Category Archives: mindful living

how to shop more mindfully at target

Target is one of my favorite places to visit. Most of the time I don’t even buy anything when I go to a Target… I just like to walk around, browse the makeup and skincare, file through the planners and notebooks, and maybe grab a coffee on my way out.

Target calms me and makes me feel good. I can’t exactly put into words why that is, but maybe you feel the same way.

While there are plenty of items at Target that aren’t necessarily the most sustainable option, the store has significantly upped its sustainability game over the last year.

I thought it would be fun to walk around Target and pick out the most sustainable items I could find.

I ended up finding over 40 items I would deem either sustainable or better options if Target is your main store.

Now let me get a few disclaimers out of the way.

First, I recognize not every Target carries the same items. Your Target may have lots of sustainable options, or maybe yours hardly has any at all. I went to my local Target that I would deem pretty middle of the road. It’s not in a super wealthy area, and compared with other Targets I’ve been to, it’s a crappier quality as far as items it carries.

Second, I also recognize that not everyone has access to a Target. This post is mainly for folks who love Target but are trying to make some more sustainable options. Obviously I advocate to shop small business and support more sustainable companies, but I recognize not everyone is going to do that.

And lastly, I recognize some of the options I list in this post aren’t exactly sustainable. But I tried to find as many decent options as I could. A lot of these are more so ideas rather than recommendations for actual products –– though some are recommendations! Remember, it’s about progress and doing your best –– not perfection. 🙂

I’ve separated the items into the following categories:

Clothing
Accessories
Shoes
Electronics
Baby
Toys
Kitchen
Living room, bedroom + bathroom
Cleaning
Toiletries
Makeup
Skin/Haircare
Miscellaneous

CLOTHING

Now, Levi’s is not the most sustainable brand. I understand that. They’ve done some unethical things in the past, which should be noted. However, they recently pledged to lower their water consumption, use recycled plastic in their clothing, and they’ve even created a collection dedicated to being kinder to the planet.

Are they perfect? Nope. But they appear to be trying.

More than that, I’m using them as a larger example for two things.

First, it’s important to support businesses that are trying to do better. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about recognizing where you’ve come short and then pledging to do better. It’s OUR job as consumers to hold them to those promises and demand they happen.

Second, I think buying quality is synonymous with sustainability. If you buy an item that lasts for 10+ years, you’re saving money and resources. Levi’s are known for lasting a heck of a long time. If you’re going to buy something that’s not the most “sustainable” option, or that doesn’t come from the most sustainable company, at the very least, ensure that it is quality and will last you years down the road.

ACCESSORIES

Aim for items and articles of clothing that are made with a majority cotton, linen or wool (or other organic material). Studies show that they produce less microfibers, which end up in our waterways. While having a mixed material with 50% polyester and 50% cotton isn’t ideal, it’s been shown that mixed fiber clothing releases less microplastics than items made entirely with polyester or another plastic.

SHOES

I’m hyped about this find. Okabashi is a GREAT brand!

The material for the shoes is 100% recyclable and made in the USA. They offer 15% off your next purchase if you send your worn Okabashi shoes to the company. They’ll properly recycle them for you!

It doesn’t get much doper than that, folks.

Although I’ve never gotten a pair, they’re on my list. I need black flats and I’m definitely getting these bad boys when it gets warmer outside.

From what I’ve read, these shoes are mad comfortable and last for years.

If you don’t like Target’s options, Okabashi has plenty online to choose from. 🙂

ELECTRONICS

I didn’t find sustainable options in electronics, however I’d say the most sustainable option would be to limit the amount of electronics you use, and to buy secondhand if you can. Or, if you really need something new –– go for it. Be sure to recycle your electronics properly when the end of their life comes. You can contact your local municipality and/or recycling company for how to dispose of your electronics.

BABY

I was pleasantly surprised to see several more sustainable baby options at Target.

There are these baby food jars that come in reusable glass packaging. These jars would be great to make your own baby food at home, use to store lotion and other to-go products, to use to make a candle, and so many other options.

I also noticed there were several products that were B-Corporation brands, or that were recyclable through Terra Cycle.

Seventh Generation is a B-Corporation; so I’d recommend using their products if you’re purchasing from Target. The brand HappyBaby is also a B-Corporation. The Puracy brand comes in a nice spray bottle that you can reuse, and the CereBelly brand has a partnership with TerraCycle, making it easy to recycle its products!

