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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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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 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

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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
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