Reduce: My Green Holiday Swag

Well, I have been absent.  The holidays.  Life.  FINALS.  I will not discuss in detail the coffee induced hell that the first two weeks of December entailed.  I also will not detail the lovely time I had at home with my family, friends, and the many many dogs that live at my parent’s home.  I will, however, share with you a few choice, blog inspired Christmas gifts I received this year.  I’m a really lucky girl.  I have a very talented and environmentally minded mother, so when she asks me what I want, I give her ideas.  Here is how she executed:

Homemade reusable cosmetic rounds!

First, check out these reusable make-up remover pads!  After I made my DIY eye make-up remover, I realized I would need some cotton pads to use the product the way I wanted.  Those convenient little cotton pads you buy at the drug store seemed sub-optimal for several reasons.  First, they are wrapped in plastic.  I promise I will write a full out post about the drawbacks of plastic soon.  It’s on the list.  Second, I don’t know a ton about the cotton industry, but anything that takes resources to make and is explicitly one use, seems iffy to me.  So, I asked my mom to come up with a solution.  She made me about 20 reusable cotton rounds.  Over half of them are washcloth material on one side, and the other half are just all cotton fabric.  She made them all from stuff she had laying around the house too, so no new stuff needed!  She also re-gifted to me this amazing airtight container for them.  I think it has some beer cheese in it when she first received it, but it’s really pretty and the pads fit perfectly.  I’m going to use them for make-up remover, toner, and, as per my cousin’s suggestion, I’m thinking of putting some mixture of stuff in the container to try and make a reusable version of those pre-moistened pads.  I will report back.

Bulk bags!

Second, she made me these awesome bulk bags to be used at the co-op and the Farmer’s Market.  I have a few of these, but I always run out and end up using the old brown paper bags I have been saving hording for…probably too long.  Needless to say, most of those have seen better days, and my mom comes to the rescue.  Bad on me for not putting something in here for scale.  There are a variety of sizes, the biggest one could hold lots of produce or a ton of rice if it’s on sale.  The smallest one would be perfect for those things I’m buying in bulk for just one recipe.  These were also made from fabric scraps she had around the house.  They are so cute, right?

Last, I cannot leave out the cool presents made for me by my crafty little sister.  She made me these super cool headbands out of old t-shirts!  As headbands pretty much equal my grad school hair uniform, these are amazing and thoughtful.  I wear them all the time.  She tells me she learned how on Pinterest.  I will try to find the link and post it to my own Pinterest page.  If you’re so inclined, you can follow me on there, here.  She made some other pretty amazing gifts for the rest of the family.

Final Word:  Basically, my family is amazing, and they really know me.  I also love that they are into downing the waste that is often associated with the holiday season.  I’m super excited to try them out, and I’ll make sure to report back.

What do you think?  Did you get any cool gifts for the holidays?  I know it’s a little late…but eh.  Any cool eco/green/sustainable gifts you’d like to gab about?  I’d love to hear about them!          

Eco-Inspiration 2

Stream in Yellowstone NP.  I am so grateful
these places have been preserved for me to enjoy!
It’s that time of the year!  Oh my goodness, how I adore the holidays.  I love hanging out with my lovely family and seeing all my friends from home.  I can’t wait to take another ramble in the woods with my dogs, and bundle up as I walk down the hill toward the creek with my little sister.  I want to drink coffee with my parents while my brother plays guitar and my sister-in-law sings.  These are my holiday memories.  And I have a lot to be thankful for, and so do you!  Feeling a little holiday stressed?  It happens.  So, I thought I would take a few minute and remind you of 5 things for which you should be very thankful!  I know the official holiday of giving thanks has passed, but I thought we could always use a little more gratitude.  Don’t you?

1.       You have immense creative power!
“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree–and there will be one.” ~Aldo Leopold

2.       It’s never ever, not ever, too late to start trying to make a difference (thank goodness!)
“It is almost too late to start, but tomorrow is even later.” ~Slobodkin and Dykhuizen

3.      Everyone is just trying to find their own path, and we should be thankful for those people in our lives who let us struggle, and wander, and wonder.  Those are the people who really have our backs.
“…It is not the only or the easiest way to come to the truth.  It is one way…” ~Wendell Berry

4.       For just as long as cynics have existed, people like you have been making a difference!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

5.       We live in a world of staggering beauty and immense possibility.
“As many know, the Chinese expression for “crisis” consists of two characters side by side. The first is the symbol for “danger,” the second the symbol for “opportunity.” – Al Gore

Double Arch in Arches NP
FINAL WORD:  For those of us trying to live simply and in line with values slightly different from the main stream, the holidays can be a stressful time.  Try to remember why you choose to be where you are this holiday season.  Be present, be patient, and be joyful.  After all, what the world always, with out a doubt, needs more of is joy.

What do you think?  What do you give thanks for this holiday season?  

Low Impact Travel: Thanksgiving 2012

I am back from my Thanksgiving travels.  I’m still pretty tired, and have a ton of school stuff to catch up on, as usual I suppose.  This year, travel was especially crazy because ticket prices were so high (ouch), so I took a red-eye flight on Wednesday which got me into Nashville around 5am CST.  I then flew out of Nashville on Saturday at 7am CST.  Quick turn around, and a few very early mornings!  I thought I might reflect on my wanderings and talk about small things we can do to make our travel footprint a little smaller. 

I did some school work in the morning and early afternoon.  The usual.  The boyfriend (hereafter D Lo) picked me up from school right after class, and I went straight away to making brownies for my roomies and my rideshare buddy.  I went through my fridge and tried to pick out the veggies that would go bad before I got home.  I juiced up a carrot, cucumber, chopped a sort of mealy apple, and threw all that in  the blender with some kale, frozen raspberries, and bananas.  D Lo usually avoids my “salad smoothies,” but I think he was counting on missing me, so he drank up, and it was proclaimed “not that bad.”  My lab mate and her boyfriend swung by to pick me up just as the brownies were done and the smoothies were in our bellies.  My lab mate is from the Bay Area, so she just dropped me off at a train station near her house.  I jammed out to podcasts all the way to the airport.  Once there, I got real hungry, and got another smoothie (this one in a plastic container).  A quick jaunt from SFO to LAX, a speedy veggie burger and fries from Burger King (I really love to eat while I travel) and I was on a plane again and on my way to the southern homeland!

Green smoothies are one of my fave snacks.
Travel Dos:
#1àDo make sure and use up your food before you leave home.  Waste not, want not as they say.
#2àDo ride share and ride public transit when you can.  SO MUCH less stressful than dealing with holiday traffic.
#3àDo remember to pack your own snacks.  Things you buy at the airport as so over priced, wrapped in plastic, and usually not that good for you (I’m looking at you Burger King).
Many many cooks in the kitchen!
I rode in the car SO much today, but in that part of the country, it’s much harder to avoid.  Public transit is just not really well developed in more rural areas.  I also went on every errand with all my siblings.  Really, nothing beats riding in a car, chatting, listening to music on a beautiful fall, country day.  I just love Kentucky.  I had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I didn’t take that many pictures, but I am so blessed to have such lovely family and friends to spend these times with me.  I did make everyone laugh till they almost cried when I admitted to drinking cabbage juice last year when I was working on my thesis.  I’m a weirdo in a family of weirdoes, and we all like it that way.  My brother even made a fabulous vegan dish for me to enjoy with the Thanksgiving Feast!  We ate, and drank, and played games until the cousins had to head home.  It was a great holiday.     
Post dinner entertainment from my bro and my sister’s beau.  
Travel Dos:
#4àDo remember it’s the holidays and you are supposed to play and do things you don’t always do (like eat till you have a little tummy pooch! Yum!! Or ride all around town in a car.)
My newest niece puppy who I met Friday.
This was my only full day in Kentucky.  I’m so glad my brother got this day off work so we could all hang out till he and my sister-in-law had to leave at 1pm.  My college roommate was also in for the holiday with the family, he’s an adopted kid to my parents, and he got to stay till lunch time as well!  That evening my best friend and another college roommate stopped by to hang out and chat and eat more food!  I also had some time on Friday to talk Christmas plans with my mom.  She is going to make me some bulk food bags and some reusable face cloths (think a reusable item that will replace cotton balls in the bathroom), more on this later.  I also remembered where I got so many of my good-for-the-earth habits when I watched my mom fix a few Christmas decorations instead of throwing them away and give tons of leftovers to us in reused containers (No, D Lo, that is pie not feta cheese!).  I also had an amazing conversation with my sister about women in science and the impacts of our diet choices.  She is pretty amazing and works for the National Park Service, and her park just got its first female director!
On the road again, way way early.  Too too early.  Luckily, this time I had my mom around to fix me tons of snacks.  I wish I had taken a picture of the spread.  I had coffee in my to-go mug, pretzels in a reused container, peanut butter and gram crackers wrapped in tin foil, and raisins.  This kept me from buying any snacks all the way through the airports!  Thanks mom!  I took the train from SFO to within about an hour of my California home and, once again, D Lo and I were able to avoid the stressful airport traffic.  Basically, living in a city where the train is connected to the airport is amazing (…duh…).  We were way too tired to cook that night though, so we ordered in Indian food.
Travel Dos:
#5àMake ahead of time, and freeze, a homemade meal.  You will be too tired to go out or cook when you get home, and your delicious curry will come in a plastic Tupperware.  To the credit of this restaurant, my curry and two small condiments were the only things in plastic.  Pretty cool!

FINAL WORD:  Obviously, this isn’t a post about large scale travel choices (train vs. plane vs. automobile) because this little southern girl has got to get home, and flying is really the only practical way at this point.  Maybe that post will come later.  That said, the holidays are supposed to be fun!  I think that lots of things you can do to make your travel lower impact, also make the whole experience more fun and way less stressful.  Public transit and ridesharing are decidedly less stressful because you spend less and deal with traffic less, always a win.  Spending money on overpriced items *cough*airport snacks *cough* always stresses me out, and I loved not doing that on the way back to CA.  Think about your holiday routine, we’ll all be doing it again in a few weeks, and consider changes you can make. 

What do you think?  Do you have any great green travel tips?  Any tips for avoiding holiday stress?  Favorite on the go snacks?