Where to Shop Sustainable: Etsy

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Trying to shop sustainable can get really complicated. It’s pretty much impossible for anything to truly be “sustainable” in our current society. If you think about anything for long enough, you’ll find some part of it that’s unsustainable. But some things are more parts sustainable than others.

Living will require buying some things. And while I’m a huge fan of minimalism, I also do believe it’s important to treat yourself and enjoy life. Even though sustainable products may cost more, we can focus on buying less, but better quality.

One of my favourite ways to do that is by shopping on Etsy. For skincare, hair, and beauty products, I love finding zero waste items made with natural ingredients. Etsy is also a great place to shop for zero waste swaps.

Let’s talk about

  • What is Etsy and why is it sustainable?
  • How to tell if a seller on Etsy is sustainable
  • Why even buy sustainable products?
  • My favourite categories to shop on Etsy

Is Shopping on Etsy Sustainable?

If you’re not familiar with Etsy, it’s an online marketplace that connects small businesses and craft makers to a global customer base. There are a lot of sustainability reasons to support small businesses, but what about the environmental impacts of shipping?

Etsy offsets the carbon emissions of all shipping with a verified partner. And while there are problems with offsets, when compared to all the emissions from the supply chain of a multinational company, shipping the product from the seller to you in most cases simply does not compare.

While Etsy does not control the functions of it’s sellers, they’re dedicated to improving sustainability. Their operations use zero-waste practices and run on renewable energy, including the online marketplace. They also work to manage and improve their social impact and economic impact to support equitable access to opportunities and empower entrepreneurs.

The Etsy marketplace supports small sellers to reach a global audience, while setting a standard for corporate social and environmental responsibility. In addition, many shops implement their own sustainability policies. These are often described in the shop’s description, in it’s policies, or in the item description.

How to Tell if a Seller is Sustainable

The Etsy marketplace runs on renewable electricity, uses zero-waste practices in the operations, and offsets the emissions from shipping. What about the sellers? The answer will depend on the shop you’re looking at, and the item.

What Makes a Shop Sustainable?

When you’re looking at an item, you can go to the page of shop that sells it to find out more information. Here is a list of what to look for in an Etsy store you’re considering buying from:

  • Where is the shop located? Sometimes you can find a similar item from a shop that is closer to you, in which case it does not need to be shipped as far.
  • What are there shipping policies? Do they use reused cardboard, or compostable packaging
  • Do they have zero-waste practices in their operations?
  • Do they donate money or products?
  • How are ingredients and materials sourced?
  • Are the items handmade, or made by workers with fair wages?

What Makes a Product Eco Friendly?

There are also qualities that make a product more sustainable than others. Here’s a non-inclusive list of what may make a product more environmentally friendly than another:

  • Made with reclaimed or recycled materials
  • Made with natural, organic, cruelty-free ingredients
  • Reusable or minimal packaging
  • Durable and made-to-last
  • Meant to replace a single-use item
  • Sustainably-sourced materials
  • Repairable
  • Handmade in small-batches

Why Shop Sustainable?

“Sustainable products” have a reputation for being expensive, and this is not without merit. Compared to other items available today, they often are! Why is this, and why would anyone buy the sustainable version?

Why are Sustainable Products More Expensive?

Fair Labour, Fair Wages

Materials for and the manufacturing of sustainable products required the labour of workers. Paying a fair wage to workers and ensuring safe working conditions increases the cost of materials, and the final product. However, it’s also important to note that a higher cost does not always mean steps were not cut.

Skipping these steps can keep prices low. When companies focus on cutting costs without considering sustainability, factories are forced to remain competitive by lowering their labour standards.

Small Scale

Mass production can decrease costs due to economies of scale, but may also result in decreased quality and increased waste. It is also partly responsible for the consumer mindset shift towards the prevalent “throw-away culture” we live in.

Creators on Etsy make their products on a much smaller scale than multinational corporations. More time is spent ensuring the quality of each item and using materials as efficiently as possible.

Quality Ingredients, Quality Products

The items in Etsy shops are crafted by makers who are passionate about their business. They don’t want to cut costs; they want to make the best product for their customer. This means high-quality ingredients and items made-to-last.

My Favourite Categories to Shop on Etsy

Shop Sustainable Skincare and Beauty Products

I love Etsy for natural skincare and beauty products. As someone with sensitive skin, natural ingredients that won’t be irritating is really important. There are plenty of zero-waste and vegan options as well.

Shop Sustainable Hair Care Products

From package-free shampoo and conditioner bars to hair oils and masks, I love Etsy for hair care products.

Shop Zero Waste Swaps for the Bathroom

Take care of your hygiene without the plastic! Shop reusable, natural scrubbers and cloths, and a wide-range of dental products.

Shop Zero Waste Swaps for the Kitchen

From grocery shopping and snacks-on-the-go to storing food and washing dishes, there’s a zero waste swap for that. Here are some of my favourites:

Final Thoughts

Even though it’s impossible to shop sustainable perfectly 100% of the time, it feels good knowing your supporting someone who is trying to make a difference with their business. For more, check out my favourite sustainable Etsy shops.

To learn more about reducing your impact, check out my 10 tips to live more sustainably and the beginners guide to the zero waste movement.

Eco-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide for 2020

Christmas in 2020 is going to look a lot different than any Christmas we’ve seen before; from where we do our shopping to how we celebrate, there’s a lot of change coming. Things are moving online as we adapt to a new normal.

Let’s use this opportunity to have a green Christmas! I’ve put together this Eco-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide to help you find the perfect present for your loved ones. I’ve included links for many of the gift ideas since most of us may not have the opportunity to do any in-person shopping.

I’ve broken my Eco-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide for 2020 down into 3 categories:

  • reusable items,
  • food and drinks, and
  • experiences. 

Reusable items will help save money in the long-run while also introducing the recipient to the world of sustainability. Food and drink items make great gifts for those stuck at home. Experiences are a popular gift-alternative and I’ve found some great online options.

Something to Use (and Reuse!)

Send your loved one down the path of low impact living by showing them the convenience of reusables that are staples for sustainability. Your gift will continue to bring value every time it’s used, and will help the recipient save money in the long run.

Reusable Napkins and Handkerchiefs

Reusable cloth towels, napkins, and handkerchiefs “replace” their single-use paper counterparts (I say “replace” because cloth is what our grandparents and great-grandparents were using long before single-use paper products.)

These not paper kitchen towels are from a shop located in the United Kingdom. They’re in a cute floral design, and there are other fabric options from this shop. For something more plain, I really like this 6 pack of unbleached cotton unpaper towels, from a shop in Ontario, Canada.

Some cloths are made extra soft for a luxurious-feeling handkerchief. The Pocket Rag has a corner sewn on it so it can be folded in to itself and keep your pocket clean. Or, pick up a set like these 8 organic cotton handkerchiefs.

Reusable Grocery, Bulk, and Produce Bags

The thin plastic bags stores offer for produce and bulk are one of the least recyclable plastics, making reusable bags a no-brainer.

Me Mother Earth in Nevada, United States offers plastic free shipping. They have organic cotton bulk bags and cotton mesh produce bags which are both available in packs of 3 or 6.

I think this grocery and produce bag set from My Eco Bag Store in the Ukraine is SO cute there’s no way you could forget to bring it to the store.