Munchkin brand has an option for sippy cups that are packaged in cardboard instead of plastic, so that’s cool. Target also sells glass baby bottles, which is a much more sustainable option than plastic. And plenty of Target’s baby blankets and clothing is made with partially cotton and partially recycled material, like recycled polyester. Not perfect, but not a bad option either!

TOYS

Toys are tough. Most are made of plastic that isn’t recyclable. However, there are a few more sustainable toy brands at Target now.

Green Toys is a company that sells toys through EarthHero (think of it as the eco-friendly Amazon). Their toys are made with 100% recyclable materials and their packaging is all recyclable paper/cardboard. Their toys are built to last –– and they’re super cute and functional.

I was pretty hyped to find these bad boys at Target.

KITCHEN

A few things when it comes to buying new items.

You want them to last. On my wedding registry, I went to Target and tried to find eco-friendly items. I found skillets and pots and pans that said “green” on them, so I assumed they were better for the planet, and for me. But they lasted maybe a year and then we had to replace them. My secondhand stainless steel skillet has already been a better purchase than that trendy, “green” brand I thought would be good.

Buying items that come in metal, like stainless steel, or glass, are usually better because you won’t have to replace them as often. Think about what will last the longest, and also think about how many resources had to go into the item you’re buying. Something made of entirely one material will likely (though not always) be less resource intensive than buying something that takes a million different parts from different areas of the country to import and export and then create that item.

Also, think of materials that are easily recyclable. An item made entirely of stainless steel, or aluminum, or one type of quality plastic, is most likely recyclable. According to the International Stainless Steel Forum,  an estimated 80% of stainless steel products are recycled at the end of their life. I’m not entirely sure how true that is, but I definitely would agree that people are more apt to think to recyclable a metal than they would be a plastic or even glass.

Throwing metal in the trash feels weird for some reason.

For fabrics like dish towels or table cloths, opt for 100% linen or cotton. Or, at the very least, opt for one made with a majority of cotton or linen. Like I said before, studies show mixed fiber products shed less microplastics than ones made entirely of polyester or acrylic.

While I appreciate that Target has options for composting, buckets like this aren’t entirely necessary. You can use a basic bucket to hold your food scraps. However, I have to admit, the stainless steel look is pretty chic. And, I bought one of these at the beginning of my low-waste journey, so I love mine. But again, they aren’t necessary.

I was excited to see how many paper filters for Keurig cups they had available at Target! They have several brands where you can fill up tour K-cup with the coffee grounds of your choice and have an individual cup of coffee.

For those with a Keurig, I’d highly recommend investing in one of these! It will save on a ton of waste.

LIVING ROOM, BEDROOM, BATHROOM

While I didn’t find anything overtly sustainable in the living room and bedroom sections, I would say opt for 100% linen, wool and cotton fabrics for blankets; and opt for pieces of furniture that will last a long time. Timeless, or ones you can easily paint or stain (like wood) if you want to change up the look of it a bit.

For the bathroom, again, opt for 100% cotton bath towels and rugs if possible. Another good investment is in a quality soap dispenser.

I like this one from Target that’s made with 100% recycled glass.

But what I would really recommend is finding a foaming soap pump. You can easily make your own soap using a little bit of Dr. Bronners Castile soap, water and oil, and you have a foaming hand soap. It saves you money in the long run!

CLEANING

I don’t LOVE Seventh Generation, but I definitely respect them.

They’re a certified B-Corporation, meaning they abide my some of the strictest sustainability and ethical business practices around. If you are at Target and you’re not sure what cleaning supplies to get (they have a wide range of cleaning supplies including laundry detergent, soap, diapers, and about anything else you’d need in your house), I’d recommend Seventh Generation. Again, not my favorite option of all time, but probably the best Target option 🙂

I’m also pretty excited to see these hand soaps and hand sanitizers that come in recyclable and reusable aluminum containers. They’re a little pricier than regular soap and hand sanitizer, but they look super cute in your bathroom 🙂

Now these are dope. Sponges made with a biodegradable plant-based material. And the “plastic” packaging isn’t actually plastic –– it’s compostable. If you need sponges/scrub brushes, maybe give these a try!

TOILETRIES

Native deodorant is great quality and it now comes in a paper tube! I like the Cucumber and Mint one 🙂 If you need deodorant, consider trying out Native! And if your Target doesn’t have the paper tube option just yet, the regular deodorant is great, too, and is recyclable in most curbside locations.

