My 2021 Resolution: Cut Plastic Waste by 50%

Did I seek out the most White Vegan Mason Jar photo I could find? Yes. Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash (no offense intended, Ella, I am making fun of me, not you).

I’m a fairly eco-friendly person.

I have a cupboard full of Pyrex that I use for food storage. I buy cleaning supplies from sustainable brands and make my own (baking soda can do just about anything). I bought in bulk instead of plastic in the pre-pandemic days. I use cloth menstrual pads.

I could be doing better.

This fall, I’ve been working for an environmental nonprofit, and I learned so much about the toll that plastic waste has on the planet. I want to reduce my impact on the planet, starting with my plastic consumption.

I wrote before about the ways my ethical eating habits have changed in recovery from an eating disorder. To be transparent, plastic guilt may present a challenge for me to make sure I am keeping my mental health top of mind while also making a change to my eating habits that involves rules and morality. We are going on an adventure, my friends.

Hopefully, I can find easy and accessible ways to reduce plastic and waste that I can share with readers while keeping things honest and authentic. (Because honestly, I think it’s near impossible to actually go plastic-FREE in our world).

My Plastic Free-Ish Plan

  1. Thirty Day Plastic Journal: Much like a food journal many of us had to keep in high school health class to learn about food groups, I plan on keeping a journal of my plastic use for the next thirty days to see how much plastic I’m using in my everyday life.
  2. Easy Swaps: For the easy swaps, I’m going to research alternatives and make the switch to a plastic-free option. I’ll include some of the obvious ones below.
  3. Harder Swaps: For the more challenging swaps and habits, I’ll do a bit more research and get back to you on those results! Hopefully the easy ones make a big dent.
  4. Homemade Foods: This one scares me, because I don’t always have the energy or stamina to cook from scratch due to chronic illness, and convenience foods and takeout are life savers for me. But I read an article today about a tofu factory that burns plastic for fuel, and I realized that trying to make my own tofu is worth the effort even if I can only do it once in a while. (Scroll down past the homemade tofu recipe in this blog for the plastic story).
  5. Plan to Re-Use/Recycle: My city is not currently recycling, and even when we are recycling, most recyclables end up in a landfill anyway due to contamination from improper contents. I’m driving my aluminum cans and paper to respective recycling spots locally, but there’s no solution for plastic. I’d like to research solutions for non-avoidable plastic like this donation program for medicine bottles.
  6. Implement Operation 50% Less Plastic 2021: Complete avoidance of plastic in my life is impossible, but I would like to reduce my personal single use plastic usage by half in 2021. I’m giving myself the month of December to prepare and take notes on my average use, so I have something to compare against. And then it’s onward to a more eco-friendly 2021 and beyond!

Easy Swaps to Reduce Plastic

In the kitchen:

  • Glass jars instead of using plastic baggies for chopped veggie storage and easy snack portions
  • Dishwasher powder in a paper box instead of plastic containers of pods
  • Beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap
  • Reusable water bottles instead of single-use bottles
  • Sticks of margarine instead of plastic tubs
  • Hard Mode: Homemade foods instead of pre-packaged

In the bathroom:

  • Bar soap instead of body wash and bottled hand soap
  • Bar shampoo and conditioner instead of bottled
  • Homemade face scrub instead of bottled
  • Zero-waste toothpaste bits and bamboo/compostable toothbrush instead of plastic tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes

In the laundry room:

  • Zero-waste laundry detergent strips instead of plastic containers
  • Wash in cold water to reduce the amount of microplastics that escape from polyester (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either).

At the grocery store

  • Reusable produce bags
  • Reusable grocery bags
  • Bring-your-own container instead of plastic for bulk bins
  • Fresh produce instead of bagged produce (if able)

I am actually excited to start this little adventure and I hope to inspire some of you to learn and change your daily habits along with me!

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Photo by N I F T Y A R T ✍🏻 on Unsplash

My mother put me on my first diet when I was twelve.

I still remember the way she traced a circle in the palm of her hand to show our babysitter how big three ounces of meat was, to monitor our serving sizes. I also remember choking down raw broccoli and bell peppers — two foods I cannot eat raw without feeling ill, twenty years later. 

I became a vegetarian in 2002 when I was in eighth grade, for the animals. Around age 17, I became vegan entirely, but added eggs and dairy back into my diet quickly because it was nearly impossible to stay vegan in an omnivorous home. I remained steadfastly vegetarian through college.

Since then, I’ve been on-again-off-again with animal products, but I chose more ethical products from local farms and sustainable sources. 

I was always struggling to find a diet that felt okay ethically, while also balancing the desire to lose weight. Was it meat? Was it veganism? Was it raw veggies? Was it paleo? Was it keto? Was it intermittent fasting?

