An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

January 7, 2020 by  
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Bend, Oregon is a sunny spot in a state known for rain. This area of central Oregon is the fourth fastest growing region in the country. About nine people move there daily, often because they want a healthy outdoor lifestyle and a smaller town. Tourists love this town of 81,000, too. If you’re venturing that way, leash up Fido; Dog Fancy magazine once nicknamed it Dog Town, USA. Bend outdoors Start your Bend adventure with an easy walk around downtown. Incorporated in 1905, Bend has many attractive, century-old buildings that now serve as cafes and boutiques. Crow’s Feet Commons is a must-visit for outdoorsy types who stop in for ski boot fitting, bike shopping and Oregon craft beers. If you’re ready to pick up the pace, check out Bend’s 51 miles of in-town trails. For a short run, the 3-mile Deschutes River Trail loop is very pretty, and you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy it. Visiting runners can pick up trail maps and connect with locals at FootZone , a running shoe store that sponsors running events. Bend is probably best known as a magnet for rock climbers. About 25 minutes outside of Bend, the 651-acre Smith Rock State Park attracts climbers from around the world. It offers challenges for all levels, from newbies taking their first lessons with local climbing schools to pros ready to tackle the 500-foot volcanic rock walls. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on a trail, the park also offers a lovely, flat trail along Crooked River and a steep climb to the tops of cliffs. Seventy miles southeast of Bend, the Fort Rock State Natural Area makes for a geologically intriguing day trip. Fort Rock is a volcanic tuff ring that rises 325 feet above the surrounding high desert plain. This is a magical, quiet place, with soft, sandy trails, scrubby bushes and orange and chartreuse lichen coating the rocks. The nearby Homestead Village Museum is an interesting collection of old buildings, including a small church and a one-room schoolhouse. Did you bring Fido? After a day of exploring Bend and environs, stop by Pine Nursery Park so he can cool off on the seasonal splash pad. Join a canine-friendly canoe adventure with local outfitter Wanderlust Tours . Don’t forget a doggy life jacket made by the Bend-based company Ruff Wear. Bend wellness Jinsei Spa is a local favorite for facials, massages and body treatments using natural and organic ingredients. Namaspa Yoga Community offers public yoga classes in the Baptiste power and yin styles, as well as yoga for groups such as seniors, people in recovery and inmates at the local jail. They also provide Reiki, massage, cupping and energetic healing. Those who like to drink while doing yoga will enjoy Bend Beer Yoga . While these teachers usually hold classes in craft breweries, they may also add the odd cocktail, cider or glass of wine . Plant-based restaurants in Bend For vegan burgers, milkshakes and fries, visit the original location of the Bend-based chain Next Level Burger . Its house-made burger patties feature combinations of quinoa, mushrooms, beans, chia seeds and other nutritious ingredients. Taj Palace has an excellent lunch buffet with several vegan dishes. In addition to curries, Taj Palace also serves South Indian specialties like idlis, vadas and dosas. The cheery interior and friendly staff make it an extra nice place for a meal. Bethlyn’s Global Fusion is a cute cafe with a wide-ranging menu. Vegan choices include a Thai coconut curry bowl or a Vietnamese lettuce wrap. Lots of menu items can be made vegan upon request. For a fancier night out, Joolz is a Mediterranean-themed restaurant that uses the tag line “where the Middle East meets the Wild West.” Delicious menu items include dukkah nuts, an appetizer of toasted bread, olive oil and crushed mixed nuts flavored with coriander and cumin. The vegetarian platter provides a good variety of Mediterranean foods, such as tiny stuffed grape leaves, garbanzo beans and roasted cauliflower. Ice cream-lovers flock to Bonta Natural Artisan Gelato . The shop crafts inventive flavors, including a few sorbets and coconut-based ice creams for those avoiding dairy. Bend’s public transit While a car is very convenient for traveling outside Bend to places like Smith Rock, it’s possible to fly into Bend and get around town without driving. Cascades East Transit provides bus service in Bend and to nearby towns. It also operates recreation-based shuttles, including the Ride the River bus during the summer for folks floating the Deschutes River and the Mt. Bachelor shuttle in winter for skiers . The Ride Bend shuttle cruises around downtown and the Old Mill District during summer. There’s also a bike share program run by Oregon State University – Cascades. It’s open to the public as well as students. Uber and Lyft operate in Bend, too. Sustainable hotels in Bend The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend is especially known as a chic, boutique eco-hotel. It was built with sustainable materials and operates on 100 percent renewable energy . The Riverhouse on the Deschutes is Oregon’s only LEED Silver hotel and convention center, featuring high-efficiency HVAC and renewable energy. If you want to go for LEED Gold, the Helios Eco-House is available as a vacation rental. The McMenamins Old Saint Francis School is a 1936 schoolhouse that was turned into a hotel . Highlights include a movie theater and an extensive collection of works by local artists . Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

