

Here’s a comparison of a patch I did for my husband and one I did for myself. I went for a more invisible approach for my husband’s jeans, but still gave it a bit of flair. For my own patch, I wanted it to stand out a bit.

Conclusion

I know this was a lot of information, but this isn’t an overnight process. Transitioning to a sustainable wardrobe will take time, and I hope this guide will make it easier for you. Got any tips or want to suggest another clothing brand? Add it in the comments!

How To Transition To A Sustainable Wardrobe Woman sorts through jeans and shirts to decide which garments to keep in her new closet
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What Are Ethical, Sustainable, And Slow Fashion? Hanging rack of minimalistic white, brown, and grey shirts from a slow fashion wardrobe

What Are Ethical, Sustainable, And Slow Fashion?

Introduction

You may have heard the terms “ethical fashion”, “sustainable fashion”, and “slow fashion” online or from a friend, but do you know what they really mean? In this post, I’ll define each term (because they don’t all mean the same thing) and discuss their importance in our lives.

Next week, I’ll be posting a How To guide on transitioning your wardrobe to include more of these pieces instead of cheap and trendy fast fashion garments. (EDIT: Read that post here!)

What Is Fast Fashion?

You’ve probably heard this term a lot more than its antithesis, slow fashion. Before we discuss the good approaches to fashion, we need to look at how a large part of the industry is producing goods.

Fast fashion started near the turn of the century and is all about creating lots and lots of trendy pieces that aren’t meant to last much more than a single season. They are low quality and sold at ridiculously cheap prices. The goal is to feed our desire for what’s new by constantly changing what’s on store racks and enticing customers with rock bottom prices you can hardly resist.

Fast fashion has coincided with brands sourcing work from less developed countries to reduce labor and production costs. These miniscule costs (compared to domestic factories with higher standards and requirements) allow brands to achieve prices like $5 t-shirts and $8 summer dresses.

Fast Fashion Brands

Most mainstream clothing brands could be counted as fast fashion. Here’s a quick list of some popular brands:

  • H&M
  • Zara
  • GAP
  • Forever 21
  • Primark
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Uniqlo
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Rue 21
  • Charlotte Russe
  • PacSun
  • Wet Seal

Due to the pressure from consumer who want brands to be more accountable, some of these brands have raced to start sustainable clothing lines and increase transparency about their practices.

Fast Fashion Materials

Most fast fashion garments are made of cotton. Although cotton is a natural fiber, it is a very thirsty plant. It can take 20,000 liters of water to produce a single kilogram of cotton. While obviously not always the case, some cotton growers use child labor, but don’t think cotton is the only culprit!

Other garments are made of synthetic, manmade fibers like nylon and polyester. These materials are plastics. Yes, plastics. Fast fashion relies on fossil fuels, and not just to power the factories. For polyester alone, a whopping 70 million barrels of oil are consumed each year.

When washed, they release small fibers called microplastics into the water. Small organisms eat the microplastics released into our waterways and then are eaten by larger animals up the food chain until a larger concentration of plastic is in our salmon dinner.

Although viscose/rayon is a natural fiber, its production processes are energy and chemical intensive and cause harm to both workers and the environment.

Fast Fashion Ethics

Due to the high volume of demand, brands need lots and lots of garments produced quickly and cheaply. Read the labels on items in your closet, and you’ll find a lot of India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and China. The labor is cheap, which means the saving get passed onto the customer. But at what cost?

Although the cost of living is lower in these countries, garment workers are living in poverty, their hours are long, they are usually not paid for required overtime, they work in dangerous conditions, and are sometimes verbally or physically harassed/assaulted.

As mentioned, child labor is a huge problem in the fashion industry. Children work at all levels of production, from growing cotton to sewing garments. They are oftentimes taken away from family, denied an education in addition to a childhood, and work extreme hours in horrid conditions.

