Easy Ways to Create a Zero Waste Home

Can you believe this blog is over a year old?! I started it when I was a new mom and wanted an outlet and a way to express my crunchy lifestyle. Since then, as some of you may know, I’ve decided to become a web developer/designer and have been teaching myself to code. Between that and being a mom, army wife, living with RA and trying for a zero waste home- life can get super busy. But I still do very much care about my followers and the purpose of this blog- to hold myself accountable to being a healthier, more effective human being and also to document my progress along the way. So far in this blog I’ve covered a lot of topics surrounding gentle parenting, veganism, minimalism, saving money and how I’m striving to achieve a zero waste home.

 

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An easy step to a zero waste home: cloth napkins.These cloth dinner napkins are 3 years old but still look great!

 

Yesterday I joined the awesome facebook group Zero Waste Vegans and noticed a post from one of the members named Mailyne who is a mom, artist, owns a zero waste shop and blogs about her zero waste home at A Dream Lived Greener. I first saw her talking about her Zero Waste journey a youtube video which was so inspiring. I can’t seem to find it again, but if I do I will definitely update you with the link. Seeing her post made me remember about this blog, and my dream of one day living a Zero Waste Lifestyle. I thought it would be a great start to update you all on my progress thus far, and with what I have left to do to get closer to having a zero waste home and life. I will start with the most major changes I’ve made, followed by the changes that were smaller/easier to accomplish.

1. Buy in Bulk

 

I’m not talking big box stores: I’m talking bulk bins like you’d find at a health food store. As readers of this blog likely already know I do most of my shopping at in.gredients in Austin. Check out my blog post about why here. If you don’t know where to shop for bulk you can find other stores that are near you that carry bulk with the Bulk app. I must admit that I was nervous the first time I went to buy in bulk- I knew in theory how it was supposed to work but I wasn’t really sure how I would handle all the accessories and the process, plus juggling my daughter in the shopping cart. Check out this video for a great overview from in.gredients to see how it works.

 

 

Even though I do buy in bulk for most things, I still buy packaged things like toilet paper and soy/almond/cashew milk. I need to work on making more things from scratch and figuring out where to buy items in bulk that is not wrapped in plastic. I know that Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home recommends buying toilet paper wrapped in paper from a hotel supply store.

Another thing I’d like to do is make laundry and dish soap, which I have done in the past but not consistently. Bea recommends using citric acid, which can be bought in bulk at a brewery supply store. Going to these specialty stores presents a challenge as I’d probably have to drive a distance, but once I buy these items in bulk I will be set for awhile. It’s definitely something that I need to make time for in the next week.

 

2. Garden

 

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Growing in pots on the porch: a menagerie of herbs including sage, mint, dill, marigold and squash that just happened to sprout from the compost that was added to the soil.

 

You certainly don’t need a garden to have a Zero Waste Home, but having a garden certainly cuts back on the cost, and can give you things you couldn’t otherwise find (depending on how robust your local source for bulk and/or farmer’s markets are). I’ve been growing my own herbs growing in containers and raised garden beds which I can harvest continually which is very convenient, easy, delicious and beautiful. Many of the herbs I’ve actually grown from non-GMO seeds that were sent to me in paper packaging which is awesome. The only thing about starting plants from seeds is that you have to have a ton of patience. If it’s wintertime you have to have the ability to tolerate the vision and lack of space that’s a result of soil sitting on your windowsill for months which is not the prettiest or most convenient thing in the world to experience.

 

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basil planted next to strawberries, aloe and summer squash. The spacing on the package is for gardens that you need to walk in, but for raised beds planting close is beneficial because it keeps weeds to a minimum.

Some of my herbs and veggies are plants bought at a nursery, which is nice because you can start harvesting right away. If buying from a nursery, try to get the thicker plastic containers and see if they will take them back for reuse. Unfortunately this doesn’t work too well with the thin plastic containers because they are so fragile and rip very easily. I have some other veggies growing in my garden including tomatoes, peppers, squash, and watermelon, but haven’t yet reaped the fruits of my labors.

