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Sustainable Stocking Stuffers for the Holidays

sustainable stocking stuffer

The holidays are a joyous season, but unfortunately they can wreak havoc on the environment. If you’re trying to reduce your environmental footprint, then you’ll want to make sure to have an eco-friendly Christmas.

With a little planning, it’s possible to purchase eco-friendly gifts and sustainable stocking stuffers for everyone on your list. Here are our top 8 picks for this holiday season:

1. Reusable Bulk Bags

Eliminate plastic bags once and for all with these reusable bulk bags from Flip & Tumble. Made from 100% cotton with a zip top, these bags are perfect for bulk items, travel or organizing around your home. From the store to the farmer’s market, this is a gift that will be used year-round.

2. Sustainable Bee’s Wrap

This natural food wrap from Bee’s Wrap eliminates the need for plastic wrap and baggies. These beeswax wraps are reusable, biodegradable, compostable, and perfect for covering bowls or wrapping foods. Bring a wrap along as a host/hostess gift to holiday parties.

3. Fair-Trade Lotion

This organic and certified fair trade lotion from Dr. Bronner’s is a perfect addition to any sustainable stocking. Nourish and hydrate skin with organic jojoba oil to heal, organic coconut oil to moisturize, and organic hemp and avocado oils to keep skin smooth. Made from essential oils instead of conventional fragrance, and not tested on animals.

4. Zero-Waste Laundry Detergent

Perfect for the traveler, this zero-waste laundry detergent from The Simply Co. is organic and all natural! Founder Lauren Singer lives a zero-waste lifestyle and hasn’t sent any trash to a landfill since 2012, which she documents in her blog, Trash is for Tossers. The best part of this three-ingredient simple detergent: no packaging heads to the landfill.

5. Handcrafted Beeswax Candles

Enjoy the natural honey fragrance infused straight from the hive to the wax. Place these votive candles from Big Dipper Wax Works into recycled glass jars for the perfect upcycled gift or stocking stuffer.

6. Fair-Trade Chocolate

Chocolate makes the perfect addition to any gift. We love this fair trade, organic chocolate from Alter Eco. Their sustainable practices and eco-friendly packaging are guilt free.

7. Organic Loose-Leaf Tea

Packed in a reusable and recyclable stainless steel tin, this organic tea from Desta fits easily into any stocking. This premium tea line supports sustainable farming and fair trade. Desta believes that providing organic and biodynamic teas are important for their customers’ health and their deep commitment to protect the planet.

8. Reusable Containers

There are many thoughtful gifts to help reduce single-use baggies and containers. Give bento boxessmall containers or reusable snack bags, along with a bamboo utensil and stainless steel straws. And everyone should always carry a reusable water bottle and an insulated coffee tumbler!

Looking for more waste-free holiday tips? Check out our Pinterest page for more of our favorite ideas!

Head Back to School with the U•Konserve Team!

With back-to-school just around the corner, we decided to go behind the scenes at U•Konserve and interview the team for their top waste-free lunch tips! Below we hear from co-founders Lynn and Chance as well as the head of the marketing team, Wendy.

1. How do you get your family into the back-to-school routine after summer vacation?

LJ: It is hard! Try to get them to a regular sleep schedule a few days before the first school day. We have traditions like a special breakfast on the first day which is fun. We also do calendar…sit down and look at upcoming months, fill in school events, picture day, fall break ideas, trips and other fun things, so they have things to look forward to.

CC: Pray that my daughter will get out of bed in time to make it to school.

WM: I think a clutter-free room helps clear the mind, so we try to donate outgrown clothes and books, fix broken items, recycle old papers, and make sure everyone has a tidy work surface free of distractions. We try to eke out every last bit of summer, so going to bed early doesn’t happen in our house until the night before the first day of school.

2. What are your favorite waste-free lunch tips?

LJ: Of course, fun products! Our products make it easy to pack a huge assortment of yummy snacks and foods.

CC: For me, the most impactful tips are all on our fact page. The facts speak to how much trash is going into the world which could easily be remedied by using our products.

WM: My kids come home for lunch, but pack waste-free all the time for after-school outings, trips, and daily leftovers that get eaten as soon as everyone comes in the door after school. Remember to take reusable items with you because even a quick trip to town can involve a run in with the dreaded disposable bag, cup, utensil or straw!

3. What are your kid’s favorite U•Konserve products for their lunch boxes?

LJ: The Insulated food jar for sure because they get excited when they get something homemade rather than the usual sandwich.  The new family favorite though is the big mini because it is the perfect size for so many things! Fig Newtons, goldfish, grapes, berries, cashews, peanut butter for dipping apples in…

CC: Round nesting trios, lunch tote, sweat-free ice pack.

WM: Even though my kids eat lunch at home, they always bring one or two leak-proof round containers to school for a hearty snack like hummus wraps, pasta salad or cut fruit.

4. Any tips for parents just adopting the waste-free lifestyle?

LJ: Don’t worry, they WILL bring it all home!

