In the Holidaze crazy? Slow it down zero waste style

I was making a list of how our family creates a zero waste holiday to help me with an interview and thought I should share our go to ZW tips and tricks. These ideas help our family to slow down and make this could be crazy and stressful season much more fun and less stressful. Don’t stress trying to go totally Zero Waste nobody is perfect, that’s why I created this list to make it less stressful.  I have even provided links to things in my list that I have used or found that fit the zw bill.


  • Remember its not about the “stuff”, it’s about the season and being together.
  • Giving an experience is always a really thoughtful way to give people something that will last. Even if it is having someone over for hot chocolate or tea creates a memory.
  • Give a gift of food; cookies, jam or glass jar of a bulk coffee or candy.
  • Ask the people for a few things they really want. You may spoil the surprise just a bit but at least your gift would be a duplicate or end up as a white elephant gift.
  • Give something hand made like soap from the farmers market, ethically traded products, a used item from a local thrift or charity shop (I find the best stuff brand new),  a sustainably made product like a bamboo toothbrush or help someone transition to something zero waste like refillable compostable dental floss.
  • Try a DIY project with your kids, roll some bees wax sheets in to candles or make some salt dough and have your littles make candle holders or an out dated ashtray.
  • Become a secret Santa for a family in need. Helping people who need a little extra help is part of the season of giving.
  • Give a donation in your friends and families names. Give a cow or even bees. Wham bam done!
  • Remember if you have kids, the grandparents and friends L-O-V-E anything made by the littles. You can have them sign there name to a paint printed hand print on a piece of used cardboard and that is the gift that would be saved from a burning house, not the gravy boat you got them. Think easy, cute and creative for gifts from  your kids.
  • Avoid plastic and disposable single-use items like the plague, even things that take batteries.

Gift Wrapping

  • Reuse brown paper; crumple it up make it as wrinkly as possible (so it looks that way on purpose) use hemp twine or used fabric ribbon to wrap a gift.
  • Scarves or fabric from the thrift store and wrap them Furoshiki style.
  • Make fabric gift bags from old fabric like sheets, buy some all cotton or hemp from Etsy or Amazonhomemade. A pillow case does nicely for bigger items.
  • No metallic gift wrap (non-recycleable) or tape if possible. Buy some old school paper tape instead.
  • Send an e-card instead of sending a paper card. Saves the planet, you a stamp and some $.


  • Scavenge, forage and scour your neighborhood for useful greens, pine cones, holly berries and branches. Bringing nature inside this time of year seems so delicious when it gets cold outside. Pine and cedar branches smell so fabulous add oranges poked with cloves and candles and the holiday has begun. Ask your neighbor before you take any greenery, no jail time during the holidays.
  • Dry orange, lemon and lime slices in your oven to add a splash of color to a garland of popcorn and cranberries. And add it to your tree or hearth. You can even decorate a tree out side and feed the birds.
  • Decorate your table with eatable stuffs like a pumpkin, squash or a bowl of citrus fruits. Throw on some holly boughs and some cedar cuttings and voila your table is glorious and ready for a magazine shoot.
  • Oragami is a great way to add some stars to your life with a paper DIY tutorial. String them on some hemp cord or ribbon or add them to your potted Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush.
  • Use your good stuff the china, crystal, real silverware and the nice cloth napkins, you know the ones that are still white. Using the nice stuff makes your table more memorable and special.
  • Candles, candles, candles. They make any house feel warm and cozy. Hygge, Danish for a feeling of coziness, is big on candles and I think it is very appropriate way of thinking for the winter months.  I buy my candles at thrift stores during the summer months.  Just be safe and use common sense when using candles. NEVER LEAVE A FLAME UNATTENDED.

Food and Drink

  • Get to know your bulk section. Often with a little planning and knowledge the food part of the holiday can be mastered when striving for a zw holiday.
  • Create a plan and a menu. No plan will get you in trouble every time.
  • Bring your cloth bags, jars and shopping totes ready to be filled.
  • Find a local bakery for baked goodies, bread and rolls. They may just put them in your bags if you ask nicely. If not, ask for a paper bag or box.
  • Try and source locally and keep you menu sustainable, local and if possible organic (this keep pesticides out of the environment)
  • Buy your stocking stuffers in the bulk section. Chocolates, gummies, nuts, dried fruit can all be found in the bulk section.
  • Fill beer growlers with a selection of beers.
  • If you are lucky like me you have a local winery that has a bottle deposit return system, do it. I buy a returnable 1.5 liter bottle of white and red table wine for parties and holiday dinners. This winery goes to a lot of our local farmers markets so most days I can return a bottle and get a refilled bottle of liquid gold.
  • Spice some apple cider for the kids and non- alcohol drinkers.
  • Make mulled wine and hot chocolate, the real stuff NOT from cocoa powder (dark or milk in the bulk section).

By planning, trying to do less and make it simple your holiday can be a slower, fulfilling and happier holiday season for you and your loved ones. Happy Holidays.

China says” No more!”

It shouldn’t come to a surprise anyone that China has had enough of our recyclable plastic. The US ships approximately 1 million tons of plastics to china for recycling every year. Earlier this year china said they will no longer accept plastics from several countries around the world including the USA. They will no longer accept plastics with the codes 3-7. This creates a very large problem, 1 million ton problem.  And since we have relied on China primarily recycle these plastics for us, we don’t have the facilities here in the USA to recycle these kinds of  plastics. Now we have the recycling industry and municipalities scrambling and literally freaking out about how to handle this loss of a major part in their chain in recycling.

So, what are we going to do with all this plastic? It’s a very good question and the recycling industry doesn’t have an answer nor do the manufactures, municipalities or business. But us Zero Wasters do, just stop manufacturing the plastics. I know this sounds harsh but, how are we going to deal with more plastic waste? As a society we have come to rely on plastic for almost everything and therefore we believe we can’t live without it. We can and must begin to transition to a less disposable lifestyle because our planet resources and space is not infinite.

I believe that the companies that manufacture the plastic containers (the converter) and the company that makes the product that goes into these containers should take responsibility for this and change their packaging. Because now their plastic containers will go into the trash, this will be hard for the public to swallow when they are accustom to plastics going in the recycle.  They may want to

China has been dealing with our waste and toxins on an epic scale. They are not willing to be our garbage pile any longer.

About Zero Waste Classes

I tailor my class for the organization and my audience.  This is a sample of my typical class topic;

Class: Your Zero Waste Home; Save Money While Living a Sustainable Life

With an emphasis on financial and resource effectiveness, this class will adds value to your daily routine regardless of your budget, lifestyle, or how much you want to hug a tree. Topics will include food and personal care product waste, shopping tips and tricks, housekeeping and zero waste skills, our actions and how they shape the world’s behaviors, and resource mindfulness. Attendees will leave this class better prepared to deal with the onslaught of waste associated with the activities of daily living.

Classes can be from 1-2 hours in length.

I can speak to 10 or 1000 people.

All classes have an environmental education component to them but are presented as accessible and helpful.



Horse Chestnut laundry detergent (Don’t Eat these chestnuts!)

I was literally driving down the road and saw Horse Chestnuts on the side of the busy rural highway, hung a u- turn and decided to fill a cloth bag (of course it was cloth) with the nuts littering the shoulder. I had seen a few posting on Instagram about making laundry detergent from Horse Chestnuts and right then and there decided to give it a try.

After some internet research and a lot of nonspecific recipes, I came up with a recipe that I think works pretty well:

To make the dry stage of the process you start with:

  • Pounds and pound of fresh Horse chestnuts without the hull (green spiky flesh that surrounds the nut). I read that you need 10-20 pounds of raw shelled nuts to get you through one year. I am collecting around 20- 30 pounds this year (yes, I do lots of laundry).
  • Process the hulled nuts with either a grater, hammer, or food processor with a grating wheel/blade. I used my mothers food processor’s grating wheel.IMG_20171001_151255_308
  • Then put them in a blender, in batches, to make a pulp. Repeat.
  • Place a layer of the pulp on a cookie sheet and dry in your oven for 1-1.5 hours on 200 degrees Fahrenheit or until nice and dry.  You will need to do this stage in batches. Cool and then place in a jar to store your “detergent”.  Repeat. This dry stage will keep for 18-24 months in an air tight container.

To make the liquid washing solution: makes 2-4 loads (depending on load size and machine requirements). Don’t make a large batch of solution, it goes bad in about 7 days in the fridge.

  • Place about 1/2 cup dried nuts in a jar and cover with 1 cup boiling water, let steep for 15-30 minutes, strain through a fine sieve.the liquid will be a milky yellow/white solution (where will be some fine bits of chestnut in the bottom of your jar, that’s okay. I carefully pour my solution when I use it and always leave a little solution at the bottom of my jar with the bits, when it is empty.
  • One load uses 1/4 cup -1/2 cup solution (depending on load size and machine requirements)
  • I added 5-8 drops of Lavender or peppermint essential oil to the solution to make my laundry smell fancy.
  • If you make a bunch of solution a head of time, store it in the fridge. I should last about 7 days.

Have fun with this recipe. I sure am excited about this rediscovered zero waste recipe.

I might just try to wash my hair with a chamomile/horse chestnut shampoo. Keep you posted on that one.IMG_20171002_122345_359

*Some of the stages in the process of making Horse Chestnut laundry detergent. The bottle on the right is the final product.



Your Zero Waste Home: class coming to PNW

I will be doing a zero waste presentation on October 21st from 1-3 at Sno-Isle Natural Food Coop in Everett, Washington. The class will outline strategies, reasons for and the how’s of living a more zero waste life. This class will help you produce less waste in your home. You will learn tips and tricks to help reduce the garbage you produce while living a healthier, more satisfying life. A zero waste lifestyle is rewarding and economical if you do it right. Come learn how!

There is a fee for this class;  $25 at the door cash or check is accepted.

I hope to see you there (tell a friend).