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?

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!

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?

Making Do, Even When You Don’t Want To

A big part of being sustainable is doing what you can with what you have, finding contentment with where you’re at, and not going out and pulling together new items and resources. And, you know what, sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes making do feels like a drag. Sometimes it hits you before you’ve accepted it. Yes, in sustainability you make do by reusing old materials instead of picking up nice new ones, or you go without once you’ve realized something just isn’t a necessity even though it brought enjoyment. But, there are so many other times in life where we have to make do with what life has handed us. It can leave you sad, frustrated, lonely, and wanting. This season exposes those emotions in a BIG way.

I often find I’m happier to make do in my sustainability than in the rest of my life. I’d rather let go of making purchases once they become unnecessary or begin making certain things from scratch once that becomes an option then admit that I have to put off a dream or set a goal aside when resources and opportunities become scant.

I graduated college in May 2020, possibly the worst time to graduate college in years. Through zero fault of my own, of my college, or of my community, I spent my final semester in quarantine. I never got to say goodbye to my advisor or favorite professors who taught me so much, spend final nights with my roommate and best friend (and her cat), or attend the graduation I had worked so hard to get to. There was no closure, and I still feel quite lost.

Before this all happened, I was considered pretty hirable. I have worked a number of different jobs both in and out of my field of study, and had shown loyalty and growth at many of these jobs. I never thought it’d be that big of an issue for me to find a decent, or even good, job in my field. But quarantine turned that on its head. Now, I’ve sent out dozens of job applications and have heard absolutely nothing back. It’s crushing. This is a time where I now have to make do with what life has handed me, and I haven’t been very quick to embrace that.

In this season my anxiety has gone up, and my patience has plummeted. But, I’m learning. I’m learning to set goals involving things I used to put on the back burner, to embrace the lessons I can learn outside of a classroom or an office, and to accept stillness and quiet as part of my daily living.

I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from blessings in disguise these last few months. Hopefully you’ll begin to see them in your life too.

The blessing of TIME, even when you didn’t want it.

If you’re an active, on-the-go-constantly person like me, sitting at home that entire first week probably felt like you were beginning to decay.

So much content was being posted online about how this was the perfect time to write your first novel or invent a life changing device no one has ever seen before. While, simultaneously, content about how no one should feel pressured to do anything with their time was also being posted. You chose. You can either be lazy or singlehandedly change the world.

I’d like to argue, this blessing of time has given us the opportunity not just to fall in to being active or inactive, but to reevaluate our lives before continuing to move forward.

For me (as you can probably tell by the fact that I started this blog in the middle of all the craziness), in my reevaluation I realized one way I wanted to be more active was in encouraging others to take better care of the planet we share. I had been studying sustainability and making my own DIY recipes for eco-friendly products for a while, but I’d never really shared any of that with anyone. All this time, and the lack of a job, freed me up to be able to begin reaching out and trying my hand at teaching others about sustainable practices.

The blessing of SPACE, even when things feel empty.

By space, I mean both physical and mental space. We’re socially distanced from others when we’re out or clammed up while we’re at home, but so many of us are also facing this wall of more empty time than ever.

Personally, I haven’t seen any of my friends in person (even socially distanced) in about 5 months. It’s rough, but I’m so thankful for technology that’s gotten us through it. It’s not the same as seeing their faces in person, but I’ll take it.

On the other hand, all this quiet distance I’ve had from people, places, and things, has allowed me to approach life in new ways. I took on new goals I never thought I’d be able to accomplish with my busy life, and created space for new hobbies to emerge.

Before any of this happened I had just accepted that I would never have time to read the Bible or actually start my own garden. But by allowing this season to create so much mental space, I realized these were all possible right now in this time. Once I finished my final undergrad semester, I dug right in. I set these new goals and decided I didn’t need someone else (i.e. a job or school) to dictate how I filled my days or my living quarters. And now, when I finally do find that job I’m longing for, I’ll be able to carry this lesson with me and realize there is so much more life to live outside of the goals others set before me.

You can use this lesson as well, and hopefully give yourself space to start a garden or learn something new about taking care of yourself and our planet that you can carry with you all the days of your life.

The blessing of RESOURCES, even when they’re limited.

During this so many of us have limited our time in grocery stores, have primarily shopped online, and have learned to do what we like with less. Sometimes this might feel inconvenient. You might find that you really want a certain new product online, but shipping isn’t something you can afford. Or, you really want to make your favorite recipe, but you’re not going out to the grocery store for another week.

However, there is another way to look at these inconveniences. Rather than seeing the specific things that can’t be done in the moment, look at the possibilities the resources you have in front of you can offer.

I’ve run into this a lot while cooking these last few months. As I try and limit the frequency with which I visit the grocery store (or go out in public in general), I’ve run out of ingredients significantly before I intent to return and get more. At first I was bummed out by not being able to use exactly what each recipe called for, but I found a blessing here. I found the blessing of experimentation. I am NOT a chef (just ask my sister, she’s the chef in the family), but, without being able to follow exactly every recipe I had to a ‘T’, I’ve gotten pretty good at tossing ingredients in that I think might work and coming up with something new and awesome.

This same principle applies to sustainability. In so many ways making less frequent grocery trips (or purchases in general) has helped me cut down on the amount of gas I use driving my car, cut down on my personal purchase rate of items that might not be sustainably sourced or packaged, and helped me to learn and see just how many other areas of my life I could use what I already had first.

It also made me deeply appreciate the items I do have that are reusable. Never have to worry about running out of those, thank goodness.


So much of being sustainable is making do, and I’ve realized, so is so much of living life. We have a choice to make: is making do going to weigh us down, or show us how to live life with a little (or a lot) more peace is our hearts?