I aspired to be vegan because it felt like the most ethical, cleanest way to eat. But even a plant-based diet isn’t without cruelty and harm. 

When Your Quest for the Perfect Diet is Killing You 

After realizing in huge, blaring, neon letters in my mind last February that I had a full blown eating disorder, I stopped dieting altogether. I stopped counting calories, started eating tortillas at Chipotle again, and even ate refined sugar without hating myself.

I let all the rules about food fall away, leaving only the need to eat when I was hungry and trusting myself to do so. 

In this period of recovery, I had to let my aspirational veganism go. First, because eating eggs was a way I could actually eat something consistently without needing to fight with my mental health. Second, because a plant-based diet was something I was doing to change my body, rather than fuel it, and I needed a break from a weight loss mentality while recovering. And lastly, because literally nothing is perfect or without harm – not even a vegan diet.

The truth is, I needed to take care of myself. The weight of researching everything, measuring the validity of a food choice against its impact on animal welfare, human labor, carbon emissions, and everything else that goes into making a choice, was too heavy. My mental health suffered as I agonized over the morality of everything I ate. 

We Aren’t Winning Points 

Have you seen The Good Place? Spoilers ahead!

In The Good Place, when people on Earth die, they get sent to The Good Place or The Bad Place based on point totals of their actions during their lives. But as society developed, it became impossible to get into The Good Place even if you lived a perfect life, because every single action is more complex than it appears. 

Each tomato at the grocery store carries an invisible price tag of ethical costs. The pesticides degraded biodiversity in local insect life, the crops were harvested with prison labor or other exploitative practices, the seeds were patented and those patents were used to sue small local farmers when the wind deposited an errant seed on their land. 

Or, to quote Chidi Anagonye four times:

  • “Oh no! I used almond milk in my coffee, even though I knew about the negative environmental impact.” 
  • “I read an article saying that growing almonds was bad for the environment, and yet I continued to use almond milk in my coffee.” 
  • “Well, if it is Hell, I know why I’m here. Almond milk. I drank so much of it despite the negative environmental impacts.”
  • “So, we’re in the Bad Place, and I know why. Almond milk. I knew it was bad for the environment, but I loved the way it coated my tongue in a weird film.”

We cannot eat perfectly ethically in a society that prioritizes profit over people, over animal welfare, and over environmental sustainability. Corporate responsibility is so much bigger than individual action can hope to overcome. 

What does this have to do with my eating disorder? I was focused so much on eating only clean, healthy, safe foods that I would starve myself rather than eat something that wasn’t organic, wasn’t gluten-free, wasn’t sugar-free, etc. If it didn’t satisfy the rules of the clean eating deities of the day, it wasn’t okay to eat. 

Hungry after 8pm? Go to bed hungry, the rules say you can’t eat. Refined grains only once a day. Eat fruit on an empty stomach. Make everything out of cauliflower. 

I also continued my trauma around being forced to eat “healthy snacks” (usually raw vegetables I did not enjoy) as a child. I would pack carrots in my lunch and tell myself all day, “If you’re not hungry enough to eat the carrots, you’re not hungry.” I hate raw carrots. I starved myself thinking it was good for me. 

I could only eat perfect, healthy food. Learning something new about each food became dangerous. And so my list of foods it wasn’t okay to eat grew and grew, leaving me with precious little I could eat to sustain myself. 

Only sprouted grain bread. Only organic potatoes. Only grass-fed beef. Only half an apple. Only what fits in these containers. 

But we don’t have running point totals guiding the morality of our choices — dietary or otherwise. We can only do the best we can with the resources, information, and ability available to us. 

I still care about the ethics of my food choices. But I have to eat. I have to nourish myself. I have to let some of the rules relax. 

Rather than only eating certain things, what if our only job was to do our best and listen to what our bodies need? 

Being Okay with Imperfection

I eat cage-free eggs, and I eat fish. I am otherwise plant-based in my diet. I limit consumption of foods with a high human cost, such as quinoa (once an affordable staple in South America, now exorbitantly expensive and used as an export for our White American Vegan needs). I buy fair-trade coffee and chocolate. I should get back into the habit of buying the Dirty Dozen organic, but I don’t always. I try to buy whole, fresh foods without packaging, but I have fibromyalgia and sometimes my ability and energy level means I need to buy a bag of pre-chopped fresh or frozen veggies. 

And the imperfection is okay.

I cannot be perfect. But I can feed myself.

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Your first priority in eating while recovering from an eating disorder is to feed yourself and work on the mental health aspects of your recovery. But as you get further into recovery you may want to start investigating more sustainable and ethical food choices. However, if you find yourself feeling triggered or backsliding into disordered eating, please take a break and focus again on just feeding yourself and taking care of you. 