Unsafe Factories

This post comes on the anniversary of a tragedy. Seven years ago today (April 24, 2013), a building housing multiple garment factories called Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh. On April 23, the building was evacuated due to cracks in the walls. The owner then reportedly said the building was safe and threatened to withhold pay from workers who did not show up the next day. That day, the building collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring over 2,500.

Collapses aren’t the only problem. Factory fires have also killed hundreds. Also in 2013, a factory fire killed 112 workers, and there were reports that the exit doors were locked and trapped workers inside.

The True Cost

I made the decision to stop buying fast fashion after watching a documentary called The True Cost. This documentary goes inside garment factories to expose the ethical violations and environmental impacts of fast fashion. You can check out this doc and others on my List of Must Watch Eco-Documentaries!

Fast Fashion Production

As if the ethics weren’t bad enough, fast fashion production methods aren’t great for the environment either. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world.

From Farm to Factory and Beyond

Textile production uses a lot of water (see the Materials section above). Dying fabric takes a 200:1 ratio of freshwater to weight of clothing dyed. Untreated wastewater from factories oftentimes gets dumped into waterways, which harm plants, animals, and humans who live in the area. Fertilizers and pesticides run off into waterways as well, with similar problematic effects.

Speaking of fertilizers and pesticides, heavy use of these chemicals degrade the soil on cotton farms. Dyes, bleach, and other chemicals used in production are toxic to both workers and the environment.

During production, a full 15% of the total fabric gets left on the factory floor. This fabric will be thrown out as a complete waste of the resources that went into making it. Once in the landfill, it can take 200 years for a garment to decompose. Remember, plastics only degrade into smaller bits of plastic. They never truly go back into the environment.

From Factory to Customer and Beyond

While most of the world’s clothing is made in Asia, most of the consumers are in North America and Europe. Garments have to travel thousands of miles to get to stores, which results in a lot of carbon emissions.

Fast fashion encourages over-buying, throwing out wearable items, and frequent shopping trips. Over-buying results in a false higher demand so companies will continue making more and more items. Throwing out clothing fills up our landfills. Textiles make up 5% of landfill volume and the figure is growing. More trips to the stores means more emissions into the atmosphere.

At the end of their short lives, garments are usually tossed into the trash. Since the quality of the garments is low, it’s less likely the item could be donated or sold secondhand. While 95% of textiles could be recycled, only 15% are recycled or donated.

What is Ethical Fashion?

Ethical fashion is exactly what is sounds like: fashion created in an ethical manner where workers are treated properly by employers. Workers are paid a fair wage, provided safe working conditions, and are not worked to death.

Example Code of Conduct

Ethical fashion brand Reformation holds all its suppliers to a strict Code of Conduct. This Code of Conduct ranges from disallowing child or slave labor to limits on overtime to health and safety requirements. Reformation also requires third party audits of all of its factories to ensure a good working environment.

Ethical Fashion Brands

Because of the problems uncovered in the fast fashion industry, many ethical brands have emerged to give consumers peace of mind when shopping.

Check out these ethical fashion brands:

What Is Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable fashion uses natural fibers grown responsibly and low impact production methods to create built-to-last garments. Workers do not have to handle toxic chemicals to produce and dye textiles.

Waste products are dealt with responsibly (no poisonous wastewater and massive heaps destined for landfill). Oftentimes, garments are produced closer to where they will be sold, such as brands with factories in America.

Sustainable fashion also includes secondhand garments because they extend the life of an item and cost no additional resources compared to buying new. If you aren’t convinced secondhand shopping is for you, I suggest reading my 8 Reasons To Thrift Shop to change your mind!

Sustainable Fashion Materials

Cotton

Organic cotton is a popular choice for sustainable fashion garments. These plants are grown from non-GMO seeds, and fertilizers and pesticides are not used. However, because organic cotton uses even more water than conventional cotton, it is not necessarily the most sustainable choice.

Linen

Linen comes from the flax plant. This plant not only absorbs lots of carbon from the environment, but it also can grow in poor soil unsuitable for food crops. Linen uses 60% less water than cotton, and even non-organic linen uses less added chemicals than cotton.

