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8 Tips to Enjoy the Holiday Season

holiday

As the holiday season moves into full swing, remember it is easy to overextend yourself. The fun, the family, the celebrations, and the dash to finish things up before the end of the year is exciting. But more often than not, all that energy and excitement can leave you feeling overworked, overwhelmed and overindulged.

What if, instead of getting sucked into the never-ending holiday hype, you approached the season as an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the accomplishments of the past year?

Here are 8 tips to help you experience more peace and enjoyment this holiday season.

1. Move your body

When your schedule starts to get busy and you run out of time, exercise is often the first item to get dropped from the to-do list. Rearrange your busy schedule and get creative with your limited time. Take walks during your lunch break or plan your holiday gathering with friends at a yoga studio instead of a restaurant.

2. Hydrate

Holiday dinners and parties often tempt us with unhealthy foods and drinks. Try to seek out healthy alternatives and be conscious of how you’re feeling. And don’t forget to bring your own reusable water bottle in case you attend a holiday event with single-use plastic cups.

3. Shop Mindfully and Slowly

Slow down and buck the trend of frenzied and mindless holiday shopping. Avoid the temptation of falling into the marketing trap of the holiday season. Resist buying something just because it’s on sale. Think carefully about your purchases, choose more meaningful gifts, and choose products that lessen your overall impact on the environment. Get more ideas here.

4. Take Breaks

Schedule time every week during the holidays just for you. Use this time to do what brings you joy and remember you are a human being not a human doing.

5. Travel Off-Peak

If your schedule allows, travel during off-peak days and hours. This way you’ll avoid the stress of the holiday travel crowds.

6. Don’t Overschedule Your Time

It is ok to say no to holiday parties and get-togethers. If you’ve been invited to multiple events on the same day, say yes to the one you will most enjoy. This way you are more present for the event and people you are with.

7. Get Enough Sleep

Get enough sleep to be the healthiest, happiest and most engaging version of you. Don’t forget that the recommended seven hours of sleep still apply during the holidays.

8. Be Grateful

If you’re reading this post, there’s a likelihood that you have more people, experiences and things in your life to be grateful for than you can possibly count. So start counting, pause, reflect and give thanks for all of the great blessings in your life.

Black Friday Purchases that Change Habits

black friday

This is a tough one…we want to get our products in the hands of as many people as possible to help eliminate single-use waste, but we also want to balance that with a message of slowing down the mindless shopping frenzy that starts on Black Friday and continues through the holiday season.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you care deeply about the environment and make thoughtful decisions every day that align with these values…so keep it up. While planning and completing your holiday shopping this year, continue to be mindful of the following:

Resist buying something just because it’s on sale

Black Friday is the biggest day of the year for discount shopping. Shoppers expect great deals at deep discounts. But we often neglect to think about the true cost of our purchases, especially when they are irresistibly cheap. The average American generates 82 pounds of textile waste every year which usually ends up in landfills.

Choose more meaningful gifts

Some of the best gifts come with the most thought behind them. Experiences, hand drawn pictures, and thoughtful handwritten cards have been some of our favorite gifts over the years. Remember the theme of the season is to spend quality time with loved ones, so slow down and give them the gift of your presence. Give to non-profits in the name of your friend or family member. Make thoughtful homemade gifts that have a much lower impact on the planet. Sew, bake, get creative. See our ideas here.

Honor the cause

Choose products that lessen your overall impact on the environment. Shop from Certified B Corporations that work hard to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. And of course give the gift of reuse! Make cookies, breads, candied nuts, loose teas, herbs, olives or other holiday treats and package them in reusable containers.

To purchase with a purpose this holiday weekend, enjoy 20% off all U Konserve products, including sale items, with coupon: PURPOSE20. Starts Friday, 11/25.  Ends Monday, 11/28. Online only.

Waste-Free Thanksgiving Tips for the Holiday Season

waste-free thanksgiving

The holiday season is beginning! Thanksgiving is right around the corner and this year we want to make sure you enjoy a waste-free Thanksgiving while treading lightly on the environment.