I know as well that there are still so many people who have been able to keep their jobs or find new ones (congrats! and thank you for keeping on keeping on!), people who are at home with family they might not wish to be with, and people who don’t quite have enough to make do in an enlivening way. Whatever you’ve got going on in this season, I know you’re doing your best. It’s all anyone could ask, even of themselves. I’m rooting for you, and hope no matter where you’re at you find yourself a blessing to hold on to.

Let me know: What blessings are you finding in this season? Have you learned anything you’ll carry with you?

5 Little Ways To Cut Down On Household Waste

On an average day, an American individual produces 4.51 pounds of trash according to estimates in 2017 from the United Sates Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On a global stage, this sets America up to be the third most waste producing country only behind Canada and Bulgaria. These numbers are staggering, especially since so much of what ends up in landfills can end up being substances that could have been disposed of in much more eco-friendly ways. According to those same findings from the EPA, 139 million tons of waste out of the yearly average of 267.8 ended up in landfills. However, much of what did go to landfill could have easily been reused or disposed of in better ways.

There are plenty of ways in which we can all cut down on our waste production. We can recycle according to our local guidelines, purchase products in little to no packaging or with recyclable or compostable packaging, and donate our used goods that may have been well loved but still have plenty of love to give.

But, there are also many ways that are a bit less common in which we can all strive to be more sustainable in our consumerism.

  1. Buy in Bulk

Sometimes buying food or other items in bulk may seem unreasonable. Unless you have a large family or many mouths to feed, buying large amounts of food at a time puts you at risk of letting some of that food go bad before being used. However, You can still buy in bulk within reason for your life.

This could mean buying flour, nuts and seeds, or other non-perishables in large quantities. Or, for non-edible items, buying hand soap in gallon sizes to refill smaller counter top bottles, or doing the same with shampoos and body washes.

All of this will help you to create less waste buy buying one larger package rather than multiple smaller packages. Often these smaller packages, while physically smaller, create more waste in the long run from the amount you’ll be buying more frequently. You will also find you’ll have to get to the store less often, and you’ll save money in the long term as many places offer discounts on bulk items.

2. Reuse Textiles

Not everyone knows how to sew, and that’s okay. You really don’t need to know how to sew to reuse your loose fabric scraps.

Recently, I found I had a few shirts I’ve been holding on to for years but never really wear, and I would if only they were slightly adjusted. So, I cut a layer of fabric off the bottom of one of those shirts to create a much cuter crop top version, and got to use the fabric strip I cut off to make a super cute headband without any sewing.

You can take these loose scraps and make just about anything, and Pinterest is a great place to find new ideas. However, you can also use old clothes that haven’t gotten cut for scraps but are unwearable for kitchen rags, gentle hair towels, and cushioned packing material.

3. Goody Swaps

This is one of my friends and I’s favorite things to do! Often when seasons change or someone moves, we’ll all get together to do a clothing and goody swap- more or less it’s a swap meet! We’re lucky that we all wear vaguely similar sizes and have overlapping styles.

Each person can bring clothes or items they no longer use and begin swapping with each other for new-to-you items that still have so much use left. Most often my friends and I find ourselves swapping clothes and cosmetics that have been cleaned and only lightly used. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t waste any cosmetic products, especially when you found the product wasn’t right for you but you still have a lot left.

This is a great idea for any group of friends trying to save money for the holidays as well. Giving the gift of sustainability between friends is always fun!

4. Up-cycle Packaging

We’re all pretty used to wrapping our gifts in wrapping paper and gift bags with ribbon. Problem is, these items often aren’t recyclable and will ultimately end up in landfill. A simple solution is to reuse the bags and gift wrap, but there are better options for when it’s time to replace these items.

My favorite way to up-cycle items as gift packaging is to hit up my local goodwill and antique shops to find cute jars and old bottles that I can fit gifts in to. Not only do my friends and family receive their gifts, but they also receive a cute jar they can use however they want!

Other items you can reuse as packaging are fabric scraps, gently used sheets and bedding, or you can go the Jim Halpert route and find a cute sentimental teapot! (Where my The Office fans at??)

5. Composting

No matter where you live, you should be composting. Composting is the best way to get rid of any organic material, which just about everyone uses a lot of on any given day. Organic materials are often disposed of in landfills, and when they end up there they get buried among the garbage and produce what’s called methane gas. Through anaerobic decomposition organic matter releases methane into the atmosphere which causes the rapid acceleration of global atmospheric pollution.

I never used to want to do this because I assumed composting materials in my apartment would stink up the place, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. You can purchase a number of different kinds of composting bins online that will do all the work for you once you plop in some banana peels and egg shells, you can freeze your compost materials, or you can find a simple outdoor bin to keep on your balcony if you have one.

Once you’re ready to dump your compost bin, or your freezer is full to the brim with organic material, there are a number of ways you can get rid of the waste. First off, if you do have your own garden and backyard, you can go ahead and use your compost materials yourself when it’s ready. However, for those without gardens and yards, you can donate your compost to your local community garden if they have a compost heap, to your neighbors who do have gardens, or you can check and see if your community has a public composting program.

For more ideas on composting, here is a great article: https://goingzerowaste.com/blog/composting-for-apartments/

Becoming more sustainable in waste production is possible for everyone. That being said, some of these things might be a stretch for you, and that’s okay. Doing what you can each day, and getting better as you go is ultimately the goal. The one thing we shouldn’t do is get comfortable with our waste production if it is continually causing harm to our beautiful planet.

Let me know: In what ways are you becoming more sustainable in your waste production? Have you gotten into any of the above suggestions?