Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween

October 10, 2019 by  
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With spooky season upon us, consider illuminating your jack-o’-lanterns in an eco-friendly way. But what are some good light sources to place within or even near pumpkins? You, of course, want to avoid toxins from certain sources, so here are some of Inhabitat’s sustainable suggestions this autumn. Soy or beeswax candles Steer clear of paraffin, because it is a petroleum-based product that produces soot. Paraffin candles have also been known to release acetaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene and toluene — all of which are toxins . Instead, choose “cleaner” candles made either of soy or beeswax. These options are all-natural, burn at lower temperatures, and last longer — ensuring a healthier light to place within your carved pumpkins. Related: Time to put the flame out — scented candles can cause disease and poor air quality Flameless LED artificial lights LED lights can be in the form of tea lights, string lights, even bike lights — making them wonderful choices for your jack-o’-lanterns. They are, after all, more energy-efficient and have longer lifespans than other types of artificial lighting. They are also a safer choice for inside a pumpkin because they don’t emit much heat, thereby lowering the risk of fire. They can operate at a wide range of temperatures — whether hot or cold — without significant degradation. For these reasons, LED lights are safer and more budget-friendly for a sustainable Halloween. Solar lights Go green this year by utilizing your garden decor to fashion a solar-powered jack-o’-lantern. How does one solarize pumpkins? First, you’ll have to allow your solar garden lights to collect energy from the sun throughout the day. While your yard’s solar lights are soaking up the sun, that is when you can cut out the bottom of your carved pumpkins. Then, at night, you can place those jack-o-lanterns atop the now-glowing solar garden lights. Voila! Your yard will come alive with solarized jack-o’-lanterns to ghoulishly light up your Halloween night . So this Halloween, if the kids are asking why your pumpkins have bigger smiles, goofier faces or even epic expressions, you can explain that it is all because they are all lit up in EEK-o-friendlier ways. Via Chester Energy and Policy Image via David Menidrey

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Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween

Celebrate mom with these 10 gifts of time this Mother’s Day

May 6, 2019 by  
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Mother’s Day is the time of the year to really show how much you appreciate Mom. You can always go the traditional route and get your mother a nice card and some flowers, or you can make the day more meaningful by spending some quality time with her — not to mention that gifts of time are better for the planet! From attending a cooking class to relaxing at the spa, here are 10 gift ideas that are sure to make Mother’s Day enjoyable for the whole family. Cooking class Let’s be honest, your mom is probably the best cook you know. But why not put her skills to the test by taking a culinary class together? These classes are a great way to bond with your mom while learning how to make a new dish. Cooking classes vary depending on where you live and are typically offered through a college or culinary school. Related: The Seasonal Food Guide helps you store, cook and enjoy seasonal produce Wine tasting trip Visiting a local vineyard is a great way to relax and try out some local wines . Vineyards usually offer entire day packages that give you a tour of their vineyard and a taste of their best wines. If your mother is a wine enthusiast, she will absolutely love spending a day with some vino — and her loved ones, of course. Painting class You do not have to be the next Picasso to enjoy a painting class. Many places even offer painting classes to take while sipping on your favorite wine, which might just be the best of both worlds. The class will usually charge a flat fee for supplies. All you have to do is show up with a good attitude, and you and Mom will go home with some art for your collections. National Park visit If staying indoors isn’t for you, consider visiting a national park. There are dozens of national parks spread across the United States, and each one offers a unique experience. All it costs for you to explore the great outdoors is an entrance fee and a little bit of time. Depending on your location, some activities you will find include horseback riding, hiking, camping, fishing, wildlife watching  and rafting. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials If you would like more information about National Parks and where to find them, check out the National Park Service website. Museum pass Museums rotate and add new collections all the time, so if your mom is into art, consider purchasing a day pass at her favorite gallery. You may even find an establishment that offers special tours on Mother’s Day. There are also a wide variety of museums you can check out, including art museums, natural history museums, historic museums and even building tours. Once you are done, take Mom for lunch to talk about the most intriguing things you came across during the trip. Spa day A day at the spa is good anytime of the year. If you have a little extra cash to spend, why not purchase a package for two at your favorite spa? Trust us — your mom will absolutely love it. Some spas will even offer special packages for Mother’s Day, making this gift pretty much a no-brainer. For a more sustainable gift, have a DIY spa day, complete with homemade face masks and lotions. Yoga class It can be very difficult for moms to find time throughout their busy days to relax and meditate. Take away the stresses of the work week by gifting your mom with a  yoga class. You can usually find a studio or two that offer beginning courses, which is a great way to introduce your mom to the practice. If you plan on taking the class with her, we recommend finding one that is designed for families. You could also consider purchasing a monthly membership, just in case your mom wants to return another time or is already an avid yogi. Garden gifts Taking a walk through your local botanical garden is another great way to get outdoors on Mother’s Day. The holiday is set at the perfect time to celebrate the blooming season. If walking through a botanical garden is not an option, you can always bring the plants to her. Starting a small herb or veggie garden for your mother will constantly remind her how much you love and cherish her. The trick is to use plants that are fairly easy to maintain and require little attention to thrive. Some good options include onions, cilantro or thyme. Family photos Mother’s Day is the perfect time to snap a few photos with the entire family, because everyone is usually dressed in their best  for the day anyway. You can hire a professional to take the pictures, or just enlist the help from a family member, friend or neighbor. After the photo session, be sure to have the photos printed and framed for Mom! Homemade brunch One of the ultimate ways to show your mother that you love her is to cook  brunch for her. Invite other members of your family and have everyone contribute one of your mom’s favorite dishes. With a full stomach and loved ones to enjoy, this will be one Mother’s Day your mom won’t soon forget. Images via Shutterstock

