Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

Zero Waste Pantry Staples

Our zero waste pantry staples are the items that we buy unpackaged in bulk and keep on hand at all times. We have about half of a single under-counter cabinet for food storage, so we don’t keep much more than the basics. Our weekly shopping fills in the gaps.

 Zero Waste Pantry Staples Loose Leaf Tea –zero-waste-pantry-staples-loose-leaf-tea

Our Zero Waste Pantry Staples

1. Grains: brown rice, wild rice, and quinoa

2. Oats: thick-rolled and steel-cut

3. Beans: black, garbanzo/chickpeas, kidney

4. Nuts: cashews, almonds, sometimes peanuts (we tend not to store these since I can’t eat any of them. Instead, my boyfriend makes his own trail mix and takes the whole container to work with him.)

5. Flours: oat (easy to make at home as well), brown rice, white rice, tapioca starch, potato starch, xanthan gum.

6. Dried fruit: typically cherries

7. Coconut: Unsweetened chips and shredded

8. Chocolate chips

9. Seeds: chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp

10. Baking: baking soda, sugar, brown sugar

11. Spices: We refill all of our empty spice containers with bulk spices including salt and pepper.

12. Honey: Okay, I haven’t done this yet. But when our current jar runs out we are planning to refill it at the grocery store. It’s also significantly cheeper.

13. Coffee and tea

What We Make With Our Zero Waste Pantry Staples

In a given week we make granola bars, trail mix, and no-bake “cookies” for snacks from our cache. I use the flours to make my own gluten-free blend for baking (and pancakes… all of the pancakes).

Our meals typically build off of the rice or the beans. We use rice at least 1-2 times a week. A quart jar tends to last us 3-4 weeks depending on how often we eat it. (You can see some of our favorite fall/winter meals here.)

More:

Zero Waste Trail Mix
Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Inspiration
Digging Through the Trash
Loose Leaf Tea

2-Ingredient DIY Mold Cleaner Recipe

This winter I have been waging a battle against some resilient mold in the bathroom. We replaced leaking, cracked calk around the tub of our shower this summer, and since then it has been slowly growing a pink mold. I’m not about to rip out the calk and do it all over again (although it has crossed my mind!), but the mold is driving me crazy.

I scrub our entire shower weekly with castile soap, but the mold kept coming back until even the castile soap didn’t seem to do much at all. Recent heavy rains in California meant our grout also started to grow black mold in some patches along the calk. (Lesson learned, always pay extra for the mold resistant calk.)

I finally got fed up and doused the entire shower with undiluted vinegar. When I stepped in the next morning, I was pleasantly surprised! While it was a bit extreme, it gave me a nice starting point.

DIY Mold Cleaner Recipe

DIY Mold Cleaner Recipe

1 part white vinegar
2 parts water

This is a strong solution. After the first few rounds of using the cleaner I would recommend reducing the amount of vinegar for maintenance. You can just add some more water to your partially-used container.

How to Use the Mold Cleaner

I filled an empty (completely rinsed) dish soap container with 1 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of water. After a couple of shakes I squirted the liquid onto the grout, tile, calk, and our reusable shower curtain. Then I Let it sit overnight or until completely dry.

Our reusable, fabric shower curtain still has quite a bit of mold trapped in the hem at the bottom, so I have been drenching the bottom with the solution and letting it sit overnight after every shower (every two days or so). The mold is almost completely gone, and the vinegar has been slowly removing old mold stains as well.

If you are applying the liquid to your entire shower, the squirt bottle works great. For everything else, I would use a spry bottle. It’s less wasteful and makes it easier to apply to smaller areas. While the squirt bottle works well, it also floods the whole area with more of the cleaner than necessary. I will eventually upgrade to a spray bottle.

Once you have let the vinegar dry completely, you can add more of the cleaner and scrub with a microfiber cloth to remove any surface mold and soap residue.

It’s important to let the vinegar sit until it’s dry. This allows the vinegar (an acid) to slowly remove the mold on the surface and deeper into the fabric/grout/surface. I leave it overnight because it’s easy and it has been too cold and humid for it dry quickly.

Warning

Do not use this on natural stone! Vinegar is too acidic and may permanently etch the stone.

