It’s hard to believe, but Zero Waste Week 2022 is upon us! It kicked off today and goes throughout the week til Saturday January 29th.
To our local Gainesville, FL residents: Zero Waste Week will include both in person and online events. We are always looking for ways to involve more residents and can’t wait to celebrate sustainability with you.
To our readers far and wide: Zero Waste Week isn’t just for local residents! Due to the pandemic we have moved much of the celebrations online, and you can join in the fun!
Haven’t heard of Zero Waste Week?
If you haven’t heard of Gainesville’s Zero Waste Week it is a collaborative event focusing on policy and lifestyle choices that will further a sustainable, waste-free future for our beautiful city.
Zero Waste Gainesville (a community-led initiative) is devoted to education and awareness, as well as policy change that will protect our environment while having a positive impact on our collective health and economy.
Partners of Zero Waste Week (presented by Zero Waste Gainesville, The Repurpose Project, and Life Unplastic) include the City of Gainesville, Alachua County, Beaten Path Compost, Sierra Club Suwanee – St. Johns Group, We Are Neutral, NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, and Working Food.
Zero Waste Week 2022
First and foremost, if you want to stay up-to-date with information and join in the conversation, sign up for the Zero Waste Week newsletter by filling out this form.
In 2022, we will dive deep on the following topics:
City of Gainesville’s Zero Waste Ordinance
Rescuing Edible Food
Reuse and Repurpose
If you’re signed up, you’ll receive a newsletter each day of the week with information and action points on each eco-friendly topic.
You can also check out content as it’s posted on zerowastegainesville.com under the tab: Zero Waste Week.
And if you’re in town, check out this event:
January 28: Clothing Swap and Art Installation at Reuse Planet (1540 NE Waldo Rd) – 5:00-8:00pm
All Week Long: Save 15% at Life Unplastic on all your eco-swaps and refills!
The Zero Waste Ordinance
If you’re reading this blog, it’s probably because you’re interested in doing your part for sustainability. But if you’ve been following me for any amount of time you know that the most effective way to reduce waste is further up the waste cycle.
That’s why policy is so important. We need to reduce and reuse first, then talk about recycling and waste management. In order for this to work, we need governments and businesses working together with the proper supply chains.
That is why Zero Waste Gainesville focuses heavily on policy change. And in 2019, Gainesville took the first step by banning plastic straws and stirrers.
Then in 2020, a subcommittee was formed to write up the first draft of the Zero Waste Ordinance. The resulting action plans will be rolled out over the coming years, but we encourage you to get involved and support the initiative to ensure our city continues its journey toward sustainability. Stay tuned with Zero Waste Week to learn more about how you can support the Zero Waste Ordinance.
Next steps include curbside compost collection for both private residences and businesses, curbing student move-out waste, and diverting grocery store and food vendor waste streams.
What Zero Waste Week – Gainesville means to you:
As a citizen, this is a great opportunity to get informed, get involved, and help move Gainesville in the direction you want to see it go.
As a business owner, this the perfect opportunity to find out more about what a Zero Waste Ordinance would mean for your business.
“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When you throw something away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard
Check out these Zero Waste Resources with guides to reducing waste in all aspects of your life, plus finding local thrift stores, and how to compost.
Alright, I’m just gonna come right out and say it: New Year’sresolutions aren’t for me.
I’m a list person. Lists all day, every day. Writing down and/or vocalizing our goals are a wonderful way to find focus and commitment in any aspect of life. But I have never been able to properly manage a first of the year, sweeping lifestyle change or “resolution”, with any kind of permanent results.
I have always had a lot more success implementing small changes that over time led to a shift in my consumer mindset. Lasting lifestyle change has been the result and not the goal, if that makes sense.
That being said, here’s a way (well, many small ways) for you to become a more eco-friendly version of yourself in 2022 without making traditional New Year’s resolutions that don’t stick.
The 2022 Eco Mini-Challenges
Alright, so how this works is – instead of one never-ending, perfect or perish resolution – challenge yourself (sounds fun, right?) to focus on various aspects of a sustainable lifestyle each month, and see where you can (and you will!) make improvements.
Even if you don’t stick with each one, you’ll get a taste for different eco-friendly solutions and a feel for what fits with you.
You don’t have to follow the order presented here and if you don’t get to all of them, that’s ok too. Just pick a few that seem like a good place to start and jot one at the top of your calendar each month.
1. Track Your Trash
A great way to get clear on where you can individually make the most impact and send less to the landfill is to conduct a waste audit. Know your trash, then reduce it.
What’s a waste audit?
It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You’ll be able to see the big picture of what you’re throwing away for the month (or even just a week!).
Once you’ve tallied up all your trash, look for what items have the most marks. Those are likely the most impactful places where you could start looking for eco-friendly alternatives.
There’s two easy ways to do this:
Before you take the trash out to the curb, dump it all out and tally up what’s there. This is alot more pleasant process if you’re composting your food scraps separately.
Keep a piece of paper by the trash can and write it down as it goes in.
Betsy and her sidekick, Georgia, will show you how to perform a home waste audit to help you begin your zero waste lifestyle. A waste audit helps you learn what you are throwing away so you can begin making different choices to avoid items that create waste.
Bets on the Planet is a show made by kids for kids to help them live a sustainable life that is good for the Earth.
2. Practice Mindful Shopping
The most sustainable product is the one you don’t buy, but it’s so easy to casually shop when products are being waved in our faces 24/7.
The challenge here is to pause when you pull out your credit card this month. Ask yourself –
Do I really need it?
Will I use it more than once?
