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How To Have A Low Waste Easter Different colored Easter eggs on a bed of fake green grass

How To Have A Low Waste Easter

Introduction

Spring has finally arrived, and that means Easter is just around the corner. Holidays can be difficult to navigate, especially when you’re trying to be zero waste. There are family members who may not share your views, traditions you don’t want to break, and the craziness of organizing a big get-together. But there are plenty of ways to have a low waste Easter this year!

Low Waste Easter Eggs and Egg Hunts

Easter wouldn’t be the same without Easter eggs and the hunt for them.

Natural Egg Dyeing

My parents and I always dyed eggs for Easter, and it was one of my favorite holiday traditions. We either bought the egg dyeing  kits or used food coloring, but there’s more natural ways to color your Easter eggs.

You can use spices and even kitchen scraps to color your eggs. Don’t think your low waste Easter will be boring shades of brown though! You can make shades of blue, bright yellows, and pink colored dyes as well. Good Housekeeping has a guide for these colors.

According to Deb’s comprehensive egg dyeing post on Just Short of Crazy, there are two easy ways to dye eggs: the hot method and the cold method. The hot method boils raw eggs in the dye mixture, while the cold method lets hard-boiled eggs soak in a bowl of the dye mixture. A longer soaking time gives you a more vibrant color. (Good Housekeeping’s guide uses the cold method.)

Easter Egg Hunts

On Easter morning, I would hunt for our real eggs inside my house, but in the afternoon all the grandkids would hunt outside for the same plastic Easter eggs my Grandma has used for about twenty years. Plastic eggs are great for Easter eggs hunts because they are reusable, can be filled with coins or candy, and can be used outdoors. Try to find some secondhand!

Obviously, hiding real eggs is the most sustainable solution, but sometimes it isn’t the most practical, especially for larger events. There are also hollow, wooden eggs that offer a better low waste Easter solution because no plastic is involved.

Now let’s look at the treats inside the eggs. Like I said, my Grandma would hide coins in some eggs but candy in others. To reduce waste, find some unwrapped candies in bulk bins or look for candy wrapped in foil. The foil can be balled up (in a large enough ball, not a single wrapper) and recycled. Aluminum can be recycled over and over and over without loss of quality!

Low Waste Easter Baskets

Gifts are where things start to get tricky, but have no fear! There are still ways to keep Easter baskets low waste.

As for the basket itself, use one you already own (and reuse it each year) or find one secondhand. Thrift shops always have a large supply of baskets, even if they aren’t bright Spring colors. Instead of using the plastic cellophane grass, line your basket with paper grass or tissue paper. Reuse your grass lining each year.

Be mindful of the gifts you place in the basket. Many parents hold to the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read” mantra for giving gifts. This ensures most gifts serve a real purpose instead of a ton of toys.

Here are some great low waste Easter basket gifts:

Low Waste Easter Basket Consumables gift idea list from A Sustainable Sole blog

But instead of just sticking with physical gifts, why not gift an experience? Here’s a list of experiences kids would love:

Low Waste Easter Basket Experiences gift idea list from A Sustainable Sole blog

Low Waste Easter Parties

Easter is also a time families get together. In light of the current health crisis, parties may be a lot smaller or be cancelled altogether, but you can still plan for next year.

Hosting

If you’re hosting an Easter party, cook up some low waste meals. When shopping for groceries, look for local or package-free items. Compost your kitchen scraps (or use them for eggs dyes depending on ingredient).

Be prepared for leftovers and encourage guests to take some home. Either inform them to bring a container or lend them one of yours. Use real plates and napkins instead of disposables.

For decorations, find secondhand items that can be reused year after year. Bring springtime indoors with plants and flowers to add color to your space. If the weather is nice enough, move the party outdoors and play yard games.

Attending

If you are attending a party, bring your own container for leftovers. Encourage the host to use real dishware (offer to help clean up and wash dishes to sway them). At mealtime, take only what you know you can eat in one sitting to reduce food waste. If you bring a hostess gift, bring a consumable like homemade cookies, a dish to pass, or a potted plant.

Conclusion

I hope these tips will help you have a low waste Easter you can feel good about. Remember that these gift-giving and party tips can apply to other times of the year too!

How are you celebrating Easter this year?

How To Have A Low Waste Easter Different colored Easter eggs on a bed of fake green grass
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15+ Low Impact Hobbies To Try Today A pair of black binoculars on an open bird identification book

15+ Low Impact Hobbies To Try Today

Introduction

Have you ever thought about the impacts of how you have fun? Sometimes our hobbies can be synonymous with create waste. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve come up with this big list of low impact hobbies that are organized from low impact to least impact so you can find something fun and exciting to pick up without the guilt of waste.

Since many people have more time on their hands thanks to the quarantine, I figured some of you may be struggling to fill that time. Although not all of these hobbies are indoors, the outdoor hobbies can be done alone if needed.

Wasteful Hobbies

Before we get into the low impact hobbies, I want to briefly mention a few hobbies that generate a lot of waste (and aren’t that productive).

Shopping as a hobby leads to impulse buys of items you don’t need which increases demand for more products. Not only do you waste money on these purchases, but you also end up cluttering your house trying to find a place for them all.

Makeup and nail art are also wasteful since they require frequent purchases. Many makeup brands still test on animals, and their products contain many ingredients that aren’t good for your health.

There are many arts and crafts-related hobbies that are pretty wasteful. Scrapbooking creates a lot of waste, and many decorations are glittery. Origami swans just waste a lot of paper. Cosplaying frequently involves fabrics, foam, wigs, and other materials that cannot be recycled. Plus, the costumes are reserved for special occasions.

Low Impact Hobbies

So what fun things can you do instead? These low impact hobbies still require frequent purchases and some waste, but they come will lots of benefits to balance it out.

DIY Projects and Upcycling

DIY and upcycling projects do create some waste and you may have to purchase materials, but these projects help prevent useless spending, save materials from going to waste, and can teach you various skills like woodworking, crafting, or painting.

These projects will give you a sense of satisfaction and should serve a practical purpose once completed (no 5 Minute Crafts please!). If you want, you could use these projects as gifts or sell them for extra money.

Gardening

Gardening is a great low impact hobby because of the satisfaction of nurturing something and watching it grow. You’ll still have to make some recurring purchases for seeds, seedlings, soil, pots, and tools, but there isn’t much waste associated with gardening.

Gardening allows you to grow your own food and reduce your food miles to zero. You can cut out pollution and can monitor what exactly is being used on your food (fertilizers and pesticides). You can also tend to houseplants, which will greenify your indoor spaces, purify the air, and give you a reason to open the blinds and let in that natural light (save on energy bills).

Cooking and Baking

If you’ve taken up gardening, may as well learn to cook that food! Not only is cooking a great skill to have, but it is also a way to transition to healthier diet filled with plant-based whole foods instead of packaged and processed meals. Look for local ingredients and ones with the least packaging to include in your meals.

You can find cookbooks secondhand in thrift stores or search online for new recipes to try. Learn some basics or experiment with new ingredients. Try your hand at baking cakes for parties instead of buying one in a plastic container. Get into the habit of meal prepping so you’re all set for the week.

Sewing, Crocheting, and Knitting

I believe everyone should know how to sew. It is an amazing skill to have. You’ll have to make frequent purchases for things like fabric and thread or yarn, but sewing/mending projects serve good purposes. Thrift stores I’ve been to have fabric, yarn, and knitting/crocheting needles so you can pick up some necessary materials secondhand.

I haven’t tried my hand at clothing alterations or creation, but I really would love to learn. I stick to mending my clothes to lengthen their lifespans and knitting gifts for family.

Lower Impact Hobbies

These hobbies are even better on the environment than the low impact hobbies. They still may require purchases or energy use, but not as large a scale as the previous ones.

Playing an Instrument

Learning to play an instrument can be difficult, but it’s also very rewarding. I love music and played different instruments throughout my childhood including eight years of harp. While it can be sometimes frustrating to learn new pieces, it’s so satisfying to sit down and listen to the music you’re making.

You can rent instruments or find some secondhand. You can buy books of sheet music, or there’s sites like 8notes.com that have free sheet music available, including pieces especially for beginners. Learn through videos online or support a local music shop and sign up for lessons there!

Biking and Skateboarding

You can find yourself a bike or skateboard secondhand. Take a ride through your neighborhood for exercise. Teach yourself some skateboarding tricks. Enjoy being outside in the fresh air.