Another deodorant brand, and overall good brand to support, is Tom’s of Maine. They’re a B-Corporation, so again, they follow some of the strictest sustainability and ethical practices for a business. I really like their Lavender scented deodorant.

I’ve noticed that for both of these deodorants, I still have to reapply throughout the day. They don’t totally mask my BO. But, I don’t mind reapplying, and I really like the scents both of these brands carry 🙂

For toothpaste, I’d recommend using either the Tom’s brand or, if your Target carries it, the Davids brand.

The Davids brand comes in an aluminum tube that is 100% recyclable. You just have to cut the tube open once you’re finished with it, clean it out and toss it in your recycling bin (be careful of sharp edges!). They’re a great company with products made in the USA. Definitely one to support.

For period support, check out these two brands at Target! I’ve never used either of these brands for my period –– I use the Lunette. Check out my review here. But I’m encouraged that Target even has menstrual cups on its shelves! If you haven’t used a menstrual cup before, definitely check out my review. I go over all the details of what it’s like, how to insert one, and if they’re worth it. (They are!)

SKIN/HAIRCARE

It’s a pretty big deal that Target carries shampoo bars. And, these shampoo bars actually work. I tried the Tea Tree and Mint one and I loved it!

There isn’t a lot of detail about the sustainability behind the company, but I definitely would suggest trying these shampoo bars out if you’re interested in using one but aren’t sure what to buy/have limited options.

My favorite shampoo bar is my Ethique, and their products are available at many Targets around the country! However, they’re not available at my local one. I have to travel almost an hour to another Target to get the shampoo. But, if your Target carries Ethique –– DEFINITELY support them. I have an entire blog post dedicated to their products. Check it out here.

Another great brand to support for skincare, haircare and makeup is Shea Moisture. They’re a black-owned, fair trade, B-Corporation. For makeup, their products are super inclusive as far as shade range. I really love a lot of their products, and they’re a good company to support.

Pacifica is another brand I really love. They have a recycling program where you can mail back your Pacifica products and they’ll properly recycle them. Not only recycle them, but they turn them into razors and toothbrushes that can be bought on Pacifica’s website. How cool! They’re also a female-owned business, which is super cool. And their products are dope.

There isn’t a whole lot of information regarding cocokind’s sustainability practices, but they do have a foundation that gives grants to women entrepreneurs who are doing businesses for good.

According to their website, “The Cocokind Impact Foundation provides financial grants of $2,500 to $10,000 to female-identifying entrepreneurs in the health, wellness, and sustainability industries, who are focused on creating social impact through business.”

That’s pretty cool! And, most of their products come in reusable glass containers. I really like their products 🙂

Bliss is another cool company to support. They partner with TerraCycle and have a recycling program where you send back your pumps and other non-recyclables and they’ll make sure they get properly recycled. Containers that have a No. 1 or 2 on the bottom are (typically) recyclable in curbside pickups, so they encourage you to toss your clean bottles in your recycling once you’ve finished them.

Also, skincare guru Hyram from Skincare By Hyram likes a lot of Bliss’ products, so you can feel good about what you’re putting on your skin.

(He also likes a few of Shea Moisture’s products too, which are the main ones I like to personally use :)!)

I’m a pretty big Dr. Bronners fan. I like their gentle bar for my body wash, and their scented ones make some really great hand soap! Dr. Bronners is a B-Corporation and is known for its ethical practices and sustainability. 🙂 Check out why I love Dr. Bronners here.

While CeraVe isn’t technically a sustainable company, I wanted to include it because they have such an array of options and are recommended by many dermatologists, and Hyram.

It’s really important to use the products you invest in. If CeraVe is your go-to cleanser or lotion and it’s honestly the best one for you and works the best, stick with it! Again, the most sustainable option is what you already have, and a lot of time it’s about what works best for you.

So please hear me when I say, don’t go out and switch to something more “sustainable” that doesn’t actually work for your body. It’s just not worth it. Find what works for you, is good for you, and is better for the planet. Do your best!

MAKEUP

All right, so I had a really hard time suggesting any of the makeup products I found at Target. At least at my Target, it’s the pretty standard Maybelline, Revlon, CoverGirl, etc.

