Writing A No-Gifting Holiday Letter

My favorite time of year is upon us. A time of brisk morning air, evening fireside chats, excuses to snuggle and wear socks to bed, and gathering for no jolly good reason at all except for the fact that it’s that time of year. Intermingled among all this is the season of gift giving, interlaced with all sorts of well-meaning intentions designed to show affection and care. How then, to break one’s bubble and tell them not to give gifts at all, in order to avoid waste, excess consumption, and negatively impact livelihoods and the planet? Such Grinch-like talk will surely get you uninvited to Aunt Sally’s Christmas dinner. But lack of such talk could keep you in a cycle of forever contributing to unnecessary waste production and consumption. Which idea can you be more at peace with?

For myself, preceding any sort of wish list requires a conversation, which could be substituted by a letter if you’ve got some ‘splaining to do for a large number of people or if the face-to-face interaction is just too awkwardly painful to sit through. It requires bravery fortified by resolve, THAT I can guarantee you. It also requires an openness on my part, since I have no control over the openness on their part. Meaning, I must accept the possibility of rejection. For some, gift giving is just something very much ingrained in their being. I know it once was the case for me. There used to be a time where everyone I knew got a gift from me, whether they wanted to or not. I used to think it was the best way I could spread joy and show love. Today, I see the holidays as a heavily marketed event that promotes large amounts of consumption packaged in the form of gifts. Not everyone shares my view point. But I know that I’ve changed, and maybe over time, they may too. Regardless, allow people to be themselves. It is important to share your view point and stand strong as a mountain around your values, but it is equally important to allow others around you to be fluid and flow as a river, going their own way. Be open to being denied your wish to veer away from gift giving, because it is, after all, a wish.

The hard part, off course, lies in finding the best way to communicate that wish. Each family is different, and the way you communicate greatly affects the way the wish is received. With my immediate family, I have had endless conversations (throughout the year) about my stance. But what of extended family and friends? The easiest thing to do if your family is keen on sending each other wish lists is to include a letter addressed to all. Every year, people ask me for a wish list. And when I say “You don’t have to get me anything”, they typically respond with, “Just send it to me, anyway.” So I do, attached with a written letter. I have included this letter last Christmas, for my most recent birthday, and yes, this Christmas as well. May you find inspiration and support.

Dear all,

Please do not feel the need to get me a Christmas gift this year. I’d rather Christmas be about spending time, not money. I am more than happy to receive NOTHING. Actually I would feel a weight lift, since I feel stressed knowing that our consumption choices do affect the environment. Our resources could be used elsewhere, like buying a Christmas meal for a low-income family, or sending the gift to a child in a third world country. Please consider.

On that note, if you cannot keep yourself from the gift giving spirit, I ask that you kindly respect my wish for having as little negative social and environmental impact as possible. I request no plastic packaging, which requires either picking up these items from the store or writing letters to the companies to request zero plastic packaging in the shipping. No gift wrap is necessary, but if you wish to wrap, please be mindful and avoid plastic wrap, including ribbons and bows made from cellophane. There will be no need for plastic tags stickered onto gifts as well. Lastly, please use the links specified in this document if you choose to gift. Do not substitute products with other products as a majority of these are chosen specifically for their sustainability in material, fair trade, or direct global impact in poor communities.

Future thank you, regardless of what you choose to do.

XOXO,

Sam

Yes, it takes guts. Yes, it may not be well received by some. But after sending letters of the like twice before, here is the change that I am happy to see.