If it is not triggering to place limits on food in your recovery, you can start to do research into the sustainability and ethics of your food. 

Certifications and labels can help you check at a glance if a product meets certain standards. But sometimes labels can say things that sound nice but don’t actually have any standards attached. This can be hard to navigate as you start exploring more ethical food, so this list should break down what to look for as a next step on more ethical eating. 

Though certifications and labels may not be perfect, they do help us to vote with our dollars and show brands that people are willing to purchase products that prioritize more ethical and sustainable methods. The more people can purchase with ethics in mind, the more the market will shift to provide more options that meet those demands. 

  • Certified Organic: USDA Organic certification means that produce was grown without synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, sewage sludge, and irradiation. Organic also clarifies that the product contains no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Organic animal products come from animals that meet welfare standards including outdoor access, no antibiotics or growth hormone treatments, and were fed an organic diet. Packaged organic products are made with at least 95% certified organic source ingredients. Note: Organic crops are still treated with pesticides, but they must be approved for organic use — always wash those fruits and veggies. Learn more about the USDA Organic label at the USDA website. You don’t have to buy everything organic — check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list to learn which fruits and veggies are best purchased organic due to high pesticide levels. 
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified: Rainforest Alliance certifies farms that meet certain criteria, including environmental sustainability standards (climate-smart agriculture, deforestation, conserving biodiversity), working conditions standards (human rights, shared responsibility, living wage, gender equality), and more. You can check out all their standards at the Rainforest Alliance website
  • Fair Trade: A fair trade certification can be found on food, clothing, and other items that tend to have exploitative labor practices in their conventional production. A fair trade label protects against child labor, slavery, discrimination, union-busting, and environmental pollution – among so many other standards. This is a great label to start with if you want to move toward more ethical consumption. Coffee and chocolate are two major crops that benefit from a shift toward fair trade purchases. (Aldi is a great low-cost option for both of these!) Learn more from Fair Trade Certified and Fairtrade International, two organizations working toward more sustainable agriculture that prioritizes human rights. 
  • Certified Humane: Certified Humane is a nonprofit seeking to improve the lives of animals used in agriculture, and the organization is endorsed by 70 humane associations including the ASPCA. Like all things, they’re not perfect, but they make an effort. You can look up their standards for all animals on their website and decide for yourself if they meet the standards you have for your animal products. 
  • Cage Free: There are actually a lot of “cage free” standards depending on the certifying organization, and they are also (unsurprisingly) not perfect. But they do require chickens to be kept in better conditions than overcrowded factory farms. Check out this article from the Humane Society of the US on different cage free, free range, and other labels you might see. 

You can also shop more locally from farmer’s markets, local farms, and people who keep backyard hens for eggs — this way you can directly ask the source of your food what sort of practices they put into their produce and animal products. 

Access to Food is a Privilege

It is crucial to acknowledge the privilege in access to higher quality, organic, and local foods. Many people across the globe, including those of us in the United States, simply don’t have access to affordable food that meets every checkbox. 

It may be nutritionally ideal to eat fresh, organic, local produce that’s in season — but not everyone can. Whether due to budget, access to the stores and markets that provide these foods, the time it takes to shop and prepare meals while balancing work, life, and family responsibilities, etc. 

No diet is perfect or without consequence, from environmental effects to animal welfare to human exploitation. So please, do the best you can, and know that it is good enough. 

And for those people who would judge others for the food they can access and the time and energy they can put into researching foods (and I have been that judgmental person)… know that everyone is doing their best, and spend your energy donating to causes that help address food insecurity and advocating for better animal welfare and human rights in our agricultural systems. 

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The Dos & Don’ts of Online Clothing Shopping: How to Avoid Returns & Scams

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Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

In the time of COVID, lots more people are shopping online for their needs rather than going to a store, and even if you do shop in person, there are limits to the availability of fitting rooms and returns might be impossible.

If you’re staying inside but still find yourself in need of new clothes, this post courtesy of guest author Jenny Bloom from ShirtMax will help give you tips on how to do so safely in an age of scams, fraud, and identity theft.


 

With more than 79% of Americans now doing at least some of their shopping on the Web, it’s become increasingly easy for cybercriminals to take advantage of online shoppers. Online shopping is fast, convenient and allows consumers to purchase just about anything without needing to brave large crowds or travel to other cities to find what they are looking for.

While most online transactions take place without any problems, people still fall victim to cybercriminals every day. Whether they are taken in by scams designed to steal their personal information or they are sold products that do not match their descriptions, shoppers can fall victim to numerous things when shopping for clothing on the Web.

