Joy of Zero Waste

Catherine Homsey - Organizing Consultant

Holiday Gifts - Without the Waste or Clutter!

Zero Waste Holiday Gift Ideas

There’s been so much going on in the world and in our lives that the holidays really snuck up on me this year. Do you feel the same?

If so, you may think you need to rush online and buy a bunch of gifts to cross that task off your list. I mean, most of us don’t have time to come up with creative gift ideas. But this rush to buy stuff is a trap, isn’t it? We spend a lot of money just to have something to give. And what happens after the holidays? We’re left with mounds of trash and a bunch of stuff we don’t really need or want.

Things received as gifts are difficult for people to give away, even if they don’t love them. We tend to feel guilty about getting rid of things that were given to us by people we care about. So what happens? We put it on a shelf, in a closet or in the garage, and there it sits. It just creates clutter we will have to deal with eventually.

You don’t have to be part of that cycle, though! With a little extra thought, you can give gifts that won’t create waste, guilt and clutter.

You don’t know what to give, you say? Well, don’t despair, because I’ve done the work for you! Below is a list of low waste and eco-friendly gifts and stocking stuffers to suit any budget or recipient.

Experiences

Experiences are the ultimate zero waste gift. You may think of sky diving or vacations when you think of giving an experience, but they don’t have to be expensive! Below is a list of experience gifts ranging from budget to extravagant.

$

-          Go out for coffee, ice cream or a drink.

-          A hike or picnic.

-          Ice skating or roller skating.

-          Go to the movies or bowling.

-          Lectures – look at the calendars of your favorite organizations.

-          Night life events at local museums.

-          Arcade & pizza.

-          Trampoline park.

-          Tours – play tourist and get tickets for a double decker bus tour or a themed walking tour of city neighborhoods.

-          Batting cages or driving range.

-          Comedy show for two.

$$

-          Classes – the possibilities are endless: gardening, dancing, martial arts, cooking, mixology, baking, foraging, music, pottery, art, welding…

-          Mini golf, laser tag, ziplining.

-          Museum visit for two.

-          Rock climbing.

-          Camping weekend.

-          Yoga or workout class passes.

-          Wine tasting.

-          Theater tickets for two.

-          Escape room tickets for two.

$$$

-          Massage or facial.

-          Dinner for two.

-          Skydiving, sailing tours.

-          Opera or symphony tickets for two.

-          Sporting event tickets, minor league or budget seats.

-          Amusement park passes.

$$$$

-          Tickets to a major sporting event.

-          Concert tickets.

-          Hot air balloon ride.

-          Vacation – a week or weekend away.

-          Photo shoot.

-          Cycling tour for two.

-          Chef’s Tasting Menu for two.

 Ice skating in the park is one of our favorite holiday funday activities.

Ice skating in the park is one of our favorite holiday funday activities.

Homemade / Consumable

These are always a hit – who doesn’t love an indulgent treat? Just pay attention to packaging. Whether you make it or buy it, strive to choose sustainable and reusable packaging like glass, paper etc. Homemade is awesome, but if you’re out of time or it’s just not your thing, visit a store with a good bulk bin selection and use mason jars to pack them as gifts ready for giving.

-          Chocolate or candy, homemade or bought in bulk or paper.

-          Cookies or other baked goods.

-          Spice or herb mixes.

-          Loose leaf tea or coffee beans.

-          Brownie mix, hot cocoa mix, cookie mix, soup mix, make it or buy it in bulk, then pack it in jars with instructions and tie with ribbon or string.

-          Homemade vinegar, mustard, vanilla, jam, preserved lemons, hot sauce, caramel sauce… the possibilities are endless!

-          Homemade bath salts, sugar or salt scrub, lip balm, dry shampoo, face mask mix only take minutes to make but are so luxurious.

-          Bulk bin or homemade snacks like popcorn, nut mixes, roasted chickpeas, wasabi peas, salty snack mixes.

 We love this mullling spice mix from the bulk bins - it smells so good!

We love this mullling spice mix from the bulk bins - it smells so good!

Eco-Friendly / Low Waste

-          Soy or beeswax candles.

-          Stainless steel safety razor and refills.

-          Handmade soap.

-          Wine, beer or liquor.

-          Vintage or second hand gifts in excellent condition.

-          Homemade or upcycled gifts, original art (art is very personal, so be sure the piece is something the recipient will enjoy!)