Net grocery bags, like these naturally dyed cotton expanding net bag from Canada are really popular right now. They can hold a lot of weight (this one holds up to 11 kg), and take up very little storage space when not being used, so they’re great for the person who always forgets their reusable grocery bags.

Reusable Silicone Zipper Bags

These silicone food storage bags come in packs of 3 and 6. They claim to be dishwasher safe and the shop, Me Mother Earth, uses plastic free shipping and is located in the United States. They also have a website where they sell a full range of zero waste lifestyle products and I also have a coupon code you can us to get 10% off (code: TENACIOUSTHINKER).

Beeswax Wraps (with Vegan Options!)

As far as zero-waste swaps go, wax wraps are one of my favourites! They replace most uses of plastic wraps and work so much better.

Prairie Minimalist in Canada sells a 3 pack beeswax food wraps (1 small, 1 medium, 1 large) or a 5 pack beeswax wraps (2 small, 2 medium, 1 large). And, if you’re shopping for multiple people (or really love wax wraps) they offer Four 3 Packs of beeswax wraps, which is 12 wraps for a great price!

If you’re shopping from closer to the UK, check out this 4 pack of beeswax wraps. From the US, this 3 pack of organic beeswax wraps is a great option.

If you prefer vegan options, there are wax wraps made with plant-based wax. La P’tite Fabrique is located in Quebec, Canada and sells a 3 pack of vegan wax wraps.

Eco Homemade GB, in the United Kingdom, also has a 3 pack of vegan wax wraps.

Something to Eat

Food gifts are always appreciated, and can be a great way to introduce someone to an eco friendly and ethical brand. Love-filled, homemade food also makes an excellent gift that is sustainable and can be made on a budget.

Organic and Fairtrade Brands

Coffee, tea, and chocolate; they’re some of life’s greatest pleasures, but too often come at the expense of ethics and sustainability. Purchasing from certified Fair Trade brands ensures you’re supporting farmers and communities in the global south who produce our little luxuries.

Fairtrade Coffees

Fairtrade Chocolates

Fairtrade Teas

Homemade Treats

If you’ve got a little talent in the kitchen, you may consider gifting some home baked goods or prepped freezer meals. Cooking and baking from scratch pretty much has a lower impact than shopping. Plus, you ensure the quality of ingredients going in.

Unique Flavours

Local artisans and small brands craft smaller batches and experiment with interesting combinations; the results are tasty and unique and make great gifts.

Enjoy Worthy is based in Calgary, Canada. They have some really unique jam flavours like  their Earl Gray lavender peach jam and their strawberry cardamom jam. They also have salsas like their hot pineapple turmeric salsa.

Wildcraft Mustards Organic makes a handful of unique flavours and the whole mustard seeds lend an interesting texture. For condiments, I also like Inglehoffer mustards, which can be bought in some stores. They make a bunch of delicious gourmet flavours.

Latasha’s Kitchen Store Indian and Southeast Asian flavoured sauces and pastes made in Australia. These are a quick way to make a tasty meal. For more spice, check out a gourmet hot sauce like the one’s from Sriracha Revolver that come in unique flavours such as mango, ginger avocado, cilantro lime, and tequila beet.

Consider getting a gift set so they can try multiple flavours; such as this assortment of 4 Greek sea salts with herbs. This barbeque set comes with 2 vegan BBQ sauces and 2 salt-free spice mixes. And check out this set of 4 natural peanut butters in gourmet flavours! They also have the same set with mini jars.

Something to Do

Gifting experiences is probably not a novel idea at this point, but it is still a good option for environmentally friendly gifts.

Discover Something New

Airbnb launched their online experiences, which has multitudes of unique and diverse live experiences. They have everything from culture walks and farm visits to game nights and theater. You can buy an Airbnb gift card if you’re in the United States.

Another fun way to share the gift of discovery is an Audible membership; audiobooks are great for days when you’re too tired to focus on reading, and for people who aren’t big readers! An Audible membership comes with access to all the Audible Original podcasts.

Eat Local

Take-out or delivery can be great option on “lazy” days. A voucher for an online delivery service like UberEats or DoorDash provides multiple restaurant options.

You could also buy a gift card to a local restaurant. Not only does this support your community but it creates an opportunity for the recipient to try somewhere new.

Learn a New Skill

Give the gift of learning with a giftcard or membership for a service such as Skillshare or Creativelive.  (If you want to check it out first, you can use my Skillshare link to get your first 2 months free.)

Airbnb’s Online Experiences has some unique classes from people all over the world. These would be a fun experience to do together and would make a great a gift for a couple.

Relax and Unwind

You can gift a home spa day by making a gift basket of body and skin products in favourite scents. Include a movie (or a gift card for a streaming service) and some sweet treats and it’s perfect.

If that’s all a bit daunting, go ahead with already curated gift sets to get great value:

Some great options include this 5 pack of vegan bath bombs or this Christmas scent gift pack that include soap, lip balm, and soy candle. This natural skin products gift set includes a body balm, lip balm, bath salts, and natural soap and was made in Canada.

Final Thoughts

I hope this helped you find the perfect gift or at least gave you some ideas! If you want even more inspiration, check out some of my favourite sustaianble Etsy shops.

Beginners Guide to the Zero Waste Movement (and 4 Zero Waste Newbie Mistakes to Avoid!)

Zero waste started as a set of design principles for creating products, services, and processes that minimize waste that is produced. These principles were adopted as a lifestyle by environmentally minded people who are now carrying zero waste to the mainstream spotlight.

As the zero waste movement has grown, it’s message has been somewhat diluted. As the lifestyle side of the movement has exploded, the onus on companies to reduce their waste is pushed aside. While individual actions are still useful, the importance of regulating industries can not be forgotten.

The core principles of zero waste may be buried beneath layers of individual responsibility and “minimal” aesthetics but they’re still present. Understanding the foundation of zero waste will help you avoid newbie mistakes and will help you determine what the most environmentally-conscious decision is.

In this article we’ll go over:

  • The principles of zero waste design
  • The background of the zero waste lifestyle movement
  • How to start your zero waste lifestyle journey
  • Zero waste beginner mistakes to avoid

Zero Waste Design Principles

You might not be an engineer creating a new product or planning a factory layout, but you are the engineer of your life! By deeply examining the principles at the core of zero waste, you’ll be able to make informed decisions when it comes to engineering your own day-to-day life.

Many of these principles are best applied at the start of the design process for a product, and for this reason it’s impossible in our current system to be perfectly zero waste. Nevertheless, you can still make better decisions.

The principles of zero waste are:

  • Preventing waste from the start
  • Using non-toxic materials
  • Durability and long lifespans
  • Ease of repair
  • Ease of disassembly
  • Using less materials
  • Using recycled materials
  • Closed-loop systems

Preventing waste from the start

Zero waste is focused on more than our household trash. Products we buy have a trail of waste from extraction of virgin materials, the manufacturing of these materials and then their eventual transportation. For companies, this means considering the waste produced at every stage of the product’s life.

There are still ways individuals can prevent waste from the start. Buying second-hand or from companies with sustainable-policies can minimize the waste involved in the pre-consumer phase. Additionally, your life can be organized in ways that will reduce the trash you create.