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Celebrate mom with these 10 gifts of time this Mother’s Day

Earth Day 2019 wants to inspire you to protect endangered species

March 29, 2019 by  
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This year’s Earth Day theme is all about protecting the millions of species that call our planet home. The diversity of life on Earth is being increasingly threatened by human activity, which is causing the biggest extinction event since the dinosaurs died out around 60 million years ago. The global crisis in the animal kingdom is directly connected to causes largely created by human pursuits. This includes activities like deforestation, poaching, trafficking, agriculture, pesticides and pollution — all of which are leading to massive habitat loss. If something is not done quickly, the extinction of species across the globe will be our biggest legacy. Related: 10 awesome eco-activities to do this Earth Day Fortunately, there is a solution to prevent many species from going extinct in the near future. By working together, people around the world can get legislators, scientists, religious leaders, politicians and educators to act quickly to stop habitat loss and start protecting Earth’s many creatures. To that end, Earth Day has several goals in mind for this year’s worldwide campaign to protect the planet’s most endangered species . The Earth Day Network is encouraging educators to heighten awareness of the extinction issues facing our planet. The campaigners also want governments to enact policies that protect both animals and habitats. Related: How Earth Day began and how it helps the planet On a smaller scale, Earth Day hopes to get people around the world to start eating more plants and stop using herbicides and pesticides . If these goals are met on Earth Day, which is officially on April 22, then we can make great strides in protecting endangered species and habitats across the planet. This includes species like bees , elephants, insects, whales, giraffes and coral reefs. If you are interested in making a difference by participating in Earth Day, help spread the word by telling people about this year’s theme and how they can help make the planet a better place for all its inhabitants. + Earth Day Network Image via Sue Ashwill

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Earth Day 2019 wants to inspire you to protect endangered species