Beyond the enjoyment from biking or skateboarding, you can teach yourself how to properly maintain and repair them. Learn from others, ask someone at a bike or skate shop, or check out videos online.

Photography

Get yourself a secondhand camera and start shooting. You can even just start out using your phone. Photography is a great way to capture special memories or make some money. Upload stock photos online or offer your skills to others for events.

Listening to Podcasts

You can also keep yourself up to date with the news. Podcasts are free and you’ll always have them available in your pocket to put on whenever you’re bored. All you need is your phone. Spice up your commute or listen while doing chores around the house.

Some of the podcasts I listen to are:

  • Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
  • This American Life
  • Coffee Break Spanish
  • DuoLingo Spanish Podcasts
  • Think: Sustainability
  • Practical(ly) Zero Waste Podcast
  • Laughs from the Past

Writing and Drawing

Writing is my very favorite thing to do. All you need is a computer or notebook and pen. I love writing because you can lose yourself in another world for a while and let your imagination run wild. Or you can write informative pieces like this to share with others, write a memoir or autobiography to save for posterity, or use it to destress and let out emotions (I use journaling and poetry to do that one).

If you’re artistic (or even if you aren’t), you might be interested in drawing. Find some tutorials online, draw from imagination, or copy scenes from real life. All you need is a pen/pencil and a few sheets of paper to get started. You may be able to find art supplies secondhand as well!

Least Impact Hobbies

Ready for the very best low impact hobbies? These require zero purchases and minimal resources. And they are still very fun to do!

Reading

Like listening to podcasts, reading is a great free way to learn something new or just be entertained. While you can go and purchase books, libraries are amazing resources and completely free to use. Browse books in every genre and topic you can think of and take home a few to read. You can either read for entertainment or borrow books to learn some of the skills I’ve been discussing (sewing, cooking, writing, etc.).

Some libraries also participate in programs like Hoopla (LINK) that offer a selection of ebooks you can borrow straight onto your phone or computer. They rent out movies and audiobooks too! If you want some social interaction, join a local book club and build yourself a reading community.

Language Learning

If you noticed from the podcast list, I’m currently learning Spanish. While I took it in high school, I didn’t do anything with it all throughout college. Now I’m excited to be learning again. I use podcasts, videos, apps, and books borrowed from the library.

To make this a least impact hobby, borrow language learning materials from the library and/or sign up for a local class. Many adult education centers and community colleges offer language classes from beginner to advanced. While the classes cost money, you are receiving knowledge from a person instead of creating a demand for a physical product that requires non-renewable resources.

Nature Watching and Hiking

I love going out into nature and exploring the world around me. We use All Trails to find hikes near us. While more strenuous hikes would require materials like hiking boots and gear, walking through nature preserves don’t need anything special.

Borrow a book from the library about plant and animal species in your area to take along. Take up bird watching and learn their different songs. Or just enjoy the fresh air, exercise, and our darn beautiful Mother Earth.

Singing and Dancing

Even if you aren’t good at it, singing and dancing are always really fun ways to relax. Throw on some music to sing along to, or get serious and sign up for voice lessons. Watch videos online or take a class to learn various forms of dance. My husband and I took a swing class last year, which didn’t require any special shoes like ballet or tap would.

Yoga and Fitness

Stay in shape and have fun at the same time. Yoga is relaxing as well as good exercise, and it doesn’t require much more than yourself. You don’t really need a yoga mat if you don’t have one.

For a harder workout, add in some cardio with jogging or at-home workouts (crunches, jumping jacks, push-ups, etc.). Even a quick 20-30 minutes a day can go a long way, not only for physical health but also for your mental health.

Volunteering

Lastly on our list of low impact hobbies is one that actual can have quite a large impact, just a really good one! Volunteering usually requires nothing but your time, and the end product is an improvement to someone’s day or life.

There are many places to find volunteer opportunities, such as animal shelters, food pantries, and online. Check out the websites below!

For a list of organizations focused on the environment, head over to this post.

Volunteer for something you care about, whether that’s cleaning up the environment, working with children or the elderly, or helping out with community events you enjoy. (Unfortunately, volunteer opportunities are currently pretty limited due to the coronavirus right now.)

Conclusion

All of these hobbies have one thing in common: learning and growing. Having that curiosity and drive to keep learning can

There are plenty of low impact hobbies out there that I’m sure you’ll find something that speaks to you. And if you get bored of one, try out another.

What are your favorite low impact hobbies? Leave a comment below!

15+ Low Impact Hobbies To Try Today A pair of black binoculars on an open bird identification book
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How To Avoid Consumerism While Going Zero Waste A woman holding too many shopping bags after giving in to impulse buying

How To Avoid Consumerism While Going Zero Waste

Introduction

We’ve all seen it. Somehow the trendiness of sustainability has allowed our consumer pasts to seep into our plans for the future. Instagram is filled with minimalist pictures of the best new gear to hop out and buy. Influencers push more and more products that are just a click away. And although the rationale of buying better products is good at heart, buying more and buying new is an easy trap to fall into, especially if you are prone to impulse buying to begin with. So today, we’ll focus on how to avoid consumerism while continuing on our zero waste journeys.

But not all these advertisements are bad. Since most ethical and sustainable companies are small and just starting out, it can be hard to find out about them without sponsored posts. It’s important to have this stream of information, but at the same time we each need to reflect on what is best for our interests and if what we have right now still does the job. We need to learn to be patience, to use up what we have, and to find other avenues of “shopping” that are better for the environment.

We also need to remember to keep our personal “why’s” in mind when we are faced with the option to make new purchases. Consider the consequences that decision will have on your chosen reason to save the planet to nudge you in the right direction.

This post will also include a brief discussion of some things you might see all over the internet, but you really don’t need them. Either you can just do without them completely, or there’s something you own that can serve the same purpose.

Learn Patience And Resist Impulses

It’s hard to avoid consumerism when we’re surrounded by product ads (or just pretty photos). We get impatient and impulsive, justifying it as a “sustainable swap”. We don’t want to wait until our shampoo bottle runs out to switch to fancy shampoo bars. No one wants to wait until their shirts become rag-worthy to buy a new one from an ethical brand. Frustration drives you to impulse buys that end up replacing a useful item you already have.

I’m still trying to use up my disposal products. Sometimes it really bothers me that I’m still surrounded by plastic when I could go out and buy better versions right now. I’ve bought things impulsively because they look pretty and are sustainable or zero waste, but I didn’t really need it right then. While that would make me feel good in the moment, I’d feel guilty afterward because I’m wasting what I own. Or I let the new item sit there and taunt me as I continue to use up what I own instead (sooo frustrating).

The best way I’ve found to stay patient is by keeping yourself busy by learning. Read an informative article or watch a documentary. Research resources available in your area. Discuss the environment or zero waste with others in person or online.

Take this new knowledge and set some goals. Focus on changes you can make that don’t require a physical item. By staying busy, you won’t have time to brood over your slowing dwindling supply of disposables. At the same time, you’ll get doses of satisfaction from learning something new and from the changes you make.

Use What You Have And Use It Up

A number of “swap” videos and blog posts take you through the same list of products, but many of those items can already be found in your own home. Three frequent products are travel silverware, mason jars, and reusable bags. Let’s see how we can avoid consumerism by using items found in our own home instead of clicking “Add To Cart”.

A fork and spoon from your kitchen drawer can do the job just as well as a new kit. Many foods already come in glass jars or bottles so you can save these from recycling and use them again yourself. Pasta sauce, pickles, vinegar, jelly, and some drinks can come in glass. Using a backpack, reusing plastic grocery bags, or a cardboard box can perform the same function as new canvas reusable bags. Not only do these diminish the demand for new products, they also save you money.

Be sure to check out my list of 50 (Free) Little Changes which focuses on making do with what you have before heading to the store or Amazon as well as behavioral changes which are both green and save you green.

If keeping busy isn’t enough, try turning using up what you have into a game. Occasionally I go through my apartment and make a list of what I still have to use up. It’s fun to do a kind of scavenger hunt for disposables, see what I’ve used up from last time, and try to guess how long each item has left.

Other Ways To Shop

What happens when you can’t avoid consumerism and do need something new? There’s a few possible solutions that still don’t mean buying new. Shopping secondhand either from online marketplaces or thrift stores has so many benefits. You get something that solves your problem, all while not contributing to new product demand and rescuing one from landfill. You can read more about the benefits of thrift shopping in this post.