Use of non-toxic materials

When toxic materials are used in production, they increase the environmental impact of the product before it’s even being used. Further, toxic materials are bad for our health and are difficult, if not impossible, to dispose of safely. They’re also dangerous for the communities that live near the production factories and this is without mentioning the workers that labour in these factories.

Companies should use non-toxic materials. Individuals can be informed about toxic materials to avoid purchasing them, and should support government regulation of toxic materials.

Durable products with longer lifespans

Because of planned and perceived obsolescence, people are consuming more and more products with short lifespans designed for the landfill. By making a conscious effort to buy high quality, durable products and to maintain what we own, we reduce the amount we buy and thus the amount that we get rid of.

Most importantly, the onus is on companies to shift away from encouraging mindless consumption.

Easily repairable objects

Some products, particularly electronics, are so difficult to repair that it’s cheaper to replace them. This is incredibly wasteful, as many of these products will end up in a landfill. While this is largely an issue of design, individuals can compare ease of repair when choosing products to buy.

Ease of disassembly at end of life

Some products are difficult to recycle because they’re made of a variety of different materials that are hard to separate. Even if the individual materials can be recycled, the object must be designed to be easily disassembled.

This is primarily the responsibility of the company, but individuals should look for products that are designed to be disposed of responsibly.

Use of less materials

Minimizing materials may look like reduced packaging on products, smaller objects that still perform their function, or items with multiples uses. When choosing between two products, individuals can compare the packaging, size, and number of (useful) functions.

Use of recycled materials

Products that use recycled materials are often better than ones that are new. But, the processing required for recycling materials can be high, and the percentage of materials in the object which are recycled may be low, so don’t buy something solely because it’s made with recycled materials without considering the other principles.

Closed-loop systems

Currently, we live in a linear system where materials are extracted, processed, manufactured into products, which are sold and ultimately designed to end up in a landfill. The zero waste lifestyle encourages people to keep what they have in use.

Products that are meant to be reclaimed at the end of their lives help prevent waste being sent to landfills. Until the system in which we live is completely overhauled, it’s impossible for individuals to be completely zero waste.

A History of the Zero Waste Movement

The earliest use of the term zero waste was by chemist Paul Palmer in the 1970s. His company, Zero Waste Solutions was started in 1974 to divert laboratory chemicals from going to waste. Through the 80s and 90s, the theory and principles of zero waste continued to be developed for industrial processes.

As awareness of the problems with overconsumption and waste disposal grew during the end of the 20th century, more companies and businesses became interested in applying zero waste principles. Consulting agencies such as Zero Waste Solutions, founded in 2002 by Shavila Singh, sprung up to help other companies transform their business practices.

It wasn’t until 2009, when Bea Johnson decided to apply zero waste design principles to her life, that the zero waste lifestyle took off. She had decided to share her journey with the world through her blog and she was featured in the New York Times by 2010.

In 2013 she published her book, zero waste home. Bea Johnson’s journey inspired other eco-activists, bloggers, to apply zero waste principles to their lifestyles. She also popularized the 5 R’s as an alternative to the 3 R’s.

Lauren Singer from New York city started her blog, Trash is for Tossers, after being inspired by Bea. She started her company, Package Free Shop, to provide products that help people reduce their waste.

Another zero waste blogger, Kathryn Kellogg, originally started her journey after learning about the health effects of exposure to toxins present in many products. She’s since written her book, 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, to help other people on their journeys!

While the zero waste lifestyle movement has critics, it has influenced package free stores, innovative reusable products, and has brought sustainability to the forefront of consumers’ minds.

How to Start Your Own Zero Waste Journey

Stop buying things!

The first step of starting your zero waste journey is boring, but essential. Don’t rush out and buy all the zero waste swaps the eco-influencers are pushing. In fact, don’t buy anything at all!

Whether you do 30 days, 2 months, or a year of not spending, use this time to reevaluate what you think you know. Most of us have been subconsciously taught bad consumer habits and the first step of your zero waste journey is unlearning these. And on that note…

Read, listen, and learn

There is so much to learn about sustainability and knowledge is an incredibly powerful tool; not only can we make the best decisions available to us, we can also express the importance to others.

I have a list of eco-focused bloggers, YouTubers, and websites that I continually update. It’s a good place to start if you want to educate yourself further with regards to sustainability.

Use what you have

Before you buy package-free shampoo bars or compostable bamboo toothbrushes, use what you already have. Finish the bottle of shampoo and use your plastic toothbrush until you need to replace it. Not only will you save money, you’ll also avoid impulsive buys.

Swap disposables for reusables (or do without!)

Make a list of all the disposable and single-use products you currently use. Then, find alternative reusable products, or see if you can do without. For any reusable products you decide to buy, try to buy them as you need them; this helps ensure you will actually use the reusable version once you have it. Reducing the amount of single use items gradually is key here.

Shop consciously

When your no-spend period is over (and for essentials like groceries), try to consider the environmental impact of what you’re buying. Living in North America means you’ll also have to consider where your food is coming from. Fresh local food is not always an option especially if you live somewhere up north. A large part of this is considering the zero waste principles listed above.

Follow the 6 R’s

They’re a simple guide for many decisions: refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, rot, recycle. That is.. refuse stuff you don’t want or need, reduce your consumption and waste production, reuse (or repurpose) what you have, repair broken items instead of replacing, let food waste rot (ie. compost), and, as a last resort, recycle what you can.

Be patient with yourself

It’s not possible for anyone to be entirely zero waste. But if you’re hard on yourself, you’ll only feel discouraged. Be patient during your zero waste journey, and when you look at other zero wasters, remember that many of them have been on their journey for years.

Zero Waste Beginner Mistakes to Avoid

When first introduced to the world of zero waste swaps and eco friendly products, the nuanced details of zero waste often fly over our heads. Because of this, there are some common mistakes that zero waste beginners often make.

Replacing all your stuff

When you first see zero waste pros on Instagram, it can be really tempting to go out and buy every zero waste swap. Not only is this really expensive, but you likely already have things at home you can use.

Buying reusables you won’t use

Just because there’s a reusable version of something, doesn’t mean you will use it. Many zero waste YouTubers have made videos about the zero waste swaps they regret buying. A simple way to avoid impulsive purchases is to write it down and wait a set amount of time.

Trying to do everything at once

If you try to overhaul your entire lifestyle, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and burnout. The most sustainable changes are the ones that are personally sustainable. Start small, and start in one place.

Worrying about the zero in zero waste

Some people (especially critics of the movement) get hung up on the zero of zero waste; realistically, because of the system we live in it is impossible for anyone to be completely zero waste. Even common zero waste habits, such as shopping in bulk stores and buying fresh, package free produce, can be inaccessible to some people.

What matters most is trying your best (and trying to influence system change through voting, joining grassroots movements, and attending protests).

Final Thoughts

Zero waste doesn’t have to be expensive and elitist; in fact, it shouldn’t be! It’s infinitely better for everyone to implement a little bit of zero waste into their lives than for a few people to be perfectly zero waste.

What zero waste newbie mistakes did you make? Let me know. Subscribe to learn more about wellness and sustainability.