Is there a way to get it package free, packaged in, or made from compostable materials?
If the answer is *no* to one or more, just don’t buy it.
Admittedly, this can be tough! Our minds are programmed to get excited about novelty and that boost of serotonin when we buy or gift something is :chef’s kiss:. I will say, there is also a lot of empowerment in successfully saying NO to the barrage of tailored advertisements, so I encourage you to give it a shot.
Ultimately, retraining our thought processes around consumerism shouldn’t feel like restraint or punishment, so feel free to reward yourself in some way whenever you pass on a purchase. It takes a lot of mindful acknowledgment to celebrate not buying something.
Rewards can be anything from relaxing in a bubble bath, to borrowing a new book from the library, or taking a fun fitness class.
Reducing our consumption is one of the most powerful ways we can be environmentally friendly, because so many resources are invested into making new things. Alternatively, you could seek out an eco-friendly alternative, try to borrow it from a friend, make it yourself, or even look for a used one.
Bonus: a very real world benefit from mindful shopping is saving money! All those little (and big) impulse buys in a month can really add up. You’ll see!
I can’t express enough how important and impactful it is to compost your food waste, no matter your situation. You can contribute directly to a circular economy in a profound way. Not only does food that has been landfilled produce methane, a green house gas contributor, but also it is a missed opportunity to convert those scraps back into rich soil that can be used… to grow more food!
But, before we talk about how to compost, let me back up for a second. Depending on how much food you’re currently chucking every week, you may benefit greatly from taking a few days this month to peruse the websites and social media feeds of people like Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef.
She will show you how to get the most bang for your buck, with regard to food, food waste, and finding the value in what we may generally consider scraps. It’s inspiring, I love her work!
Now to come back to composting the scraps that are left. From back yard piles to indoor worm bins, there are MANY ways to compost, even if you live in an apartment. Or look for a local composting service. For instance, in Gainesville where I live, there is Beaten Path Compost. They make it so easy with multiple drop off locations around town and they have a weekly pickup for some neighborhoods.
Further, once you get your food scraps out of your trash can, things like waste audits become much easier and you can really get a good look at what is making up the balance of your waste.
There are so many benefits to composting and I feel so passionately about it, that I can safely exclaim if you don’t do anything else this year, you should start composting.
4. Green Your Cleaning Routine
As spring cleaning routines kick off, be conscious of your scrubbing habits. Mainstream cleaning agents are expensive and often include toxic chemicals that end up in our waterways and pollute humans as well as wildlife. Plus, the packaging is almost always unrecycleable single-use plastic.
There are lots of ways to green your cleaning routine. Swap out rags for paper towels, and try a natural loofah instead of a sponge. You could also make your own cleaners with simple ingredients like baking soda!
Spend the month being conscious of your cleaning habits. Looking for an advanced challenge? See how many days you can go without a paper towel.
5. Plant a Garden
Or just a few containers! Even if all you try this year is a couple herbs in your kitchen window, it counts.
Growing our own food (and buying local) is a wonderful way to embrace sustainability. Plus it’s super rewarding.
Looking for easy starter plants? Try corn, cucumbers, squash or zucchini.
6. Going Meatless
You probably know that our modernized animal agriculture systems are damaging to our environment, but it can be really tough for people to give up meat. Don’t worry, I get it. I encourage you to give it a shot anyway because both the health AND environmental benefits are worth the effort.
Try challenging a friend or family member and see who can sustain a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle the longest. Or take a baby step and see if you can do #MeatlessMonday every week this month.
One of my favorite and EASY meals with minimal dishes is a stuffed baked potato with a mixed green, vinaigrette dressed salad. Ideas for stuffings: roasted veggies (my go-to is broccoli and mushrooms), spinach and cheese, classic butter and sour cream, or peppers and onions with plant-based sausage.
7. Volunteer for a Green Cause
Your challenge during this month is to sign up for an eco-friendly event like a creek or beach clean up, or planting trees with the Arbor Day Foundation. Bonus points if you bring a friend!
If you’re not able to commit to volunteering in person, consider making a donation if you are able.
8. Travel Trashless
Another seemingly difficult place to reduce single-use plastics is when we travel. I don’t just mean vacations or work trips. Even our daily commute to work is often fraught with coffee shop stops and midday snacks.
Challenge yourself to see how many days in a row you can go without accepting or using takeaway disposables and single-use plastics.
Also, be sure to say out loud, every time, at restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, and markets: “Thanks but I don’t need a bag, straws, napkins, cutlery, condiments, lids, etc.” Of course don’t list all of that at a grocery store, just what’s applicable. They’ll sometimes forget and still give it to you, keep saying it anyway! Normalize asking for exactly what you need instead of taking disposables you just toss in the trash 5 minutes later.
Pro tip: Keep a reusable water bottle, thermos, and set of silverware in the car. Bring your own lunch and homemade snacks. And for mastery level: take a set of clean tupperware with you so you can take home leftovers without a to-go box.
9. Digital Detox
Don’t think of digital detoxing as eco-friendly? It really is! When you add up all your screen time, you’d be surprised how much energy it consumes.
Check out your digital wellness app for some stats about your smartphone screen time and see if you can cut it back this month.
Set a stopwatch when you watch TV and keep a record of it. See if you can cut back a bit each week.
Bonus: When we reduce our screen time we tend to reconnect with nature. Get outside and touch some grass.
10. Nurture Your Love of Nature
Sometimes we get so caught up in making our daily lives more eco-friendly, we forget what it’s all about.