 

3. Line Dry Clothes

 

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yep there’s my foldable clothes drier doing it’s job well

A major zero waste home goal is to always look to reduce waste of all kinds, not just physical trash. Drying my clothes outside is pretty simple- just put the wet clothes from the washing machine back into the laundry hamper and bring it outside to hang on a folding rack in the sun. My clothes drying rack looks just like the one in this article that details the benefits of air drying your clothes over using a drying machine as represented by the actual numbers. My drying rack is also still going strong after about 3 years, and is normally stored outside on my porch behind my grill. Another free option is a clothes line, which is simply string tied between two high points such as trees, posts, or a fence. I found using clothing pins on a line to be far more cumbersome than drying on the drying rack because the wind isn’t typically strong enough to blow clothes off of it as they push together when the clothes blow around.

My husband complains that his clothes feel to stiff after being dried outdoors, so with his clothes I just pop them in the dryer for a few minutes to tumble all the creases out (though obviously this is not the best solution for the environment or your wallet). I’ve also found that if you hang the clothes on the drying rack properly, they actually are easier to store as they are kind of pre-folded.

 

4. Replace Packaged Hygiene Products

 

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compostable bamboo toothbrush and my jar of home made tooth powder

 

This one has been surprisingly easy. I make my own toothpaste powder out of a mixture of baking soda, coconut oil, stevia and peppermint essential oil. I just mix the ingredients with a hand mixer and add the contents to a resealable glass jar. I have found that it’s best to make individual containers of the toothpaste for each individual family member as we do stick our toothbrushes in there. It is so good that my daughter will actually try to eat it if left unchecked. You can make it powdery or more like a paste, but it has the consistency and taste like the inside of a junior mint candy.

For liquid hand soap I use Dr. Bronner’s which I can buy in bulk in several different scents at in.gredients, and for the shower I buy bar soap that’s either handmade (bought as a slice from a slab) or Dr. Bronner’s which is wrapped in paper. Contact solution is something I still buy new (not sure how safe it would be to try to make your own). Glasses would be great except for the fact that I hate the way they feel on my face- like they’re too heavy and cumbersome. I also make my own lotion using this body butter recipe here:

I have yet to try to make my own makeup as I rarely wear it and am still using my stash from bareminerals. It’s amazing how simple it is and how much less chemicals there are hanging around when you replace the beauty products in the bathroom a zero waste home.

 

5. Buy Clothes Second-Hand

I haven’t actually had to buy many clothes at all in the past year as I already had so many. I still wear the same pink Sac State hoodie I bought when I was a Junior 9 years ago and it looks surprisingly vibrant, as well as the same wool blend jacket which has lost a button that I need to repair. You can find things that are either new or nearly new at the goodwill. I found a pretty dirty pair of converse which looked brand new when I took out the laces and ran them through the wash. They are still in good condition with heavy wear and I bought them six months ago.

As a side note, it’s easy to forget your reusable grocery bags when you go to thrift stores and other non-food outlets, but if you keep them in the car you can always just go back and get them when you forget! I also have a large purse that I carry all the time which I keep pretty empty so I have room to bring stuff home without a bag. Another zero waste home tip is to turn old clothes into new clothes with a sewing machine, or make reusable bags for yourself or a friend. Other creative options for resewing old clothes into fabulous useful items include: wrapping paper/gift bags, doll clothes, bean bags, line, rags, quilts and napkins.

 

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rags we use as paper towels, napkins and tissues made from fabric scraps

6. Use Reusable Containers

If you buy them from a health food store reusable containers can be super expensive. It’s definitely not the most attractive solution but using washed out pasta sauce, pickle and jam jars has been my go-to source for easy reusable containers. I just soak them in hot water and use coconut oil to rub away the extra stickiness left from the original label. I use these to store leftovers, nuts, dry beans, rice, herbs and other ingredients.