While thrift shopping is great, especially for those of us who love to shop, there are other options too. You can ask your friends or family if they have something you need they’d be willing to part with. Have a clothing swap with friends to freshen up your wardrobe. Borrow books from the library instead of heading to Barnes & Noble. Do your best to contribute to a sharing economy instead of a single stream.

Another way to “shop” is by turning these new purchases into gifts you receive from others. This doesn’t avoid consumerism, but it does help reduce it. Instead of being gifted items you don’t want, you’ll ensure you’ll receive something sustainable, needed, and useful.

Keep Your “Why” In Mind

Lastly, before you make any purchases, think about how they will affect the reason you’ve chosen to go zero waste. I discuss finding your “why” in Part 5 of my recent series on How to (Finally) Start Going Zero Waste. Remembering this reason will keep you focused and avoid impulsive decisions.

For example, my “why” is protecting innocent wildlife. When I think about making a purchase, I think about how that purchase will affect (or has affected via production) wildlife. Did its raw materials come from land that used to be thriving animal habitat? At the end of the product’s life, is there a chance it ends up as plastic in the ocean, enticing fish and birds to eat it instead? The answers to these questions help me decide what purchases are worth it.

Things You Probably Don’t Need

There are also some items I recommend avoiding entirely. Special lunchboxes or stainless steel tiffins aren’t necessary. You can use containers or jars you currently have, or learn furoshiki, the Japanese art of cloth wrapping, to protect your meal. 

Reusable napkins can be replaced with washcloths or hand towels you already own, or you can make your own our of old clothing. I pack a washcloth with my lunch every day, which also comes in handy to dry my containers after washing them out.

Charcoal sticks for your water in lieu of filter attachments are something that really confuse me. Most tap water is perfectly fine to drink (even many brands of bottled water are just tap water). You can perform a test at home if you are worried about it, but I just drink plain water from the tap.

At the grocery store, I try to avoid bags as much as possible. If I’m buying just a handful of items, I just carry them out with me. Although I do own a mesh produce bag (and use it for green beans), it’s generally not that necessary. Just keep your produce loose instead. I tend to use the self-checkout lanes when possible to avoid potentially annoying the cashiers with my unbagged produce, but it shouldn’t be an issue if you bring it to a cashier.

Conclusion

There are so many ways to avoid consumerism. You can learn to resist impulse buying, turn using up items into a game, shop secondhand, borrow, or just plain do without. Many zero waste swaps are living right under your nose already; sometimes you just need to get creative.

When it comes time to buy new, of course you should try to purchase from companies that align with your beliefs, but for the good of the planet, try to wait a little longer.

Need a few distractions to avoid consumerism? Check out these posts:

How To Avoid Consumerism While Going Zero Waste A woman holding too many shopping bags after giving in to impulse buying
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Vegan or Environmentalist Choices: Who's Right? A woman stands before two arrows pointing in opposite directions drawn on the pavement

Vegan Or Environmentalist Choices: Who’s Right?

Introduction

For many, veganism and environmentalism go hand in hand. Many who are vegan care about the environment, and many environmentalists eat a vegan or plant-based diet. These two ideals, however, sometimes butt heads. I’ve decided to look at which choices are better for animals and the environment.

As an environmentalist, I believe many vegans have lost sight of the bigger picture and have one goal in mind: do not use animal products no matter the cost. Using alternative products can have a much larger impact on the environment, including on the same animals vegan are trying to protect.

On the other hand, I had a couple changes of heart while writing this post and have learned the environmental, social, and animal welfare impacts of non-vegan options may be just as bad as or worse than the vegan option.

Both have their reasons and their flaws, which is why it is up to you to decide which options align best with your morals and ethics. Let’s take a look:

Foods

I’ve split the conflict between veganism and environmentalism for foods into two categories: food items and food packaging.

Food Items

Eggs

I still eat eggs every now and again. So long as the hens who lay them are treated ethically, I see little reason not to eat their eggs which would otherwise go to waste. That stipulation is important though as apparently not all ethical eggs are as ethical as they claim to be. It is important to note “cage free” usually still means hens are kept in overcrowded barns with no access to the outdoors.

“Free range” should be better and allow for ample outdoor roaming, but Nellie’s (owned by Pete and Gerry’s) is currently facing a lawsuit due to alleged overcrowding in their barns and little access to outside.

One qualm I have for believing these allegations is they were made by PETA, which is a horrible organization that euthanizes most animals they “rescue” yet accused Steve Irwin of abusing animals. In the future, I want to keep chickens for eggs so that I know exactly how they are being treated.

Honey

When I set out to write this post, I believed honey was perfectly fine to eat. I figured few to no bees were harmed in the process and beekeepers were just taking some excess honey. This is not always the case. Bees may get smashed and killed while retrieving the slabs of comb from the hives. Many times beekeepers will take extra honey and feed the bees sugar water during the winter as a replacement for the honey the bees had stolen from them.

It is a common belief that honeybees are critical to our food sources since they pollinate such a large portion of our crops; however, commercial honeybees are invasive and have led to dwindling populations of the thousands of wild bee species around the world. So although we should definitely be concerned with the bee population, we should not be concerned with the honeybee population used as agricultural tools and kept by humans.

As a final note on the problems with honey, most commercial honeybee populations are trucked to California each year to pollinate almond crops. Along with the transportation emissions involved, this trip is very strenuous on hives and many bees die because of it.

Food Packaging

For some vegans, especially many beginners, vegan substitutes are part of their daily diet. These vegan hot dogs and vegan cheeses are highly processed and come in plastic packaging. This isn’t necessarily a conflict so much as a warning. By eating whole food ingredients instead of packaged vegan alternatives, you will prevent a lot of waste from packaging and creating those items.

In the same vein, food packaging is an important concern. I first started changing my grocery list by trying to buy as little packaging as possible. Once I decided to try to be more vegan, I began to slack and ended up buying a lot of items in packaging just because they were vegan. So again, if you are vegan/plant-based, try to find as many whole food ingredients that are unpackaged as you can. Most produce items will have at least one version unpackaged.

Now there is a lot of data to suggest that while going vegan leads to the least carbon emissions, being just vegetarian/flexitarian or even subscribing to a Mediterranean diet is just about as good. Protein for a Mediterranean diet comes mainly from seafood, nuts, and legumes, and red meat is rarely on the table. So if you can’t let go of animal products, know you are still doing a lot for the planet by eating them in large moderation.

Materials

In my opinion, materials is where veganism and environmentalism really clash. As a vegan, beyond having a plant-based diet, you do not use any product from an animal. This includes materials like leather, silk, and fur, which all have vegan alternatives. Let’s take a quick look at each of these.

Leather and Pleather

Leather is mostly a byproduct material from the animal agriculture industry. In certain cases with unusual leathers (alligator or snake for instance) it is not a byproduct, but over 99% of leather comes from cows, pigs, and sheep. Now while leather is a current byproduct, if somehow the world demand for meat plummeted, leather demand could keep animals coming to slaughter.

There are many steps involved in processing leather, which can take up to 10 days. This process involves toxic chromium, which harms workers (many times child labor) and is dumped into rivers. In addition to the exposure to chemicals and pollutants, workers often face poor working conditions and are at high risk of injuries on the job.

Vegan leathers are plastics (PVC or Polyurethane) with production processes that are more harmful to the environment than real leather. PVC releases dioxins during production and is treated with phthalates which are a harmful to human health. The chemical process to create polyurethane is dangerous to human as it can cause breathing problems and cancer. Furthermore, as a plastic, vegan leather will never fully break down in the environment like organic leather will.

Silk, Nylon, and Polyester

Silk is an ancient material from Asia that is created from the material used by silkworm larvae to build their cocoons. To harvest the cocoons, silkworm larvae are boiled alive. The cocoons are then carefully unwound. Some companies do allow the the silkmoth to emerge before boiling, which as an animal activist, you would think is the best option. But thousands of years of domestication for silk production have harmed the silkworm. If left alone, the silkworm moth will emerge with no mouth to eat and wings that it cannot use to fly. It will mate if possible and die within a week.

Silk alternatives like nylon and polyester are manmade fibers (plastics) made from petroleum. Their production processes consume large amounts of energy. For example, nylon requires three times the amount of energy to produce as cotton. Polyester production alone consumes a whopping 70 million barrels of oil each year. These plastic fibers release N20, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Although viscose/rayon is a natural fiber, its production processes are energy and chemical intensive and cause harm to both workers and the environment.