Your challenge this month is to schedule four days that you’re going to do something to celebrate the natural world around us. Whether it’s a day trip to the beach, or a picnic in the woods; feeding the ducks, or the seagulls; laying in your front yard and watching the sky or dancing in the rain – take a conscious moment to remember why we’re doing all this. Really feel your connection to mother nature. Again, bring your friends or family and spread the love.
11. Trim your Transportation
Take a moment this month to look at your transportation. If you drive to work, are there days you could telework instead? What about finding a carpool buddy?
Do those old bikes in the garage still work? What if you cycle to a nearby restaurant or park for your next date night?
When possible, take public transportation instead of driving separately. And if you’re taking a longer trip, drive rather than fly whenever you can!
See what you can do to keep your comings and goings green this year.
12. Share Your Journey
We don’t often think about social media as an eco-friendly act. In fact, in a lot of ways social media contributes to our consumer-driven downfalls.
But when used for good, social persuasion is a powerful thing. We are most influenced by those we trust and respect, so when we see something posted by a friend, it affects us more.
Your challenge this month is to post one day/week about a sustainability win you’ve had this year. Whether it’s a product that’s changed your life and habits, or the basket of veggies you grew in your garden – let’s hear about it!
And don’t forget to tag us at @unplasticgnv. We want to celebrate with you!
Celebrate Your Successes
Adopting sweeping life changes overnight is impractical and unlikely to stick. It’s overwhelming and unnatural.
The best thing we can do for the planet is whatever works within our own lives. If you try these 12 sustainable challenges in 2022 I will be greatly surprised if you don’t find something that brings you joy.
Maybe you discover you love carpooling with your new coworker, or you find community with the wildlife volunteers. Or you discover that it gives you deep satisfaction to tell the waiter “No thanks, I don’t need a to-go box” as you pull out your reusable tupperware.
Whatever works for you, it all contributes to the greater cause. Here’s to a greener 2022!
Well, here we are – the Holiday Season is in full swing.
I know how chaotic it can feel and truly wish for you to have an opportunity to slow down and have some fun with it this year.
Making little handmade gifts is one of a few ways I can really tap into the holiday spirit (see also: driving around to see twinkly lights, my mom’s chocolate chip cookies, and Die Hard).
I’ve made a lot of different things over the years, but really don’t consider myself very “crafty”. So if I can do it, you can do it. I do try to add an extra personal touch by sharing a holiday family tradition or recreating something I’ve experienced throughout the year. Ideally I can incorporate supplies I already have on hand.
Did an idea just pop in your mind? Go with it!
If the ideas aren’t coming easy, read on for some inspiration. Everything can be accomplished in an afternoon and there’s lots of room for improvising the components with items you may already have on hand, whether you’re the creative type or not. And remember, if you get stuck – google is your friend.
Share the Self Care
Making your own candles is low waste and eco-friendly and guaranteed to be as non-toxic as the ingredients you use to make them.
The vessels you choose can turn these candles into true works of art. Repurpose a .50 thrift store coffee mug, vintage tea cup, or mason jar. Or maybe you have those little glass yogurt cups or old tea tins laying around. Hm!
If you prefer to go jarless, you can make small wax melts using a silicone ice cube tray.
Fancy up the tops of your candles or melts with some herbs, flowers, or dried fruits!
Why should you avoid paraffin wax? It is derived from petroleum and full of toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene which is released into the air when you burn them.
I strongly suggest using either raw beeswax or soy wax for something sustainable and safe to inhale.
*The wood wicks have a crackling feature for that extra *ambiance*.
**Beeswax candles naturally smell a little like honey, but you can use essential oils if you want to add some fragrance. If you’re going to do this, I recommend adding a bit of coconut oil since beeswax doesn’t seem to hold onto the scent quite as well.
Melt the wax and oil in a double boiler, then add the essential oils. Place the wicks in the jars and pour the mixture in, being sure to secure the wick with a clip (or tape to a pen) so that it holds in the middle while the candle cools.
Check out this video for a quick tutorial:
Body butter is easy to make while also ultra moisturizing and luxurious. This recipe has ingredients you can find by the ounce at Life Unplastic, but could of course altered based on what you might have on hand.
If you plan to use arrowroot powder, soften the coconut oil and mix the powder in. Then use a double boiler to melt the butters.
Remove from heat and mix the butter with the coconut oil. Refrigerate the mixture until it firms up a bit, then add the essential oils and “whip” the mixture with a fork or a standing mixer. Add it to your jars and store with the lid on at room temperature.
It will keep like this for 6 months or more, though I recommend always using clean hands when you scoop it out.
Most people don’t have bath bomb molds lying around and that’s OK. Look around and see what you have! You can make bath bombs into all kinds of shapes by using molds such as muffin tins (metal or silicone) and cookie cutters. And why make them traditional when they can be quirky and unique?
Their natural color is classic and elegant, but you can add different coloring agents. It’s important to be careful what dye you select, since if it’s not water soluble it will actually stain your tub (or the tub of the person you give it to! 😬)
This recipe yields 10 large bath bombs, so feel free to half it or adjust as needed. Again, almost all of these items may already be on hand in your home or can be purchased by the ounce at the shop.
The orange peel is optional, but it adds a nice natural color and helps soften and exfoliate your skin. Plus it has anti-inflammatory properties!
Whisk together the cornstarch, citric acid, epsom salt, dried orange peel, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the melted coconut oil, water, and essential oils (if using).
Very slowly add the oil mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring and mashing as you go. The end result should be similar to wet sand. Pack the mixture into your selected molds and allow to dry for at least 30 minutes (and up to 24 hours) before removing the mold.