14 vegan and vegetarian Valentine’s Day dinner ideas

February 11, 2019 by  
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Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it. If you need some romantic vegan and vegetarian dinner ideas, look no further than this list of amazing appetizers, main dishes, sides and desserts. We even found a recipe for a rich, velvety vegan hot chocolate that will surely impress your significant other! Vegan fondue Just because you are vegan doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fondue. This dairy-free cheese fondue from  The Edgy Veg  really spices up a romantic date night. For this  plant-based  fondue, you will use rice, potato and cashews. It is so delicious, you will want to dip everything in it. Sweet potato and avocado bites Another appetizer idea for your Valentine’s dinner, these sweet potato and avocado bites from Blissful Basil are a show-stopping treat. The ingredient list is short, and you simply start by tossing sweet potato slices in olive oil, cumin and paprika. After roasting them, top the sweet potatoes with an avocado and lime juice mixture, and finish with a garnish of tomato and radish sprouts. It’s a delicious vegan dish for the start of your romantic evening. Grilled zucchini rolls From Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom , these grilled zucchini rolls combine herbed goat cheese , roasted red peppers and zucchini. They are incredibly easy to make, and they are a great appetizer to munch on while you are making your main dish. Vegan Caesar salad Featuring homemade elements like Caesar dressing, peppery croutons and hemp Parmesan cheese, this recipe comes from My Darling Vegan . It is the perfect side dish for your vegan or vegetarian Valentine’s dinner. Related: How to make a hearty, warm kale salad with spicy chickpeas and sweet potato noodles Grilled eggplant with tomato and feta This amazing first course from Epicurious features eggplants, basil leaves, a large slice of tomato and crumbled feta. You start by grilling the eggplant and then stacking the ingredients. Continue grilling until the cheese melted. If you don’t have a grill, or if it’s too cold outside to fire it up, but you still want a delicious vegan eggplant dish for Valentine’s Day, try this vegan eggplant Parmesan recipe from Oh She Glows . Mushroom and leek risotto This vegan and gluten-free dish comes from The Minimalist Baker , and it is a creamy, cheesy comfort food that takes just eight ingredients and 30 minutes to prepare. You will need vegetable broth, olive oil, bella or cremini mushrooms, leeks, arborio rice, dry white wine, vegan butter, vegan Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and some salt and pepper. It is the ideal side for an Italian dinner. Stuffed mushrooms A savory appetizer for your Valentine’s dinner, this recipe is from Cheftographer , and it features sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and vegan cream cheese stuffed inside bite-sized mushrooms . This appetizer pairs well with a glass of wine, and both vegans and non-vegans will love it. Cheesy spaghetti with dill and peppercorns sauce You can indulge on  Valentine’s Day  with this creamy, cheesy dish from  Gourmandelle . The peppercorns give it a spicy kick, and the sour cream, feta cheese and dill give the pasta a delicious flavor. You can also choose a gluten-free pasta and add as many leafy greens as you like. Cauliflower steak with mushroom gravy When it comes to a cauliflower “steak,” the name refers to how the cauliflower is cut. No, this is not for a steak-loving meat eater, but this  recipe  from  Oh My Veggies  is excellent for vegans. The mushroom gravy gets its complex, umami flavor from the dried porcini mushrooms. But if you can’t find those, any dried mushroom will work. Cauliflower hemp Alfredo This deliciously creamy sauce calls for 10 ingredients and just 30 minutes to make, plus it is dairy – and nut-free. The recipe comes from Making Thyme For Health , and you can add this sauce to your choice of pasta, spaghetti squash or spiralized veggies. You can also give the dish “extra veggie power” by adding peas, mushrooms, broccoli or whatever else tickles your fancy! Related: How to cook and enjoy 10 types of squash other than pumpkin French salted hot chocolate This is a decadent beverage made with dark chocolate, coconut milk and coconut cream, then topped off with a flaky, gourmet salt. This idea comes from Champagne Tastes , and it is a perfect treat that you and your Valentine can enjoy before or after dinner. Heart cutout cupcakes This idea from Food Family Finds creates cupcakes that are filled with love. Basically, you make your favorite cupcake, cut out the center into a heart and fill the hole with cherry pie filling, strawberries, fudge or anything else your heart desires. Valentine’s Day heart cookies This vegetarian recipe from Food On Paper is a classic cookie recipe that features butter, sugar, flour, cocoa, vanilla and a dusting of powdered sugar. But the most important part of this recipe is the heart-shaped cookie cutter. Alternatively, whip up your favorite cookie recipe, then use the cookie cutter to make your cookies into lovable shapes. Raw chocolate almond cheesecake This recipe comes from The Vegan 8 , which means it is a vegan recipe that only calls for eight ingredients. Not only is this dessert vegan, but the chocolate crust is also gluten-free. To make that crust, all you need is sliced almonds, raw cacao, raw agave nectar and some sea salt. Related: DIY decadent vegan, gluten-free chocolate lava cake For the filling, you will need raw whole cashews, sliced almonds or regular almond butter, lemon juice, raw agave nectar, vanilla extract, sea salt and chocolate almond butter. Images via Michael Miller , Julien Pianetti , Stacy Spensley , Klara Avsenik , Thomas B. and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for your friends

