How To Reduce Waste In Your Home

08.12.2019

0600

Reducing the amount of trash that comes into your home is not as hard as it sounds. It might sound like a daunting task because we as consumers, buy a lot of packaged items that we bring into our home. However, it’s a simple process of elimination.

For instance, if you evaluate your kitchen items and everything you buy weekly, monthly, and yearly- that’s pretty much your entire list. For the yearly items, if you can find reusable alternatives, you can essentially eliminate your yearly inventory shopping.

Then, list all your weekly items that you tend to buy, and find reusable, non-toxic alternatives for those items. Your weekly and daily items are most likely the trash culprits. Half of the time, we don’t realize how many coffee cups we buy every day or even plastic packaged lunch items that we purchase daily. Eliminating the daily trash will help greatly reduce the amount of trash that enters your home. There are a lot of reasonable alternatives when it comes to kitchen items. Using cloth napkins in lieu of paper napkins, and using real dishware instead of paper plates can help eliminate the disposable trash output. You can also use real utensils instead of disposable utensils. You can bring a reusable coffee Tumbler when you go to get tea or coffee, so you don’t end up with a disposable cup.

A lot of people don’t know that the paper containers provided for us at grocery stores, and food establishments are lined with plastic, and those containers do not compost or bio degrade. The plastic layer, prevents it from composting completely. It’s a little bit like green washing because you may think your container is completely made of cardboard but it really isn’t. Using reusable items is a much better alternative, because you are in control of how much trash you are producing.

For your bathroom items, it’s the same process as evaluating your kitchen items. Go through your items and figure out which products you use and purchase, yearly, weekly and daily. Slowly replace the yearly items with reusable and sustainable options, as well as a weekly and daily items.

When it comes to medications or anything medical, I suggest that you consult with a doctor before you decide to eliminate certain products. I purchase sunscreen consistently. I live in California, where the sun is strong, and skin cancer is a real concern. I’m very aware that I am producing plastic trash with my sunscreen bottles. However, I would never want to put my health at risk just so I can proclaim that “My lifestyle is absolutely zero waste!”, and I wouldn’t want you to do that either.

Health concerns are very personal, so you know your own limit. If you can eliminate a plastic contained product and opt for a reusable version, than I think that’s great. Right now, I buy my conditioner, body lotion, bar soap, liquid soap, and tooth powder, in bulk. When it comes to sunscreen, face moisturizer and dental floss, those come in packaging.

You can use this evaluation process for the other rooms in your home. The biggest trash producers are the kitchen and the bathrooms. Some people have other rooms where they tend to buy a lot of items for, and those can be also evaluated in the same fashion.

This process takes time, and it takes self awareness to be consistent. Start slow and just work on an area or room in a certain amount of time. If you give yourself a time limit, staying consistent and motivated, becomes easier.

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Mending Items Versus Buying Items

07.29.2019

0600

If you read about my Fast Fashion post, it relates to this one. If not, please go check it out. Even though I do by thrift store items, I will still mend an item to save it from a donation. Sometimes I will mend my items and then I donate the item. For instance, I found an old shirt at my aunts house. It had a few holes in it but overall, I liked the color and I didn’t mind the cut of the shirt. The color went perfectly with my color palette for my capsule wardrobe, so I really wanted to save it from being donated. I just needed to mend the shirt, so it would be decent to wear.


Now I have an almost new shirt.


Whenever I upcycle clothing, I always keep scraps of the leftover clothing item. In my Reusing Fabric and Thread blog post, I wrote about keeping my fabric scraps in a small bag. I literally have a bag of scraps. I love fabric, and the use of fabric in different products, (depending on the thread count, material, and the way fabric is sewn together,) can be a very durable material.

Some shirts have higher thread counts, which lends them to become excellent candidates to upcycle into grocery bags, or other heavy duty bags. The smaller scraps that I keep, I always try to find a use for them. Whether it’s going to be upcycled into a small project or large project, the one thing I can count on is that I can throw it in the washing machine to clean it. 

If I had a choice to make, with picking and choosing reusable products, I prefer to choose items that I can wash easily. I don’t like to buy items which require a special cleaning method or liquid to clean. I like to sew and mend items, because the product that I’m usually mending, only needs to be washed with soap and water.

If you reflect on the products that you use daily, the majority of them are probably sewn together: your clothes, handbags, wallets, car seats, bedding, upholstery, etc. Knowing how to sew and understanding how to repair fabric products has been a life saver for me. I actually learned how to sew by hand, and didn’t learn how to use a machine until years later.

Learning how to mend items can save you money, time and stress. Even the simple act of sewing on a button is helpful. You can save a simple dress shirt, like I did, from sending it to a donation station.