In addition, microplastics are shed from garments in the wash and will not be caught before entering the natural environment (contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

Fur and Faux Fur

There is a very feeble leg to stand on for environmentalists about the fur industry. Animals used for furs like minks, rabbits, and foxes, are farmed and killed solely for their pelts. They are kept in horrible conditions, and there is little regulation in the industry. Unfortunately, demand for furs has risen, especially in Asia, so the market is not feeling the pressure to stop their inhumane practices.

There are only two ways I would be comfortable buying a fur: 1) if it was from someone who trapped the animal, ate the animal, created the garment themselves, and is selling it as their source of income or 2) if it is a vintage piece secondhand. (Although I’m not too sure why I would ever need a fur since there are so many other types of fabrics I could use instead that have much less of an impact.)

Beyond that, the fur industry are hunters for profit and discard the body. Faux furs are usually plastic polymers like acrylic, which we know come from petroleum and have harmful manufacturing processes and will never fully degrade in the environment. There are, however, faux furs made from natural fibers.

The best option whenever buying clothing is to buy secondhand. In doing so, you are not contributing to demand for virgin fibers and lengthening the lifetime of existing garments. Vegan environmentalists should have no issue wearing secondhand leather, silk, or fur because not only are they not personally contributing to the demand of animal products but they are not requiring harmful processes to create vegan material alternatives.

Beyond textiles, there is the floss debate on whether to use biodegradable silk floss or cruelty free plastic floss. Luckily, Dental Lace has come out with a plant-based alternative to both floss options.

Beyond Production

We must also look at the end of an item’s lifecycle. Food packaging may or may not be recyclable, and even when it is, it may not get recycled anyway. Natural materials will biodegrade, but man-made plastic ones will not. Here is where I believe many vegans forget to look.

By contributing to waste, you are harming animals. The plastics that flow into the ocean, whether they are whole objects like tofu packaging that blew off the barge on its way to Asia or the microplastics that were released from a pair of nylon tights in the washing machine, are harming the ocean biome.

Plastics are being eaten by everything from tiny plankton to albatrosses to blue whales. They die of starvation for mistaking plastics for food or of complications relating to plastics stuck in their digestive tracts.

The need for more landfill space will require destruction of natural habitat and kill off entire populations of animals. Vegans must think not only of how production affects animals but also of how the item will affect them after its useful life is over.

Conclusion

As you can see, every option has pros and cons. What’s best for you may be different than what’s best for someone else. Make sure to keep yourself educated about the products you are purchasing, ask questions, and look at the bigger picture of the lifecycle of those items.

So what do you think? Does avoiding animal cruelty in production outweigh the environmental impacts of alternative products? Where do you draw the line on animal products? If you are vegan, do you or would you buy secondhand animal textiles?

Vegan or Environmentalist Choices: Who's Right? A woman stands before two arrows pointing in opposite directions drawn on the pavement
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How to Shop without Bulk Bins Shelves of plastic free produce in a local grocery store

How to Shop without Bulk Bins

Introduction

We all live in different situations. Some of us have multiple natural food stores, co-ops, and even zero waste shops to buy unpackaged bulk foods. Some of us just don’t. I personally don’t have many options around me. But even if I had easy access to bulk, sometimes you just can’t justify or paying 2 or even 3 times the price. So how can you shop without bulk bins and still reduce waste?

Reduce Food Packaging

First look for completely unpackaged items. This will usually only be fruits and vegetables, although you can ask the bakery or deli to get items without packaging (by bringing your own container or bag). They may say no, but it’s always worth a shot.

When you do need to buy something with packaging, limit the amount of plastic as much as possible. Choose cardboard, glass, and metal packaging instead. Sometimes metal cans are lined with BPA, a plastic coating that can be harmful and should be avoided. There are some brands who note their cans are BPA-free, but some studies have shown the alternatives used still disrupt hormones the way BPA does.

When purchasing naked produce, you don’t need to then put it in a plastic produce bag. Produce bags aren’t necessary, and few cashiers – if any – will care if your items are loose. You can always bring your own cloth or mesh produce bags too. If they are light enough, they won’t add any weight to your purchase. My produce bag weighs a little bit, so I remove the items before weighing at checkout and stick them back in afterward.

Reduce Food Miles

Produce stickers and price signs will sometimes say what country the items came from. By reducing the amount of travel your food had to do, you eliminate some pollution from the boats, trains, and trucks who brought the food from farm to grocery store.

Also check out any local farmers markets. These items were grown nearby and are usually organic. Vendors sometimes will take back the packaging (egg and berry cartons, for example) for future use. This prevents you from taking in waste and prevents the vendor from needing to purchase more containers. Small mom-n-pop butchers and delis are also good resources if you eat an omnivorous diet as they are more likely to be accommodating.

And if we’re reducing food miles, why not reduce them to zero? If you have the space, you can start your own garden with seeds, starter plants, or even kitchen scraps (link to something on Pinterest about the scraps)! All you need is a sunny spot so don’t think you need a yard. Balconies and windowsills work too.

Buy Organic

Packaging and food miles aren’t the only ways to shop environmentally. Organic goods were grown without harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Runoff from farms can contaminate adjacent ecosystems and waterways. Pesticides kill important pollinators like bees. Buying organic foods tell companies you care about the environment and its wildlife.

If you aren’t sure whether a product is organic, look at the produce sticker. Stickers numbers starting with ‘9’ mean the item is organic. Organic bananas always have a plastic wrapper around the stem. This is to slow the ripening process, but it’s also a good indicator of being organic. Sadly this means the bananas will come with some plastic.

Shop the Outer Perimeter

Most grocery stores are set up the same way: produce when you walk in with a deli along the wall, refrigerators and frozen on the back wall and opposite side of the store to the produce, then bakery in the far front corner. All the packaged and processed goods are stocked in the middle aisles. By shopping the outer perimeter of the store, you avoid being tempted by packaged foods. Your shopping cart will then mostly contain whole ingredients with minimal packaging.

If you must enter the middle for packaged items like pasta and canned goods, avoid wandering each aisle. Go directly to the aisle with what you’re looking for and return to that outer perimeter. Sticking to your grocery list will help prevent impulse buys along these aisles.

The Other Type of Bulk

Wholesale food clubs like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are a double-edged sword when it comes to environmentally-friendly grocery shopping. On the one hand, buying larger quantities reduces the packaging ratio. For example, a 10 pound bag of rice will have less total packaging than ten 1 pound bags of rice due to the difference in surface area.

This larger quantity will take longer to eat and therefore can reduce the number of trips you take to the store, cutting down on transportation emissions. I can’t speak for other wholesale clubs, but BJ’s also sells a large variety of organic foods.

On the other hand, wholesale clubs have a very limited selection of unpackaged produce. The only things I usually see unpackaged are melons and pineapples. Otherwise everything comes in a plastic bag, cardboard box, or other packaging.

My pet peeve is items bundled together with extra packaging. A plastic wrapper or thick plastic ring will hold multiple normal items (peanut butter jars, juice jugs, etc.) together to ensure you are buying the correct amount and scanning the correct barcode. So for some items, wholesale bulk is a good option, but for others, you’re just creating more waste. Keep packaging in mind when buying in wholesale bulk.

Conclusion

Whether you can shop from bulk bins or not doesn’t prevent you from lowering your shopping footprint. You can shop without bulk bins and still create little to no packaging waste. In addition to buying sustainably, make sure to read my post from earlier this week on 12 Ways to Reduce Food Waste.

How to Shop without Bulk Bins Shelves of plastic free produce in a local grocery store
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12 Ways To Reduce Food Waste wire basket on table filled with tomatoes, squash, and other plastic free produce

12 Ways To Reduce Food Waste

The average American throw out over 6 pounds of food per week (over 400 grams per day). That’s about 340 pounds per year! Food waste accounts for 20% of what we send to landfill. Despite its organic nature, food can take years or even decades to break down in landfills because there isn’t enough oxygen to facilitate decomposition. This leads to the release of methane into the atmosphere. So it’s really important to go beyond reducing food packaging waste and reduce your food waste as well.

Before I started lowering my impact, I threw out a lot of food. I forgot about leftovers and was not able to compost until mid-2018. I had to take out my garbage before it was full because of the smelly foods inside. But now my food waste is mainly limited to dairy that my compost can’t accept and the occasional forgotten leftover (I’m still working on this one!).

I’ve come up with 12 great ways to reduce food waste that span from before you go shopping to after you’ve eaten. Let’s get started!