Your entire bathroom (or house/apartment if it’s small like ours) will also smell heavily of vinegar until it dries. It’s best to apply it before bed so the smell is gone by morning. You could also add some essential oils like tea tree oil or lemon essential oil to help reduce the intense salad dressing scent and help boost the mold removal process.

Digging Through the Trash

We don’t produce anywhere near the 4.3 pounds of trash the average American creates every day, but we could definitely do better.

The indoor can fills up about every two weeks or so. It doesn’t smell at all since we compost all food scraps so we tend to let it fill up completely. But every time I toss something into it or take it to the curb I am flooded with sadness and frustration.

Our trash is full of plastic bags.

At least 75 percent of our total trash volume is non-recyclable plastic food packaging like chip bags, cracker containers, and the plastic film that goes around jars or over hummus containers.

Zero-Waste Bulk Grocery Shopping – Skip the Trash

What’s in our trash (by volume):

1. Chip/snack packaging
2. Tissues
3. Plastic films and safety seals
4. Floss

I’ve known for months that we could cut our trash down by 50-75 percent just by no longer buying packaged potato and rice chips. At 4-8 bags per week, we are stuffing ourselves and the trash with junk. But the habit is much harder to kick than I anticipated.

 

How we can reduce our trash:

1. Ditch the packaged snacks.

In my dream world we buy crackers, chips, and healthy snacks from bulk bins. Our local bulk bins have nuts, granola, and cooking staples, but very few snacks. There are only 1-2 pre-made snacks that I could conceivably eat out of the bins since I am allergic to nuts and gluten-intolerant.

But that doesn’t mean we have to starve or overfill the landfill. A recent trip to Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco gave me hope that we can find more snacks and staples in bulk bins – we just may have to travel a ways for them.

Actions:

1. Buy tortilla chips from a local restaurant in bulk to replace our packaged rice/potato chips. This makes it more likely that we will skip the snack isle at the grocery store, and it helps us increase our daily calorie intake (important with our training schedules).

2. Make more snacks at home. In the past I have massively struggled to not only come up with zero-waste snack ideas, but also to then set aside the time to make them. When I did manage to make something like granola bars or homemade hummus, we quickly got tired of them and I’d have to find a new recipe and start all over.

The good news is that I now know we get tired of snacks every 2-4 weeks. We can plan a snack for each week and rotate them to keep things interesting. It’s time to dig into some of my snack ideas and make snack preparation part of our weekly meal prep/cooking dinner habits.

3. Eat more whole foods for snacks. In the past couple of months I’ve been eating salads as snacks. It’s an easy way for me to sneak in more greens and also not feel like I’m loading up on junk throughout the day. More options are veggies with hummus, leftovers from dinner, and hard-boiled eggs.

4. Schedule monthly trips to better bulk bins.

 

2. Use Handkerchiefs

This switch has been on my list for months. Due to allergies, I use at least a couple of tissues each day. After a ton of research and decision paralysis, I finally chose a pack of reusable organic cotton baby wipes to use at handkerchiefs. Well, the internet was wrong. They make terrible hankies.

My failure was disappointing, and I lost motivation. But I need to go back to my list and find a set that will actually work the way I want them to.

 

3. Compost Tissues

My boyfriend is less than enthused on the handkerchief idea. Since I make the bulk of tissue waste anyways, this isn’t going to impact our trash greatly. To make composting tissues easier, we can add a small paper bag next to (or inside of) our trash can to collect tissues.

 

4. Floss

Eventually we may switch to completely compostable floss, but for now we should start with reducing how much we use in the first place. Most of the floss we pull off the roll each night doesn’t get used. We need to use shorter strands each time. I might get super nerdy and make a guide for the smallest amount of floss for comfortable flossing so we don’t have to think about it each time or accidentally take too much.

 

Related:

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Inspiration

The Truth About Plastic

Toxins Hiding in Your House

Zero Waste Tea

Can I Recycle This?

Tales of a Paper Towel

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations

Piles of wrapping paper. Broken Christmas lights and ornaments. Browning trees resting on the curb. When you peel back the wrapping, the holiday season sure is full of trash.

Americans create 25 percent more waste in the month between Thanksgiving and New Years. That adds up to an extra 1 million tons of trash that go straight to the landfill or end up in the ocean.

Celebrate the holidays without the waste or the clutter with these zero waste Christmas decorations.