Car Floor Mat Towel Sleeves

04.01.2019

0600

Materials:

  • 2 Bath Towels
  • 4 Hand Towels
  • Sewing Kit
  • White Fabric Pencil

Tools:

  • Sewing Kit
  • Sewing Machine

It’s interesting how we pick up habits from our parents or other figures in our lives. When the rain season comes, my  mother has always wrapped an old towel across her car mats to absorb the extra water that would get dragged in by everyday use. To this day, I’ll see her break out the towels around the middle of October.


As for me, I never cared for my floor mats in my car. I honestly never liked my car. The car was bought without my input and I was stuck with it thereafter. But recently I did get new car mats, along with a new car, and since I didn’t want to drag a bunch of water into my car, I too, wrapped my car mats in towels. But I soon realized that the towels would get tugged and moved around from the daily use of them. I had to solve this issue. I didn’t want to constantly re-tuck the towels under my car mats, because sometimes they were already dirty and wet.


The front floor mats were a large size and I knew that bath towels would be a perfect fit. I decided to make some towel sleeves for my car mats. Since my carpet in my car is black, I knew I had to find black towels to create my towel sleeves. With the towels sleeves, it would be easier to catch the dirt and rocks that would be brought into my car, and the towels would be easy to clean, since all I had to do was take off the sleeves and throw them into the washing machine. 

I found two bath towels that were 52″ long by 30″ wide. Since my front floor mats are about 31″ long and 21″ wide, I only needed the width of the floor mat sleeves to be about 22″ wide. the size of these bath towels would give me 26″ width. I didn’t mind if the towel wasn’t long enough to cover the length of my floor mat because the mat could stick out a little bit.

I folded the towel in half, length-wise and pinned the edges together, to prepare for the sewing process.

I wanted to leave one of the shorter edges open, so I could slide my floor mats in and out easily. In one continuous line, I sewed along the yellow arrows (in the picture below). For the corners of the towel, where the material was thicker, I angled the long sew line and continued on. I then went back and hand stitched the corners, so they would stay together better.

As you can see, the folded towel was still large enough to fit over my floor mat, and there was still extra room.

In order for the sleeves to fit to the car mats better, I sewed rough outlines of the shape of each mat on each of the sleeves. First, I flipped the car mats over, onto the back of the car sleeve. Then, using my white fabric pencil, I drew rough outlines of each mat. I did this because I didn’t want the white washable pencil to show, when I fit the sleeve over the car mat.

I only outlined the rough outline of the car mats, because I still needed to remove them easily. I created the outlines about 3/4″ from the actual edge of the car mats. I left a bit of a boarder, for the fact that the towel might shrink in the washing machine and also, I wanted the sleeves to slip off easily, when needed. Towards the closed end of the car sleeve, I tightened the outline a bit, but in general, I kept the outline lines straight in from the open edge.

I placed each of the front floor mats into my car, and folded the edges underneath the floor mats accordingly. You don’t have to fold them under, but I chose to.

For the rear seat floor mats, I found eight hand towels to create the set in my car. My rear seat floor mats are 24″ long, by 16″ wide, so I found hand towels that were 26″ long and 16″ wide. The sewing process for these floor mat sleeves follows the previous steps for the front seat floor mat sleeves.

I stacked two hand towels on top of each other, making sure that the tag was facing inwards for both towels. I then sewed along the yellow arrows around the towels. I left one of the long edges open because I wanted to slide the floor mat in easily. For the corners of the hand towel sleeves, I angled the long, linear sew line to complete the stitch, and then I went back to each corner and stitched them together carefully. My machine doesn’t like it when the material gets too thick, because it can’t pass under the needle easily.

These rear seat floor mats had a lot of extra room around the edges, so I knew that I might have extra floor coverage.

This size hand towel seems to accommodate different car brands and the mats still fit really well within the parameters.

Now, when I need to clean my floors, I’ll just remove the floor mats from the towel sleeves and either wash them or shake them out. I might have to vacuum the edges, but that doesn’t take long at all. These towel sleeves makes my life a bit easier, by allowing me to keep my floor mats clean, and that’s always a good perk.

Reusable Facial Cotton Pads

11.19.2018

0600

Materials:

  • 3-4 Cotton Handkerchiefs, pattern or color of your choice (Note: if you tend to use makeup/liquids that are oil or wax based, the substance will leave a slight film on the fabric, over time)

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit
  • Iron
  • Ironing Mat/Board

DSC_0499When I started eliminating single use products out of my life, I really had no need to replace all of the products with reusable ones. But as we all know, life changes, and we adapt to it. Years ago, I had used single use, cotton rounds to remove makeup and nail polish. When I transitioned to a minimalist zero waste lifestyle, I eliminated nail polish from my life and only used vegan makeup. My vegan makeup removal process does not require cotton pads to remove the makeup, just soap and water.

