eco-friendly efforts at the holidays.

    December 11, 2017

    zero-waste efforts at the holidays | reading my tea leavesWe’re in the thick of what’s arguably the most indulgent time of year. I’m not here to tell you to lay off the egg nog or the gingerbread cookies, but I thought it might be nice to draw up a simple list of ways that we can all think about keeping principals of environmental stewardship and general eco-mindedness top-of-mind during a moment in the year when there can be a lot of extra wastefulness. 

    These are simple steps—they won’t halt climate change or change policies—but I think that if we all committed to them together, we’d still be headed in the right direction.
    zero-waste efforts at the holidays | reading my tea leavesHerewith, ten simple eco-friendly habits to embrace this holiday season:

    Bring your hot chocolate in a thermos to-go. Maybe you haven’t quite gotten into the habit of toting your thermos around for your morning coffee. Now’s the moment. Get yourself a mug to go, fill ‘er up with mulled wine or cocoa and bring it along to Christmas caroling or tree-hunting. If you have a loved one who needs some encouragement, consider a gift of a thermos. 

    Take public transportation. Weigh your holiday travel options and see if there’s a way to reduce your footprint. If you’re not in the habit of taking public transit, see if you can work out a trip to the local festival of lights via subway or bus. Look into train fare instead of taking the car. Carpool with friends to the office party. Bundle up and take a festive walk instead of warming up the car engine.

    Mimic Mother Nature. From artificial trees, to tinsel, to bits of faux holly and ivy, there are a lot of resources poured into creating facsimiles of things that can be found in nature. If you have the option, forage what you can from your own backyard or roadside for free or support a local tree farmer or nursery and buy a fresh or living tree. If what you make can be composted at the end of the season, well, all the better.

    Eat your greens and feast locally. In the Northeast at least, many farmers have put most of their garden beds to rest for the winter, but there are still lots of ways to rely on local larders for festive meals. Consider supporting nearby farmers and planning meals around winter squashes, winter greens, and locally raised meats and fish. If thoughtfully raised meat is prohibitively expensive—and even if it’s not—consider a veggie-heavy holiday meal instead.

    Crowd-source supplies for your holiday party. It’s the season of festive gathering, and thank goodness, but all of these gatherings can produce a lot of unnecessary waste if left unchecked. Consider crowd-sourcing your holiday party supplies. Ask friends to bring extra cutlery. Tap your neighbor for an extra set of wine glasses. Have everyone tie a bit of colored yarn or ribbon to their glass to keep track of it. Try for creativity instead of disposability, and I almost guarantee the result will be a more beautiful gathering. (It will definitely be a less wasteful one.)

    Bring a cloth-wrapped dish. Whether you’re toting a plate of cookies—or a tray of lasagne—consider a reusable wrapping when bringing a dish to a party. There are circumstances that call for shoring up a casserole with tin foil, but I’ve found that the majority of the time, all you need is a square cloth tied furoshiki style, or a bit of Beeswrap (or similar) to safely transport your culinary contribution without spilling. (Who cares if the cloth gets mussed a little bit? Bring it home again and give it a wash!) If the cookies are a gift itself, consider wrapping them up in a bag that becomes part of the gift, too.

    Say no to new plastic. Controlling everything that comes into your home without becoming known as the zero-waste Scrooge can be a challenge, but if encouraging friends and family to follow in your footsteps feels overwhelming, or just plain impossible, focus on your own efforts. From stocking stuffers to décor, commit to a plastic-free holiday. Setting a blanket goal like that—even if it feels daunting at first—helps me to get inspired to rise to the challenge. And remember, plastic-free doesn’t have to mean precious.

    Eschew the shiny wrappings. Make your best effort to wrap gifts in reusable and recyclable options and if you *are* buying new wrapping paper, leave the shiny stuff at the store and opt for something that’s recyclable—or better yet, reusable.

    Give gifts of experience. I’ve written a lot about encouraging philosophies of gift giving that encourage fewer gifts and more thought. Some of my favorite kinds of gifts are gifts of experience. A dinner out, a movie in the theatre, tickets to an exhibit—these are gifts that don’t create waste, but certainly create joy. Others are gifts that gently shift habits. Whatever you give, consider the end result from a perspective of sustainability. If you think the gift is ultimately headed to a landfill, consider an alternative.

    Give back to the planet. Use the holidays as a chance to renew your commitment to supporting environmental causes. Consider setting aside funds for a small monthly donation, or, if extra cash isn’t something that’s readily available, plan a regular volunteer effort, like a beach or park cleanup, that you can commit to as a family.

    my week in objects (mostly).