Buying clothes online is appealing for numerous reasons. Whether you’re shopping for blank t-shirts, pants, shoes or accessories, the Internet boasts more selection than your local mall could ever dream of carrying, and the prices are often substantially lower than the prices found in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. It’s important to be aware of the darker side of e-commerce, though, and make yourself aware of how to avoid scams and returns. Here are a few dos and don’ts of online clothing shopping to help you stay safe on the Web.

DO: Shop from Home

It may be convenient to do some online shopping at your local coffee shop on your lunch break, but doing so makes you much more vulnerable to hackers. Even novice hackers can easily access public Wi-Fi connections and see everything you enter online – including your credit card number.

It’s fine to browse your favorite shopping sites while you’re at the airport, a coffee shop, a hotel or another public place with a Wi-Fi connection, but avoid entering any personal information until you are on your own secured network.

DO: Be Careful When Choosing Sellers

If you use Google (or another search engine) to search for products, be careful. Statistically, about three results on every search engine results page are fraudulent. Whenever possible, shop directly from a well-known retailer or directly from the manufacturer or brand you’re shopping for. If you are trying to find the best price, use a trusted price-comparison site.

Before entering any personal information on a website, take a look at the address bar at the top of your browser. The URL should always start with https://. If there is no “s,” it means that your information will not be transmitted privately once you submit it. Also, make sure any website you shop from has an SSL certificate.

DO: Shop Using Credit Cards

Generally speaking, credit card companies offer better protection against online scams. Whether you receive a product that does not match the description or you have your information stolen, they will normally work with you to help you recoup your losses when the seller refuses to cooperate. Using your debit card means that a criminal could gain access to everything in your bank account, and depending on your financial
institution’s policies, there may be little you can do if you fall victim to a scam.

Editor’s note: If you don’t use credit cards, double check your bank’s policies to make sure your debit card offers purchase protection. Shopping via PayPal Goods & Services also provides buyer protections. 

DO: Keep an Eye on Your Credit Card Bills

Pay attention to your credit card bill every month. Make sure only transactions you’ve authorized appear on your statement and watch out for recurring charges. If you notice anything suspicious, contact your credit card company immediately, as there are usually time limits for disputing charges. Also, make sure you’re only shopping within your budget and paying it off every month so as not to carry a balance.

DON’T: Use Your Personal or Business Email Address When Shopping

Having a separate email address to use for online shopping is highly recommended. In addition to keeping all those promotional emails out of your business or personal email account, you’ll be a lot better off if this email address gets hacked than if one of your main addresses does. Set up a separate account that is easy to access, and keep track of the orders you’ve placed, when they’ve been shipped, and when they arrive. Hang onto order confirmations until you’ve received your item and you are happy with it.

DON’T: Wire Money to Sellers

If a seller is asking you to pay by Western Union or a similar money transfer service, it is almost always a scam. Even if you order from an online auction site, you should only pay online using a credit card or a protected service like PayPal. If you wire a payment to someone, you have no way of getting your money back in the event of a problem.

DON’T: Provide Excess Information

When you place an order online, you should expect to provide your name, billing address, mailing address, phone number, email address, and credit card information. If the site is asking for anything else – such as your social security number or your driver’s license number – it’s likely fraudulent. There is no reason why you should need to provide this type of sensitive information when shopping online for clothes.

DO: Shop Eco-Friendly

Unfortunately, shopping in general isn’t the most conscientious thing we do. Products are
typically kept in plastic, fast fashion is bad for the planet, and mass-produced boxes aren’t always properly recycled. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help lessen the overall carbon footprint. Shop from secondhand consignment shops, like ThredUp, to help save the planet. Plus, you’ll normally find a sweet deal and save a couple bucks.

DON’T: Fall Victim to Scams

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When you stumble on a website selling designer clothes in the latest styles at a fraction of their normal
price, it’s extremely tempting to load up your cart and submit your credit card information. Chances are, though, the deal isn’t as good as it seems. Entering
your credit card information may do little more than fund a scam artist’s next shopping spree. Or you may find out when your order arrives that you purchased
counterfeit clothing or accessories.

Scoring great deals is one of the best parts about shopping online, but when looking at prices, be realistic. If the price seems too good, it’s probably a scam in one way or another. When you’re shopping for products in bulk such as wholesale shirts, you can expect to pay significantly less than you would pay when shopping retail. Avoid scams by only ordering from established wholesalers with strong reputations for quality and customer service.

Conclusion

With more and more people turning to the Web to shop for clothing and other products every day, it’s becoming increasingly important to be vigilant. There are a lot of people out there who make their living by stealing from others, and they love targeting unsuspecting online shoppers. Exercising caution when ordering online, however, can help you avoid returns and scams while protecting your bank account and personal information from cybercriminals.

About the Author

Jenny Bloom is the Marketing Manager for ShirtMax. When she’s not spending time with her three daughters, husband and two dogs, Roscoe and Boone, she’s creating content on fashion, online shopping and saving money on clothes.

