Eco-Friendly Christmas

10.15.2017

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Having an Eco-friendly holiday isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It might sound complicated because the concept is different, but it’s actually pretty simple.  So for each holiday there are basic aspects of the holiday celebration I like to check off: decorations, food and entertainment. I don’t always cover all three categories equally and majority of my focus will usually be on the food.

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Decorations tend to be covered easily being that Christmas is such a huge holiday celebrated. Honestly, any type of decoration that is compostable or reusable is a good idea. Here are some ideas for zero waste holiday.

  1. Decoration Ideas:
    1. Seasonal
      1. Seasonal leaves, fruit, create a centerpiece suing branches and colorful seasonal leaves.
    2. Christmas
      1. Use existing jars filled with some seasonal and colorful leaves to decorate the table
      2. Use branches and leaves from outside to decorate the table surface

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  1. Zero Waste Food
    1. Consider using fresh fruits and vegetables as ingredients in your dishes. You can compost the skin or the non edible pieces after
    2. Buy your ingredients from the bulk aisle or bulk bins
    3. For ingredients that usually come in packaging, consider making your own homemade version or looking for it in paper, aluminum or glass packaging
    4. Share recipes or give the gift of different types of dishes to one another

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Gift ideas can be tricky for this holiday since it’s based around an iconic tree as well as what surrounds it on Christmas Day. However, here are a few ideas for zero waste gifts, you might want to consider. Check social media sites (Groupon, Living Social, Ticketmaster, etc.) for great deals for events and activities for family and friends during the holidays.

  1. Gift Ideas:
    1. Compostable Gifts
      1. Food, snacks, bulk candy wrapped in reusable packaging or compostable packaging
      2. Buy bulk foods and create a recipe kit for a gift
      3. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    2. Gift of Goods and Products
      1. Consider checking out thrift stores to find a gift for the recipient
      2. If you want to give a new gift, look for gifts with no packaging or recyclable paper packaging
    3. Gift of Experiences
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (check for local theme parks near you or near the recipient)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing, etc.)
      4. Gift card or money for food & drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee, tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card or money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining, etc.)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card or money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    4. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
      1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
      2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
      3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

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  1. Gift Wrapping:
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets or bandanas to wrap and tie around gifts
    3. For the larger gifts, I’ll use a pillowcase or really large bed sheets to wrap the gifts
    4. For medium sized gifts, I’ll wrap the gift in an extra t-shirt.

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Entertainment during the holidays can be daunting as well. Usually families have kids around or simply need entertainment playing while the day is happening. 

  1. Entertainment
    1. Movies- if you are able to stream movies, there are a few great resources to stream holiday movies during this time. Check YouTube or other streaming media, they usually have full movies uploaded to watch.
    2. Board Games – Ask your guest if they have any board games to play or would want to bring for the kids to share and play with
    3. Card Games – these games are always fun because a deck of cards can be really versatile

I hope this outline helped to brainstorm ideas for you. This is an overall idea list and if you want to check out other holiday blog posts, check out these holiday blog posts from these websites:

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Christmas Ornaments Hack

 

12.06.2016
0800

So when I decluttered my sentimental possessions, I pulled out the few keychains I had leftover and decided to turn them into Christmas ornaments. I’ve done this before for other years as I was slowly decluttering my sentimental possessions, but these are the last keychains I own. So with the last set of keychains, I thought I’d show you how I upcycle these items.

I have a habit of writing the year I received each ornament on the ornament somewhere. I actually didn’t start doing this up until about a decade ago. For the ornaments that came before then, I literally reserved a random Saturday and recalled ALL of the years that each ornament came into our lives. The years help me remember a time in my life, or what was happening during that year, and even what was going on around the world. Keychains hold the same sentimental value for me that ornaments do. I used to collect keychains, but that goal was short lived being that I realized that I didn’t have enough zippers to attach them to. Also, with the certain keychains, they get in the way of the function of the bag I’m using or it just becomes an extra piece on my bag that will inevitably get caught in something as I’m walking or moving around and rip off. I also don’t use keychains for my keys.

I know that sounds strange, but as I got older, and I had to be responsible for more keys to more places and items. I prefered to not weigh down my keys with so much excess weight. (It’s also annoying when I’m driving and I have a large chunk of metal just hanging and swinging from the car ignition). I like my leg room. I also don’t want to hang to much weight from the ignition in case it ruins the tumblers in the ignition over time.