  • This year, my siblings were open to limiting the gifts to under $25. We used to spend $100+ on each other, and limiting it to a small price really allows us to focus our dollars on what we truly need.
  • This year, my sister-in-law approached us and asked if her, Mr. Debtist and I could skip gifts this year. She said that she had also asked her closest friends to do the same, and it was received with open arms. She only felt comfortable asking us this because we have made it clear in the past that gifts are not important to us. The conversation had already been started.
  • We have requested to participate in only the Secret Santas for the parties we are attending. Meaning, for the years that we are attending the other side’s extended family’s party, we will be skipping gift giving for the side we aren’t attending.
  • My husband and I will not get gifts for each other. We gift to each other throughout the year in forms of travel, quality time, and everything else we do to create an intentional lifestyle. At the end of December, we will be traveling to Australia and New Zealand, which is “gift” enough.

I hope that in sharing these moments, you find the courage to speak up for the lifestyle you want to lead. Change can happen, no matter how minute, but it all starts with awareness about how our actions today affect the world we create for tomorrow.

Less Waste: Keeping the World Neat with Neat Coffee

How many times can one hear me babble on about the need to reduce waste? Not endless, I presume. But hear my out, just one more time. I want to invite you to join me in keeping the world neat, but not quite in the same way I have before.

Past blog posts were all about ways you could reduce waste at home. Mostly, how to reduce plastic consumption, and alternatives to single-use plastics. However, I get that most people feel as if that doesn’t make much of a difference. What impact can one person’s actions actually have? While I am a non-believer in the word negligible, I can see why some people will feel as if removing plastic completely out of their lives will be a lot of work, for “very little outcome”. We define an action’s worth based on the results. The trouble is that the results are not very easily seen. Who will actually see how keeping one plastic ring that holds soda cans together out of the ocean can prolong a turtle’s life? The effects of our actions may not be visible, but it does not mean they don’t exist. But since results are better convincers for most about the need for action…

I want to invite you to participate in something a bit different, but equally neat. I invite all readers, friends, and families to join me this Sunday for a trash pick up! Doesn’t sound fun? There will be free coffee from my friends at Neat Coffee and free pastries from my friends at Rye Goods. It will be at Newport Aquatic Center, and there will be kayaks so that participants can go out into the water and look for floating trash. For those who prefer to stick to their own two feet, there will be terrain to cover. Consider it the last hurrah for Plastic Free July!

Mike and I have participated in the monthly trash clean up events organized by Ally from Neat Coffee for the past three months. It’s something we do to continue living our truth. We have been to a different park each time, and each time, we learn something new.

  • We learn that passerbys are impressed, as well as shocked, when they see us picking up trash.
  • We get thanked by strangers for our work, which shows us that they acknowledge there is work that needs to be done.
  • We always find a ton of trash, which also teaches us that there is work to be done, in terms of educating people about the impact they are making on the environment.
  • There is trash that is purposefully left behind. For example, beer bottles hung up on tree branches, out of reach, which required someone to climb up the tree, and hang them upside down on branches that would support the bottles’ weight.
  • We learn that we are not the only ones. One of my favorite memories was when we came across another person holding a bag and walking around with one of those extended claws. He saw us and commented, “Someone else is awake.” Yes, we all need to wake up. It seems he picks up trash on the regular too.
  • We learned that some people feel like other people’s trash is not their responsibility. A couple came across us picking up trash on one occasion, and the man commented, “If you’re looking for trash, there’s always a lot down where the homeless people stay. Just stay on the path to the right and you will reach it. I always see trash there.”
  • Lastly, we learned that seeing the results is a way bigger motivator than not seeing the results. Seeing a group of people come together for a cause is a bigger inspiration than doing something yourself. And seeing how much trash we collect from a two hour stroll is a better convincer at how much still has yet to be done.

So will you take two hours out of your Sunday, and let the world teach you something too? Together, we can keep-it-neat!

Please RSVP here so that they have enough kayaks, coffee, and pastries.

