Replacing Electronics- Cut Down on Your Energy Usage

The United States’ residential electric usage sits around 1.44 trillion killowatthours (kWh) according to a 2019 statistic from the U.S. Energy Information Association. 1.44 is a lot of energy, and that’s only or residential usage. 1.44 kWh doesn’t account for industrial, commercial, or transportation usage. All of that combined puts us in second place for the highest energy consumption per year only behind China.

Currently the U.S. gets most of it’s electricity from natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy according to the U.S. Department of Energy; however, steps have been made to move towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources like wind turbines, solar plants, and geothermal energy. Even so, U.S. energy consumption is expected to rise gradually over time and everyone being stuck in their homes isn’t helping.

To do your part and combat the effects of excessive energy consumption if you live in an area that depends on less sustainable energy sources, there are some simple everyday steps you can take to live a more eco-friendly life.

My favorite way to cut down on energy consumption is to replace electronics with cost-effective, manual-use items. This not only helps me cut down on electricity consumption, it also helps me be more mindful of the products I use and consume. More-or-less, it helps me to live simply and be more kind to the planet.

Here are a few ways you can cut down on your energy consumption!

Use a french press instead of a coffee machine- This has become one of my favorite morning routines, albeit I’m not yet a master of the french press. My sister will tell you, you’d be lucky not to get coffee ground in your coffee when I make it. Instead of using the coffee machine in the morning, or plugging one in over night on a timer, we use a french press which isn’t an electric appliance at all. Beyond helping us cut down on electricity usage, the french press also helps me to be more conscious in my morning of how much I’m making and allows me to care more about the process. This has also helped us cut down on our use of items like disposable coffee pods and coffee filters. It’s a win all around.

Hang dry your clothes instead of using the dryer- I have never been a very big fan of laundry racks, but will do it when it’s reasonable. A simple laundry rack costs about $16.00 at Target, and there’s always a variety at other stores as well. The reasons why I’m not very keen on this method is that it takes clothes far longer to dry than in the dryer, and it takes up a lot of space depending on how much laundry you do per load. However, it does help cut down on the energy that would have been used while running the dryer for upwards of an hour per load.

Use candles/open windows instead of lamps- Who doesn’t love some fresh air and a delightfully scented seasonal candle? NO ONE! In our house the lights only get switched on if necessary when the sun goes down. Any other time of the day, we leave the blinds open on our windows and burn candles for light (and for a peaceful ambiance). One of the first things most people think of when they try and identify their energy consumption is that they leave lights on often during the day, and for the most part it just isn’t necessary. Switching from overhead lights and lamps to natural light and candles is a nice way to be a more conscious energy consumer.

Take a walk instead of using the hair dryer- This one is great both for decreasing energy consumption and for your mental and physical health. Sure it won’t get you that blowout you see in the magazines, but it will defiantly give you a nice windswept look. One of the biggest reasons hair dryers made this list is there one of the only items that will almost always cause a blown fuse. If it’s using enough energy to blow a fuse, it’s using too much energy. Aside from that it can be so nice to get out and get some fresh air, and I know, being stuck inside these last few months, we could all use a little more time in the sun. Go out and get all the nice crisp fall air you can and let your hair dry naturally. It’s healthier for your hair as well.

BONUS TIP: Designate one set of outlets in each room that can be used for plugged in objects. If you can only use two outlets at a time, you’ll be more conscious of your energy usage. Unplug anything that is not actively in use and prioritize what you’ll need charged or actively need to use.

Hopefully some of these ideas have struck a cord with you! These little ways in which we can cut down on energy usage can have a huge difference in the long run if we all do our part. And these are just small ideas, beyond these there are so many ways you can go even further in to cutting down your energy consumption in your home or in your community. Your wallet will thank you when the electric bill comes, and the planet will that you every single day.

Let me know: How do you cut down on your energy consumption in your day-to-day life? Have you found any tips or tricks to be particularly helpful in your endeavor to be more eco-friendly with your energy usage?

Top 3 Recipes: Cooking For the Entire Week On A Budget

As a recent college graduate and a current unemployed person, in these last few years I’ve been looking to save money wherever I can. And, honestly, who isn’t?

One of the biggest money drains I have to budget for is my groceries. I eat gluten and soy free, and those specialty foods can get incredibly prices. I mean $6 for a half-loaf of bread? You gotta be kidding me! I try and pass those items as often as I can, and use them sparingly when I do buy them, but still it makes budgeting tricky.

Over these last few years, I have compiled some pretty stellar recipes that don’t require any specialty items and can last almost an entire weeks worth of meals. Depending on where you shop (I shop primarily at Aldi), these recipes can be made for under $10 and last a single person 6-7 meals. As long as you don’t mind left overs and repeat meals, these recipes will satisfy both you and your wallet.


Hearty Quinoa Stew

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cartons of Vegetable or Chicken Broth
  • 1 bag of Baby Carrots (You are welcome to add other veggies as well)
  • 1 bag of Small Medley Potatoes or 3-4 Normal Potatoes (I prefer small medley potatoes)
  • Your favorite spices (I use turmeric, ginger, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper)
  • 3 cups of Quinoa (Rice or other similar substitutes work as well)

Recipe:

  1. Cut your potatoes and carrots into small pieces approximately the size of the tip of your thumb.
  2. Pour your broth into a large pot and add spices until you get a well seasoned broth. Easy tip for how many spices to add is to start small, only add 1/2 teaspoon at a time of each spice. Taste regularly to determine the flavor you prefer.
  3. Once the broth is hot and spices have reached a desired level, add your cut up potatoes and carrots to the pot.
  4. Bring the stew to a boil then turn it down to let it simmer. Stir regularly to cook evenly.
  5. The stew will be ready when the potatoes and carrots become soft.
  6. Prepare the quinoa or rice in a rice maker or pot. There should be instructions on the amount of water you should use for the starch you have purchased on the package.

