Zero Waste Corporate Gift Ideas

Every business should find some way to market themselves in order to get more customers or keep their existing customers. I like to send something to my clients especially during the holidays either to thank them or to remind them of me. The struggle lies in living the zero waste life and giving customers junk that ends up in the landfill.

Experience is usually the go to zero waste gift but it may not necessarily be appropriate or it can be cost prohibitive. Unless you are gifting a specific person in mind, it’s always a good idea to find something neutral. Here are some zero waste corporate gift ideas.

Zero Waste Gifts that Fit in an Envelope

With Standard Postage

  • Plantable Cards – Cards that you can plant in soil and grow wildflowers.
  • Gift Cards / Gift Certificates – Online stores are the best option or some place you know that they frequent. You don’t necessarily have to buy the card. You can always buy it online and print out the code.
  • Movie Tickets – Think about where your customers are. Pick a movie theatre close to their home / business.
  • Postcard Size Calendar
  • Recipes
  • Tea Bags

Most of these are paper products that can be recycled or composted.

Everything Else

  • Wine
  • Soaps (not the ones wrapped in plastic)
  • Kitchen / Tea Towels
  • Collapsible Cups
  • Box of Baked Goodies
  • Cotton Tote Bag / Foldable Tote Bags – Great for printing your company logo.
  • Potted Plants
  • Scented Candles
  • Stainless Steel Water Bottles / Coffee Mug – Great for printing your company logo. I try to avoid plastic where possible.
  • Hand Towels – Great for embroidering your company logo.
  • Stainless Steel / Glass Containers – Great for engraving your company logo but I suggest filling the container with some goodies.
  • Bamboo Toothbrush – Especially great if you are a dentist.
  • Glass Straws – I think a lot of people will find it novel. If it’s glass, it is easier to see if the straw is cleaned properly. Don’t forget the pipe cleaner for the straw too.

Others Ideas that Didn’t Make the List

There is no point in giving gifts that a customer would not appreciate. Zero waste gifts may still end up in the landfill or become a dust collector at home. Here are some gift ideas that I think non-zero wasters would not appreciate.

  • Reusable produce bags – I’m not sure if a lot of people remember to bring their own bags to the grocery store let alone produce bags.
  • Fruit Basket – Maybe a small amount of fruit because do people seriously eat that much of fruit before it goes bad? It seems like most of the fruit will go to waste.
  • Homemade Beauty Products – Too personal because everyone has their preferences unless you are in the business of selling beauty products but soap is the exception.
  • Magazine Subscription – Not sure how that will remind people of your business.
  • Sandwich / Snack Bags – I don’t know a lot of people who pack their own lunch to work or pack sandwiches.
  • Mugs – There are just way too many mugs that end up in thrift stores.
  • Coasters – There are zero friendly options but chances are, everyone who use coasters have them already.
  • Cotton Napkins – Do people really use napkins at home?
  • Travel Chopsticks – It depends on your customer base. Surprisingly, a lot of people struggle with chopsticks.

It goes without saying that if you are looking for zero waste ideas, make sure that you keep that in mind when wrapping your gifts. Recycled / paper envelopes and cardboard boxes are easily available. Skip the plastic ribbons, shiny confetti and use twine instead.

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Shopping For Clothes

The general rule for shopping for clothes zero waste is to buy second hand and ideally organic. Lately, the weather has been super hot and I decided that I needed to get some short sleeved tops especially when meeting clients. I cannot remember when was the last time I bought new clothes.

Previously, I worked in the comforts of an air-conditioned office so I would wear long sleeve shirts and jackets but not anymore. I also take the view that it is unprofessional for me to meet my clients with sleeveless tops and shoes that shows your toes.

I am fascinated at how people can find amazing stuff at thrift stores because I tried and I cannot find anything. Maybe it’s just the particular store near my home. I considered buying brand new clothes and then I remembered ThredUp.

ThredUp organizes the inventory based on type, brands, price, condition etc. I found some branded tops which were in excellent condition. There was a 40% discount for first time buyers. I know I was shopping for short sleeve blouse but I couldn’t ignore the green silk top from Diane von Furstenberg for $11. Looks like this will be what I’m wearing this summer and probably next summer.