How to Take a Minimalist Approach to Holiday Shopping

holiday shopping

The holidays are hectic—with everyone rushing to stores and advertisements being shoved in our faces, it can be difficult to maintain a minimalist approach to shopping. Everything is made to seem like the best deal or the next must-have gift. But the holidays are supposed to be about giving and togetherness. We should focus less on the price tag and more on the meaning behind the gift.

Here are four ways that you can reduce spending on holiday shopping while still finding great gifts.

Make a List, Check it Twice

If you create a list prior to shopping, you will know exactly how much you plan to spend and the limits of your budget. It’s when you deviate from this list and start buying unplanned gifts that overspending occurs. As you begin shopping, try to find deals along the way in order to cut costs from your overall budget.

Something you should consider while shopping is tracking your expenses—this way you won’t have any unforeseen expenditures. One way to track all your purchases in real-time is by using an online banking platform with instant transaction alerts. These platforms can send updates directly to your smartphone, that way you don’t need to review your expenditures retroactively.

Repurpose Gifts

While it may seem taboo to regift something, an unopened or unused gift is practically good as new if the person doesn’t know that you’re regifting. As long as you think the recipient will actually enjoy the gift, it’s better to not let it go to waste. Sometimes you can even take a gift and upgrade it into something even better with a little bit of craftiness—like turning books into wall art! Adding your own touch will help make the gift even more perfect for the recipient. 

Give the Gift of Time

Spending time with someone can be more wholesome than any physical gift you could possibly give them, especially if your gift recipient speaks the love languages of Quality Time or Acts of Service. This means you could volunteer to do different chores for the person, offer to take them on fun adventures, or just spend an evening at home playing board games and watching movies. 

You can also spend time together while giving the gift of volunteerism. Plan a day later in the year when you can volunteer together at a local shelter or charity. The holiday season is jam packed with volunteers, so be intentional about visiting during a less-staffed time of year to truly make a big impact on your local community. 

You may just find that the joy you get from helping others can outweigh any physical gift.

Shop for Supplies

One way to cut down on costs is by making the gifts yourself. Rather than spending tons of money on expensive finished products, try spending the money on supplies for do-it-yourself gifts. You can save even more money if you already have some supplies on hand. This will take some extra time on your end, but it’s worth it because the gifts will be heartfelt and unique to the person you are giving them to. 

DIY gifts can include cookie dough ingredients in a jar, paintings, polished river rocks with a word of affirmation painted on them, a printed and framed poem, or anything else your creative mind comes up with!

During the holidays, minimalism can help you save costs and reduce stress. By applying the concepts of minimalism, you can celebrate the spirit of the holidays without getting sidetracked by the message to buy more and more.

Check out this infographic from Chime that can help you focus on your holiday needs while still meeting your financial goals.

chime infographic

Shopping Consciously as a Minimalist

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Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

While minimalism is already widely accepted as an eco-friendly way of living, there are still ways you can continue to do your part if you’ve adopted a “less is more” lifestyle. Shopping consciously is one of the easiest and most effective ways to embrace minimalism, while also putting our planet first. As you embrace the minimalist way of life, here are just a few ways you can shop more consciously along the way.

Take Inventory

Before you set out on any sort of shopping excursion, it’s always important to create a home inventory. By definition, minimalists seek to live with the items they need, as opposed to what they might want. This means you should strive to not have a significant amount of duplicate items in your household. While stocking up on canned goods or owning several sets of sneakers might not feel like a big deal in the beginning, buying excess quantities of items you already own can create more waste in the long run due to forgetting what you already have, food expiring before you can eat it, etc. Taking the time to write down a clear and concise inventory of the things you already have is a sure fire way to keep you from buying items you don’t need. 

It’s important to note, though, that not everyone can afford to replace things if they don’t have duplicates. Don’t feel pressured to pare down to the barest of minimums, and it’s ok to keep a backup of something stored in case of emergencies. Instead of focusing on a numerical limit, consider your space the limit. Only keep as many of something you can reasonably fit on the shelf, in the bin, or in your dresser.

Practice Mindful Grocery Shopping

A great way to keep yourself conscious as you shop is by being as mindful as possible as you purchase your groceries. Whether you like to buy your ingredients on a weekly or biweekly basis, be sure to have a plan of action when you enter the store. Having a list helps keep you on track and inspires less shopping spontaneity. Don’t shop on an empty stomach as this can cause you to purchase more than you need.

Consider changing up your diet slightly by adapting to a more environmentally friendly way of eating. Try your hand at practicing recipes that incorporate little to no meat, as the meat market’s carbon footprint is a steadily growing problem. Planning out your meals well in advance will keep you from making unnecessary purchases and it will keep your pantry more organized over time. 

