Reducing meat and animal products is a great way to be more sustainable during the holidays. These are 7 plant based food ideas which are both delicious and festive:
A steaming glass of spicy mulled wine is perfect on a cold day. I’ve tried quite a few different ways of making it and Jamie Oliver’s method is definitely the best- creating a syrup first makes it so much more flavorful. Although his recipe is quite sweet, so I’d recommend adding less sugar if you don’t like a very sweet mulled wine.
Ginger Molasses Cookies
My favourite treat for the holidays are chewy ginger cookies. I unfortunately don’t have a recipe to share since I don’t usually measure things, but if you search “ginger molasses cookies” there are lots of different recipes. An easy sub for cookies is to replace 1 egg with a flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax + 2.5 tbsp water).
Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
This is great salad for any fall/winter dinners. The colours are lovely together and I really like the combination of flavours and textures. You can find the recipe here (although I usually like to add more seeds and cranberries, and use less oil).
Crispy Garlic Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are another great holiday food. I usually just make them roasted with some lemon, but this year we tried out Minimalist Baker’s recipe. They’re delicious but VERY garlic-y so adjust if you’re not huge garlic fans. I also really enjoyed them with the Sriracha aioli dipping sauce, it would make a great appetizer.
“Cheesy” Chive Biscuits
Biscuits are also nice to have especially if you have gravy with your meal. Hot for Food has a nice savory biscuit recipe that I tried out and they turned out really good, although I’d recommend using a metal circular cutter if you have one (instead of cutting like I did) to get the nice fluffy edges.
The colour of these baked rosemary beet chips is perfect for the holidays. They’re a great snack, but making them can be a little tricky- it’s very important to cut them evenly and keep an eye on them while baking because they can burn easily.
Pastry-Wrapped Lentil Loaf
For the main dish I really recommend this lentil loaf from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken. I’ve made this for a few different dinners and it not only looks really impressive but it’s hearty, nutty and a great sub for a meat main. I think it’s best served with an onion or mushroom gravy.
This holiday season keep it green by using natural and re-purposed materials in your decorations. Here’s 5 easy DIY projects that are festive, minimalist, and sustainable.
You will need:
Find some nice looking branches and put them in a jar with salt to hold them and make sure they’re stable.
To make the pom-poms wind the yarn around the fork and then tie together in the middle. Cut the loops on either side and fluff up and pom-pom (here’s some step by step photos). Add a string to hang.
You can also add any other lightweight decorations to the branches. Paper decorations work really well!
Dried Orange Slices
These are lovely to hang in a tree, make a garland, or hang in windows and have the light shine through. You will need:
a few oranges (depending how many slices you want to make)
Slice the oranges trying to keep them even. Lay the slices out and use a towel to soak up excess moisture. Put them either on an over rack or a baking pan with baking paper. Bake at 100°C, they can take a while to dry out so to save some energy I like to keep them in the oven for around 45 mins (turning the oven off after 30 mins but leaving them in) and then put them on the top of our heater for the rest of the day to totally dry out.
Once the slices are dried you can use as is or take a needle and thread and string them together in a garland or create loops for hanging.
I love the minimalist/Scandinavian style of this simple tree. It’s perfect for small apartments!
You will need:
6 sticks/dowels (3 shorter and 3 longer depending on how high you want your tree to be)
Take the 3 shorter sticks and make a triangle with the ends overlapping. Tie each corner together and wind the string around a few times. Take the 3 longer sticks and tie together a few cm from the top making a triangle. Put the open ends into each corner of the bottom triangle and tie together.
You can then either create your own ornaments and hang them from the top, or use a few ornaments you already have. Top the tree off with a star. ⭐
This is probably the easiest project and they look really lovely. You will need:
tealights and/or floating candles
cinnamon sticks/pine branch
For the regular candle jars, add a couple cm salt to the bottom of a jar and put a tealight in the middle. Take a few cinnamon stick or a little piece of a pine branch and tie to the outside of the jar.
For the floating candles, add cranberries, orange slices, or rosemary springs to a jar with water and put a floating candle on top. Cranberries work best, other things like orange slices will discolour the water over time, these also wont keep a long time so they’re best as a “day of” decoration.
What are your favourite green holiday decorations?
