My guide to a minimal Zero-waste Christmas: Part 1

Hi everyone, it’s that time of year again. The crazy last minute mad dash between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or as I like to call it “the month I avoid malls and shopping centers” 🙂

We’re finally past Black Friday and the whole weekend of mindless consumerism and right about now you’re probably wondering how in the world you’re going to mesh your minimalist/and or/ Zero-waste lifestyle with the holiday season. I’ll admit, it can be quite the challenge to try and mesh the most consumer driven holiday of the year with a lifestyle that isn’t so dependent on having tons of stuff…but I assure you it CAN be done…with a bit of planning and preparation, of course.

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So over the next few weeks in my Christmas guide series I’m going to give you all my pointers tips and tricks to make your holidays as simple and waste-free as possible.

Let’s start with the most obvious subject…..Gifts. We’ll separate this into two parts, the first being gifts YOU buy for other people, and the second being the gifts you are likely to receive.

Gifts you buy:

As a rule, I tend to always get consumable gifts, i.e. something they can eat or use up (in other words, no tchotchkes). My two go-to gifts are 1. Candy/goodies from the bulk bins, hugs-and-kisses-mason-jar-2_thumband 2. Some sort of scrub/body wash/lotion I make my self that requires only a few ingredients (Google easy home-made salt scrubs and you’re bound to find something you’ll like).

To keep the gift minimal as well as zero-waste, I will save old glass jelly jars or mustard jars (anything you still don’t make yourself but buy in glass jars). I then wash them out, peel the labels off, and it makes for an easy and cute container to store your gift. If I’m getting something from the bulk bins I’ll usually take one or two  of my own larger jars that are already tared to the store and fill them up with a couple of treats I know everyone will love. Then when I get home I separate it into the smaller jars.

Packaging: once you have the jars filled with your consumable gift, I personally like to leave the jars plain and simply set them under our tree…no muss, no fuss. But for those of you who love to wrap gifts I’d recommend either reusing newspaper that was headed for the recycling bin….or….like I like to do, save wrapping and bows/ribbons from gifts people get for my birthday, etc. and simply reuse them.

More gift ideas…

~Experience gift like concert tickets, movie tickets, etc.

~Put together a Zero-Waste starter kit with extra jars, bamboo toothbrush, etc. you have lying around the house.

~Hot chocolate mix in a jar- just need some cocoa, maybe mini marshmallows….you get the idea 🙂

~Really, any sort of mix in a jar.

~Home-made goodies of any kind

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When in doubt about a gift….cash is always acceptable…at least for me it is lol

Gifts they buy for you:

The simplest way to avoid unnecessary packaging/junk you don’t want in your home is to ask for something specific ahead of time. It could be something tangible that you need/want or you could ask family and friends to donate to your favorite charity.

For some family members I can tell them not to get me anything and they’ll totally understand and not get me anything. But if your family is anything like mine, there are always a few people who are determined to give gifts, legitimate hold them in your hand and unwrap them sort of gifts….the type of family member who isn’t swayed by anything you say about not needing anything, blah, blah blah. You could get pissy with them and fight about it, or you could circumvent it. My strategy is pretty simple… in order to avoid any item I might mot like/use, I ask for a specific budget-friendly gift from that person/people.

For example, for my birthday I specifically requested socks….yep, you read that right, SOCKS. My ten year old self would pout at a gift like that, but my adult self loved not having to buy my own socks. And for Christmas I have asked for an adult coloring book, because coloring is relaxing, and the book will be made of paper, and they don’t have any extra packaging to them except whatever my relative wraps it in. (which I will take and reuse to wrap a future gift…I might even use the colored pages to wrap future gifts when I’m finished with them 😉 )

Side-note: for those of you with kids, the holidays can be tough. But you can always make a specific list for people to choose from, or even open a college savings account for each kid that people can gift to, or even ask for experience gifts (like a trip to the zoo) in lieu of a physical toy 🙂

So overall, it’s pretty simple with a bit of planning. The only thing you have to do ahead of time is scoop out a few eco-friendly, package -free gift options beforehand and be ready when you get asked what you want for Christmas. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have this….