To Serve and Store:

  • Put the quinoa in a bowl and pour the stew over top. That’s it- it’s ready to eat!
  • For Fun: sometimes I’ll add a scrambled egg or two on top for some extra protein.
  • To store put you quinoa and stew in separate containers and put them in the fridge. Use separate containers so that the quinoa doesn’t become soggy.

Rice, Bean, and Veggie Medley

What you’ll need:

  • 3 Bell Peppers
  • 1 Onion (red or yellow work best)
  • 1 bag of Spinach
  • 2 cans of Black Beans
  • 3 cups of Rice
  • Spices (I prefer Tajín, but you can use your favorite spices on this one)

Recipe:

  1. Put your rice into a pot or rice maker and follow the package instructions to cook.
  2. Put your beans in a pot and bring to a medium heat. Stir the beans regularly to ensure they are evenly cooked and don’t stick to the bottom of your pot.
  3. While the beans and rice cook, cut your bell pepper and onion into small diced pieces. You can add these to your beans when they are well heated if you prefer cooked veggies, or you can leave them raw.

To Serve and Store:

  • Once everything is cooked, put a handful of spinach into the base of a bowl. Add your rice onto your spinach; then, add your veggies and beans. Mix it all together and add your desired amount of spice.
  • For Fun: I will also often add and egg or two to this recipe for added protein.
  • To store place your rice, veggie mix, spinach, and beans into four separate containers to ensure nothing goes soggy, and place them in the fridge.

Simple Curry

This recipe is credited to my college roommate, Justine. She is like %90 of the reason I know how to cook anything at all, and everything she makes is incredible.

What you’ll need:

  • Cumin Seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Curry Powder
  • Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Oil of your choosing
  • Veggies of your choosing (potato, carrot, spinach, onion, etc.)
  • 1 carton Vegetable or Chicken broth
  • Coconut Milk (optional)
  • Peanuts (optional)
  • Chickpeas (optional)

Recipe:

  1. Start by putting your desired spices in a pan toasting them with oil. Cut up your veggies (the pieces don’t have to be small) and add them to your spices to cook.
  2. Pour 1 carton of vegetable or chicken broth and 1-2 cans of coconut milk into a pot with a teaspoon of salt and heat to a boil. If you chose not to use coconut milk, just use a second carton of vegetable or chicken broth.
  3. Add your toasted and seasoned vegetables to your pot and lower temperature to a simmer. Regularly stir and taste your curry to see if it needs additional spices. Add spices as needed.
  4. Once your veggies have softened, add peanuts and simmer for a few more minutes.

To Serve and Store:

  • Pour your curry in a bowl over rice or any starch, or simply eat it as a curry soup.
  • Top with cut up cilantro for added flavor.
  • To store simply pour the curry into a container and refrigerate.

These recipes have saved me so much money over the years. As someone who doesn’t mind eating the same thing for a number of meals in a week, these are delicious and only get better the longer they keep. Each of these recipes will last about 1 week in the fridge before any veggies get wilted or anything begins to sour. Honestly, you’ll love these recipes so much you won’t mind eating them a few times in a row either.

Let me know: Will you be trying any of these recipes? Have you already tried some? Which is your favorite?

How to Separate Aloe Vera Pups

Aren’t pups just the cutest!… No, not the dog kind, although they’re pretty cute too.

Aloe Vera pups are so stinken’ cute. The main aloe vera plant (or parent plant) is gorgeous, thick, healthy and harbors so many nutritional and cosmetic benefits, while the pups are gangly little dudes that crowd around the base of the parent plant with no real direction. They’re a little in the way, but hold a lot of potential.

That potential is hard for them to reach when they’re stuck like glue to their parent plant, so, once they get a little too big to share a pot, it’s time to separate them out and move them to their own little homes. The process is pretty simple and doesn’t take long to complete. Let’s work through it together.

HOW TO SEPARATE ALOE VERA PUPS:

  1. Remove your Aloe Vera entirely from the pot it’s in, dirt and all.
    • Place this on a surface like a plastic lid or metal table top, that way you can easily clean up and reuse your dirt as well as easily locate all the parts of the plant you are working with.
  2. Locate your pups
    • The individual pups should be easy to locate unless you have a whole lot of them. Take an outer, smaller leaf and follow it to the root, the root should be near the base of the parent plant.
  3. Begin to separate your pup
    • Each pup’s roots are thoroughly entangled in the parent plants roots, so it’s not going to be as simple as pulling the pup off the parent plant by hand.
    • Take a sharp, hand-held gardening shovel and gently begin sliding it between the main plant and pup. This will separate the roots without causing irreparable (plant killing) damage.
  4. Take your newly separated pup and transfer it to a small/medium pot
    • For this you can fill that new pot with some dirt from the parent plant’s pot, or add new dirt.
    • Fill the base of the pot with dirt to ensure they roots have insulation. Make sure to completely burry the roots of the pup on top as well.
    • I recommend adding a good sized layer of mulch or other filler around the base of the plant after you’ve buried it to insulate the plant from the top. This will help the dirt retain some moisture while out in the sun.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for every pup
  6. Put your parent plant back in it’s pot
    • Now that you have separated out all of your pups, you’ll need to add some dirt to your parent plant’s pot to make up for empty space.
    • Fill the pot about 1/4 with dirt and set your parent plant on top.
    • Fill in the rest of the pot with dirt until the roots are, once again, completely buried.
    • Add filler to cover dirt again like you did to insulate the pups.

Doing this with my aloe vera plant has given both the parent and the pups so much more room to grow. While my pups were still in with the parent plant they had gotten big enough that they began to tip the parent plant over from one side causing some of the leafs to cover up the center of the plant where new growth forms. They were inhibiting each others growth so it was time to separate.

However, I have come to realize that the pups become fairly sensitive once you remove them from the parent plant. They need more water than they used to, they need less sunlight, and they need a little help standing upright. It is better for the over all health of your parent plant to remove the pups when they get too big, but be ready to give some extra love and care to those pups once they’re in their own pots.

If you have separated your aloe vera pups- how did it go? Did you follow these instructions? If so, I’d love to see what you did! You can use the contact information on the website to send in some pictures of your pups and I’ll post some to the Garden To Gorgeous Instagram page!

Homemade Rosewater

Sometimes in life you just need a moment to feel ethereal. To feel pure, like a Disney princess singing to a little bird in a field of gardenias, roses and peonies. And recently, I need that more often than not- and I’m assuming you do too. Really, who doesn’t want that?

A simple little at home trick to get yourself feeling like you’ve been sucked in to an elegant, enchanted fairy tale is to make yourself some rosewater. Rosewater is incredibly quick and easy to make and seemingly has an infinite amount of uses. You can use it as a bath soak, facial toner, hair cleanser, face mask, nail treatment, aromatherapy, and so much more. Heck, you can even use it in your cooking.

Let’s go through two ways you can make rosewater. The first way is to make just a simple rosewater, and the second is to make a rosewater essence which is a more concentrated version that just makes a bit less per batch.

Simple Rosewater

Rosewater in its simplest form can be used for just about anything, and it’s super easy to make. Personally I love using rosewater for a little DIY hair cleanser as a replacement for dry shampoo after a workout, as a toner when my face needs a little moisturizing boost, and as a face mask when mixed with a bit of aloe vera gel from my garden.

How To:

  1. Pick 3 or 4 fresh roses from your garden or at your local nursery/grocer.
  2. Pull all the petals off the main flower and rinse them to get any dirt or little bugs off.
  3. Take your clean petals and place them in a pot of water (fill a medium pot with as much water as you’d like- I recommend making just as much as you can properly store).
  4. Place the pot on the stove top and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling turn the temperature down to a simmer and let sit until the petals begin to look wilted and the water becomes tinted with the color from the flowers.
  5. Strain out the rose petals, and let the water cool before putting it in to your storage containers.
  6. Once you pour your rosewater in to your air tight containers place the ones you want to save in the refrigerator to keep fresh. The rose water is ready to use and will keep for about a year when stored properly.

Rosewater Essence

Rosewater essence is better to make when you intend to use it for cooking or aromatherapy purposes. It is not necessary to use the concentrated version on the skin, and if you have sensitive skin it may be too harsh. However, in its concentrated form, the smell and taste of the rosewater are much more potent and make a great, light, floral addition to many DIY concoctions.

How To:

  1. Pick 3 or 4 fresh roses from your garden or at your local nursery/grocer.
  2. Pull all the petals off the main flower and rinse them to get any dirt or little bugs off.
  3. Take your clean petals and place them in a medium sized pot that is about half full of water.
  4. Place a smaller bowl in the center of the pot, and bring the water in the pot to a simmer.
  5. Once the rose petals begin to look wilted and discolored turn off the stove top and cover the pot with a lid. As the water cools the condensation that will form on the lid will drip in to the bowl you placed on top of the water.
  6. After the water has completely cooled remove the lid and remove the bowl. You should have a substantial amount of rosewater essence in your bowl, but it will not be full of all of the water you started with.
  7. Transfer the rosewater essence to an air tight container and place in the fridge. This should keep for about one year when stored properly.

I’ll tell you, this last time when I made rosewater I made a big mistake. Not in the recipe, not in the preparation, but honestly one of the dumber mistakes I could have made. I didn’t measure out the amount of water I’d be able to store at all. I just went about my merry way, making a big ol’ pot of rosewater not even thinking about how to store it. Well, I ended up using about 5 jars (every jar I had at my disposal), and then still had about a cup’s worth left over. Please, don’t let all that good rosewater go to waste and measure out what you can use before you just go about making your rosewater like I did. I ended up using what was left as a soothing warm facial steam, so it didn’t go totally to waste, but I would have liked to save everything I made for later projects.

The first thing I made with my simple rosewater was a little birthday gift for my friend: A rose water and aloe vera gel face mask. If you want the recipe for that, I’ll be posting it soon here, so be on the look out for that.

In the mean time let me know: What are your favorite uses for rosewater? What are some rosewater DIYs you’d like to learn how to make?

Moving On to the Next Adventure

I don’t think I’ve ever been through a season with more shifts, changes, unmet expectations, and brand new adventures. And I’m sure at this point, especially if you’re in the U.S.A. like me, you have experienced all of this too.

I’m sitting down to write this post from the couch at my Grandpa’s house, watching the news with him because Kamala Harris has just been announced to be Biden’s running mate for the 2020 presidential race. When I graduated college, my expectation was that I’d be off living somewhere on my own within a short drive of a decent, if not great, job. I expected that my days of couch surfing and staying with relatives was over, that I’d be what I considered a full grown adult.

But now, as of tonight, I’m looking at the calendar and only 5 days from now I’ll be moving yet again. I’ll be moving in with my little sister and her best friend, both in their early college years, in Richmond. This move is going to mean that I’ll be in a position I’d consider more adult; I’ll be paying for my living and organizing my bills for the first time. However, I’ll still be with relatives, and I’ll still be living in a very college-type situation.

When anxiety about this next transition sets in, it’s so easy to start thinking that this is just a continuation of an unstable, unmet expectation. But, every minute, I am choosing to focus on the blessing of how big of an adventure this move has a chance to be.

I love my sister, and I love her best friend like a sister. I have lived in Richmond before and have a community there of loved ones, best friends, and old coworkers who I value deeply. I know the streets, the churches, the businesses, the music, and the people. And right now Richmond is a city in need of healing that I am so excited to find out how to be a part of. How could any of this not point in the direction of this being the most beautiful adventure yet.

Aside from all of this as well, I have developed a passion for sustainability in settings where sustainable living is hard to come by. What better place to explore that than in the heart of downtown Richmond!

I have big plans to implement sustainable living in our city home. We’ll be composting in our backyard, growing a garden on the porch, recycling, up-cycling, and doing so much more. In doing all of this in the city for the first time, there will be so much to learn from the new experiences and new challenges that I am so blessed to have this platform to be able to share with you. As a beginner myself, we’ll be able to discuss all the mishaps and successes of the different sustainable practices I’ll be trying so that you can start from a better place than myself in your own city living sustainability.

As I make this transition, please pardon me if my posting becomes irregular in these next couple weeks. Once I am able, I will be jumping right back in to bring you the content you came here for.

And in the mean time, I’d love to hear from you: What are some questions you have about living sustainably in a big city setting? What are some sustainable practices or topics you are interested in learning about? What sustainable practices are you already implementing in your city?

Setting a Goal, Getting It Done

Setting a goal is easy. It’s so easy that I set at least 3 or 4 every single day thinking, ‘oh yeah, I got this.’ When really by about 2 p.m., if any one of those didn’t get done, the likelihood that they ever will is cut down drastically. I even wrote down in my planner that I wanted to sit down to write this post, intending to get to working on it before lunch, and now it’s 7 p.m….

However easy it may be to set these goals, and even set big, long term, exorbitant goals, the follow through is almost never easy. I could have sat down to write this this morning and had a version ready for editing by now, but nope, YouTube and a nap got me (thanks quarantine). Usually though, it’ll be much more than a nap and YouTube getting in the way. Usually it’s the job search, household chores, depression, spending time with others, and straight up lack of motivation that get in the way.

But I’ve learned a thing or two about how to self motivate on my goals over time (thank God), and while I’m not perfect at it, stuff still gets done. I recently finished a 100 workout challenge. I am only 100 pages away from having read the entire Bible. I have successfully cut my showers down to three minutes or less. I have hand-made all Christmas and birthday presents for the last two years. I have donated 6 bags of clothes and other goods locally in the last 6 months while decluttering before moves (I’ve moved 3 times). I graduated college. I started this blog.

All of these are goals I have set since 2020 started. Some have been completed. Some are on-going. At this point looking back I feel pretty good about it, but before any of these things began I felt like I was staring at an impossible mountain of to-do’s and really lacked any sort of motivation for a lot of it right off the bat.

Enough about me though, let’s talk about you. I’m sure you also have goals you’d like to accomplish, why else would you be reading this right now? I want to talk with you about how to self motivate, and where to find motivation externally as well. In order to actually, successfully take a good run at a goal, you need to know what that goal means to you.

Determining what your goal means to you:

Is it a personal goal?

This kind of goal is the one I find to the be hardest to accomplish. Often when it comes down to having to do something for myself I find it’s not pressing or won’t matter on a grand scale because it doesn’t actively also help someone else. However, the biggest thing to consider here if you’re someone like me is that, if you better yourself, you can eventually help someone else better themself.

Aside from that- let’s say you’re only going to look at your goal through the self focused lens, what do you do? There are plenty of individual reasons your personal goal might be something you’re working toward or at least want to work toward, and not any one of us is the same. Generally, it’ll be best to set a goal with a progressive point in mind. If you want to set a spiritual goal, start with a concrete step- mine was to read the Bible. If you want to set a fitness goal, begin working toward your first mile long run without stops or get a weight goal for how much you can deadlift. Or, if you want to set a career goal, look into some articles about your field and find a simple first step based on the experiences you read about. The biggest thing that will get you moving is setting concrete steps ahead of yourself to work on. If you don’t have these concrete steps, you can end up feeling lost in a sea of chances without a clue which to grab first.

Is it a goal to help others?

Love these goals! It’s so nice to set a goal simply for the sake of loving others. However, they’re a little harder to actually come by unless you are actively asked to help someone. Without outside opportunities, this requires you to be hyper-vigilant to help others when and where it’s needed in a moments notice.

But, there are also plenty of active goals you can set the can help you accomplish helping others. The best first step here is to determine how you want to help others. By starting with your personal experiences and expertise you can determine how you should be helping others. For myself I use my personal interests to help people here by sharing information on sustainability and self care, and I use my personal experiences to help lead support groups in my community. You might have a personal experience that you can utilize to reach out to others and help them get through similar things. Or, you might have a passion for cooking that’ll make you beneficial to have at the soup kitchen, or you have a knack for web design that’ll make you the perfect candidate to help a small non-profit build its presence. And if you’re working on your passion, the goal will be so much easier to accomplish. That’s beside the fact that you’ll be able to see other’s lives get better in the process.

Is it a multi-purpose goal?

This is the kind of goal that’s not going to take a lot of mental math to figure out where the benefits lie. This kind of goal will probably help you, help others, and might even help the world at large. Beyond person to person, or within the self, this kind of goal can impact the community or the environment over all. Now that might sound intimidating, but that’s hardly the case. I’m not asking you to pick a goal here like ‘solve world hunger’ or ‘close the hole in the ozone layer’ single handedly. All I’m asking is that you determine one large thing you care about and pick a small goal you can accomplish to help that thing get solved.