Whip Up Delicious Consumable Concoctions
Ok here’s where your family traditions could shine or be adventurous and try something new, it’s all in the experience. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
Note: You could of course focus on what you have on hand first. I also carry a bunch of pantry staples by the ounce that will fill any gaps for a multitude of tasty, thoughtful gifts. There are so many options it’s difficult to list all the exact recipes.
**All of these consumables are great to package in clear jars with a little twine or reused bow to give as a gift.
Mix brown sugar (or raw sugar) with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne pepper if you like a little spice with your sweet. Add a splash of water and vanilla extract. Melt the mixture, stir in the nuts, then spread and cool them on a baking sheet before breaking them up and transferring to a container.
Cookies or Cake in a Jar:
Just mix together the dry ingredients for your favorite cookie or cake mix, then tie the instructions to the jar! We carry gluten free flour, raw sugar, and oats.
Perfect for literally anyone who loves to cook for their family. Grab your favorite chili or soup recipe and layer the dried ingredients like beans and spices in a jar. You can even add our vegan powdered broth mix. Write out and attach the instructions for the other steps, like sauteing diced veggies, adding a can of tomatoes or broth, then dumping the jar in a pot and letting it stew.
An alternative soup idea is this 13 bean fiesta soup mix. Simple and looks beautiful in a jar. Add cajun seasonings for a kick!
Put Together a Personalized Plastic-Free Gift Basket
And finally, as I look around the store it’s hard not to see all the different ways you could combine our environmentally friendly products to make tailored gifts for your friends and family. They are maybe not “DIY” in the traditional sense, but still very thoughtful and a great way to show you care.
One variety we are carrying is called ‘A Love Letter to Gainesville’ and proceeds support a program helping to eliminate food insecurity for local students.
For the homebody:
Make up a batch of super easy room freshening spray with just water, witch hazel, and essential oils! Lavender is great for relaxing a space and Lemon is refreshing and rejuvenating. We have colored glass or aluminum spray bottles so your gift is plastic-free, refillable, and non-toxic.
Foldable stainless cutlery set, bamboo toothbrush, and string grocery bag are just a few options for a starter kit that just makes sense. Other must haves: washable and reusable kitchen sponges, dishsoap block, Happy Willow shampoo bar, cotton produce bags.
Sustainable DIY Gifts Have Never Been Easier
So you see, there are many ways to put together eco-friendly gifts that won’t end up clogging our landfills and really show you care… about your people, and your planet
If you don’t have time for a visit, remember that shop items can be delivered within the Gainesville area. Order online or give us a call today.
I don’t know much about the infamous White Christmas, living in North Central Florida most of my life, but these days I’m dreaming of something a little more… green.
Y’all loved the Halloween Howliday Guide so I thought we’d bring it back for a chat about how to have a greener giving season. Considering its reputation for being a consumer-centric eco-disaster, it’s surprisingly easy to be more sustainable during the holidays. I used to really worry about gifting and receiving gifts, but once you establish some ground rules, with yourself as well as your friends and family, you’ll see how fun it is to be in full holiday-swing, without all the pollution and waste.
Reusing what you already have is always the most eco-friendly option and the most sustainable gift is the one you don’t buy, HOWEVER, a Zero Waste Lifestyle does not have to be restricting and giftless. We don’t have to be a bunch of Scrooges. We just need to embrace consumables, natural materials, and edit everything that doesn’t meet our expectations.
I’ll break it down a bit so you can reduce waste in all areas of the holidays.
Environmentally-Friendly Holiday Decorations
You’ve probably heard of popcorn garland and pinecone ornaments, but with a little creativity you can create some beautiful holiday decorations out of natural materials.
The first thing you’ll want to do is head out and collect materials. If you live in an area with woods this can be as simple as going for a walk! Keep an eye out for:
Dry grass stalks (especially ones with little seed tufts on the ends) or cattails
Twigs and branches of various sizes
Flowers for drying
Then you can supplement those materials with items you’ll find at local farms, supermarkets, on your Buy Nothing Group, at thrift or crafting stores. Consider:
Oranges, cranberries, pomegranates, or dried fruit
Nuts in the shell
Dried herbs or flowers
Burlap, muslin fabric, jute twice, or raffia ribbon
If you plan on going to a roadside stand or tree farm ask if you can take home some of the leftover boughs – people often leave branches at the base of the tree if it’s a bit too tall or just a tad unruly at the bottom. Most places won’t charge you for this and they’re highly versatile in your holiday decor.
Natural wreaths have such a classic holiday feel to them, plus the smell of pine as you come in the door is sure to lift your spirits.
While you can make them completely compostable and from scratch with some greener branches, you can also purchase a metal frame and reuse it year after year. Grab some twine and simply tie the sticks and boughs around the frame, then add your accent pieces.
Try cinnamon sticks or dried oranges for some more fragrance, or dried flowers and berries for extra color. Feathers, pinecones, seed pods and dried grasses add various textures and colors as well.
I recently saw this wonderfully whimsical wreath, made from repurposed toilet paper rolls, of all things. But everything Emily Ehlers does is amazing, go follow her insta!
Mantles, railings, and entryways
This is where those spare boughs come in handy. Laying them across a mantle or bookshelf, wrapping along a railing, or framing a doorway with pine boughs brings the joy of Christmas throughout your house – so it’s not just in the room with your tree.
Try laying out bowls of nuts in the shell, pinecones, pomegranates and red and green apples to get in the natural holiday spirit.
As far as decorating a tree, consider some of those natural decorations we’ve already talked about. Make garland with cranberries, popcorn, or wine corks. Try ornaments with pinecones, dried orange slices, and bundles of cinnamon sticks.