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my reusable jars storing dry ingredients like nuts, beans, seeds herbs and rice

I found out the hard way that it is much easier to use cloth bags for transporting dry goods from the store, and then depositing the contents into the glass jars once I get back home. I used a bunch of old fabric I had lying around and sewed them into different sized bags with drawstrings one afternoon. Bags of varying sizes are great for bulk because you’ll want large bags for flour and tiny bags for expensive spices. I use a big LifeFactory water bottle for myself and keep an also keep an assortment of stainless steel water bottles for when we go out of the house, and make sure to keep clean containers and cloth napkins in the car for when we go out to eat and want to bring home leftovers.

7. Compost

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the little stainless steel compost bin I keep by the back door.

 

This is a big one. It can be annoying to constantly bring scraps and ends from your produce out to the compost, but it becomes second-nature when you do it over and over again. Another option is to have a compost bin on your counter, but because it attracts flies and gnats I like to keep mine by the back door for when it is raining and I don’t want to go to the compost in the yard. I’ve had a worm bin in the past, but it got knocked over by my toddler and I just never replaced it. It was simple to set up and maintain, and really breaks down your compost fast.

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my compost bucket! It has holes drilled in the sides but it still needs a lot of shoveling to get air to circulate.

Although you can purchase devices, composting doesn’t have to be complex. It is simply allowing organic matter to rot and all it requires is time and oxygen from the air. I use a bucket, but you could also just have a pile if you have the space. Using free wood pallets is a great way to get a compost going in your yard. Did you know you can also compost things like coffee grounds, bread, eggshells and even hair? Speaking of hair, though this may not be an option if you’re living in an city, I throw my hair out of the bathroom window and it just blows away in the wind. I have learned to save things like apple cores when we go out instead of throwing them away in a public trash can so that they can be composted when I get home. In some cases you don’t actually need a compost to have a zero waste home. Some progressive cities have municipal composting systems so that you can bring your compost there! In this case, freezing your compost until your trip to the city’s compost makes it easy.

8. Shop Craigslist/Ebay

I’ve written before about how to sell on craigslist, but buying stuff on EBay works if you can’t find the item locally. When my Keurig wouldn’t take the reusable cups, I simply searched Craigslist for the older model of Keurig that would take the reusable cups, and then sold my newer model on craigslist. It cost me no money (actually saved me money if you consider I could simply fill the cup with coffee rather than using the expensive and wasteful plastic throw aways), and saved a new Keurig from having to be made for both me and the person who bought my newer Keurig. It was also completely simple and free of packaging.

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my refillable K-cup. Isn’t it beautiful? Why wouldn’t you use one?

If you can’t find something locally on Craigslist, EBay is another option. Simply filter your search for used items. There are also Facebook groups that are specifically for buying and reselling items such as Waldorf Tag Sale (for natural children’s toys and books- by the way I think my next post will be about  kids stuff in a zero waste home because there’s so much to say on that subject that I’ll save it for it’s very own blog post). There are many categories including ones for clothes, collectibles and local yard sale groups. It is secure if you use PayPal and specify that the payment is for goods/services and the groups are usually closely monitored to prevent members that try and take advantage of buyers. Almost anything you need can be found used online if you are patient, persistent and know where to look.

 

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to successfully find something on Craigslist or EBay, check for items regularly as items come and go quickly!

 

Where are you on your journey to a zero waste home? Share your story with us in the comments! Thanks for reading!

How to Make Decisions (Uncomplicated)

When I describe the KonMari method to people it is so simple it seems stupid at first. “Make a pile of like-objects, hold each one in your hands and as yourself, ‘does this bring me joy?’ Discard the nos and keep the yesses.”

This is as basic as addition (subtraction?) and is a method that has proven effective for both me and millions of others around the world.

I would never attempt to say that I have an idea as amazing as the KonMari method, but I can’t help but wonder, “what if there were a similar method, not for objects, but for making decisions on how we spend our time?”