For this, let’s talk sustainability. When I started my skincare garden it was a multipurpose goal: help myself by working with non-toxic products I grew myself, help others by teaching them how to grow and use these products themselves, and for the planet by cutting down on my commercial consumption of those products and adding more healthy greenery to the world. When you start reaching for your sustainable goal, let’s say you pick that you want to help end childhood hunger in your community. To accomplish this you start a group in your community that comes together to regularly donate to your local food bank. This is a multipurpose goal because you will be helping yourself by learning how to organize others for a common goal, helping others by feeding people who need your donations, and helping the community by strengthening others in their endeavors to help in this area as well.


Whatever your goal may be, I hope reading this post has helped you find the motivation you needed to accomplish it.

Let me know: What are your goals? What has motivated you to accomplish your goals so far in 2020?

Why You Should Be Using Chemical Free Nail Polish

I started using chemical free nail polish about a year ago in the hopes of saving the health of my incredibly damaged nails. The chemical free polishes cost more on average than basic drug store polishes, so I was hesitant at first, but this was honestly the best decision I’ve ever made for the health of my nails.

Whenever the clerk behind the counter at CVS Pharmacy would hand me their mile long receipt filled with coupons, I’d instantly scan it to see if they were offering any discounts on Essie nail polish. Essie had always been my favorite, and luckily with those coupons a $9-12 nail polish would turn into a $3 nail polish. I got a new color every single time I went. Who could pass up a discount that huge?

Problem was, the Essie company has not gone chemical free. While they are 3-free, their nail polish contained enough harmful ingredients to strip my nails, cause tearing, and discolor my finger tips. This isn’t the case for everyone who uses their products, they still do have a good product for some people. However, I have brittle nails due to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and nail polishes from companies like Essie, OPI, and Sally’s decimated the health of my nails.

Christmas of 2019 I received my first bottle of 8-free nail polish from tenoverten as a gift. It was a brand I never could have afforded on my student budget, but had been looking at for a while. I tried it the same day I got it and I have never been so instantly impressed with a nail polish brand before. It went on smooth, dried incredibly quick, and lasted almost an entire week without chipping. I was blown away! No wonder these polishes cost so much.

I have since also tried ORLY Breathable and Pacifica 7-free polish, and both have been incredibly pleasant as well. Personally my favorite continues to be tenoverten.

Since these products worked so wonderfully, I wanted to know, what exactly is it about removing those chemicals that allows for such a great experience? And what in the common chemical nail polishes was wreaking so much havoc on my nails?

According to the tenoverten website, the 8 harmful ingredients they leave out of their nail polishes are “dibutyl phthalate (dbp), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, triphenyl phosphate (tphp).” Out of these, other common 3-free polish brands typically only exclude dibutyl phthalate (dbp), toluene, and formaldehyde. While these big three are often what do the most damage to a persons nails, they are not the only ones by far. If you don’t intend to dive into the world of more-than-3-free nail polishes, at least make sure what you are buying is 3-free. Luckily 3-free isn’t uncommon or terribly expensive, so don’t do your nails the incredible disservice of coating them in more harmful chemicals than needed.

Aside from those big three though, that still leaves us with five chemical ingredients that we don’t need. These five were contributing to my deteriorating nails, and needed to be ditched. But, why?

Formaldehyde Resin is an ingredient in most nail polishes that helps the polish to form a strong and shiny coat on the nail. This is what you get when you mix a phenol (an acidic organic compound that can cause chemical burns) and formaldehyde (an organic gas used in many things we use each day from wood products to fabrics- however, you most likely remember it for it’s famous use in murders and kidnappings). Now, I’m not about fear mongering, and in so many products it’s a fine substance to use, but when you start talking about its uses on the body it’s good to err on the side of caution.

Camphor is a natural oil taken from the camphor tree. It is not directly harmful, and can even have a number of health benefits when used externally. It can be found in small amounts in lotions and ointments meant to ease joint pain and reduce itch from rashes and bug bites. However, this product is considered a turpentine, which is not to be used on the skin in many cases and definitely not to be ingested. Mainly this is a cause for concern because if applied on broken skin or ingested it can cause severe health issues.

Ethyl Tosylamide is toluene mixed with ethanesulfonamide, and as you can see in the list above, even the big three exclude toluene as a single ingredient. If it won’t be included as a single ingredient, it probably shouldn’t also be included as a mixture. This ingredient is used in nail polish to help the polish adhere to your nail and form a strong coat. However, it’s not necessary.

Xylene is similar to toluene in that it is commonly found in products like paint thinners and is flammable. It can cause dizziness, headaches, loss of muscle coordination, and can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, skin, and throat. Often it is most dangerous in its gaseous state when it can be inhaled, however it can still cause harm when pores and other absorptive parts of the body are in contact with its solid form.

Triphenyl Phosphate (tphp) is a compound primarily found in flame retardants and nail polish (two things that shouldn’t have a lot in common). While it has often been used in nail polishes that are meant to be eco-friendly, it isn’t all that friendly. It has been found, in animal studies, to be an endocrine inhibitor which simply means it can disrupt the natural production of your body’s hormones among other issues. As concerns grew over the use of this ingredient, many chemical free and eco-friendly brands have begun to move away from using it. 

All of these chemicals are found in most common nail polishes, and aside from being unnecessary they can be straight up harmful to you and the environment. If you’ve been using a 3-free polish, I encourage you to check out tenoverten, Pacifica, and ORLY. All of these brands have restored the health of my nails and I will never be going back.

P.S. A number of chemical free nail polish brands are, or started as, small businesses. Tenoverten is a female owned business that started as a health conscious nail salon in New York and grew into a health conscious nail polish brand. After closures due to the pandemic they were forced to shut down their salons, and have been working to support their staff through it. They’re a brand I’m happy to stand behind for sure.