ThredUp

Bone Broth in Slow Cooker

What do you do with the roasted chicken carcass when dinner is done? What about the chicken wings that nobody wants? I usually save all the bones and freeze them until I have a container full of bones. Sometimes I freeze carrot, celery and mushroom bits too. I don’t eat as much meat as I used to so it usually takes a few months for me fill up the container with bones.

Bone Broth 1
You can see some from frozen bones and celery sticks in the slow cooker.

Recipe

  1. Dump all the bones and frozen vegetables in a slow cooker and cover it with water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
  2. Add seasoning such as salt, bay leaves, peppercorn, garlic, herbs and whatever you like.
  3. Let it cook on low for about 24 hours.
  4. Sieve the contents and store them in different sized glass jars.

Bone Broth 3

Tips

  • If you use raw bones, blanche the bones first before roasting the bones. Blanching the bones will remove impurities and make the broth clearer. Roasting the bones before adding it to the slow cooker will give it better flavor.
  • I accept all bones. I don’t discriminate.
  • I prefer to cook my bone broth in a slow cooker so I don’t have to watch the fire over the stove.
  • Adding a tablespoon of vinegar (any type) is suppose to help breakdown the bones to extract more flavor from the bones.
  • You don’t need as much vegetables as you typically would use when making a stock. The broth is more concentrated than a stock.
  • Use the largest stockpot or slow cooker that you possibly have because the bones takes up a lot volume. You will be surprised with how little bone broth you will get from such a large stockpot but then again, the flavor is much concentrated.
  • When the bone broth becomes gelatinous at room temperature, you know you did it right.
  • It’s good to store the bone broth in different size jars because some recipes requires less or more bone broth.
  • When you are done, bury the discarded bones so it becomes compost.

How to Use Bone Broth

  • Drink it as is.
  • Use it when cooking quinoa, grains and rice.
  • Use it as the soup base for noodles and congee.
  • Use it in place of stock.

 

Donating Glasses / Eyewear / Spectacles

If you wear prescription eyewear, you probably have to update your prescription every year or so. For the longest time, I have had a massive collection of prescription eyewear which I have accumulated in my life. Sometimes I cringe at the frames I have picked previously. Rainbow frames? What was I thinking?

I did not throw away my old prescription eyewear thinking that I will always need a spare set in case something happens to my current eyewear. There goes the “in case” argument again and I’m guilty of it.

Spectacles

Where to Donate?

During the recent elections, I went to the polling station which turned out to be a retirement home and that is where I found a box accepting donated eyewear. In an effort to remove clutter from my home, I filled a paper bag with old prescription eyewear and dropped it off at the retirement home.

Check if your optometrist accepts old prescription eyewear for recycling. If you are not aware of any drop off locations to donate your eyewear, check out the following:

  • Lions International
    • Lions International is probably the leader in dealing with recycled eyewear. A lot of organizations work closely with Lions International in managing donated eyewear.
  • New Eyes – Glasses for those in need
    • They accept eyeglasses, sunglasses, hearing aids, watches, jewelry, silverware and giftware.
  • VSP Global
    • This is more for businesses. They can order a free donation box and when the box is full, they can ship the box using a prepaid shipping label. Apparently, VSP Global works closely with Lions International to clean, refurbish and label donated eyewear for VSP network doctors and schools.
  • Saving Sight
    • They also work with Lions International and they are based in Columbia, Missouri.

Is Donating Eyewear a Waste of Resources?

Here is a 2012 article arguing that donating eyewear is a waste of money because it cost more than buying new prescription eyewear. Here are some general comments in response to the 2012 article.

Personally, I believe that prescription eyewear is more expensive than it should be. That’s because there is a monopoly when it comes to the eyewear industry.

Even if donating eyewear is expensive, it’s still better than having it end up in the landfill. For someone who is not able to afford prescription eyewear, getting prescription eyewear which works even though it is not the ideal prescription is still better than not being able to see at all.

Sustainable Eyewear

I wish I knew about these sustainable options sooner. I’m currently wearing my sunglasses that I’ve owned for more than 8 years. It still looks brand new and there is no reason for me to get a new one. I may have had the lenses replaced once.