The USDA estimates that on average, American consumers waste about one-fifth of the food that is available to them. By following the few steps we’ve listed below, you can easily enjoy a waste-free Thanksgiving.

Plan Ahead

Planning is key to hosting a successful waste-free Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t let the holiday overwhelm, instead plan ahead by making sure you:

  1. If you’re having a large gathering try to get a firm headcount of who will be attending so you can better prepare while shopping and cooking.
  2. Get organized by going through your cabinets for any ingredients, especially canned foods, that can be donated to your nearest food pantry.
  3. Make sure you have a list of food your guests are bringing so there are no duplicate dishes, and consider options for guests with food sensitivities.

Use Scraps

When cooking many different dishes there are bound to be food scraps that go to waste. Make a difference this year! There are ways to use (almost) your entire turkey and set aside a compost pile for your vegetable and other compost-friendly scraps.

BYO Reusable Container

As you are inviting guests, remind them to bring their own leftover containers with them. This cuts down on leftovers going to waste and single-use plastic container waste. Enjoy 20% off glass and stainless steel nesting trios, the perfect BYO reusable containers for the holidays!

Host a Leftover Party

If you have leftovers you don’t want to eat but don’t want to waste, we have a solution. Make a day out of it and host a leftover party. Turn leftovers into pizza, soups or a potluck of leftovers from other Thanksgiving dinners.

For more waste-free Thanksgiving ideas, including DIY decorations, head over to our Pinterest Board.

5 Reasons We Love the Tiny House Movement

tiny house

Tiny Houses have taken over home TV shows, the internet, and many home and garden magazines. But what exactly is the tiny house movement? Simply put, it is a social movement where people are choosing to downsize the space they live in. The typical American home is about 2,600 square feet, whereas the typical small or tiny is between 100 and 400 square feet.

You may be shaking your head asking why would people want to downsize to such small quarters. So we’ve compiled a list of 5 reasons we love the tiny house movement.

Smaller Environmental Impact

Due to the size of micro homes, they can generally be completely powered by solar panels at a fraction of the cost of a traditional home. Through the proper application of green technology, it would be possible to live net-zero and completely off the grid in a tiny home. This infographic does a great job highlighting all the ways tiny houses reduce energy costs and allow your house to be self-sufficient.

Less Expensive

Tiny houses cost less in general. Since the houses are smaller, so are the mortgages and utility bills that go along with it. Young adults buying their first property are better able to afford these houses as well as people looking to downsize and save. 68% of tiny house people have no mortgage compared to 29.3% of all U.S. homeowners!

More Time & Freedom

Simply put, when you have a smaller living space there is less to clean and less time put into maintenance. This leaves more time for activities you enjoy and more time with friends and family.

Less Clutter and Less Waste

Living in a smaller space leaves less storage room in general. With the success of books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, people have been decluttering items that don’t bring them joy. A tiny house means keeping what you really use and getting rid of excess “stuff” that doesn’t serve a purpose. Less space also forces us to purchase with intention and seek out durable, long-lasting items that take the place of other wasteful alternatives.

More Connection and Communication

Smaller living spaces mean fewer places to go when a disagreement arises.  Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell of Living Large in Our Little House puts it best when she says, “Not having room to spread out anymore took some getting used to, but now I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t want to go back to us living in separate rooms, and not really communicating or spending time together.”

So how do you know if tiny is for you? Rent or stay overnight in a tiny house or stay at a tiny hotel like this one and see how you like it! Also check out our Pinterest board full of our favorite tiny houses and inspiration for going smaller.