10 Ways to Live More Sustainably

Is a low-impact, sustainable lifestyle your goal? Curious about what it means to be sustainable? Here are 10 tips to start you on your eco-conscious journey:

1. Shop local, zero-waste, or sustainably-made

Products made locally require fewer resources for transporting. Stronger local economies are linked to a healthier environment. Since industrial waste is a greater source of pollution compared to individuals, it’s important to support businesses that are leading the industry with zero-waste, sustainable, or ethical practices.

Read about what makes shopping on Etsy sustainable or check out my favourite eco-friendly Etsy shops.

2. Eat a little (or a lot) less meat

Meat requires a lot of water. Because energy decreases from the food level, the amount of grain needed to feed a human is significantly less than the quantity of grain needed to feed an animal to feed a human. And all of that grain requires water, land to grow, and produces agricultural waste.

By eating a more plant-based diet you reduce your environmental impact. And, eventually, more people will jump on the bandwagon as eating less meat becomes normalized.

3. Go Zero-Waste

While municipal waste is small in comparison to industry, the act of reducing your waste reinforces many of these other habits. It will also help inspire change in others around you and in society. To learn more about reducing your waste, there are a lot of tutorials and videos about living zero-waste. (Side note, the zero-waste lifestyle isn’t about zero waste as much as it is about reducing waste; for a beginner’s guide, read more about what the zero waste movement is here.)

Here are some zero-waste swaps you can DIY to get you started.

4. Practice minimalism in some areas of your life

Look, I’m not going to tell you to become an extreme minimalist through-and-through. I believe we can achieve sustainability without resorting to that, and it would turn off a lot more people than it would encourage. But, most of us can find at least one or more areas of our lives that we could work on minimizing.

Minimalism is a tool you can use to reduce your environmental impact, while also improving your own well-being. There is actually a type of minimalism, called eco-minimalism, that focuses on using minimalism to live sustainably.

Even if you think you don’t have time or energy to commit yourself to environmentalism, you still have enough time to consider minimalism. And as you find what you can live without, you will be able to extract yourself from the work-make-spend treadmill and live a healthier and more meaningful life. Learn more about minimalism and tips for getting started.

5. Engage in the sustainability movement

While individual actions do add up, the biggest change needs to happen with industry; and it won’t happen on its own. By engaging in environmental activism you add another voice calling for policies that support sustainability.

Another reason to participate in activism is that working with other people, helping people, and devoting yourself to a cause can make you happier and more fulfilled. (Side note, this guide to environmental activism on Eco Ally is an awesome resource to help you get started.)

6. Refuse and reduce

Of the 6 R’s (refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, rot, recycle), the first two are the easiest to do, the ones that nearly everyone can do, and they’re most important! They stop any waste from being created in the first place!

When you bring home things you don’t need, whether it’s free items or well-intentioned gifts, you’re only cluttering up your space.

7. Reuse

Reusing is an easy way we can keep our items from becoming waste for longer. For most people in the world, reusable items are the norm; single-use or limited lifetimes are a modern development designed to sell us more stuff (and create more waste!)

The items we throw away because we consider it waste can often be reused or repurposed. Finding ways to reuse our stuff means it doesn’t have to be waste. Some examples are reusing jars and containers instead of throwing them away and repurposing damaged clothes and linens into rags.

8. Repair

Repairing items, from clothes to technology, is another great way to keep what you have for longer. Unfortunately, due to the single-use, throwaway culture in countries like the United States, repairing items can often be more expensive than replacing them.

But, by learning the inexpensive, basic means of repairing items yourself (such as darning), by being careful with what we have, and keeping items until the ends of their lifetimes (not simply their perceived ends) we can save money by buying less stuff.

9. Rot and Recycle

The last 2 R’s, rotting (i.e. composting) and recycling are both the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one.

Composting, whether at home or at a compost center, is important for the end of a biodegradable product’s life. Biodegradable products do not degrade in landfills because they’re packed too tightly.

While recycling is not as great as it is marketed to be, it is still better than sending stuff to a landfill. But, recycling should be the last step.

10. Do your best  : )

Sometimes sustainability feels impossible; comparing your individual actions to mega-corporations is daunting. People today feel more alone than ever, but by connecting with other eco-minded people and creating communities advocating for change, everyone’s tiny actions will add up. It’s better to do a little than to do nothing.

What is Sustainability?

The term sustainability gets thrown around a lot. It’s becoming a bit of a buzzword; a label that anyone can slap on to look better. But what does it really mean for something to be sustainable? What does that look like? And, in case you’re not already on board with “saving the Earth,” why should we even care?

These are really important questions to ask, and I assure you if you keep reading you will get all the answers.

What Does Sustainable Mean?

To understand what sustainability means in today’s context, it’s useful to look at the history of sustainability, and what it has meant in the past.

The idea of sustainability has roots as far back as the 17th century, beginning in the forestry industry in Britain. Concerns over the overexploitation of natural resources drove the need to consider alternative ways of foresting. The roots of sustainability are focused on the use of resources.

During the industrial revolution, air pollution from burning coal would lead to the implementation of one of the first modern environmental laws; these laws focused on reducing emitted pollution. This is the beginning of considering the effects of industry on the health of citizens.

The environmental movement picked up steam in the United States and Britain during the 1960’s. Lots of influential texts were being written; voicing concerns over the depletion of natural resources, the widespread use of pesticides, the link between economic growth and environmental degradation. The work of activists culminated in a number of organizations, global charters, and environmental regulation.

Throughout the 70’s, the interaction between the environment, the economy, and society would dominate sustainability thinking. This “three spheres” model would be the basis for charters and policy passed through to the 2000’s; and is still used today, occasionally also featuring other sub-domains such as culture, technology, or politics.

While sustainability was first focused on pollution and depletion of resources, that definition has evolved and grown, as most things do. Today we consider sustainability as the interconnection between the biosphere and human civilization; for a society to live sustainably it must be able to coexist with the natural world while ensuring the needs and rights of its citizens are protected.

The oft-quoted definition of sustainability, defined by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development in their 1983 report Our Common Future is sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

What Does Sustainability Look Like?

“Sustainability” might conjure images of those impeccable zero-waste mason jar shelves, or plastic floating in the ocean, or people in developing countries protesting for their right to not have toxic waste spilled near their home. And all of these images do, in fact, represent a facet of sustainability.

It would be wrong to assume there’s an end goal to sustainability, or (worse) that there is some “aesthetic” that sustainability fits in its final form. While setting goals is a great way to work towards being more sustainable, sustainability is a constantly evolving process that is never finished.

Sustainability in the context of a product looks different at each stage of the item’s life. From the design and gathering of resources to the manufacturing, packaging, and transport to its use and eventual end of life, considerations must be made that minimize environmental impact while providing value for money and maximal human benefit.  (These are, not coincidentally, also the principles of eco-minimalism.)

While thought must be put into every step of an item’s life, perhaps the most important is the end or, rather, the not-end. One of the most sustainable things we can do is consider the end of an item’s life as the beginning of a new item or resource’s life. Instead of calling it waste, we keep those resources in our economy. That’s the basis of a circular system.

The movement and transformation of energy, water, and nutrients in nature are an example of circular systems. Technology and innovation have allowed us to take ourselves out of these natural systems, and work linearly: where our resources become waste instead of being reused. This is unsustainable. But technology and innovation can also allow us to fit ourselves back into the system and exist sustainably.

