Friday, December 19, 2014

5 Tips for Low Waste Gift Wrapping

I used to have a wrapping paper problem. Every year I would find the cutest holiday wrapping paper, which usually involved a furry animal and snowflakes, bring it home and wrap away without much thought. As Christmas gifts were opened my family would fill at least an entire garbage bag with wrapping paper, ribbons and bows.

This year I've been giving plenty of thought to how I can reduce waste during this gracious time of giving. Unwrapping a gift is fun for both the recipient and the person giving, so we won’t scrooge around and ditch wrapping all together, although that would be the most green solution.

Reusable bag is an easy solution to low waste gift wrapping via The Sunshine Grove
Make the wrapping part of the gift with a reusable bag.

1. When the wrapping is part of the gift, it is 100% waste free and a time saver. No need to wrap a bag in a bag, just add a tag and you are done. Think canvas bags or home sewn zipper bags that can be used as make up bags or pencil cases. If you have more than one gift for the recipient, fit it inside the bag and tie it off with a tag.

Kraft paper is a blank canvas - personalize the wrapping with a topper or get creative via The Sunshine Grove
Kraft paper is a blank canvas - personalize the wrapping with a topper or get creative

2. The clean and classic look of kraft paper or even reused paper bags is one of my favorites. If it is too plain for your style you can easily dress it up with a nature inspired topper or stamps. Dots with the back end of a pencil is an easy at home DIY. Best of all you can compost that trash!

Furoshiki wrapping cloths can be used to wrap just about anything
Furoshiki wrapping cloths can be used to wrap just about anything

3. Furoshiki is a Japanese wrapping cloth used to wrap all sorts of things. Traditionally it was used to wrap up clothes and bento box lunches, but nowadays is used to wrap up gifts in a way that can be reused over and over again without creating waste. No tape or ribbon needed since the fabric is tied together with folding and knots. Like origami, but with a surprise inside.

Reuse your Christmas bags again and again. Just remember to collect them once the gifts are open via The Sunshine Grove
Reuse your Christmas bags again and again. Just remember to collect them once the gifts are open

4. Last year’s holiday bags work great for this year’s gifts. As they unwrap their gifts, my family has been subjected to me shouting “Don’t throw the bag away. Give me the tissue paper. I’ll fold it.” As a result we have a stash of holiday bags and tissue paper from the last few years that we reuse so we avoid buying new bags.

If you have wrapping paper use it as your last option via The Sunshine Grove
If you have wrapping paper use it as your last option
5. Remember when I mentioned I used to collect cute holiday wrapping paper? Well I haven’t used it all. In fact I had 5 unused rolls laying around. The wrapping paper is only for gifts leaving our home, where I cannot control how it will be disposed of. That doesn't excuse the waste, just makes it someone else’s trash. TOTALLY KIDDING! Wrapping paper you have stashed away can be used and recycled, but consider a greener alternative when you run out.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Eco Conscious Holiday Gift Guide

‘Tis the season to be conscious. Conscious of where money is being spent and what exactly it is buying. Eco Conscious shopping can become complicated since it has a different meaning to each consumer. My trick for headache free, stress free eco friendly shopping is shop local and shop small. By shopping local you are supporting your local economy which is always a positive. It what you are looking for isn’t available locally, consider shopping small. Small businesses value the uniqueness of their handcrafted products, and always appreciate the business.

If you are wondering how shipping a product just to shop small is eco friendly, consider that many small businesses source their materials locally rather than importing. Read the about page or reach out to the small business to find out how their product is eco friendly and if they use recycled materials when shipping.

Need help getting started? Here are a few Orange County local small businesses that incorporate eco friendly approach into the making of their products.

Hogan's Goats' cashmere accessories via The Sunshine Grove
Hogan's Goat's cashmere accessories made from repurposed vintage cashmere sweaters
Molly of Hogan’s Goat repurposes vintage cashmere sweaters into hats, scarves, pillows and throws. As a fellow vintage lover, Molly started giving new life to sweaters by creating her own patterns and putting every piece of the garment to work. She uses turtlenecks to create scarves, sleeves to make wrist warmers and any scraps stuff plushies. I loved the way she used textured pieces for her berets. They are soft, warm and a great accessory for winter.