Than this…1-corinthians-12-4

Anyways 🙂

 

Hope you liked part 1 of my Christmas Guide series. Stayed tuned for part 2: Christmas Cards

What kinds of gifts do you give for Christmas? Do you reuse wrapping and bags? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Ten myths of Zero-Waste

Hey guys,

I’ve been noticing a few articles floating around that, in my opinion, completely misrepresent the lifestyle….hence today’s post on the myths of Zero-Waste.

Here we go…

MYTH #1

Zero-waste is a movement for only middle to upper class Caucasian women who are single and childless.

TRUTH #1

The Zero-waste movement is for ALL people to participate in. Now it does seem as though a majority of those blogging and promoting it do fall into that stereotype, but there are men and other ethnicities as well as parents living the lifestyle. There’s a comprehensive list of bloggers around the world who live it at zerowastebloggersnetwork.com

I personally fall into the stereotype, except for the middle/upper class thing…which brings me to my next myth…

MYTH #2

You need to have at least a middle class income to attempt Zero-waste.

TRUTH #2

I personally skate by each month on a very small income. Zero-waste has helped me lower my spending because I no longer need to buy things like tissues, lotions, hairspray, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.

That’s right, Zero-wasting has helped me SAVE money. Ka-ching!

MYTH #3

You need to buy fancy matching Mason jars, bamboo cutlery, and a butt-load of stuff to start your Zero-waste journey.

TRUTH #3

This one irritates me the most because it’s total bull. You can go zero-waste cheaply by saving glass pickle jars or spaghetti sauce jars and wash the label off before reusing them. Instead of buying a pack of hankies, cut up an old T-shirt and use that. Instead of getting a fancy set of glass jars for storage, check out your local dollar store or thrift store. Easily 3/4 of my containers I got really cheap from both of those places. Or if you have a friend who uses glass baby food jars, ask if you can have the jars when she’s done with them to use for bulk spices.

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jars (The one in the middle used to be a mayo jar) 😉

The order of operations: Use what you already have, ask a friend, thrift, then lastly buy new.

I think I’ve made my point 🙂

MYTH #4

It costs a lot of money upfront to start.

TRUTH #4

The only upfront costs I had were for a few jars from the dollar store, my divacup, cloth pads, and a safety razor. These were all investments that have paid for themselves in the past year since I am no longer buying their disposable counterparts. These products will last for years and years to come since they are resusable, so I expect they will pay for themselves multiple times before they finally wear out.

The other zero-waste purchases like bamboo toothbrushes, soapnuts, and alum stone deodorant are going to be repeat purchases, but their cost is similar or even less than the regular products.

MYTH #5

You are failing if your trash doesn’t fit in a Mason jar.

TRUTH #5

If you are even reading this post you are already winning and one step ahead of the game. Most people simply aren’t conscious of their waste- or, more likely they don’t WANT to be conscious of their waste. So they ignore it. Even if your only step has been to bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store, you are contributing to having less waste. EVERY STEP COUNTS!

My personal trash from the past two months does happen to fit in a small jar, but I don’t include pet waste in that factor because my pets do make quite a bit of litter waste and such. Which, for obvious reasons, I am not collecting in a jar lol.

But like I’ve said, I have been on this journey for over a year already, each person’s situation is unique and individual to them. Some have pets, some don’t, some have kids, some don’t, etc. As long as you are trying, you are pretty awesome in my book.

MYTH #6

You have to have special equipment to go Zero-waste. Bamboo utensils, jars, produce bags, etc.

TRUTH #6

So, okay, I have a glass water-bottle. I also have some jars for storage, and a reusable tote to take to the store. But do I have portable bamboo utensils to take with me to restaurants? No. Have I bought specific bags just for produce? No.

If I want to go out to eat, I pick a place with reusable flatware. If I want to buy produce I put it loose in my cart and loose on the cashier belt, and then loose in my big tote.

Now, that being said. There are things you will find you use and would be convenient to have for Zero-wasting. I personally like my water-bottle, and would it be nice to have bamboo utensils? yes, but I don’t need them right now.

The only things you will NEED to go zero-waste are a few containers that you can refill with bulk purchases, and a reusable tote for going to the store. End of story. Everything else can be improvised. (Except if you’re a woman who happens to PMS, then a menstrual cup or reusable pads are kind of necessary. The joys of being a woman, huh?)

