Go green in 2018! Living sustainably is all about making small changes and continuing to learn and improve. Incorporate some sustainable goals into your new year’s resolutions for a more conscious 2018.
Eco friendly resolution ideas:
1. Air dry your clothes to help them last longer and save energy and money
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 trangle 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?
What do you do if you’re trying to live sustainably or minimally but your family or friends love giving presents? This can be a difficult topic and conversation to have. Gift giving a certain way can become a tradition for families and people generally aren’t happy with change – especially with traditions.
I’ve been very fortunate where gift-giving isn’t a big deal in my family, as a kid we never had mountains of presents (it’s crazy how that’s advertised as the “perfect” Christmas) and my family has generally been very practical with gifts – giving things the person has asked for or they know will get used, gift cards to favourite places, consumables, or experiences like a meal out. Instead of gifts to each other my husband and I plan a little weekend away together, since we live away from our families they usually also get involved and will treat us to a nice dinner out on our trip, it’s a lovely time and so much more meaningful than some stuff we don’t want.
If you are trying to reduce unwanted gifts, here’s some of my tips:
Keep the conversation positive
I think this is the most important. 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 gift ideas make you happy or bring you joy. For example you could 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 charity/organization, or how you feel so much happier having worked hard on decluttering and instead of physical gifts you’d love to spend 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 you would use it all the time.
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 or friends are feeling the same way about all the gift-giving but no one else has expressed it. They might be very open to other ideas:
Instead of getting individual gifts you could suggest that everyone draws names and buys 1 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 doing something you all enjoy?
If you’re all into food and cooking 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 and if your relative who loves giving knick-knacks gave you a charitable donation like you asked, they might be worried that it’s not “enough” or you won’t be happy 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.
Finally, what about when you receive an unwanted gift?
I think it’s important to be gracious receiving the gift 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.
I would really love to hear your thoughts and tips on this topic! Are unwanted gifts an issue for your conscious lifestyle? Have you tried talking to others about it or suggesting alternatives?
To supplement thegreen gift guide, my wonderful sister-in-law Gabrielle Beauchamp wrote this guest post for you sharing some of her favourite quality toys for children:
Traditionally, Christmas is a time of year where consumption is high- lots of meals, parties- and presents. So. Many. Presents. Especially if there are children in your life, you may be asking yourself how you can make smarter purchasing decisions that make a smaller impact on your environment, while still giving beautiful gifts to those you love.
My husband and I have made a commitment to purchase presents for our daughter this year that hold true to our core values- we only want to introduce objects into our house that will last, that are environmentally conscious, and/or ethically or ideally, locally produced.
I hope these toy ideas will help you if you’re looking to do the same!
These little cupcakes come in a tray, and have three different coloured stackable bits so that you can mix and match them. They are made of recycled plastic (from milk jugs!), and are a great addition to any play kitchen. Who doesn’t like playing with cupcakes? I haven’t found a child yet who doesn’t love to serve these little cakes up when they come over for a visit- the only challenge is keeping all the parts together. These are made in the USA- and there are many other products that would make great Christmas gifts- stackable blocks, kitchen sets, cars, trucks, ferries and more. They’ve got a ton of options for the children on your list.
Do you know what kids like to do when they are playing with pretend food? They like to put it in their mouth and pretend to eat it. I am so confident in the quality of Ouistitine’s products that I wouldn’t hesitate to allow my daughter to ‘eat’ these veggies to her hearts delight! Ouistitine is a Canadian brand of toy and home goods, and also make dolls, toys, puppets, and more. My daughter and I (along with her friends) tested out their vegetable basket this summer, which are each handmade with pure, reused wool, and stuffed with carded wool.
They are made in Montreal Canada, and are wonderful toys made with attention to detail by designers with exceptional style- if you are looking for something made with care that is mindful of the environment, Ouistitine’s beautiful selections will more than fit the bill. Because I especially love to keep my gift purchasing local, I will be picking up one of their stunning little hedgehogs for the smallest child in my family, and some hand puppets for creative playtime. They also carry a line of beautiful cards for any occasion, so make sure to stock up before the holidays!
These little cuties are designed in Denmark and made using natural materials- linen and cotton. My daughter loves putting her little mouse, ‘Flower Flour’ to bed in her cardboard matchbox, and tucking her into the beautiful sheets. The little hedgehog ‘Holly’ gets to sleep wrapped tightly in her adorable leaf bed. They are also great travel companions- small enough to fit easily into a toddler backpack, and not too annoying to carry in your pocket when your little one gets tired of carrying them! Maileg’s toys are simple, clean, beautiful, and crafted with exceptional attention to detail.
Djeco is a French company that makes all sorts of wooden toys and games for children. This ox guy is part of the ZeTribu stacking blocks collection, which has a bunch of different stackable animal body parts- not only are these fun to play with, they also look beautiful no matter which way you stack them- these are one of the few toys I don’t mind keeping out after playtime is done. They also have a huge selection of games and puzzles for your little ones.