So I tried to find brands that have the best packaging. Packaging you can reuse once you’ve finished the bottle. Most are serums and foundations.

I thought these bottles in glass packaging could be easily up cycled once you empty the bottle! So if you currently use a foundation that comes in a glass bottle, instead of tossing it out, see if you can clean it out and maybe use it as a travel sized container, or to store lotion or hand sanitizer in in your bag!

I would recommend using whatever makeup brushes you already have before buying new. However, if you need some new ones, EcoTools isn’t a horrible option.

Their label is made from plantable seed paper; their packaging is biodegradable paper; and their products are made out of recycled aluminum and plastic.

While I couldn’t find anything on the sustainability of PiggyPaint nail polish, it’s a lot safer to use on your nails than traditional nail polish. And it’s safe for kids to use, too! I’ve never used it, but give it a try and see what you think!

MISCELLANEOUS

Klean Kanteen water bottles are excellent. They’re durable, functional, and last for years. The company is a B-Corporation, too, so you can feel good knowing you’re drinking from an overall quality water bottle. 🙂

This brand Open Story is a newer Target brand. While I can’t say it’s the most sustainable brand, I wanted to reiterate what I mentioned before about buying quality.

I appreciate that this brand has a 10-year warranty for its bags. Items with warranties are much more likely to be quality and last a longer time. While I’m not necessarily saying to support this specific company, I think you should always opt for the best quality item.

I’m a big fan of stasher bags! I use mine all of the time. They’re silicone bags you can use as an alternative to plastic baggies to stash all your goods. They have lots of different shapes, sizes, and colors. Check them out the next time you’re at Target!

Target has a decent about of paper products for wrapping, including stationery, that comes in decently sustainable packaging.

I love the “decomposition” notebooks they carry, and their cards made from recycled paper. Tissue paper and cute decorative rope come in several colors and is wrapped in paper!

Welly is a certified B-Coporation, and their bandaids are fabric! Patch‘s bandaids are made out of bamboo and are biodegradable. Oh, and they’re also a B-Corp. Plus, they’re fun for kids and adults to wear! 🙂

As a reminder, it’s about doing your best. A lot goes into sustainability –– including where you shop and what you buy. For most of us, changing our buying habits is an excellent place to start! Make small changes that you can stick with, and give yourself grace when you make a less sustainable choice.

Be kind to yourself, others and the planet. We’re all struggling out here, fam.

Grace and peace to you, my friends!

100 ways to care for the planet, even when you’re broke

Many of us live paycheck to paycheck.

When finances are tight, the last thing on our minds is how we can make more environmentally friendly decisions.

Finding ways to support our families and ourselves while trying to do our part to help the planet isn’t always straightforward.

I’ve come up with 100 ways to be more mindful, help the planet and those around you, and do it either for free or on a budget.

Obviously you don’t have to do all of these things. And I’m sure there’s plenty of items I neglected to put on this list. But I’m hoping this gives folks some ideas that may feel less obvious, but are still beneficial to the planet, ourselves and one another.

I’ve split the 100 up into five categories:

  • Reuse/upcycle
  • Try something new
  • Make small changes
  • When ya gotta buy stuff
  • Take action

Some of these options are obvious – i.e., recycle. But others may surprise you. You may have been doing most of these all along and never realized that you’re actually helping the planet.

Windows of goodness; little bursts of truth. That’s what we need more of these days. Turning the lights off when you leave a room is helpful to the environment – and to your wallet. Working in your garden is good for your mental, physical and emotional health. And it’s great for the planet. Those little things are small joys, little wins that you should feel good about.

Instead of looking at all the ways you’re lacking, recognize that within you an orchard is growing. Water it and keep it healthy. In keeping ourselves healthy – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually – we can lend fruit from that orchard to our neighbors that need it most.

Take care of yourself, and in doing so, you’ll become a better advocate for your friends, family, and the Earth.

We’re all in this together 🙂


REUSE/UP-CYCLE

  1. Use a reusable water bottle
  2. Repurpose old containers
    I usually reuse glass jars like sauce jars, pickle jars and salsa jars.
  3. Reuse your cardboard to make Christmas decorations or other decorations
    There are some awesome Pinterest tutorials on how to make Christmas trees out of recycled cardboard!
  4. Bring a reusable thermos when you go to a coffee shop
  5. Keep packaging from shipments to use for later wrapping
  6. Keep your gift bags and other wrapping from gifts
    Instead of throwing away gift bags and tissue paper, keep it!
  7. Up-cycle jars as propagation stations
    I like to use glass dressing jars that have a slimmer neck
  8. Up-cycle your plastic by making ornaments and other decor items
    Instead of throwing away or recycling a plastic cup, consider cutting it and painting or decorating it. Poke a hole in it and hang it on your tree as an ornament, or make earrings out of it!
  9. Reuse newspaper to wrap presents, line trash cans, etc. 