Lyocell

Lyocell comes from eucalyptus (and at times other trees) and is a form of rayon. The textile is made of the wood pulp from trees that require neither irrigation nor pesticides to grow. It also goes by the brand name Tencel. I have a sweatshirt that it made of lyocell, and it is super soft. Hard to believe it came from trees!

Bamboo

Bamboo grows super fast, and the plants help restore soil quality and prevent erosion. While the usual process of making bamboo into a textile is chemical-intensive (not great), the brand Monocel uses a closed loop process that recycles water and less harmful chemicals.

Hemp

Like bamboo, hemp is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It requires less resources than other plants (50% the water cotton needs) and does not degrade soil as fast as other plants do. The only problem is hemp growing is highly restricted because the plant is in the cannabis family (although has none of the effects).

Alpaca

Alpaca comes from the animal of the same name. Alpacas produce much more hair much more quickly than goats or sheep and are low maintenance animals. Manufacturing alpaca textiles does not require harsh chemicals either.

Recycled Materials

What about recycled textiles? Although it is a plastic, recycled polyester is a good option because it uses 70% less energy than new polyester and cuts the CO2 emissions in half. It is made from PET (the same plastic as water bottles) and diverts waste from landfills. Recycled nylon is also a plastic but reduces carbon emissions by 18% over new nylon.

There’s also recycled natural fibers. Recycled wool and cotton also divert waste and save on the large amounts of resources to create new wool (taking care of sheep) and new cotton (all that water we’ve talked about).

With the exception of recycled polyester and recycled nylon, all of these textiles are 100% biodegradable.

Sustainable Fashion Brands

Eco-fashion has grown in popularity as more and more consumers are concerned about climate change and the health of our planet.

Here are some of the best sustainable fashion brands.

What Is Slow Fashion?

On the opposite end of fast fashion is slow fashion. The term “slow fashion” was coined by Kate Fletcher from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion as an echo of the emerging slow food movement.

Slow fashion garments are high quality and built to last by incorporating high quality materials and expert craftsmanship. Instead of a new collection of clothes released every month or even more frequently than that, slow fashion brands release only a small handful of collections per year.

It shuns the consumerism and impulse buying that come with fast fashion, and encourages buying less and only when you need to. In addition, many slow fashion brands look for sustainable materials and methods as well as have high ethical standards.

Beyond Buying

Slow fashion isn’t just about the garments you buy. It’s also about how you take care of them.

Increase the longevity of your clothing by following the care instructions on the tag. Reduce how often you wash your items so they won’t stretch, shrink, or fade as quickly. Mend your clothing in the places it does wear out. You can learn yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

I’ll get into more details about clothing care in next week’s post about creating a responsible wardrobe so be sure to check it out.

Slow Fashion Brands

Like with ethical and sustainable fashion, slow fashion brands will charge a higher price, but it is well worth it for a garment that lasts. If pricing “per wear”, it really isn’t all that expensive.

Here are some great slow fashion brands:

Why Are Ethical Fashion, Sustainable Fashion, and Slow Fashion Important?

While on their own, each approach to fashion can make you feel good about your purchases, together they create a wardrobe you can feel great about. Many brands already combine all three. I had a hard time deciding which category the example brands fell into because of that!

You will know neither workers nor the environment are paying the price for that “steal” you found at the mall last weekend. You also know that garment is built to last for years instead of weeks.

By choosing transparent brands or secondhand markets over fast fashion, you’re voting with your wallet. You’re voicing your distaste for the practices of fast fashion brands and reducing their profits. In addition, you’re encouraging and supporting smaller brands to keep doing what they’re doing (since many ethical or sustainable brands aren’t huge multinational companies found in every city).

Conclusion

The impacts of the fashion industry are widespread around the globe and harm uncountable lives and our planet’s future. So what can you do about it? How can you transition your current wardrobe so that it focuses on ethical, sustainable, and slow fashion?

Stay tuned for my post next week on that very subject! (EDIT: Read that post now!)