Barcelona was at the top of the list of places that I wanted to visit while we are living in Europe, so I was thrilled when we were finally able to go last month. It’s not only a gorgeous city with beautiful parks, little streets, and interesting architecture (Gaudi!) but the city has so much to offer in terms of sustainable shopping and food.
What to Do
I really wanted to see the Sagrada Família, Gaudi’s still-in-progress church. It’s truly stunning and there are so many amazing details. Travelling through Europ,e you visit a lot of churches but this is unlike any of them. I found the museum underneath really interesting where it explains how his designs and elements of the building were very influenced by nature (see how in the photo, it looks like trees in a forest?).
We generally try to avoid very touristy places but this is definitely worth it – although be sure to book your tickets in advance, they sell out!
Whenever they’re available, we like to do Detour audio tours in a city. These are GPS guided walking tours that really immerse you in a neighborhood or story, and so far every one we’ve gone on has been really interesting and well done. You can download them for $5 each and they can be shared and synced with up to 3 other people so our group was able to do a detour together.
In Barcelona we did the Summer of Anarchy tour which brought us along the harbour and through the Gothic Quarter to places relevant to the 1936 anarchist revolution. We also did a more current tour El Raval: Women in the World Skate Mecca which is narrated by two sisters talking about their experience as immigrants and how they found a home in the skateboarding culture of Barcelona. Ben especially liked this tour because it takes you to some different spots to watch skaters, and I really enjoyed listening to their story – even if you’re not into skateboarding I think it’s still really interesting. Unfortunately we weren’t able to finish this one, though, because we were caught in a rain storm.
Finally, Barcelona is great for just wandering around; the tiny winding streets of the Gothic Quarter are amazing to explore, and you can take a long walk along the beach, or explore the parks – check out Parc Güell for more Gaudi. We also liked Parc de la Ciutadella (we didn’t get to go there but Parc del Laberint sounds fun and has a maze!).
Where to Eat (vegetarian & vegan)
For a fancy and fresh veg dinner visit Teresa Carles. They have beautiful dishes with healthy ingredients and we all really enjoyed our meals. It is on the pricier side and the portions are satisfying but not large, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a big meal, but I definitely would if you want a lovely candlelit dinner out.
If you’re more in the mood for burgers and beer and a totally different vibe, head to Cat Bar CAT (unfortunately without cats). They have delicious burgers, and I love when vegan burger places have different kinds of patties; Car Bar CAT has bean, hemp, seed/nut (this is the one I had, it was really good!), and a veggie burger, as well as 9 beers on tap and bottles of local and Spanish beers.
Another great meal we had was near the harbour at The Green Spot. The restaurant is really modern with an interesting selection of dishes. The pizzas had really nice toppings and I had the sweet potato “noodles” with a macadamia nut sauce and black truffles (basically my favorite things in one dish), it was rich and delicious. The only con for me was the portion size but our group all really enjoyed our meals.
I’d also recommend having a juice and snack or breakfast at Hammock and if you’re wandering around the Gràcia neighborhood (which you should check out for shopping ↓ ), pick up a baked treat from La Besnéta.
Where to Shop
Gràcia is a wonderful part of the city for sustainable fashion stores. I went there to check out GreenLifeStyle a lovely shop with a good selection of sustainable European brands. They have a cute little dressing room area and also carry jewellery and underwear.
Also in Gràcia by chance we found Sunsais – think a small Anthropologie full of sustainable, and locally made treasures. They have clothes, homegoods, jewellery, and gifts, and the store has beautifully eclectic decor.
Olokuti is another store to check out (I believe they also have a store in the Gothic Quarter). Olokuti has a large selection of clothes including a pretty good men’s selection, as well as a lot of books, and home/lifestyle products (yoga mats, water bottles, etc.). If you’re looking for kids clothes and toys they have a kids store just down the street.
Finally Gràcia also has a vegan and natural spa called Vegere where you can get massages, facials, non-toxic mani/pedis, or have your makeup done.
In the Gothic Quarter check out Humus. They have a pretty large selection of one of my favourite brands ArmedAngels, as well as other organic brands.
A few blocks up the street you can find Coshop (I think they also have a location in Gràcia as well). They carry a lot of small designers and also have their own collection of infinity dresses in tons of different colours.
Where to Sleep
We were travelling with some friends, so we rented a flat together, but Barcelona also has some green-friendly places to stay!
Hostal Grau is an eco boutique hotel, and for a more budget-friendly option there’s Sleep Green eco youth hostel, both in nice central locations.
Find everything mentioned:
I loved Barcelona and hope to go back sometime. If you’ve been or are from there, please let me know what your favourite places are!
I usually use the vinegar at a 50/50 ratio for both my yoga mat cleaner and cleaning around the house. The soap I typically use at a concentration of 1:10 – 1:15 with water. For the baking soda, I create a paste with water, and scrub it into the area I want to clean with a cloth.
For cleaning cloths, I use both rags from old clothes and biodegradable cellulose cloths and sponges.
Do you have any simple and natural cleaning recipes?
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?