Additionally, a sustainable society is one in which everyone has an equitable ability to meet their basic rights and needs. Food insecurity, water scarcity, and poverty are unsustainable.

The first part of sustainability, meeting the needs of the present, is crucial (and sometimes seems like an after-thought in the current environmental movement). While its important that we don’t completely degrade the lands we use for agriculture or pollute the little freshwater available, it’s even more important to recognize that people right now are not able to meet their basic needs because of the unsustainable nature of global capitalism.

In order for our society to be more sustainable, some of us need to use way less and reuse more. At the same time, we need to increase access to resources for vulnerable people.

Why Should We Care About the Environment?

If for whatever reason you don’t already believe that sustainability is a worthy cause — for the planet and humanity — then allow me to talk you through the basic arguments:

1. The Planet’s Health is Our Health

  • Natural resources: forests, rivers, marshes etc, all provide services for us. The problem with our current, unsustainable model is that we don’t consider these costs as we tear apart natural environments.
  • Once those habitats are destroyed, they’re gone (forever, in comparison to a human lifespan).

The planet cannot levy a tax against corporations to protect itself; we need to help it.

  • The current rate of growth is unsustainable and will catch up: if not to us, to the future generations. The longer we delay addressing problems, the bigger and more irreversible the damage will be. Positive feedback loops, anyone?

Beyond the desire to preserve the Earth’s systems for ourselves and our descendants, there is also a moral justification in caring about sustainability:

2. The World’s Poorest Will (and do) Suffer First

  • Less developed countries have fewer environmental and worker safety regulations, and the majority of our stuff is manufactured in those places. Factories are free to overexploit resources, release toxic chemicals and waste, and take advantage of people’s labor.

This is not a problem of us or them; the choice isn’t “some people meet their needs” or “nobody meets their needs.”

It’s either “some people overexploit the Earth, take more than they need, while others die from not being able to meet their needs” or “we consume only what we need to ensure everyone can meet their needs now and in the future.” And I don’t know about you, but the latter sounds much more appealing.

It’s “everybody, sustainably” or “nobody.”

Some people might choose not to care about sustainability because “individual actions don’t matter” compared to the actions of international companies. What they fail to realize is that all changes in human history have been initiated by a small group of people who believed in a better future.

Every individual action is a push towards the future. Every person who commits to a cause strengthens the community. You should care because you have the capability to make a difference.

Living perfectly sustainably is impossible because involvement in our society is inevitable. But this shouldn’t prevent us from doing what we can. Instead, it should empower us to recognize the need for society to change and inspire us to join the group of people advocating for reform.

Final Thoughts

Sustainability is about creating a better present and future. By keeping resources in our economy for longer we avoid depleting our natural resources. And by halting overconsumption, we can limit the amount of industrial waste and pollution released into the planet.

By taking individual actions and supporting sustainability initiatives, together we can make the world a more sustainable place for everyone. What are your tips for living more sustainably?

How Minimalism Helps The Environment

I like to think there are 3 types of minimalism: minimalism purely as a style, the hippy save-the-planet minimalism, and regular jane and joe minimalism.

The problem with minimalism-as-just-a-style is that many people simply do not like that style, so when we only present them this type of minimalism they think “well, this isn’t for me!” Furthermore, since this minimalism only focuses on style, it’s very easy to do things that have just as much of an environmental impact as someone who isn’t a minimalist.

Hippy save-the-planet minimalism, perhaps better described as eco-minimalism, is, as the name might suggest, the best kind of minimalism for helping the environment. Without necessarily adopting minimalism as a style, eco-minimalism takes the key ideas of the minimal lifestyle (which I will describe in just a moment) and uses them as a tool to minimize our environmental impact while still providing value.

The regular Jane-and-Joe brand of minimalism is growing in popularity as people are becoming more aware of the damages of consumerism and are realising that less is more. The benefit of this type of minimalism is that it doesn’t necessitate the adoption of minimalism as a style and is, therefore, more appealing to the average person.

In addition, as many regular-minimalists-turned-eco-minimalists will tell you, it’s only a hop, skip, and jump to learning about the positive environmental impacts of minimalism, thus converting our friends who have started exploring minimalism into folks who are passionate about sustainability.

To understand how minimalism, in all its different forms, helps the environment, we can look at the key values that define what exactly minimalism is. Then, by looking at the problems facing the environment we can see how minimalism can help individuals reduce their impact on the planet.

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism, as a way of simplifying your life and as a way of reducing your environmental impact, can be defined by three core values: owning less, buying less, and placing more value on what you already have. These values are described in broad terms because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to minimalism.

By choosing to adopt minimalism as a lifestyle, you consciously decide to apply these values to various aspects of your life. You may choose this lifestyle if your goal is to live a more simple and fulfilling life or if you’re concerned with the size of your impact on the planet.

Own less stuff

Generally, minimalists own less stuff than the average person. You may see minimalists who own 52 items, or 104, or some other arbitrary number. But there’s actually no limit to how much stuff you can own as a minimalist; different people and lifestyles will use different items.

What is most important is that everything you own has a purpose, even if that purpose is just to bring you joy.

What you may have done with stuff you had before adopting minimalism will determine part of your environmental impact; whether you sold it, donated it, or just threw it away. If you’re considering adopting minimalism, keep this in mind as you cull your belongings.

Buy less stuff

In order to maintain a small number of belongings you choose to have, you ultimately will have to buy less stuff. Many people who are minimalists will only buy new items to replace what they have (after trying to repair or replace second hand).

In our consumerist culture, we’re often encouraged by advertisements to buy things quickly and without thinking. This is exactly what the principles of minimalism are against. It can be hard going against the grain, but the simplicity of only owning things you love and use is worth it.

Value what you have

Part of buying less and owning less is taking care of what you do have. When you take care of something you will value it more, and when you own less you will make sure what you have is things you like. Taking care of the items you own will also extend their lifespan, meaning throughout your life you will create less trash, and buy less.

What Crises are Facing the Environment?

Trash

We’re producing too much waste. In the United States alone, it has been estimated that over 230 billion kilograms (which is about 253 million tons) of waste is sent to landfills in a year. Landfills can pollute local water and soil when water runs through the waste and becomes contaminated; this water is called leachate. (Some newer landfills in developed countries have plastic linings to prevent leachate, but the effectiveness of these linings is not known as they have not been in use very long, geologically speaking).

Pollution

Every day, we pollute the water around us by dumping over 1.8 billion kilograms (2 million tons) of waste into the water. This includes sewage as well as waste from agriculture and manufacturing.

Water scarcity

In addition to polluting water, industry and agriculture often have bad practices of taking more than their share of water (known as overdrafting). This can lead to depletion of local water sources (and the pollution of remaining sources.)

A lot of manufacturing and agriculture is done in developing countries with fewer environmental protections. Many of these locations already have issues of water scarcity and poverty, and citizens are not able to defend their rights.

Consumerism

The first three problems are all symptoms of our linear economic system. A linear economic system can be described as take-make-dispose (the alternative to this is a circular economy, where after reaching the end of its life, an item is reused as a resource).

Consumerism is the driving force behind our linear economic system. Planned obsolescence and over-consumption are symptoms of a system driven by profits rather than the wellbeing of people and the planet.