What Are Ethical, Sustainable, And Slow Fashion? Hanging rack of minimalistic white, brown, and grey shirts from a slow fashion wardrobe
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How To Go Green In Quarantine Little girl in butterfly cape is stuck inside waiting for quarantine to end

How To Go Green In Quarantine

Introduction

Earth Day is next week, but coronavirus has really put a damper on the holiday (despite doing great things for air pollution!). Park cleanups and other events have been cancelled, and social gathering restrictions mean we can’t protest for climate action. So how can you go green in quarantine?

I’ve come up with 35 different things you can do lower your footprint while stuck inside and dealing with the pandemic. Most of these tips are useful no matter what’s going on in the world, but I do have a short section on coronavirus-specific tips. Let’s get started!

Utilities

The first handful of tips to go green in quarantine are about utility usage, specifically water and electricity. You may have become more aware of your water and electricity use now that you are home all day instead of going to work. So let’s look at how you can reduce it.

1. Shower Less

One of the perks of staying home is there’s less of a reason to shower. Switching to every other day or even every third or fourth day will greatly reduce your water usage. If you still want to shower frequently or if you want to take it a step further, take shorter showers to reduce water use.

2. Shave Less

Another perk of the quarantine is not needing to shave as often. For men still working from home, perhaps this doesn’t apply as much, but for women, it can easily save water. While I support women not shaving and rarely shave except my armpits, I understand other women may enjoy a clean shave. Since you’re at home, no one’s going to see your legs though.

When you do choose to shave, conserve water. I have stopping shaving in the shower so water doesn’t just pour down the drain while I’m focusing on my legs. Instead I shave right afterwards and wet/rinse my legs by dumping cups of water on them.

3. Flush Less

A single flush on an average toilet uses 1.6 gallons. Assuming you live alone or with people who’ve agreed, flushing every two or three pees will save gallons of water per day. There’s the motto: When it’s yellow, let it mellow. When it’s brown, flush it down.

4. Install A Bidet

With the dumb toilet paper hoarding has come a rise in bidet use, which is an awesome way to go green in quarantine! We don’t have one because my husband doesn’t want to mess with the plumbing in our apartment, but we will get one when we buy a home.

Bidets cut down on toilet paper use, and in doing so, they reduce water use. How might this be if bidets use water? A single roll of toilet paper requires 37 gallons of water to manufacture. With Americans using a roll a week, that’s a whole lot of water that could be saved by using a fraction of a gallon per bathroom break with a bidet.

5. Full Laundry Loads

To get the most use of the water you use to wash clothes, make sure you’re waiting until you have a full load. Since many people are now at home, you won’t be dirtying clothes as fast and won’t need fresh work clothing each day. Despite this, wait until you have a full basket before heading down to the washing machine.

6. Use Natural Lighting

While we can’t go outside too much, don’t close yourself off from the outside world. Open up your blinds or curtains during the day to let in the natural light. Not only will it save on lighting costs, but you’ll feel happier than sitting under a lamp, have a bit of a view, and stay in sync with the day (so you’re sleeping/awake cycle doesn’t get too far out of whack).

7. Use Cooler Water

In all of your water using activities, keep the water a bit colder. This means a cooler shower (doesn’t need to be a cold shower, just nudge the handle down a bit), running a cold wash for laundry, and using cooler water for washing dishes. If you own a home, you can also adjust your water heater’s max temperature to automatically have cooler water (even if it’s just a few degrees).

8. Turn Off Appliances And Electronics

Many electronics suck energy even when we aren’t using them. By unplugging them or turning off the power strip they are connected to, you save energy that was literally being wasted on absolutely nothing. For example, we keep our microwave unplugged except for the few minutes a day when we’re using it.

9. Reduce Electronics Use Overall

An even better way to reduce energy use from electronics is to not use them in the first place. Cut down on your social media surfing or Netflix binge watching sessions. Use that natural lights. Get into the habit of not using electronics in the hour before bedtime (this tip also allows for a higher production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, so you can fall asleep easier).