Recently, I was gifted a facial skin care kit and I had no cotton pads to use with it. So now, in order to use the gift, I needed to prepare beforehand, and sew a pack of reusable facial cotton pads.

So for this project, I took a shortcut in which, I used a few handkerchiefs I already had. I knew I only needed rectangular cotton pads about 2″ x 1″, just wide enough to hold across my three fingers when using them.

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I know that the makeup industry standard is to use “cotton rounds”, but when I broke down the division of my handkerchiefs, it was easier to make cotton ‘rectangles’ instead. I took each handkerchief and divided it in half, then divided those pieces in half, and then divided those pieces in half, until I broke down my handkerchief into small squares, about 2″x 2″. These squares will be folded in half and sewed into rectangles. This way, the cotton pads with have two fabric layers.

Technically, the final size of the cotton pads is up to you, because if you end up with a larger square, that only means you get to use a larger rectangle surface to use on a day to day basis.

So I took one of my handkerchiefs and folded it in half and cut it. I then folded the rectangles in half, which resulted in large squares. I folded the large squares in half and then folded those rectangles in half to create the small squares.

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Using my iron and ironing mat, I folded each small square in half, to create the crease for the cotton pads. This crease is where the rectangle shape starts to form, and to save time, I would iron the pieces four at a time. 

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In order for me to iron four cotton pads at the same time, I placed four cotton rectangles in a square formation, in which the edges were placed inward and then I would iron the creases across the mat.

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I used my sewing machine to sew the open edges together and I chose to use the zigzag stitch and a universal needle for this project.

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The most common use of a zigzag stitch is to enclose raw edges as a seam finish. As a seam finish, one edge of the stitch is sewn off the edge of the fabric so that the threads of the fabric are enclosed within the threads of the zigzag stitch and the fabric is unable to fray because of the zigzag stitch.

Be sure to sew in from the edge slightly. Then, trim away the excess beyond the zigzag, making sure not to clip into any of the stitching. You can also use two rows of zigzag for extra “fray-stopping” power.

I started my sew line from one open end of the fabric,  and continued around the open edges. 

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I like to tie off my thread ends, but you can reverse the stitch so that it your sewing machine creates a back stitch. In other words, while you’re sewing the last leg of the fabric edge, slow down the speed of the stitch by backing off of the pedal. Slow to a speed in which you can spot each needle point going into your fabric. If you can learn to anticipate where the needle will land, then you’ll be able to get as close to the end of your sew path and create a tighter back stitch for your projects.  So, as you get closer to the end of your sew path, press the Back Stitch Lever, and hold it down, so that the direction will reverse. When you’re satisfied with the length of the back stitch, let go, and the machine should continue to push your fabric back to the original direction. (Try to get as close as possible to the end of the sew path before reversing the stitch.)

Personally, I would only reverse the direction for about half an inch. Don’t go back too far, since this is such a small piece of fabric. This back stitch will lock in your stitch. Then simply trim the thread, and you’re done.

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I brought home an empty coffee creamer container from work, since I liked the shape. I knew that this project was coming up, so I thought it would be a good container for my reusable facial cotton pads.   

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So there it is, this is how I created my reusable facial cotton pads. I hope that this post may inspire you to eliminate single use personal care accessories in your bathroom. 

Quick T-Shirt Pocket

09.07.2018

0600

Materials:

  • One T-shirt (or two, but definitely at least one)

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

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Living a Zero Waste life means that I create simple solutions for simple problems since I don’t want to go buy anything new or seek  out another possession to take care of.

So I usually carry my phone around with me when I’m doing certain types of household tasks. These tasks don’t require a lot of vigorous movement, but I’m definitely moving around. A lot of the time it’s annoying to remember to carry the phone from one place to another when I’m running around the house and if my hands are dirty, I really don’t want to touch my phone. I needed a quick solution where I could carry the phone along with my keys without much hassle. I didn’t want to go out and buy a separate cell phone holder strap that would wrap around my arm. I have one for workouts, and that strap holds down my cell phone securely since I’m running. But I just needed a quick solution where I could carry around my phone and my keys easily for a few hours.

My quick solution was to see my t-shirt sleeve in half and create a pocket. my t-shirt sleeves are usually longer than I need them to be. This gave me the extra material to work with. I simply folded my sleeve in half and pinned the sleeve all the way around.