 

With that thought, I created this diagram a long time ago, when I was at the height of my Mustachian fandom. I wanted to illustrate the idea that making educated, controlled decisions, no matter how minor they may seem, add up to a more meaningful life over time. A great example of what a best choice might be is probably the most Mustachian activity imaginable: riding a bike. It saves you money by not using gas or increasing the wear and tear on your car (Increases Wealth) it gives you an opportunity to exercise (increases endorphins=Increases Happiness) (increases heart health and muscle tone= Increases Health). Some examples, such as riding a bike, are universally obvious. Others are more personal and depend greatly upon your specific situation, personal values and circumstances.How to Make DecisionsStarting a side business, for instance, could easily end up costing you money if you’re not careful. On the other hand, if your business requires little in the way of overhead and is flexible enough for you to keep your job, it would end up satisfying the goals of increasing health, wealth and happiness- making it a best choice for you. Off the top of my head the idea of walking dogs could be perfect for someone who loves dogs. You would get outside, get exercise, spend time with fluffy animals who are always happy to see you, and increase your wealth by making some extra money. Even if your side business does not satisfy all of these requirements, it is still worthwhile even if there’s only a chance it could meet all the requirements in the future.

Selling jewelry, for instance, may not increase your health and it may cost you a lot to buy supplies, meaning you’d just break even. If the happiness it brings you is worth it however, it might be something to stick with because it is quite possible in the future to have enough business to increase your wealth through it. Overall, I’d say even if your choice only includes two out of three criteria, it is worth pursuing if it’s not possible or practical to make a choice that includes all three.

If the choice meets one requirement, it’s a “good choice.” If it meets 2, it’s a “better choice,” and if it meets three, that it’s the “best choice.”

Though it may seem obvious at this point, if a prospective choice doesn’t enhance your health, wealth or happiness it should no longer be something for we should consider at all. Like the possessions you need to ‘let go’ when you’re tidying, there are choices in life that we have to decide for ourselves to walk away from. Leaving a time commitment, hobby, job or relationship can be a painful decision- especially if we have invested a great deal of time, money and energy on the endeavor. If the choice affects someone else, it can be downright scary to even consider abandoning the commitment. As a motivating thought there is a fundamental defect in staying in these scenarios that are solely for the benefit of other people.

The problem is that all the little choices we make for other people will slowly accumulate into a life that doesn’t advance us to our true destiny.

On the flip side, the more we examine each choice we make in the present moment and evaluate its potential to propel us forward, the closer we come to living to our true potential. No one else can decide for us what it means to be healthy, wealthy, and happy- although there is a great deal of research that points to what can statistically contribute to a higher quality of life for most people. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I’d highly recommend the documentary “Happy” on Netflix instant. It is a captivating film that I am positive will be worth your time.

To give a quick recap in case I lost you:

We make choices at almost every minute of every day.

The choices we make affect our mood, our health, and our financial freedom (or bondage).

When we make choices that increase our health, wealth, and happiness we generally become better people over time.

We can think of it like a software program that mandatorily updates to the newest version every day. Do you want your newest version to work well, to be fluid and run at optimal performance or do you want your newest version to run slow, have kinks and crash all the time? Of course you want it to be better than before! This philosophy and diagram is simply an external cue for being present in every moment; having awareness of our own free will and life force.

Simply trying to feel happy in the moment actually can backfire, but as this wonderful article points out, we can make an effort to plan our time out in a way that incorporates our most rewarding activities.

I’m currently choosing to use mine to spend time with my family and close friends, to make art and music, to learn web development, garden, eat well and move closer to a more minimal, intentional and eco-friendly environment in my home.

How will you use yours?

 

 

Earn Huge Savings with Tiny Changes

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There are endless amounts of small changes we can all make to lighten our environmental footprint, which you can learn a comprehensive amount of information about from Zero Waste Home, (Read the book for a definitive guide), this blog specifically focuses on those little habits that keep money in our bank account (which most often does add up to a savings in consumer waste as well). It’s a hassle sometimes to acquire the right tools to keep more money in our pocket. For some examples, it can be a pain to walk outside in the cold to compost a bowl of table scraps. It can be painful to turn down a trip to the ice cream shop. It can seem damn right counter-intuitive to sell something new for the exact same thing in an older model. But all these things are examples of small changes I’ve made, some of them were one time changes while others are daily changes.