However, if I ever need a new pair of eyewear, I’ll definitely consider sustainable options in the future. There are frames made from bamboo and recycled plastic. Check out the following links:

  • GROWN – sustainable wooden eyewear
    • For every item purchased, GROWN will fund sight-restoring eye surgery for 1 person, or diagnostic eye exams for 12 children
  • Guide to eco-friendly sustainable sunglasses
  • I want proof
    • Eye wear made from wood, aluminum and skate boards. How cool is that?
  • Dick Moby
    • Made from bio-based and recycled plastic
    • Handmade in Italy – I try to support businesses close to me so this is not my first option.
  • Panda
    • Bamboo sunglasses
  • Kynd – Sustainable Counterculture
    • More bamboo sunglasses
    • According to their website: If your pair of bamboo sunglasses has been messed up or broken by some random act of nature, or if you just want to try something different, then send your old pair back to us.  Not only will we give you 50% off your next pair, we’ll do our best to put the old pair to good use.

Don’t forget Contact Lenses

I have not forgotten about contact lenses, if you use Bausch and Lomb, you can participate in the Terracycle Recycle program.

Here is Lauren Singer’s take on recycling contact lenses.

Now, go locate your old prescription eyewear lying around your home collecting dust and give it to someone else in need.

Sauerkraut

RecipeSauerkraut

  1. Slice a head of cabbage and wash it thoroughly in a big bowl.
  2. Drain the clean cabbage and sprinkle a tablespoon of salt over the cabbage and let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. After that, massage the cabbage so the salt is distributed evenly. The salt will extract the moisture from the cabbage.
  4. Transfer the cabbage and the water from the bowl into a jar and cover the jar with a piece of cloth to stop foreign objects from falling into the jar.
  5. Don’t seal the jar now because the cabbage would release bubbles as part of the fermentation process. Leave the jar on the counter for at least 7 days. After 7 days, try some cabbage and if you like the way it taste, you can seal the jar and keep it in the fridge.

Sauerkraut Tips

  1. You can use any type of cabbage and it will work. Napa cabbage, purple cabbage, chinese cabbage. I usually buy whatever cabbage which is not wrapped in plastic.
  2. You can slice the cabbage any way you want.  I generally prefer to slice mine as thinly as possible.
  3. Feel free to flavor your sauerkraut any way you like. Put the bay leaf, garlic or any other seasoning in the jar. The possibility is endless.
  4. When you wash the cabbage, I usually put the wilted outer leaves in the compost pile and save the leaf right under the outer leaves. I would fold the leaf to ensure that all the other chopped leaves are submerged in the brine. Make sure that all the cabbage is submerged or it will become moldy.
  5. Sauerkraut will ferment faster when you leave it on the counter and it will still ferment if you leave it in the fridge but at a slower pace.

Resources

Click on this link for more resources relating to sauerkraut.

 

Christmas

I love Christmas and it is hard to decorate for Christmas without generating any waste. There was a time when I was in a Christmas frenzy and I would buy all kinds of Christmas decorations. I had a lot of leftover decorations from my previous life which I continue to use today because there is no point in throwing something that is perfectly good.

Music

The best way to get into the Christmas mood is play some Christmas music. There are tons of free music thanks to Spotify, Pandora and YouTube.

christmas-wreath

Wreath

Last year I bought a Christmas wreath from the farmers market. Eventually, the wreath dried out and went into the compost bin. I saved the frame. This year, I was tempted to buy something similar but I decided against it because my new place does not have composting facilities and I am not sure about feeding pine leaves to my worms. So, I decided to make my own wreath with existing materials that I have at home.

Cards

I like receiving cards for my birthday or for special occasions. It makes me feel special. I use the cards as decoration and eventually I would scan the card for memories (where possible) or recycle the cards. I’ve also started a new business and decided to send out 2017 calendars to my friends, clients and business associates. I am hoping that they will keep the card for the entire 2017 instead of throwing it away after the holidays. I also chose non-glossy cards so the cards can be recycled or composted when they no longer want it.

Ornaments

I collect Christmas ornaments from my travels. Every year, when we set up the Christmas Tree, we would reminisce about the trips and how or why we acquired the various ornaments. I am not a fan of baking sourdough ornaments. It is much too time consuming for a lazy person like me and I feel bad about throwing away the ornaments when the holidays are over. I am also not interested in ornaments if there is no story attached to it.

Scent

We use to buy Christmas scented candles but since the candles are gone, I told Husband that we will no longer be purchasing scented candles. I have to admit that the candles are pretty and it gives out a nice smell but candles can get expensive and potentially toxic. I tried looking for some zero waste methods to scent the house and I’ve decided that homemade potpourri is just too much work for me. Since I will be hosting a Christmas Lunch, I’ve decided to use our slow cooker to simmer some cinnamon sticks with clove and orange slices. Will see how that goes. I’m doing it in a slow cooker because I cannot trust myself in making sure that the water doesn’t dry out on the stove top.