TRY SOMETHING NEW

  1. Learn to sew
  2. Make a small garden
    Plant easy to take care of veggies like tomatoes and peppers
  3. Mend your clothing
    Or if you personally can’t mend your clothes, send them to a tailor!
  4. Make plant-based meals once a week
  5. Compost
  6. Start a local trade/swap club of books, clothing, movies, etc.
  7. Get a library card
  8. Learn to knit or crochet
  9. Make your own cleaning products using vinegar and baking soda
  10. Instead of going out to dinner with friends, host a few friends at your home for dinner
  11. Minimize your wardrobe
  12. Instead of donating to thrift stores, consider selling or gifting items you no longer want
    Thrift stores are overwhelmed by donations. Most of the donations we give don’t actually make it to the shelves at Goodwill anyway… many end up in the landfill.
  13. Propagate your plants

    Plants are good for your mental health and for the air. A good mental state and healthy air allows you to make better choices.
  14. Recycle at work, and if your company doesn’t, talk to your HR department about starting a recycling program
  15. Teach your children about sustainability through educational books and videos
    Check out EarthHero and Uncommon Goods for some great books!
  16. Listen to audiobooks
    If you don’t want to support Audible (AKA Amazon), there are plenty of apps that connect to your library card, allowing you to listen to free audiobooks. Hoopla is one option.
  17. Send e-invites instead of physical invitations, or if you use physical paper invites, opt for recycled paper and then ask your friends/family to recycle once they’re done
    This year, we used Paper Culture to create our holiday cards. They’re a great company and use recycled paper!
  18. Minimize areas of excess
    Skincare products and electronics are two areas that promote serious consumerism. Consider minimizing your routine/what you have.
  19. Declutter your home to make room for more life-giving products
  20. Tie dye your clothes using food scraps
    I’ve never done this, but Pinterest has some awesome tips!
  21. Use a menstrual cup instead of pads or tampons
    Check out my post here about why I love my menstrual cup.
  22. Make a list of what you throw away each day/week and see if you can find plastic-free alternatives
  23. Invest in red wigglers, which are worms that basically act as an all-natural garbage disposal
    This has been on my to-do list for a few years now! Perhaps I’ll write a post about this one day. But if you’re not into composting, maybe red wigglers are a good option for you!
  24. Give an experience gift instead of a physical gift 
    Memberships to the museum or zoo, concert tickets, etc. make great gifts.

MAKE SMALL CHANGES

  1. Recycle
  2. Use your pens until they’re completely out of ink
  3. Minimize how much tape you use, or use paper tape
  4. Adjust your heat and a/c when you’re out of town
  5. Opt for aluminum
    Aluminum is a super recyclable material. If you have to choose between plastic or aluminum, definitely go for aluminum and then recycle it!
  6. Don’t litter
  7. Use up all your paper before buying a new notebook
  8. Turn off your lights when you’re not in a room
  9. Avoid palm oil unless you know it’s sustainably sourced. Read food labels.
    Palm oil is largely unethically and unsustainably harvested. I’ll write a post on this in the coming months.
  10. Pop your own popcorn over the stove instead of using microwave bags
  11. Opt for refillable products whenever possible.
  12. Recycle your contact lenses properly using a TerraCycle location nearest you
    Check out my post here about how I recycle my contact lenses and blister packs.
  13. Use a safety razor or an all-metal razor like one from Leaf Shave
  14. Say, ‘No, thanks!’ to straws at a restaurant
  15. Don’t take a receipt unless you really need one, or have it emailed to you
  16. Go paperless for your paychecks and bills
  17. Bring your own reusable bags when out shopping
    I try to keep some reusable/cotton bags in my car so I don’t forget to bring them with me.
  18. Check with your local homeless shelter and other similar agencies to donate items you don’t use enough
  19. Instead of paraffin wax candles, consider diffusing essential oils or make/buy your own candles
    Opt for more sustainable and environmentally friendly options like sustainably sourced soy and beeswax. This article talks about paraffin wax a bit.
  20. Limit airplane use 
  21. Use bar soap as opposed to liquids, as they tend to come with less packaging
  22. Use a French press or traditional coffee maker
    Opt for biodegradable filters. Keurigs are pretty wasteful. But if you already have one, use it! Try to find refillable coffee pods instead of disposable ones.
  23. Check with your local recycling company to make sure you are recycling the right items and that you’re properly cleaning them out and removing the label
  24. Bring nature indoors and use fallen branches, pinecones, etc. for home decor