Deciding Which Changes Will Be Worth it

A big part of the name of this blog, “The Scratch Paper Saver” comes from the idea of using scratch paper to casually predict outcomes depending on certain variables into the future. For someone who struggled with math my whole life (I swear to god it was a miracle that I passed each math class I took from Sophomore year of high school up until university), this is very doable as long as you take the few minutes to look up the variables to make sure they’re accurate.

one will save $0.61 per coffee by using reusable filters in the Keurig

Oftentimes a quick google search can come up with articles in which others have already done the calculations for you, such as in this case where I quickly googled k-cup vs reusable filter cost comparison and found this awesomely detailed and compelling article  by the personal finance blogger, Squawkfox toward the top of the simple google search pile. So by this article’s rather diligent explanation, one will save $0.61 per coffee by using reusable filters in the Keurig rather than the severely trashy and expensive K-Cups that are relentlessly marketed for use by Keurig owners. So with simple back of the napkin math, if you drink 2 cups of coffee a day (a rather modest estimation by stay at home mom and dad standards), that’s a savings of about $37 a month. And to magnify the savings, just multiply that amount by 12 to find out the savings in a year (Around $450)! With every change, you also have to evaluate the time/effort factor that goes into each change. This is a personal decision that depends on the amount of spare time you have and how flexible you can be with external expectations (not going out to lunch with your co-workers for instance).

Using a Compounding Interest Calculator to Estimate Long-Term Savings

To make things even more mouth wateringly juicy, use a compounding interest calculator to play with the savings amount when that yearly savings is invested in an index fund with a 7% average return. This is where you put the pedal to the metal when it comes to the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned” my friends, as we are now very  quickly and easily going from 61 cents to thousands of dollars. Now when you throw away one of those flimsy K-cups you can simultaneously imagine reaching into your wallet, pulling out several dollar bills, and tossing those in the trash too. That thought right there should be enough to get us to take the 30 seconds needed to compost those coffee grinds and rinse out our own filter in the sink with a smile!

Small Changes Worth the Effort

    • Go to the library over purchasing new books. If you do purchase new, resell them on eBay.

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    • Sell your unused stuff on Craigslist. Learn from my mistakes here

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    • Make as much home made meals as you can from scratch.
    • Prepare a to-go breakfast the night before such as soaked steel cut oats or chia seed yogurt
    • Take a sack lunch to work
    • Freeze prepared meals for the work week on Sundays
    • Use the crock pot to make dinner while you’re at out
    • Stick to the memorable slogan, “Something to Wear, Something they Need, Something they Want, Something to Read” for your child’s holiday gifts
    • Simplify or opt out of traditional family/friend gifting

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    • Discover even more money saving (small) change that are worth the effort in this post.

 

What other money-saving changes have you made? Please share in the comments!

My First Weeks as a Nutritarian

There was a waiting room, followed by an exam table, the doctor typing on a computer, taking my blood pressure and looking over my lab results. But unlike any other doctor appointment I’d been to, this doctor gave me zero prescriptions to fill. Instead I got a complete diet overhaul, and an order form for nutritional supplements as well as tests for adrenal stress and other blood work to be done. I was told to continue practicing yoga every day to keep my blood circulating and for stress relief.

Looking over the many printouts when I got home, I soon discovered I was on the autoimmune protocol designed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a plant-based doctor with a nutritional approach who founded the ANDI nutritional food scoring method used to easily determine the nutrient density of foods. Logically, his diet is designed around the idea that one should eat as much of the foods with the highest ANDI scores as possible.

So for the past two weeks I have been OFF the pharmaceutical drugs and on a very specific food diet that has nothing to do with counting calories and everything to do with consuming nutrient rich foods. Here is an example of what I eat in a day:

Breakfast: Cup of steel cut outs with raisins and ground flax seeds, 10 oz fresh green vegetable juice (80% cucumber or celery, 20% anything else including carrot, apple, greens, etc).

AM Snack: Fruit

Lunch: salad with spinach, lettuce, arugula, radish, celery, cucumber, carrot, any vegetables topped with sunflower seeds, 10 oz green juice (leftover from the morning)

PM Snack: Protein drink (inflammacore plant-based protein powder and water)

Dinner: another vegetable salad with hemp seeds, a bowl of vegetable/pea soup, steamed cruciferous veggies with brown rice.

Dessert: coconut milk/berry/banana smoothie with chia seeds

I’m also taking a digest supplement with every meal, probiotic, multi-vitamin, omega fats marine oil, and a liquid vitamin D.

It has been difficult to keep up with eating the correct foods and avoiding other types of foods, and getting used to not using salt or sugar has been a challenge. Overall, the ease of eating this way came about after the first week. Now I wake up and look forward to my fresh juice in the morning, and more and more I’m enjoying the taste of this simple food. My arthritis symptoms have gotten worse, but I keep reminding myself that there is still a lot of work for my body to do to heal itself and it will not happen overnight. Some people take 2 months or more to see results. Reading Dr. Fuhrman’s books have been eye opening, and motivate me to continue on with eating this way even after I heal my autoimmune disease.

When you know better, you do better.

I look forward to continuing on this journey and being amazed at the results!

 

10 Ideas for an Eco-Friendly Christmas

1. Keep it simple.

Just pick the most important traditions that have meaning for you, leave the new fads behind. When I was pregnant I babysat for a family with three kids who had the popular “Elf on the Shelf.” The kids all loved the elf but one day when I arrived the mom explained to me her kids would be upset because she forgot to move the elf. She was frantically pouring out flour onto a cutting board and trying to set the elf up so it looked like it was making a snow angel before they woke up. The holidays already have enough traditions to keep everyone happy, do we need to buy into marketing’s attempts to make more just to increase profits?

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2. Reevaluate the gift giving tradition altogether.

Gifts can be wonderful to give and receive, but often gifts may not be the right fit for the individual, or maybe they already have everything they need. The wrapping, shipping and packing materials of presents on such a large scale uses precious resources and creates a monumental amount of waste in the environment. Everyone can donate to one another’s favorite charity, volunteer together, or just spend time doing an activity like going to the movies or for a hike. Gifts can also be in the form of gift cards or certificates for experience activities such as a wildlife reserve, a playhouse or a museum. You also could simply ask your loved ones to spend time with you instead of getting gifts. You can see the letter I used this year: Dear Friends and Family.

3. Re-imagine gifts.

If you do give physical presents, select items that you know for sure the receiver will need and use. For instance if you know they drink a specific type of tea regularly, you are guaranteed to give them something they will appreciate and use. Alternatively, any gifts that are made from natural materials, or that can be used up such as homemade cookies, soap or candles are likely to be well received. Thrifting items such as vintage cookie tins or eclectic frames to use to children’s artwork can make wonderful heartfelt gifts as well.

4. Promote an existing tree to “Christmas Tree.”

 

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By using a tree (or a bush, or a plant) that’s growing instead of going out and chopping down a Christmas tree or supporting an industry that does, we’re honoring the beauty in a living tree’s ability to absorb carbon and emit oxygen.

On first glance it would seem that buying a fake tree would be eco-friendly but the truth is that these trees often are made from synthetic materials that emit harmful gases, they tend to break or become bedraggled after a few years, and eventually find their way into the landfill. Not so cheery. Alternatively, you can string up your ornaments across a threshold, mantle or wall which actually causes you to look at them more often and more closely, enjoying them every time you walk by!

 

5. Use nature, or food items as decor.

It is a wonderful thing to have heirloom ornaments you use year after year, but unfortunately the vast majority of ornaments today are the exact opposite- quite disposable. What better way to bring beauty to your home than creating ornaments from the beauty of nature? String a popcorn garland, use found pine cones, create snowflakes out of sticks, or try drying orange slices to create beautiful 100% free and biodegradable ornaments.

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6. Go out into nature.

Going out around the holidays often encourages needless consumption, whether it be buying a Styrofoam cup of hot cocoa or sparkly mass produced ornament that catches the eye. If you do go out, it’s best to have a plan that is sustainable- think a tree lighting, the ice rink, going caroling (do people still do that anymore?) or visit a friend. Though it is probably cold, bundling up and going out into nature fosters appreciation for the natural world, gives us a chance to exercise and breathe fresh air without creating waste. Snow can be very beautiful and playing in it with our family provides us with endless fun and precious memories.

7. Rethink the Christmas card.

Send an e-card or family video instead of greeting cards. If you must send greeting cards, select postcards which cut on paper used and require a cheaper stamp as well.

8. Cook and bake from scratch.

Cooking and baking as a family can be an enjoyable tradition unto itself while also being practical. Not only does making food from scratch taste way better, it also cuts down on packaging (especially when you buy bulk and bring your own bags and jars!) and is almost always cheaper in the long run. When we bake from scratch we know exactly what went in to the food we’re eating, and we don’t have to worry about toxic preservatives and artificial dyes.

9. Give back.

Go through the cabinets and donate any unwanted canned food. Also go through the closets and give any spare coats or other items to a homeless shelter or other charity shop. Host a soldier, pick an angel from a giving tree to prepare gifts for deserving children, volunteer at a soup kitchen or make baskets to give to families in need. There are so many ways to give back. Check your local library, community center or college to see what opportunities are available to serve your community. This simple act allows us to feel the magic of community, feel happiness in giving and lets us have gratitude for what we already have in our lives.

10. Consider staying home.

Of course, public transportation is the next best thing. Traveling cross-country? Take the bus for the smallest carbon footprint. Next best, a fuel-efficient vehicle, train and at the bottom of the list-air travel.

However you choose to spend the holiday season, I hope it is filled with peace, joy and simplicity!

Abandoning Social Media

When I’m fired up about some new concept or cause, I shout breathlessly about it to everyone in earshot- by everyone I mean my husband. He usually rolls his eyes and raises his brows, humoring me for as long as he can stand it. About this, though, he is definitely first in this race. I’m talking about the concept of abandoning social media. I’ve tried to keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to social media, quickly adopting a facebook profile and later on an instagram- also tried my hand at tumblr for a few weeks which was shortlived. I have even kept up with the mandatory baby pictures, holiday family shots and announcements about my life’s events. My husband, on the other hand has dragged his feet reluctantly through these social networks, which doesn’t surprise me as he barely even checks his email. He gave up facebook, shutting down his account, over 6 months ago and he says he couldn’t be happier. I followed suit soon after, cancelling my account without warning. Some of my friends were worried because they couldn’t find me, others who tried to connect thought they’d never hear from me again. I was happy with my decision and didn’t miss it, until I wanted to sell something that was specific to a group I belonged to. Getting my account back, I was swarmed with a gargantuan stream of overwhelmingly unnecessary information. The ads, the banal, the disgusting, the disturbing, the offensive, the pretty, the educational. All mashed together in a loosely threaded grotesque quilt of two dimensional social exchanges. I don’t want it getting back to me that my ex thinks I look hot in my Halloween costume. I don’t want random old people that were friends of my parent’s parents commenting on every thought I type out into the cyberworld. I’m tired of posting things that really mean something to me just to hear a virtual world of crickets chirping. Seeing one of my friends refer to this movement- that champions a greater degree of honesty and transparency in social media has really sealed the deal for me. I applaud it’s founder, Essena O’Neill, a former instagram model who has come out against the vapid, consumer-driven motives behind popular social media posts. I don’t want to be advertised to- whether directly, indirectly or through peer pressure and groupthink. The few individuals that I stayed for have recently terminated their social media accounts as well. The truth is that someone typing “happy birthday” doesn’t have one percent of the same meaning that a quick phone call does. Even if it’s just my family- I want the people that reach out to me beyond the screen to be where I put my time and energy- because they are really there for me. When the choice comes between authentic and trendy, I will choose the real deal every time.