Sunday, July 29th
Time: 8am – 10am
Location: Newport Aquatic Center- 1 Whitecliffs Dr. Newport Beach, CA

 

 

 

Less Waste: Starbuck’s New Plastic Lid

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

It thrills me that the plastic free trend is circulating the web and filling people’s conscience more and more. There’s nary a day that I am reminded by a fellow blogger or environmentalist about the effects of our daily lifestyle decisions. It seems to be that others are jumping onto the bandwagon too, as more people are following suit. Friends and family occasionally reach out to ask about our KeepCups, and a few have shared that they’ve been inspired to buy their own. So how excited was I when I first learned of Starbuck’s initiative to be more plastic free?

Starbuck’s drinkers have probably heard by now that Starbucks started deviating from the dreaded plastic straws in exchange for a straw-less lid. The lid allows you to drink your favorite cool, summery drinks with an adult lid that has an opening on the side. A little messier, maybe, a lot better for the environment. Or so we are led to believe.

Things to Consider

A more in-depth study on the plastic lids themselves revealed that there is something between 0.32 and 0.88 grams of increase in the amount of plastic in the newer lids when compared to the old lids and straws. In reality, then, more plastic is being created and introduced into the world. Since the plastic lids are brand new (It is cheaper to create plastic parts brand new than it is to create it from recycled plastic materials), they are technically contributing more plastic waste than if we stuck with the traditional straw and lid.

When Starbucks was questioned about the additional weight of the new lids, Starbucks acknowledged its truth. They did bring up a point, which was that the new lids were recyclable, whereas the old straws were not. Unfortunately, that leaves all responsibility to the consumer, who must have the drive to recycle responsibly. Changing the lid does not create a solution. We still need to push consumers to change their mindset about plastic. Awareness is key to the solution. Without that switch, what will end up happening is even more plastic being introduced to the environment.

The Good In All This

The good in all this is that ridding ourselves of plastic straws raises awareness. People who are used to getting drinks with straws will realize that we can do without. Additionally, they will slowly expect to have straws with their drinks less often. Lastly, people will have to think about the reasons behind the disappearances of straws, starting with Starbucks, but hopefully, the trend spread to other restaurants and fast food chains. And when we think about the reasons why, the hope is that we will start to merge into the “how”. How can we also move this forward in our own lives?

Ways You Can Help

There are many ways in which we can help the situation.

  • Start a conversation with your Starbucks barista. Ask them about their thoughts on the situation. Make it known that you are aware of the difference between lids. Perhaps the customer feedback will have them switching to a new, better solution.
  • Order your drink without the lid and the straw. With practice, you, too, will be capable of drinking a frappe from a cup or glass, without the spills.
  • Carry your own re-usable, metal straw. These are the ones that I carry around in my purse.
  • Carry your own cup. Our favorite one is the Espresso 12 0z. KeepCup, which can be found here. We have matching his and hers cups!
  • Recycle the lid, if one ever ends up on your hands.
  • Make coffee in the comfort of your home. We’ve got you covered with your cold-brew recipe and a Café de Olla recipe needs.
  • Don’t assume that companies’ efforts in reducing waste reduces waste. Delve a bit deeper and see how it creates an impact.
  • Spread the word by talking with your friends and family. Lead by example by nixing the plastic in your everyday. Get the conversation going.

Less Waste: Join Me for Plastic Free July!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Hi everyone! I wanted to reach out and invite people to join me for Plastic Free July. Plastic Free July is a movement created to challenge consumers to refuse plastic use in July and is meant to raise awareness of the problems with single-use disposable plastic. The challenge is very easy; Create no plastic waste for the whole month of July! Startinggggg, right now (Happy first!). If you feel as if this is too overwhelming, then maybe take it back a notch and refuse all single-use disposable plastic (consider triple or quadruple used plastics oh-kayed). Why is it that this movement exists? A few facts…

  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

  • 50% of the plastic produced is used just once and thrown away.

  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.

  • Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated). Source

  • A trillion plastic bags are used around the world each year. Source

  • The average time that a plastic bag is used for is… twelve minutes! Source

Watching the Plastic Ocean documentary on Netflix was such an eye-opener for Mike and I, and for others who we have recommended the documentary to. I think that’s also another good place to start to learn a little bit more.