December 19, 2018 by  
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Are you searching for the perfect gift for your best friend? Or maybe you’re looking for something special for all the friends on your gift list. Either way, here are some of our favorite gifts this season that are beautiful, thoughtful and sustainable. Natural, handmade soaps While the masses swarm big name stores for lotions and bath soaps, find an eco-friendly option that is actually easier on the eyes and the wallet. It’s pretty easy to find local soap makers in your area, but you can also check on Etsy or stores like Lush , which offers soaps made with fruits, veggies, herbs and oils and also come with minimal (if any) packaging. Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family Zero-waste wine What better way to show how much you love your friends than with a delicious bottle of wine made from the world’s first certified zero-waste winery? Pick up a bottle of Fetzer for the friends on your gift list, and pair it with some organic cheese or a couple of cute wine glasses. Cozy socks ‘Tis the season of cozy socks, but not just any pair will do. Be sure the fabric of the socks you give this season is eco-friendly, like these snuggly, fair-trade wool sweater socks made from organic wool. Succulents As succulents continue to grow in popularity, now is the perfect time to pick some up for everyone on your list. Coupled with a nice planter, succulents are a thoughtful gift that will brighten up your friends’ homes or desks without requiring too much attention. A succulent subscription box is also a nice present that your friends can receive for many months after the holiday ends. Reusable mugs Whether they prefer coffee, tea or hot chocolate, your friends will love this cute mug made from glass and cork . It’s durable and BPA-free, plus, it will hopefully curb the disposable cups that come from spontaneous coffee runs. Images via Viktor Forgacs , Kym Ellis , Riala , Alex Holyoake , Goran Ivos and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies

December 7, 2018 by  
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Food is an important aspect of our daily lives, but many of the treats we love are wrapped in single-use plastics or come from pesticide-ridden conventional farms . This year, show the foodies in your life how much you care with sustainable gifts that improve their cooking skills and make the planet a better place to live. Stainless steel straws After reviewing several types of reusable straws, we fell in love with the stainless steel variety. As the war on plastic straws wages on, give everyone you know a pack of stainless steel straws to keep on them anywhere they go. Related: Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is the best for the future? Yogurt maker Many people love yogurt, but the individually packaged options on the market only contribute to the global waste crisis. Instead, create your own flavor combinations in reusable glass jars using this handy yogurt maker . Make yogurt-making part of your weekly routine, and you’ll see it is as easy as “set it and forget it.” Stasher bags Although quite wasteful, you have to admit that plastic, resealable baggies are incredibly handy for storing extra food and other miscellaneous items. Luckily, Stasher has taken this idea and made it even more useful and sustainable. These reusable , resealable bags are made with BPA-free silicone and can be boiled, frozen, baked in the oven, microwaved and more. They last much longer than their single-use counterparts, but when they reach the end of their life, Stasher will recycle them into playground pebbles. Beeswax food wrap Avid cooks and bakers can find many uses for plastic wrap, but unfortunately, it is a single-use item that goes straight to the landfill. Gift your favorite foodies these reusable food wraps made using beeswax. These are a natural, zero-waste alternative to plastic wrap, and they come in an adorable pattern for wrapping sandwiches, leftover produce, cheeses and more. Reusable water bottles If you’re friends or family still haven’t converted to carrying reusable water bottles over plastic, it’s time to make the change. With a wide variety of colors and patterns, these S’well bottles make a great gift for everyone on your list. CSA subscriptions For the most serious foodies, nothing is better than cooking with fresh, local produce . Get in touch with farmers in your gift recipient’s area to set up a CSA subscription, which will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to your loved one’s door. Start your search here . Fair trade chocolate Chocolate always makes a great gift, but make sure your present is being harvested ethically and sustainably. Check out some of these brands to add to stockings this year. Metal tea strainer A hot cup of tea soothes the soul… or at least warms you up during these cold, chilly days. Put together a cute and functional gift for every foodie you know with a mug, some local and organic tea (packaged sustainably, of course!) and one of these metal tea strainers , which eliminate the need for single-use tea packets. Images via Amazon ,  Stasher , Abeego , S’well , Jill Wellington , Nawalescape , Drew Coffman , Pexels and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies

10 ideas for zero-waste gift wrapping

December 6, 2018 by  
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Wrapping beautiful presents for the holidays can create a lot of trash, thanks to all of the paper, bags, bows and ribbons. They may look amazing sitting under your tree for a few days, but within seconds of being opened, the garbage bags quickly fill up. Gift wrapping is one of the most wasteful parts of the holiday season, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can actually wrap beautiful presents without creating a ton of trash; you just have to use the right materials. If you look around your house, keep your eyes open at work, pull from the recycling bin, hit up a thrift shop and visit your local craft store, you can find the perfect items to wrap your presents in a zero-waste manner. Wrapping paper alternatives Newspaper The perfect idea for last-minute wrapping paper , newspaper is a material that you can easily find in the recycling bin at home or work. Use the comics section or advertising circulars to add a little color, or stick with the traditional black and white print. Either way, this option gives new life to a material that usually finds its way to the trash just as quickly as store-bought wrapping paper. You can also use magazines, old books, vintage maps or sheet music to wrap your gifts. Upcycling paper for gift wrapping is an idea that can’t go wrong. Paper grocery bags Another material that you will find in most recycling bins, paper grocery bags give a little texture to your gift wrapping, and this material can be easily dressed up with embellishments. Even if there is a logo on the bag, you can still use it. Simply take an old Christmas card and place it on the spot you want to cover. Fabric With some sewing scraps, old button-down shirts, cloth napkins or scarves from a thrift shop, you can make your gift wrapping zero-waste by using fabric . There is actually a Japanese fabric wrapping technique called furoshiki, which embraces an eco-friendly philosophy by folding and tying cloth in a unique way. Butcher paper White or brown butcher paper makes perfect wrapping paper because you can easily make it jazzy or keep it plain. Plus, it is never in short supply. You can find it in a recycling bin, or visit your local craft store and find rolls for cheap. Related: 3 easy, last-minute DIY gifts for nature lovers Mason jars Instead of filling up a gift bag, consider using glass jars to “wrap” your gift. You can dress up the jar with some old fabric or ribbon, and the recipient can reuse the jar instead of tossing a bag in the trash. Blankets Most people won’t object to getting two presents in one, especially when the bonus present is a soft, cuddly blanket. Place your gift on a flat blanket, then tie all of the corners together for a fun wrapping idea. Flower seed paper Try this unique alternative to traditional wrapping paper — plantable paper . This innovative gift wrap is made from post-consumer materials and is completely biodegradable. The paper is embedded with seeds, which sprout into flowers once the paper is planted. Ties and embellishments Twine/hemp Keep your tape use to a minimum by using twine or hemp to tie up your packages. With a simple spool of string, you can tie up all of your presents that you wrap in newspaper, paper grocery bags or butcher paper. Leather cord This strong material can easily tie up your gifts, and you can find rolls and rolls of it for just a few bucks. Leather cord also comes in a variety of colors, so it will easily dress up plain paper. Fabric scraps If you have pieces of fabric that aren’t large enough to wrap an entire gift, you can use those pieces to decorate a plain package or jar. Cutting up some long, narrow strips of fabric is an easy solution for jazzing up gifts, and it keeps your gift wrapping to zero-waste . Old jewelry Thrift stores are loaded with brooches and bracelets that you can buy with the change in the bottom of your purse. There are many beautiful jewelry options that you can use to add some sparkle to your gift wrapping when you tie them with fabric scraps or cloth napkins. Cinnamon sticks This option is beautiful, smells amazing and is also compostable. Simply tie some cinnamon sticks with string — and add a little greenery like pine needles or fresh herbs — to give your gifts an extra dose of holiday cheer. Natural elements Find fallen leafy branches from evergreen trees, pinecones, winter berries or twigs to adorn your packages. Simply tie them into place with twine, hemp, leather cords or fabric scraps for an impressive, thoughtful touch. Via Going Zero Waste and Trash is for Tossers Images via Leone Venter , Chang Duong and Kari Shea

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A guide to the best holiday gifts for an eco-friendly home

