There are simple swaps we can make to have a more eco-friendly home. Here are eight zero-waste ideas that also make great minimalist gifts that are good for the environment for someone in your life.
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We have a small house. It is not a tiny house because a tiny house is generally accepted to be less than 400 square feet. But at 850 square feet for two adults, a toddler-tornado, and two cats, we are cozy. A “small house” is typically defined as a house that is 1000 square feet or less. The average house size these days in the U.S. is ~2400 square feet.
I like having a small footprint. All of us tend to spend most of our time in the same room, and I like not having to clean all the extra rooms we wouldn’t be using much anyways.
This is not to say living in a small home is always easy because it’s not. It is very easy to let clutter creep in, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the one-thing-in/one-thing-out policy I want for our house.
For killer strategies to organize your whole life, check out this post
Minimalist gifts and green gifting
I like to be mindful with buying things for our home, because we just don’t have the space to not be mindful. It actually stresses me out if we buy too many things, and it’s not mainly financial stress – it’s clutter stress. There are lots of people who are embracing a more minimalist or simple lifestyle, so I know I’m not alone.
*** quick aside: As much as I love the idea and maybe aspire to be a minimalist, I am not one and this is a work in progress. We definitely have clutter in our house. I am not on any high horses over here.
When I buy Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, or for any other occasion, I often turn to green gifting and minimalist gifts. I think it’s really important to try to be mindful of what we spend our money on for ourselves and also for gifts for others. Not only so that we live within what we can afford, but also because everything we buy is a vote for that thing. It’s saying a big YES to whatever we buy. All the gifts below are practical, work well, and are good for the environment. Gifts that help the environment are a great thing because, you know, we all live here.
- Frugal gifts – stay on budget with your gift giving
- Easy Homemade Gifts For Dad
- Ditch the disposables – best lunch boxes, bento boxes, and reusable snack packs
Good for the environment idea #1: Reusable straws
Plastic straws are not known for being good for the environment. They are a single use item, they contain BPA, and they can’t be recycled. Starbucks goes through a grillion (= actual amount) of those green straws every year, and they have pledged to phase out plastic straws completely by 2020. These metal straws are a great gift that are cute and are eco-friendly. They are reusable, dishwasher safe, and come with a long brush so they can be cleaned thoroughly if you’re washing by hand.
Good for the environment idea #2: Beeswax food wrap
Beeswax food wrap is an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic wrap. It smells delicious (like honey!), and you can easily wash it and use it over and over. After buying a few sheets of beeswax food wrap, I realized just how often we reach for plastic wrap to put away food. This has definitely increased since having a child who often leaves half her meal on her plate (and we don’t like to throw food out if we can help it). For us, we won’t go 100% reusable food wrap over here – plastic wrap still works better. But this is a great alternative for some of the time and I like being able to cut down the amount of plastic wrap we use.
Good for the environment idea #3: Travel coffee mug
Many people drink either coffee or tea so a travel coffee mug is a pretty safe bet if you are green gifting. This Stanley insulated vacuum mug is my all-time favorite, and also a bestseller on Amazon. It fits in car and stroller cup holders, is spill-proof, and you can open/drink from it using one hand. I also love the Yeti brand for coolers and lately have been tempted by this beauty of a travel coffee mug. Shh, don’t tell Stanley.
Good for the environment idea #4: Reusable coffee pods
We all know that coffee pods are not the most environmentally friendly product. They are a single use product that is generally not accepted in recycling centers so most of them end up in landfills. They are super convenient and many households use them, but there is a better way. You can still enjoy your quick coffee in the morning in your single serve coffee maker, but you can use a reusable coffee pod. The coffee pods are very easy to use. You pop the lid off, fill the pod with your favorite ground coffee, close the flap, and put it into the single serve coffee maker just like you would with any pod.
Good for the environment idea #5: Mesh produce bags
People have become more used to bringing our own reusable bags when we go shopping. But it’s still so common to use plastic bags to hold our apples and green peppers and other produce. Sometimes I eschew a plastic bag but it is a little gross to have your food rolling all over the gnarly conveyor belt. I bought a few of these mesh produce bags and I absolutely love them. They go straight from the store to the fridge and I’ve found that food stays fresher because of the mesh, versus plastic which can make produce grow mold faster.
Good for the environment idea #6: Mason jars
Oh humble mason jar, there is so much you can do. As I get older, I prize practical, minimalist gifts over flashier gifts. Bring on the mason jars! Mason jars are great for carrying salads or smoothies to take to work, to make overnight oats for an easy healthy breakfast the next morning, storing dry ingredients like nuts and seeds, and so much more.
Good for the environment idea #7: Reusable sandwich bags
Plastic sandwich bags are another kitchen staple that are not great for the environment. We use them once and then throw them away. Reusable sandwich bags are easy to wash, come in many different fun prints, and help the environment by reducing plastic waste. You can even put these ones in the dishwasher.
Good for the environment idea #8: Cast iron cookware
Even though it is still common in many kitchens, cookware with non-stick coating is not healthy. PFOA is a main chemical in Teflon coating and it is a suspected carcinogen and hormone disrupter. It stays in our bodies and is found in the majority of people, including newborns, and also in marine animals.
Non-stick coating definitely makes removing cookies from baking sheets or muffins from tins much easier. But it is also easy to flake off and ends up in your cooking and then your body. Personally I haven’t used Teflon non-stick cookware and bakeware in many years. A much safer and high-quality alternative is going back to the basics – cast-iron cookware. The Lodge brand has been around forever (or since 1896) and they are sturdy American-made products that would make great eco-friendly gifts. We have many pieces in our kitchen and absolutely love them.
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