1. Shop when full

Shopping on an empty stomach will tempt you into buying more than you need or items that you should avoid (packaged, sugary treats). When you aren’t hungry while grocery shopping, you can more easily focus on sticking to your list. Speaking of which…

2. Make a plan and stick to the list

Before you even step food in the store or farmers market, you need a plan. What meals are you planning for this week? What is already in your kitchen you can create meals around? What needs to get used up before it expires? Answering these questions will help you create a list of the ingredients you’ll need for that week. You will be less likely to overbuy amounts that will go bad before you get around to it, buying duplicates of items, and wasting leftovers from last week.

3. Take the oddball fruits and veggies, single bananas, and slightly imperfect foods

Be less picky when it comes to selecting produce. Small blemishes and odd shapes do not make an item inedible. Single bananas often get left behind in favor of a connected bunch, but the table usually has a good number of singles ripe for the taking (bad pun…).

Global Waste is a documentary on Netflix that highlights the already high standards a fruit or veggie needs to meet before getting to the store, meaning so much is already being wasted. Imperfect produce left on the stand will be tossed out if no one sees past the brown spot or “unnatural” shape. There are services that will actually ship you some rejectable produce. Check out Imperfect Foods (previously Imperfect Produce) and Misfits Market!

4. Check the “Yesterday’s Bakery” and markdown sections

A few grocery stores around me (Stop & Shop and Shaw’s) have a Yesterday’s Bakery section as well as markdown sections for dairy and other goods that are nearing their sell by date or have damaged packaging. I always make sure to stop by these shelves in case I can save something from being wasted and get a good deal at the same time.

5. Only buy what you need for that increment between shopping trips

Buying only the quantity you will use between shopping trips has the same benefits as creating a meal plan. You won’t have all this extra food to quickly eat before it goes bad. With less to store, you will be able to more readily see your ingredients and avoid that hidden jar in the back of the fridge that went bad last month.

6. Have meals at the end of the week specifically be “leftover” meals to clean out the fridge

If you still have meal portions left over at the end of the week, be sure you eat them before they spoil. By planning in leftover meals before your next shopping trip, you won’t find moldy leftovers you promised you’d get to but this week’s meal prep was too delicious to pass up.

7. When food is served buffet-style, take less than you want and get seconds if you need them later

Grocery shopping is not the only place to reduce food waste. When at parties or out to eat, taking less than you think you want will prevent excess food waste. You can always ask for more later, but you can’t put back what you’ve already taken.

8. Eat out less

The less you eat out, the more control you have over how much food you receive, where it comes from, and how it was packaged. At home, you can make the amount of food you know you’ll be able to finish in one sitting. I find it’s less tempting to leave a few bites on the plate at home than in a restaurant, especially if you forgot your own container and would have to use a single-use one instead of grabbing one out of the cabinet in the kitchen.

9. Learn to properly store food items for longest life

Despite following what our moms and dads did, we might not actually know the best ways to stores our ingredients. For example, place herbs in a glass of water like flowers in the fridge, separate your bananas to slow the ripening process, or keep tomatoes on the counter instead of in the fridge.

Check out these links for more food storage info!

If you want to keep your items longer than they will last in the fridge or countertop, consider canning or freezing them.

10. Don’t throw out foods based on the printed date on the package

The “Best By” and “Use By” dates are not hard safety dates on food items. They refer to when the peak quality period has ended. It is perfectly safe to eat foods beyond their date so long as they have no signs of going bad (smell, mold, etc.). The only time a date is for safety reasons is the “Use By” date on infant formula.

11. Donate what you won’t use and accept leftover foods from others

Apps like Olio can be used to give away foods you won’t use to others who will, including businesses/restaurants. Olio is free to use and works both ways. You can accept other people’s items as well as give. Too Good To Go is another option to save food from going to waste. They began in Europe but recently launched here in the US.

You can also donate non-perishables to your local food bank or share with friends and family directly. Finally, always take home leftovers after eating out or at an event if possible. Be sure to bring your own containers!

12. Compost

For me, composting is one of the best ways to reduce food waste. Food scraps from cooking and bad leftovers can be composted to create nutrient rich soil for growing new food. There are many options for composting: barrels, piles, small bins, and pick up or drop off services. But don’t worry if you don’t have access to composting. You can still you most if not all the other 11 tips above!

Conclusion

Which waste reduction techniques do you use at home? Are there any others ways you reduce food waste? Let me know!

12 Ways To Reduce Food Waste wire basket on table filled with tomatoes, squash, and other plastic free produce
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Living With Non-Zero Waste People green garbage can filled with single use plastic trash

Living With Non-Zero Waste People

Introduction

Starting your low waste journey is exciting, but what happens if those around you disagree and push back on your new ideas? What if you still live with your parents/family members and have little control over many decisions? What if your roommates just don’t understand why you should bother recycling?

It’s okay to be the “green sheep”.

In this post, we’re going to discuss how to stay motivated living with others while dealing with judgement and the proper ways to encourage others to make more sustainable choices in their lives.

My Story

During College

When I started lowering my waste and living more sustainably, I was living alone at college. It was easier for me to start making changes in my life because no one was around to discourage me. However, when I moved back home and later moved in with my now-husband, things got much more difficult. And I still consider my parents and husband to be very open-minded about zero waste and know they have made changes because of me or of their own will.

In college, I switched to a nearly 100% vegan diet. When I moved back home, that wasn’t an option. My mom has pushed back on me becoming vegan for years and years. My husband also disagrees with me going vegan mostly because he enjoys sharing meals rather than both of us making our own each night.

After College

At college, I cut out granola bars. But when I came back home, I fell back into my old habits of relying on single-serve snack foods. I would bring two or three granola bars or other snacks to work, along with a yogurt or applesauce. It took me about a year to kick that habit again, but I still fall victim to snack foods from time to time.

My husband has no desire to be as zero waste as I would like to be. He is a bargain-hunter and usually does not like to buy things that have a cheaper alternative even if the more expensive item is better (local, package-free, organic, etc.). So we still buy a lot of packaged foods. We have a few bulk places somewhat nearby, but the costs are just too high for us. We buy at warehouse stores to get the large “bulk” options whenever possible, but to me, these sometimes are just more waste than buying multiple of an item because it’s just two or three normal items plastic-wrapped together.

That said, my husband has transitioned to a lower-meat diet (poultry only) and often will make vegan meals with me from one of our secondhand cookbooks. He is all for bar soap,  wants to get a bidet when we buy our own home, and wants to give low waste gifts for holidays. He has truly embraced thrift shopping and worked with me on our lower waste wedding. But still there are times when I get discouraged that he doesn’t agree.

The Hard Truth

The fact of the matter is you can’t change everyone’s mind about everything. It’s a hard thing to accept, but it is necessary for the happiness of both parties.

People may have many reasons for pushing back on change. Our world has become one of convenience. For example, it’s easier to go buy a coffee in a plastic cup on your way to work than it is make one yourself at home. It’s easier to take the plastic shopping bags from the store than it is to remember your reusable bags. Some people don’t want to give that up.

Maybe they just aren’t aware of the consequences of their actions. Maybe their vision of trash stops at the edge of the driveway where the garbage truck picks it up each week. Maybe they don’t know about unethical human rights violations with regards to the fast fashion industry.

They could also just be set in their ways. “We’ve always done it this way. I’m not changing now.” Or they could be bargain-hunters and refuse to pay more for better products when there’s a cheaper version on the next shelf. Whatever it is, they have their reasons, but there are many ways you can open a dialogue and compromise with them.

Compromise

Start simple and suggest the easiest swaps first. Don’t go all in pushing for composting when you haven’t even tackled proper recycling practices yet. Check out my post on 50 (Free!) Little Changes to get started. They cost no money (in fact, many save money), and most are very easy to adopt.

You can also go the “buy it once” route. Ask them to opt for energy-efficient appliances and switch to a renewable energy provider. Suggest they buy a glass product over a plastic one of similar price. Put a stop to junk mail using optoutprescreen.com and dmachoice.org. This way there is no upkeep and extra work involved to living more sustainably.

If they don’t want to go and buy their own products, offer to let them borrow yours. Say they are welcome to use your reusable containers or bags. Let them clean up using your DIY natural cleaners. Encourage them to put food scraps in your compost bin.

You can also offer to do the “dirty work” involved. All they need to do is put the food scraps in the bin; you’ll take the compost from there. You will launder the reusable cleaning rags and kitchen towels that replaced the paper towels. You will handle growing some veggies in the garden, and they can cook with them.