December 5, 2018 by  
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As adults, receiving gifts to adorn a home or apartment is one of the greatest joys in life. Whether you’re searching for a unique furniture piece for your parents, adorable trinkets for a friend or something extra special for yourself, these gifts top our list of favorite presents for a green home this year. Natural Escape Mattress This holiday season, give the best gift of all: the gift of a good night’s sleep. Free from the toxic VOCs and chemical flame retardants that lurk in most traditional mattresses, the Natural Escape mattress from My Green Mattress is organic and USA-made, making it the perfect gift for just about anyone on your list. We certainly won’t judge you for purchasing it for yourself — once you’ve slept on the contouring, supportive layers of organic cotton and latex as well as natural wool, it will be even harder to leave your bed each morning. Smart thermostats This green technology will allow its recipient to keep their home cozy and comfortable year-round while saving energy and lowering utility bills. Check out the high-tech options by Nest or ecobee . Related: 4 things you need to know about smart thermostats Cork and bamboo coffee press Made from cork, bamboo and glass, this eco-friendly French press is a stylish gift that will look beautiful on any kitchen counter. The wood is left unstained for food safety, and the simple device is just as quick and easy to use as any other coffee maker but without throwaway filters or electricity. Best of all, each purchase helps the company, GROSCHE, provide more than 50 days of safe, clean drinking water for those in need. Bidet Is a bidet attachment for a toilet the most romantic or exciting gift? Maybe not. But it is incredibly useful and better for the environment, considering people around the world flush the equivalent of about 27,000 trees daily . Nomadix Many people have towels for different purposes: bathing, camping, swimming, yoga. But  one towel from Nomadix  can do it all, and these brightly patterned towels are even made from post-consumer  plastic  bottles. It’s a win-win. Terra Klay If you really want to take someone’s breath away, snag some impressive dishware from Terra Klay . From bowls and mugs to teapots and casserole dishes, this pottery is handcrafted with care by women artisans in Manipur, India. They make a striking addition to any kitchen. Fan-folded paper lights Really wow someone you love with these luxurious (but budget-friendly) pendant lights . The fixture of each light is made from upcycled vinyl records, while the intricately folded shade is made from scrap cardboard paper. It also includes LED bulbs and comes in four colors, from neutral to flashy. Rio sofa from Stem At first glance, this is a simple couch that can blend into any living room. But this sofa also features eco-friendly and customizable materials from colors and fabrics to fillings and legs. The sofas are made with FSC-certified timber frames and avoid harsh chemicals. Inmod Azara dresser This stylish dresser is made from 100 percent Moso bamboo and features six soft-close drawers to hold plenty of clothing, accessories or extra blankets. The finish is distinct enough to stand out, but subtle enough to match the recipient’s existing furnishings. Wool comforter We spend a lot of time sleeping or snuggling in bed. Make that time count with these warm, snuggly wool comforters that are made with 100 percent organic wool and cotton. This is also a durable comforter that will last and last. Melrose furnishings from Urban Woods You can’t go wrong with the Melrose set from Urban Woods . Each piece uses reclaimed wood as well as low-VOC and non-toxic materials. These furnishings are also made in L.A., reducing the environmental impact of shipping (compared to ordering items shipped from outside the country). This collection is bold and modern, but you can also find many other sets or make a custom order to suit your gift recipient’s style. Teak wood bowls and salad servers Made from reclaimed teak wood, these bowls and salad servers are a must-have for anyone who loves to entertain. Each is hand-formed with distinct graining, leaving no two items the same. From salads to fresh fruits, anything served in these bowls will be the star of the show. Recycled pouf The incredibly relaxed lounge chair, or the pouf, is becoming a staple for modern living rooms. Choose a unique, sustainable option like this eye-catching black pouf made from recycled textiles like leather and cotton. Each pouf uses a different blend of materials, making each one an original. Organic crinkled percale sheets It’s no secret that well-loved (read: old) sheets are the most comfortable to sleep in, so imagine the joy of opening a set of brand new, organic sheets that already have that worn-in softness from the start. These sheets come in soothing neutral shades to match any bedroom, and the soft, slightly crinkled cotton will make your bed even cozier than normal. Images via My Green Mattress , Nest , GROSCHE , Amazon , Terra Klay , Nomadix , ABCD , Stem , Inmod , Haiku Designs , Urban Woods , CB2 ( 1 , 2 ), Coyuchi and Amira Hegazy

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Avoid the crowds with these 10 alternatives to Black Friday shopping

November 23, 2018 by  
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The unofficial kick-off to the holiday season is virtually stamped on the calendar the day after Thanksgiving . Titled Black Friday — from the idea that it is the time of year retailers leave the red column and enter the profit, or black, column — the commercialization of the third Friday in November is somewhat of a pop phenomenon with a cult-like following. Merchants hype up and advertise specials, deals and savings weeks in advance while people prepare to rise at 4 a.m. just hours after completing their holiday feasts. If you prefer to avoid the madness, here are some alternatives. It’s not surprising that so many people participate in Black Friday. After all, it is the season of giving. Many look forward to spending the day with spouses, siblings or parents. Others like to complete their holiday shopping early so they can enjoy the upcoming weeks in other ways. But from a different perspective, Thanksgiving offers a rare 4-day weekend, leaving many unencumbered by school and work obligations. This is an opportunity to enjoy the last bits of decent fall weather, spend time with family or try something new. So while everyone else is out battling for the newest electronics, fill your Black Friday with some of these shopping alternatives, many of which are good for your health , the environment and your wallet. Volunteer Nothing feeds the soul like helping others. Volunteer to serve a meal at a local homeless shelter; these shelters often seek volunteers for special meals served during the holidays. Also, track down your local food bank. Food banks are always looking for extra hands during the busy season. Volunteer options abound, so choose to participate in something that you’re passionate about such as a church bazaar, a beach clean-up or a gift wrap event to support foster children or servicepeople. If you’d rather spend the day alone, make crafts to donate to a worthy cause, scoop leaves out of drains on your street or make repairs at an elderly neighbor’s home. Get into nature Fall is that forgiving season where you might need an extra layer, but the harsh winter days have not yet arrived. Take advantage of the weather and enjoy some time in nature . Invite a friend for a walk or take the dogs for a long hike. Pedal the miles on your street bike or hit the hills with your mountain bike. Go bird watching, camping or kayaking. If the snow has arrived, hit the slopes for skiing or snowboarding. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials Take a trip The long holiday weekend is the perfect time to take a mini vacation. Hit the beach , visit family or explore someplace you’ve never been. Locally, you can set a goal of visiting all the parks in your area. Do home improvements Life gets busy with the daily 9-5, so when you have a couple of days off work, it’s nice to tackle home improvement. Clean out the garage, donate cans and bottles to a local fundraiser, make trips to donation centers and get the recycling out of the house. Perhaps paint a room or install new flooring. You could also complete those outdoor tasks of cleaning up the garden, building new beds and repairing gates. Attend a local event Merchants and vendors know that you’re spending the day with family, so there are ample opportunities to find an event that suits your interests. Look on community boards for information about craft fairs, wine tastings and musical events. With part of your thoughts wrapped up in holiday gift giving, pick up gift certificates for lunch while you’re at the winery, buy concert tickets for a friend or purchase small local goods such as honey and tea and then put together gift baskets as the holidays get closer. Host a friendsgiving Friendsgiving is a growing tradition where people assemble for a casual pre- or post-Thanksgiving gathering. Commonly, people bring leftovers or a favorite recipe , so everyone contributes to a potluck-style dinner. You could make it a family event, invite couples or just have friends over. Structure the day the way you want with an emphasis on quality time together and no stress. Make it a pajama party. Write thank you cards to each other or others. Have a movie marathon or cue up a sporting event on TV. Make gifts Instead of marching in to the nearest mall, spend the day making your own gifts . Have a wreath-making party, whip up a batch of Kahlua drinks and place in cute bottles, prepare gifts in a jar such as cookie or soup ingredients, make salt dough ornaments or get out the sewing machine to create heat packs or door draft blockers. Related: Inexpensive DIY holiday centerpieces and decorations Schedule a date Get out with others and attend a movie, go bowling, visit the zoo, head to the theater, check out an art exhibit or museum, get a pedicure or massage or check out a local escape room. Create memories at home In today’s busy world, it’s rare to truly unplug and revel in moments at home. Plan a craft with the kids, make snowflakes for decorations, work a puzzle, make homemade popcorn and gather the family for a movie or dig out the board games. These are the things your family will remember long after the store-bought items are unwrapped and eventually discarded. Support alternatives to big box stores Hit up the secondhand market through thrift stores and estate sales, shop locally and support small businesses and scour Etsy and other online merchants for crafters who make creative, one-of-a-kind items. When you do make purchases from retailers, support those in alignment with your eco-friendly beliefs. Also check out Shop for Good Sunday , a community of companies that aim to be responsible stewards in business. If you decide to go shopping, remember to carry the spirit of the season with you. Allow someone to park in a space when you arrive simultaneously, offer to return a shopping cart for a mother with small children, help the elderly across the road and let someone with only a few items check out before you. Also think about ways you can minimize waste by purchasing items with responsible packaging, bring your own bags to the store and refuse bags or boxes that you do not need. Images via Rawpixel ( 1 , 2 ), Fidel Fernando , Kane Reinholdtsen , Traveler , Kelsey Chance , Michael Mroczek , Myke Simon , Picsea ,  Heidi Sandstrom and Shutterstock