Gift loved ones with classes that teach and build nature skills

December 20, 2019 by  
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Rather than gifting a material object this holiday season, opt to give an “experience” gift. Not only will it help minimize waste and clutter, but an experience gift can also be wonderfully green and intrinsically fulfilling. How so? Experience gifts, for instance, lead to quality bonding time, new skills and shared memories, all of which are priceless. Here are our top suggestions for nature courses and classes for the whole family, and be sure to check locally for nature courses near you. Wilderness survival There are various experience gifts out there, and Inhabitat celebrates those that teach about nature and cultivate an appreciation for the outdoors. Sometimes being in nature calls for wilderness survival skills for better preparedness, adaptability, endurance, resourcefulness and resilience in improvising during unexpected situations. Survival might require knowing how to tie knots and cordage, as well as knowing how to fashion and utilize stone tools. Wilderness survival classes will teach all of that and more. Related: 5 common weeds you can make into healthy (and free) teas Ice climbing and mountaineering The outdoors are best enjoyed year-round; even the winter can be an excellent time to commune with nature. What better way to do so than by partaking in ice climbing or mountaineering? Find a course near you to learn the skills needed to succeed in these athletic activities. Fly-fishing Fly-fishing appeals to many outdoor enthusiasts. This skill isn’t the same as catching fish with a simple fishing pole or net. To learn the angler intricacies of this pastime, check out Blue Quill Angler , Cabela’s Fly Fishing University , Fly Fishing Coach International , Lillard Fly Fishing and Orvis’ Fly Fishing Learning Center . Falconry lessons Falconry has been known as the “sport of emperors,” for it has long been a passion of many monarchs and historical figures. Modern falconry mainly cultivates a bond between falconer and falcon, birder and raptor. In other words, modern falconry is about avian stewardship , especially because one has to be licensed with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife or a similar local organization, such as a state wildlife department or agency, depending on your location. But the experience is a rewarding one because of the meticulous care that must be given to falcons and raptors. To learn more, contact the North American Falconers Association (NAFA) , which has been protecting and serving North American falconry since 1961. Celestial navigation Seafarers have been known to orient themselves in the open ocean by the night sky. The night sky and its stars are all part of the natural world; hence, learning to identify the constellations and other astronomical wonders will instill a deeper appreciation for nature. You can learn how to orient yourself by stargazing, thanks to resources offered by the American Sailing Association , The Great Courses and U.S. Sailing , just to name a few. Foraging Foraging is all about searching for food and particular plants. One can forage for savory spices, edible mushrooms, herbs and even medicinal plants. Foraging courses abound including at establishments like Backyard Forager , Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine , forageSF , Grow Forage Cook Ferment , Herbal Academy and Wild Plant Guide . A directory of foraging organizations is also available here . Related: Incredible edible landscape map shows you where to find free food Identifying trees and shrubs Woody plants , like trees and shrubs, come in all shapes and sizes. You can expand your knowledge of them by taking courses on identifying their characteristics and learning about the landscapes in which they can be found. Identifying animals and their tracks Besides identifying plants for foraging purposes, there are also courses that assist with identifying mammals, birds and other animals , not just by their appearance but also by their calls and spoor. Some of the best places to learn more about obtaining these skills include Adventure Out (which also offers programs for corporate retreats and team-building events), Earth Skills , Earthwork Programs , Natural Awareness Tracking School , Nature Tracking , Naturalist Ventures , Tracker School and Tracker Certification from CyberTracker North America . Homesteading Homesteading is essentially a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, with reliance on subsistence agriculture and permaculture, preservation of food via canning and drying, a return to simple textiles and an affinity for the traditions of earlier eras. Modern homesteaders also tend to rely on renewable energy, be it solar or wind power. Courses on homesteading include aquaponics, beekeeping, bread and cheese making, organic gardening, permaculture, homemaking and farm management. Images via Shutterstock

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Gift loved ones with classes that teach and build nature skills

Vegan holiday cookie recipes for every plate and palate

December 19, 2019 by  
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Any day is the perfect day to celebrate cookies, but when the holidays roll around, we really itch to get baking. Whether you’re planning to hand out cookie gift plates, donate to a bake sale or leave a treat for Santa, many people in your community will be seeking out vegan holiday cookies, so we’ve put together a list of possibilities. Get baking! Chocolate peppermint crinkles You just can’t go wrong with a combination of chocolate with peppermint all topped with sweet, powdered sugar. Besides, peppermint is a hallmark ingredient for any recipe in December. Thanks to My Darling Vegan , this recipe requires basic ingredients, so there’s no need to hit the specialty store for anything unusual. Note there is a recommended 4-hour refrigeration period, so keep that in mind if you are in a rush to make a treat for an upcoming cookie exchange. Related: How to make delicious, raw almond cranberry Christmas cookies The process for these yummy treats is pretty straight-forward. Mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and then mix everything together. After refrigerating the dough and rolling it into balls, you’ll dip them in granulated sugar and powdered sugar. For the best results, pull them out of the oven just before they are completely cooked. This will help them stay soft. Gingerbread The season isn’t complete without gingerbread, and while you may have already decorated a gingerbread house , you can whip up a batch of these gingerbread cookies for a quick activity. No one says you have to decorate them, though, so we’re on board with turning them into drop cookies, too. These cookies might be rated as ‘intermediate’ on the vegan grocery supply list, because they do include ingredients like vegan butter and a flax egg. But if you frequently cook vegan recipes, you might already have these in the house. Check out this recipe at Loving it Vegan , which even includes a vegan frosting for decorating if you choose to do so. Tips: Make sure you don’t roll your dough too thin, and use a cookie cutter with sharp edges for the cleanest cuts. Dip your cookie cutter in flour between each use to help the dough slide out easily, and be generous in flouring your surface to keep the dough from sticking. Pumpkin sugar cookies Why decide between pumpkin cookies or sugar cookies, when you can have both? From The Minimalist Baker , these cookies are topped with a buttercream frosting enhanced with the flavors of pumpkin and warming spices. This recipe also calls for vegan butter, but there’s nothing surprising on the ingredients list. If you’re not familiar with arrowroot, it’s an alternative to cornstarch. For your milk substitute, you can use any non-dairy option you prefer . In the frosting, the pumpkin butter is optional, but really, why wouldn’t you? When it comes to making the dough, factor in some chill time, meaning that it needs to get cold in the fridge or freezer before baking. While baking, make sure to pull them from the oven right when they become a light, golden-brown color. Molasses cookies Perhaps it’s the smell of pine in the air or the thoughts of sweet treats for Santa’s arrival, but there is just something that connects molasses to Christmastime. So as the holidays approach, whip up a batch of molasses cookies for visiting guests or as a gift to conscientious co-workers. These Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies by Making Thyme for Health offer spicy sweetness that is vegan, gluten-free and sans refined sugars. Even with all the things they are not, the ingredient list is straightforward. As an added bonus, they’ll make your house smell amazing! Chocolate chip cookies Chocolate chip is a year-round classic that everyone loves. This version from Sweet Simple Vegan includes easy-to-find ingredients and has earned high reviews. Use coconut oil as a healthier option to vegetable oils, toss in your favorite vegan chocolate chips and use whichever plant-based milk you prefer. Related: Impress loved ones with these homemade foods for holiday gifts Be sure to read the notes regarding whether to chill the dough or not. It’s optional depending on your preferred style of cookie. Oatmeal cookies This recipe from The Minimalist Baker is a mix of oatmeal with delicious fruits and optional nuts and seeds for a versatile recipe that you can make your own. Choose your favorite ingredients to suit the tastes of your friends and family. The ingredients list itself is very short, so have fun playing around with different combinations. Tips: Read through the recipe completely before getting started. It does a good job of anticipating your concerns. Is it too wet? Too sticky? Unlike many other cookies, these don’t spread out when they cook. Rugelach While many holiday cookies center around Christmas traditions, those who celebrate Hanukkah wouldn’t want to suffer through the season without the traditional rugelach on the plate. So here’s a vegan version straight from the website of Sunnyside Hanne . Enjoy! Images via Shutterstock

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Vegan holiday cookie recipes for every plate and palate

Sustainable holiday gifts for babies and kids

December 12, 2019 by  
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Children innately have a curiosity about the world around them, and that curiosity can be cultivated into awareness and love for our planet. So this holiday season, give out eco-friendly gifts or green presents that your favorite kiddos can enjoy all while helping the Earth, too. Vegan shoes Vegan Chic is 100 percent vegan fashion with products vetted to meet high standards of eco-friendly and cruelty-free sourcing, especially with regards to fair and safe working conditions during production. Vegan Chic’s proprietors, Mark and Vessela, who are animal lovers avidly protecting and rescuing feral cats, explained, “We love animals and are committed to protecting them, as they cannot protect themselves.” Support the cruelty-free shop by purchasing adorable and functional vegan shoes that any child would be excited to sport. Meanwhile, CLAMFEET provides machine-washable, soft-soled, leather-free moccasins for infants and toddlers. CLAMFEET shoes are also completely vegan with organic lining. Plus, they are handmade in the United States. Eco-friendly clothing, bedding and bath items Little Lentil Clothing is “dedicated to leaving the smallest environmental footprint possible” by offering organic, natural and sustainable clothes for children. Its packaging is even derived from 100 percent reusable, recyclable or biodegradable materials. As Little Lentil Clothing’s website describes, “We are a brand with intentions to uphold elevated social and environmental values in order to leave the world a little bit better of a place for all of our babies.” Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for children While Burt’s Bees has long been known for its personal care products, did you know that the company also offers 100 percent organic cotton products for babies and kids? Burt’s Bees Baby provides gentle, organic cotton that meets “the highest global standard for organic textiles” in clothing, bedding (nursery bedding, quilts and blankets) and bath apparel (washcloths, towels and robes). Responsibly crafted, plastic-free toys BeginAgain toys are made from a mix of vintage materials (maple, rubberwood and natural rubber) and modern bioplastics derived from non-GMO corn. As the company describes, its toys “move kids away from OIL and back into SOIL. We believe in the playful power of plants.” The BeginAgain animal parade A-to-Z puzzle and playset is a recommended favorite. Bamboo bike This is another company devoted to natural toys for children that collaborates with sustainable suppliers to provide families with “heirloom quality, non-disposable toys that support healthy lifestyles in balance with the environment.” The NovaNatural bamboo run bike is a lovely toy for any child, given its sustainable bamboo wood finish. Interestingly, bamboo forests can be harvested after only 3-5 years because they grow faster than other hardwoods, making bamboo a more sustainable wood. Additionally, bamboo forests produce more oxygen and absorb more carbon dioxide than other trees. Award-winning wood toys Hape Holding AG is a German-Swiss toy manufacturer that began with the responsible business practices of its founder, Peter Handstein, who said, “A commitment to children must go hand-in-hand with a commitment to the environment. Our children will inherit the world we live in.” Based in Lucerne, Switzerland with at least 36 companies in more than a dozen countries, Hape is globally renowned for its award-winning, educational wooden toys that utilize renewable resources, such as bamboo, for “minimal impact to the environment.” Hape’s award-winning toys include a two-in-one kitchen and grill set, a croquet set, a scientific workbench, a doctor set, a doll mansion, a dominoes set, a magnetic easel, a master workbench and builder set, a miniature band set and much more. Art supplies and kits If your child has an artistic bent, eco-kids offers non-toxic, environmentally friendly “creative play the natural way,” with all products made in the U.S. Cammie and Kip are the founders of this family-run business, which all began when Cammie created a recipe for “eco-dough” with natural ingredients that they first sold at local farmers markets. From there, eco-kids evolved into a comprehensive art supplies shop that sells wholesale on its website and retail on Amazon . Another sustainable children’s art supply establishment is Natural Earth Paint , the award-winning, Gold-certified Green America business that specializes in natural mineral pigments and organic ingredients. The company was founded by Leah Fanning, an environmentalist who immediately disposed of her toxic and synthetic paints when she became pregnant with her first child. She then founded Natural Earth Paint, which specializes in locally made, non-toxic art supplies packaged in “100 percent post-consumer recycled packaging, biodegradable plastic bags and recyclable glass bottles.” According to the company’s website, its merchandise is free of “preservatives, heavy metal toxins, solvents, synthetics, additives and fillers,” which makes them safer for children. Natural Earth Paint also operates out of a 100 percent solar-powered facility, and the company has a plant-a-tree campaign to boot. Besides artist palettes, its recommended children’s products are natural face paint kits and egg craft kits, which can be found here . Crafty STEAM kits Green Kid Crafts sells science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) subscription kits and educational toys that will inspire children to learn while they play. The company has earned several distinctions, including the Academics’ Choice Brain Toy Award, Dr. Toy’s Best Green Products and Red Tricycle’s Award for the Most Awesome Subscription Service. With sustainability as its driving force, Green Kid Crafts gives back to the environment by partnering with CarbonFund to advocate for more renewable energy efficiency as well as with the OneTreePlanted endeavor to plant a tree for every Green Kid Crafts order placed. Gardening kits If you have a budding horticulturist in your family, Hortiki Plants has a wonderful beginning gardener’s kit for children. The kits from Hortiki Plants include biodegradable trays made from hand-pressed palm leaves, natural kelp fertilizers, coconut coir seed pellets, organic seeds, organic soil, recyclable glass sprayers, recyclable metal vases and recycled shipping materials. The company also offers a gardening guarantee, so that if, for any reason, the seeds do not grow into plants, the seeds will be replaced for free. The Hortiki Plants Kids Fall/Winter Gardening Kit is perfect eco-friendly holiday gift for young gardeners because it also includes games and projects for children to engage in the world of sustainable agriculture. Images via Shutterstock, Vegan Chic , CLAMFEET , Little Lentil Clothing , BeginAgain , NovaNatural , Hape , Natural Earth Paint , Green Kid Crafts and Hortiki Plants

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Sustainable holiday gifts for babies and kids

How to make zero-waste decorations for the holidays

December 9, 2019 by  
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Sometimes in the whirlwind of family, friends and food, the eco-friendly habits we’ve refined throughout the year tend to slip through the cracks during the holidays. To combat some of this waste, try your hand at decking the halls with DIY, zero-waste decor from November all the way through the new year. According to the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), Americans throw out about 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day compared to the rest of the year. This includes 38,000 miles of ribbon (more than enough to wrap around the planet) and $11 billion worth of packing material. To put it in perspective, that’s approximately 1 million extra tons of garbage each week. While most of this waste comes from gift packaging and shopping (if you haven’t already switched to reusable bags, now is the time to start!), plenty of consumers tend to overlook the wastefulness of holiday decorations as well. Often made out of unsustainable materials like plastic and polyester, decorations are just as important as gifts to plenty of American households. Related: Your guide to natural holiday decorations Inhabitat collected and tested five unique holiday decorations that are completely zero-waste , cost-effective and made with recyclable, reused or natural materials . Not to mention, they look great, too! Find out how to make these zero-waste decorations and create less trash during the holidays. Dried fruit decor Drying holiday fruits is a fun way to bring some festive color into your home without using artificial materials. We strung ours onto a garland with 100 percent cotton thread, but they can also be hung as ornaments in the tree, intertwined into a wreath, used as a table centerpiece or wrapped around cloth napkins for table settings. Dress them up with fresh cranberries or leaves to add some texture. To make your own dried fruits at home, you can use either an oven or a dehydrator. For the oven method, simply cut your oranges, apples or pears into slices about one to two centimeters thick. Pat the slices dry with a towel and set them onto a baking rack in an oven set to 160 °F for 4 to 6 hours, depending on thickness. Make sure to turn them every hour or so to ensure the slices are evenly dried out. Salt dough ornaments Sure, you might remember making salt dough ornaments as a kid, perhaps fashioning them into thick balls of unrecognizable shapes and finishing them with bright acrylic paint. These zero-waste decorations have been given a makeover with a more sophisticated look (we fell in love with these beautiful ornaments from Compost and Cava ). Not only are they zero-waste, they’re completely compostable as well. Related: 10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips To make the salt dough, you’ll need flour, salt and warm water. To decorate the ornaments, use dried flowers, herbs or spices. For a bit of color, we made two batches and swapped the water for some leftover turmeric tea and beet juice for natural food coloring. Combine 2 cups of flour and ½ cup of salt into a mixing bowl. Then, slowly add your warm water (about ¾ of a cup) and mix or knead until it takes the consistency of play dough. If you’re using flowers to decorate the ornaments, it’s easier to mix these into the dough before rolling it out to help them stick. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to ½-inch thick and cut it using cookie cutters. Don’t forget to use a kebab stick or a reusable straw to make a hole at the top. You can either air-dry these for a couple days or bake them in the oven to harden. For the oven, heat it to 300 °F and bake for 1 hour, checking regularly to make sure the dough hasn’t started to brown or crack. After they’re cooked and cooled, string the ornaments with compostable twine and hang them on the tree. Foraged wreath or garland For your next holiday decoration, look no further than your backyard or nearby park . Gather a bundle of pine cones to place into a basket or bowl for the table, fashion branches and fruits into a table runner as a centerpiece or string them into a wreath with twine and leaves. The possibilities are endless. Though foraging is a sustainable way to decorate your home, there are a few things to consider. Only forage in places where you have permission to do so, and know how to properly identify what you are bringing home (you wouldn’t want a wreath made of poison ivy!). Remember to forage sustainably, only taking what you need and considering the health of the tree or plant you’re taking from. Your local Christmas tree lot is a great resource as well; ask for the extra branches while they’re trimming the trees. They will be thankful for your taking the waste off their hands, and you’ll get some free evergreen foliage. Paper roll stars We got the idea for these pretty paper roll stars from zero-waste blogger Veraviglie . They are a perfect holiday activity for children and adults alike and use materials that you probably already have lying around your home. You’ll likely want to spend some time collecting finished paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls for this craft, depending on how many stars you want to make. We asked a few family and friends to hang onto theirs for us instead of tossing them in the recycling bin. Related: Simple DIY upcycled holiday decor Fold the tubes lengthwise and cut into equal 1-centimeter pieces along the shorter side, and use a water-based, eco-friendly glue (you can also make your own by boiling cornstarch and water on the stove) to make stars. Decorated candles Use a candle made of biodegradable wax, such as beeswax or soy, and materials such as coffee beans or herbs that can be reused or composted at the end of the season. For our decorated candles, we used compostable jute twine, cinnamon sticks and holly leaves. It added an extra touch of holiday cheer with the festive cinnamon smell as well. For coffee drinkers, fill up a mason jar with your favorite beans and add a tea candle on top. As the candle warms the beans, your house will be filled with the delicious scent of coffee. Images via Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat

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How to make zero-waste decorations for the holidays

Sustainable holiday gift ideas for your friends

December 4, 2019 by  
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Help your friends start 2020 on the right foot with new ideas for ways to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Check out our guide below to give every friend on your list the gift of sustainability this holiday season. Cookbooks The modern cooking world is full of imaginative ways to lower your environmental footprint while producing delicious, unique dishes. Depending on what your gift recipient is into, you can choose from books about everything from zero-waste cooking and vegetarianism to vegan recipes and ethical cooking. Cooking with Scraps: Turn Your Peels, Cores, Rinds, and Stems into Delicious Meals takes those everyday items that are notorious for waste (coffee grinds, watermelon rinds and banana peels, just to name a few) and turns them into complete recipes. Headphones The stylish headphones from House of Marley are made from sustainable materials such as FSC-certified wood , stainless steel, recyclable aluminum and soft natural leather. The company offers both comfortable, over-the-ear options as well as smaller earbud sets. Not into the headphone idea? House of Marley also offers a line of eco-friendly turntables and Bluetooth speakers built from natural bamboo and organic cork. Best of all, the company’s biodegradable products don’t sacrifice sound quality. Learn more about House of Marley with our review for the 2019 Exodus headphones . Reusable bags It’s no secret that making the switch to reusable bags for shopping and groceries is one of the easiest ways to work toward living a zero-waste life. Plus, there are so many colors and designs to choose from, making it easier than ever to make this gift more personal. Go a step further and choose a multipurpose reusable bag, like this one from ROV that goes from wallet to tote bag in seconds. Related: How to easily make your own reusable produce bags Plant-based or reusable coffee pods Convenient coffee pods have become wildly popular among coffee-lovers. Unfortunately, most of these single-use pods end up in landfills or the ocean after being tossed in the trash. If you have a friend or family member who has already made the investment in a pricey machine designed to use pods, get them hooked on a brew that comes in eco-friendly packaging. You can find reusable metal pods and even compostable coffee capsules, like those from Volcano Coffee Works . Reusable straws set For those friends who just have to have a straw in their beverages, the gift of a reusable, pocket-sized straw could be life-changing. Reusable straws come in all shapes, sizes and materials, from stainless steel to silicone to bamboo. Just make sure to purchase one that comes with a handy carrying case and an accompanying brush to keep the straw clean. Heading to or hosting a holiday party? Blow everyone’s minds by bringing a box of biodegradable straws made out of hay . Skincare Many conscious consumers are making the switch to skincare and beauty products made from all-natural, organic and cruelty ingredients and packaged in reusable or recyclable materials. To get some inspiration, check out our reviews of the best beauty retailers from the 2019 Indie Beauty Expo in Los Angeles. Choose from natural sunscreens, reusable sheet masks, vegan hair products, items from charitable companies and more. Kombucha starter kit Introduce someone to the wonderful world of gut-benefiting probiotics with an at-home kombucha starter kit. For someone who is just starting out, a kit can be a good way of saving some money instead of buying the fancy, packaged bottles from the store. There are plenty of options for kombucha starter kits available online or in health food stores around the country, but some of the more popular kits include ones from GetKombucha and the Kombucha Shop . Wellness subscriptions For health nuts or wellness-focused friends, a health or wellness subscription might be just what the doctor ordered. You can easily get a gift certificate or class passes if they are already fans of a particular gym or studio, or choose a brand new subscription based on their particular interests. Pro tip: head to Groupon to see if there are any holiday deals on wellness subscriptions in the gift recipient’s area. For other wellness subscription ideas, CauseBox curates and delivers a selection of sustainable, eco-friendly and socially conscious products four times per year, and DailyBurn is an online workout video database with thousands of virtual exercise classes to choose from. Related: 14 apps to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle Plastic-free diffuser Using essential oil diffusers for aromatherapy is widely considered to be beneficial to physical and emotional health. Increased demand for these little machines means that there are quite a few cheaply made ones on the market, which might not achieve the desired results from your high-quality oils. Organic Aromas makes beautiful diffusers that use cool-mist technology with no heat, no water and no plastic. As an added bonus, these diffusers will look like pieces of art on the coffee table. Images via Heather Ford , Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat, Sincerely Media , Volcano Coffee Works , Louise Burton , Ongchinonn , Megumi Nachev , Anupam Mahapatra , Anke Sundermeier and Mel Poole