Some of my keychains are from my own purchases and the rest were given to me. For this post, my last keychains that I used (from left to right), a pewter cat keychain from my brother when were first took in an older feral cat who was a variation of greys. She was a sweet and fat cat. She left us after four years or so, never saw her again.

The next keychain I bought was when I went to Vietnam in the summer of 1998. This was my first trip to Vietnam and as a teen, it changed my view of the world and I knew how blessed and lucky I was to be born a United States citizen. My father and I had a stopover in South Korea after 12 hours in the air. I played soccer for a very long time throughout my childhood, and I continued to follow different clubs and leagues  from around the world. Although this keychain said “2002 World Cup Korea”, it was the first World Cup to be held in Asia, the first to be held on a continent other than Europe or the Americas, the last World Cup during which the golden goal rule was in force and the only World Cup to be jointly hosted by more than one nation. It was a landmark world cup tournament and it was exciting to have Japan and Korea join together to co-host such a celebrated event. I actually bought this keychain at the airport where we stopped over, it wasn’t anything big, but it was the first marketing item I had seen for the 2002 World Cup. The United States hadn’t even released marketing for that World Cup yet.

The third keychain is a beetle, yup a beetle. My father had mailed me the keychain from Vietnam for my sixteenth birthday. It came with a card. Although it was pretty unconventional, the beetle was actually a beautiful specimen. I don’t have a fear of many things at all, and I actually understood why my dad had mailed it to me. He was purely focused on the the colors of the beetle and how nature could create such an interesting yet iridescent bug. I kept that keychain on my backpack throughout high school. It was either a great conversation starter, or I simply received strange looks from passer byers.

The last keychain is from my mother when she went to the Grand Canyon. I’ve actually never been there but she brought this back for me. It was a fun trip for her with her friends and I thought that I should finally add it to this project.

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Using pliers, I unhinged the chains that attached the metal rings to the metal chains. I keep all metal rings from items that I manipulate, because rings are very versatile when creating my DIY projects.

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I rummaged around my mother’s sewing kit (good thing she keeps her thread samples from old clothes) and found some thick thread to use for these ornaments. I chose thread that was dark, so that it would blend in with the fake Christmas tree branches.

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Because keychains come with a built-in loop for the metal chains, I simply created large loops so they could be placed on the branches easier. I carve or write the year of each ornament on the it before I put it away.

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I actually haven’t bought new ornaments in thirteen years. I’ve been creating ornaments from small memorabilia that I’ve owned for a long time. Each year, I go digging through the decluttering process (I told you it takes time to go through everything), and I’ll create one or two more ornaments each year.

With making my own ornaments, I actually donated quite a few sets of nice ornaments to different causes. By keeping my ornament count low, I’m not unnecessarily hoarding a bunch of extra ornaments. My Christmas tree is only five feet tall, and it’s actually the same Christmas tree my family has had for the past twenty-five years. I have just enough to cover it.

I hope this might give you some inspiration to make ornaments from your own keychain memories. Now, go grab pliers, thread and all the keychains you’ve got! Because who doesn’t want a iridescent beetle hanging next to Christmas Snoopy?  And if you carve the date into your ornament and get cut, blame the Electoral College. It’s always their fault.

Here are some other ideas for homemade ornaments. They’re eco-friendly and easy to make. Check these out from some other sustainable bloggers…

Zero Waste Christmas

12.01.2016
0800

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My family has used a fake Christmas tree for the month of December  since I was brought into this world. I’m not sure if we simply did not want to go get a fresh chopped down tree or if it was more that when my family came to the United States, buying a fake Christmas tree was just more convenient. Either way, I’ve never had a real Christmas tree, and as I got older, I understood the extra steps needed to take to keep a real tree in your home for a whole month.

After the Christmas, the sidewalks around my neighborhood had dead Christmas trees laying out on the sidewalks or street curbs for pickup. However, this was not always the proper way of discarding Christmas trees in accordance with each city’s municipal recycling center. (Check with your local city’s municipal recycling center for holiday recycling items) After seeing all of the trees laying out on the street curbs, I was thankful that my family used a fake tree after all these years. In fact, we never seemed to buy new holiday decorations either.