The number one response I get when talking about ethical/sustainable fashion is that it’s too expensive. I get it, the price tags are a lot higher when you compare them to fast fashion, but a big part of shopping consciously is also buying less. For the last few years it didn’t seem like I was actually spending a lot more overall buying ethical and sustainable brands because I was also buying fewer items, however I wanted to see for sure. This year I calculated all the money I spent on clothes and shoes, including the retail value of any items that were gifted to me and I was a bit surprised with the results.
This year was definitely a more expensive year for me since in addition to buying a few items for my capsule wardrobe and replacing some pieces, I had to buy a new pair of running shoes, got a nice pair of heels, had to replace my swimsuit, and also invested in a sweater from Izzy Lane for my upcoming winter capsule (even though I’m not wearing it this year I still included it in my calculations). My total expenses for clothing and footwear in 2017 came to the equivalent of $1544 USD. Over $200 less than the average American, but about $145 more than the average Brit (although if the survey actually didn’t included shoes I would definitely be under).
The garments I purchased were from ethical and sustainable brands and yet my spending is close to the averages. People assume I spend more money on clothes because the items have higher price tags, and I even thought my expenses would come out to be above average this year with the 2 pricier shoes (they are about 30% of the total). Next year I’m pretty sure I’ll be under both averages.
I’m excited to have this little bit of data to back up what I suspected – that “buy less, buy better” doesn’t mean you have to spend more. Plus if you’re budget conscious and $1500 USD is too much for a year, there are so many ways to shop consciously and affordably! I have a video all about it. 🙂
Also I have to mention how much I love having a capsule wardrobe. It’s the reason I’ve been able to be more thoughtful and selective with the items I choose to invest in. I don’t mind spending more on a piece not only because it’s ethically made and environmentally friendly but because I know it’s something that’s going to work with my wardrobe and get a lot of wear.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you feel you spend more shopping ethically? Has a capsule wardrobe helped you save money?
Are you trying to live sustainably or more minimalist but your family or friends love giving presents? This can be a difficult topic and conversation to have, but it’s worth it!
You might get resistance at first but if you follow these suggestions most people will understand and eventually come around. In my experience some are often very grateful or appreciative of you initiating a shift!
Tips to Reduce Unwanted Gifts
Keep the conversation positive
This is the most important. Gift giving can be very personal to people so telling someone you don’t want “junk” or their sweatshop-made gifts is hurtful and will make them upset and defensive. Instead focus on how other things make you happy or bring you joy.
For example you could explain how you’ve worked hard on decluttering and instead of physical gifts the thing you’d love most is to enjoy some quality time together.
If there’s something specific that you’d like, instead of talking about how other similar items might be unsustainable or unethical, focus on how that item would work really well for you and be a meaningful gift.
If you don’t want anything but know people will definitely want to get something, ask for a donation. Explain that you really care about a certain cause so it would mean a lot if instead of gifts they made a donation to a certain charity/organization you support.
You want them to see how this is something that would make you happy, not feel bad about their gifts or like they are unappreciated.
Make alternative suggestions
Maybe your family, friends, or coworkers are feeling the same way about all the gift-giving but no one else has expressed it. Try offering some other fun ideas to change up your traditional gifting:
Instead of getting individual gifts you could suggest that everyone draws names and buys 1 “big ticket” gift for 1 person. This way you can spend a little more on the gift and get something the person truly wants.
You could agree to gift experiences – dinners, movie tickets, coffee dates, or any activity they enjoy. Instead of giving gifts why not spend time together and make memories!
You could decide to gift consumables like homemade cookies, coffee/tea, favorite liquors, etc.
Or another option if you’re all crafty is to give handmade gifts
You could all use a wishlist. There are apps like Giftster where everyone lists things they’d like, you can share it with a group and mark things that are purchased so there won’t be duplicates. This way people can ask for things they actually want and it makes shopping easier for everyone.
Show extra appreciation when people respect your wishes
Remember that it can be a big deal for some people to change their habits. If your relative who loves piles of presents gave you a charitable donation like you asked, they might be worried that it’s “not enough” or you’ll feel left out when everyone else get their gifts. Make an extra effort to thank them and explain that it’s a wonderful gift and really means a lot to you!
Of course you should show gratitude, but taking extra time to explain how meaningful it is will help the person know they made the right choice and they’ll also likely remember for the next time how special that gift was to you.
What about when you receive an unwanted gift?
I think it’s important to still be gracious receiving unwanted gifts and then try to find that item a home where it will actually be used. I really like how Courtney Carver explains gift giving; that the “gift” isn’t the physical object, the gift is meant to be an expression of love or appreciation so you can keep the intention of the gift but still let go of the object. The person who gave you the gift likely wouldn’t want it to cause you stress or negative feelings.
If you know someone who would use and appreciate the gift, re-gifting can be a great option. Also look for charities you might be able to donate it to, for example if you received skincare products that you won’t use try to find a local shelter that takes care and hygiene products.
Then try again with gentle suggestions next time. Remember that it can be a process and take a while for people to adjust.
I’m all for reducing waste, and I think that lowering your impact and waste is an important part of living sustainably. I also make a habit of sharing low/zero waste products and solutions. However, I can’t see myself adopting a zero waste/plastic-free lifestyle with the way things currently are. Here’s why:
Garbage is not my top priority
Focusing on “zero waste” means prioritizing waste, but sustainability-wise I think other things are more important. I try my best to find products and brands that have a sustainable and ethical focus throughout their supply chain, production and use. Things like sustainable materials, quality/longevity, ethical manufacturing, low impact production, versatile styles, and supporting small, conscious businesses all come before waste for me.
For example, given the choice between an ethically-made garment from organic, fair-trade cotton shipped in a polybag or a regular cotton garment from a non-transparent brand that I can buy without the bag, I will always choose the first option. This is because I feel that supporting the first company has a much greater impact throughout the supply chain, than the impact of saving a plastic bag.
Also it’s important to note that most clothes are shipped in plastic bags. Even if you buy the item in store, it still likely came to the store in a bag and therefore generated the same waste, you just didn’t have to deal with it. Of course sustainable brands should be trying to reduce their waste and use sustainable packaging and most do a very good job. However, as People Tree explains in their post, things like the use of polybags can be very difficult and brands often have to weigh the importance of a lot of different areas to decide on the best packaging to use.
I don’t think sustainability movements should be motivated by guilt, and I talked about this in my video on guilt and judgement. When I tried out Plastic Free July, my motivation shifted from wanting to do something positive to trying to avoid the guilt. A garment with plastic on the tag; forgetting to ask for no straw; having to buy certain groceries that aren’t available package free; the plastic packaging for medication; these things all made me feel bad. And this was only something I had to consider for a short time; I didn’t have to replace my makeup or beauty products during that month.
What keeps me motivated to live greener is knowing that I’m trying to work towards positive change, and that I’m learning, growing and improving. While I did learn a lot from trying a month of plastic-free living, instead of feeling like I was doing something good, I always felt like I was messing up, having to weigh difficult decisions, or being reminded of my “failures” by holding onto a jar of my plastic trash. Maybe over a longer period of time living this lifestyle, the feelings would’ve changed, but I definitely didn’t feel very good or motivated.
I believe in a “do good” approach instead of a “do no harm” approach; I find this positive perspective to be more effective. Usually when I talk with people who are struggling, or feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, they’re focusing on all the negative and harmful aspects of their lifestyle instead of looking at where they can make changes and have a positive impact.
Zero waste living is very dependent on access/specialty stores and also time
Some cities are amazing and have lots of bulk options and easy access to zero waste products. We were lucky enough to have a package free store (now two!) open up in our city about a year ago, but before, there was no way to buy things like rice, dried beans/lentils, pasta, and other staple foods without plastic. Now, even though the zero waste stores are pretty great, they still have a limited selection of items and we can’t find everything. While one is luckily not too far from me, it’s still a 30ish min walk with heavy glass containers and limits how much I can buy. If you don’t have one in your neighborhood it mean carrying tons of glass jars and big bags on the bus and train which isn’t possible for everyone, or driving which of course has other sustainability issues. Also, while traveling, we’ll often try to save money and cook where we’re staying, but unfortunately at most grocery stories you can’t find foods plastic-free. If you don’t have access to stores that sell bulk, it’s just not a realistic lifestyle.
Additionally it often requires more time. A lot of things need to be DIY’d and it basically means the majority of pre-made, packaged foods are off the table. I really enjoy making things myself and cooking, and things like my DIY deodorant are definitely doable for me, but the reality is that making everything can take a lot of time that I (and most people) don’t always have.
It can conflict with eating vegan
I have been vegetarian for over 10 years now and eating mainly vegan/plant-based is important to me. Now that we have a package-free store we’ve been able to reduce the amount of plastic that comes with our groceries, but for some items, this is still unavoidable. For example, plant and nut milks are a staple in our fridge and we have no plastic-free options or time to DIY them.
Another big one for me is vegan faux meats. Especially in the summer when we’re barbecuing with friends, I want eating vegan to seem “normal” – i.e. I want to show that you can eat the same foods you’re used to and they can be really delicious! For a lot of meat-eaters, realizing that they can still eat the foods they like, is a big part of being open to and incorporating more plant-based meals into their diet. Introducing my friends and family to meat-free options is more important to me than avoiding the plastic that comes with them and giving the impression that plant-based diets are very difficult and restrictive when they don’t have to be.
So while zero waste is not where I choose to primarily focus my attention, I’d love to hear if you live zero waste or have tried it! Have you encountered similar issues or conflicts?
The 4 areas I consider to be the basics of building a sustainable wardrobe are:
Wear – make sure you’ll actually wear and get a lot of use out of your clothes. When buying something new, commit to at least #30Wears and ask yourself questions before buying it like, ‘How often will I wear this?’. I get a lot of wear from my clothes by keeping it minimal with a capsule wardrobe.
Quality – buy clothes that will last, and definitely avoid anything that looks like it’s likely to fall apart or wear out after a few washes. Check the stitching and material for quality issues. More about how to identify good quality clothes.
Next Life – what happens to your clothes when they can’t be worn anymore or when you’re done with them? They shouldn’t be thrown away! Many textiles can be recycled or reused, and clothing in good condition should be donated or go to someone else. Watch my video about what to do with your old clothes.
What I love about this challenge is that it’s not only a great way to try out a mini capsule wardrobe, but I find it also helps you get creative with your wardrobe and try new combinations. Both times I’ve tried it I came up with new looks I really liked.
The 10 items I chose
From my capsule wardrobe I selected a grey cotton jumper, long shirt/dress, velvet bodysuit, black knit trousers, mustard/navy knit jumper, black hat, grey tee dress, linen skirt, heeled ankle boots, and an over-sized denim jacket. I tried to avoid items that were in my last fall 10×10, and there were two new items I specifically wanted to in my capsule (the long shirt and bodysuit) in order to use the challenge to figure out some different ways of wearing these pieces. Day 2 I actually wore them both together and even though I wasn’t sure about it at first at first, I now really love that outfit and will be repeating it often.
This challenge confirmed that the long tencel shirt was a good choice as a new addition to my capsule wardrobe: I love it as a dress, top, or layering piece; It’s really versatile and can be styled a lot of different ways.
I also realized I don’t wear skirts enough. I love this linen skirt but my go-to outfit is usually pants and a top, so this season I’m going to try to wear the skirt more often.
This challenge was a lot of fun and I’m a little sad that it’s now over, although I am happy not having to take outfit photos everyday (posing for these photos was so awkward – look 8 is me just flailing around because I have no idea what to do with my limbs :P).
I highly recommend trying it, or some version of it (e.g. 6×6 or even 20×20) if you’re interested in testing out a “mini capsule” and especially if you’re feeling in a bit of a rut wearing the same outfits and want to play around with different combinations.
Have you done the 10×10 challenge, or if not, are you interested in trying it?
My capsule wardrobe is adapted from the Project 333 challenge. Over the course of creating my many capsule wardrobes I’ve been fine-tuning them to figure out what works best for me. The most recent change I made in the spring was to no longer include shoes as part of my capsule wardrobe, because I feel I have a good core “shoe capsule” and the one thing I often seemed to miss was some pair of shoes that I hadn’t included.
I also find that I need more pieces in the fall and winter and fewer in the spring and summer, so I don’t try to hit a specific number, I just build a wardrobe I think would work well, and it usually ends up being 30-35 pieces.
I want to say that I didn’t do the best job with my colours this season (even though there is very little colour). Like I mentioned in my how to build a colourful capsule wardobe video, it’s best to keep different colours in the same “area”. I really love the deep reds and greens but I have the reds as tops and the greens as layering pieces (I’m not really into dressing like Christmas). This is mainly because I started knitting the green cardigan years ago and just finished it a few weeks ago. In hindsight, I wish I had chosen a different colour, but while it’s not ideal, it’s still a really versatile and functional capsule wardrobe. I just wanted to mention it in case you’re wondering why I’m not following my own advice. XD
I love using oils; I’ve completely replaced creams and moisturizers with them, and enjoy the simplicity and benefits to my skin that come with using them. Some questions that I often get in relation to oils are: “Which oils do you prefer?” and “How can I find the right oil for my skin?”. There are lots of different options, all with their own benefits so it can be a difficult choice.
The first oil that I tried was jojoba oil. I selected it because it’s a good versatile oil, and it’s recommended for both oily and dry skin, although it’s generally better for skin that’s more on the oily side. I have combination skin, so I figured this was the best option. Jojoba oil is actually not a oil, it’s a wax that is very similar to the sebum your skin produces. This makes it good for helping to balance your skin’s sebum production, and it’s also good for acne. I really liked how lightweight it was, especially for my first time using oils, since I was worried that they would make my skin really greasy. I really liked using jojoba oil and it got me excited about facial oils, so when it was time to get more, I decided to experiment with different oils.
The next oil I got was argan oil. It’s also recommended for different skin types, and is high in vitamin E. It’s know for its anti-aging benefits: reducing wrinkles and helping heal the skin. Argan oil is heavier compared to jojoba, but it still absorbs well. A big reason why I wanted to try argan oil was because it’s supposed to help with redness, which I get around and on my nose. Using it, I never noticed any improvements in that area, but I later learned that it’s high in oleic acid, which can make redness and acne worse. It seems like argan oil works really well for some people, and not so well for others. Since it is a pricier oil, for me it wasn’t worth it, although it was really wonderful on my hair.
I then decided to try sweet almond oil. This is actually recommended for dry skin, but I got it because it was winter, and I was spending time in my hometown in Canada where it’s very dry. Sweet almond oil can help heal the skin, and I found it still absorbed well. Going back to Germany where it’s more humid, I did feel a little greasy using it, but it wasn’t too bad. I do, however, really like using it on my body and any dry areas, and because it’s an affordable oil it makes a really great body moisturizer. Ben has drier skin then I do, and it works really well for him.
Next in my facial oil journey I decided to try an oil blend. I got the Aphrodite Facial Oil from Magic Organic Apothecary (you can also get it from The Choosy Chick* if you’re in North America). The main ingredient is rosehip oil, but it also contains sunflower, yarrow, and rose geranium oils, along with marshmallow leaf extract, and damask rose essential oil. Roseship oil is has lots of vitamins and beneficial fatty acids which help with skin regeneration. As well, the other oils help with redness, calming and balancing the skin. This is a nice “dry oil” and absorbs well. I’ve really been enjoying using it this summer. I’m not sure if it will be too light for the winter, but we’ll see!
So those are the oils that I’ve tried on my skin, but these are some other good ones:
If you have oily/acne-prone skin try grapeseed or hemp seed oil. You will want to look for an oil with linoleic acid. Grapeseed is easily absorbed, known for combating acne, and can help reduce oil production. Hemp seed is another oil high in linoleic acid and has anti-inflammatory properties.
If you have dry skin try safflower or sweet almond oil. Safflower oil helps your skin to keep in moisture, but it also contains linoleic acid to help with acne. Sweet almond is a good moisturizing oil for dry skin, and can help to remove dead skin cells and relieve itching and inflammation.
If you have very dry skin try coconut or olive oil. Both of these are comedogenic (meaning they can clog your pores) which is why they’re typically used on the body, but both oils can provide moisture and nourishment to dehydrated skin.
If you have aging skin try argan or rosehip oil. Both help to improve skin texture and combat signs of aging.
Finally, if you’re unsure where to start, I think jojoba is a great, “all-types” oil. It balances sebum, is good for both dry and oily skin, and it can help skin conditions like acne or eczema; also, it’s not very expensive and has a long shelf-life.
When purchasing oils look for pure, preferably organic, cold-pressed oils. I bought most of my oils from Ecco Verde*
Learn more about different oils:
Naked Truth Beauty has a helpful post explaining linoleic vs. oleic acid, comedogenicity, and some common face oils.