Christmas – Handmade Presents

Gingerbread Boxes and Mason Jars

I promise not to bombard you Chrimbo posts but realistically if you’re hoping to make some presents this year you’ll need to get moving and so here is some early inspiration to help get you organised. One bit of advice; don’t overload yourself with making handmade presents for everyone. Just pick one or two, otherwise come December you’ll resent what seemed a very clever idea in November.

It’s fair to say that the gingerbread boxes and mason jars pictured above are for the accomplished baker. If you’d like to give these a try you can find a step-by-step tutorial on the source website Recipe Tin Eats, just skip the cellophane wrapper, which is not recyclable, and wrap in compostable greaseproof paper instead.

Vegan Mincemeat

Store bought mince meat is generally full of palm oil, which due to unsustainable farming methods contributes to rainforest deforestation and extinction of orangutans. Not very festive! So make your own. The link I’ve included here is for Vegan Mincement. I’m not vegetarian nevermind a vegan but I’m always looking to reduce my meat intake particularly when it won’t be missed in a dish, and personally I don’t believe mincement really needs suet (meat fat) in it to make it delicious. And if you want to be extra sustainable you can source organic package free ingredients from zero waste supplier Bring Your Own

I love these paper Christmas Tree Decorations from Sostrene Green and think they’d make a quirky gift for a houseproud friend.

 

Ombre Yarn Letter

Yarn Letters seems to be all the rage at the moment and you can pick up wooden or cardboard letters in most craft shops. Or if you’re feeling particularly frugal you could make your own from scrap cardboard. If you opt for this I’d suggest doubling up on the cardboard to make it rigid and using cotton, bamboo or natural wool and paper flowers will make your cute Christmas present compostable too!

Flower Decorated Letter

I also love this flower decorated letter and as above using paper flowers would make this gift more sustainable, and nicer in my opinion, than plastic flowers.

Headphone Holder

These cute headphone holders are available to buy from a crafter in Russua on Etsy but I think they’d be super easy to make with some small pieces of leather or felt and a snap fastener.

Planted Winebox

For the Green Fingered how about recycling an old wine box into a planter? Unfortunately in Ireland it’s not possible to buy plants grown without pesticides but you can make the gift more sustainable by choosing hardy perennials that will last year to year or annuals that self seed, like winter pansies. And if you can consider buying from The Green Kitchen Cafe and Garden Centre in Walkinstown, which supports and trains a number of people who have disabilities.

For more ideas check out our blog post on Christmas Crafts the Easy Way from last year.

E

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Shampoo Bars – the Verdict

 

Organic soap

One of the first products I tried on my journey to zero waste was a shampoo bar from Lush and, despite it’s price, I was a convert. I loved the fact that I could buy it without packaging, save a sticker saying how much it was. Well that was over a year ago and now I’m back on the bottled shampoo, why?

Lush Trichomania Shampoo Bar

After using Lush’s Trichomania shampoo bar for approximately 6 months I started to develop really bad eczema on my feet of all places! Obviously the residue of the shampoo was landing there and creating an issue.

AB Studios Shampoo Bar

So I hunted around for an alternative shampoo bar and decided upon a transitioning shampoo bar from AB Studio which I bought at the Zero Waste Festival in June. I really liked the smell of this soap and it lathered up very well but my hair definitely didn’t like it. I was told that it can take hair a while to get used to their shampoo bars so I persevered for 5 weeks, at the end of which my crown was lank and greasy and my ends were straw-like. Not a good look!

Airmid Lemon and Chamomile Shampoo Bar

I then sourced a lovely Lemon & Chamomile shampoo bar from Airmid, which I bought in South William St Pharmacy on Dublin 2. Again a lovely smell and a bar that lathered up really well. The first wash looked promising, my hair felt lighter and smoother, but after a few more washes I was back at square one with a lank, greasy crown.