How Does Minimalism Provide Solutions?

Minimalists Often Produce Less Trash

There is a lot of overlap between minimalism and the zero-waste lifestyle. Since you buy less stuff you have less packaging that needs to be disposed of. Minimalists often consciously choose to buy better quality, longer-lasting things, instead of buying multiple lower quality items.

Less Air and Water is Polluted

If the demand for stuff is lower, less stuff will be manufactured. And as previously discussed, manufacturing (and shipping) are a big contributor to pollution. If everyone were to lower their water footprint by buying less and choosing items with a smaller footprint, we would put a big dent in the water scarcity crisis.

Minimalism Opposes Consumerism

Minimalism directly opposes consumerism. In every one of its forms, minimalism is about saying no to the culture that says more is more. By choosing to live minimally, you’re adding one more voice to the crowd demanding change.

Final Thoughts

Recycling started as a grassroots movement; now, many people who don’t normally think about sustainability recycle. The Grassroots Recycling Network has rebranded as Zero Waste USA, as they set their ambitions even higher. Minimalism is a tool, and one of the first stepping stones, to reducing your environmental impact.

10 Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Etsy Shops

At home online shopping? Etsy, the e-commerce site specializing in handmade and vintage goods published its list of Editors Picks. Their marketing campaign, #StandWithSmall is encouraging shoppers to support small, local businesses.

I’ve been scrolling through Etsy looking for zero-waste, natural products. In the spirit of the #StandWithSmall campaign, check out these 10 sustainable and eco-friendly Etsy shops I found!

  1. Handmade Habitat
  2. Phoenix K Creations
  3. OG & Me
  4. Change Toothpaste
  5. Eloise Et Moi
  6. Spirit of Vera
  7. Vegan Viridity
  8. Vita Beata Boutique
  9. Zerra & Co
  10. Beego Handmade

Handmade Habitat: 100% Vegan Soy Candles

The candles Handmade Habitat make look beautifully minimalist, and their ingredients are minimal as well. They are all-natural, vegan soy candles with wicks made from cotton and recycled paper. Handmade Habitat also has bath salts made from pink Himalayan, dead sea, and Epsom salts.

Phoenix K Creations: All Natural Cosmetics and Herbal Remedies

If you’re looking for organic raw vegan beauty and herbal remedies Phoenix K Cosmetics may have what you want. They have masks, washes, scrubs, and oils for your hair, body, and face. They also sell all-natural remedies for athletes foot, psoriasis and eczema, and poison ivy and oak. I think shops like these are great because they provide natural alternatives to products whose drugstore alternatives have long lists of ingredients.

OG & Me: Reusable Cloth Products

If you enjoy well made and aesthetically pleasing products and are willing to pay a little more for them, check out OG & Me. They sell a variety of reusable cloth products and are certified by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Their products are 100% cotton so they can be decomposed when they eventually reach the end of their lifecycle.

Change Toothpaste: Handmade Toothpaste Tablets

Everyone probably already knows about bamboo toothbrushes, but have you heard about toothpaste tablets? This eco-friendly zero-waste alternative to tubes of toothpaste was formulated after consultation with a dentist and are handmade.

Eloise Et Moi: All Natural Plant Dyed Products

Eloise et Moi has a variety of products made from natural fibers and they are plant dyed. She has bags, napkins and hair bows, wraps, and ties. Her products are all stunning, high quality, and natural.

Spirit of Vera: Sustainably Sourced Sterling Silver Handmade Jewellery

If you’re looking for pretty jewelry either for a gift or yourself, Spirit of Vera (or SpiritOV) has something of you. All her pieces are made from sustainably sourced sterling silver and are handmade.

Vegan Viridity: Vegan Eco-Friendly Handmade Bed, Bath, and Beyond

If you want handmade, cruelty-free, vegan, and eco-friendly products be sure to stop by Vegan Viridity’s Etsy shop. Her products include shampoo and soap bars, soy candles, and crocheted baskets, cloths, and scarves.

Vita Beata Boutique: Handmade Natural Planatable Stationary

These cards from Vita Beata Boutique are seriously pretty. They’re handmade and biodegradable. The best part is they’re also plantable as the paper has seeds in it! I’ve received a plantable card before and I absolutely loved it! It feels bad to throw away a card, but keeping them can create clutter so I think plantable cards are an awesome solution.

Zerra & Co: All Natural Eco-Friendly Cosmetics and Skincare

I recently had to move home from University without a lot of time to pack. I ended up during a half-assed Mari Kondo -esque declutter, and ended up finally throwing away (almost) all of the expired makeup I never used.

As a result, I’ve been thinking more about the quality of the products I use. What draws me to Zerra & Co is how natural the products are; their handmade products are also vegan and preservative-free. They have a huge assortment of cosmetic and skincare products and a wide range of foundation shades. Zerra & Co definitely deserve to be checked out.

Beego Handmade: Reusable Waterproof Cloth Bags

Beego Handmade makes really high-quality, washable, reusable snack bags. If you’re looking for an alternative to plastic ziplock bags look no further. The waterproof lining they use is certified by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and is free of lead, phthalates, BPA, and other harmful chemicals.

Another bonus is the wide variety of gorgeous fabrics to choose from. These would make a beautiful gift for a friend or family member you’re trying to convert to a zero-waste lifestyle.

What is Eco-Minimalism and How Did it Start?

Minimalism and environmentalism are gaining traction in the mainstream, as global issues like climate change and wealth inequality rise to the front pages. Minimalism and environmentalism overlap so often that we’ve come up with a word for it. That word is eco-minimalism. Where did it come from?

Eco-minimalism started as a design approach pioneered by architect Howard Liddell and energy consultant Nick Grant in the early 2000s. They considered it a set of guidelines and principles for creating buildings that have a minimized environmental impact.

As eco-minimalism grew in popularity amongst green building designers, Dr. Paul Knights took an environmental ethics approach, and defined the virtue eco-minimalism, in a paper published in 2011.

Today, we’re seeing the beginnings of a cultural revolution; as influencers, bloggers, and YouTube personalities practice eco-minimalism as a lifestyle. I hope to explore eco-minimalism in the context of these three categories.

  1. A design approach,
  2. a personal virtue,
  3. and a lifestyle

As a design approach eco-minimalism can be understood in terms of buildings and architecture, as it was initially proposed, and in terms of the stuff we use in our day-to-day lives. Eco-minimalism as a virtue can be defined from the design approach it evolves from, and by exploring what makes up the practical wisdom it requires. We’ll explore eco-minimalism as a lifestyle by looking at popular, self-proclaimed eco-minimalists.

Eco-Minimalism: A Design Approach

The term eco-minimalism was first coined by architect Howard Liddell, most notably in his 2008 book titled: Eco-Minimalism: The Antidote to Eco-Bling. The term was used to describe a more sustainable and common-sense guide to “green” buildings.

The eco-minimal approach was developed in opposition to what Liddell described as “eco-bling” or “eco-cliches”: expensive technologies touted as “green” that do more to harm the environment than help it. Like greenwashing, the primary focus of eco-bling is appearing green; how well it works is a secondary consideration, if it’s considered at all.

Eco-minimalism is the solution he proposed. The goals of eco-minimalism are to minimize environmental impact while maximizing human wellbeing and economic benefit. It means taking a simpler approach to reducing a building’s environmental impact. This may mean reducing size, using less energy-intensive technology, or investing in the basic structure.

Minimalism in this sense doesn’t refer to the style of the building; the design doesn’t have to fit the “minimalist style” in order to be eco-minimal. In fact, its Grant says that eco-minimal designs should be judged “by how successfully they minimize environmental impact, not how minimal they are”.

Eco-minimalism is not about minimalism as a style; it’s about environmental minimalism, and also technological minimalism.

Technological minimalism doesn’t mean avoiding technology, but it does mean avoiding overly engineered and complex solutions. Eco-minimalism demands that we critically assess “eco-gadgets” in terms of their actual contribution to overall sustainability, instead of blindly applying the latest green technologies. It also asks that we look at simpler options, that may not be as flashy, but have less of an impact on the environment.

Once we have our eco-minimal design, how do we ensure that it’s implemented, used, and decommissioned in such a way as to fully minimize the environmental impact?  One solution is to approach all of the stages with the same eco-minimal approach we took to the design. And that’s where the virtue of eco-minimalism comes in.

Eco-Minimalism: As a Virtue

Liddell and Grant focus on the design aspect of eco-minimal buildings. Naturally, they skim over the stages of construction, use, and the eventual deconstruction of buildings. This leaves a lot of room for error and departure from the intended eco-minimal design.

In Eco-Minimalism as a Virtue, Dr. Paul Knights argues that everyone, from architects and designers to construction teams and building users, must adhere to values, behaviors, attitudes wherein they focus on minimizing environmental impact and maximizing human benefit, in order for eco-minimal designs to succeed. Knights refers to this set of virtue beliefs as the virtue of eco-minimalism.

Knights defines the virtue of eco-minimalism as “the disposition to use the minimum resource we need to live within the community consistent with personal well-being and the well-being of others.” Essentially, the decisions you make should minimize environmental impact, provide value for money, and maximize human benefit. Eco-minimalism as a lifestyle can thus be characterized by living according to the virtue of eco-minimalism.

Eco-Minimalism: A Lifestyle

What does it look like to live as an eco-minimalist? To answer this question we can look at YouTubers and bloggers who consider themselves eco-minimalists.

Shelbizlee

On her YouTube channel Shelbizleee, Shelbi has over 200k subscribers. On her channel, she posts videos like anti-hauls, which criticize consumerism, and lists of zero-waste swaps. She has a playlist dedicated to videos about eco-minimalism. Shelbi became an eco-minimalist after she began pursuing a sustainable lifestyle. Her definition of eco-minimalism is

  1. a lifestyle technique used to create the smallest demand possible for natural resource use in efforts to save mother earth.
  2. a method used to form a holistic view of your footprint (carbon, water, waste, etc) left on this planet. Including but not limited to the upstream as well as downstream effects of consumerism.

Eco Ally

In her blog post, A Concise Introduction to Eco-Minimalism, Deanna on Eco Ally defines eco-minimalism as an approach to minimalism from an environmentally conscious standpoint. Like Shelby,  she also started as an environmentalist before focusing on eco-minimalism.

Her 3 guiding principles for minimalism are:

  1. Simplify your life
  2. Purchase thoughtfully
  3. Build habits that are environmentally positive

Check out my article for more eco-friendly bloggers, YouTubers, and websites to see how they’re approaching sustainability.

Final Thoughts

Eco-minimalism is a set of principles we can follow, when designing buildings or products, when making decisions, and to reduce the environmental impact of our lifestyle. Eco-minimalism encourages us to think critically about the consumerist society we live in, and focus on what matters most.

Are you an eco-minimalist? Is this your first time hearing about eco-minimalism? Let me know it a comment.

If you’re interested in living zero-waste check out my article about zero-waste swaps you can DIY.

Inspiring Eco-Influencers and Green Content Creators to Follow

This is a list of bloggers, YouTubers, and media companies sharing information about eco-friendly living and advocating for social change. This is not an exhaustive list, and I hope to update it over time. If I missed someone you think should be a part of this list, leave a comment and let me know!

Sustainably Vegan

Immy talks about low-impact living on her channel, Sustainably Vegan. I love her 100 Sustainable series, each video has 100 tips and swaps for reducing your impact, AND she’s made tutorials on making your own plant-based milks, mayonnaise, and nut butters!

Polly Barks

Polly on Polly Barks has a really entertaining and straightforward style of writing. She takes a fresh approach to write about living zero waste and sustainability. She focuses on systematic issues creating the current climate crisis. Like this post where she talks about the big companies controlling most of the products we buy.

Gittemary Johansen

Gittemary talks about her zero waste, vegan lifestyle over on her YouTube channel. I especially love her series where she looks at the environmental impact of products and materials; her videos are incredibly thoughtful and well-researched.

JHÁNNEU

On her YouTube channel, Jhánneu explores low impact, intention living and minimal fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. She made a video about food deserts and why sustainable living isn’t inclusive, which is an incredibly important topic that isn’t talked about enough.

Levi “Save the Planet” Hildebrand

Levi Hildebrand is a Canadian Youtuber who focuses on making sustainability easy. He showcases brands and individuals that are using creative ideas and solutions to make the world a better place. His message is that “you don’t have to be a hero to save the planet!”

Just Joe Lee

Joe Lee is another Canadian Youtuber who talks about eco-friendly living. In addition, he covers topics such as health and wellness, minimalism, and eating a plant-based diet.

Sarah Therese

Sarah’s YouTube channel highlights her sustainable, minimal lifestyle as a young mom and wife. In her videos, she shares recipes, vlogs, and what she’s learned in her minimalist journey.

Sweet Potato Soul

On Sweet Potato Soul, Jenné talks about eating vegan on a budget and shares a bunch of vegan recipes. Reducing your intake of meat and dairy significantly lowers your environmental footprint! So check her out and get inspired to do a little plant-based cooking!

Dose of Whit

Dose of Whit is where Whitney talks about eco-friendly living, natural health, and veganism. A lot of sustainability experts advise eating less meat and dairy, so check out her awesome vegan recipes.

Heal Your Living

The YouTube channel Heal Your Living covers mindfulness, sustainability, minimalism, and wellness. Her approach to minimalism is a lot more extreme than most of the other people I’ve mentioned. But even if you’re not an extreme minimalist, it’s worth watching a few of her videos. She also has an Etsy shop for her self-care e-books.

Eco & Beyond

Eco & Beyond‘s vision is to create a directory and guide for eco-friendly living. They cover topics such as creating less food waste and using less packaging, plastic, meat, and dairy. They talk about how the importance of buying more sustainable, fair trade, local, and seasonal products and produce. They also have a section where they define and explain how to do more social good.

MsAceAmazing

Abby, a college student, shares stories about her sustainability adventure on her blog MsAceAmazing. In her post Minimalism Vs Eco-Minimalism, she describes different situations where minimalism and eco-minimalism disagree.

On her blog, she talks about minimalism, sustainability, and the problem with food waste. She also covers topics like environmental activism, digital minimalism, and mindfulness.

Eco Warrior Princess

Eco Warrior Princess isn’t just a blog, it’s a media business and community. They have a whole team of writers who cover “environmental issues, conservation, sustainable fashion, conscious business, social justice, politics, feminism, eco beauty, wellness, green technology.”