So long facebook, instagram. It wasn’t nice knowing you.

The House with the Orchard Lawn

I decided to try something different today. I was initially inspired by this beautiful article written by one of my heroes. I wanted to write about the idea that it’s better to be a real flower and be beautiful as a part of a living plant- something that smells sweet, is of service to nature, with medicinal value, something that absorbs carbon while emitting oxygen, is regenerative; than a fake flower that is of no value other than beauty, which inevitably fades. I also read the Lorax to my little girl last night (which always brings a tear to my eye), so that was definitely an influence as well. My husband says it reads like a children’s story, which is ok with me. I love the rich metaphors in the storytelling of Women Who Run With Wolves, so much so that I wanted to try my hand at it as well. I hope you enjoy it.

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The House with the Orchard Lawn

There was once a house on a quiet little street in middle America. It was a safe street where American flags hung like dewdrops in the sun, and each house was lined up so perfectly just like square monopoly houses. One little house on the street had the most beautiful array of flowers from around the world in their yard. There were sunflowers, lilies, daffodils, tulips and million bells. It was an anomaly how they got all those many flowers looking so beautiful all the time. The house also had the most perfect lawn. It was emerald green year round and no weeds ever snuck their head up, no patches of clover sprawled across it.

The house next door, though it was the same exact model of house, built at the same time with the same materials, didn’t look quite so nice. The yard was just dirt- not even rich chocolaty earth but the gritty, rocky, dry, tan mud- the sunburnt skin of the earth. Weeds crept up along all the cracks in the ground by the sidewalk and driveway. They were tall, skinny, awkward looking weeds with no colorful flowers, and only grew bigger and more gruesome looking over time. The neighbors knew an old man lived there, but that he suffered from a disease that made him feeble and sensitive to sunlight. One day, his niece moved in. The neighbors breathed a sigh of relief because finally, someone was going to deal with the climbing vines and spiky blackberry bushes that were reaching their way rudely across the border to their immaculate yard. But the girl didn’t do anything about it. She just let the front yard become wilder and wilder. Glaring at her as she got out of her car did nothing. The neighbors grew exasperated that the insane, out of yard was not being kept under control. They were about to march over with the president of the neighborhood committee when they saw her come out of her house with gardening gloves and a shovel. They bickered with one another as they saw her dig holes and build a maze of pvc pipe all around the yard. They were agitated because the yard was still ugly, but at the same time very curious because they didn’t know what she was up to over there.

After several months there were small sprouts. The girl came out to pull weeds, and to apply a woody mulch around them. She covered them in winter, and pruned once a year. They submitted to the fact that the yard next door would always be ugly, and did their best not to look at it. At the very least it gave them something to complain about. They enjoyed bickering about their speculations over what on earth she was doing. Over the next few years the sprouts had grown into trees. There were all kinds of trees; apple, peach, pear, plum, cherry. Birds chirped happily from their nests built of twigs and mud in the springtime. The bees whizzed all over, making quick pit stops at the delicate blossoms. The palette of trees spanned the scope of the rainbow- there were all shades of green from grasshopper to deep emerald, to dark fir. There were yellows and purples and the brightest reds and oranges you ever saw would glow under the brewing grey skies in the fall.

Then the trees began to bear fruit! The fruit would grow so heavy and fat that the girl would catch them in baskets and go around the block offering them to anyone that was sitting on their porch or mowing their lawn dozens of the glistening fruits. Of course everyone accepted her gift, breathing the fresh fragrance deeply as they ushered the bounty in through the front door. Never had anyone tasted anything sweeter than the fruit from the orchard growing on their neighbor’s lawn. Over the years, the next door neighbors grew older and so did their perfect lawn and the perfect flowers that never lost their petals. Their vivid colors began to fade, and muddy pools of stagnant water gathered in the middle of the dull green grass. When people walked by, they smiled and pointed at the house with the orchard lawn, but their faces fell and they averted their gaze when their eyes fell upon the house with the astroturf and the old silk flowers.