Zero Waste Holiday Gift Guide

After having read books like Zero Waste Home, Plastic Free, Garbology, and Overdressed, it's hard to go back to shopping carelessly for holiday gifts. This year I'm doing little themed gifts with the over arching theme of being crafted in the USA or at least thoughtfully designed and purchased through small businesses (it's hard to be perfect). Zero Waste is a great theme to build around and a subtle, but fun way to introduce the idea to your friends and relatives. I've curated a small list below, for more ideas check out the Conscious by Chloé shop and the Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home shop

For the ladies in your life, give the gift of a happy period. I bought mine back in college and I'm still using them eight years later. Quality product for the price and a money saver overtime. There are many different types of reusable cotton pads out there, but only Gladrags are designed with a little pocket to hold the liners in place so they don't move around and you can adjust the amount of coverage according to your flow. Made from a soft flannel, you can feel the difference when you switch from synthetic pads to natural ones. 

This nifty invention is a great alternative to plastic wrap. Made with four simple ingredients: organic cotton, beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin, these wraps can be used to wrap anything from bread to vegetables to cheeses. Beeswax has a heavenly smell and natural antibacterial properties to keep your food fresh. Create a seal by using the heat from your hands to warm the wax. To reuse, simply wash with cold water and mild soap.

You've probably already made the switch to reusable grocery bags, but what about those pesky plastic produce bags? I still find myself feeling guilty about using them to hall my produce home and then immediately discarding them in the trash. That's why these are on my holiday wish list this year. They are a great alternative to plastic produce bags. Cotton pillow cases work great too, but these cuties make a much nicer gift for friends and family. This starter pack comes in three convenient sizes and can be used for produce or for dry goods like beans and rice. No special cleaning instructions, just throw in the wash to launder.



"In her first book, Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson shares the story of how she and her family have dramatically improved their lives by reducing their waste. Not only do they now have more time together as a family now, but they’ve also cut their annual spending by a remarkable 40 percent, and they are healthier than they've ever been, both emotionally and physically. Packed with easy, sustainable tips that even the busiest people can adopt, the book also offers practical guidance that will give readers the tools they need to simplify their own lives, from bringing jars to the store to stock up on bulk items to exfoliating with oatmeal and to cleaning mildew with hydrogen peroxide rather than toxic store-bought cleansers."

"Like many people, Beth Terry didn’t think an individual could have much impact on the environment. But while laid up after surgery, she read an article about the staggering amount of plastic polluting the oceans and decided then and there to kick her plastic habit. Now she wants to teach you how you can too. In her quirky and humorous style—well known to the readers of her popular blog, My Plastic-Free Life—Terry provides personal anecdotes, stats about the environmental and health problems related to plastic, and personal solutions and tips on how to limit your plastic footprint."

Mesh bags are great for winter produce like apples and squash. What I love about this bag is the long strap that leaves your hands free to do your shopping. It would make a great farmer's market tote as it stretches to fit bulkier items like ears of corn or bunches of herbs and greens. This one is handmade in California from 100% cotton yarn. If you're looking for a more traditional style check out the ones available online from Zero Waste Market in Denver, CO.

Ditch the dryer sheets and fabric softeners for Woolzies. Made from 100% New Zealand wool, simply throw them in the dryer with your clothes like you would a dryer sheet. These fuzzy little guys are good for a thousand loads and can be composted at the end of their life. They help save time and energy by reducing drying time by 25%. Spend less time doing laundry and more time having fun (though I think laundry is kinda fun)!

What would you add to this list?

Reactionary Reading: A Current Affairs Reading List

With the election over and done with the big question is what do we do now? Unfortunately there isn't one fix all answer, but the good news is there are many things that can be done. Since I love books and believe literacy can do a lot to fix the situation we're in, I've created a topical list of books about important current events. Some are a behind the scenes look at industries that shape the world we live in and ask the question is there a better way? Others are about important social and self-revolutions that are continuing to grow as awareness spreads. I encourage you to find a friend or family member with whom you can read and discuss the ideas in these books. It's easy to get boggled down and feel like there is so much wrong with the world and so little you can do to impact it. But even small actions like the simple act of reading a book can make a difference. 

The greatest danger to our future is apathy. 

Jane Goodall

If you're looking for more bookish ways to get involved, Book Riot compiled a list of charities devoted to improving literacy, you can find it here. If you'd rather give time than money, consider volunteering at a your local library or at a non-profit used bookstore in your area. If you want to give a book, you can also donate your used copies to a library or you can purchase new books for donation at any Barnes and Noble bookstore for their annual holiday book drive

"In her groundbreaking history of the class system in America, extending from colonial times to the present, Nancy Isenberg takes on our comforting myths about equality, uncovering the crucial legacy of the ever-present, always embarrassing––if occasionally entertaining––poor white trash."

"Until recently, Elizabeth Cline was a typical American consumer. She’d grown accustomed to shopping at outlet malls, discount stores like T.J. Maxx, and cheap but trendy retailers like Forever 21, Target, and H&M. She was buying a new item of clothing almost every week (the national average is sixty-four per year) but all she had to show for it was a closet and countless storage bins packed full of low-quality fads she barely wore — including the same sailor-stripe tops and fleece hoodies as a million other shoppers. When she found herself lugging home seven pairs of identical canvas flats from Kmart (a steal at $7 per pair, marked down from $15!), she realized that something was deeply wrong."