You can also find recipes online for sugar cookies and gingerbread that can be made into ornaments, which is a great activity for both adults and kids.
If it’s time to buy a new strand of lights, consider LED as they are more eco-friendly.
Sustainability showdown: Is it more eco-friendly to get a real Christmas tree or a fake?
Christmas trees come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Overwhelmingly, there are just two normalized choices, and there is a debate in the sustainability community about which is more eco-friendly: getting a real tree or a fake?
The arguments go something like this: Cutting down a real tree sounds bad in theory – don’t we always want more trees? But it’s in the interest of Christmas tree farms to replant, the growing trees absorb lots of CO2, and that land may not be suitable for much else. Plus if a tree is composted, it releases very little carbon back into the atmosphere.
The main argument for a fake tree is that you can reuse it year after year, and it doesn’t involve cutting down a new tree each time. But they are made from all sorts of synthetic materials including plastics, so the ultimate ecological cost of manufacturing and eventually disposing of a fake tree is fairly high.
The winner? Honestly, whichever one is right for you. In the grand scheme of the holidays, whether you go with a real or fake Christmas tree is not going to make or break your carbon footprint. We need to hold corporations accountable for their emissions and target whole industries like fast fashion. Then we can worry about our Christmas trees.
Ultimately the idea here shouldn’t be that one is right or wrong, but how you go about it. If a fake tree is right for you, try to reuse it for as long as you can and try to keep it out of the landfill. If you go the route of real trees, buy local and compost it when you’re done.
Sustainable Gifting Ideas
It is the season of giving after all! And while I think the real power of the season is in spending quality time with loved ones, there’s nothing quite like the delight of a friend or family member opening a gift they love.
There are plenty of ways to be sustainable with your gifts. So as you run through your list this year consider some of these options:
Tree-Friendly Holiday Cards
Thoughtful Human makes beautiful cards with tree-free, plantable seed paper that grows wildflowers. It’s an interactive gift that will bring joy now and again when the flowers bloom.
Or go digital! While it may not have the same feel as receiving a card in the mail, you can now make it super personal with a video message. Plus adding GIFs and memes can make them highly entertaining and bring the holiday cheer to your loved ones.
Zero-Waste Gift Wrapping
Save the brown paper that comes in your online purchases and use it to wrap gifts!
**Local tip: I have a TON of brown shipping paper I’ve been saving all year that you can grab for wrapping next time you stop by the shop! It’s a little crinkled, but I think it adds to the charm.
Tie them up with twine or ribbon and add some snowflakes or christmas trees with a marker or stamp. These come out with a classically rustic look that people always love.
If you want something a bit more colorful and funky (especially for the kids) consider what you have lying unused around the house: old maps, comic books, newspaper and magazines make for great wrapping paper.
Try yarn or twine instead of ribbon, or make the wrapping part of the gift by using something like a thrifted silk scarf or cloth napkins. You can use an old brooch to pin it all together.
I have also seen various sized reusable fabric wrapping bags. You can make your own with any fabric or even get away with an old pillowcase when push comes to shove.
And of course – if you don’t already – save any gift bags, bows, or ribbons you receive this year to reuse for your gifts next year. (I actually save tissue paper too, but that’s just me, lol.)
Our Sustainable Gift Guide
As a conscious consumer I’m sure you’ve heard many of the classics: DIY candles or soaps; baked goods; candied nuts; experiences such as tickets to a show or play, art or cooking class.
But some of us aren’t that creative, or simply don’t have the time to invest in DIY gifts. If you love the feeling of stuffing a stocking, or handing a heartfelt gift to a friend and watching their face as they open it – we have put together our list of favorites from Life Unplastic so you can give gifts you trust are not negatively impacting the planet. Consumable gifts and gifts made from natural materials top our lists.
Heading to the voting booth to cast our ballot each year is an important political civic action. Those collective choices shape government policy, which has the power to bring about considerable change to the society we encompass.
But today I want to talk about a different type of vote. Because whether or not you bubbled in your ballot, you are voting this November. In fact, we’re all voting every single day, without realizing it.
You vote for the world you want to live in whenever and wherever you spend money.
Why? Every purchase you make supports the organization you’re buying from. To that end, every purchase you choose NOT to make can be an effective signal that you, a consumer with a monetary vote, have found an alternative that you prefer, for one reason or another (even if it means not buying anything at all!).
It may seem insignificant – after all, what’s one more Amazon order?
To multinational corporations or fast fashion conglomerates, perhaps it IS insignificant. But – every time you DON’T choose the giant corp and you buy local produce, thrifted clothing, or refill your containers at your local refillery (a-hem), it means absolutely everything!
Do my small purchases really make a difference?
The short answer: YES!
For better or worse, your purchase supports the company and people who are working for that cause. It helps them keep going, perpetuating the values and standards that company shares with the world.
And collectively, these consumption choices yield great power!
If you need a little more convincing, take a look at some of these examples where the consumers shifted the balance of power and took matters into their own hands.
The 1791 English Sugar Boycott
One of the first known examples of a boycott, 1791 English citizens who opposed slavery took it upon themselves to boycott sugar produced by slaves in the West Indies. Many of the political leaders had stakes in the sugar industry. After sales dropped by 30%, political campaigns and policy reform began to ramp up in earnest.
It took several years, but the sugar boycott is credited with being a driving force of abolishing slavery in England. It may seem like large corporations are impenetrable, but reducing their purchases by only one-third was enough to create sweeping legislative change for the entire nation.