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Depending on the width of your cell phone, measure that distance out on the top of the sleeve. Just make sure you divide the width of your phone in half and center the opening on the top of the sleeve.

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For the other sleeve, I made the opening just about the same size since I knew I was going to use the other pocket for keys or my credit card.

Then just sew the sleeve from the front to the back or back to the front, making sure you still leave enough room for your cell phone. Then tie off the open thread ends.

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If you put smaller items in the short pockets, they tend to fall towards the bottom of the sleeve. This can be annoying for some but for me it gives me a sense of security knowing my items won’t fall out. I just need to go fishing for my keys at the end of the day.

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So there you have it. My quick and dirty solution to built in t-shirt pockets. I like to move the pockets towards the front of my body for easier access to my cell phone, but that’s simply more comfortable for me. I also will sometimes secure the t-shirt using a binder clip, that I’ll use to clip my t-shirt to my bra.

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What’s In My Purse?

06.12.2018

0600

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Since I’ve written about What’s in My Makeup Bag? and What’s in My Sport Emergency Kit?, I thought I’d show you what I carry around in my purse too. These are the items I use daily and essentially, and these include my zero waste essentials.

So an overall view will reveal that I usually carry my water bottle, my eyeglasses case, purse, keys, sunglasses, my reusable utensils, my cloth napkin and my cloth handkerchief.

Sometimes I will switch out my water bottle with my tumbler, if I’m going to grab coffee. Most of the time I’ll usually carry my water bottle instead of my tumbler because water is more critical for me on a day to day basis.

In my purse, (which is a pencil bag, because pencil bags tend to have more pockets and are washable) I’ll carry my cards and cash, a small bottle of lotion, a comb, my business cards case, a barrette, extra hair ties, my lip balm, lipstick, eyeliner, my mini 3 in 1 stainless steel screwdriver key chain eyeglass repair tool, extra bobby pins (because you can never have enough), and a nail filer.

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The only perishable and wasteful items I carry on a daily basis is my lip balm and my lipstick. I refill my bottle of lotion from my bulk lotion bottles. Anyone who uses hair ties knows that they tend to break and I haven’t yet found a good alternative to tie up my hair. I might lean towards going back to the scrunchie though. With the extra protective fabric around the hair tie, the life of the hair tie can last longer.

So there you have it. My purse is simple, and I don’t carry extra stuff around to the point where I can’t find anything in my bag. I tend to divide my items into smaller bags so that they’re grouped together in a more organized fashion. These are my day to day essential items, what do you carry around in your bag?

The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

The world’s fast growing appetite for Asian food has a lot to do with both population growth and economic development on the continent. Demand has soared in China, where GDP per capita has increased more than ten fold since 2000, and also in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The long-standing myth that disposable chopsticks are produced with scrap wood products just isn’t true. In fact, an estimated 25+ million mature tree (each usually over 20 years old) are logged each year just to make chopsticks that are used once and then thrown away. The statistics behind disposable chopsticks are surprising:

  • In China, about 57 billion pairs of wooden disposable chopsticks are made each year. They’re made from cottonwood, birch, spruce and bamboo.
  • Half of these disposables are used within China itself. Of the other half, 77 percent are exported to Japan, and South Korea.
  • With China’s 1.3 billion people, in one year, they go through roughly 45 billion pairs of the throwaway utensils; that averages out to nearly 130 million pairs of chopsticks a day. (The export market accounts for 18 billion pairs annually.
  • Globally, about 1.4 billion people throw away 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year
  • In the U.S., Americans threw out 31 million tons of plastic — including plastic utensils — in 2010, making up 12.4 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8 percent of that plastic waste was recovered from recycling.

The impact of so many discarded chopsticks is of course unsustainable. With China now the world’s largest importer of wood, governmental organizations are aware that the nation cannot sustain the level of deforestation needed to manufacture so many throwaway products. In 2006 China imposed a 5% tax on disposable chopsticks, a move which resulted in a drop in manufacturing.

Greenpeace China has estimated that to keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees need to be felled every 24 hours. Think here of a forest larger than Tiananmen Square — or 100 American football fields — being sacrificed every day. That works out to roughly 16 million to 25 million felled trees a year.

The chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group noted that only 4,000 chopsticks can be created from a 20-year-old tree, 2 million of which were being cut down each year to produce them.

Then there are the restaurants. The alternative to wooden disposables is sterilizing the tableware (plastic, metal or durable wood chopsticks) after each use. But the cost differential is significant: Disposables run about a penny apiece, while sterilization ranges from 15 to 70 cents. Restaurants, especially the low-end ones, worry about passing the costs on to customers. And the worry would seem to be warranted: Consumer advocacy groups from 21 Chinese cities published an open letter in March arguing that the costs of sterilization should not be passed on to consumers as the food safety law obligates restaurants to provide free, clean and safe tableware.

Here’s the kicker:

Disposable chopsticks are made by boiling them in toxic chemicals. Disposable chopsticks tend to be consistent in color. The exact same color. This is due to the manufacturing process. Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative on the wood. It’s used to create a consistent color and texture throughout the products.

In 2005, a Chinese consumer council warned that sulfur dioxide from throwaway chopsticks was connected with an increase in asthma and respiratory problems. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas and source of air pollution. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide can be used in the wine making process, sometimes even in preserving dried fruits. Technically, you’re not consuming your wood chopsticks, so it doesn’t count?

The most environmentally friendly option is to stick with metal chopsticks — Korea’s preference in utensils — but they can be quite weighty and slippery to use for beginners. You can also buy a set of formal chopsticks with a carrying case, and use those.

Out of all the animal protein options available, I tend to favor fish. My friends and family are also big sushi fans. Whenever we go out we tend to chose sushi diners to indulge ourselves with. (Good thing is that sushi fills us up quickly.) Almost every sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to, uses disposable wooden chopsticks. I always felt bad for using these chopsticks because I know that all of these chopsticks will end up in the landfill. For this reason, I added a pair of chopsticks to my travel utensil bag. It is a bit odd to pull it out during dinner at times, but then again, making waves is always odd in the beginning. Maybe I’ll just invest in a set of metal chopsticks instead. Also…. don’t eat your chopsticks.

Upcycling Sleeves Into Reusable Gift Bags

09.19.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Leftover t-shirt sleeves from the shirts you planned to make into a t-shirt quilt
  • Sewing kit

Tools:

  • Sewing machine

So I started making a T-shirt quilt for my brother and one for my mother. For my brother, I used his old t-shirts and for my mother, I took a few of my childhood t-shirts as well as some of hers, and combined them into her quilt.

After trimming the shirts for the quilts, I had leftover fabric which I sewed into gift bags, however, I ran out of shoelace to use as the drawstrings. These gift bags are for giving away to those who may want them, and I don’t suggest to use these bags for bulk grocery shopping due to the elasticity of the way t-shirts are sewn together. I usually use bedsheets to make the reusable bulk shopping bags because their thread count is higher and it’s a denser assembly. The left over fabric included the t-shirt collars, the sleeves of the shirts and extra fabric from certain shirts which only had print on one side.

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Bags:

I hadn’t figured out what to do with the collar portions, so I set them aside. However, with the pile of sleeves, I thought I would make odd shaped reusable gift bags out of them. I knew that even if I sewed the pairs of sleeves together, the gift bags would be lopsided. Then again, with the odd shape to the gift bags, maybe it would be easier to hide the shape of the gift inside. So I basically paired up the sleeves and sewed the wide ends together, and closed off one of the open ends.

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Once I finished sewing the gift bags made from the sleeves, I ended up with pentagon shaped gift bags. These bags were not expected but they didn’t turn out too bad, I actually like the odd shape that they ended up becoming. I’ve never used this type of fabric for this kind of use, so this was all a new journey for me. However, if you don’t have shoelaces available or have extra t-shirts lying around, you can make your own drawstrings to use.

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Drawstring for the bags:

Since I ran out of the shoelace that I usually use, I had to figure out a way to still create a drawstring for these bags. So I took a sleeve piece and started creating a cut line that spiraled around the sleeve. I started at the seam edge of the sleeve (which usually is located on the bottom of the sleeve), and started cutting upwards. I started here because as I spiraled around the sleeve, I knew I would cut through the thread that held the shirt sleeve together and by starting at the seam, it would look like a cleaner cut.  I wanted the width of each string to be about 1/2″ so I just continued to cut around around the sleeve, keeping in mind the width of the fabric until I ran out of sleeve to cut . With t-shirt fabric, when the fabric is cut, it tends to curl in on itself so that was the goal behind choosing the 1/2″ width. The fabric piece would curl in just enough to fit through the sleeve cuff to create a drawstring.

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(sorry for the blurry picture, but you get the idea)

Final Product:

So with the different parts of the t-shirts and long sleeve shirt I had used to create the t-shirt quilts. I ended up with a few long and tall gift bags, a bunch of square/rectangular bags and a handful of pentagon shaped gift bags. I actually really like the pentagon shaped bags, I didn’t know they’d turn out like that. It was a nice surprise after all the work was done. I hope this post might inspire or help those who might embark on the same journey.

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If you want to check out some other options for eco-friendly gift wrapping, check out these gift wrapping ideas from these other bloggers: