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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

My Favorite Things - Everyday Items Edition

In my second “My Favorite Things” blog post, I’m focusing on items I have with me every day when I leave the house, and I’m out-and-about running errands, traveling, or just existing.  Most of these items come from smaller companies, who are focused on sustainability, reducing or eliminating waste, or just doing things in a better way.  We’ll start from the top of my head, down to the tips of my toes for this one!

About two years ago, when it was time to get a new case for my phone, I didn’t really want what was available at the Apple store.  It all seemed overpriced for what you got, and it was essentially just a slab of plastic, which wasn’t appealing to me.  I had just started to see ads for this new company based out of Canada, called Pela.  They made cases out of flax seed and natural polymers, and they were compostable!  I decided to give them a shot, and I haven’t been disappointed yet!  I’ve dropped my phone numerous times, and it’s never had a problem.  I’ve since gotten cases from Pela for my husband and my mom.  They often have sales, and you can get even more discounts if you buy more than one case at a time.  Many of their different styles support various kinds of sea life charities.  They are a great small company with wonderful customer service, and ship without unnecessary packaging or any plastic.

Junk mail drives me crazy.  And because we live in a few places, it really gets out of control when things need to be forwarded, mail needs to be held, or we need friends or family to check mail for us periodically.  I started using the Paper Karma app a few years ago, back when it was free.  They eventually moved to an annual subscription plan, but I find it to be totally worth it.  It’s the only app I’m willing to pay for, when I think about it!  For any junk mail you receive, such as letters, mailers, or catalogs, you just take a picture that shows who the mail piece is from, put in the name and address of the person it was sent to, and you can opt out of receiving future mailings.  It has worked really well.  I even use it to opt out of mail for people previously at our addresses.  It’s worked especially well for our FL address, where we were receiving junk mail for at least six previous occupants who lived in our condo before we bought it from their landlord.  It takes just seconds, but it saves so much wasted paper and annoyance every day!  Paper Karma was even featured in a New York Times article last year about how to reduce your junk mail.

Because I love my Pela phone case so much, I was excited to see they came out with sunglasses, too!  As with the phone cases, the glasses are also compostable and made out of biodegradable acetate and flax.  I just got two pairs of the Rachel style in the brown and clear, and I’m going to have my eye doctor put prescription lenses in them (I checked with Pela first, and their very friendly customer service person told me they were compatible with prescription lenses, and she had just had it done herself!)  Once I’m done with the sunglasses, I can ship them back to Pela for recycling.  How cool is that?!

I don’t leave home without shopping bags.  I always have a ton stashed in the trunks of all our vehicles.  But sometimes, I’m out somewhere where I don’t expect to need a bag, or I’m going somewhere in a friend’s car, or we are traveling without a car, and I love to have a RuMe bag with me. It folds up really small, weighs next-to-nothing, easily fits in a pocket, and can hold up to 50 pounds.  I am always amazed at how much I can fit into this bag, and always relieved to have it with me and not need another plastic bag!  I got my first RuMe bag at a marketing conference several years ago, and it has traveled with me everywhere!

Produce Bags
While shopping in Whole Foods a few days ago, I stopped and looked around the produce section, and all the little plastic bags people were using for their produce.  Each shopping cart had at least 6-10 of these bags.  It made me feel sick.  All of those bags being used, every day, and for maybe a half hour, before they are all thrown away.  And then it repeats again the next week.  I’ve always stayed away from produce bags, unless absolutely necessary for something that I couldn’t easily place in my shopping cart without a container, such as loose mushrooms, brussels sprouts, or green beans.  Two years ago, I got my first set of reusable produce bags from Mighty Nest, and I love them.  I also got a free set from Public Goods as a member perk, but you can easily find sets on Amazon for a cheap price.  I keep my produce bags in a larger reusable bag in my car, so they don’t get lost and stay together.

Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Vacuum Bottle SilverI personally don’t own a real S’well bottle.  I bought one as a gift once at the Biltmore, and it was really nice!  However, all the ones I have are knock-offs, but they seem to work just as well, and are about 1/3 the price.  You can score a vacuum insulated bottle for $10-12 at a TJ Maxx or Marshall’s, or for under $8 at Public Goods.  They work great at keeping water cold all day long, even if you leave your bottle in a hot car in the sun in Florida!  And if you want to keep tea, coffee or soup hot in cold weather, they also work perfectly for that as well.  Really, there’s no excuse to be walking around with a plastic water bottle.  Plastic bottles often don’t get recycled, and you’re drinking microplastics!!  Yuck!  Just fill up your reusable bottle each day, put it by the door with your keys, and grab it when you’re walking out for the day.

Over the years, I’ve realized wool doesn’t have to be itchy.  In fact, it can be soft and very comfortable.  It’s moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating, and generally something that’s of good, long-lasting quality.  My best friend got me hooked on Darn Tough socks, which are made up in Vermont.  As the name tells you, these socks are made to last.  You’re not going to be busting your big toe through these babies!  They come in so many fun prints, and I look forward to it getting colder, so I can wear their socks again.  I don’t recommend putting them in the dryer, as they will wear out faster, and possibly shrink a bit, since they are all wool.  I like being able to support a small company and one that’s based in my home state of Vermont!

If you’ve seen me at all in the last two years, you’ve likely seen me wearing Allbirds.  It’s generally all I wear anymore.  And unless my husband needs to be dressed up, all he wears is Allbirds.  And we’ve gotten several friends hooked on Allbirds as well.  They are the most comfortable shoes we’ve ever worn.  Anything else just doesn’t feel right!  Not only do they make your feet feel good, but you can also feel good about the materials used to make them.  They are made from merino wool or eucalyptus for the uppers, wool for the insole, castor bean oil for the sole, and recycled plastic water bottles for the laces.  Allbirds use 60% less energy to manufacture than a traditional shoe.  The shoes are washable, you can wear them without socks without your feet stinking, and they are just so comfy.  I tend to wear the eucalyptus ones more in FL or in PA in the summer, and the wool ones in PA in the fall and winter, or when I’m flying, since my feet get so cold.  I have a bunch of the Wool Runners and Eucalyptus runners, but my new favorites are their Tree Breezers, which are like ballet flats.  My husband loves their Tree Loungers, which are slip-ons.  Once you try on a pair, you’ll be an Allbirds convert as well!  They don’t have too many physical stores, so you’ll likely have to order them online, but they do have a 30-day trial guarantee.  And take their sizing recommendations on the styles.  I’m a 10 in a few styles and a 9 in others, and all their size recommendations were spot-on.  I did have the opportunity to visit one of their flagship stores in NYC a few months ago, and that was amazing!

I hope this list helps you to find some new things you like as well, while being comfortable, prepared and reducing plastic waste along your path.  I'll have to start working on some new editions for cleaning, kitchen items, bathroom items, laundry, and some favorite homemade cleaning hacks I use all the time.