MYTH #7

To go zero-waste you have to give up everything good like packaged chips and candy-bars, and the only way you’ll ever have good food again is if you become Suzy Homemaker.

TRUTH #7

Oy, where to begin. I do not buy chips, personally, since none come in packaging I find acceptable for ME. But I do cut up a potato and throw it into my little deep-fryer I have at home. Or a skillet. A few minutes later, voila, fried potatoes!

I also make things like salad dressing, because it’s easy to make. I have the skills to make my own mayo and barbecue sauce as well, but given that I use so little of them and they have enough ingredients that it is easier to buy BBQ sauce in a glass jar with a metal lid than make it myself, both materials being completely recyclable.

If I want a chocolate bar I make sure to find one that is in paper packaging that is easily recycled. (I simply won’t give up chocolate, sorry guys, I need it for that time of the month 🙂 )

MYTH #8

If you Zero-waste, you must not use contraceptives or toilet paper.

TRUTH #8

Whether you use contraceptives or not is a personal choice, I personally am a fan of not spreading diseases or getting pregnant unexpectedly. The trash that comes along with that is inevitable unless you get fixed, which isn’t an option if you want to have children.

Toilet paper is a touchy subject. I still use it since everyone in my household does. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to look into other options just yet, but I’m sure I probably will eventually. For now the best options are if you can get it wrapped in paper, or at least without the inner cardboard tube. Recycled is even better, but it depends on what your preferences are.

MYTH #9

You have to have tons of free time in order to worry about all the extra “work” that goes along with Zero-waste. I.e. grocery shopping, making products

TRUTH #9

Zero-waste grocery shopping is no harder that regular shopping once you have your system in place. I have little labels for my jars, and except for the first trip to the store where I had to get them weighed, grocery shopping takes me the exact same amount of time it did before. No big deal. You just take your jars or bags (if you are buying bulk items), fill em up, and pay for them. Easy peasy. It just takes a little big of gusto to make that first trip, but once you get the hang of it it’s a breeze.

You don’t have to make your own products to be zero-waste. It’s easy and convenient to make them yourself mostly, but it isn’t necessary. I only make one product regularly, toothpaste. 30 seconds, some coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint oil, and I’m done. That’s it.

Most things have a purchasable replacement. Like bars of soap free of packaging versus body-wash, an alum stone instead of deodorant, soap nuts instead of laundry detergent, etc. It just takes a little experimentation to figure out what works the best for you.

MYTH #10

There is no point to Zero-wasting because the planet is already doomed and one person can’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

TRUTH #10

One person can make a difference. It might not be a ginormous impact, but you can impact yourself and the people around you. I’m not a perfect environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination, but every single time I go to the store I always get asked about my jars, and those two minutes spent talking to another person may or may not end up encouraging them to try it, or it might just remind them to bring a reusable bag to the store.

I might not save the planet, but I’m saving one plastic bag for each jar I use. One plastic bag every time I use my reusable tote. One plastic water-bottle every time I bring my own reusable one. One disposable toothbrush for every bamboo toothbrush. One more bit of empty space in my drawers for every cheap freebie I turn down.

It adds up.

I’d also like to think I help out by spreading the word through this blog, for those of you who read it.

So, if any of you have any comments or any other myths you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

XO

Candice

What I have gained by getting rid of things…

The title of this post almost seems to contradict itself to the untrained eye. But I am going against the grain and say that getting rid of excessive material possessions can in fact give you a few things…

  1. Time– I can’t stress this one enough…what would you do if you didn’t have to clean out the garage or basement this weekend because it only contains what you need, and everything already has a home? How about if your cleaning time in your house/apartment could be cut by 2/3, so instead of 2 hours, it only takes 30-40 mins? When you have less material goods, you have less to take care of or put away, instant time saver! I now have time to do the things I WANT to do.
  2.  Energy– Since you won’t spend the weekend cleaning out the garage, you will have energy to play with your kids, finally get started on a work-out routine, or just sit down and read a good book.
  3. Space– both physically and mentally. You won’t have to clear off the entire table to start a project or pay your bills, because that space will already be clear. Can I give a shout out to being able to walk through your place and not tripping over anything!
  4. Freedom– instead of being stuck taking care of your possessions, you will have the freedom to pick up and go to the park or a night out on the town at a moments notice, because everything is already taken care of (except maybe calling a babysitter) 🙂
  5. Motivation– I paint and sketch when I am in the mood to, but with clutter and no free space I was almost never motivated to pick up a paintbrush, but now I have the time, energy, space, freedom, and motivation to paint any time I want. The piece pictured below is my current work in progress.WIN_20150806_1455256. Life– by getting rid of the excess stuff hanging around, I have gotten my life back. I can live each day to the fullest because everything has a home and nothing ends up out of place that can’t be put back in less than 5 minutes. I have energy, and motivation to get out to the park or to sit in front of my easel and crank out a painting. I can do WHAT I want, WHEN I want.

