zero-ish waste holidays 2016- gift wrapping

Merry Christmas! I didn’t want to post anything with spoilers ahead of time, but still wanted to share some of my ZW Christmas gift wrapping. There just aren’t a lot of posts out there about this and I wanted to add to the conversation in case it’s helpful to someone later.


I’ve always loved and admired beautifully wrapped gifts, but had never bothered to master the skill. This year, however, my gifts are wrapped up in such unique ways. Some of my wrapping this year includes: a roll of brown kraft paper I already had, tea towels a hand-dyed, a secondhand scarf (and one from my closet I’ll take back), advertisements from our local alternative press publication, Hannah’s doodles saved throughout the year, the cloth bags from a pair of curtain panels I’d purchased early in the year, a piece of tissue paper and a bow from gifts I’d received from friends earlier in the season, yarn as string, and upcycled cardboard gift tags. Several gifts remain unwrapped entirely because they are beautiful without wrapping.

My little Christmas elf was happy to paint some gift tags for me. I used a couple Christmas cookie cutters to trace onto an upcycled cardboard shipping box, and cut them out. She painted her little heart out, and once they dried I punched a hole and used some yarn to tie them to our gifts. They turned out so beautiful! Hannah also strung beads for bracelets for all her girl cousins and aunts, over the course of the last month or so. It’s a great activity to keep her busy at the kitchen counter while I work on dinner, and the results are so beautiful! I tied them to some of the gifts as well. I LOVE them.

I’ve NEVER had this much fun wrapping gifts (or shopping for them, really). Removing most of that over-consumption guilt was such a freeing experience. I didn’t step foot in a mall. That was like a Christmas gift for myself. To be honest, despite buying fewer gifts, our budget didn’t change much from last year, because we bought things of higher quality and not made in sweatshops. Those items will (and should) cost more. Besides buying less, we offset it with not buying wrapping papers, bows, tags, etc, or buying/sending Christmas cards this year (another carbon-footprint motivated decision).

Next year I hope to hit 100% with a sustainable Christmas, which means better planning for my husband (I did okish, but he’s quite difficult to buy for so I compromised my goals here a bit) and my mother-in-law and father-in-law (my husband took care of their gifts this year and they weren’t ZW). It will also mean no online shopping unless I know for certain their packing materials are plastic-free (I was disappointed with a couple of items that should have been otherwise ZW). I only bought a handful of things online though, so I could have easily avoided this. Next year I will!

I hope everyone has a lovely holiday!

zero-ish waste holidays 2016 – what I’m gifting and wanting

I haven’t been perfect (not even close), but I’ve definitely embraced the zero waste lifestyle this year. 2017 will be the year of tweaking things and really digging in to the waste that I’m still creating (mainly outside of the household – work and when I’m on-the-go, though it’s definitely less than before, too).
I have my own rules for gift-buying this year that are zero waste-light:
  1. No plastic. Above all – no plastic!
  2. 4 gifts for the kiddo. Keep it small.
  3. Gifts must all be either: handmade (by me or otherwise), experience gifts, donations in the giftee’s name, and/or at the very least made from sustainable materials. Bonus points for buying local (so far I’m about 50% here..)
  4. Gift wrapping will be either upcycled materials or reusable (or unwrapped).
  5. We are foregoing the stockings (hubby and I anyway) and multiple gifts for each other. One small gift each (saving the money for some kitchen upgrades later this winter).
  6. We are also foregoing mailing cards. This one is the only one that feels like a sacrifice kind of. But the resources they take – both in materials and transportation – is kind of hard to justify for something unnecessary. I still have a bit of time to work on an electronic greeting with a family photo, but I need to work on it right away!

Without giving too much away, so far some of my gifts are:

  • A wooden dollhouse for Hannah. I am sure there will be some plastic packaging in this, unfortunately.
  • Unpackaged bath bombs and bubbles from Lush for some kiddos.
  • Homemade play dough in all the colors for another kiddo.
  • Fair trade African market baskets (with homemade baked goods inside) for friends.
  • A donation to a favorite charity for a friend.
  • A membership to our local Nature Center for a family member.
  • Handmade and functional items for my parents- one made by me and the other custom made from an Etsy seller (I can’t say more than that right now).
  • Homemade cookies in reusable cloth bags for the neighbors.
  • Homemade treats for the dogs in my life.