But if you’re still making no progress, sometimes it’s better to just move on.

Focus On You And Bigger Issues

Sometimes I need to have a talk with myself and remember that I am separate from my husband. His trash is not my trash. I can make swaps that he doesn’t (such as recently going No Poo). It’s okay. Just focus on what you can personally change.

While this includes doing more to lower your own footprint, you can also turn to activism. Join an environmental group, write to companies explaining your disagreement with their practices and suggesting changes, and vote in every election. One voice may not seem like much, but the aggregation of everyone’s single voice can cause big change.

In sum, don’t let others get you down. Reach out to the zero waste community in your area or online. We’ve all been there before. Advice and support are waiting for you.

Lead By Example

The best way to encourage others is to lead by example instead of being all preachy that you have seen the light. No one likes to feel lectured to and told they are wrong. No one likes a know-it-all. So instead of speaking from a “You’re causing more X to happen so stop and be more like me” point of view, speak from a “I do this thing because X is happening and it’s so easy to do” point of view.

You can also do small things like packing an extra fork, bag, or container for them to use when you go out together. It shows you care and that it took very little effort to bring along. Don’t force things on them; just offer.

Respect is a mutual concept. If it’s still a hard no, you just have to accept it. Go on living your life as a silent example for them anyway, but accept they may never come around to zero waste.

Resources

Educating others is a great way to encourage sustainable living. You can hop over to my Start Here section to find posts on getting started with reducing your impact on the planet and share those with others.

You can also use science and facts to explain the issues our planet is facing. Statistics, reports, and news articles are useful tools, but make sure to look for ones written in plain English (or whatever language you speak) so they aren’t just a wall of science-y text. You can also suggest they read some books on zero waste living and environmental problems. Check out my List of Must-Read Books on Sustainability.

Better yet, skip the reading altogether and watch a documentary together. There are docs on everything from food waste to wildlife to fashion. Read some quick blurbs about a handful of awesome documentaries on my List of Must Watch Eco-Documentaries.

Finally, you yourself can also be a resource for others. Answer their questions. If you don’t know an answer, look it up and get back to them. Keep sharing information and leading by example, and they may start picking up on some of your habits.

Conclusion

How have you dealt with living with non-zero waste people? What tactics have you used to encourage others to act more responsibly? How do you stay motivated? Let us know in the comments!

Living With Non-Zero Waste People green garbage can filled with single use plastic trash
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How to Have A Sustainable Wedding red and white brooch bouquet covered in gold brooches of bows, flowers, and leaves

How To Plan A Sustainable Wedding

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

So a couple months ago, I got married to my wonderful husband! Luckily this is after I started being more conscious about my decisions, so we balanced the environmental impact of our wedding with our budget, desires, and other constraints like family to plan a sustainable wedding.

We went a fairly non-traditional route with our wedding. We decided to have a small ceremony on a Friday night at a restaurant closer to where we live with close family and friends and then a reception the next evening with the rest of our guests at a VFW closer to the majority of my husband’s family.

We had a very casual atmosphere, no wedding party, and were budget-conscious. Not having a wedding party meant our friends didn’t need to spring for new outfits and deal with the hassles of being a bridesmaid or groomsman. By being budget-conscious, this meant we didn’t always choose the most sustainable option, but we did what we could.

Guest List

Besides my parents, my entire family lives 1000+ miles away so those who came had to travel by plane. Only a portion of my family did come though, so there were less travel miles than originally expected. Be sure to account for travel emissions when writing up your sustainable wedding guest list.

We tried to keep our guest list small, but my husband has a large extended family. We ended up with about 90 people (we had a handful of last minute cancellations so I don’t remember exactly what the number ended up being).

Attire And Accessories

Him

Now because my husband is not as strict as me, he bought almost everything he wore new. He bought a regular black suit which he will use for years to come because he previously only had a grey one. He also never owed a true pair of dress shoes. Lastly, he bought his ring new online.

I did get to pick out his tie secondhand and the little orange flower brooch he wore in place of a boutonniere.

Her

Sustainable Wedding Bride with brooch bouqet and yellow pashmina

I either already owed everything I wore or bought it secondhand. I bought my dress from a consignment shop, and my wedding band was purchased pre-owned from Etsy. My mom found a tiara at a garage sale, and I wore a necklace and shoes I already owned. I also bought a yellow pashmina for taking photos outside since autumn breezes are very cold!

I plan on getting my dress tailored from floor-length to knee-length so I can easily wear it again on less formal occasions.

Decor

I tried to get as much of our décor secondhand as I could. If I planned earlier, I could have ordered things online from websites like Wedding Recycle and Bravo Bride. These websites are great resources for sustainable wedding planners. Unfortunately I bought a bit more new and disposable than I would have wanted.

Table Centerpieces

Our centerpieces consisted of:

  • A secondhand vase filled with autumnal fake flowers (some secondhand, but most new because thrift stores were lacking in the fake flower department)
  • A secondhand mason jar tied at the neck with a ribbon (new) filled with a floating candle (new)
  • A gourd (new and these came as a set of 12 in plastic netting)
  • Copper-colored wire that held a DIYed table number (all new)

I was surprised and thankful when our guests took home 8 of the 11 vases with flowers. We brought the mason jars back to the thrift shop (none had lids to begin with so they aren’t too useful for me). The ribbon and candles were waste. I thought the gourds would last as decorations, but they went bad and I threw them out.

Other Reception Decor

Sustainable Wedding Gift Table with card box, flowers, seating chart, and jenga guest book

On our gift table we had a basket of thrifted fake flowers, two secondhand glass bowl vases (like tiny fish bowls) with floating candles, a card box DIYed by my mom, and our guest “book” Jenga with markers.

Like the mason jars, we brought the basket and vases back to the thrift store, and my husband suggested keeping the card box so his brothers could use it whenever they get married if they wanted.

I felt having a traditional guest book was pointless and a huge waste of paper because how often are you going to read it? I scoured Amazon trying to find something better, and after probably literal hours found this Jenga set to act as my sustainable wedding guest book.

It was a larger than normal set, had no branding on the pieces, and came with a tent card to explain what to do. Now everyone’s messages have become a part of our growing game collection.

Sustainable Wedding Game Table with chess, Scrabble, and other fun board games

We also decided to have a game table with eight or so thrifted board games in case people didn’t feel like dancing. We made sure each game had all the pieces, and I created a little sign for the table propped up in a borrowed picture frame.

Paper Items

We did mail paper invitations because emails would not be possible for our guest list. We did, however, have people RSVP online instead of mailing us more paper back. The online RSVP still caused a few issues for some guests though.

The only other paper used was table numbers, a seating list, and a few signs for the buffet items, our game table, and our gift table. We did not have individual place cards or ceremony programs so as to cut down on waste.

Bouquet

If you couldn’t tell by the fake flowers in the centerpieces, I don’t like fresh flowers. Like at all. They also cost a ton. I can’t remember the exact price, but when my parents-in-law got remarried last year, 4 boutonnieres, 3 single roses, and a tiny bouquet cost like $100 or something. That’s insane.

So for my bouquet, I went a different route.

I present to you the wonderful world of brooches!

Sustainable Wedding Brooch Bouquet with fall-themed brooches

I created my bouquet using 50 or so brooches. All of them were already owned (passed down from my mom and grandma) or bought secondhand either online or at the Brimfield Antique Show. I also gave my parents and parents-in-law brooches to wear: silver flowers for moms and gold maple leaves for dads.

I bought a floral foam sphere and cone to create my bouquet. I just didn’t know what I could use in place of the foam so I relented and bought it. I cut the sphere to flatten it so I could glue it to the cone.

Then I wrapped secondhand fabric around everything (took many many tries). I finally tied a white ribbon around the bouquet which I took from my mom’s sewing basket.

I used floral wire my mom also had gathering dust in her sewing basket to wrap around each brooch to create the “stem” to stick into the foam. While not 100% secure, the brooches were held tightly enough to last both nights.

Although I could keep it as is, I think I’ll end up deconstructing the bouquet so the brooches are all wearable again. Too bad the rest goes to waste though.

Vendors

We initially weren’t planning on having any vendors besides a Justice of the Peace, or at least I wasn’t. In the end, however, we did also have a photographer and a DJ.

Our Justice of the Peace lived in the town where we had our ceremony so she barely needed to travel.  I chose her partially for this reason.