The Benefits of a Plastic-Free Kitchen

plastic-free

From storing last night’s leftovers to shopping at the grocery store, plastic is everywhere, especially in your kitchen. It is important to understand that some plastics contain a hazardous mix of chemicals, such as:

  • Phthalates, which affect the reproductive system
  • BPA (bisphenol-A), which disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen

As you may be aware, these chemicals can leach into whatever food or beverage you put in them, in amounts that vary depending on your use. For instance, if you microwave plastic containers or bottles, or put hot liquids or foods into them, BPA leaches into your food or drink 55 times faster than when used cold. There is also evidence that chemicals leach from plastic faster when the container is:

  • Old or scratched
  • Frequently put in a dishwasher
  • Washed with harsh detergents

Knowing those facts, you’re probably wondering what steps you can take to transition out of using plastic in your kitchen. Here are a few tips:

Skip Plastic Wrap and Baggies

Plastic wrap and baggies are usually a go-to when saving leftovers. But plastic wrap can leech into your food, and every year 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away in America. Make a transition to reusable food wraps made of beeswax or LDPE #4, a low-density, recyclable plastic. Our food kozies and snack bags are a perfect option, or you can try to DIY with this step-by-step guide.

Save Leftovers in Glass or Stainless Steel

At first, it may seem hard not to use plastic for food storage, but switching to glass or stainless steel is a much healthier option for you and your family. Some helpful tips include:

  • Save glass jars and searching second-hand stores for glass containers in good condition.
  • Purchase stainless steel reusable food containers for takeout and leftovers.
  • Buy glass containers to cook, bake and for storing leftovers.

Skip Plastic When Food Shopping

From produce bags to check out, plastic is everywhere when grocery shopping. Do your best to skip the plastic by purchasing food in bulk in reusable bags, skipping fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic, and bringing reusable jars and containers for other loose items.

Cutting the plastic out of your kitchen may seem overwhelming, but by following these 3 small steps you’ll be able to easily transition to a plastic-free kitchen!

Looking for more ideas on how to live plastic free? Check out our infographics: Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Kitchen and Safer Kitchen Guide, created in partnership with EWG’s Healthy Child Healthy World.

Pickle Your Garden Fruits and Vegetables This Fall!

garden

If you head to your local farmers market every weekend or have a garden of your own, you know that fall offers a wide variety of delicious in-season vegetables. With so many options it can be hard to pick, but luckily you don’t have to! Pickling provides a delicious alternative to keeping those garden vegetables fresh for the winter months to come.

Apples, beets, cranberries, cabbage, rutabaga, cauliflower, onions and squash are all in season and perfect for pickling. Before you begin the process, make sure you have pint-size (2-cup) canning jars or similar-size tempered-glass jars with lids equal to the amount you’d like to pickle.

Step 1: Prepare Fruit or Vegetables

Wash and chop your veggies into whatever shape you’d like them to be pickled in (thin disks work well if you’re unsure ). Cabbage is easiest when shredded.

Step 2: Divide Vegetables

Divide the vegetables among the pint-size (2-cup) canning or other glass jars. Place them inside the jars and leave some room.

Step 3: Add Flavorings

Add fresh or dry flavorings, if desired. Don’t be afraid to mix and match a little! Some of the best dry flavorings to start with are peppercorns, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds and caraway. Use between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon of these dried spices per jar.

Step 4: Make Brine

Make either sweet or sour brine using these recipes:

Sour Brine Recipe

Makes: 6 cups. Combine 3 cups distilled white vinegar (or cider vinegar), 3 cups water, 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sea salt and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt is dissolved. Let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Sweet Brine Recipe
Makes: 6 cups. Combine 3 cups distilled white vinegar (or cider vinegar), 3 cups water, 1-1/2 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sea salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

If canning apples try this recipe, and for cranberries try this recipe.

Step 5: Fill Jars with Brine

Carefully fill jars (or containers) with brine to within 1/2 inch of the top of the rim, covering the fruit or vegetables completely. Discard any leftover brine. Place the lids on the jars (or containers) and push to the back of the refrigerator. Let them sit back there for at least a week while the flavors soak up. Keep jars in the fridge for up to 6 months.

If you grow other vegetables in your garden, try canning them this fall and perfect your recipe. These jars make great hostess or holiday gift ideas.

Did you like our pickling idea? Let us know on social media! Post your picture and tag our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page. Also follow our Pinterest page for our favorite waste-free ideas and inspiration!