Shopping

Our shopping experience has changed a lot since before coronavirus; however, there are still plenty of ways to shop green in quarantine. A few of these tips will also help reduce your need to shop, therefore reducing your exposure to the public.

1. Reduce Number Of Purchases

First and foremost, reduce how much you’re buying. Luckily, the virus has kind of wiped out physical retail therapy, but there’s still the online market. Reduce the strain on Amazon employees and don’t be buying unnecessary items right now. Beyond that, be a good person and don’t hoard groceries, especially perishables which will likely end up in the trash before you have a chance to eat them.

2. Support Local Businesses

When you do shop, keep it local as much as possible. The owners and employees are your neighbors, and they really need your help during this time. If there’s a smaller grocery store or restaurant, try them first before going to the big name chains. Local businesses are way more likely to be led by people just trying to make a living and even give back to the community rather than by people putting profits above all else.

3. Support Zero Waste Online Shops

When shopping online, you should still try to support smaller businesses. I posted a list of 15 zero waste online shops that are still open during the pandemic (some on my original list had temporarily closed). Go green in quarantine by making your next purchases responsible ones, plastic free ones, and sustainable ones.

4. Put A Note On Your Amazon Account

If you do make purchases through Amazon, send their customer service an email requesting a note be made on your account asking to reduce packaging waste. All you need to do is email cs-reply@amazon.com from the email your Amazon account is linked to and request they add this note to your account:

“I have an Amazon account under name@email.com. I would like to put a note on my account letting packers know I would prefer as little packaging as possible, especially plastic air pillows and bubble wrap. Thanks!”

5. Plan Grocery List To Reduce Trips

The last time my husband went grocery shopping, he stood in line for almost an hour before even being allowed inside. Don’t waste your time like that, so plan ahead. Create a full list of everything you’ll need for the next week or even two weeks so you won’t have to head back later because you missed something. When the store is out of an item, improvise and substitute instead of resigning yourself to the line of people standing six feet apart.

6. Shop Your Cabinets And Fridge First

This tip goes hand and hand with the grocery list. What ingredients do you have right now? Try planning a meal around them instead of having to buy a complete recipe. Check dates and use up items close to expiring, but remember: use by/best by dates are not safety dates and do not necessarily mean the product is bad to eat (EXCEPT baby formula, follow the dates for baby formula).

Food

Now that you’re back from the grocery store, let’s look at how to go green in quarantine with our diets.

1. Eat Less Animal Products

The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to cut out animal products (meat, dairy, cheese, etc.). While you may not be inclined to go full vegan or even vegetarian, try incorporating meatless meals into your diet. Head over to my Pinterest board for a ton of recipes and advice for eating a plant-based diet.

2. Eat Leftovers To Reduce Food Waste

Food waste has always been a toughy for me. Make sure that a) you are keeping leftovers, even if it’s a small portion and b) you eat those leftovers before they become a carpet of mold. Keep leftovers in clear containers so you see what’s inside. Keep leftover containers toward the front of the fridge so they don’t get lost. Add a “leftover day” (or two) to your meal plan to ensure you eat them.

3. Meal Prep

Meal prepping is great for saving time on making lunches for work. But now that you’re at home, should you bother? Absolutely! By cooking a large amount at the beginning of the week instead of 7 separate times, you save on energy costs from cooking. Economies of scale exist in cooking so making a lot at once will use less energy than making the same amount over multiple days.

4. Drink Tap Water

Don’t buy bottled water. Period. Bottled water companies are just plastic bottle companies. Your tap water is safe to drink. If you are super concerned, get a water filter, but don’t keep buying single use plastic bottles.

Cleaning and Chores

Spring cleaning has taken a new meaning during the pandemic and become super important for our health.

1. Switch To Rags

While surfaces should be wiped down frequently, don’t waste paper towels on them. Collect a stash of cloth rags to do the trick instead. Use wash clothes or cut up old t-shirts and store them in a jar or bucket for easy use. When they’re dirty, throw them in the laundry and wash them.