Shopping at local farmers’ markets can also help reduce the carbon footprint of importing food from far away and helps boost the local economy and support small business.

Donate As Much As You Buy

This is essentially the “one in, one out” rule.

Try to make a mental note to donate items from your home just as often as you add new items. If you’re debating buying a new chair or sofa for your living room, first assess which current piece of furniture you know you could do without, unless you are shopping for a space that needs a change in functionality to seat more people or add a guest bed, etc. 

This goes for your clothing as well. For each new item you add to your wardrobe, choose one to get rid of, if your closet is already at capacity. Smaller possessions such as clothes are easy to accidentally stock up on if you aren’t careful to clean out their hiding places regularly. The next time you feel yourself in need of some wardrobe retail therapy, look online for a closet clean out option to help you keep your closet from becoming overwhelming. Donating will help ensure that all of your shopping is a circular process, helping you maintain a minimal life the eco-friendly way. 

Invest in Reusable Products

If you are able to invest in reusable products, it can reduce your overall home inventory as well as your waste. The best place to start when looking to buy more reusable items is with the things you find yourself using and needing most on a day to day basis. From zip lock bags to plastic water bottles, we tend to create the majority of our waste in the kitchen.

If you haven’t already, try reducing your plastic waste by buying a quality reusable water bottle to keep you hydrated throughout the day. Instead of having to continually purchase zip lock bags for your leftovers, look for alternative ways to keep them fresh, like with beeswax wrap. Take the time to consider washable, reusable alternatives the next time you’re hoping to shop more consciously. 

Checking Your Minimalist Privilege

It is extremely important to note that not everyone has the financial means or the ability to follow these recommendations. Sometimes you have to buy in bulk to save your pennies, and the one-in-one-out rule does not apply when you are starting from a point of having less than you truly need in the first place.

Minimalism is a way of life to prioritize the important things over living to excess — and that is whatever you make it.

How Minimalism Can Help You Spend Less

Live more and spend less — that’s the simple idea. It’s no secret that today’s society places value on piling up the possessions and spending more than we need. Ultimately, this can clutter our lives and weigh us down. Minimalism encourages you to make conscious efforts to live simpler and value the things that are a part of your life. 

How it helps your wallet

Naturally, if you are spending less on material goods then your savings will definitely feel the benefits. However, it’s important to note that minimalism isn’t about restricting your budget so much that you feel trapped. It’s about spending your time, money, and energy on things that are important to you. If this means taking a vacation or getting your nails done, then invest your money in experiences that make you happy.

How to make it work 

Minimalist living can help you feel freed from the things holding you back. Start with small things and work your way up to living with less. Take inventory of the stuff you have and start decluttering, donating, or selling things you don’t need. 

For more inspiration on how to start a minimalist lifestyle, check out these 10 TED Talks on minimalism to help you spend less (from Mint.)

 minimalism-ted-talks

The Simple Bundle: 17 Minimalist ebooks available this weekend only!

I write more about social issues, trauma recovery, and self care these days than my original days of decluttering and minimizing my space, but I’m still a minimalist at heart and in practice so I am thrilled to share with you an absolute steal of a deal if you’re an aspiring minimalist!

The Simple Bundle is available this Labor Day weekend only, August 31 – September 2, 2019. And it’s only $37 for a $225 total value of 17 ebooks and online courses! Check out the offerings below:

  1. Joshua Becker — Clutterfree with Kids eBook

  2. The Minimalists — Essential eBook

  3. Patrick Rhone — Enough eBook

  4. Francine Jay — Miss Minimalist eBook

  5. No Sidebar — 30 Days to a Simpler Life Email Course

  6. Courtney Carver — Microbusiness Email Course

  7. Erica Layne — 9 Hard Truths about Clutter You Need to Hear eBook

  8. Tsh Oxenreider — One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler

  9. Pia Edberg — The Cozy Life eBook

  10. Anthony Ongaro — Break The Twitch eBook

  11. Sandy Kreps — Fresh Start eBook

  12. Colin Wright — Considerations eBook

  13. Simplify Magazine — The Declutter Issue

  14. Kathy Gottberg — RightSizing: Reinventing Retirement eBook

  15. Courtney Livingston — The Smart Girl’s Guide To Surviving Her Twenties eBook

  16. Allie Casazza — The Ultimate Guide to An Uncluttered Life

  17. Minimalism Co. — The Minimalism Challenge eBook

Simplify your life and your space by building consistent habits around a minimalist mindset. While there’s no single how-to that’s perfect for everyone, I am sure there’s at least one resource in this bundle that’s just what you need!

Here’s the link again if you want to buy: The Simple Bundle 

Read more from me!

Interested in supporting Born Again Minimalist? You can sign up as a supporter on my Patreon page for $1 per month, follow me on Medium and clap for my stories, follow and engage with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and buy my book!