Fed up looking like a cross between a bag a chips and a scarecrow I gave in and used Faith in Nature’s Aloe Vera shampoo, which I can get refilled in Hopsack in Rathmines, D6. Finally I had hair that I didn’t have to hide away in a pony tail anymore.

I think the problem wasn’t so much with the bars themselves – except for the Lush one, which I think was a direct cause of my eczema – I think the hardness of the water in my area was causing the soap in the shampoo bars to form a scum on my hair, which wasn’t being rinsed away.  Perhaps someone living in a soft water area wouldn’t have the same issue.

I will say that I thought the smell from the shampoo bars were all fantastic and I felt that the soap from AB Studio’s seemed to reduce the least of all of the bars I tested, with the Airmid bar a close second. I found the Lush soap melted away extremely quickly and although the cheapest initially cost me the most in the long run.

All in all I’m going back to liquid shampoo, for now.

E

PS – To give you some context here is my hair washing routine. I have long fine hair that I wash 2-3 times a week and I use a vinegar rinse of 1.5 tblsp of Organic Apple cider vinegar to a pint of water. I’ve been using this vinegar rinse for over a year now. I have slightly sensitive skin and have had eczema from time to time but it’s not a regular issue for me.

Re-homing Stuff Online

collectables

Since I decluttered my upstairs I’ve been slowly rehoming all  items I no longer need or love. This has turned out to be quite addictive. The joy of empty space has encouraged me to let go of more than expected. I do have one rule though; I will only rehome an item if I believe it’s going to prevent the purchase of a new item. For that reason what I rehome has to be in good condition and rehomed through the right outlet.

Most people think of charity shops when they want to rehome items and they are great for items in perfect condition of a general nature, i.e. clothes, accessories, homeware. They are not good for specific things, bulky things, or things not easily recognised.  I’ve previously listed what to recycle where, which will give you a general idea of how best to recycle and donate more unusual things. In that post I mention using online market places to rehome items but not how. That’s what this post is about!

The best know online market place if of course eBay, and this is still the best place to sell rare items or items of high value. I don’t tend to use eBay because I don’t, 1) have items of high value, 2) want to get into posting items and 3) be paid via PayPal. Because I prefer the collect and cash option I use Irish online market places. I’ve tried rehoming on Done Deal, Adverts, Gumtree, Jumbletown (free items only) and Freetrade (free items only) and my fav is Adverts. I’ve found that it has the most users and so things tend to go quicker on it. I also like that my contact details are published and that you can see the rating of bidders. Other websites that I haven’t tried yet and might be worth considering include Add and Flog It

Rehoming things online is far more time consuming that donating to charity shops so here are my tips for maximising your success rate.