They were founded by Jennifer Nini, who is an environmental activist and writer. She owns a certified organic farm and is the current editor-in-chief.

The Eco Hub

The Eco Hub is a Canadian media company focused on helping people live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. They cover a range of topics from style and beauty to living and home to health and wellness.

Candice Batista, the founder of The Eco Hub, is an award-winning environmental journalist and one of Canada’s leading eco advocates. She’s been on her eco journey for almost 20 years!

Eco Ally

Eco Ally focuses on sustainable living, eco-entrepreneurship, and environmental activism. She has a post about how to become an eco-entrepreneur, a post defining impact blogging, and she talks about eco-minimalism.

Eco Ally’s founder, Deanna Pratt, also does content marketing and consulting for ethical and sustainable businesses.

Shelbizleee

Shelbi, known as Shelbizleee on YouTube, is starting to become well-known in the environmental sphere on the internet. She has a Bachelors in Environmental Science. On her channel, she talks about living zero waste, and also covers topics such as eco-fashion, eco-beauty, and eco-minimalism.

She has a saying she says at the end of all her videos, which is, “You cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.”

Shelbi also has a blog where she goes more in-depth into the topics she talks about in her videos.

Going Zero Waste

Going Zero Waste is one of the biggest zero waste blogs on the internet. Founder Kathryn Kellogg breaks down the steps of how to transition to living more sustainably. She talks about the benefits to the planet, as well as to your personal health and wellness.

When you subscribe to her blog, you get a short e-book introducing zero waste living. If you enjoy that (which I did!) she also has an e-book called 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste.

Trash is for Tossers

Trash is for Tossers is about Lauren’s zero waste journey. Lauren jas a college degree in environmental science, and was inspired by zero waster Bea Johnson. Lauren also has a YouTube channel that has lots of content but doesn’t seem to be active.

Lauren is also the founder of Package Free Shop. This is a really cool online shop for people trying to live zero waste. They also use 100% recyclable and compostable shipping materials. I thought it was really cool that each product also has end of life instructions.

Final Thoughts

Did I miss one of your favorite eco-influencers? Leave me a comment so I can continue to update this list with people doing important work and spreading great messages.

3 Zero Waste Swaps You Can DIY

The Zero Waste movement has been growing since the beginning of the 2000s, and especially recently due to bloggers like Kathryn Kellogg at Going Zero Waste. The zero-waste lifestyle is quickly becoming more mainstream and is reaching a wide audience.

A really common topic that comes up a lot in the zero waste community is things we can swap that will reduce the amount of waste we create. There are tons of YouTube videos and blog posts out there full of ideas like carrying a reusable water bottle, using your own grocery bags, and of course infamous reusable straws.

All these swaps are great ideas and can be really helpful for people seeking to reduce the waste they create. But all of these ideas can be overwhelming for someone new.

For someone brand new to the zero waste lifestyle it can seem expensive to buy all these alternatives to wasteful items. Especially since usually these swaps are to use something more long-lasting which is usually more expensive. This can make the zero waste lifestyle daunting to newcomers and might discourage people from making these changes.

The thing is, zero waste swaps aren’t all or nothing. You don’t have to buy every swap in order to live a perfectly zero waste life. In fact, you shouldn’t!

In this article, I’ll talk about three common zero waste swaps, and how you can do them without buying anything new! The swaps you can DIY are

  • cleaning rags (sometimes called “un-paper towels”),
  • produce and bulk bags, and
  • glass storage jars.

While it’s great that more people are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, it’s more important than ever that we’re conscious of the impact of every product we buy. Shopping second hand and repurposing what we already have is a great way to minimize our impact.

You don’t have to buy every zero-waste swap out there. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

One of the 5 Rs (an updated version of the 3 Rs we (hopefully) all learned about in school) is to reuse. Lots of products have already been produced and manufactured. Instead of buying something new every time we want or need something, we should see if we can get it secondhand, or if we can make it ourselves with stuff we already have.

Kitchen / Cleaning rags

Paper towels, a staple in a lot of North American homes, are incredibly wasteful and bad for the environment. And it’s not just the trees that are being cut down; fossil fuels are burned transporting materials between factories and then to stores, factories require energy to process the materials, tons of water is used, and harmful chemicals such as bleach are leaked into the environment during manufacturing.

Single-use items are a modern by-product of companies trying to increase profits, and a lot of us have fallen for the marketing that tells us we need to buy these items. We don’t!

You can find them reusable cleaning rags on Amazon to replace paper towels. If you’re particularly creative and care about aesthetics, there are also lots of tutorials out there about how to make “un-paper towels” which are more or less fancy reusable rags.

If you don’t care what your rags look like, there’s an easy DIY to make un-paper towels for free!

If you have stained or damaged clothes you’re about to throw away (or promotional shirts you never wear), it takes less than 5 minutes to take some scissors to it and make yourself some rags that you can use once or twice on spills, and then keep in a bin until you do laundry.

Bulk / Produce Bags

Most grocery stores provide thin plastic bags for carrying your produce and bulk goods home. This is another single-use item that humans did without for a long time and can continue to do without. The alternative? Reusable fabric or mesh bags.

There’s lots of reusable bulk and produce bags you can buy online, and you can even get them in some stores.

This DIY swap requires a little bit of skill with sewing to make yourself. The reusable produce and bulk bag tutorial by The Kiwi Country Girl is really easy to follow.

Whether you’re buying bags from someone, or buying fabric to make your own, consider the material it’s made with; some fibers, such as cotton, require a LOT of water to grow, which adds to the impact that cotton bags have.

Just like reusable cleaning rags, these can be made by reusing fabric that may otherwise go to the landfill. So by using old sheets, thrifted curtains, or something else, you can make your produce and bulk bags with very minimal environmental impacts.

Jars

Once you bring your bulk goods home in your reusable bags, you’ll need a place to store them. That’s where jars come in.

The zero-waste community is full of pictures of impeccable shelves of food and items stored in glass jars. It can be really tempting to buy a case of (NEW) mason jars on Amazon (I made this mistake when I first started switching to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle) but think twice!

Remember, EVERY item we buy new had to be manufactured and shipped to us, and the resources used to produce it had to be extracted and transported to the factory. So we always want to find ways to avoid buying things that are new; whether that’s by reusing what we have or buying something second hand.

Think of all the different pantry items that you can find at the store packaged in glass jars and bottles. Often, once we’re done with them we toss them in the recycling. But recycling should never be our first step! We should start by finding a way to reuse them.

Some ideas for items you can get in glass jars include sauces, pickled vegetables, fruit, and jam. The extra upside of buying pantry items for the jars is that you’ll even further reduce the plastic you get rid of. Double win!

Final Thoughts

I’m not saying you should never buy anything. Oftentimes, the superior craftsmanship of someone else is necessary. But what I am saying is this:

Don’t blindly buy every zero waste swap someone suggests. Consider whether you will use it. Reflect on whether you already own something similar you can use instead of buying this. Decide if you can reuse something you own for this purpose, or if you can get it second hand.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the zero waste things you should be doing. No one can be perfect, and it’s okay to transition at your own pace. You don’t have to do everything, all at once. And things that work for others, might not work for you. And that’s okay.