-          Gifts made of natural materials like wood, metal, paper, leather, wool and with minimal or no packaging.

- Battery charger and rechargeable batteries.

Stocking Stuffers

Here are some cute zero and low waste ideas for stocking stuffers our family enjoys.

-          Phone case from Pela Case (pelacase.com), beautiful, durable, sustainable and 100% compostable. They also give to organizations that keep plastic out of the oceans.

-          Oranges, mandarins, pomegranates, or another seasonal goodies.

-          Pecans or walnuts.

-          Silk floss is renewable and compostable. Dental Lace (dentallace.com) makes a zero waste version that comes in beautiful, refillable glass tubes.

-          Bamboo toothbrushes are renewable and compostable.

-          Bamboo utensil set.

-          Organic cotton or bamboo socks.

-          Plastic free hair ties like the natural cotton and rubber ones from Kooshoo.

-          Seed packets.

-          Stainless steel tea strainer, loose leaf tea.

-          Chocolate.

-          Wooden toys like a Jacob’s ladder, carved animals.

 Cheers to a happy holiday season!

Cheers to a happy holiday season!

I hope this list helps you and your loved ones find gifts you feel good about giving and receiving. Have fun, be creative and enjoy a wonderful holiday!

For more ideas, follow me on Instagram @joyofzerowaste

It's Spring! Time to Reduce & Declutter

It’s that time of year again! The sun is shining, flowers are blooming and Daylight Savings is giving us a headache. In other words, spring is here! With longer days and spring fever kicking in, a lot of us feel the urge to do some spring cleaning. This year, in addition to cleaning and straightening, consider reducing as well.

In the spirit of spring cleaning, let’s talk about reducing our belongings – or purging or decluttering – whatever you want to call it is fine. Reducing is one of the most satisfying things about getting organized.

When you reduce your belongings, everything becomes easier. You have fewer things to clean and organize. When you open your closet, instead of standing there trying to figure out what to wear, you can easily choose from pieces you truly love because they flatter you and fit your style.

 When you open your bathroom cabinet, instead of pawing through a mass of products, you simply pick up the one thing you are looking for because you’ve removed the excess and what’s left is exactly what you need. Reducing simplifies your life by saving time and eliminating the stress associated with sorting through too much stuff.

In addition to making your life easier, you also release your things for someone else’s use. For example, that slow cooker you bought but only used once? It can now be used by someone who otherwise would have purchased a new one. This is another benefit of reducing: you reduce the waste associated with the production, packaging and shipping of new products because you have allowed someone to buy used instead.

So, how to get started? I suggest starting with your clothes. This is the easiest type of item to reduce. Collect every item of clothing and put it in one place. Pick up each item and decide: do you truly love it? Does it make you happy, or as the tidying expert, Marie Kondo, says, does it spark joy?

The trick is to decide what to keep rather than what to get rid of. You don’t have to think too much about how often you wear it or anything like that.

 Just pick it up and pay attention to how you feel when you touch it. Do you smile? Do you think about how wearing it makes you feel good? Do you feel nothing? Do you feel guilt? Use these impulses to make your decision.

Only keep the things that make you happy. Don’t keep things out of guilt! You don’t need to feel guilt when you open your closet every day!

 Out the door in a flash - thanks to a tidied and clutter-free closet!

Out the door in a flash - thanks to a tidied and clutter-free closet!

When you decide what you love and want to keep, you just release the rest. It’s that easy! Make three piles: keep, donate or sell. You can skip the sell pile if you don’t want to deal with this step, but if you have expensive pieces in good condition you may want to consider selling, trading or consigning them.

Once you have made your decision about what to keep, you can organize. There is no point in organizing without reducing. The mess will just come back if you still have too much stuff.

 After you have reduced and organized, you will find it is much easier and faster to get dressed in the morning! You won’t have to stare at your closet, searching for something you feel like wearing because you know everything in it looks good on you and makes you happy. You will also have less laundry to do! Your closet will give you a sense of peace and calm rather than frustration.

To keep your closet organized, apply the same process before deciding whether to buy something. Instead of buying on impulse, think about each purchase. Does it truly flatter you? Do you feel happy when you try it on? If not, don’t buy it!

Also, try to buy used clothing when possible. Clothing takes a lot of resources to produce: oil, water, pesticides, etc., and it also produces water and air pollution during production and shipping. This is coming from someone who used to binge buy clothes so believe me, it is totally possible to make this change.

Happy spring and happy reducing!