3 Halloween Costume Ideas You Can Make!

halloween

Autumn is here and Halloween is just around the corner. Halloween is a fun holiday full of treats, scares and the opportunity to dress up! Making your own Halloween costume allows you to be creative, have fun, save money, and lessen your impact on the environment.

Here are three ideas for costumes you can easily assemble using found materials or items you may already have around the house. These ideas work for men, women, and children’s costumes.

Mummy

Turn an old white bed sheet or piece of fabric into a DIY mummy costume! Start by taking 5-10 teabags and placing them in a bucket of boiling water. Let the tea steep for 20 minutes and place the old sheet in the water. Soak the sheet for an hour to give the fabric an aged appearance. Hang the sheet outside to dry or place in the dryer. Cut or rip the fabric into long strips. Put on white or light colored clothing and find a volunteer to help you wrap strips around your arms, legs, torso and neck!

Witches and Wizards

If you’re in a time crunch and need a quick and easy costume, this is for you! All you need to make your Witch or Wizard hat are paper, scissors, a ruler and some double stick tape. Follow the step by step instructions here.

Finish off your costume with items from your closet or a thrift store. For a witch costume, find a black dress, striped tights, black shoes and a broom. For a wizard costume, find a robe, graduation gown, or make your own with a sheet or tablecloth.

Cardboard Dinosaur

We love this idea from hello, Wonderful that we couldn’t help but share. This is not only a great idea for kids but adults as well. All you need are three cardboard boxes, paint, white mat board, glue and scissors.

These costume ideas are just a starting point. Exercise your imagination and embellish your costume anyway you like. Check out our Pinterest Halloween board for more suggestions on eco-friendly costumes and decorations!

 

 

Eco-Friendly Fall Decorations For Your Home

ECO-FRIENDLY

It seems as though every day in October is a countdown to Halloween. As you’re preparing to decorate this year, skip the store-bought items and choose a more eco-friendly option. Not only will you save money, but you’ll end up with unique, one-of-a-kind ideas that are gentle on the earth!

Most of our favorite ideas involve items you probably already have around the house including colored paper, scissors, string and glue or tape. Get creative and try to find items you can reuse to make decorations.

Themed Garland

Making a paper garland is an easy and fun project for the whole family. Ghosts, skulls and bats are easy to stencil and trace on construction paper, old magazines or newspaper. These ideas from HomeDIT cover Fall garlands and Halloween-themed garlands. Make the garland as easy as you like by choosing simple shapes and decorations. Kids can decorate with crayons, paint and buttons to personalize.

Alternatives to Pumpkin Carving

If you’re hosting any type of fall gathering, we love this idea where you cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the insides to make a cooler for all types of beverages. Utilize the same idea for smaller pumpkins and line with smaller glass bowls to use for snacks or candy.

If you’re looking for a new kind of pumpkin carving, these updates on the classic jack-o-lantern light us up. Simply hollow out the pumpkin, trace a shape on the outside and create holes along the pattern.

Paper Punch Leaves

Make a day out of raking the yard and collecting leaves. While outside, ask your kids to collect a handful of their favorite leaves. Take them inside and punch them into beautiful shapes and press them in a book. If you don’t own paper punches, create a small stencil of a circle or square and have them cut out their favorite part of the leaf. Once the leaves have dried, use them as DIY confetti on your Halloween or Thanksgiving table.

Looking for more ideas? Check out our Pinterest board full of ways to reuse what you have around the house and repurpose into the perfect eco-friendly Fall and Halloween decorations!

10 Upcycling Ideas for Kids

upcycling

Upcycling is simply recycling with a twist…the term is used to describe the growing trend of reusing, restoring or repurposing old furniture, clothing or goods from around the house. The goal is to lower your footprint and save items from landfill by turning them into something useful.

  • Cork Stamps

Wine corks can easily be repurposed into stamps for DIY crafts and projects for kids. We love this alternative to rubber stamps, especially the ideas in this tutorial. Minimal tools are needed to make these stamps, but adult supervision is recommended.