We use the same holiday decorations and the same tree that we’ve used for years. Unfortunately, there was a time when we had family staying with us (let’s just say that they’re not the brightest bulb in the family) who had decided to take it upon themselves to throw away all of my family’s Christmas ornaments and replace them with brand new ornaments. They didn’t comprehend the concept that ornaments hold sentimental value and also mark a point in time when it was brought into the home. They saw our nineteen years of old ornaments as ugly and had no value, so why show it off. All of my brother’s and my childhood ornaments were tossed out, that included ornaments from when my parents first came to the United States too. For years after that, we slowly built up our ornament collection again.

This was when I started making ornaments from my family’s sentimental items that included small memorabilia we had collected over the years. (My next post will give you instructions on how I make key chains into ornaments- it’s actually very simple). Our tree is now covered in memories of  vacation trips, landmark life events, graduations, jobs and companies we were once a part of, and so much more.

For gifts, we actually don’t give gifts to one another as much anymore. Counting the birthdays, mother’s day and Tet (Vietnamese New Years) celebrations, Christmas is just a time for our family to get together, watch movies and indulge in delicious holiday food. During the year, the items that each family member may need usually gets purchased throughout the year. We don’t really ever save up a wish list and make it known for the holiday. So here are some of the gift ideas as well as some gift wrapping ideas that I’ll go through to give as gifts…

  1. Gift ideas- Zero waste ideas
    1. Experience ideas
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (Great America, Raging Waters, Six Flags, Disneyland, etc.)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing)
      4. Gift card/money for food / drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee / tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card/money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card/money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    2. Food gift ideas
      1. Main dishes, side dishes, trade food/drink recipes
    3. Fruit gift ideas
      1. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    4. Zero waste shopping starter kits
      1. Cloth produce bags, shopping bags, reusable jars, water soluble crayons to write PLU codes onto the bags and jars
      2. Help tare the weight on all of the reusable items
    5. Bulk bathroom gifts
      1. Soap bars, bulk soap, bulk bath salts, recipes for homemade makeup
    6. Bulk kitchen gifts
      1. Bulk staple foods, bulk spices, combination of some bulk spices, create a meal kit from bulk items for  a loved one
  2. Wrapping Ideas
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets/bandanas to wrap and tuck around gifts
  3. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
    1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
    2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
    3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

Here are links to some more Zero Waste Christmas ideas from other bloggers:

Keep Life Simple

11.29.2016

0800

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So we’ve officially moved into the season between ‘fighting over products while shopping’ and ‘opening said products in one swift move’. I usually don’t go buy physical objects for this season, I tend to buy gifts in the form of experiences, however, I do understand that not everyone approaches this season the same way. 

The holiday season tends to bring on another level of stress, with the year rounding out and the pressures from the holidays added to the pressures from work and family, it can be an overall anxiety driven few months. With these additional stresses, I wanted to post some tips to help everyone to remind them to take care of themselves first and foremost. and perhaps to help keep the home front a little more simplified.

Life will always get more chaotic and complicated, but as long as we recognize it, we can counter it with with a well thought out defense.  I practice a lot of these tips, so even if you can try just one tip and simplify your life, you might be pleasantly surprised. So here it goes, I hope you guys enjoy it!

For Your Mental Health:

  1. Stop multitasking – Give your attention and focus to one thing at a time to complete a long list of to-do items.
  2. Stop driving aggressively – Take the steps to stop aggressive driving habits by getting enough sleep, planning ahead and using etiquette and kindness to other drivers. Remember that if children are in the car, they learn from watching you.
  3. Stop going crazy for holidays – Stop stressing to bake/cook a huge holiday meal. If you host during the holidays, ask everyone to bring a dish for a potluck style dinner and there will be less work for you. Stop over-shopping for the holidays. Try the 4-gift rule for Christmas: something you want, something you need, something to play with, something to read.
  4. Accept that change is in order – Acceptance is the first step to changing bad habits. Once you have accepted that you need to change your life, take the next step toward a simplified life.
  5. Program your mobile photos/videos to auto-upload to a cloud account – Never worry about uploading photos again – Try Google, Amazon, Picasa, YouTube.
  6. Use a combined social media app (Instagram)– Try Hootsuite – it combines your social media accounts and shares a post on all sites at the same time.