P.P.S. Often when a brand is chemical free and focused on the health of their consumers, they are also cruelty free by practice and product and aim to support other causes as well. When you look into a brand for your next nail polish purchase, take a look at their FAQs and About pages to learn more about their products and their mission.

Let me know: What chemical free nail polish brands are you a fan of? What made you switch to chemical free?

Cosmetic Oils Aren’t For Everyone

So many beauty guru YouTubers and DIY non-professional cosmetologists have been stepping out to support the use of cosmetic oils recently. They claim using oils for the face is basically like using a miracle drug you see in TV infomercials. And while using cosmetic oils does work wonders for some, it is absolutely not a universal cure all for the skin issues faced by every individual.

Personally, I do not use cosmetic oils. I have combination oily and dry skin, so finding an oil that suits my whole face is difficult. I also have very sensitive skin that’s prone to rosacea and deep rooted blemishes. All of this adds up to cosmetic oils being my worst enemy. I’ve tried vitamin E oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil (yikes), grapeseed oil, and more, and every single one has brought with it incredible oil imbalance and a fresh crop of blemishes that last.

The frustrating part is that just about every Pinterest cosmetologist and YouTuber seems to be endorsing that everyone should and can use them. Without understanding the reasons these products simply don’t work for everyone, marketing these products as a cure all can potentially lead unwitting and trusting followers to causing real damage to their skin. Yes, it is a great sustainable option for some, but it is, by no means, the best or only sustainable option.

Most recently I’ve seen influencers replacing their cream or herbal based moisturizing routine for oil based ones, fully cutting out the moisturizing effects of their former products. This quick transition and heavy pore saturating switch can wreak havoc on skin and cause damage that can take a while to reverse.

I can appreciate wanting to use an oil cleansing method over all. Using a natural oil to cleanse your skin provides you with a single ingredient skincare product that in turn will help create less waste and will simplify what you use on your body. If you are considering switching to a cosmetic oil for your daily routine, please read this first. We’ll discuss some of the oils that may work for your individual skin type, as well as what to watch out for when trying this trend. I’ll also provide a few links below to YouTubers I trust for cosmetic advice, and who’s knowledge of cosmetic oils has greatly informed my own.


Dry Skin:

If you have dry skin, you’ll need to be careful how you use oil based products. You do want to add oils back into the skin to replenish it after long periods of dryness, but adding too much can be detrimental. You’ll want to use a thicker oil product with a high omega fatty acid content so that it can really penetrate your pores and provide moisture to your skin. It will also help to massage the oil into the skin for 60 seconds or longer to really give your skin a chance to soak up all it needs. However, when you go to remove this oil be thorough in your removal. Use a damp cloth and warm water to really pull the oils back off the skin and follow with a secondary cleanse to further remove any excess you couldn’t get with the towel. Leaving too much oil on the skin can easily cause breakouts, especially for skin that isn’t used to oil. Some good oils for you to try: Avocado Oil, Apricot Oil, Argan Oil, or Sweet Almond Oil.

Oily Skin:

If you have oily skin, the oil cleansing method might actually be your best friend. It sounds counterintuitive to add oil to an already oily surface, but this is actually one of the best and most natural methods of removal. Since the oils in your skin will more readily bond to an oil based cleanser than a water based one, you are more likely to get a good, deep clean. With a water based cleanser, ingredients called surfactants need to be added to the product to really cleanse the natural oils off your skin, but with an oil cleanser nothing needs to be added to the oil to make it effective. Some good oils for you to try are: Sunflower Oil, Rosehip Oil, Safflower Oil, or Hemp Seed Oil.

Combination Skin:

If you have combination skin like me, and especially if your skin is sensitive, oil cleansing might not be for you. However, you still have options if this method is what you want to try. When you do use oil cleansers or serums/moisturizers be careful about where you are placing these products on your skin, as well as how much you use in these areas. The oil will be most beneficial as a cleanser on the parts of your skin that are more naturally oily, so you’ll want to target those areas and follow with a simple water based cleanser for the full face including the areas with more dry skin. Some good oils for you to try: Jojoba Oil, Rosehip Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, or Grapeseed Oil.


When cleansing the face with natural oils, be sure you are picking up one that is specifically designed for the skin and not just for cooking. While these oils are very similar, they’re not exactly the same. You’ll also want to make sure you transition your skin slowly into this oil based routine. Transitioning too quickly from water based to oil based products can cause inflammation of the skin, and can leave pores clogged with the oils it isn’t used to absorbing. Be sure to use a warm, damp towel to remove the oils and follow with a secondary cleanse to really get every bit of left over oil out of your pores and off your face.

For additional information here are some YouTubers I trust for well researched skincare advice. They don’t all fully practice sustainability, but the information and knowledge provided is often applicable to sustainable skincare ideals and practices.

The Golden Rx on Youtube is a really great source for information on all your skincare needs. While she does not focus solely on sustainable products, the science and expert advice she offers is invaluable to a sustainable or DIY skincare user.
Dr. Dray on YouTube is a dermatologist and skincare enthusiast. Also not every product used in her videos is sustainable, but she does provide great information and sometimes does use simple and sustainable products.

Thanks for reading! Let me know: will you be trying the oil cleansing method? What are your favorite cosmetic oils?

5 Ways to Find Peace in Hard Seasons

It’s not easy to step back and find peace when you’re in the thick of what’s driving you crazy or upsetting you, and that’s okay. But, when the thing that’s upsetting you lasts for days, it’s time to start turning your attention elsewhere to find peace.

Nobody, and I mean not a single person, can last very long when they’re upset. The longer you stay upset the harder it is to get out of it, and the harder it is to get out of it the more brash and volatile you’ll get. What started off as an upsetting event, has now turned into a chaotic nightmare of a week, month, year, however long it might have been. This is not a sustainable mindset.