8 Guilt-free tips to minimize Christmas spending

12-11 Christmas

I was already a few purchases into my holiday season when a friend of mine said she’d really enjoy a no-spend or buy-nothing Christmas. She envisioned swaps of artwork, clothing, and books between friends who could give freely from what they already had without adding to the stress and pressure of the holiday shopping season.

I budgeted around $400 for holiday gifts, but I probably won’t end up spending that much at all since I shifted my focus to giving experiences and artwork rather than purchased goods (though the unicorn calendar was a great buy and I stand by it).

Here are some ways you can reduce or eliminate your holiday spend without feeling like you’re downsizing the holiday cheer factor.

  1. Give your time. When I asked a friend what she wanted for Christmas this year, she thought about it and said that she’d love a day we spend together more than anything I could wrap up and give to her. Pencil a friend onto your calendar for a day of movies, hanging out, or even going out to window shop and try on the most hilarious Goodwill outfit you can find.
  2. Create something. One of my hobbies is painting, and I plan on creating art for many of the people on my list this year. It’s something that means a lot to both me and the recipient, since I create something personalized and inspired for each person on my gift list. You could also write letters or poetry, draw something, make homemade bath products, or sew something for your recipient.
  3. Cook something. So technically you’ll have to buy ingredients, but baking some cookies or cooking someone’s favorite meal for them is a great way to put your time and energy into showing your love for them.
  4. Regift. If you got some gifts last year that are still hanging around, new or barely used, give them to someone on your list who will love them and have a good home for them. And if you can’t bear to regift, then admit to yourself that you’re not using them and send them to the local charity store.
  5. Host a party. Instead of shopping for a personalized and unique gift for everyone on your list, you can opt to host a holiday party instead! You can focus your time and energy on preparing a delicious meal and ask everyone to bring their favorite dessert for a mouthwatering pot-luck of treats.

If you’re a dedicated gifter who just wants to reduce the budget instead of shoestring it entirely, try the following ideas!

  1. Try the “four things” holiday gift. Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. This is a great way to give gifts to the kids in the family so all bases are covered, while maintaining a frugal gift budget.
  2. Shop local. Buy from local crafters and shops instead of Amazon Priming everything* or shopping big box stores. Check your city’s calendar for local craft shows, which are all over the place leading up to the holidays!
  3. Shop handmade. ETSY ALL THE THINGS*.

*Some people have no reasonable options but to purchase from large sellers like Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc., due to finances, schedule constraints, physical ability, etc. Your own mental and physical wellbeing is more important than shopping local or small.

Are you planning on a “less is more” holiday this year? Tell me your gifting plans!

PS. If you’re in the Cleveland, Ohio area, don’t miss your chance to buy tickets for the Jolobokaflod fundraiser for the nonprofit Reading Room CLE on December 21! The Reading Room promotes literacy in the Cleveland area through a nonprofit bookstore that supports educational and artistic programming.

Cut back on waste by using the whole buffalo

Yesterday was Earth Day. I missed getting this post done in time for it but it’s a great Earth Day concept I share with you today – the concept of reducing waste. I firmly approve of the notion that the native American Indians “used the whole buffalo” when they hunted. A buffalo provided many useful things, including:

  • Meat: for food
  • Bones: for ceremonial uses, weapons, tools
  • Hooves: for glue, rattles
  • Hair: for ornamental use, ropes
  • Hide: for clothing, shelter, blankets, bags (could be tanned into tough leather or left soft)
  • Organs: for food, brain used for tanning leather
  • Sinew: for thread
  • Tail: for whips, ceremonial uses
  • Poop: for fueling fires

While I am not hunting buffalo, I do try to use a similar mentality in my life as a minimalist to reduce my impact on the environment and to reduce the amount of things I need in my home. I hate waste. Throwing away food that has gone bad upsets me – especially if it’s meat or dairy, because those items impacted the life of another living creature. Sorry plants, I get sad when you go off too, but you can’t look at me with sad eyes. Except the potatoes. Sorry about the eyes.

Anyway. Here are some ways I reduce waste in my home:

  • Buy in re-usable containers. I buy some brands over others because they are packaged in glass wide-mouthed jars. I re-use the heck out of glass jars!
  • Avoid plastic wrap. I hate things in plastic wrap. I hate using “biodegradable plastic” produce bags, because I’m just not sure if they’re lying to me. The only thing worse than plastic wrap over a container of produce (looking at you, mushrooms) is plastic wrap over a styrofoam container of produce. Styrofoam. Humbug!
  • Re-use food items. Leftover mashed potatoes become potato pancakes. Bones from making broth are re-used two or three times. One whole chicken can make several days’ worth of meals. Food scraps are put in the compost pile.
  • Garden. Growing food in a garden means you don’t have to drive to the store to buy produce packaged in containers!