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How to host a zero-waste Thanksgiving dinner

November 19, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

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Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family can be an overwhelming task. When you are providing a meal for a group of people, it is tempting to opt for things like pre-cut fruits and veggies, snack portions of cheese, store-bought pie and other modern conveniences to make it easier to get through the day. However, using these items can come at a price. When you buy things that are packaged in single-use plastic, it wreaks havoc on the environment. This year, instead of just focusing on eating all of the delicious food during the celebration, focus on the preparation, and commit to a zero-waste Thanksgiving. Here is how to do it. Choose recipes and menu items wisely A zero-waste Thanksgiving always starts with your grocery list, so when you are planning your Thanksgiving dinner, go through your recipes and choose menu items that will use up whole veggies and full containers of things like broth, cream or soup. For example, if you have a recipe that uses half of an onion, find another recipe that will use the other half. If you are using recipes that have special ingredients that you don’t use often, like buttermilk or fresh herbs, have a plan to use up all of these ingredients. If you aren’t going to use them entirely for Thanksgiving, do some research on how to store the items for the long-term, like freezing, or find some post-holiday recipes where you can use the remainder of the ingredients instead of throwing them away. Shop local Opting for the local farmer’s market to purchase your ingredients instead of a supermarket will get you off to a good start for a zero-waste Thanksgiving. Food at farmer’s markets is often unpackaged, and it is usually organic , meaning you can steer clear of harmful pesticide residue. If you do not have access to a local farmer’s market, choose a grocery store that sells unpackaged produce. Avoid buying anything that is already prepared. Whether you visit the market or the grocery, don’t forget your reusable produce and shopping bags to keep every step of your Thanksgiving feast free from waste. Cook from scratch When you are deciding on a menu, make sure to plan ahead to cook everything from scratch. If you have a small kitchen or don’t feel like you are going to have the time to cook everything on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family members to each bring a dish. If you do this, get specific about what each person will bring, so you don’t end up with several green bean casseroles. Related: Make your own tasty vegetarian turkey for Thanksgiving with this recipe If you don’t have the patience or time to plan out everything ahead of time, chances are you will end up with leftovers or unused items. If this is the case, throw some cooked turkey, veggies and herbs into some extra broth or stock and freeze the mixture to use later. You can also keep your scraps while you are cooking, and use those trimmings, bones and peelings for homemade stock. Encourage smaller portions It is very easy to load up your plate during Thanksgiving dinner and have food leftover, because you can’t eat it all in one sitting. To stop food from going into the trash, set out smaller plates and serving spoons to encourage smaller portions. You could also supply storage containers (or, better yet, ask guests to bring their own!) that your guests can use to package their leftovers and take home. Be sure to use real plates, utensils, glasses and cookware, and if possible, use cloth napkins. This will greatly reduce your Thanksgiving waste and keep your garbage can from overflowing. Make your own decorations Instead of purchasing Thanksgiving decorations from a store, get crafty and make your own centerpieces and decorations. You can reuse your Halloween pumpkins and other gourds for a beautiful centerpiece, or buy new ones to use as flower vases or candle holders. You can also use tiny pumpkins in place settings. You can cook or compost the pumpkins after the holiday. Be a gracious guest If you are not hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, you can still be a mindful guest. Be prepared with your own reusable containers for leftovers, and avoid bringing dishes in disposable plastic containers or foil. Having a zero-waste Thanksgiving is all about intention. You can’t do everything all of the time, but if you have the mindset to start with one holiday, you can bring those ideas into your everyday life and start to really make a difference. Via Care2 , Mind Body Green and Sustainable America Images via Chinh Le Duc , Ja Ma , Pablo Lancaster Jones , Jess Watters , Priscilla Du Preez and Shutterstock

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How to host a zero-waste Thanksgiving dinner

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