I would have never imagined that by getting rid of things I could gain so much, but I now have a much fuller and richer life than I would if I still had all of those extraneous possessions. Before, my stuff owned me, now I own it, and it is a beautiful thing 🙂

A trip to grandmas…

I went over to my grandmother’s house a few days ago to catch up and chat, and we somehow ended up on the subject of her cleaning up her basement and getting rid of things. I try to just lead by example when it comes to minimalism and zero-waste, and I have noticed certain aspects rubbing off on the people I see the most. (For example my grandfather showed off his new soap purchase of a castille bar made with coconut oil as opposed to his former chemical-ridden soaps, yay baby-steps!)

Anyways, we got to talking and she mentioned that she still had the old plastic kitchen set that I played with as a kid. It has been sitting, unused, in her basement for the past 15 years. She asked me what I wanted to do with it, and she seemed surprised when I said “Get rid of it, reclaim the space in your basement for other uses.”

“But I was keeping it for your kids someday”……

I love my grandmother, but I have told her for years that I am not going to have any biological children.

I made up my mind about 10 years ago that I never intend to have biological children, I may end up fostering or adopting, nut they would be older children, not babies. I haven’t changed my mind in the past 10 years, if anything I have become more firm about the fact.

Now don’t get me wrong, kids are awesome, and for those women out there who want to birth their own, that’s great. I just have no intentions of doing it myself, I plan on getting “fixed” before I turn 30.

My grandmother knows this, but she insists that I will “change my mind once I meet the right guy”. (cue eyeroll please)

According to her, and many other people on the planet, a woman is supposed to have the “motherly instinct/urge” to procreate, and if she doesn’t then there must be something wrong, or she is a lesbian.

I am not, nor have I ever been into women. I can’t believe she even asked me that.

What I find completely ironic and kind of sexist is that if a man says that he doesn’t want children, it is considered perfectly normal, but if a woman says it, all hell breaks loose.

Here are some of the reactions I have gotten:

“But you would be such a great mother!”

“Don’t you want to pass on your genes?”

” Are you into women?”

“But that is what a vagina is for!”

“Aren’t women supposed to want kids?”

“That’s selfish”

“You will change your mind”

Here are my responses to each:

1. I have worked at a daycare, babysat, and am a teacher. I “mother” all day long. When I get home at the end of the day, I am exhausted, and finished taking care of kids.

2. I have no persisting desire to pass on my hair color, my height, or my lactose intolerance thank you very much.

3. No, just no.

4. Really? REALLY? Just because I have the capability doesn’t mean I have to use it.

5. That’s incredibly sexist. And if I foster or adopt I will still have kids, just not biological ones.

6. There are 7 BILLION people on this planet, 400,000 kids are in the foster system just in the US every year, so tell me again how I’m being selfish…

7. Nope, I won’t. Thanks for trying to imply that I don’t know what I want….

Tying this back to my visit with grandma, I tried explaining all of this to her, and I think it might have sunk in. She decided that she will try to sell the kitchen set, even though it would be much easier to donate it.

Now before you think I am completely unsentimental…..I did get rid of most of my childhood “stuff” , but I kept the first stuffed animal I was ever given, and I kept 1 baby-blanket….for me that is enough.

I might eventually meet “the perfect guy”, but for me, if he is “the one”, he will support my decision.

Every person has the right to decide what they do with their own bodies and their lives. Minimalism, zero-waste, eco-friendly, paleo, cruelty-free, and biological child-free are my choices for how I will live mine.

What are your choices?