Every single chaotic nightmare I’ve found myself in was of my own creation. Rather than finding a way to sustain my sanity and turn my attention to life giving things, I always chose to stare right at what was upsetting me and watch it fester into an entirely new beast.

Luckily, after some of the hardest seasons of my life, I found a couple ways in which I could break my gaze and turn my attention to better things. Through therapy and just walking through those seasons thinking, “I’d give anything not to feel this way right now,” I finally got sick of of feeling that way and set my sights on successful coping.

I’d like to share with you some of those coping mechanisms, and hopefully encourage you to look beyond your hard season too.

  1. Get Moving

This one is possibly the most universal tip because it works for any emotion. Exercise is the best way to renew the energy inside of you, or just expel it entirely.

I found that exercise is almost a cure all for any mental state I’m in. When I’m losing my mind in rage and anger, picking up a weight and busting out a couple hundred reps of squats, sit-ups and just about any other move allows me to release those emotions. When I’m upset, getting moving with some yoga or cardio turns my mood around. And when anxiety kicks in, turning on a fast paced workout video and following along takes my mind off of what had originally been occupying it.

It can be hard to get up initially and start moving, but in the middle and once it’s over you’ll feel so much better. Ask yourself, are you more willing to continue feeling the way you do than you are willing to try something new?

2. Get Out

I mean it, just go outside. Step your feet onto the pavement, the grass, the whatever surface is just outside your house. Fresh air is a game changer.

I feel like this tip might sound as mundane as the “drink water” tip you always see on those self care instagram pages, but honestly it has to be said. In my lowest moments, like when depression kicks in, the kind that makes you want to give up on showering for a few days and not get out of bed, willing myself to get outside is just beyond me. But I step just one foot outside, and all of a sudden I got the other one coming right along with it.

Getting that breathe of clean, fresh air in my lungs convicts my body to keep going. I mentally may not want to move or try anything to get out of my funk, but my lungs want the air, so outside we go. And if this seems like too much for you, just open the closest window and take a deep breath. A step can be small and still help, as long as it’s a step in the right direction.

3. Be Present

This can either be an addition to all of the other mechanisms listed here, or a step all on it’s own. I find that when anxiety sets in, usually because I’m already angry, upset, or depressed, grounding myself in the here and now is just about all I can do mentally to put my head back on my shoulders and move on.

In therapy when I was younger, I was taught to reign in my anxiety by using this fairly easy grounding technique, and I swear by it.

  • Start by closing your eyes and placing both feet on the floor. (this usually works best if you’re sitting)
  • Take three deep breaths
  • Notice how your feet feel on the floor. Ask yourself: Where am I applying pressure on the soles of my feet? How does the material of the floor or my shoes/socks feel against my skin? And don’t judge yourself for any of your answers.
  • Move on to other parts of your body: How does your butt feel in the chair? Is your posture slouched? Is the chair soft or rough? How does the room smell? Can you hear anything from where you’re sitting?
  • Continue breathing through this until you feel calm enough to go back to the task at hand.

This technique has been a God send for me. When your heart or your mind races with things you’d rather not be focused on, focusing intently on the physical world around you can help you return to what is actually happening right in front of you. More or less, if your mental space is in the clouds, focusing on your physical space can pull you back to earth.

4. Be Quiet

If you need to scream or talk something out, that’s okay. Take your time and do those things (without hurting anyone if you can). But if you find yourself in a chaotic nightmare of your own creation and there’s not really anyone around to listen at the moment, start listening yourself.

Go sit outside, in your bedroom, in the kitchen, or at the park. Sit and listen to everything going on around you.

More or less, I’m suggesting that you meditate, but in a not super meditative kind of way. All I’m suggesting is that you allow the sounds you’re hearing to become the thoughts you’re having. Rather than letting your inner dialogue run rampant, let the sound of the fan in your room absorb your focus. Let the hum of the refrigerator working, the whoosh of the air conditioner blowing, or the chirp of a bird singing be your focus. Get lost in it.

This is similar to the grounding technique, but with a heavier focus on auditory stimulation.

5. Give Back

This is my favorite one. It’s a bit more challenging, and is more so a follow up to the aforementioned coping mechanisms.

Once you’ve gotten yourself up, gotten moving, and gotten outside, you can move on to putting some energy into making the world a better place. This tip makes me think of that one episode of Friends where Joey tells Phoebe that there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed. To a degree I think he’s right, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If people didn’t get a good feeling from helping others and helping the planet, then it’d be a lot harder to find someone willing to help with anything at all.

If you have taken your first simple steps to find peace, then your next step is to find joy, and the best way to find joy is by bringing joy to others and healing to the planet. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or donation center, you can go through your closet and donate gently used clothes (particularly clothes that no longer make you happy), or use the pain you’ve been through to help others out of their own pain by relating to them on your shared experiences. You can also start a garden and enjoy watching the bees come buzzing around for nourishment, cook yourself and your friends a healthy meal, or take a walk and pick up litter along the way.

All of these activities are sure you boost your mood by boosting the moods of others. Shared joy is the best joy.


All of these coping mechanisms require action, and sometimes even the beginning actions can feel impossible. Beyond these tips, it is also always a good idea to contact professional help. I myself have been in therapy for years, and I couldn’t possibly recommend it more. If you find yourself in a rut or in a place where you just need more help than you could get from the above ideas, contacting a therapist is a great next step. A couple resources you can use to find a therapist are Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists) or BetterHelp (https://www.betterhelp.com).

Regardless of what you’re going through, you’ve got this. It might not feel like it, but you do, and I hope some of these tips have helped you. I was taught a while ago, “it’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.”