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Sustainable holiday gift ideas for your friends

6 helpful ways to give back to nature this Thanksgiving

November 28, 2019 by  
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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it is the best time to reflect on our planet and give thanks for nature and all of its glories. What better way to celebrate our world and its wildlife than by offering a helping hand? Here are some ways to give back to and celebrate Mother Earth this Thanksgiving . Save a turkey While Thanksgiving traditionally means turkey at the table, those who are vegetarian, vegan or simply interested in protecting turkeys can instead adopt or sponsor a turkey. Sanctuaries and rescue organizations devoted to the turkey exist across the United States and United Kingdom. The Adopt-a-Turkey initiative has become a popular Thanksgiving endeavor. By choosing to adopt or sponsor a turkey, you can help fund the care of this fine-feathered friend. Related: Make your own tasty vegetarian turkey for Thanksgiving with this recipe To help a turkey, visit Animal Place , Barn Sanctuary , Catskill Animal Sanctuary , Dean Farm Trust Turkey Rescue , Farm Sanctuary , Friend Farm Animal Sanctuary , Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary , Hillside Animal Sanctuary , Spring Farm Sanctuary , The Gentle Barn , The Retreat Animal Rescue & Sanctuary or Woodstock Farm Sanctuary . For a more comprehensive directory of farm sanctuaries that are also safe havens for turkeys, view Vegan.com’s farm animal sanctuary directory . Give a retired Military Working Dog (MWD) a home MWDs are retired from active duty. Many have either worked in the field or trained with other MWDs, making them unique bearers of particularly honed skills. All adoptable MWDs have already passed rigorous behavioral tests to ensure they are temperamentally a good fit for civilian adoptions.  Because the MWD actually served in the United States military, a MWD is more than just a canine — he or she is a military veteran. When you adopt a MWD, you’re also providing a home to a military veteran and war hero. Organizations that can help you rescue or rehome a MWD include Mission K9 Rescue , the MWD adoption program at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland Air Force Base and the United States War Dogs Association . Be sure to also inquire your nearest military installation to see if they have any retired or retiring MWDs available for adoption. You also have the option to foster a military working dog . If fostering is more appealing, contact the 341st Training Squadron’s MWD Foster Program at JBSA-Lackland here . Name a species Every year, new species are discovered. Typically, the first person to discover the plant or animal gets the honor of naming the species. But there are still countless other organisms requiring scientific names. For a fee, the general public can name a newfound organism. By naming a new species, you complete the dual kindness of helping the scientific community establish a binomial nomenclature identification for a newfound living thing while simultaneously honoring the person you named the newfound organism after. Of course, giving a newly discovered species a name of your choice increases public awareness of biodiversity, raises much-needed funding for ecological conservation efforts and helps spread the science of taxonomy. Organizations with programs devoted to naming new species include the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the Discover Life in America (DLIA) nonprofit and the German nonprofit organization BIOPAT . Volunteer at a seed bank You will undeniably make a hands-on contribution when volunteering at a local seed bank. Seeds are deposited for safekeeping in case of unforeseen global emergencies. The seeds can be replanted at some future time to ensure survival, rather than eradication, of certain crops . Today, there are about 1,500 seed banks worldwide, the most famous being the “Doomsday Vault” in Norway, or Svalbard Global Seed Vault . AgProfessional offers a list of the planet’s 15 largest seed banks, where you can learn more about efforts to conserve plant biodiversity. Some seed banks with volunteer opportunities include Irvine Ranch’s Native Seed Farm , London’s Kew Gardens , the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB) , Miller Seed Vault at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens , the renowned Native Plant Trust conservation organization, Portland State University’s Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank and the True Harvest Seeds charity. Monitor vulnerable plants and animals as a citizen scientist Citizen scientists help gather data to inform researchers about the protection and management status of flora and fauna species. Regular monitoring of plants and animals, especially vulnerable and rare ones, is essential to determine their population trends. In turn, agencies at the local, state and federal levels gain insight and implement needed modifications to habitat management and conservation plans. Related: 6 ways to give back this Thanksgiving and beyond For instance, the Smithsonian Institution and the Nature Conservancy have robust citizen scientist programs to assist with the monitoring of species distribution, abundance and threat by invasive species . Some, like the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI) , annually have openings for volunteer plant hunters and junior citizens curious about botany.  Meanwhile, Zooniverse is the largest platform devoted to animal- and plant-centered citizen scientist collaborations. Perhaps one of the most popular citizen science monitoring programs is Plants of Concern , administered by the Chicago Botanic Garden. Similarly, the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) is another volunteer monitoring program that provides better understanding of the interrelationships between humans and ecosystems. Participate in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Field Book Project For those fond of history, especially natural history, consider volunteering with the Field Book Project . Field notes and diary entries, from the Victorian era and earlier, still need to be identified, cataloged and digitized. Volunteering with this endeavor guarantees access to original records of scientific discovery and primary source material notes on specimens and native environments from centuries ago. Your volunteer efforts with the Field Book Project will help increase the visibility of these long tucked-away scholarly resources that need to be rediscovered and shared with the global biodiversity research community. Images via Taminwi , Rikki’s Refuge , Sgt. Barry St. Clair , Hans Hillewaert , Elena Escagedo , Glacier NPS and Biodiversity Heritage Library