2. DIY Cleaning Products

Make your own cleaning products to avoid harsh chemicals and to substitute when stores are out of stock. Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol (like rubbing alcohol or even vodka) can be used as an antiseptic to kill germs. Make sure you don’t mix the wrong chemicals.

DO NOT MIX THE FOLLOWING:

  • Bleach with vinegar (creates chlorine gas)
  • Bleach with ammonia (creates chloramine)
  • Bleach and rubbing alcohol (creates chloroform)
  • Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar (creates peracetic/peroxyacetic acid)

3. Hang Dry Laundry

We’ve talked about washing clothes in the utilities section, but what about drying them? Try hang drying and cut out every watt of electricity. You can hang outside or inside, although obviously outside is faster. The sun also provides a bleaching effect that helps with stains too!

4. Switch To Hankies

Similar to rags, switch from tissues to hankies. I’ve made some little squares out of old clothing. They are so much softer than tissues, and you can just throw them in the wash after use.

5. Declutter Home To Donate Items Later

Now that you’re home all the time, your house may be becoming a bit messy. Spend some time going room by room and decluttering useless items. Get rid of that stack of junk mail on the table, set aside clothing to donate, and figure out what items you just don’t need. Minimalism and zero waste are a frequent pair of lifestyles because both reduce unnecessary things and simplify our lives.

6. Repair Clothes And Other Items

One of the main R’s of zero waste is Repair. Take this extra time to add patches to clothing, sew on lost buttons, or fix other items around the home that need some love. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on just about anything. By repairing items, you lengthen their lifespan and save some money.

Working From Home and Paper Usage

Many people are now working from home instead of going to the office, which has been a huge adjustment for most. How can you go green in quarantine while in your home office?

1. Reduce Paper Usage

This is the biggy. If you don’t need to print something, don’t print it. Use double-sided printing when you do. If you need to add a signature to something, add a digital signature instead of printing, signing, and scanning. Recycle the paper you use after you’re through with it too!

2. Digital Day Planner And Notebook

This also helps cut down on paper usage. Switch from a paper calendar to one on your computer or phone. This also makes it easy when there’s changes so you don’t have a bunch of crossed out items. Switch to a digital notebook as well to take meeting notes (alternatively, reuse paper for notetaking, although this can get messy/disorganized). I use OneNote because it’s easy to organize and add tables, to do lists, and even draw stuff.

3. Switch To Paperless Billing

Cut down on paper even more by switching your accounts to paperless billing. This way you’ll receive emailed statements and bills instead of being mailed paper copies. It’s a super easy thing that’s usually just a click of a button or a phone call.

4. Reduce Junk Mail

Millions of pounds of junk mail are thrown out/recycled each year. Head over to optoutprescreen.com or DMAchoice.org, or contact companies directly to get yourself removed from mailing lists. In addition to physical junk mail, sift through your email inbox and unsubscribe from email lists to save the energy used to email you that promo.

Coronavirus Specific

Although I’ve mentioned coronavirus making a lot of the above changes easier or necessary, they can be adopted and used in perpetuity. The following, however, are a bit more specific to the pandemic quarantine.

1. DIY Cloth Masks

There is a worldwide shortage of PPE. The CDC has recommended everyone wear a mask, even if it is cloth. My town has implemented a mask policy where anyone outdoors must always be wearing one. So my husband and I sewed our own out of t-shirts. There are lots of tutorials online for various styles, but the key points are multiple fabric layers and a close fit around the nose, face, and chin. These masks can be washed and reused which avoids a single use product and isn’t reducing the masks hospital workers need.

2. Bag Ban Work Around

Many cities have lifted there bag bans due to health concerns. These bans prevented stores from provided plastic bags or installed a charge per bag on the customer and encouraged shoppers to bring their own reusables. Now reusable bags are not allowed. But you can still go green in quarantine and avoid store bags! To work around this, ask that groceries just be put bare into your cart. Once at your car, put them into your own bags.

