7 Tips for a Sustainable Closet

(Here I am wearing a vintage silk kimono that I purchased from a second-hand shop in Iceland with my favorite merino wool camisole from Rambler’s Way)

  • Avoid white or light colors. Not only will you have to wash them more often but they also show and retain stains more than darker colors. This means that if they’re polyester they will be releasing micro bits of plastic into the water with every wash and they will inevitably have a shorter shelf life than that same item in black.
  • Avoid purchasing clothes that are not made from natural fibers. Not only are polyester and rayon made from plastic (ew!), but human-made materials also retain scents more than those that come directly from nature. Wool, bamboo, and hemp are all naturally anti-bacterial and therefore smell a lot better for longer. Silk, too is surprisingly scent-resistant, even for someone like me that sweats and exercises a lot.
  • Avoid prints and florals in human-made materials as they tend to fade more quickly and look cheap.
  • If you’re like me and love to wear a lot of black (see bullet point #1), avoid items made out of darkly dyed cotton (t-shirts, jeans) as they tend to fade quickly. Instead, opt for black clothes in silk, wool or bamboo which retain their lovely richness wash after wash. I personally love black linen clothes (due to it being a loose-weave cotton fabric), but I minimize purchasing them since they too will fade over time.
  • Reduce how much you use your washing machine. Between this time-saving appliance alone, your clothes go through a literal wringer. Not only does using a washing machine for one year use the average amount of water that one person will drink in their lifetime, but unless you’re using biodegradable soap, you are also polluting the water reservoir with nasty chemicals. Since most of the clothes I own now are made of natural materials and are therefore more delicate, I tend to hand wash them in the sink with room temperature water using Eucalan- a soap that is safe for all fabrics and doesn’t require any rinsing. This might sound like a lot of work, but it’s really easy for me to fill up my bathroom sink with water, put in a capful of Eucalan and let the item soak for as long as I feel is necessary (a completely arbitrary amount of time).
  • Reduce how much you use your dryer. Your electrical bill will thank you, and your clothes will have a nice, fresh smell if you hang them up outside or on your porch instead of drying them. Also, hang-drying ensures absolutely no shrinkage and eliminates the need to purchase dryer-sheets! Yes, it takes a few minutes extra to hang them up instead of toss the bundle in the dryer, but now that it’s part of my normal laundry routine, I barely even think twice about it. This way also reduces the existence of wrinkles since everything is hanging up to begin with and doesn’t get forgotten in a twisted mess in the dryer.
  • Buy second-hand whenever possible and avoid fast-fashion. Lucky for you and me, it’s now trendy and socially acceptable to buy used clothing. Gone are the negative associations with thrift-stores, ’cause vintage is in, baby! Levi’s even came out recently with a new second-hand store where they’re re-selling old jeans and jackets, and they will accept your used, and even damaged items at select stores and give you a gift card in exchange. Considering that denim is one of the most water-intensive fabrics to create and dye, this is a major win for your pocket book and the planet. See my other post for more great places to shop secondhand.

Valentine’s Day, the Non-Corporate Way

This year — skip the expensive dinner, and store bought cards, candy, giant stuffed teddy bear, and standard flower arrangements, for something much more special, unique, and good for your wallet and the environment.

This February 14, my plan is to buy some ingredients from the local market and cook a nice dinner at home with my boyfriend. For his presents, I purchased a shea butter bar from Lush and a book from Powell’s. We’re keeping it cozy and will be doing our good deed for the day by babysitting his brother’s adorable one year old daughter while her parents go out for a much-needed date night.

For you though, the possibilities are endless!

Instead of buying a cliche, mass-produced Hallmark card, you could: 

Make one yourself! Not only is it more eco-friendly, cheaper, and more fun than buying a $5 card, but there’s no better way to communicate exactly how you feel or what you want to say, than by making a card to your personal requirements and specifications. Don’t know where to start?

  1. Grab a few magazines (and/or old cards, newspaper, photos, stickers, etc.), a pair of scissors, tape and/or glue, and some paper or cardboard from the recycling bin, and get to work!
  2. I generally begin without a set idea or direction in mind, and then cut out anything that feels “right” or makes me think of the person (or an inside joke, shared memory) for whom I’m making the card.
  3. After I’ve compiled a decent set of pictures, photos, words, and/or stickers, I start playing around with them on the paper. Keep an open mind, and you’ll see that a theme starts to emerge, and at this point you should start to get pretty excited thinking about the person’s reaction when they read it.
  4. From there, finish it up by using a pen/glitter pen/paint/marker/crayon to complete the sentiment, and put it away somewhere safe to dry.

I can almost guarantee-or-your-money-back, that the individual receiving your homemade art, will treasure and remember it for years to come.

Instead of ordering a dozen roses or expensive bouquet of flowers, you could:

Put together your own succulent or potted plant arrangement. I personally love succulents because they’re incredibly easy to keep alive — infrequently (minimum every two weeks) pour a tiny bit of water into the soil and keep it near a light source — but they’re also more eco-friendly than buying flowers that are going to shrivel and die within a few days. Unlike stemmed roses, a cactus lasts, my friends.  As an added bonus, cacti are, for some unknown reason (maybe because they’re Millennial-friendly and low maintenance) very trendy at the moment, and oh-so-Instagram-worthy.