CC: Invest in quality, durable products that you know will last the school year and ideally much longer. Talk to your kids about reuse and why it is important that they bring these items back home every day and do not lose them.

WM: Try to replace (or eliminate) one thing at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Sometimes it helps to just stop buying a disposable product like paper towels, Ziploc baggies or anything in a plastic bottle, and you’ll soon start to find alternatives that you like. Don’t forget to seek out bulk options, and stores that let you refill shampoo, lotion and soap bottles. And, don’t be discouraged when you mess up because it takes a while for it to become routine.

5. Do you and your kids have any favorite brands for back to school?

CC: Topo backpacks, converse high tops, and Brandy Melville! Yikes

WM: My teenage daughter is researching makeup on ewg.org. My teenage son is obsessed with sustainable brands for backpacks and clothing like Topo Designs, Timbuk2, and Patagonia.

How is your family gearing up for back-to-school?  Leave a comment below or comment/tag us on social media and let us know!

Back-to-School with Stainless Steel Lunch Containers

stainless steel lunch containers

Back-to-school means back to packing lunches! Save time, energy and have fun with the kids by packing waste-free lunches in stainless steel lunch containers. You’ll eat healthier by packing homemade, non-packaged foods. Practice healthy portion control and pack balanced meals full of your kid’s favorite foods.

Removable dividers transform stainless steel lunch containers into bento-style solutions with multiple functions, giving you two containers in one. Here are a few of our favorite go-to bento lunches:

Four of a Kind

Pack your four-section divided container with:

  • Rainbow Roll
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Crackers of your choice

Pack a side of hummus or dipping sauce in a reusable mini container.

Twice as Nice

Pack your two-section divided container with:

  • Apple & Walnut Salad – Combine mixed greens with 4 slices of apple, a tablespoon of gorgonzola cheese, and a handful of walnuts. Pack a dressing of choice on top of the salad or on the side in a mini container.
  • Turkey and Avocado Sandwich – Cut a slice of bread diagonally, spread hummus on one side, add half of a sliced avocado, turkey, cheese of your choice and mixed greens or lettuce.

Fruit & Veggie Delight

  • Leftover Wrap – Combine any leftovers in your fridge with any veggies in a wrap and slice into bite size pieces. Add brown rice or quinoa for more protein.
  • Fruit Slices – Cut up your favorite piece of fruit into slices and enjoy alongside your leftover wrap!

Interested in more ideas for back-to-school lunches? Head over to our Pinterest Page to see our favorites. Also check out our Cost Comparison and save $372 every school year by forgoing a disposable lunch.

Food for Thought…

If every person in New York City uses one less plastic bag for a year, 200 tons of carbon dioxide would be eliminated. We’re grateful to so many of our stores for sharing our waste-free mission and supporting environmental causes. Get back-to-school off to a sustainable start and commit to eliminating all single-use plastic baggies—an easy goal with our reusable options. Find them online or at a store in your community.

 

The Harm In Plastic Packaging

plastic packaging

Each year, millions of tons of plastic packaging get thrown away worldwide with only half of it getting recycled. In many cases, it’s hard to reduce the packaging that products get shipped in without risking damage to the products. Delicate glass products and sensitive electronic equipment, for example, must be packaged in protective containers, most often made from expanded polystyrene (known as Styrofoam).

Unfortunately, these plastics can take thousands of years to decompose, and are often not included in standard curb-collection recycling programs. Since it blows in the wind and floats in the water, polystyrene litter can travel great distances from where it originates.

The environmental result from packaging delicate products in polystyrene is dramatic, polluting both woodland and water, and posing a significant hazard to wildlife. With these facts in mind, we’ve come up with a few suggestions on how you can cut down on plastic packaging waste:

Skip Online Shopping

It is so easy to buy anything from groceries to clothing online.  But do you ever think twice when you open the box and see packing peanuts and bubble wrap used for one item? As e-commerce grows so will the waste.  What can you do about it?  Purchase what you can in-store or try buying online and picking up in-store. If you need to order online, try and buy multiple items that can ship in the same package, take your packaging materials to your local shipping store to be reused, or purchase used items (like Bea Johnson from the Zero Waste Home) and ask the sender to use non-plastic packaging.

Rethink How You Purchase Electronics

Ever notice when picking up a new USB or memory card the amount of plastic packaging used can be more than five times the size of the actual item?  Or all of the styrofoam casing around your new TV?  All of that single-use plastic goes right into the trash once opened. Be conscious of buying what you need and purchasing items with the least amount of packaging.

Find Natural Alternatives

US-based company Ecovative is rethinking sustainable packaging. Their product is made primarily of mycelium, the root part of mushroom colonies. By using recycled agricultural waste, the mycelium grows into a customizable mould and then dries to inhibit further growth. The resulting material is durable, renewable, and naturally fire resistant. Store it for lengthy periods of time without any adverse effects. 