I Must Draw repurposed wool stuffed animals via The Sunshine Grove
I Must Draw cards on recycled paper and repurposed wool stuffed animals.
Knowing that recycling fabrics is the responsible thing to do, Desiree of I Must Draw decided to upcycle wool clothing into stuffed animals. By repurposing wool fabrics she is able to create unique toys that are one of a kind, as well as eco friendly. Desiree also designs whimsical greeting cards that are printed on 100% recycled paper. I have a feeling her woodland creatures would approve.

Greenleaf Avenue Candles via The Sunshine Grove
Greenleaf Avenue Candles come in vintage glassware
Vintage glassware is always so unique. It comes in different colors, shapes and sizes. Sara of Greenleaf Avenue Candles fills beautiful vintage glassware with her handcrafted soy candles. Upcycling vintage glassware not only gave these pieces new life as candles, but the glassware can be reused after the candle has burned down.

Handmade Heatherly repurposed cardigans via The Sunshine Grove
Handmade Heatherly repurposed cardigans
No one loves cardigans more than me. When I recently spotted Handmade Heatherly cardigans at a craft show, I thought she had a great upcycling idea. Heather takes thrifted cardigans and gives them new life by adding lace collars, pockets, elbow patches, stencils and fabric paint, pop poms and anything else she finds to be cute. “When you’re thrifting it really is like a treasure hunt looking for the perfect pieces, the pieces you’re meant to have or find,” Heather explains.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Dogs, vintage and repurposing – all things I love that can be found at Charmed Menagerie. It was because of these 3 details that I found Melissa’s Etsy shop. Coincidentally, she lives in Anaheim as well. Her charm bracelets are adorned with vintage, or personal dog tags and mixed with beads and filigree. Dog tags really are a dog’s jewelry. To wear it, especially after losing a pet, is to wear their last physical attribute. Maybe it is because I am a dog lover, or that I recently lost my Aussie, but Melissa’s charm bracelets are not just upcycling, but uplifting. Here’s her story.

Hi, I am Melissa, owner and jewelry designer of Charmed Menagerie on Etsy and my website: I love Natalie’s blog because I am all about upcycling, recycling and salvaging. My Elliott family lived out in the country and my Wallace clan came from Scotland. They lived by the motto of “use it up, make it do, or do without”.  I have so many antique and vintage treasures because they took care of their things and made them last. I grew up on stories from my Grandma Alice about “making do”. During the Depression my Mom had to have white tennis shoes for a school gym program but all she had was black tennis shoes. Grandma opened up a can of white paint . . . problem solved. They cut down old adult coats to make new coats for their children, wrapped bolted lettuce in newspaper for family to take home so they could save the seeds and plant them in their garden, and saved every scrap of brown paper and string so they never had to buy packaging. Grandma Alice also wrote on the back of every picture I have hanging on my walls so I knew what family member it had originally belonged to, as well as the bottom of every honey jar and dish. Her house was an eclectic treasure trove of turtle shells, pheasant feathers, dried flowers and herbs, scraps of fabric for dolly clothes, and lots and lots of jars of all shapes and sizes.

I inherited a number of pieces of vintage costume jewelry pieces from my grandmother, some of which had belonged to my great grandmother. That piqued my interest in vintage jewelry and as a young mother I would go thrifting and antiquing for more, collecting some lovely old pieces. I was always in a quandary about what to do with the little bits and bobs I had inherited that were missing stones, clasps, or were broken, as well as some single earrings, etc. The answer was vintage assemblage, a form of jewelry making where you take parts of vintage jewelry pieces and combine them with other parts and end up with a beautiful one of a kind vintage piece. I started taking vintage assemblage jewelry classes at a wonderful shop in Fullerton, Gilding the Lily, and began making my own vintage assemblage jewelry.

One day I was randomly shopping on Etsy for some vintage elements and found a listing of colorful old aluminum dog tags covered with solder. They just spoke to me. I made them into a charm bracelet, pairing them with some vintage curb chain, a Scottie dog charm, and vintage glass beads. I listed the bracelet on Etsy, wondering the entire time if anyone else would see the charm and whimsy in these beat up old dog tags. To my great surprise, the bracelet sold quickly and my vintage dog tag charm bracelet business was born. I do all kinds of vintage assemblage jewelry but I always have a soft spot for my dog and cat jewelry. Last year my husband and I rescued a little Maltipoo, Winston, who oddly enough came from a pit bull rescue. We just adore him. Because I love animals and want to give back, for every order over $100 I donate 10% to an animal rescue group. Donating to animal rescues has given an even more satisfying dimension to my jewelry.