2010 Nestlé Palm Oil Boycott
A much more recent example is the 2010 Nestlé boycott over unsustainable palm oil. Palm oil production created rampant deforestation across Indonesia and beyond. To stop the devastating effects, Greenpeace organized a boycott campaign.
It only took 8 weeks of pressure by consumers for Nestlé to change its tune. They quickly released a new policy promising zero deforestation in their palm oil supply chain.
2019 Chick-fil-A Donations
After some online backlash regarding anti-LGBTQ donations hit the internet in 2012, Chick-fil-A made a few changes, but did not completely stop the donations in question. When consumers stepped in again and initiated a boycott in 2019, the company formally changed their donation policy to focus on education, homelessness, and hunger, officially ending those anti-LGBTQ donations.
🟔 Note: I’m not necessarily saying these companies are now doing everything right, but they make for good examples of how your dollar CAN make a difference. 🟔
How can you determine what companies deserve your vote?
As a conscious consumer you know how to reduce, reuse, refill, and rethink, but sometimes it can be time to buy something new.
You’re smart, so I’m sure you can tell when a company is obviously not good to purchase from. Triple-wrapped in plastic? Nah. No thanks. Costs one-third of what its competitors do? Probably not a good sign.
On the other hand, if it is clearly made with recycled materials, organic, or fair-trade, you can probably tell the company has some of your shared values.
Certifications are a good place to start, but it’s important to know whether (a) those certifications are reputable and (b) what they really mean.
Some trustworthy certifications:
Certified B Corporations – audited regularly to ensure high standards of social and environmental impacts. B Corps maintain a high level of sourcing and financial transparency within their business.
Rainforest Alliance – a certification for paper products, food and drinks, as well as tourism businesses. Pretty much any industry can have a negative impact on the rainforest, but the Rainforest Alliance Certification let’s you know they’re doing their part.
Green Seal – often found on paper products, it sometimes crops up in other places. Green Seal indicates that a company is not contributing to deforestation or other unsustainable practices.
Cradle to Cradle – focused mostly on textiles and home goods, Cradle to Cradle certifies companies that are committed to creating a circular economy.
LEED Certification – a designation for buildings that were constructed in a low-impact, socially conscious way, often with recycled materials.
Leaping Bunny Certification– a way to identify cruelty-free cosmetics, personal care, and household cleaning supplies. Leaping Bunny is different from other third-party cruelty-free certifications because of their strict no animal testing standards, Supplier Monitoring System, and independent audits.
Some other certifications:
1% for the Planet – pretty much exactly what it sounds like, this designation indicates that a company donates 1% of its profits to eco-friendly efforts. While that is certainly something to be celebrated, and I know lots of brands doing this, realistically it tells you nothing about how the company actually conducts its sourcing and manufacturing. Just something to consider.
Carbon Offsetting – if a company is carbon offsetting, it means they are donating to environmental projects that reduce carbon in our atmosphere. It’s helpful and very powerful when combined with strong efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of production, but some companies use it as an excuse to continue (or cover up) other harmful practices. Be sure to dig a little deeper.
FSC Certification – a certification for paper products that is intended to reduce deforestation. It’s better to buy certified products than not, but some experts have questioned the effectiveness of the FSC, finding that audits aren’t thorough or often enough to truly protect the forest. Again, try to dig a little deeper and look for sourcing transparency.
Energy Star – similar to the FSC, it’s better to have the certification than not. But the Energy Star logo simply means that a product is slightly more energy efficient than the current industry standard, and how much better varies from product to product. Consider doing a little more research before you buy.
You have the purchasing power!
All this is not to make you feel guilty or overwhelmed, but rather empowered.
Your choices make a difference.
The choices of large corporations make a bigger difference – but you have the power to influence them with your own.
In the age of smartphones, it’s easier than ever to search for a company’s reputation before you make a purchase. And if you’re shopping online, that information is just one tab away.
This little bit of extra effort has a compounding effect. The more of us who consistently shop consciously, the greater the results.
As we head into the holidays, and particularly Black Friday weekend, I encourage you to think about your purchases as a way to support and perpetuate your values in our community.
Together we can drive lasting changes.🤍
At Life Unplastic’s sustainable shop and refillery, you can shop confidently (and guilt-free!) knowing that I have personally vetted every brand we sell. Your purchases support normalizing low waste consumerism as opposed to throwaway culture and the people who are making that possible.
So thank you for supporting my small business that supports other small businesses. We love you!
As we near the end of October, I find myself digging through decorations and pulling out that bin of mismatched costumes. I’ve always loved Halloween! But now as an eco-conscious consumer, this time of year brings up mixed emotions.
Like me, you might have conflicting feelings and find yourself caught between enjoying the spirit, the decorations, the festivities, and holding back because you feel guilty about all the ramped up waste and consumerism.
So I want to take this moment to remind you that it’s okay to participate and enjoy this spooky season. That as we strive to reduce waste in our lives, it isn’t going to be perfect.
Choose to refuse, reduce, and reuse what you can, and encourage others to do the same, but don’t let it dampen your Halloween spirit.
To that purpose I’ve put together this inspirational guide to help you seek out sustainable options, while still participating in the festivities. Whether you’re hosting a backyard Halloween party or want to win the annual costume contest, you can feel good knowing that you’re intentioned, solution-oriented, and treading more lightly on the planet.
Sustainable Halloween Decorations
Is your neighborhood getting all decked out a la the Sanderson Sisters? Don’t miss out on the fun! Here are some ways to darken your doorstep, while keeping your carbon footprint clean.
Pumpkins and Gourds (duh):
Of course you should partake in pumpkin traditions!