Just for fun, and because people love recipes, here’s how I “Whole Buffalo” a chicken.

“Whole Buffalo” Chicken Recipe:

  1. Obtain a whole chicken.
  2. Remove giblets.
  3. Rinse chicken.
  4. Put chicken in crockpot.
  5. Add spices – salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, rosemary, whatever you want.
  6. Cook on low, 8 hours.

Congratulations, you now have a cooked chicken!

Make some meals with it! Like:

  • Chicken quesadillas
  • Chicken salad
  • Chicken breast with pasta or quinoa salad
  • Chicken and rice
  • Chicken soup
  • White chicken chili
  • Buffalo chicken dip (hey, THE WHOLE BUFFALO!)

BUT WAIT. Keep those bones and the broth from the crockpot. Put the bones in with the juices from cooking the chicken. Fill the crockpot up with filtered water. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar and some pink salt. You can add herbs or veggies if you like. Cook it on low for 8-48 hours, adding water as it cooks off.

This is bone broth. It’s awesome. Cook it for a shorter length of time (~8-12 hours) to achieve a gelatin-rich broth (it will look like chicken jello when it’s cooled. Don’t be grossed out. It’s magical). Cook for a longer length of time (~24-48 hours) to achieve a collagen-rich broth. You can preserve broth by canning or freezing. My goal this summer is to learn how to can and preserve.

If you cook for a shorter length of time, you can re-use the bones once or twice, they are good to use again until they crumble when you pinch them. Those are pretty tapped out. You can throw them out, OR… grind the cooked bones up into bone meal and feed them to your pets! The added calcium helps them with their teeth and bones. However, you should not feed cats any bones that have been cooked with garlic or onions, as these vegetables are toxic to cats.

And that’s how I buffalo a chicken.

What do you buffalo?

Fuzzy Legs

I started shaving my legs when I was nine.  Mom did it, and I wanted to do it, because it’s something girls do.  So I began shaving.  Poorly.  At one point, my dad had to continue my education on how to shave my legs (I am pretty sure I was running the plastic edge of the razor over my legs and wondering why the hair was still there).  In sixth grade, I pressed so hard with my razor that I tore off a chunk of skin on my knee.  Constant nicks and cuts were painful and annoying.

Shaving is hard work.

Eventually, I got the hang of it and then had to deal with the necessity of buying razors and shaving cream.  Even then, I didn’t really shave very often, once a week tops.  I shaved when I wore skirts and shorts.  I did not shave in the winter (because pants, and warmth!)

My ex-husband was grossed out by it, but the way I saw it, they were my legs and not his and why should I decorate myself for anyone else’s benefit if I didn’t like doing it? I’ve had an ex-boyfriend (and even an ex-girlfriend) who didn’t mind when I had fuzzy legs.  My cat doesn’t mind.  I don’t mind.

My sister calls them my “hairy man legs.”  And so do I, sometimes, but I am trying to get away from that… because they aren’t hairy man legs.  They’re hairy woman legs.  Hair is not an inherently masculine bodily feature, and we shouldn’t make it that way.  Having body hair does not make me less of a woman.

The horror! Human legs with hair on them!

The horror! Human legs with hair on them!

I still feel (mentally) uncomfortable sometimes, because the expectation in society is that women should be soft, hairless, touchable creatures.  There is an immense pressure on women to have a perfect body, and the images streamed into our brains tell us that perfect is slim and smooth (with large, perky breasts).  I reject that notion of perfect for the idea that maybe, just maybe, our bodies are inherently perfect and we don’t need to spend the majority of our lives changing them to make them perfect.  Humans are mammals.  Mammals have hair.  The only reason we feel compelled to shave our bodies is because someone told us it looked prettier that way.

This is not an indictment of shaving.  If you want to shave your legs because you like how it feels or looks, then by all means shave! Sometimes I, too, enjoy the feeling of silky hairless skin on clean sheets in the summer time.  I also appreciate the razor because it gives me the gift of well groomed facial hair on men.

downey

LOOK AT IT.

I don’t think we should all just throw away our razors, though I do think we should all reconsider the reusable razor with changeable metal blades instead of those plastic monstrosities.  But I do think we should really think about why we shave.  If I remove my body hair, it’s because I want to.  I don’t do it for anyone else.  Plus, now I don’t have to buy razors and shaving cream!

 

legs

Let’s also just take a moment to think about how ridiculous commercials for razors and shaving cream are.  Women shaving already-smooth legs?  As read on  Dear Blank, Please Blank, “if you want to impress us, shave a gorilla.”

Who, me?  (I took this photo!)

Who, me? (I took this photo!)

Do you shave?