For Your Home:

  1. Create a command center in your home – a command center is the ultimate hub to keep your family organized. For tips to create your own, see this post.  My favorite command center item is this dry erase calendar.
  2. Create a cleaning routine and schedule it on your calendar – Schedule laundry day’s, trash days, housecleaning days, etc.
  3. Downsize – Get rid of items you don’t need or move into a smaller home.
  4. Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions – Read articles for free online instead.
  5. Stop buying trending clothes – Purchase classic, high-quality items in neutral colors and you will rarely need to update your wardrobe.
  6. Eat simple meals – Less thinking means faster, easier meals. Keep it simple with simple ingredients and meals that are fail-proof. Be sure to check out our post Clean Eating for Less Than $70 a Week for a family of 4 (Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks included with a shopping list!).
  7. Make freezer meals – Double your dinner recipe and freeze the rest for later. If you do this every night, then you will have 7 additional dinners in the freezer for next month.  Here are 365 days of freezer meals for more ideas.
  8. Use your leftovers – Pack them for lunch the next day or use them to make another meal – many leftovers can easily be made into a soup.
  9. Use simple recipe ingredients – Stop buying spices/ingredients for one meal. Purchase basic spices and ingredients to minimize items in your pantry.
  10. Make one-pot meals – Reduce clean up by making an entire meal in one pot.  Here are 120 one pot meals for some ideas.
  11. Unsubscribe from junk emails – Try unroll.me for bulk removal.  I did this and was able to unsubscribe from 110 subscriptions in just a few minutes!
  12. Cancel cable – Try on-demand options like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Video.
  13. Print as little as possible – Read documents, books and recipes online. Save these items online or as a document to your computer. Less paper lying around means less to organize later.

For Your Organization:

  1. Consider signing up for an Elfster account or create an Amazon Wish List feature or giving Groupon experience gifts  
  2. Keep reusable bags in your car – These bags always come in handy for stores that give you money back for bringing your own bag (like Target) or those that charge for their plastic bags (like Aldi).
  3. Telecommute, carpool, bike, jog or walk to work instead of driving – take the stress of commuting with one of these options.
  4. Stop using credit cards and pay cash for everything – Get rid of the stress of paying interest for that T-shirt. Freeze your credit cards, pay them off and start using cash only – unless you are able to pay off credit cards in full every month.
  5. If you need a credit card, consider one with rewards benefits – If you absolutely need a credit card, choose one with big rewards. Pay the balance in full every month to reap the full reward benefits – otherwise the reward is not beneficial if you are paying interest.
  6. Upload/Download DVDs/digital copies to the cloud – Try Vudo/Ultraviolet to upload DVDs, digital copies to access movies on-the-go. Download/purchase movies online and store them in your cloud account, try Amazon Video.
  7. Share cloud files with family – Share your budget spreadsheet or contact list with your spouse.
  8. Write canned emails – Try the canned email feature in Gmail and save emails that you regularly send out with the same verbiage.

What I Stopped Buying- Garage, Living Room and Holidays

11.10.2016

0800

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My last part in my ongoing list of “Items I’ve stopped buying” focuses on my garage, living room and holiday items. This list is very small in reference to the items I frequently bought. The garage items focus around doing laundry and the items needed to do laundry. The holiday items refer to items I used to buy for wrapping gifts.

Doing my laundry is my least favorite chore and ever since I simplified the amount of clothes I own, it’s not as bad as it used to be. (My capsule wardrobe now consists of 27 items.) But also not needing dryer sheets or dropping my items off at a dry cleaners also make for a simple laundry routine. I have so few items when I do laundry, that I simply hang everything up when I’m done. I used to sit and fold my items for a good amount of time, and had to set aside time to do it.

Admittedly, my simplistic routines have made me slightly lazier, but it’s also saved me time so I’m not packing my days off with things I need to get done. I actually HAVE time to be lazy- it’s weird. But I’ll take it. It’s weird because I’ve been conditioned to constantly be busy or with the tasks I need to get done each weekend or every other weekend. These tasks are supposed to take up a good amount of my day (that way I feel I’ve accomplished something for that day). When you get to the point when you find time to breathe (I mean a lot of time), it’s well worth the zero waste journey.

There’s more planning involved in the beginning and routines to get used to, but honestly….. who doesn’t love naps??

GARAGE

  1. Dryer Sheets ——————-> N/A
  2. Dry Cleaning ——————-> Hang items in bathroom while showering so they can steam.(I’ll iron if I ABSOLUTELY have to.)
  3. Laundry Soap ——————> Paper Packaged Powder Laundry Soap

LIVING ROOM

  1. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond) ——> Sage leaves
  2. Flower Bouquets —————-> Fresh Flowers from backyard

HOLIDAYS

  1. Wrapping Paper —————-> Colorful Bandanas  [wrap and tuck] & old t-shirts made into reuseable gift bags.