Painted pumpkins can last for what seems like forever, opt for eco-friendly plant based paints and skip the glitter completely. Also, if you plan to compost or feed your pumpkin to neighborhood wildlife, peel and discard the painted/decorated outer layer first.
Carving pumpkins is my personal favorite way to pumpkin. Take these measures for extra-eco-credit:
Save the pulp for making pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, or pumpkin soup – it freezes well too!
Toast your pumpkin seeds with seasonings for a super fibrous snack. (You can find recipes all over but this one offers six different ways to flavor them).
Don’t forget to refill/exchange your candles at the shop before the big night, or grab some LED lantern lights to use year after year.
After Halloween be sure to compost your carved pumpkins. Gourds last a very long time and some varieties can be turned into bird houses.
Hay Bales, Cornstalks, and Scarecrows:
A great addition to your lawn decor is biodegradable materials like hay bales, dried flowers, or corn stalks. These are relatively cheap (with a low environmental cost) and can usually be found at farm supply stores or crafting shops.
You can also use hay or straw to make a scarecrow! Use old clothes and rags or dress it up in last year’s costume.
It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that one of my favorite “reuse” decorations is old jars. Old jars can be colored or decorated to look like a potions kit or a creepy apothecary.
To color your jars simply mix some mod podge with a dash of water and the food coloring of your choice. Roll the mixture around the inside of the jar and prop it upside down to drain for at least 15 minutes. Bake at 200 for about an hour, or until it’s totally dry. You can print out labels and pictures for the insides or get creative! (Think gummy worms in colored water, cicada shells, or painted lollipops to look like eyes).
Craft with Kids
The internet is bursting with cute and fun crafts for the kid in you and actual kids, but I like the ones that involve less single-use plastic.
If you need any boxes for decorations or costumes, we have lots of shapes and sizes for the taking right now!
Don’t Forget the Sounds and Smells
While many of our traditional decorations are visual, don’t forget about the other senses to create a truly delightful Halloween experience.
Hook up your speakers in the window with some eerie sounds and consider adding some scented candles to your ensemble. Celebrating the season we currently have special scents like “A Walk in the Woods” and “Pumpkin Spice” from local maker, Earth Tonix, so you can get the ambiance just right. The Earth Tonix candle jars are returnable for reuse when you’re done.
You can always stop by the thrift store to reuse and recycle decorations, but remember to look beyond just the Halloween section. Keep your eye out for sepia tone photographs in dusty frames, creepy porcelain dolls, or vintage books – all of which make for perfect mantle decorations.
Halloween Tricks to Avoid:
Although I’m all about joining the party (in a responsible way), I can’t help calling out a few particular traditions that any eco-conscious consumer will want to avoid.
Fake Spider Webbing: While fantastically creepy, this stuff can be dangerous to small wildlife who get tangled in its long fibers, and it’s nearly impossible to reuse (plus it’s usually plastic!).
Bleaching pumpkins: At some point it became a popular trend to soak or spray your carved pumpkin with bleach to make it last longer. Unfortunately this can be toxic to wildlife who like to munch on the sweet squash after you compost it. There are plenty of other techniques like soaking your pumpkin in ice water, but if you want the foolproof way we recommend just carving it closer to Halloween.
Sustainable Halloween Costumes
Now that you’ve got your ambiance all figured out, it’s time to dress the part. See if you can utilize any of these eco-friendly approaches.
Swapping with a Friend:
Wearing the same costume year after year is just no fun. But swapping with a friend (or a fellow mom for your kids) can get you all the excitement with none of the work. If you’re looking for the kids you can also try Facebook groups or neighborhood forums for this kind of swap.
Digging through the Goodwill bins can be a fun Saturday activity, and it’s a great way to stretch your creativity to go in without a definite idea.
But if you do have a specific costume in mind, it can be a bit of a chore to find exactly what you’re looking for. If you don’t have the time or energy to thrift locally, you can try an online store like Thred Up which offers thousands of second-hand items. And you can even filter your search by things like size and color!
Of course there’s always the DIY costumes for those crafty enough to brave it. There are thousands of guides online teaching you how to create various looks. You can make robots or armor out of cardboard. Paperboard is great for giving shape or stiffness to clothing, and nearly any prop can be fashioned from some creative paper mache.
If you’re going all out we do offer some items such as mascara cakes, plant-based glitter, and even solid perfumes.
Progress, Not Perfection
Overall I want to wish you a Happiest of Halloweens and that you are able to get in the spirit and have some fun this year. Even if you just take a few of these ideas, you’re helping create a culture of reuse and repurpose, and that makes a difference.
I hope you’ll spread the spook and teach your friends, family, and children about making more eco-friendly choices this year. And maybe even offer to compost your neighbor’s pumpkin for them! (Your garden will love you next spring).
🐊 For the Gainesville Locals
If you’re a local to Gainesville, check out The Reuse Planet (a new location by The Repurpose Project) which is currently stocked full of Halloween decorations and costumes!
When you pick up your treats for the candy bowl this year consider avoiding unsustainable palm oil (which is causing rampant habitat loss for orangutans and tigers) as well as toxic ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. Bonus points if the candy comes in paper, little cardboard boxes, or foil as opposed to single-use plastic. GreenHalloween.org highlights what to look for here.
Remember, your purchase has power and every sustainable decision makes us better.
I’ll just come right out and say it: Food waste has been and continues to be one of my biggest challenges in the journey towards a low to zero waste lifestyle.
I do really well one week and the next I’m throwing out half of my fridge.. not to mention my neglected compost has turned to dust. No that’s not true, I’ve never had rich compost (it’s just worse now).