Unlike polystyrene, this mycelium-based packaging can be safely disposed of through composting. It will completely decompose in a matter of months when exposed to nature. It even provides nourishment for existing plant life as it breaks down, helping the natural environment rather than polluting it. 

Every step you take to cut down on plastic packaging helps.  Looking for more information on how to cut plastic out of more areas of your life?  Take a look at this guide from our friends at My Plastic Free Life for more tips and advice.

Clean Living: DIY Household Cleaners

clean living

Clean living starts at home with the products you use to keep the house tidy.  There are a host of products that you use every day around the house that can be more harmful than you realize. Whether the product contains ingredients that are damaging to your health or were packaged in unsustainable materials, these are items that you should ditch and replace with safe, natural alternatives.

Taking a DIY approach to these everyday items means you’ll be in control over what’s used throughout your home, as well as what goes on and into your body. You’ll know exactly what’s in these products so you can rest assured they’re safe. And once you do a bit of research, you’ll find that there are several natural ways to get the results you’re used to. Here are three of our favorite clean living at home recipes:

All Purpose Cleaner

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle
-2 to 4 tablespoons of Castile soap
-10 drops or so of tea tree oil
-water to top it off

Check out the inspiration here

Grease Cleaner

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle
– 2 Cups water
– 1/4 Cup castile soap
– 10 drops lavender oil

Check out the inspiration here

Bath, Sink & Tile Cleaner

Mix all ingredients into a squirt bottle or glass jar
– 2/3 Cup baking soda
– 1/2 Cup castile soap
– 2 Tablespoons vinegar
– 1/2 Cup water
– A few drops of Tea Tree oil

Check out the inspiration here

Once you get into the habit of making your own clean living household products you’ll find that you’re saving money while using higher quality products to clean your home.  Interested in other DIY cleaning products?  Check out our Pinterest Page for all of our recommendations for around the house and beyond!

6 Reasons to Get Kozy with Reusable Food Kozies

food kozies

Have you ever looked into the garbage post lunch and noticed all of the disposable plastic baggies thrown away? Every year we generate 200 million tons of trash or 4.3 lbs. per person per day. Most of this trash is from our disposable lifestyle, and this convenience comes at a high cost.  Out of this problem, our Food Kozies were created.

Six reasons why you should try our sustainable solution

Versatile Food Packing—Invented for sandwiches, but our customers love them for cut veggies, cut fruit and cheese.

Many Uses—Not just for lunch packing, they are also ideal for storing leftovers in the refrigerator, picnics and travel.

Easy to Clean—Unlike cloth, the surface is easy to clean, dries quickly,  keeps food from seeping through, and is perfect for messy foods.

Non-Toxic—Made from LDPE #4 plastic and free of BPA, PVC, phthalates, and lead.

Good for the Environment—Every day 20,000,000 sandwich bags from school lunches go into the trash.

Saves Money—A waste-free lunch saves on average $216 per child per year (versus a disposable lunch).

 

Bag the baggie this Summer and try the reusable alternative with our Food Kozies; wraps and bags for sandwiches, snacks and more. Perfect for summer camp, the office, road trips and other travel, you’ll have fun packing lunch and feel good about reducing your plastic footprint. Join the reuse revolution today!

Pack a waste-free lunch

ukonserve_waste-free lunch

Refusing single-use items and choosing healthy foods are two of the most important actions you can take for a more sustainable planet. Challenge yourself to create new positive habits this spring. Prepping homemade meals in advance, controlling portion sizes and using waste-free lunch containers can guarantee a healthier meal while on the go.

Refuse single-use plastic bags and containers

Every year Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags and the effects are serious: bio-accumulation of plastic particles is endangering our planet. According to UNESCO, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than <b>one million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals every year.

The first step to packing waste-free lunch is to avoid disposable plastic baggies, plastic wrap, juice boxes, plastic water bottles and other throw-away containers. An easy way to go green is to pack with reusable BPA-free sandwich wraps instead.

Choose durable green products

Conscious consumerism is on the rise as people shop for high-quality products that will stand the test of time and stay out of the landfill. Look for long-lasting food-packing options that are easy to clean, seal securely and withstand the rigors of daily use. And considering their long life and continued reuse, well-made stainless steel containers can be incredibly economical.

Pack your lunch in portion-appropriate containers

Stop throwing food away by packing balanced meals in portion-size lunchbox containers. Bring your healthy lunch in an eco-friendly container that is the right size for your appetite, ensuring a zero-waste, guilt-free meal while on the go. Those with removable dividers are even better—so versatile it’s like having two containers in one.

Pick double-walled containers for hot or cold foods

Pack your healthy lunch in insulated food jars that keep your pasta hot or your smoothies cold for long hours at work or school. And don’t be tempted by low-quality plastic containers that are not appropriate for reuse and might not be safe in a microwave where they could release toxins into your food. For hot foods, always stick with stainless steel and ditch the chemical residue.