So, what does a almost-zero-waster want? At this point in my journey I have reusable everything, a collection of jars and other containers, and mainly just don’t want to hoard more stuff. So I don’t necessarily need anything to support my ZW efforts. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have certain things I need. I have never been too shy about telling people what I want for gifts (if they ask) because if I know I need it, it’s not a waste of money or resources. That said, here’s what’s on my list this year:

2016 Christmas Wishlist

  1. A cute and warm plaid flannel shirt. I am really really trying to be more outdoorsy this winter, so being warm and cute def. helps. I would be super happy to receive one of these if it were second-hand, especially!
  2. See number 1; I could really use a legit winter coat that’s not too bulky but still waterproof. I mean, how long have I lived in this climate without one? All my life. Time to embrace this place.
  3. Wool socks. Because winter. There’s a pattern here…
  4. Unpackaged Lush products. I am LOVING their shampoo and conditioner bars, bar soaps, deodorant bar, and unpackaged hair honey. I’m going to buy it throughout the year anyway!
  5. Wine. The ultimate gift for me!
  6. Books about chicken-raising. This is our near-future undertaking and I am so very excited! We’ve co-owned 8 or so birds for a few years off our property but we are going to be bringing some to our back yard hopefully this spring! I cannot wait and I would love to study up this winter with a few reference books.
  7. Not pictured: if someone were to gift me an almond tree I could plant in the spring, I’d love your forever and name it after you.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been quite as ready for the holidays (in my adult life) as this year, and it’s because it’s going to better line up with my values. I’ve never been big on overspending, over-consuming, over-stressing part of the holidays (are any of us, really?). Truly, my “rules” have made shopping easier. Next year I hope to take it just a little further – handmade everything perhaps? But I’ll definitely need to build in more time.

How about you – what’s on your lists (to give and receive)?

be the change in 2016

GandhiHappy New Year! I hope everyone had a great holiday season to end a great 2015. Our holidays were fantastic. Hannah was a blast this year! The rumors are true that toddlers love the box the toy came in as well as the toy itself, if not better.

Every December after Christmas I agonize over my resolutions for the New Year. Last year I didn’t post anything regarding my resolution, but it was basically a decluttering to do list. I did pretty well, actually tackling many areas of the house. I must have made 6-8 donation runs and I sold off quite a few items on Ebay.

What I did poorly, however, is restrain myself from bringing more stuff in to the house; as a thrift shopper I easily justify the bargains. It occurred to me sometime around the holiday preparations that I am overwhelmed with stuff. I am good at decluttering and organizing/hiding things out of sight, so it can seem like we don’t have an excess of stuff. But I fight with it daily. Toys and books and dishes. Wrangling clothes and shoes takes up SO much of my day.

Adding the Christmas acquisitions to the accumulation of stuff led me to another quick clutter sweep of the house earlier this week and another donation run. Just to keep my sanity intact. Between the stuff guilt, there’s the added wastefulness-that-is-Christmas guilt. The boxes, the cards, the wrapping. The made-overseas crap that will get donated over the course of the next few years, but remain in landfills for 1000 years after its useful life. We kept our family gifts minimal and fairly responsible, but it was so obvious on Christmas day just how out of line with our values we can behave on Christmas just because we get caught up in what everyone else does.

One of my awesome Christmas gifts this year was the Kindle Paperwhite. I was excited to download my first book, which has been on my list a while – Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. She’s rather famous as being the matriarch of the family that generates just one quart jar of garbage per year. It just seemed like an obvious choice given my guilt over wastefulness. The book is great (I finished it within 2 days)– her entire life is inspiring. Following her on Instagram has led me down a rabbit hole of a whole AMAZING zero waste community. It’s made me feel both uber guilty and incredibly empowered and motivated to change. I decided it’s not enough to do those minimal and easy things I’ve been doing forever and really make an effort in our household.

Zero Waste

So, my goal for 2016 is striving for zero waste.

I have lots of big ideas for the year, many taken directly from Zero Waste Home, and it’s easy to want to jump in all at once, but I am going to break it down because:

Continue reading “be the change in 2016”

christmas recap & farewell, 2013

Belated Merry Christmas to you! I hope everyone had a great holiday. Ours was pretty great!

IMG_2018I can’t believe 2013 is over. The holidays were fun and relaxing (believe me, it was tough to pare it down and learn to say no to things to make sure I could enjoy myself this year!), and now I can just relax through the homestretch of this baby-growing thing.


Look how cute my sister in law is. She’s so much taller than me, she’s all bump and I’m all stump!


I’m ready for 2014. 2013 was a pretty big year for me, but being pregnant for over half of it definitely slowed down the adventures. I love looking back to recap and appreciate the bigger moments, milestones, completed projects, adventures and silly little diversions that made up my year. It’s so fun to look back before emphatically leaping forward. Here’s my 2013 recap:

  • Spent the first 5 months of the year wrapping up my Capstone course and finally finishing my MBA! Graduated in June.
  • Got a new ride; a 2012 Toyota Highlander. Whole new worlds of thrift shopping and junk-scouting opened up.
  • Got chickens! It’s a family effort with my inlaws, and as they aren’t on our property it’s been pretty easy for me to just enjoy the benefits in the form of happy eggs.
  • Injured my back in the spring doing some yard work, and it continues to haunt me this winter.
  • Husband and helpers expanded the size of our deck, recoated/painted it, finished the walk-out basement under the deck, and poured a beautiful patio. Our backyard is really coming together and I can’t wait to put final landscaping touches in this summer and see it evolve into the plan we’ve been working toward.
  • Started my own seeds indoors with our homemade grow-light apparatus. I learned a lot for following years.
  • We also expanded the garden this year into a second plot at the back of our RV pad. We’ve got a LOT of growing space. This year I filled it with a lot of viney things like pumpkins, squash and cucumbers but next year I’m going to plan better for maximum growing and food preservation. Who knew I’d even love to play in the dirt so much?
  • Discovered early in June that I was pregnant with our first baby! After 8 years of just the two of us, we are going to expand and I’m still giddy with anticipation.
  • Pregnancy has been pretty drama free for me, which I’m posted a little about over the past couple of months. That doesn’t mean I’ve been myself energy-wise however. Productivity on big projects was slower this year, but it’s been a great experience. In October we found out it’s a girl, and I’ve been busy preparing the nursery.
  • Turned the big 3-0 in June!
  • Unceremoniously and untidily wrapped up my 30 before 30 challenge.
  • On my birthday, we discovered my brother and his wife are also expecting – 4 days before our due date! It’s a great story, and it’s been so much better, having Becky to go through all of this with! I can’t wait for them to be parents and meet my new niece. That was an awesome birthday present. I returned the favor by making OUR pregnancy reveal on my brother’s birthday (July 7).
  • Went on a couple camping trips nearby over the summer. Nothing too notable except my first up-close moose sighting!
  • Events: A fun Jazz game, Salt Lake City Urban Garden Tour, saw an Ani Difranco show for the second time, & went to my first Major League Soccer game. (Soccer fans are insane. That is all.)
  • Made soap! The easy way, but still. I’ll have to post on it soon because it’s great fun.
  • Hosted a cooking club (Squash theme!) and attended several others. Our little idea is still going strong after 5 years. I love these people.
  • Was thrown the world’s most beautiful baby shower in November. My work friends put it on and it was absolutely stunning, with amazing food, in a beautiful log cabin setting. We were showered with all kinds of great gifts and got to see all my favorite people in one place (other friends and my immediate family were also invited). I just wish I had thought to have someone take photos. I know there are a few out there who did and I need to get them all to save the memories.
  • Repainted the former guest room to make room for the new office. The room previously serving as the office is getting the nursery treatment. The office is only in phase 1, until I can huff paint fumes again (lots of stuff planned).
  • Assembled my first from-a-pattern quilt top (and have begun quilting it) for baby.

January’s resolution for this year was to focus on healthy, and while I didn’t anticipate the exhaustion of pregnancy to factor into every day, I feel like I’ve been pretty successfully focused (really, I’ve had no choice) on cleaning up some habits. Next year should be even better and I can’t wait for what it will bring.

I hope you all had a great year and 2014 is even better. 2014 resolutions to come!

christmas wishlist

With a baby due the first week in February, this year’s Christmas gift ideas to the family are pretty baby-riffic. But that doesn’t mean I can’t put together a little wishlist of fun things I’d like anyway. 😉

  1. Christmas WishlistCoffee shop gift card. I’d hoard this to make the sleep-deprived mom transition easier when I go back to work.
  2. Radio/iPod speakers. I normally think gadgets are ugly, but this is so pretty I could leave it out all the time.
  3. A big (vegan) tote. This one from Free People is gorgeous and has plenty of room for mom-stuff.
  4. Homesteading books.
  5. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. I use this for everything. It would be the perfect stocking stuffer for me.
  6. New aviator sunglasses. Cheapies are fine (actually preferred).
  7. A perfect planner. I’m already concerned about going back to work after baby and I know it will help if I’m super-duper organized. I love a paper planner.
  8. Muk Luk socks. My feet are always freezing and these are cute.
  9. Paperwhites for indoor. I need something that blooms in winter to help stave off the blues!

What’s on your Christmas wishlist??

DIY gifts & a lip balm recipe

Last year I made some lotion and lip balms to give as gifts to my sisters-in-law, and they were a big hit. This year we drew names for gift-giving with my inlaws, so I decided to DIY a few other fun treats for gift purposes, this time to the gals I work with. I LOVE handmade gifts, especially when they are made with good ingredients, so I hope the recipients feel the love behind these! Look at this assortment of goodies!


In the picture above I have all my gift items ready to hand out – lip balms, castile bar soaps, hand creme (yet to label!) and lavender eye pillows. I wanted to first share the super simple lip balm recipe because it’s fast and fun and there’s still plenty of time to get everything and make some of these for the holidays. And it’s made with all kinds of good-for-you stuff as opposed to chemicals and it’s fun to make your own flavor combinations, so even if you just want to make yourself a huge supply, I’d totally recommend it!

DIY Beeswax Lip Balm


  • 1 TBS + 1 TBS filtered beeswax (either use pellets or grate a large piece into the appropriate measurements).
  • 1 TBS Shea Butter (or another butter of your choosing – Almond, Avocado, Cocoa, etc, are all good options)
  • 3 TBS Sweet Almond Oil (or another carrier oil of your choosing – Olive, Jojoba, etc)
  • 1/4 TSP Vitamin E Oil (helps preserve)
  • 15-30 drops essential oil* or flavor oil


  • A double boiler (or makeshift double boiler like I use, in the instructions below)
  • A silicone stirring instrument
  • Small containers (I got these .75 ounce tins from Majestic Mountain Sage)

*Note: Remember you’ll want to use oils that are tasty, since this is going on the lips! I’ve suggested some below.


  1. Using a double boiler (I use a Pyrex measuring cup in a pan with a couple of inches of water in it) heat up the beeswax, Shea butter, and Almond oil. Stir constantly until it’s all melted into liquid.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in the Vitamin E oil.
  3. Remove the top container from the pan of water and let the oil sit for a couple of minutes to cool down a bit. (Adding essential oils to very hot oil will make them less potent.)
  4. Stir in your essential oils til you achieve desired scent.
  5. Divide mixture evenly among several small containers. Let them cool completely before putting lids on the containers. The mixture will harden to a perfect lip balm consistency upon cooling.
  6. Enjoy!

If you are using flavor oils, go crazy and use whichever you’d like. But if you are using pure essential oils, you may need to consider some tasty combinations. Here are a few good options:

  • Orange, lemon, grapefruit etc.
  • Orange + Clove
  • Cinnamon + Clove
  • Orange + Cinnamon
  • Peppermint

You can also use a dab of cocoa powder in your mixture if you want something chocolatey. That would be delicious when mixed with peppermint or orange essential oil. The possibilities are endless!

Here I made two with flavor oil from Bulk Apothecary, Coconut-Lemongrass and Brown Sugar & Vanilla, and another lip balm with doTerra Sweet Orange and Clove oils. The essential oil balm is by far my favorite because it doesn’t taste artificial. The others are still great, but there’s a big difference in the quality, in my opinion.

To prettify these for gift giving, I printed the flavor and cut out each in a small circle with a craft punch. I Mod Podged a small circle of scrapbook paper to each lid, then added the circle label to the center. I Mod Podged the whole lid and let dry for an hour or so before stacking them away in a box.


These match the handmade soaps I also made as gifts – here’s a closer peak at those. I will add a tutorial on making the soaps shortly, as well as the hand creme in the above picture.

IMG_1979Are you making any gifts this year? Do you love receiving handmade gifts as much as I do?