BUT I still have a few graphics and local businesses that have helped me, so I want to quickly share them with you!
Helpful Graphics are helpful.
#1 Check out this cute, yet very informational, illustration that floated across my instagram feed recently… give Emily’s page a follow if you’re on The Insta.
#2 Zero Waste Chef has a plethora of wisdom tidbits and thoughtful ideas, perfectly buttoned up into simple pastel graphics (but really so much more).. and her whole message is centered around zero waste and food… so yeah – you should follow her too.
This is a very incomplete list, there are obviously way more than two local farms in Gainesville, FL and I encourage you to seek them out and show them love and support. I am featuring two here because this is a quickie post, also because they are the two farms that I am most familiar with, but *mostly* because they both do such an amazing job of connecting us with our food (outside of growing it ourselves).
*Please note since it is summer, both farms are between seasons… but already planning for fall and/or accepting CSA signups.
They offer a CSA, farm-to-table events, greek and cream top yogurt (in glass jars – with a return discount), eggs (you can take back the egg cartons for reuse), fresh flowers, and I have always enjoyed their produce. You can even apply for an apprenticeship and get hands-on farming experience.
With the CSA, one of their pickup locations actually includes Thornebrook. So if you’re looking for a reason to visit Life Unplastic more often, I’m just saying…
Other pick up locations include the downtown and Haile farmer’s markets. #options
If you’re unsure what I mean by CSA – basically you prepay for the crop and then get a bounty of produce each week or every other week throughout the growing season. You don’t really get to pick what you get, but it’s a great way to branch out by trying new recipes and hone your preserving skills.
They are Certified Organic and are located in Citra (so you Ocala folks can take advantage too). They offer organic produce as well as free range chicken and heritage pork.
What I really like about them, besides what they are raising and growing, is how active they are on their social media. The passion they feel for the work they do and the farming industry as a whole comes through very clearly and I have learned a lot from their posts.
Finally, we have discovered the perfect composting solution for our many orange peels from the OJ machine in Beaten Path Compost.
They have a food drop off on SW 4th Ave, downtown. It can be a little bit confusing to find the first time, but once you find the compost cans, you’re golden. Hopefully this little photo montage will help.
I hope these suggestions are as helpful to you in continuing to lower your personal waste stream as they have been for me. As always, best of luck on your low / zero waste journey.
The Bulk Bar & Refill Station is still definitely a work in progress, but we’re getting there! Our goal is to make your journey towards zero waste as simple, convenient and accessible as possible.
We encourage you to bring your own jars (or whatever containers you’ve been avoiding throwing away) and come see what we have to offer.
Refilling bulk products will empower you, save you money and enable you to say goodbye for good to conventional, non-recyclable and enduring plastic packaging. Not to mention drastically reduce your exposure to petroleum based products, synthetic dyes and fragrances, manufacturers who test on animals, hormone disrupting chemicals – the list goes on and on.
As you get low on these in your house – consider making us a weekly or monthly stop!
*laundry detergent (liquid or powder) *organic, expeller pressed coconut oil *organic apple cider vinegar *vegetable glycerin *mango/shea butter *sulfate free liquid shampoo *liquid conditioner *castile soap (unscented or lemongrass) *baking soda *epsom salts
*stain and odor remover
Bottom line, bulk buying is a great opportunity to vote with your dollar by supporting businesses and brands who are willing to reduce their waste stream and who actually care. Not only about what their product is made of or what it’s packaged in, they also care about their customers – YOU!
Also, don’t let multi national corporations get away with polluting our earth AND blaming it on us!
We now carry Witch Hazel at our bulk bar! It is 100% natural and alcohol free. Pure Witch Hazel has been known as a beauty secret for ages – it’s a natural antiseptic and is kinda perfect as a skin toner after washing your face. It acts as an astringent, causing your tissues to contract to help shrink pores, while also soothing your skin and relieving inflammation.
Ingredients: Pure steam distilled witch hazel
No Surfactants No Sulfates No Chemicals No Colors or Dyes No Perfumes or Scents No Alcohol No SLS or SLES Yes, Vegan Yes, All-Natural Yes, Hypo-Allergenic Non-Comedogenic Yes, Biodegradable
Come in today and get whatever you need in your jars or little misters or whatever other container you have laying around – to start making your own DIY facial toners!
Earth Hero! You’ve already kicked your neon shower puff habit for beautiful, biodegradable natural sponges for your body exfoliating, car cleaning, dishwashing needs. But you may be wondering how to keep them clean. You aren’t alone, we get this question all the time!
What’s worked best for us is to soak natural loofah or sea sponge every two weeks in a mixture of warm water and baking soda.
-(1) tablespoon baking soda per (1) cup of warm water.
-Soak for 15 minutes
-Let the sponges air dry in a ventilated area.
For both loofahs and sea sponges – the more you use them, the more frequently they need to be swapped completely. Also, we recommend storing your natural sponges in a cool, dry place between uses. It will help elongate the life span of the sponge and prevent bacteria from growing.
-Use a diluted bleach solution.
-Boil, microwave, or expose to high heat (it will harden).
-Twist or pull – only squeeze to dry.
-Store in humid areas.
To discard your sponges, simply place them in your compost bin. If you don’t have a home compost, check out Gainesville’s Beaten Path Compost. Their drop off locations are the Union Street Farmers Market OR there’s a compost bin (large black rolling trash can labeled COMPOST) adjacent to their garden at the corner of SW 4th Ave. and SW 3rd St., it’s tucked away at the east end of the strip where Opus Coffee is located.
For more information on Loofah and Natural Sea Sponges: