Category Archives: shopping tips

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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!

Tips for dressing more sustainably

Sustainable fashion is pricey.

If you Google “sustainable clothing,” you’ll find lots of options. T-shirts made from 100% organic cotton, leggings made from recycled plastic bottles, fair trade scarves… and so on.

But most of those items are around $100 a piece. They may be a better option for the planet, but not so much for your wallet.

If you’re looking to invest in some more sustainable options, but you’re not tryna break the bank, I gotchu. Me too.

I’ve come up with a few tips to dress more sustainably, and I’ve listed some brands I feel good about giving my dollars to.

THE MOST SUSTAINABLE OUTFIT IS THE ONE YOU ALREADY OWN

This is probably not the answer you’re looking for, but it’s true.

A study conducted by Jenny Hall, an anthropologist studying the environmental effects of fast fashion, found that for the average household in the UK, around 30% of clothing goes unworn over the course of a year.

That might seem like a high percentage, but I know for me, I have a handful of outfits I wear regularly… and the others are articles of clothing I wear on occasion, or ones I tell myself I’ll eventually have the confidence to wear. But I never actually take them off the hanger.

I think that’s probably the case for many of us. It’s the “what if there’s an occasion I’ll need it!” or “one day I’ll lose enough weight to fit into those pants again!” mentality that keeps our dressers overstuffed with outfits we haven’t worn in years.

When going through your clothes, check in with the status of some of your dusty outfits. Have you worn it in the last year? Why or why not? If it doesn’t fit, don’t keep it!

(Perhaps the topic of another article, but in my experience, keeping your “skinny” pants that you hardly fit into anymore isn’t good for you. It’s a pair of pants… it’s not your identity. Let it go and find a different pair that fit you beautifully. You’ll look like a million bucks and you’ll feel cool as heck.)

If you’re having a hard time parting with some of your clothes, put them in a bag and set them somewhere you won’t see them. Keep them there for a month. If you haven’t thought about them during that time, either donate them, give them away or try to sell them online.

We need to normalize rewearing outfits, too. I remember in high school I was petrified of wearing the same shirt more than once a week. Now, I’ve gotten rid of so many of my clothes that I rewear the same shirts in the same week all of the time. There’s nothing wrong with rewearing clothes! Pair your black T-shirt with a jean jacket one day. Then the next day wear a scarf. Maybe the day after that wear a blazer with it and tuck in your shirt. There are tons of ways to rewear your clothes while making you feel fresh with each wear.

SECONDHAND OPTIONS CAN BE CHEAP, UNIQUE, AND MORE SUSTAINABLE

Quality jeans, 100% cotton T-shirts, quirky jackets and some other general clothing staples are usually fairly easy to thrift.

If you’ve been to your local thrift stores, like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, and you swear you can’t find anything that fits your style. I get it. I’ve been there.

I’m a pretty avid thrifter. The vast majority of my clothes are thrifted, but I still leave SalVal empty handed now and again.

Here are a few tips for what to look for when you go thrifting.

  1. Know what you’re looking for. If can be really difficult to find something if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If you need a cute jacket, go to the thrift store with that in mind. Look through Pinterest for some inspiration of what you’re looking for. Keep in mind the shape of the jacket, or the general pattern, and have an open mind when you walk down the aisles.
  2. Try stuff on. I’ve grabbed a dress that I thought was hideous and then tried it on and fell in love. You never know how something will fit your body until you try it on!
  3. Step out of your comfort zone. While you can find some basics at a thrift store, sometimes the most fun is when you find the most obscure looking shirt and then when you try it on, it’s your new favorite item. You never know what you’ll find.
  4. Shop for basics. A black T-shirt, a nice pair of Levi jeans, a leather jacket… all of these things are usually easy to come by at the thrift store. You may not think to go there for a replacement to your favorite T, but give it a shot. They may have the brand you like there for half the price!

OTHER SECONDHAND OPTIONS

Here is a list of some online secondhand stores that might be easier to shop during the pandemic:

Depop
Ebay
Etsy
Goodwill online
Patagonia Worn Wear
Poshmark
ThredUp

ECO-FRIENDLY BRANDS I DIG

Full disclosure, I’ve never purchased clothing from a sustainable company. I usually go the secondhand route.

However, I’ve been trying to buy my jewelry from fair trade and sustainable companies. I like to get my jewelry from Ten Thousand Villages, Mata Traders and Made Trade.

Here is a list of companies that are quality sustainable brands. Some are more reasonably priced, while others are ridiculously expensive. I’d love to eventually purchase a few items from these shops, but I just haven’t had the money. If you do purchase something from one of these places, please let me know what you think!

This list isn’t exhaustive. There are countless sustainable brands out there. However, I wanted to list companies that I know to be quality. Again, I haven’t purchased from most of these, but I’ve heard only good things. Most of these are a bit pricey, so if price is a concern, maybe stick with secondhand stores. Or, buy one or two staples from one of these sustainable stores.

Conscious Clothing
Girlfriend Collective (super inclusive sizing for yoga/work out clothes!)
Kotn
Made Trade
Mata Traders
Pact
Patagonia
Ten Tree

OPT FOR CLOTHING YOU’LL USE ALL THE TIME

Buying clothes from a brand like Target or Walmart isn’t bad. Don’t feel shame about it! If you find an article of clothing that you really love, that fits you well, you feel confident in and you haven’t been able to find a more sustainable, inexpensive or secondhand version of, go for it.

If I’m being honest, everything I’m wearing in that photo above is secondhand –– except for my overalls!

They’re from Target. I got them several months ago when I was looking everywhere for secondhand overalls. I looked all over the place and didn’t find any that fit, or that I liked. When I went to Target and spotted these bad boys, I fell in love. They fit great and I felt really confident in them.

So I bought them. And then I felt such guilt for buying something that wasn’t “sustainable” enough.

But I told that thought to get the heck out of here, and I’ve enjoyed wearing my overalls ever since. They’re a staple in my closet that get lots of use.

Like I said before, it’s not wrong to buy something because it makes you feel good and gives you a much needed confidence boost. But when you can reasonably make a more sustainable choice, always try to go the more sustainable route.

LOOK FOR “ORGANIC” MATERIALS

*Not necessarily certified organic materials… I’m talking materials that are plastic-free and can break down more easily in nature.

100% cotton, linen, wool, hemp, silk, jute, flax, etc. are less likely to contain microplastics, which end up in our waterways. When you’re thrift shopping, or shopping anywhere, look at the tag!

THE PROBLEM WITH MICROPLASTICS

There’s been lots of research conducted regarding microplastics that come off of clothing — especially clothing made from plastic such as polyester and acrylic.

Here are a few articles talking about the problem with microplastics:

Vox wrote an article based on a few different studies, with this one looking at how fish ingest microplastics, and this one looking at how microplastics are released from clothing.

The study “Release of synthetic microplastic plastic fibres from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions” conducted by Imogen E. Napper and Richard C. Thompson found that in a typical washer, over 700,000 fibers could be released from a 6kg (or around 13 pound) load of acrylic fabric laundry. From their study, they found some microplastics can pass through water treatment plants. They believe this could be a large reason microplastics are found in aquatic habitats.

Even “organic” clothes produce microfibers in the water system. However, more natural fibers can more easily breakdown.

While there isn’t a total consensus on whether or not fiber catchers are the best option, some studies have found that they lessen the amount of microplastics and fiber that go into waterways.

There are a few different options for these fiber catchers, but the easier one to use appears to be the Cora Ball.

The Cora Ball is a laundry ball that you toss into your load of laundry. It supposedly catches the microplastics and fibers!

The GuppyFriend is a laundry bag that does the same thing. You toss your clothes in the bag, throw the bag into the wash, and the bag supposedly catches the microplastics.

I haven’t personally used a fiber catcher before, but I would like to buy one at some point to at the very least use when I wash my polyester/plastic clothing.

I’m not sure which one is better, as I haven’t used either one. But check out reviews on both and do some research to see if you think it’s worth it!

If you don’t want to get one of those fiber catchers, here are a few other options to lessen the likelihood of microplastics getting into the waterways.

  1. Wash your clothes less often. This is simple enough!
  2. Wash your clothing in cold water. Not ideal for certain articles of clothing, but could be helpful!
  3. Buy better quality clothes that are less likely to shed significant microfibers and microplastics.
  4. Buy clothes made from cotton and other natural options. While 100% natural fibers are the best route, the study conducted by Napper and Thompson showed that even fabrics with a blend of 50-50 polyester and cotton shed significantly fewer microplastics when compared to a fully polyester or acrylic option.
  5. Buy fewer clothes.

Overall, as I always say, give yourself grace. Buy sustainably when you can. Opt for secondhand when it works for you. Remember that the most sustainable outfit is the one you already own. And most important of all, be kind to yourself and to others –– we’re all doing our best out here! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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.