Presents

This year, I have decided that I was going to shop for Christmas presents around my house or if I do purchase something, it would be in the form of experience or something that can be consumed. This year, I made doughnuts for my neighbors. I’m also thinking of movie tickets for the upcoming Star Wars film and you can almost never go wrong with a good bottle of wine. I also made Christmas ornaments for my close friends using existing materials that I have at home.

I actually hate giving or receiving gift cards because I think there is no thought that goes into that. I’ve had gift cards that I have held on to for years because I cannot figure what to use it on. I’d rather give or receive cash, Visa or Mastercard. However, I do buy gift cards for those I know who will use it and it’s usually gift cards for a grocery store which they frequent. I also did purchase a laptop as a Christmas present for my best friend but it took about a month to raise the necessary funds and coordinate the group effort.

As for Hubby, I’m not planning on buying him any presents this year. Last year, I bought him several Christmas gifts and he did not even bother to use any of it so it was a waste of money. This year, I’ve decided to organize a Christmas Lunch with his friends. I know he is looking forward to having his friends around. It’s an excellent excuse to deep clean the house. I’m also planning to get tickets to watch the Nutcracker and the Newport Beach Christmas Parade. I’m sure he will enjoy that too.

Lunch

I’ve invited Husband’s friends over for Christmas lunch. I’m actually looking forward to it. I told them not to bring any gifts but they can bring alcohol. I also told them to skip the gift bag and wrapping because I’m just interested in the contents in the bottle. We are planning to play board games after lunch and I am sure it will be lots of fun. Trying to organize a zero waste Christmas lunch is going to be a challenge.

Lifetime Warranties

I’m not necessarily a fan of buying second hand. I believe in buying good quality items that will last a long time. I believe in buying a few pairs of good quality shoes even though each pair may be more expensive because it will end up costing as much as several poor quality shoes that may be cheaper but needs to be replaced regularly. Let’s not forget the amount of waste generated from buying and replacing poor quality items.

I don’t mind buying second hand items if I believe that it is good quality but those may be hard to come by. I am also more inclined to purchase an item if it is accompanied by a lifetime warranty because it is likely that the product would have better quality or the company would go bankrupt just having to deal with all the warranty issues.

Here is a list of some items that offers lifetime warranties:

  1. Big Green Egg – We inherited our current BBQ set but I would look into getting this if something ever happens to our current BBQ set.
  2. Briggs & Riley Luggage – I have gone through so many suitcases and it is almost ridiculous. The wheels would come off and if I tried to claim the warranty, they will ask for proof of receipt for something that was purchased years ago and it would take months for it to be repaired. Apparently, Briggs & Riley offers a no fuss warranty and it is a simple process. The next time I need to replace my suitcase, I will definitely be getting one from Briggs & Riley. It will be a while though.
  3. Gunter Wilhelm – I bought their knives from a roadshow at Costco. Somehow my friend broke the knife in half. I mailed the broken knife to them and received a replacement knife in 2 days. No questions asked. I was impressed and the knife was not terribly expensive.
  4. Jansport – Husband has a few of their backpacks since his high school days. Eventually, the zips gave out and the straps tore . We mailed it to Jansport and within a few weeks, they fixed the backpacks and it looked brand new. I didn’t mind paying for the shipping because it was cheaper than buying a new bag. It was so easy and no questions asked.
  5. Kobalt from Lowe’s – We bought a crowbar and we managed to break it. A few months later we went to Lowe’s to get a replacement and customer service just told us to pick up a new crowbar. I’ve read online that not everyone has the same experience.
  6. Little Giant Ladder System – We bought this because our old ladder was too short for our needs. Have not claimed the warranty yet.
  7. Tilley Hats – Next time Husband’s hats get destroyed, I will look into getting this for him.
  8. Timbuk2 – I received the TSA approved laptop bag for Christmas last year and I love it. I have not claimed the warranty yet. In my experience, TSA may still require you to remove your laptop and put it in a separate bin especially if you are outside the US. If you buy the bag and it goes on discount the day after you purchase it, they will not honor the discounted price but they will ask you to purchase the discounted bag and return the non-discounted bag. Too much carbon footprint just to save a little money but no one likes to think that they got a bad deal. It would have been easier for them to refund the difference since a lot of companies offer a refund for the difference if the discount happens within X amount of days from date of purchase.