  1. Start by first looking around your house for a container. Mason jars are super cute, but even other old jars or containers can be used as-is or, if you’re feeling extra-crafty, you can paint or decoupage the outside for some added oomph and personalization. I’ve even seen plants potted in old shoes, so, really, the sky is the limit with the container you could use. Let your imagination run wild, and make it special for the recipient.
  2. Next, head to a plant nursery to pick up your new green friend. Avoid the plant departments of Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, and instead opt for a locally owned store. A quick duckduckgo.com search should turn up some viable options.
  3. Before you leave for the store, make sure you have your container AKA the plant baby’s new home, with you. This really helps with picking out the right size plant since you need to ensure there’s sufficient room for the plant’s roots to grow and expand. If you need help, the folks at the nursery will be more than eager to assist you in selecting the best plant for your container and the recipient’s lifestyle.
  4. At this point, all that’s left is to remove your plant from the plastic container it arrived in and repot it in the container you prepared.
  5. As a finishing touch, you could create your own instruction care card and tie it around the container with a ribbon, piece of twine, string, etc. that you have lying around the house.
  6. Then, just be sure to keep it alive until you give it away to its new owner!

 

Instead of buying a box of Dove/Lindt/Godiva chocolates, you could:

Make your own chocolate-dipped strawberries or truffles! There are a million and two recipes out there for both, and trust me, they’re much easier to make than we’re lead to believe. You can also customize them based on the recipient’s taste preferences, and get really creative with the box in which you give them.

  1. Find a recipe. A quick duckduckgo.com search will yield myriad results.
  2. Head to your local shop to pick up the ingredients. The standard required items will most likely be baking chocolate, flavoring (e.g., vanilla extract), and, if you’re planning on making dipped items, the fruit, pretzel, bacon, etc.
  3. For those who have yet to venture into the kitchen, rest assured that there are plenty of cooking shows out there that will guide you every step of the way.
  4. Make your items.
  5. Let them cool for a sufficient time as directed in the recipe. I would even recommend letting them sit overnight to ensure completeness.
  6. Find your box. It could be an old jewelry box, cardboard box that you decorate, vintage container/cigarette box, etc. Again, let your imagination run wild.

 

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? I would love to hear about what you did to celebrate the non-corporate way!

A Counter-Corporate Christmas

If you’re like me, you haven’t quite finished your Christmas shopping yet, even though it’s only ten days away! As I’ve started to put more mental energy towards this initiative, I speculated that others might just be in the same predicament, and could use a cheat sheet, so here it is! And what could be a better opportunity to challenge yourself to buy (or make) everything from a counter-culture establishment. As an added bonus, your gifts will surely be more creative, thoughtful, and rewarding.

As you’ll notice in the list below, the gift ideas that I’ve generated will tend to be more special, and budget and eco-friendly than the normal gift-cards and standard, mass-produced items, and I guarantee you will have a more fun gift-buying experience as a result. Instead of seeing shopping as a chore, take some time to reflect on what you value, as well as what the recipient values, and start from there. Open up your mind and start brainstorming, and I know you’ll think of the perfect thing! Furthermore, shift your perspective on this time of the year from annoyance and stress to one of  mindful treasure-hunting! You’ll not only save time by avoiding big-box stores with long lines, but you’ll be able to save money, contribute to local, small businesses, and strengthen your community all at once. Convinced yet?

Let me know how it goes and if you have any other counter-corporate gift ideas to add!

  1. Adopt a baby elephant in the recipient’s name for only $50/year. They’ll receive monthly updates and photos of their orphan straight to their e-mail, and will feel good knowing that they’re helping elephants in Kenya survive without their mothers (most of whom have been killed by poachers)! Link here.
  2. Visit a locally owned coffee roaster, tea house, micro-brew or winery and pick out some small-batch items for the coffee/tea/beer/wine lover on your list. A quick duckduckgo search (an alternative to Google) will yield plenty of results.
  3. Whatever you can think of, there’s someone on Etsy who can make it! From custom-made everything to vintage items, handmade jewelry, clothes, home decor; the possibilities are truly endless. (For example, my friend loves sloths, and I was able to purchase some of the cutest sloth earrings and bookmark at an affordable price).
  4. Get creative and make your own:
    1. Jewelry– go to your local bead store to pick up some supplies, or do what I love to do and take apart broken or mismatched pieces that I already own and then put them back together in interesting ways, to create a brand new piece.
    2. Candles– buy wax, coloring, and flavored scents, then look up directions online and fill your house with delicious odors.
    3. Lotion –I use a base of shea butter and add either marula or vitamin e oil, as well as essential oils like Tea Tree or Lavendar for scent. Again, the possibilities are endless and you can customize it based on the recipient’s preferences. (There are lots of recipes online that can be found by searching DIY lotion).
  5. Potted plants are always a hit! I recommend the eco-friendly option of decorating empty jars or containers you have lying around the house, or stop buy your local thrift store (avoid Goodwill), and pick up some cool pots. Then, fill with potting soil and an easy-to-care-for plant like succulents or Aloe Vera.
  6. If you want to buy clothes or cosmetics, check out Poshmark  and buy from an individual rather than a corporation. (I recently purchased a brand new pair of Toms from Poshmark for my boyfriend for Christmas).
  7. Visit a local Christmas/community/holiday/church fair to purchase a locally-made items.
  8. Bake! Everyone loves homemade fudge, cookies, candy, etc. If you don’t own a cookbook, the internet has myriad recipes available, most of them being quite easy to follow.
  9. Get artsy! I personally love making collages using old magazines. I find that you can make a really unique piece of art for someone using something as simple as scissors, glue, magazines and/or photos, and a canvas or piece of cardboard. I’ll be making one for my Mom this year using a line from her favorite poet as inspiration.

Last, but not least, wrap those presents in newspapers or other paper or cloth you might have lying around! (I also compulsively save old ribbons for this very purpose).

Good luck and happy gifting!

**The image is a photo of the Swedish Tomte Christmas gnomes that my cousin and I made last week! Here’s the link if you’d like to give it a shot 🙂