"An essential exploration of why and how women's sexuality works — based on groundbreaking research and brain science — that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy. The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others' experiences. Because women vary, and that's normal."

"The average American produces 102 tons of garbage across a lifetime and $50 billion in squandered riches are rolled to the curb each year. But our bins are just the starting point for a strange, impressive, mysterious, and costly journey that may also represent the greatest untapped opportunity of the century. In Garbology, Edward Humes investigates trash—; whats in it; how much we pay for it; how we manage to create so much of it; and how some families, communities, and even nations are finding a way back from waste to discover a new kind of prosperity. Garbology reveals not just what we throw away, but who we are and where our society is headed. Waste is the one environmental and economic harm that ordinary working Americans have the power to change— and prosper in the process."

"For twenty-five years Dan Lyons was a magazine writer at the top of his profession--until one Friday morning when he received a phone call: Poof. His job no longer existed. "I think they just want to hire younger people," his boss at Newsweek told him. Fifty years old and with a wife and two young kids, Dan was, in a word, screwed. Then an idea hit. Dan had long reported on Silicon Valley and the tech explosion. Why not join it? HubSpot, a Boston start-up, was flush with $100 million in venture capital. They offered Dan a pile of stock options for the vague role of "marketing fellow." What could go wrong? "

"A People's History of the United States is the only volume to tell America's story from the point of view of and in the words of —America's women, factory workers, African Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. Zinn shows that many of our country's greatest battles the fights for an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, women's rights, racial equality —were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance."

Author and essayist Kiese Laymon is one of the most unique, stirring, and insightful new voices in American social and cultural commentary. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is a collection of his finest essays, touching on subjects diverse as family, race, violence, celebrity, music, writing, and coming of age in the rural Mississippi Gulf Coast. Laymon's writing is always honest, while also being alternately funny, lacerating, and wise.

What books would you add to this list?

4 Little Things I'm Splurging On Right Now

Last year I read lots of books (well two is kind of a lot right) on how to budget my money. My favorite and the one I've been recommending to everyone ever since is All Your Worth by the badass senator Elizabeth Warren. In it, she recommends setting aside 50% of your money for expenses, 20% for savings, and 30% for spending. Who doesn't love a budget that includes spending money on things worth splurging for? 

Now that I mostly have a handle on my finances, I no longer feel the guilt of buying something not knowing if I can actually afford it. The best part has really been the realization that buying a bunch of cheap things over time adds up. Well duh. But that means I can afford the more luxurious things I want if I save a little and stop buying crap. That's what I've been doing or trying to do and it's allowed me to splurge a little on the things below. P.S. you can read more about how I budget here.


For the first time in my grown-up life, I have been getting my haircut every six weeks. In college, I couldn't really afford and by that I mean I didn't want to spend the limited money I had at the salon. I would go a few time a year and trim or cut my hair myself in between. Then I got a job with a paycheck and realized a good haircut is both something I could afford and wanted to splurge on. While I was living in Japan, I went to the salon down the street where a super cute Japanese woman cut my hair and trimmed my eyebrows. Now that I'm back in the states I was a little shocked to discover that haircuts cost a little more in the big city. But I found a reasonably affordable place and the lady I work with does an even better job with my hair. Total win. 


I know every woman has a problem area to shop for, whether it's big feet, short legs, or tiny boobs. Sometimes the clothes we want and need just don't come in our size. When I embraced my small chest size a few years ago, I gave up my ill-fitting and gaping bras for lace and silk bralettes. When I decided it was again time for me to have at least one minimally padded and underwired bra, I splurged. I couldn't find anything my size in the big retail stores and began to wonder if bras were even made for women like me. Then I stopped in the upscale lingerie boutique in my hometown and discovered this is where all the little bras had been hiding. I went home with a lovely little number by Natori. I was out $64, but I've worn it nearly every day since. In my opinion, money well spent. In fact, I was so happy I blogged about it here.

my adorable teapot

my adorable teapot

tea + honey

I love tea, even more so in winter. In part, because colds are going around and nothing feels better for a sore throat then gobs of lemon and honey. My favorite is a black tea with fresh ginger and lemon juice and a healthy tablespoon of honey. I'm particular about my tea and honey. Ever since learning about the nasty pesticide residue on conventional tea, I've switched to organic. I also don't care for the plastic tea bags that have been increasing in popularity. I used to live in a small town with a terrific little herb boutique where loose leaf teas could be bought in bulk. I hope to find something like that again in the SF area. Honey is also a delicacy I love to splurge on. I simply love the smell and taste of a good honey and beekeepers are folks I'm happy to give my support.


Giving takes so many forms and it's something I want to incorporate into my lifestyle. Most recently I started giving my time by volunteering at my local library bookstore. I've also been tipping the barista who makes my tea and coffee on the mornings I take the train into the city and yesterday I gave a dollar to the woman who is always singing and playing her guitar at the subway station. I'm also planning which books to donate to a holiday themed book drive for families in need. I'm leaning towards The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and I Am Malala the young reader's edition. How do you give?

What are some of your seasonal splurges and how do you budget for them?