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6 helpful ways to give back to nature this Thanksgiving

This tiny farmhouse features a quaint reading nook

November 28, 2019 by  
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New York-based tiny home builder Willowbee Tiny Homes has managed to combine a cozy, farmhouse aesthetic with a sophisticated and space-efficient tiny home. The Burmenbov is a 30-foot-long tiny home on wheels that has a gorgeous interior space, which includes a charming reading nook where the reader can also take in amazing views. Husband-and-wife team Bob and Esther (along with their four children) have made a name for themselves by building quality tiny houses for other families looking to live minimalist lifestyles. Their builds include a variety of sustainable features, such as composting toilets and solar power options. Related: This gorgeous tiny home features a greenhouse and wooden pergola Inspired by farmhouse aesthetic, the Burmenbov is a gorgeous tiny home on wheels that uses sleek lines and a neutral color palette to create a welcoming and comfortable living space. The exterior of the home is clad in all-white siding with two lovely, gabled entrances on either side. At just 30 feet long, the tiny home manages to pack a lot into one story of living space, but some savvy, space-saving techniques certainly help maintain a clutter-free house. Additionally important to the design is its energy efficiency . The home features tight insulation and a low ambient mini-split HVAC system to reduce energy use and keep the home at a comfortable temperature year-round. The tiny home features a spacious living area with several windows and glass doors to let in optimal natural light . At the end of the home is a welcoming reading nook with a bench that sits under a big, square window. On the other side of the living room, the kitchen is surprisingly large and comes equipped with plenty of counter space, a propane stove and a farmhouse sink. Farther back in the house, the bathroom features a bright design with a full-sized shower, composting toilet and stacked washer and dryer unit. At the very back of the structure is the master bedroom, which includes a roomy closet and a queen-sized bed that elevates to reveal storage underneath. The bedroom even has a folding open-air deck to enjoy a bit of stargazing before drifting off to sleep. + Willowbee Tiny Homes Via Tiny House Talk Images via Willowbee Tiny Homes

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This tiny farmhouse features a quaint reading nook

9 tips for eco-friendly Black Friday, Cyber Monday shopping

November 27, 2019 by  
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Shopping is an ubiquitous part of American culture that peaks during the holiday season in spurts of deal-hunting and gift-giving. Anyone who has made efforts to go zero-waste or plastic-free knows how difficult it can be to maintain those goals while finding meaningful presents for loved ones. So when Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around, you might experience the internal conflict of responsibility to the planet with the desire to give gifts. We love that you love the planet, so we’ve put together some ideas of ways to enjoy the season without leaving behind a Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint. Watch packaging  When it comes to gifting, watch out for extra packaging, especially plastic foam and molded, unrecyclable plastic . Consider buying items in bulk, as long as they have less packaging and won’t go to waste. You can also bring your own containers for bulk products like bath salts, pet treats and food. As always, bring your own reusable shopping bags, and decline the offer of plastic bags from the store. Related: Avoid the crowds with these 10 alternatives to Black Friday shopping Support sustainable companies More and more companies are working to source natural materials and manufacture products in a sustainable way. Reward their efforts by supporting them as your first choice in gift-giving. For example, select bracelets made from ocean plastic, shoes or sunglasses made from coffee grounds or indoor gardens sourced from recycled plastic. Look for companies that ship using recyclable materials, too. While smaller, sustainably minded companies may not have a flashy ads online or on the TV, they are out there and will often offer discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday just like the giant box retailers. You just have to do a little bit of searching. Make your own gifts The most sustainable way to enjoy Black Friday is to be in complete control of the materials used in your gifts. Instead of heading out for pre-packaged and wasteful options, take a trip into the local pottery studio and make some plates, a popcorn bowl or a mug to give as a gift. Upcycle by gathering up special T-shirts and other clothing to have a company make them into a memory quilt (if you have sewing skills, you can also DIY !). Set another date on the calendar for a craft party, and invite friends, family and neighbors to gather and make gifts. Use the Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts to score some deals at the craft store. Just be sure to look for products that don’t include plastic and emphasize natural materials like hemp, grapevine and organic fabrics. Choose green technology A quick glance through most holiday catalogs will highlight deals on electronics. If TVs and other modern gadgets are on your list, research models that consume less energy and purchase solar-powered items when they are an option. Go for durability While it is likely that not every item you purchase throughout the season will fully fit the sustainability bill, one way you can help the planet is in waste reduction. To meet this goal, keep in mind that a long-lasting product will create less waste than one that is quickly disposed of. Research your purchases and go for items made with real wood instead of pressboard, strong metals instead of flimsy ones and natural materials instead of plastic (think wooden picnic tables and rocking horses for toddlers). The same goes for jewelry, clothing, furniture, kitchen items and decor. Quality counts, both for the gift recipient and for the planet. Look for eco-friendly materials Especially when it comes to textiles , the materials used in production can make a huge difference in the amount of pollutants that end up in waterways and landfills. Select natural fibers for sheets, towels, blankets and clothing. The most obvious example is organic cotton , which eliminates the toxic chemicals such as insecticides, pesticides and fungicides used in traditional cotton production. Minimize driving and stops Stop-and-go city traffic is guilty for contributing to air pollution , so do your part by limiting the number of stores at which you shop. Pick one store for your purchases, or select stores near each other. Even better than driving is to take public transit, bike or walk from shop to shop. Shop local Depending on where you live, shopping local is likely the best thing you can do for the environment. You get bonus points if you can shop at a nearby craft mall or import store with a focus on eco-friendly and/or locally made products. If you do hit up the online deals for Cyber Monday, follow the suggestions above in regards to buying from sustainably minded companies and observing packaging and shipping practices. Gift wrap naturally Once you’ve made or purchased your gifts, continue the eco-friendly trend with thoughtful gift wrapping. Use natural fabric or paper, and accessorize with leaves, flowers, small branches, nuts or fruit. Alternately, recycle greeting cards into gift tags, upcycle tablecloths and pillow cases, put gifts inside gorgeous reusable bags or organize a gift basket with no wrap at all. Images via Shutterstock