  • Glass Jar Planters

This idea is fun and easy for kids and adults alike. Collect empty glass jars that you’ve used (salsa, pickle or empty candles are our favorite) and get planting! All you need is some potting soil, seedlings or cuttings, and small rocks for drainage on the bottom.

  • Shirt Pillows

Love that gently worn shirt, but not ready to get rid of it? Repurpose it by making it into a pillow. Use upcylced throw pillows as decorations on beds or couches. Here is an easy step-by-step guide.

  • Vintage Fabric Bowl Covers

Try this simple sewing project with kids to create homemade bowl covers from vintage fabrics. Save on plastic wrap with this waste-free idea, perfect for outdoor parties or picnics. They also keep the bugs away and keep food fresh.

  • Map Gift Tag or Bookmark

With the holidays coming up, making your own gift tags is a simple way to upcycle old items and save money. Find old maps in the car or at a second-hand bookstore and turn them into gift tags or bookmarks. Cut to size and finish by hole punching the top and adding your favorite string or twine.

  • Coffee Can Planters

If you buy coffee in bulk, then this is a great idea for you to repurpose those old cans. You can add more house plants inside or out with these few simple steps.

  • Cuff Coin Purse

Here is another upcycling project involving another part of your outgrown shirt. Follow this guide to make cute purses for money, cards, chapstick or keys. It’s an easy first-time sewing project for kids that makes a great holiday gift.

  • Magazine or Newspaper Garland

If you have a stack of old magazines or newspapers lying around, this project is a perfect way to reuse them. This idea is a creative way to decorate for any occasion.

  • Cereal Box Notebooks

Make your own adorable notebooks in eight simple steps using cereal boxes, buttons, string and optional accent paper. These sturdy notebooks are the perfect rainy-day crafts for kids, and make thoughtful homemade presents. Follow this step-by-step process and have fun with this creative  upcycling project.

  • Paper Bag Baskets

Have a stack of leftover paper shopping bags? Here is a great way to reuse them with a purpose. These will keep kids busy, and make great baskets for fruit or planted herbs.

All it takes to upcycle is your creative imagination and an eye for what can be used around the house. Check out our Pinterest board full of our favorite suggestions!

Artists Changing The Way We See Single-Use Plastic

Today nearly every person on the planet comes into contact with some form of plastic packaging on a daily basis. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, worldwide use of plastic has increased 20 times in the past 50 years, and it is expected to double in the next 20 years. While many companies and organizations focus on plastic waste facts to raise awareness, artists are also coming up with creative ways to bring attention to the issue.

Many artists have found inspiration in plastic waste, from daily garbage to plastic found in the ocean. They have created pieces, installations and images to bring awareness.  Here are some of our favorite campaigns:

#365 Unpacked

In this photo series, artist Antoine Repesse spent four years collecting his own recyclables and photographing the waste. By taking the subject and dividing it into its respective areas of use, we see how much waste we, in fact, might have in our own homes. What does his series ultimately remind us? That the best waste is the waste we don’t produce.

7 Days of Garbage

Photographer Gregg Segal had a similar motive behind his photo series.  He grew up always wondering where his trash was going and what will happen when we run out of room for it. In this series he asked friends, family and neighbors to collect their trash and recyclables for a week. He then photographed them laying in their own trash. His motive? “I photographed my family because I want my 8-year-old son to understand that we’re contributing to the problem, too.”

Natural Plasticity

Los Angeles-based artists Jana Cruder & Matthew Lapenta scale the impact of single-use plastics in their larger-than-life installation series. Their mission is to bring a consciousness to consumers and corporations about plastics through the creation of 20-30 ft. single-use plastic bottles and cups. Since disposable plastic is impacting our natural environment, they hope their large scale works will have a profound effect on consumers. Click here to find this impressive traveling installation.

What can we do to help eliminate plastic waste? An organization called Litterati has a solution. They’ve created a community that identifies where litter is being found and cleans it up. By downloading their app you can geotag exactly where you’re finding trash, then you or someone in the community can help remove it. With a goal of a litter-free world in mind, this app makes picking up trash into a treasure hunt.