WHEN YA GOTTA BUY STUFF

  1. Shop local/support small businesses
  2. Stop shopping from Amazon, or only buy from Amazon when it’s absolutely necessary
  3. Buy secondhand electronics
  4. Buy secondhand books
  5. Buy secondhand clothing
  6. Invest in a Kindle or other digital book device
  7. Buy fabrics and yarn secondhand
  8. Buy sustainably packaged beauty products, like ones you can refill
    I love Elate Cosmetics and RMS Beauty for their refillable, quality makeup.
  9. Support businesses that advocate for a circular economy
  10. Buy from farmer’s markets when possible
  11. Buy meat from a local butcher/farm
  12. Purchase rechargeable batteries.
    I got mine from Amazon, but other local stores should have rechargeable batteries, too. Rechargeable batteries are a game changer. You never have to buy batteries again!
  13. Support B-Corporations and other sustainable businesses
  14. Opt for microplastic-free clothing/fabric options
    Options I like include 100% cotton, linen, wool, etc. Read the label before making a purchase. Microplastics in polyester and other fabrics shed from our clothes while in the washer and can be damaging to our aquatic ecosystems.
  15. Buy in bulk when it’s available
  16. Buy loose-leaf tea instead of bagged tea, which typically has micro plastics in it.
  17. Buy outfit staples that will last a long time
  18. Buy from brands that are known to be quality: second-hand/gently used Levi jeans, for example.
  19. Buy a sustainable phone case like Pela
    Pela phone cases are compostable! Either compost them yourself or send them back to Pela and they’ll compost them properly.
  20. Before buying something, ask yourself if you actually need this item or if you just want it
  21. Buy 100% wool socks.
    Wool is temperature regulating and it’s more sustainable.
  22. Use LED lightbulbs
  23. Buy an Etsy print from a small business and print it out yourself to hang in your house
  24. Buy wooden toys for your children instead of plastic ones
    Many can be found secondhand! Or check out Earth Hero for some great sustainable options.
  25. Buy secondhand kitchen supplies like blenders, crock pots, etc.

TAKE ACTION

  1. Volunteer at a nonprofit or agency
  2. Join local clean ups
  3. Pick up litter when you see it
  4. Take colder showers
    It saves energy and wakes you up in the morning!
  5. Go outside and get in the dirt.
    Studies show getting outside can improve our quality of life, which will encourage us to make better choices.
  6. Read at least a page of something everyday
  7. Vote in local elections
    Not just presidential elections: vote for your mayor, state representatives, school board members, etc.! Know your local leadership and talk to them about issues that are important to you.
  8. Wake up early and go for a walk
    The fresh air can do wonders for a crappy morning.
  9. Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up
  10. Do stretches each day
    When you’re healthy and strong, you can be a better advocate for others.
  11. Drink less coffee and more water
  12. Walk or bike as often as you can
  13. Support your local newspaper

    Local news is integral to our democracy. Support your local paper!
  14. Use items for double purposes
    I like to use avocado oil to take off my makeup and I also cook with it! 
  15. Donate to nonprofits and other organizations you feel connected to
  16. Participate in local government meetings and let your voice be heard
  17. Listen
    Listen to people who disagree with you, listen to groups of people who are hurting, listen to the Earth.
  18. Be kind
    Most importantly, be kind to one another. We are all going through different obstacles. Some folks can easily recycle, buy bulk food, and minimize their waste. For others, they may not have as many resources available, making minimizing waste not exactly a priority. Wherever you are, and wherever your neighbor is, extend grace to each other. We need grace a little extra these days.

    And don’t forget that an orchard grows within you. Share its fruit with those you meet.

Grace and peace to you, my friends.

An early season’s greetings

Decorating before Thanksgiving feels sacrilegious.

But we’re in the middle of a pandemic and near the end of a heck of a year. I’m learning to appreciate the little joys each day brings.

Like yesterday. While putting up my indoor Christmas decorations I glanced over at my window and it started to snow.

So I blasted Nat King Cole’s Christmas album and went to work decorating my living room for the holidays. It was joyful moment. And one I really needed.

This year, I tried to opt for sustainable decorations.

I don’t own many Christmas decorations to begin with, so it was fun finding thrifted items and making some holiday diys.

This post is aimed at giving some suggestions for people who want to make their home feel cozy for the holidays, but are hoping to choose some more sustainable options.

But for folks who are huge decorators and have spent years and many dollars investing in holiday decorations, you may still enjoy this post!

Many Christmas decorations don’t last that long, meaning you’ll likely have to replace a few things here and there. That’s where this post comes in 🙂

FACTS ABOUT WASTE + THE HOLIDAYS

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s blog, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, U.S. household waste increases by more than 25%. Holiday food waste including shopping bags, bows and ribbons, packaging, and wrapping paper contribute an additional 1 million tons a week to landfills.

That’s a lot of waste.

And some of it can be prevented. Think back to wrapping presents. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable because it’s made from a mixture of plastic and paper.

Again, that’s a lot of waste.

When it comes to wrapping presents, here’s what I do…

GIFT WRAP ALTERNATIVE IDEAS

Pinterest is saturated with gift wrapping ideas. And many of them are more sustainable alternatives. I also have a whole blog post dedicated to sustainable gift wrap. Check it out here.

But here’s a few suggestions…

I recently bought a large roll of white kraft paper. This year, nearly all of my gifts are going to be wrapped in that white kraft paper because it’s what I currently have and it will work just fine!

I also have loads of twine in a natural color, a black color and a white and gold color. That’s what I’ll be using as my bows this year, again, because that’s what I have.

Using up what you have a the most sustainable thing you can do. If you have left over wrapping paper – use it up! If you have a bunch of “Happy Birthday” wrapping paper, consider using it inside out!

If you have a bunch of bags, use them!

Other options lots of people have on hand? Tissue paper, newspaper, construction paper, kraft paper, or go paperless and don’t wrap your gifts (though that seriously takes so much of the fun out of it lol).

Consider using natural elements like twine and burlap. Instead of a bow, maybe go outside and cut off some pieces of a pine tree or bush to add a pretty element.

For tape, use up your tape! If you need more, consider using paper tape. I found mine off Amazon, though I’d recommend finding one from a small supplier if possible. Here’s a shop on Etsy that sells paper tape! Or, try wrapping your present without using tape. I did that for nearly all of my gifts last year and it worked out fine! Or, just use the dang tape. 🙂

DECORATIONS

I’ll say it again because it bears repeating…

The most sustainable item is the one you already have.

Before buying more Christmas decorations, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need it?
    Does it need replaced or do I just want a few more?
  • Is this item cute for the moment?
    Will I likely only enjoy this item for a year or two and then want to pitch it?
  • Can I fix it?
    Is this an item I can easily glue together or have fixed?
  • What’s the most sustainable option for this item?
    Does one come in wood, metal, glass, or a material that is sturdy and will hold up?

USE WHAT YOU HAVE

I already owned some Christmas ornaments that were given to me and made by family members. Obviously, rather than going out and buying new ones, I have these perfectly good – and extra precious – ornaments for my tree!

This little guy is an elf I painted last year with my family. It can be difficult to find elves and Santa decorations that are racially/ethnically diverse. Sometimes making your own gives you that opportunity.

My family also got me these holiday hand towels/napkins. I currently have the hand towels hanging on my oven door, and the napkins on set out on my kitchen table.

UPCYCLE/DIY YOUR DECORATIONS

To dress up my tree, I wanted to use something I already had on hand. So I found some stale, off-brand Cheerios and some twine and made a little garland for my tree.

It didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, and it was relaxing.

I think it turned out pretty good! If you have pets, just beware… they may want to nibble on these bad boys.

I also made a wreath using a French horn from the thrift store, some greens, twine and burlap.

I think it turned out pretty decent!

GO OLD-SCHOOL

Kick it out school with some dried out citrus as ornaments!

Check out my post here for directions. Essentially, you cook them on 200 for 4-6 hours or until they look dried out but not too crispy.