I dislike having my photo taken, and I usually prefer to enjoy a moment rather than photograph it. How many times do people go through their wedding albums anyway? To me, photos taken by friends and family would have sufficed. But my husband and family wanted a professional.

We decided to only have a photographer for the ceremony, and luckily we found someone who did by the hour rather than some whole day package. She only needed to come to one evening so that cut down on travel emissions.

After going to my cousin’s wedding earlier in the year, we realized how important a DJ was for keeping things moving. We ended up hiring a friend of my husband’s brother, and he did a great job being flexible with us.

Food

Because we had two events, we had two dinners to plan. The restaurant gave us a list of options which made it very easy, and our reception “caterer” was the local grocery store. Again, this was a huge savings in travel miles since the store was five minutes down the road.

Dinner and Dessert

I am a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and my husband is a pollo-vegetarian (poultry only, no seafood or red meat). Because of this, we avoided red meat in our food choices. You can plan a more sustainable wedding by reducing the amount of animal products at your dinner.

For our ceremony dinner, we choose their vegetarian pasta, chicken parmesan, and we did select beef lasagna although I don’t even know if anyone chose it. They gave everyone a colored tab so servers knew which dish you wanted, and I don’t recall seeing any pink slips.

For our reception dinner, we had a large variety of foods in a buffet. Chicken and turkey, eggplant parmesan, pasta primavera (delicious!), mashed potatoes, broccoli, mixed veggies, and mac’n’cheese for the kids.

We bought rolls and a small tub of butter for everyone at the start of the buffet and salt and pepper grinders to set at the end. This way we only needed a single tub of butter and a single seasoning set instead of eleven of everything at the tables themselves.

We had a decent amount of food at the end of the night, but family, friends, and we took it home for leftovers. My brother-in-law even took a big tray of salad to feed to his and his girlfriend’s guinea pigs!

Our dessert table was also a little non-traditional. We bought a simple cake, a couple pies, and a couple cheesecakes from the wholesale club. We also ordered a cookie and brownie tray from the grocery store. Some people (me) prefer other desserts so I wanted to make sure we covered the bases.

Tableware and Linens

We rented all of our dishes and linens because our original idea of thrifting it all had no end plan. What were we going to do with 100 plates and forks and knives and cups? Consider renting versus buying when planning a sustainable wedding.

Despite so many “just buy disposable” comments from family, I stuck to my guns and made sure there weren’t going to be huge bags of trashed single use plastics at the end of the night. In spite of my efforts, the rented items were wrapped in plastic, but this was less waste than disposable dishware and table cloths would have been.

Gifts And Favors

My husband and I are not big on gifts. We don’t really get each other birthday or Christmas gifts (we lasted like two years before giving that up). If we do, it’s an experience like dinner or a mini-vacation someplace. So we didn’t exchange gifts, and we also didn’t give our parents gifts beyond the brooches. The most sustainable wedding gifts are no gifts at all (haha)!

We did not create a registry because we already own everything we could need. We lived separately in college and have been living together for over a year now. We own all the kitchen gadgets and bath towels we need. Instead, we put up a “house fund” on our wedding website, but all but one person just gave us a monetary gift in a card anyway.

Neither my husband nor I wanted a bachelor/bachelorette party. But other people insisted. He had a very fun night out with a group of friends, and I ended up having a lunch with some family and friends. I made sure I brought my own container to the restaurant to take home my leftovers.

I had initially not planned on party favors because of all the waste and how pointless they usually are, but I got pressured. I ended up finding custom mint tins and actually really liked them.

But it ended up being a bit of a zero waste fail. It never crossed my mind the mints would come in a little plastic bag inside each tin (that’s not how it is in the pictures!). I minimized the waste and the mints were a nice consumable gift.

Conclusion – What I Would Have Changed

In an ideal world, I would have thrown a more sustainable wedding. I would’ve had those cute seed paper invitations, completely secondhand décor, and a farm to table organic caterer. I also wish those mint tins were like Altoids and didn’t have plastic bags inside.

All in all, I like how our wedding turned out, even if it was hectic because we had no hired help during the reception. The tables were as pretty as I pictured, the food was delicious, and our DJ played great songs. Even if it wasn’t as green as I dreamed, I did my best.

Are any of you planning a sustainable wedding right now? How are you incorporating a low waste lifestyle into your big day?

How to Have A Sustainable Wedding red and white brooch bouquet covered in gold brooches of bows, flowers, and leaves
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10 Sustainable Travel Essentials purple suitcase with reusable cutlery, water bottle, disposable razor, chico bag and toiletry bottles

10 Sustainable Travel Essentials

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

I felt inspired to write this post on sustainable travel essentials after a trip to attend my cousin’s wedding. One word: disposables.

Both hotels we stayed used disposables for their breakfast-ware. The plates were styrofoam (of all materials!), and the cups were either styrofoam, plastic, or the paper-lined-with-plastic and plastic lids for hot beverages. The utensils were plastic. I did not bring my little fork and spoon because I didn’t think they were allowed through airport security because they are metal. (Turns out: you can!)

Luckily at the first hotel, I snooped and found reusable plates and bowls under the counter. Since our hotel room had a kitchen, I ran upstairs and grabbed some spoons and forks so we could avoid the plastic. By then, we had already grabbed drinks. I opted for the plastic cup since it could be recycled, but my husband opted for the paper-lined-with-plastic because it wasn’t fully plastic. I saved my cup and recycled it later.

At the second hotel, we were out of luck. I chose to grab muffins in a napkin, a banana, and a yogurt. My husband made a waffle which we shared on the styrofoam plate. We also shared a single spoon for our yogurts and a single styrofoam cup for juice. Can I just say how gross it is to drink out of styrofoam? It feels so weird against my mouth/teeth. Afterward, I took the yogurt containers, washed them, and recycled them.

But this trip left us both frustrated.

So I decided to create a packing list to help avoid waste while on vacation. After all, it’s vacation; you should be relaxing not stressing over which cup material is best.

Note: these tips are based on TSA guidelines so your country may have different rules.

1. Reusable water bottle and/or coffee cup

First on my list of sustainable travel essentials are water bottles and coffee cups. Our Nalgene water bottles come everywhere with us. We even have a small 14 oz one that’s easier to bring along. As long as they are empty, you can bring them through airport security. You can then refuse your complimentary in-flight drink and avoid the napkin and cup that comes with it.

When at your destination, you won’t need to purchase drinks like bottled water. You can find water fountains around to fill up your water bottle, and sinks work just as well.  In hindsight, we should have not gotten juice when we had no reusable cups, but we can’t change the past.

You can also pack your reusable coffee tumbler to hold hot beverages. You can ask coffee shops to make your ordered drink directly in your cup. They may even give you a small discount for doing so!

2. Snacks

Avoid the freebie airline snacks or expensive convenient store snacks by bringing your own. You can bring food through airport security. “Gel-like” foods like peanut butter and hummus must be treated as a liquid (3 oz or less in the 1 quart baggie). Bring along granola, fresh fruit and veggies, chips, or whatever you like to munch on in a jar, reusable bag (we use (Re)zip bags that work great), or other reusable container.

3. Plate/Container

Don’t run into the breakfast problems we had. Bring your own plate and/or container. I don’t mean your ceramic plate from home though. There are lots of travel plate options like this 2-pack thanks to the campers and hikers out there so you can find something simple and durable to bring along. For storage containers, check out this snack container with divider and 2-tier tiffin.

4. Utensils

Despite what I thought, it appears you can bring metal eating utensils through security. Of course, you can bring bamboo utensils through security as well, but I do not have any. Be sure to keep them stored together so you don’t lose them along the way. Some utensil kits come with their own holder/wrap, but you can easily sew your own, use a rubber band around a reusable napkin, or keep them stored in a food container or bag.

5. Napkins

Speaking of reusable napkins… Keeping a reusable napkin has multiple benefits. First it replaces paper napkins. Second you can use it as a towel or wash rag if there is an unexpected spill or to dry something/yourself off quickly. And third you can use it to hold and wrap foods to avoid disposable packaging or plates. Check out this colorful set!

6. Bags

If you are going to do any shopping on you trip, don’t forget to pack your reusable shopping bags. I love the small collapsible ChicoBags that can fit in the palm of your hand because they are especially good for saving space in your luggage. If you don’t bring your own bags, try to go without when making purchases.

7. Liquid Storage

There are many TSA-approved reusable quart-size storage bags for toiletries on the market. These will always be plastic to contain spills and be see-through for TSA. You can also just keep using the same plastic Ziploc bag for years and years like I have.