Cranberry and Popcorn Garlands

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Cranberry and Popcorn Garland
Reading My Tea Leaves

Compostable garlands are great to decorate your tree or hang around the house. Erin from Reading My Tea Leaves used cranberry and popcorn to create beautiful, mostly kid-proof decorations.

 

Petite Rosemary Wreath

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Rosemary Wreaths from Spoon Fork Bacon
Spoon Fork Bacon

Whether you are using them as place cards or just sprinkling them around the house, these little rosemary wreaths from Spoon Fork Bacon can be made out of compostable materials. They will also add a lovely scent.

 

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Applesauce cinnamon ornaments
Katy Elliott

These clever ornaments or gift tags from Katy Elliott are made of two ingredients – cinnamon and apple sauce. They also smell divine.

 

DIY Eucalyptus Garland

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Eucalyptus Garland via Homey Oh My
Homey Oh My

Decorations don’t have to be overly complicated or heavy. This DIY garland from Homey Oh My is a beautiful addition throughout the winter.

 

Felt Ornaments

Felt Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Ornaments via Purl Soho
Purl Soho

I’m such a sucker for plush ornaments. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about them that feels cozy and inviting. These ornaments from Purl Soho will last for years, and you can make them out of repurposed felt. They also seem like a great activity for kids on a cold winter day. (These snowball ornaments from Purl Soho are also great.)

 

Paper Snowflakes

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Paper Snowflakes via iheart Organizing

IHeart Organizing

These aren’t the clunky snowflakes you made in elementary school. Jen and her family at IHeart Organizing made their decorations in a single night.

 

Tree Trimmings

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Mason Jar Tree Trimmings
A Barefoot Day

Clippings make a great alternate to an entire tree. You can also take your tree trimmings and spread them around the house to enjoy the scent and the festivities everywhere.

 

Pine Cone Garland

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Pine Cone Garland The Sweetest Ocassion
The Sweetest Ocassion

My mom still has pine cones my brother and I painted in elementary school. This pine cone garland from The Sweetest Occasion is a bit more chic than those are, but the spirit is still there. Skip the paint to make these compostable and zero waste.

 

DIY Fresh Mini Trees

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Mini Christmas Tree from Trimmings via Say Yes
Say Yes

Next year I should make one of these adorable mini trees from Say Yes for our tiny house. Make these without the hot glue in order to reuse the base and compost the top.

 

Foraged Garland or Mantle Decoration

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Foraged Garland Style Me Pretty
Style Me Pretty

Not only do you get a lovely winter walk in, but you get a free, stunning decoration. The incredible women behind Petal Floral Designs shared their tips for how to make your own on Style Me Pretty.

 

Floral Tree

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Floral Tree
Design Love Fest

I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The results are stunning. I would imagine the downside would be that the flowers aren’t going to last very long resting in the tree without water. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take Design Love Fest‘s idea and use hardy winter berries or other longer lasting plants.

 

Cinnamon Stick Himmeli

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY cinnamon stick himmeli
Jojotastic

You can’t beat the smell of cinnamon on a cold, dark day. Jojotastic created these beautiful decorations out of cinnamon sticks and twine. Use cotton thread and leave out (or save) the wooden beads to make these compostable.

 

More on celebrating the holidays sustainably:

Sustainable Christmas Lights

Minimalist Gift Ideas

15+ Christmas Cookies to Gift (And Eat Right Now)

Homemade Beauty Gifts

Last-Minute Homemade Gift Ideas

Sustainable Gift Wrap

Why You Should Celebrate a Minimalist Christmas

How to Create Every Day

A lot of people talking about creating more than you consume, but it’s extremely difficult in practice. Actually sitting down to create every day is an impressive feat, especially when you add in the murkiness of whether or not the work you do for money counts as creation.

It’s so easy to get caught up in consuming more than you’re creating. I am incredibly guilty of this. I can spend hours every day reading articles online, scrolling Instagram, and reading books. But those hours end up feeling like lost time when I don’t also spend time every day creating.

How to Create Every Day

Why You Should Create Every Day

I struggle to create outside of my work hours or tasks. At the end of the day, my brain feels drained of all creativity and words. Each day I typically spend hours researching and writing, sometimes for my own enjoyment (like my blog or journaling), but most often for someone else.

When all I do is work with words all day, I start to feel like everything is work and not play. My daily tasks start to feel more like homework than creative activities.

But when I do finally make the time I feel so much more relaxed and energized. Don’t get me wrong, reading books, watching movies, catching up on blogs, and poking around Instagram can all inspire me. But it’s not the same as busying my hands and letting go of expectations.

 

How to Create Every Day

1. Keep it short.

While I would love to create more than I consume on a daily basis, it’s just not always realistic or desirable. This month I’m trying to create for 15 minutes every day. That’s it. And even that may feel like too much.

 

2. Mix it up.

The more I mix up my hobbies and creative outlets, the more inspired and energized I feel overall. I picked up knitting again a couple weeks ago for the first time in a year, and it gave me the perfect amount of space from my writing. I’m able to mull things over or get out of my head completely. Water color painting, baking, and homemade gift making are on my list as well. As someone who can quickly tire of a craft project, I like having multiple creative outlets available.

 

3. Join a community.

There are a lot of groups who do a little something every day, whether that’s an ink drawing or a creative Instagram post. Look for a group that fits your interests or inspires you and jump in.

 

4. Let go of perfection.

This one is the hardest for me, but it makes the biggest difference. I can spend more time obsessing over getting something right than actually sitting down and getting it done. Instead of worrying about whether my cookies are perfectly round or if I messed up a single stitch on my scarf, I try to focus on the process as a whole. Perfection isn’t the point, the time spent on the activity is.

 

5. Creating is what you want it to be

People seem to get caught up in the DIY/crafting aspect of creation, but it can really be whatever you want it to be so long as you are making and not consuming. Coding an app, making a digital collage, writing a letter to your grandma – it all counts.

 

Need more ideas? Most of my tips for how to write every day can easily be translated into how to make or create every day.

Minimalist Gift Ideas

You can have a joyous, fulfilling, heart-warming Christmas without piles of gifts pilling out from under the tree. There is also nothing inherently wrong with giving someone a physical gift, but most of us have more than we would ever need.

These minimalist gift ideas will help you give a meaningful, clutter-free gift to anyone on your list. They are also great ideas of what to ask for if you would like to avoid receiving physical gifts.

Minimalist Gift Ideas for Everyone

Minimalist Gift Ideas

 

Exercise classes

Give a voucher to their favorite class or a gift card for somewhere new that you think they will love. If they love a bunch of different workouts/studios, you may want to look into something like ClassPass.

 

Hobby gift cards

It can be incredibly difficult to purchase an item that will fit in with your recipient’s hobby and what they already have. Gift cards are a great way to recognize what they love to do and allow them to get something they will really value and use. Great places to consider are art supply stores, yarn shops, cooking stores, local running shop, tech centers, local golf course, or anywhere else that supports a specific hobby. I personally love getting a gift card to my local running store and it supports their small business too.

 

Museum tickets

Take your friend on a museum trip or just purchase a gift card and let them buy tickets for the day that’s best for them. Even your local museum/aquarium/theater should offer a gift certificate.

 

Event tickets

Concerts, sports, movies, shows, the list goes on. You can buy specific tickets, offer a self-made voucher, or give a gift certificate for the location or ticketing company.

 

Babysitting

Or dog sitting as it may be.

 

Favorite food

Cookies just for me? Yes, please. You can also make their favorite meal and freeze it or give a coupon for a fresh batch in the future.

 

Other edibles

A bottle of wine, an assortment of local beers, coffee beans – the list goes on. Bonus, these are easy to tailor to your recipient’s taste and they are easy to buy in bulk.

 

Subscription

Many years ago (before it was cool), my mom gave my grandparents a Netflix subscription. My tech-savvy grandpa loved it. There are so many subscription services today – although I would encourage you to avoid any that send stuff unless it’s quickly consumable like wine. Subscription boxes can quickly add clutter and feel overwhelming.

 

Homemade consumables

Soaps, candles, beauty products, and other homemade consumables are a great way to cover multiple people on your list without adding a ton of clutter. Once they are used up they are gone.

 

Your time

It sounds so cheesy that my face is getting hot just writing it, but some of the best gifts really are spending time with your friend or family member. Take them on a picnic or a hike. Invite them over for tea and snacks. Offer to help with a big task like painting the room that’s driving them crazy or decluttering an overwhelming closet. If you can’t think of anything great, make an open-ended voucher for an afternoon of your time and let your recipient cash it in on whatever they want.

 

No gifts please

When someone specifically asks for no gifts, it’s best to respect their wishes and not get them a gift. But that doesn’t mean you can’t clarify and see if something on this list (like spending the day together or a bottle of their favorite beverage) would still be alright.

You can also ask to not receive gifts without causing a kerfuffle. The best way is to explain why you don’t want any physical gifts this year and offer alternatives (like the list above) to people who are adamant about getting you or your family something. (This article or this forum may help you broach the subject.)

 

Looking for more ideas? Check out these great posts.

Minimalist Gift-Giving from The Minimalists

90 Clutter-free Gifts and 18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children from The Minimalist Mom

21 Minimalist Gift Ideas Under $100 from The Minimalist Vegan

You can read more about my previous minimalist Christmases here.

20 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of Shopping

Black Friday shopping isn’t the only thing happening today. It turns out the day after Thanksgiving was not invented as a shopping melee.

Take back the day and use it for something that you will really enjoy and that will actually add value to your life. After all, it’s the season of joy, not the season of stressing about deals running out, fighting for the last gadget, or crippling debt.

On that lovely note, I’ve made a list of 20 things I’d rather be doing today.

20 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of Shopping

Fun things to do instead of Black Friday shopping.

1. Spend time with friends and family.

2. Settle in with a good book or newspaper.

3. Cook a healthy meal or enjoy leftovers.

4. Volunteer for a local charity or nonprofit.

5. Start planning or making homemade holiday gifts.

6. Decorate for December holidays.

7.  Call a family member you haven’t seen in a while.

8. Pull out your arts and crafts supplies and get your hands dirty.

9. Clean out your closet. (Just me?)

10. Plan your next vacation.

11. Visit a museum. Many will have discounts today.

20 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of Shopping
12. Get outside! Go for a walk, visit your local park, or explore your local State and National Parks. Many parks are offering free entrance (but often only to a limited number of people so get your pass soon!).

13. Do your favorite type of exercise. Swim, run, go to a class, dance around your living room – do what makes you happy.

20 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of Shopping
14. Indulge in a holiday movie (or you know, start and finish that new season you’ve been looking forward to… like Gilmore Girls.)

15. Journal. Don’t let Thanksgiving’s success go to waste. Get going on that gratitude journal.

16. Learn something new. Online classes, local stores, your best friend – there are lots of places to pick up a new skill.

17. Build a fort. What, you think you have to be a kid to do that?

18. Pamper yourself. Paint your toes, put on the album your family hates, spend the day in bed – you know what to do.

19. Take your winter gear to fixed or waxed.

20. Go ice skating. But please, I beg you, don’t forget the hot chocolate.

Homemade Beauty Gifts

I’m a huge fan of homemade gifts and luxurious DIY beauty treatments. Combine them, and you have the perfect holiday present.

These homemade beauty gifts are easy to make and are made with easy-to-find, natural, sustainable, safe ingredients. No mysterious ingredients or harmful chemicals here.

Another reason I love making little gifts like these is because they are easy to scale up or down and make as many as you need. I’m also a sucker for anything in a cute jar.

Easy Homemade Beauty Gifts

Homemade beauty gifts - homemade shea butter and coconut oil body butter-homemade-shea-butter-and-coconut-oil-body-butter

Coconut oil and shea butter body butter

Infused bath salts

Homemade Beauty Gifts - DIY Tinted Raspberry Lip Balm from Hello Glow

Photo courtesy of Hello Glow

Naturally-tinted raspberry lip balm

Face mist

Conditioning anti-frizz spray 

Grapefruit rosemary bath salts 

Homemade Beauty Gifts - Herbal Sleep Balm from JJ Begonia

Photo courtesy of JJ Begonia

Calming sleep balm

Solid perfume

Peppermint + lavender headache balm

Homemade Beauty Gifts - Four holiday body scrubs from Hello Glow

Photo courtesy of Hello Glow

Four holiday-scented body scrubs 

Dry shampoo spray

Vanilla body spray

Sore muscle salve

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make some of these for myself.