If you are ever in West Anaheim stop by and meet Winston, sift through my glorious collection of vintage glass beads, vintage dog tags, vintage earrings, and all kinds of lovely old bits and pieces, check out my organic garden and share a bottle of our home-brewed kombucha. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Luna in the Stars

The Sunshine Grove's Luna in the Stars logo
With the encouragement of family and friends who have heard me advocate for chemical and plastic free skin care, I am thrilled to introduce Luna in the Stars skin care products. I will be handcrafting the products I use myself, and making them available for anyone looking for eco-friendly skin care.

I will be launching Luna in the Stars with two of my favorite products: vegetable based eye makeup remover and lavender sugar scrub. Alongside the skin care products will be hand sewn reusable cotton flannel rounds that take the place of disposable cotton balls, which can be used with the eye makeup remover or to apply toner.

Luna in the Stars will be available on Small Business Saturday at RSSA Vintage & at Voici Holiday Pop Up Shop during the month of December. Both are located at 423 S Brookhurst St in Anaheim, CA.

The Sunshine Grove presents Luna in the Stars skin care

In the meantime, cue up the elevator pitch please:

The Sunshine Grove believes in providing the most eco friendly products while cutting down on waste and the use of plastics. Whenever possible we try to source our materials locally, reducing our carbon footprint, and supporting other local businesses. We believe in nourishing our bodies from the outside with chemical free products that come from nature.

Luna in the Stars skin care products are vegetable based and handcrafted using oils without synthetic preservatives. We are proud to offer simple and clean skin care products for everyday use. Our products are packaged in glass containers that can be reused again and again. To encourage the reuse of our containers we offer a 50 cent credit on our customer’s next purchase with the return of one of our empty containers. Any paper products used for packaging are made of recycled material and can be composted.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

America Recycles Day

Today we are going to talk about 3 things; recycling, our welfare and convenience. Last year President Obama’s America Recycles Day proclamation, opened with some sustainably vintage facts: “During the First and Second world Wars, Americans showed their patriotism by participating in scrap drives and salvage collections. A committed citizenry gave up their personal typewriters, joined in volunteer efforts to harvest oil-producing peanuts, and donated old tires in a nationwide push to conserve and repurpose resources vital to our common welfare.”

What it meant to recycle back in the early 20th century is much different than what recycling means today. Back then it was about taking kitchen grease, donating it to your local war office and having it sent to a factory where it was broken down and repurposed into ammunitions. A little dark, but it fits the bill for the true meaning of recycling. These days consumers are encouraged to recycle plastics, because let’s face it, plastic is all around us. Without plastic packaging the things we buy would just spill all over the place. All jokes aside, a majority of the food, drinks and products that most Americans buy is wrapped in plastic, unwrapped at home and hopefully tossed in the recycle bin.

But then what? Remember, according to that proclamation recycling our goods is vital to our common welfare. Let me remind you that our welfare is defined as “the state of being happy, healthy, or successful.” So recycling really means convenience, right? Say you walk into a grocery store for an apple and this grocery store individually wraps their apples in plastic for your convenience. It’s been prewashed and ready to eat after you unwrap it, which makes you happy to not have to eat a dirty apple or have to find a place to wash it. It’s healthy because it’s fruit, and feels like success because you’ve just contributed to your healthy eating and it didn’t take too much effort.

The real effort came in making that piece of plastic in the first place, followed by the energy used to recycle it. When you compare the amount of fossil fuels and energy it takes for the convenience of a clean apple versus purchasing an apple just in its skin, giving it a good rinse and then enjoying it, take the second choice. It’s better for the environment.

Don’t get me wrong, I think recycling is great, but don’t give yourself a reason to recycle out of convenience. The 2013 proclamation asks for activism, for “a new generation of environmental stewards.” Today I ask you, can you go without that plastic? Can you do without the conveniences plastic has given us for the sake of being gentler on the environment?

If you are looking for a (excellent) rant about America Recycles Day, visit Tree Hugger.