This list is not exhaustive but I’ll just add to this each time I come across something relevant to my interest. For example, there are plastic bottles which you can buy with lifetime warranty but I would still stay away from purchasing those items because I want to eliminate plastic from my life whenever possible.

I would also recommend that you review the warranty policy if you purchase the product because of the warranty since no two warranties are alike.

DIY Hair Cut

It is so liberating to be able to cut your own hair. For the last few weeks, I felt like a grandma with my hair constantly tied up in a bun. From the moment I wake up to when I go to bed, my hair is constantly tied up and it felt like my hair was weighing me down. I needed something new and fresh.

I decided to call my hair stylist to make an appointment to cut my hair but she cancelled on me. The next available appointment is more than a month away and I am hesitant about finding someone new because you never know how much it will cost to cut your hair. They may quote you a price but ring up a different price at the till and that has happened to me before and it was unpleasant.

As I was browsing for ideas on what to do with my hair, I came across this article and that inspired me. I have always been afraid of cutting my own hair. How do you get it straight? How do you cut the back of your hair? This article made it seem doable and since it’s just hair, why not give it a go? What is the worst that can happen? I have to find a stylist to fix my hair pronto or wait for my hair to grow back.

I did the DIY haircut #3 and it turned out great. Even Husband thought that it looked great. I have to warn you though, cutting hair is not the same as cutting paper or cardboard. The scissors have to be sharp and you should probably use the scissors to cut hair only and nothing else. I used a small scissors that I typically used to trim Husband’s side burns. It was tricky trying to cut a bunch of hair straight across.  I got it as even as I could and rinsed my hair.

I wish I knew how to cut my own hair sooner. The feeling was so liberating knowing that I can probably get away from seeing a hair stylist for years in the future. Initially, I was planning to cut my hair when it was 10 inches long so I can donate it but I couldn’t hold out anymore. My hair went to the compost bin.

Free Mulch

If you are looking for free mulch around Los Angeles, check out the following Mulch Give Away locations. For flyer and map, click here: Free Mulch.

Boyle Heights (Council District #14)

Address: 850 North Mission Road, Los Angeles 90033
Mulch delivered to this location: Thursdays (compost) and Fridays (mulch)
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am- 5:00pm

East L.A. (Council District #14)

Address: 2646 East Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles 90023
Mulch delivered to this location: Wednesdays
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am- 5:00pm

Elysian Valley (Council District #13)

Address: 3000 Gilroy Street, Los Angeles  90039
Mulch delivered to this location: Mondays and Thursdays
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am-5:00pm

Griffith Park (Council District #4)

Address: across from 5400 Griffith Park Drive, Los Angeles 90027
Compost and mulch delivered to this location: Everyday (except weekends)
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am-5:00pm

Lake View Terrace  (Council District #7)

Address: 11950 Lopez Canyon Road, San Fernando Valley, CA 91342
Mulch Delivered to this Location: Everyday (except weekend)
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am-5:00pm

Lincoln Heights (Council District #1)

Address: 1903 Humboldt Street, Los Angeles 90031
Mulch delivered to this location: Monday and Thursday
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am-5:00pm

North Hills (Council District #12)

Address: 16600 Roscoe Place, North Hills 91343
Mulch delivered to this location: Wednesdays and Fridays
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am-6:00pm

North Hollywood (Council District #2)

Address: Corner of Vineland Avenue & West Chandler Boulevard, San Fernando Valley 91601
Mulch delivered to this location: Mondays and Thursdays
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am-5:00pm

San Pedro (Council District #15)

Address: 1400 North Gaffey Street, San Pedro 90731
Mulch delivered to this location: Fridays
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am-5:00pm

Van Nuys (Council District #6)

Address: 15800 Victory Boulevard, San Fernando Valley 91406
Entrance South of Densmore Avenue Intersection
Mulch delivered to this location: Mondays
Hours of operation: Monday -Friday, 7:00am-3:00pm

West Los Angeles (Council District #10)

Address: 6001 Bowcroft Street, Los Angeles 90016
Mulch delivered to this location: Tuesdays and Thursdays
Hours of operation: Everyday 7:00am-5:00pm

Source: https://www.lacitysan.org