3. Coffee At Home

You may still be tempted to head over to the Dunkin’ or Starbucks to grab your morning coffee. While previously it was possible to bring in your own cup to avoid single use, many cafes have suspended these policies for health reasons. Instead make your coffee at home to both avoid the public and a single use disposable cup/lid/straw/whatever.

4. Quarantine Birthdays

A lot of people are unfortunately having birthdays in quarantine. The good thing about not being able to have a party is not needing wasteful decorations. Call them or send an ecard instead of buying and sending a physical card. Gift them an experience instead of providing a physical gift. With the future unknown at the moment, hopefully a promise of tickets can stand in for actual event tickets.

5. Climate Strike Online

As I said in the introduction, Earth Day is right around the corner, but we can’t go outside. Thousands of people have found a unique way to go green in quarantine and shift the climate protests online. The hashtag #fridaysforfuture has been coupled with the new hashtag #climatestrikeonline. Post a photo of yourself with the sign you would’ve brought to a protest to spread the word digitally instead.

Fun

The last way to go green in quarantine is to spend your time wisely. It’s so easy to waste entire days playing video games or watching Netflix, but these use up a lot of energy (and aren’t too productive).

1. Low Impact Hobbies

I recently wrote an article on low impact hobbies that are easy to pick up, can be done inside and/or alone, and don’t tax the environment as much as other hobbies do. The list is organized by impact size from low to least and includes over 15 different hobbies. Go check it out!

Conclusion

Although our lives have changed and been slightly put on hold, we can all still go green in quarantine. This will pass, but it doesn’t need to be wasted time. Keep yourself busy working on transitioning your lifestyle to avoid the anxiety and depression coronavirus causes. Use this time wisely to start new habits that can continue once this is all over.

How To Go Green In Quarantine Little girl in butterfly cape is stuck inside waiting for quarantine to end
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15 Zero Waste Online Shops For Beginners A wooden table covered with many different zero waste swaps like straws and cloth bags

15 Zero Waste Online Shops For Beginners

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

Not all of us are lucky enough to have local zero waste shops in our area; however, that’s where the internet comes in. There are tons of zero waste online shops where you can find plastic free and sustainable items so starting your zero waste journey is super easy!

While this doesn’t replace secondhand shopping or shopping local, online shopping comes in handy when you can’t find that certain item yourself. Check out my post on 8 Reasons To Thrift Shop to get some motivation for shopping secondhand instead of buying new!

I’ve organized the shops by country of origin, but some may ship to other places (all of Europe, worldwide, etc.).

United States

Life Without Plastic

Life Without Plastic has been selling plastic free items online since 2006. What started as an eco-conscious couple selling glass and steel baby bottles has grown into one of the best zero waste online shops. They have something for every part of your life and even have a subscription box service (you can also purchase a one-time box instead of a subscription). The founders also wrote a bestselling book as a guide for others. Life Without Plastic ships worldwide and is based in both the US and Canada.

NOTE: I am a Life Without Plastic affiliate.

Tiny Yellow Bungalow

Tiny Yellow Bungalow started in 2015 as a blog that eventually expanded into a giant zero waste online shop. They focus mainly on kitchen, bath, and cleaning products, but they also have handmade and vintage sections. They can ship internationally and have free shipping on orders over $100.

ZERO Market

ZERO Market is the first brick-and-mortar zero waste store in Colorado located in Aurora, CO. Their zero waste online shop has over a thousand items that ship to the US and Canada. The cool thing about this shop is their selection of zero waste gift sets such as a zero waste to go bag or a picnic set. They also sell herbs and teas in either reusable containers or paper bags, which I think is super neat!

Marley’s Monsters

The first of Marley’s Monsters was a fabric scrap stuffed monster sewn by Marley’s mom back in 2013. From there, her mom Sarah started making everything Marley needed with a focus on sustainability which grew into an online business and retail store. Their fabric and wood products are handmade in Eugene, Oregon, and they have a retail shop in town if you’re in the area. You can even customize your fabric prints (currently suspended during COVID-19). They ship worldwide, and shipping is a $5 flat free for US orders over $100.