8. Personal Care

Now that you have liquid storage taken care of, let’s fill up that bag. Bringing your own personal care items such as soap, shampoo, and toothpaste/tabs will prevent you from using the freebies in the hotel room. I only take freebies when they offer bars of soap in little paperboard boxes. I don’t use them on the trip, but instead I take them home for use there. Store your personal care products in reusable and refillable containers like this silicone 4-pack instead of buying travel size bottles and tossing them when they’re empty. I have been refilling the same travel bottles for years.

9. Razors

Unfortunately safety razors with blades can only fly in checked luggage. If you aren’t checking a bag, you have two options: you can either keep a disposable razor specifically for travel or you can forego shaving during your trip. If you bring a disposable razor, check out Preserve’s razor with a 100% recycled plastic handle.

10. Research

I added this at the end of my sustainable travel essentials list specifically because it isn’t a tangible product to pack. But by doing a tiny bit of research, you can greatly reduce the impact of your trip. What grocery stores or farmers markets are at your destination? Are there any zero waste shops? What public transport options are available and how do you use it? What tourist attractions are the most sustainable? Answering these questions can help you plan a more environmentally friendly vacation.

Conclusion

Together these sustainable travel essentials will reduce your trip’s total impact on the environment so you can rest easy on your vacation. What reusable items do you pack? How else can we prepare for a sustainable vacation?

Also check out my post on Sustainable Living Essentials!

10 Sustainable Travel Essentials purple suitcase with reusable cutlery, water bottle, disposable razor, chico bag and toiletry bottles
Open post
How To Actually Use A Menstrual Cup reusable organicup against a painted blue background speckled with green leaves

How To (Actually) Use A Menstrual Cup

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

This post may be a bit TMI, but I’m a believer in de-stigmatizing periods, and I wish there was a post like this when I was deciding on a low waste period solution.

Before I bought my menstrual cup, I did a lot of research on what they are and how you use one. I watched videos and read the instructions on various companies’ websites, but nothing seemed to explain clearly enough how to use the darn thing. Eventually I bit the bullet and bought one.

I chose Organicup for a few reasons: there packaging is 100% paper, their cups are vegan, and they are not dyed. You can get one yourself here! They also have come out with a Mini version for teens or those who need a smaller size cup. What’s more, each cup comes with its own organic unbleached cotton storage pouch.

NOTE: This is NOT a paid advertisement. I have been using Organicup since 2018 and recommend them because of my positive experience.

Obviously, everyone’s bodies are different and what works for me may not work for you. The main takeaway should be menstrual cups should not be painful to insert, wear, or remove. If it is, ensure you are putting it in correctly otherwise maybe menstrual cups are not right for you. There are plenty of other options available including reusable pads, period-proof underwear, or even just applicator-free tampons and organic cotton disposable pads.

What Is A Menstrual Cup?

A menstrual cup is a low waste option for periods to replace disposable tampons and pads. Cups are made from medical-grade silicone so they are safe and flexible to insert. The blood collects in the cup portion, and the little stem helps in cup removal. The holes near the top of the cup help to create the seal.

The cup will form a seal against the vaginal walls and collect blood throughout the day/night. When I was trying to figure this all out, I thought they suctioned around the cervix. Totally not the case. The seal holds the cup in place and prevents leakage. This can be scary (how will I get it out?!), but don’t worry. Stay calm, and a good pinch of the cup should release the seal.

You can wear them for up to 12 hours although some people have claimed this long can start bacteria growth and suggest to wear it shorter. I wear mine for a max of 10 hours, usually less. The menstrual cup will hold the blood which you can dump into the toilet. Then you wash the cup and reinsert it. A single cup can last years, which cuts out hundreds of disposable tampons or pads.

Most menstrual cup brands have a pre-birth and post-birth sizing option. The pre-birth size is slightly smaller than the post-birth size. As I have said, Organicup also has a Mini cup that’s even smaller.

Worried about using a menstrual cup with an IUD? This study states there is no increased risk of IUD expulsion for women using a menstrual cup.

How To Insert A Menstrual Cup

First Time Prepwork

When you first receive your menstrual cup, you should boil it. Boil a pot of water on the stove that’s deep enough to fully submerge the cup. You do not want the cup to sit on the bottom of the pot as the high heat may deform the cup. Boil for 3-5 minutes, remove, and let dry and cool down.

You should do a dry practice run before your period to get comfortable with insertion and removal. There are two main methods recommended for insertion: the half fold and the punch down fold. The half fold is exactly what it sounds like, pinching and folding the cup in half. I use the punch down method because it creates a smaller initial insertion area as shown in the pictures below. For this fold, you push your finger down on the rim to press a portion of the cup inside itself.

The punch down fold for reusable menstrual cup insertion gives a smaller initial surface area
Punch down fold
The half fold for reusable menstrual cup insertion
Half fold

Insertion Process

I stand in a slightly squatted position for insertion. I pinch the cup with my index finger and thumb to hold it closed and push it inside. This usually involves bringing my fingers lower mid-insertion to ensure the cup fully enters the vagina. I then roll my thumb to one side to pull the wall of the cup to ensure it fully opens. It can get very frustrating when the cup refuses to open and you have to take it out, rinse (to clear the air holes), and try over and over. Rolling my thumb has been very helpful in making sure the cup opens, but it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Just remain patient.

You will feel the cup open and may here a “pop” sound. You should check with a finger around the bottom of the cup for dents indicating an improper seal. Using both your thumb and finger, you can twist the entire cup which sometimes will get it to open, but otherwise take it out and try again.

If the stem is too long and is uncomfortable, you can cut it (while not inserted) to a better length. To aid with insertion, you can also use a lubricant such as water or coconut oil. You should not be able to feel the cup while it’s inside of you.

What Next?

Many companies say their cups can be worn up to 12 hours, but there are some concerns about bacterial growth when the cup is left in for that long. Leave the cup in for as long as you are comfortable with, keeping under the 12 hour limit. I do not wear my cup overnight for this reason and because I just do not leak overnight so why bother?

Leaks can occur due to improper seals or positioning. I sometimes leak a little, but I think it is the blood that was below where the cup sits because it’s usually just a small bit shortly after insertion. Organicup recommends running your finger around the cup to remove this excess blood, and that has helped reduce my leakage.

Now you can exercise, swim, sleep, whatever! (Do not have vaginal sex while wearing the cup; that’s pretty much the only thing you can’t do.)

How To Remove A Menstrual Cup

When it comes time to remove my cup, I stand in the same position as for insertion. You should tense your abs to push the cup lower so you can reach it better. Personally, the stem of my cup will invariably get pushed against the vaginal wall so I use my finger to “loop” around the cup and re-center the stem.

Next I insert the same thumb and index finger used for insertion and gently tug the stem of the cup. Do NOT just pull the stem to remove your cup. The suction will not release that way, and it can hurt you. Gently tugging while tensing your abs will also bring the cup further down.

Once the cup is far enough down to reach it, you can squeeze the bottom to break the seal. Then twist and wiggle the cup back and forth while pulling it out. Keep the cup upright so as not to spill the blood. Finally I dump the contents into the toilet and wash the cup.

How To Clean A Menstrual Cup

During my period, I rinse the cup out with warm water and mild soap after each removal. You should be sure to clear the air holes. To do this, I repeatedly fill the cup with water, seal the top with my palm, and squeeze with my other hand to shoot water out the holes. Just be sure they aren’t aimed at you!

You can pat the cup dry before insertion. I will dry the cup for the first reinsertion attempt, but I usually don’t bother on subsequent attempts so the water aids with insertion. Then you can reinsert the cup following the steps above.

Once my period is over, I will boil the cup for 3-5 minutes using the same instructions as for the initial cleaning. This will kill bacteria remaining on the cup from use and ensure it is clean for next month. I use that funky spaghetti spoon when I boil my cup for several reasons: I can easily cradle the cup without it floating away thanks to the “fingers” creating a little barrier, I can put the stem through the center hole or support the cup from the inside using the “fingers”, and I can easily drain the cup out at the end because the “fingers” keep the cup in the spoon.

After boiling, let the cup dry and cool down, and then you can store it in its cute baggie for next month!

Conclusion

To repeat, everyone is different and has different methods, levels of comfort, and bodies. This post is my method for a low waste period and may not work for you.

Let me know if there’s something I didn’t address in this post! Where are you still confused?

How To Actually Use A Menstrual Cup reusable organicup against a painted blue background speckled with green leaves

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