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9 tips for eco-friendly Black Friday, Cyber Monday shopping

7 tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving celebration

November 25, 2019 by  
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Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate abundance, health and family, so it is the perfect time to focus on the health of the environment — the land that sustains us and makes the holiday possible in the first place. Enjoy your celebration and give back to nature at the same time with these sustainable tips for the upcoming holiday. Remember that each small step has an impact, so look for ways you can make easy, eco-friendly swaps throughout your Thanksgiving festivities. Decorate naturally It’s fun to bring out the fall decor, bursting with color and scents of the season. But before you head down the pumpkin spice aisle at the local store, consider ways you can decorate naturally instead. Pick up gourds and pumpkins for the porch as well as a hay bale and corn stalks to complete the vibe. Everything can go into the composter later in the season for zero waste . Related: 5 tips for beautiful, sustainable Thanksgiving decor Inside the house, craft some homemade grapevine wreaths embellished with mini pumpkins, pinecones, nuts or berries. Take the kids out to collect colorful leaves, acorns and rocks. Press the leaves or put together a Give Thanks paper banner, with each letter spelled out in natural materials . For centerpieces, carve out pumpkins and insert candles or fill a traditional cornucopia of edible goodness. Alternately, use colorful, clear or reflective metal bowls of produce such as lemons and limes, squash or apples. Travel less Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel holidays of the year. The impact of those trips leaves a heavy carbon footprint on the planet. With the fuel emissions of planes and cars, the easiest way to celebrate the day sustainably is to remain close to home. Use the holiday as an opportunity to volunteer at a soup kitchen or gather coworkers and friends without plans for a friendly feast. Get outside Electronics put a drain on natural resources , too, so skip watching the football game (or at least the third one) in favor of playing your own game outside. If you do not prefer contact sports, take the crew out for a nature hike or bike ride. Tour a local park, go for a paddle or cue up the cornhole in the backyard. Not only does time outside mean you’re not consuming electricity, but it’s also good for your health, both physically and mentally. Skip single-use dinnerware One of the simplest ways to reduce waste and pollution is to set the table with reusable plates, utensils and cups. You don’t have to put out china, but skip the plastic foam and plastic-covered plates in favor of the real thing. The same goes for silverware and glasses. Yes, this means you’ll have more dishes, but consider it quality bonding time with family when you work together to clean up everything. Ditch plastic With natural decor and reusable dinnerware, your plastic consumption will be low, but also look out for packaging on the food products you buy, fill water pitchers instead of using bottled water and reuse small cottage cheese, yogurt or butter containers to send leftovers home with your guests. Plan your meal carefully The Thanksgiving feast is a central component of the holiday, with Grandma’s famous yams and your aunt’s homemade pumpkin pie taking the spotlight. Keep looking forward to the favorite family recipes during the holiday, and supplement those must-have items with earth-friendly choices. Make several sides of fruits and vegetables. Also, lessen the quantity of meat, a leading cause of methane pollution for the environment. If skipping the meat isn’t an option for your family, reduce portion sizes and dish out bigger servings of fruits and vegetables. Related: How to host a zero-waste Thanksgiving dinner When it comes to planning the feast, look to your local market or fruit stand. Invest in organic produce and be rewarded with wholesome food that didn’t add toxins to the planet in its journey to your plate. In short, buy local, organic foods as the best choice for the planet. Freeze and reheat leftovers Many of us correlate the holiday with overindulgence, and it’s sometimes hard to avoid when everyone brings their favorite foods. Try to avoid waste upfront with realistic quantities of foods, and do your part to practice self-control when it comes to overeating. Once the meal wraps up, make use of leftovers with a second dinner. Invite friends or colleagues over on Friday for a Friendsgiving. You could also take leftovers to work to share. If everyone is burned out on turkey, throw it into the stock pot along with the leftovers from the vegetable tray for a delicious soup. Another option is to freeze leftovers for a later date. Celebrate the season and the planet with a plan to reduce plastic consumption, limit the impacts of travel and avoid food waste . Happy Thanksgiving! Images via Debby Hudson , Jill Wellington , Nel Botha , Terri Cnudde , Roman Boed and Shutterstock

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