Meanwhile, I will try to make a weekly suggestion list of ways we could deny ourselves single use plastics in our everyday lives during this month. I have written about bathrooms extensively in the past, but I think it is one of the easiest places where we can cut down plastic waste. So I am writing about it AGAIN. Many products that you find in a bathroom are packaged in plastic containers or bags. Try counting the number of plastic containers in your bathroom right now. Search in every cabinet and drawer, and I am sure you will find more than what you first thought. Here are some tips from related posts, wrangled into one place.
Related Posts:

5 tips for a plastic free bathroom

  1. Switch to a metal razor

    Going for a safety razor it’s the most eco way to shave. They’re made out of stainless steel so they’re recyclable at the end of their life.

  2. DIY deodorant

    Ok, you don’t have to DIY, but there are some great natural deodorants out there that help you cut down on aerosols, chemicals and plastic. I personally use Schmidt’s, packaged in a glass jar, to try to limit the plastic packaging.

  3. Go back to soap

    Good old soap has been forgotten – but it’s a pretty amazing multi-tasker and can work as a lather for shaving, a cleanser and even shampoo! I wrote about my love for soap once, but if you don’t feel quite ready to make the switch, try choosing refillable aluminum cans for your shampoo and conditioner with Plaine Products. They also released a new face wash and face moisturizer. To get 30% OFF of their new releases, use code PPNEW2018 at checkout. Also, for the first week of July, they will be running a sale for all their other products. To receive 20% OFF, use the code PFJ20 at checkout between July 1 and July 7.

  4. Brush with Bogobrush

    There are many toothbrushing options out there, from bamboo to recycled plastic to biodegradable hemp, and more. I personally use Bogobrush, but any of those options are fine. Since all options are manual toothbrushes, make sure to brush well. Here’s a guide if you need a refresher! Use the Bogobrush link on my page to receive your first subscription for FREE.

  5. Tackle your toilet paper

    Most toilet paper comes wrapped in plastic (and is made with trees). Go for a bidet, or Who Gives A Crap, which isn’t wrapped in plastic, and which is $10 OFF using my link.

Toilet Paper Company Who Gives A Crap + $10 OFF

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Toilet paper is a thing you never want to run out of. But as of late, I have been suffering from qualms about where to source ethical toilet paper. I have switched over to Seventh Generation toilet papers more than a year ago, because they are 100% recycled, but I still didn’t like that they came packaged in plastic. Try as I might, there was nary a roll that could solve my anti-plastic problem. It perturbs me so much that a necessity such as TP should require plastic wrapping, that I started considering alternatives and having conversations with friends who have gone the bidet route instead. Bidets are awesome and zero waste, and everyone who owns one swears by them. However, I am not about to spend a couple hundred dollars in order to go zero waste. And then I remembered, oh wait. TP is NOT a necessity. It’s a privilege and a convenience. Didn’t I say I was going to rid my life of conveniences that are unfriendly to the environment and do not align with my core values? So I started to think about nixing toilet papers all-together without getting a bidet, and doing things the old-fashioned way.

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I remember the first time I started using toilet paper. I was thirteen years old. Ew, you say? No, not ew. Actually, on the contrary, people from my culture find butt-wiping with paper to be quite unsanitary, ineffective, and unclean. Think about it – you’re essentially using paper to remove particles, without even so much as a way to wash or sanitize your bum. In the Philippines, there is no toilet paper, typically. Go to a public restroom and all you’ll see is a bucket in the corner by the sinks filled with water. You take a small little bucket and grab water if you are going number two, and if you are going number one, then you pass on that. I remember returning to my country for a one-week dental mission trip, and hearing stories of colleagues twerking in stalls next door. Funny thing was, I myself was perturbed and had Kleenexes in backs of scrub pockets just in case I needed to go to a public restroom. According to my home country’s standards, if you were actually to clean yourself, you would wash with water and soap after every seat you take on that porcelain bowl. That’s just the way it was done. My mom was anti-toilet paper for the longest time. I remember cousins visiting from Virginia and my mom complaining that they were “wasting paper”. So yeah, for the first thirteen years of my life, I did not use toilet paper. Like, ever.

I was just about to revert to my old ways when I discovered Who Gives A Crap, which is probably what you’ve been wondering during this post thus far. Finally, TP packaged and delivered in bulk, with not a single ounce of plastic in sight.

Good for the world, their toilet paper is made from 100% recycled paper, thus saving trees from having to wipe our bums. Speaking of bums, they’ll be happy to learn that the paper contains no inks, dyes, or scents. More importantly, this TP makes a difference for people in need.

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Who Gives a Crap is an Aussie company started by three dudes  (Simon, Jehan and Danny) when they realized in 2012 that 2.3 billion people across the world do not have access to a toilet. That’s roughly 40% of the global population! It also means that 289,000 children under the age of 5 years old die every year from diarheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s almost 800 children per day, or one child every 2 minutes. So they decided to give a crap about it. Who Gives A Crap donates 50% of the profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. To date, they have donated over $1.2 million Aussie dollars to charity, while saving trees, water, and energy. You can learn more about their impact here.

On top of that, their marketing is AH-MAZING. I mean, selling toilet paper does not seem like a fun job, but they definitely make it fun! The packaging around each roll has suggestions on how the paper can be reused – ie: as wrapping paper or gift tags! Three of the thirty rolls are dedicated for emergencies. As in, DO NOT OPEN these rolls unless you are running low, or for the unplanned. A perfect reminder that a new box is in order. And if you think that recycled paper is uncomfortable for the bum, trial proves that it is not. Tres-ply paper goes a long way, although for those seeking a more luxurious feel than saying “three” in French, there IS also the “premium” option, made from 100% bamboo. They also sell forest friendly tissues and forest friendly paper towels, in case you haven’t made the switch to linen just yet.

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Now I know the question that’s all on your minds. What’s the cost? The price is actually not bad! They have bulk orders of 24 double rolls for $30 but by using this link HERE, you can get $10 OFF, which then makes it $20 for 24 rolls! Or you can order 48 rolls for $48, and with the $10 OFF, it makes it very comparable to other toilet paper rolls selling at Target. Plus, it is important to note that you aren’t just buying toilet paper. You are buying others access to dignity, health, and an overall improved quality of life! Plus, trees are meant for Koalas, not bums. So next time you are running low, use the code and try Who Gives A Crap. Because we ALL should give a crap.

PS: I am still considering the bidet route though. Friends still swear by it. Or going primal and embracing au naturale. But at least I have this option too.

The Ever-Growing List of Things I Have Given Up in the Name of Creating Less Waste

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Hearing about the environmental impacts of our everyday lifestyle choices can be a bit overwhelming. The realization that 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year, and that half of that is meant to be single-use can be very depressing. One may want to change that statistic, but it is easy to feel like the power of one is so small. I am here to tell you that it is not. Because the power of one turns to two and then to four, and so on. Imagine, if only 20% of the world’s population changed their consumption so as to create less waste, that would mean that there are 1.52 BILLION people who are consciously choosing not to use a plastic water bottle every day they go to work. Multiplied by the number of days in a year, and you can see the tremendous impact that may have. Extrapolate that to also forgoing plastic bags at the groceries, and to-go utensils at a fast food restaurant, and you’ve got a big dent in plastic consumption already. So we must try. I believe that each individual can contribute to a massive change.

Related Posts

The question is, “where to start?” That, itself, can be overwhelming as well. I am here to say that starting the process is very simple, and easy. You don’t have to go zero-waste like, TODAY. That’s very unsustainable, and will probably make you want to quit faster than anything. We want the change to be slow, but steady. Choose one change that you can make each month, or week, or if you’re like me, each day. Practice that change and if you slip up, no worries, you learn and you can continue on for the next time. We all have slip ups! And we also all have our limitations. If you try to implement a change and you REALLY cannot stick to it, then that’s fine. Try a different one. Maybe come back to it at a later stage, when you’re more well-versed in letting waste go. All I know is that over time, the changes become easier and easier. I want to show people that creating less waste is a simple act of being mindful of what we do. It is easier than most think, and has impacts more than just environmental, which you must discover for yourself. The only way I can think of showing people, is to make a list of things I do myself.

My tips?

Start with one.

Practice, practice, practice.

Have a reason, “Why”.

Be okay with failure.

Just try.


 

  • Plastic drink bottles – I now carry around a re-usable water bottle wherever I go. The reason is two-fold. First, I am ALWAYS thirsty. And second, you never know if you will have access to water sans plastic where you go. You can be going to a friend’s house and all they still have available is water packaged in bottles. So I take my water with me, everywhere.
  • Plastic Grocery Bags – Bring your own re-usable grocery bags. I was so happy when the law got passed that grocery stores will charge an extra fee for plastic bags, but I was unhappy at how little it curbed people’s habits. People’s number one excuse? “I accidentally leave it at home”. Do what I do, and keep it in the back of your car, always!
  • Plastic produce bags – I never package my produce in plastic anymore. I just grab my fruits and veggies and throw them right into my grocery cart. I also have two mesh bags to keep together bunches of stuff, such as brussel sprouts for instance. Anything that can be difficult to put on the conveyor belt at the check-out stand in one go. But mostly, I go without. Why do we need separate bags for our produce? Even the wet lettuce just gets thrown into the bin. It’ll dry on it’s own.
  • Paper Towels – I wrote about how I nixed paper towels by replacing them with rags. Even better, our rags are a collection of old T-shirts amongst us three roommates.
  • To -go cups – I carry around a Keep Cup in the back of my car at all times. Even though this is useful for coffee mostly, it can also be used for soda from a soda machine. It is actually my universal cup. The lid seals and I can throw it in my purse, even with liquid in there! It’s my favorite.
  • Frozen foods – There are some types of food you just can’t buy without plastic. Frozen foods is one of them. I have not bought frozen foods in over a year. The cost for convenience is just too great. And my health is better for it, too! In general, I try not to buy anything in plastic when we go grocery shopping. Plastic jars are traded in for glass jar alternatives. Meats and cheeses are purchased fresh and wrapped in paper. Pasta and bread and ice cream are made at home, using ingredients that could be bought in paper bags or glass containers. I even bring my own jar to get fresh squeezed orange juice, or cold brew, or peanut butter. The list goes on, here.
  • Plastic utensils – I actually carry around metal spoons, forks, knives, straws and wooden chopsticks in my purse, all the time. I have a utensil holder that keeps them clean and together, too.
  • To – go containers – I have been seen to pull out a tupperware from my purse to package the food that I don’t finish when we dine out.
  • Fast food, in general – This is another one that is better for our health. Fast food is typically wrapped individually, and sometimes contain plastic. We will break our fast food streak once every 2-3 months, to purchase things wrapped in paper, I suppose. But in general, even the paper we try to avoid.
  • Single use products for the menstruating person- I wrote about how menstruating persons should invest in a reusable cup, to get rid of single-use tampons and pads. It’s environmentally friendly, and cost efficient to boot!
  • Plastic covers and wire hangers from the dry cleaners – I am one of those people who goes to pick up my clothes from the local dry cleaners, and strips them off the of hanger and out of the plastic right then and there. They look at me funny, but never say anything. They take the hangar and plastic back for re-use.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion packaged in plastic bottles – I have switched over to Plaine Products, which packages toiletries in aluminum cans that are refillable!
  • Plastic toothbrushes – We have now switched over to exclusively Bogobrush toothbrushes, although I am open to try bamboo toothbrushes in the future.
  • Deoderant packaged in plastic containers – I buy deoderant in glass jars such as this. I wish it were refillable – I guess my next step would be to make some at home in order to reduce waste all together.
  • Gift wrap and greeting cards – I love the way a present looks wrapped up with a bow, all pretty and sparkling. But then I think about what happens to all that fluff once the present is unwrapped. Most likely, without a two year old to play with it, it would go straight to the trash bin. It’s true that we have cut down our gifting significantly, but even those few gifts that we give, they are now given without gift wrap, or covered in a linen napkin, if anything.
  • Gift cards – Money placed on plastic cards; ugh. If we are gifting money, we either write a check, or better yet, hand over cash, so as to avoid wasting a check.
  • Cosmetics – I never was into make-up. Luckily, I never feel the need to wear it. I have created a very minimalist make-up routine, and since then I have switched over to a traditional pencil eyeliner and an eyebrow pencil, which are sharpened to wee stubs, and which are essentially just wood. I used to wear mascara but when my last one ran out, I couldn’t find an alternative without plastic. So I have actually been going without, and no one has mentioned a thing yet.
  • Driving around everywhere – The best investment Mike and I ever made were two bikes. I guess you can’t call mine an investment, because it was a hand-me-down from my old man. But Mike bought a used one from Craigslist for $100. We have now made a huge effort to reduce carbon emissions by biking on weekends to our coffee shop dates, farmers markets, and groceries. Anywhere, really, that we could bike to.
  • Stuff, in general – I have less of everything, which then creates less waste. Why I ever needed multiples of stuff, I will never know. I used to have like fifteen water bottles, over fifty pairs of shoes, hundreds of articles of clothing and accessories.

Things to do on Earth Day

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For those looking to celebrate Earth Day, here are some fun, and simple suggestions.

  • Join a group for a beach clean up.

Or gather a group of friends and family and do it on your own. Also applicable to nearby parks, lakes, neighborhoods, and more. Make it a fun event so that more people will want to go. Here’s a local option in Orange County, if you are around.

  • Make a habit shift.

For example, when you do groceries this Sunday, try our No Plastic Challenge. We make an effort to never leave a grocery store with single-use plastic containers, even if they ARE recyclable. There are many habits worth shifting. If this challenge is too difficult, then start with something small, such as carrying a reusable water bottle.

  • Ride bikes everywhere you go.

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Every weekend, Mike and I make an effort to bike and walk everywhere. Last week, we biked to our coffee shop to refill our re-usable Cold Brew Howler. We walked to a restaurant when we wanted to dine out, and we bike to the library when we have to drop off books. Anything to try to limit car usage. In Mexico, I was very impressed to see that every Sunday, they close down the roads from 8 am to 4 pm so that people can bike and roller blade all day. It not only promotes physical activity and community, but also eco-friendly habits. Once we realized how close and accessible everything was on a bike, we started to use it more and more. Try it out for yourself!

  • Plant an herb garden.

While planting trees would be ideal, some such as ourselves do not have a backyard (or front yard for that matter). But I DO dream of planting an herb garden on our balcony one day. Why not start on Earth Day?

  • Simply get outside.

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Notice the sun warming your face, the sound of trees moving in the wind, the smell of an ocean breeze. We can’t learn to appreciate the Earth if we don’t take the time to acknowledge it’s worth.

How about you guys? Doing anything fun this Earth Day? Leave comments and suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Less Waste: Nix Paper Towels All Together

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I have not bought paper towels in over a year. Mostly as a direct result of my steely drive to avoid all things disposable, as best I could. Partly, to save the planet, partly to save money. Which is all fine and good, since I’ve spent countless years throwing these sheets of paper like confetti on a new year’s eve, celebrating what, exactly, I’m not sure. Convenience?

I find paper towels to be extremely unnecessary. I tried to make a list of all the things I used paper towels for in the past, and I have found that I could always substitute a re-usable, washable, sturdier piece of cloth. For example, for wiping messy mouths and hands at the dinner table, substitute linen napkins. For wiping down newly washed dinnerware, substitute kitchen towel. For wiping down surfaces sprayed with chemically-laden cleaning supplies, substitute rags. For straining oil from deeply fried foods, leave it to a strainer. Or may I suggest, eliminate deeply fried foods? Except maybe for extremely moody days, when nothing will comfort you except freshly pipetted churros. Then, strainers it is.

Despite my history with paper towel use, I think there was always a part of me that was inclined against its extravagant use. I could thank my mother for this, as images of her tearing off corners of paper towel sheets, rather than the perforated lines that were meant to dictate how much could be used at a time, surface to my mind. As is the usual case, we turn into our parents whether we mean to or not. I remember when Mike and I started living together, and he noticed my funny paper towel use, something I was oblivious to. He asked one day, with a little exasperation in his voice, “Why do you tear them like that?” I look up, surprised at the jagged edges at the end of a paper towel roll hanging limply in the kitchen heat, not realizing what I had done. Reflexively, I answered, “So as not to waste it.”

When I decided to reduce waste, paper towels were one of the first things I let go. Nevermind that they were paper, which is a biodegradable material. They were unnecessary. That, and they seem to only come sold in plastic packaging. It seems that reducing waste and simplifying life came hand in hand in my story, so it was fairly easy to justify nixing the habit. What do we use instead?

Linen napkins, for every day dining.

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We got these for a wedding gift, and we use them all the time! Whether we are hosting for a party of twelve, or eating burgers by our lonesome selves, these are always at hand, you know, to stay proper and all. I love linen, mostly for the way it looks and feels. It softens up over time, and the grey color allows me to dig into barbeque sauces and dribble mustard without worrying about staining (as if I can help the dribbling!). Like all cloth alternatives, I simply toss these in the wash along with other towels and rags and call it a day.

Kitchen towels, from drying hands to drying dishes.

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These are always hanging from the cabinets, and each one has a designated role. The one under the sink is for wet hands, the one underneath the stove is for dry hands. There is one for drying dishes, and one for wiping down the coffee machines. Sometimes, they are used to cover resting dough, to keep the draft away. Sometimes they are used to top bowls of fruit left on the counter. Their uses are never-ending, and they are as reliable as an old friend.

Old tees, turned into rags.

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Last week, we were hosting our usual boardgame night at our loft, when as chance would have it, a friend knocks over a glass of beer amidst a dramatic hand-gesture, and then catches it mid-air, but alas, with beer sloshing all over the floor. As laughter fills the room and apologies are brushed to the side, Mike gets up from the table and grabs a kitchen rag. Or, in our case, an old tee. My friend immediately picked up on the cloth, and credulously inquired, “Did you just grab a T Shirt?!” To which we had to explain that, in order to reduce waste, we had re-purposed T shirts into useful cleaning supplies. The roommate herself even pitched in on the “up-cycling” and donated her own used tees to our communal rag pile sitting underneath the sink. “I guess…”, the guest says dubiously. But when the beer spills for the second time that day, up the guest gets and grabs the tee and wipes down the mess. Which goes to show that habits can easily be shifted, perceptions easily changed, differences easily made. So what if it’s not glamorous, or matching, or new. It’s functional, and practical, and kind to the environment.

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An old tee, catching the drips from a bamboo drying rack.

How about you guys? Ways to rid of paper towel use? How many years abstinence have you got? Words of wisdom welcomed.

For the curious, we absolutely love our collapsible bamboo dish rack, easily stored when guests are over and brought out on a busy weeknight. We got ours from Mother’s Market, but a similar one can be found here. The grey linens are a wedding gift from Restoration Hardware, although similar and more ethically made ones can be found here.