USE NATURAL OPTIONS

I walked around my neighborhood, searching for fallen pine and pinecones! I found a bunch and then also cut some stems that look like pine off from a bush outside of my house.

Now, these likely won’t stay fresh for an entire month. They’ll probably stay looking green and fresh for 1-2 weeks, meaning you may have to go out and grab some more branches. (If that’s a bummer for you, consider buying some faux pine branches second hand! Thrift stores usually carry a bunch around the holidays.)

But if you soak your stems in some water for a few minutes each day or every few days, it’ll help keep them fresher, longer! Check out this person’s blog post about ways to keep greens fresh!

Greens + twinkle lights = serious Christmas vibes. (I don’t have a mantle, so this shelf is acting as a mantle for these stockings I was gifted a few years back.)

USE ECO-FRIENDLY LIGHTS

I already have a bunch of twinkle lights, but I also bought two packs of LED lights, too. And I’m glad I did! After I set up everything and took photos, one of my strings of lights went out. So I need to switch them out with some of my new LED ones.

LED lights are typically the way to go. They last a long time and emit less energy. While they tend to be a few dollars more expensive than traditional lights, they pay off in the end.

Only downer, they are a bit brighter and look somewhat different than traditional string lights. I personally don’t like the look as much, as they have a cooler tone rather than a warmer tone. I like warm much better 🙂 But it’s no deal breaker for me!

TURN OFF YOUR LIGHTS!

Don’t keep your lights on during the day. Instead, put them on in the evening and consider turning your outdoor lights off before bed. If you have a timer for your indoor and outdoor lights, that’s even better!

BUY ETHICALLY

I don’t own any ethically or sustainably produced Christmas decorations. But there are plenty of places to buy them! Check out Ten Thousand Villages and Made Trade for some fair trade options. 🙂 For low-waste options, check out Earth Hero. And for some unique finds from a B-Corp, check out Uncommon Goods.

(My blog post here has my sustainable gift guide, too!)

THE GREAT DEBATE: FAKE OR REAL TREE?

This is a controversial topic among environmentalists and zero-wasters. Whichever side you fall, you’re likely a staunch believer.

Here’s my thought….

They both have pros and cons!

FAKE TREE

PROS

  • They last for years and years if well-kept.
  • You can buy them second-hand.
  • They only produce waste at the end of their life.

CONS

  • They’re made from plastic.
  • When they do eventually need replaced, it’s nearly impossible to recycle fake Christmas trees. Therefore, they add a lot of arguably unnecessary waste to landfills.

REAL TREE

PROS

  • Nostalgia/family tradition to buy or cut down your own tree.
  • Can be considered zero waste if properly disposed.
  • That pine tree smell!

CONS

  • Most people don’t properly dispose of their tree.
  • Trees can’t break down naturally in a landfill, so throwing them in the trash isn’t helpful.

OK so then what?

I say, go with whichever you prefer! They both have great pros.

If you expect to keep using your fake tree for several years – go fake! If you can properly dispose of your real tree – go real!

HOW TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF YOUR REAL TREE

In western Pennsylvania, this link gives you different locations where you can drop off your tree for recycling. The best options are to drop them off at a recycling facility that SAYS they recycle Christmas trees. Or, some municipalities will host Christmas tree recycling/shredding events once during the holidays. Contact with your local municipality and waste management location for details.

As for what I do….

I don’t opt for either one. I buy a potted little pine tree every year. For the last two years, I bought a Norfolk pine. I really loved it! However, it was often lopsided and it annoyed me.

This year, I went to Lowe’s and found a miniature tree in a red pot. Once it gets warmer outside, I can plant it in the ground. Or, I can keep in indoors until it grows too big to tame. And during that time, I’ll have a Christmas tree every year – saving money and time! And, it’s a real tree!

I understand a small tree isn’t as fun for children, and you can’t exactly put Christmas presents under a little tree. (Though you sort of can, just not the same result as a traditional tree).

But for smaller children, they can be helpful because you can keep them on a table/higher up so little ones don’t knock the tree over.

No matter what you choose, remember that it’s the season of new life, forgiveness and growth. May we give each other grace in more ways than by merely forgiving someone for putting their Christmas decorations up too early – or keeping them up too long, for that matter.

May 2021 bring us MUCH more peace than 2020. And may we all remember that we have much more in common than we think we do.

Grace and peace to you all, my friends! Happy Holidays.