Wild Minimalist

Zero waste parents Max and Lily started Wild Minimalist to help others begin their own zero waste journeys. They are based in California and ship worldwide (shipping is free within the US). Like ZERO Market, Wild Minimalist sells zero waste kits which make great gifts!

EarthHero

EarthHero’s mission is to make buying responsibly second-nature by providing a one-stop shop for sustainably made items without sacrificing on convenience. They have everything from clothing to toys to home and pets. They also offer free shipping on orders over $50 (ship to US only currently, but they are working on expansion).

EcoRoots

EcoRoots is also based in Colorado. They sell ethically and sustainably sourced items for the home, kitchen, and bathroom. Like most of these zero waste online shops, they ship using recyclable and compostable materials (even their packing peanuts are cornstarch and dissolve in water!). A portion of every purchase is donated to Ocean Conservancy to reduce single use plastic pollution in our oceans. EcoRoots offers free US shipping on orders over $30.

Boston General Store

The Boston General Store began in 2013 as a small online store, but now they have two brick-and-mortar locations in Dedham and Brookline, MA. The store pays homage to owner April’s grandmother who taught her the importance of reusable, well-made goods. Both locations have such a welcoming old-timey vibe, but for those outside Massachusetts, you can still buy zero waste items, local foods, and clothing online. There is free shipping on US orders over $25, but they can also ship internationally.

United Kingdom

Anything But Plastic

Anything But Plastic is a funky little shop started by a “whippersnapper trying to self-righteously change the world.” The owner really tries to educate consumers by including sections on “What does it replace?”, “Why is it better?”, “Is it worth it?”, and “Material ratings” for each and every product sold on the site. Currently, ABP ships only within the UK.

Waste Not

Waste Not is a plastic free online shop promoting reduction in plastic use that is polluting our planet. They offer home, kitchen, and bath products, as well a few kits. For their sanitary products, they run a one-for-one program which helps young girls receive access to both menstrual products and advice. How great is that? There is free shipping in the UK on orders over £50.

Plastics Free

Based in Cornwall, Plastics Free is aiming to make the transition to a plastic free lifestyle as easy as possible. They sell bath, kitchen, and cleaning products, and they have sections for pets and kids. They ship to all of Europe, but UK orders over £25 ship free.

Life Before Plastik

Two sisters started Life Before Plastik in 2018 as a way to help others make ethical and sustainable purchases. At least 90% of their products are vegan (those that aren’t include beeswax). None of their products were tested on animals, and all are sourced responsibly. LB4P ships to Europe, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. There is free shipping on UK orders over £50.

Boobalou

Boobalou offers a huge selection of home, living, women’s, and baby products. Every order donates a tree to the Eden Reforestation Projects. Boobalou also has an EcoPoints system in which for every pound spent, you receive a 5p EcoPoint to use on future orders. They ship worldwide and offer free shipping on UK orders over £50.

Australia

Biome

Biome started way back in 2003 with the vision “to preserve a safe, healthy environment on this wonderous planet for now and for all who come after us.” Beyond your typical zero waste swaps and home items, Biome sells slow fashion garments, outdoor items, books, and even food. They have very strict standards for their products, which you can read about here. Biome ships to most of Asia, UK, US, Canada, and European Union countries. They also have seven store locations in Australia.

Canada

NU

NU Online is an online zero waste grocery store that also sells other zero waste products (personal care, cleaning products, etc.). If you want to make your own DIY products, NU sells various ingredients plastic free. NU has a physical location in Ottawa for in-store pick-ups. Grocery purchases are for Ottawa only, but other items can be shipped wherever in Canada.

Conclusion

What zero waste online shops have you used to help transition to a sustainable lifestyle? Let me know in the comments.

15 Zero Waste Online Shops For Beginners A wooden table covered with many different zero waste swaps like straws and cloth bags

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