  • Time your ads. Most people seem to check online market places in the evening so upload your ads then. Avoid uploading at weekends as there is generally little traffic then, except for Sunday night when people seem to go online again.
  • The first day you post the item will generally be when you get the most interest, because the item is listed high on the category. Try and find a buyer then if at all possible because once the item goes off the first search page it’s harder to rehome. 
  • Include the brand name, model name and number in the description if you can. It’ll mean your item pops up if someone googles an item, meaning you might unintentionally win someone over to second-hand shopping!
  • If you can list the retail price of an item and include a link to it on sale at full price somewhere. It gives buyers a reference point.
  • Take good photos and include photos and description of any damage. It’ll make the transaction go smoother and avoid time wasters. I also include a note to say that people can view before making a final decision. I think this just makes people feel more comfortable about buying.
  • Bundle items of low value. People often won’t travel for, let’s say, one run-of-the-mill cookery book, but they’ll probably bite for 5 of them.
  • Sell things seasonally. It may seem obvious but Hallowe’en stuff sells in September, garden stuff sells in March etc.
  • If I’m selling something I generally price it at a quarter of its retail price. This won’t be appropriate to everything but it seems to work for me. My goal in pricing things is generally not to make money, although that’s nice, it’s to rehome the item to someone who genuinely wants it so I price the item accordingly.
  • I generally only accept cash on collection – it’s the least hassle. I will not accept a lower offer at the door; an agreement is an agreement. Be wary also of people who ‘don’t have the right amount’ and you’re faced with taking less than you agreed. A genuine person would offer to go to a local shop and get the right amount. I aim to have change but I’m not always that organised.
  • Accept that some bidders will be buying to sell your item on. I don’t mind this. I don’t have the time / interest to do it myself so if they do more power to their elbow, as long as it’s keeping the item out of landfill and reducing consumption of new items I’m happy.
  • Be careful about offering stuff for free, unless it’s completely valueless. I’ve found that there are a higher proportion of messers and hoarders in the free section. I’ve started to ask for €1 where possible just to avoid time wasters and to make sure the person collecting the item really wants it.
  • I tend not to accept an offer until I know the person can collect that week because I’ve been stung accepting an offer and then waiting for people to arrange collection and the longer an ad is up the less likely it is to sell.
  • Don’t give your address until you’ve arranged a collection time. It’s a small thing but I don’t want a stranger with my address knowing when I’m not home.
  • As with everything in life break down rehoming into bite size chunks. I aim to list 1-2 items a week. This makes the task manageable, plus it means my older items might get a view as people click ‘more items by this seller’ on every new ad.

 

E

Ps – I’ve started a Living Lightly in Ireland Facebook page, where I’ll be posting tit-bits of info not big enough for blog posts.

Sustainable-ish Hallowe’en – Food & Table Decorations

 

Booscotti Biscuits

I love a good party, and to be honest I like the planning as much as the attending. My life doesn’t currently lend itself to night-time parties so we tend to invite people over to daytime treats instead. Not as often as I’d like as something always seems to get in the way, but I suppose that’s everyone’s life these days.

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Sustainable-ish Hallowe’en Costumes, Decorations & Treats

Hallowe'en Apothocary Display

Halloween used to be my favourite time of the year. It was the one holiday that didn’t involve buying copious amounts of gifts and seem to involve more fun than preparation. Well I can no longer say that this is the case. I have found that avoiding plastic at Halloween is impossible if you’re going to participate in the celebrations, particularly when you have children who don’t buy into the whole Zero Waste idea.

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Conker Laundry Liquid – Recipe and Verdict

conkers

Zero Waste chatter lately has all been a buzz about using conkers (horse chestnuts) to make Laundry liquid. The word on the street is that they’re a more sustainable alternative to soap nuts, which are flown to us from half-way around the world. Apparently conkers contain the same soap-like substance as soap nuts, saponin. So challenge set all I needed to do was find some conkers!

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Easy Peasy Homemade Rough Puff Pastry

Easy Peasy Homemade Rough Puff Pastry

Trying to live more sustainably has meant saying goodbye to some of our favourite foodstuff, or at least seeing them less frequently. This has often been beneficial to our health, waistlines and pockets but it doesn’t make the farewell any easier. One of those things has been pies and pastry because I haven’t been able to find affordable all-butter puff pastry without plastic easily.

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Plant one Veg this Autumn – Garlic

garlic bulb

It happens all to often. We have the best of intentions and then life interrupts. We swore we’d start growing veg this year and never quite got around to it. Well it’s not too late so I’m setting you a challenge; before Hallowe’en plant some garlic. They’re super easy to grow and now is the perfect time to plant them. You don’t even need a veg patch, a container will do fine.

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Organic Cotton and Natural Latex Mattress

organic latex mattress

 

It’s really not easy finding sustainable plastic-free products in Ireland. It’s still a niche market and I spend way more time than I’d like to admit hunting down ‘healthier’ alternatives to synthetic, chemical-laden mainstream offerings. One area that’s proven to be particularly tricky is the area of mattresses but after a huge amount of research I was delighted one made by an Irish company in Ireland from natural latex, lambswool with an organic cotton covering.

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