Let me know: Have you tried any of these coping mechanisms in your own life? What helps you the most when you’re feeling low?

Finding Somewhere to Start

Where to start? Where on Earth to start??

And, no, I didn’t just start this post with that because I didn’t know how to start it. I started this post that way because when starting literally anything else these are the exact questions I’ve asked. (Although, I’ll be honest, I do ask these questions when coming up with posts sometimes too.)

So often we find ourselves in places where our only options are to try things that are brand new. We may be used to living life a certain way, but at the drop of a hat every bit of plan we had is turned upside down and we run blind for a while.

You may face a sudden career shift or alteration to the life plan of your dreams, or maybe your day started with sunshine and BAM! you’re standing in a downpour with no umbrella. No matter how big or small your shift may be, there comes a time when your only option to move forward is to try something new. A new job in a new field. A new house or a new family member. A new shelter until you can find a good umbrella…

And you might be asking yourself, what does any of this have to do with sustainability? Everything. EVERYTHING. Seldom is anyone, especially in the U.S., born into a sustainable life. We spend our entire young lives producing waste from tiny snack packs and toy’s we outgrow in under a year (unless you have an eco-conscious parent). And finally making that shift when we can for ourselves to being more eco-friendly can be tough. It can seem inconvenient, and we begin to wonder “I’m just me, what impact could little ol’ me possibly have?”

Time and time again, two things have stuck in the back of my mind when moments like these arise.

“The only thing you can control is yourself.”

and

“Take it one day at a time.”

These two principles are the key to just about every door. Even though they feel disgusting at first, they’ll get you through just about any everyday scenario.

“The only thing you can control is yourself” has honestly got to be one of the hardest things I continue to have to relearn daily. As human beings we are most comfortable when we feel we have control over the situations we’re in, but we just about never actually do. No matter what path you may be running down, thinking you’ve got everything figured out, that path may become impassable in an instant. No matter whether you thought your had everything figured out or not.

To some degree you might say if you have control over yourself and only yourself then you should be able to control your circumstances, but the truth is you only have control of how you react to them.

You can take being fired from your job as a crushing blow and quit trying, or you can learn from that experience and find something new. In the same way, you can learn more about the global climate crisis and sit back saying there’s nothing you could do, or you can begin taking steps to live more sustainably.

This principle can sound discouraging in so many ways. The biggest reason I was upset with it at first was that I thought,”what’s the point of running down any path then if it’s inevitable that the situation will change and I’ll have to react whether I want to or not?” And that’s reasonable at first. But, there’s no real way to live a full life when you allow this mindset to rest within you.

A good way to avoid feelings of discouragement is to set personal goals for yourself that you can accomplish through every day actions. These are goals that don’t have to change just because something in your life that you couldn’t control changed.

For myself these goals included a lot of personality and mindset adjustments. First, I wanted to meet a daily goal of showing kindness to everyone I met. I never have to worry about the world changing this goal for me, I know that if I show up with the intention of being kind to others I am much more likely to accomplish it over time. Another is that I wanted to be friendlier to the planet and therefor friendlier to others (luckily this goal helps me accomplish the first one I mentioned for day’s where I have limited contact with others.) The world may change around me, but I can make daily decisions to be a conscious consumer and waste producer along with so many other practices.

“Take it one day at a time” is, likewise, something I really wasn’t ready to accept when I first heard it. Like so many other college students (and people of all ages really), I had been encouraged to plan my entire life out. We frequently get asked, “where do you see yourself in 20 years?” and expecting the answer to that question to actually come to fruition is often foolish.

If we can’t control anything outside of ourselves, then how can we expect that each day will go exactly as we want it to for us to move forward. Taking things one day at a time can not only help with the existentialism that naturally comes from these kinds of questions, but can also provide a way forward that will ultimately bring you greater peace.

Yes, you can still plan for a vacation that’s months away, or set a date for an event in advance that you’re looking forward to. But the biggest thing you shouldn’t do is set expectations.

To take things one day at a time and still be reasonable it can be necessary to make plans in advance, but that doesn’t mean you have to let that consume your daily mentality. When you focus simply on the day, or even the next hour, ahead of you, you’ll find you’re living much more successfully in the moment. You aren’t clouded by the plans of the future that may seem daunting or cause you anxiety. You can focus on what’s in front of you which ultimately will allow you to be more successful in accomplishing it. You’ll be able to set a better foundation for that future without actually having to stress yourself out about what exactly that future will look like.

Thankfully, I came to terms with taking things one day at a time before quarantine, and before my graduation was postponed, and before hiring rates plummeted. I was able to adjust and accept life on life’s terms much faster than I expected and find some of the joy ahead of me even in this odd and unexpected season.

And EXTRA thankfully, it’s never to late for you to learn either.

I found that the best ways to adjust to a “just for today” attitude were simply to really focus on my mental inventories. Every morning I start the day by journaling in a gratitude journal. In doing this I can both let go of worries for future issues and set intentions to be grateful for what I have right now. Once I’ve established things to be grateful for, I find myself noticing them much more often in my day, and, from there, since I’m so focused on what is bringing me joy in the moment I don’t have as much time to worry about what comes next.

That being said, these things are much easier said than done. It took me quite a good amount of time to learn these lessons, but once I learned them they stuck like glue to my mind. I will never forget all that I’ve learned by allowing these two principles to guide my mindset, and I hope in time you won’t either.

Wherever you may find a road block, inconvenience, or life altering shift, remember “the only thing you can control is yourself” and to “take it one day at a time.” In the long run you’ll be able to find more joy in productive practices that may seem small or commonplace, but can have a huge and healthy impact in the long run. Simply, they’ll help make restarting feel more like a fresh start.

Let me know: Have you used these two principles in your own life? When do you find it most challenging to accept these truths?