    December 8, 2017

    five little things that made my week.

    1. this top-of-the-fridge storage spot.

    {now with cleaner lines and calmed down colors. like breath of fresh air for the darkest corner of the apartment.}

    2. this greenery.

    {just like every single year. never not happy to track paperwhite progress.}

    3. this new jar of honey.

    {nothing so good as that first teaspoonful.}

    4. these empty paperclips.

    {and counting down days.}

    5. cinnamon stars.

    {year two, no glue required.}

    other things:

    bundle up.

    workplace rage.

    you had me at gingerbread humans.

    earth tiles.

    yes to all this.


    a holiday shop.

    to help california fire victims: send money.

    firewomen (not for the faint of heart.)

    300% (neither this.)

    me in other places:

    I’m so excited to announce that I was selected as the small-space winner of the 2017 Design Blogger Awards hosted by Domino. If you’d like, you can read the profile right this way. Huge thanks to everyone who voted and to Domino for the honor. I’m so very grateful for your support.

    life in a tiny apartment.

    December 7, 2017

    small apartment christmas tree | reading my tea leaves

    Survival Tip #159: Put your Christmas tree in a crate.

    Last week, on Thursday, after both kids were fast asleep, James and I poured a festive glass of cider and sat down to scribble ideas for this year’s advent calendar. But as we brainstormed advent merriment, we became sidetracked by a conversation about the Christmas tree. Could we have one this year?  Would 11-month-old Silas topple it over? Is this the kind of thing that only parents in our generation even worry about? Surely parents of years past would have just put up a tree, covered it in glass ornaments, and sat back with a mug of spiked egg nog to enjoy the splendor, no?

    Well. I can’t speak for everyone, but my sample size of two—my very own parents—reminded me that even hippy parents who generally threw caution to the wind took some minor precautionary measures around wannabe walking babies and toppling trees. And so would we.

    We’d perch the tree on my dresser, we decided. We’d stick it in the crate where we normally store cookbooks. The cookbooks would go into the crate where we normally store shoes. The shoes would be a little more crammed than usual in the crates we keep in the closet. In other words, it would require some crate rejiggering, but not a wholesale furniture rearrange, and so we committed and then doubled down. We’d get the tree that very night. Hop to.

    Our plan required swapping our metal stand for a sturdy plastic one without feet. James stole out into the Brooklyn night and purchased both tree and stand from the kindly Christmas tree vendor around the corner. He Facetimed me with his fir finds. I nodded a vigorous yes to one that looked sufficiently spindly. James tossed it over his shoulder (saying a polite no to the plastic netting) and was back home twenty minutes later with what might be the very favorite tree we’ve ever had—acquired by way of uniquely modern marvel, but festooned with a bit of old-fashioned charm.

    All this to say, if you’re in a small space this year, or every year, consider a tree in a crate, perched upon an existing piece of furniture and strung up with whatever makes you happy. Merry everything.

    Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – #158 RIGHT THIS WAY.

  • gifts to hone skills.

    One perfect cast iron skillet + a shortstack of cookbooks for improving someone’s dinner game. A pom-pom hat to finish before spring. A maple hand loom + some roving for passing a long quiet winter. A mason…

    December 6, 2017 16 Comments
  • knits from elizabeth suzann.

    This post is sponsored by Elizabeth Suzann, a clothing label committed to finding comfort in clothing. “You’re wearing a sweater to bed, Mama?” Faye was equal parts enthralled and scandalized when I slipped into her bed…

    December 5, 2017 31 Comments
  • white bean soup.

    It’s the time of year for soup. Not just because it’s chilly and because soup feels cozy and warm, but also because it’s easy to make, nourishing to eat, and, best of all, simple…

    December 4, 2017 22 Comments
  • my week in objects (mostly).

    five little things that made my week.  1. this crate. {for offering a non-terrible baby-proofed tree option.} 2. these envelopes. {all strung up.} 3. this woolly number. {and getting to pass it along to…

    December 1, 2017 6 Comments
  • a book advent calendar.

    We’ll be stringing up our clutter-free advent calendar (and filling it with festive (and activist) activities for the holiday season) again this year, but with so many whisperings from folks we know planning picture book advent…

    November 30, 2017 45 Comments
  • 25 simple gifts under $25, for anyone.

    In the same spirit as the kid’s guide from earlier this week, here’s a list of ideas for gifts to give grownups. The specifics here aren’t as important as the general notion that gifts don’t…

    November 29, 2017 18 Comments