DIY Christmas Presents – Inexpensive, sustainable gifts with a personal touch!

Christmas is just around the corner, and in a continued attempt to express my love for both the environment AND my family/friends, I’ve set out to give all 100% homemade gifts this year. I hope this DIY guide helps you spend less, love more, and give from the heart!

1. DIY Candles

Supply List: ½ cup coconut oil, ½ cup all-natural beeswax ($14 on Amazon or Hobby Lobby), 10 drops essential oil of your choice, #4 wicks (less than $5 on Amazon or Hobby Lobby), glass container (repurposing an old jelly jar is my favorite!)

Directions: Place coconut oil and beeswax in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute at a time, stirring after each minute until completely melted and blended. Stir in essential oil. Place wick in empty, securing in place with two chopsticks so it stays in the middle. Pour liquid slowly into jar, adjusting wick if needed. Allow to cool, trim the wick, and enjoy!

2. DIY Hand Lotion

Supply List: Shallow glass container, ½ cup jojoba oil, avocado oil, argan oil, or any other liquid oil (I use a combo of all 3!)  ¼ cup coconut oil, ¼ cup natural beeswax ($14 on Amazon or Hobby Lobby), 2 T. shea butter ($10 or less depending on size from Amazon or Hobby Lobby), 7-10 drops essential oil of choice

Directions: In a microwave safe bowl, melt coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter for 60 seconds at a time, stirring frequently until completely melted. Add in ½ cup liquid oil(s) and essential oil, stirring well to combine. You may choose to use an emulsifier or blender. Pour into shallow glass container and allow to cool. This gift goes well with a wooden scooper and pairs nicely with a matching DIY candle of the same scent. They’re easy items to make together, especially since they require similar ingredients! Wrap in re-usable beeswax wrapping, along with the recipe, to make a fantastic, functional and sustainable gift.

3. Scrapbook

Supply List: 30+ photos, a scrapbook ($10 or less on Amazon or Hobby Lobby), non-acid glue stick, scissors, 15+ sheets of cardstock, protector sheets that fit the scrapbook you purchased (some scrapbooks come with these), fine tip pen, stickers (optional)

Directions: Print the photos you wish to include in your scrapbook. Once printed, arrange on cardstock to your liking, trimming photos if needed. Once you have your pages laid out in the design and arrangement you like, glue to cardstock. Allow to dry for 30-60 minutes before decorating with stickers and/or writing messages below and around photos.

4. Cookie in a Jar

Supply List: 1 ¼ cup flour, ½ cup brown sugar,  ½ cup granulated sugar, ½ tsp baking soda, dash of salt, 1 cup chocolate chips, large Ball Jar, notecard for instructions.

Directions: Using a funnel, layer the flour, brown sugar, sugar, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips in the jar. Screw the lid on and write the following directions on a note card: ”Preheat oven to 350* Pour contents into a large bowl. Melt ½ cup of butter and blend with 1 egg until fluffy. Fold into dry ingredients until mixed. Bake at 350* for 10-12 minutes. Merry Christmas!” Attach to jar with a festive ribbon and/or bow!

5. Christmas Ornament

Supply List: Plain plastic ball ornament from the Dollar store, decorative ribbon and/or rope, Epsom salts for snow, small photo or toy car

Directions: Pop ornament open and arrange the photo or contents of your choosing into the ornament. Add ribbon, Epsom salt “snow,” miniature toy tree, etc. to the ornament before closing. If desired, use paint pens to write a message like “Merry Christmas” or the year on the ornament. You may choose to hot glue a decorative ribbon or rope, or perhaps a small pine cone, around the outside as well.

6. DIY Painted Ceramic Mug

Supply List: Plain white ceramic mug from dollar store, acrylic paint, brushes, acrylic paint pain (optional) Polyethylene spray paint (optional)

Directions: using a small brush, paint your choice design onto the mug. You may try using an acrylic paint pen to write messages, too! Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours. Place mug(s) in your oven and turn to 350* Bake for 30 minutes, then shut the oven off. This will help the paint seal to the mug. If you want, you may choose to coat your design with a poly finish. I used both the baking method and a spray top coat (Krylon brand), allowed to dry 24 hours, then washed thoroughly by hand. Avoid spraying the top portion, where you would drink from, if possible.

7. Homemade Yeast or Sourdough Bread

Supplies: Flour, salt, yeast, water

Directions: If you have sourdough starter, opt for a homemade loaf instead of traditional cookies and sweets for a gift. Wrapped in re-usable beeswax or decorative paper, its healthier and more unique touch! For a great guide on how to get started on sourdough baking, visit here .  For homemade yeast bread, follow my favorite weekly bread recipe and bless a neighbor with some delicious bread! Reminder: wear a face mask and gloves when preparing food for someone outside of your household during Covid-19

Becca’s Favorite Homemade Bread

A simple and delicious way to reduce plastic packaging while investing in producing the foods you eat. Kids may enjoy helping knead the dough as part of a fun kitchen experiment!

*Whole wheat flour can be used in place of flour, too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water (should be warm to the touch, not boiling)
  • ½ cup sugar (I use white sugar but plan to try with brown raw sugar soon!)
  • 1 ½ T. active dry yeast
  • ½ – 1 T. salt (I like Himalayan salt, and prefer more salt)
  • 5-6 cups flour

Directions:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine water with sugar until dissolved. Add yeast and stir continuously for about 5 minutes. The mixture should look combined and froth a little. Add salt and stir for another minute. Add flour one cup at a time. (I usually add about five cups, and then beginning lightly kneading, adding pinches of flour as a go until the dough isn’t sticky to the touch). Knead for 7-8 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place. I usually Once the dough is double in size, punch down (the fun part!) and divide into two greased 9 x 5 loaf pans. Let the dough rise again for about 30 minutes. Be patient, the bread will turn out at about the height you put it in at! Bake at 350* for about 25 minutes, or until a cooking thermometer reads 190-200*. Brush with butter, let cool, and slice with a serrated knife. E N J O Y!

I’ve enjoyed giving my friends and family all kinds of combinations of these items. I like to include some homemade soap, lotion, and homemade hair conditioner in small, reused plastic tubs (saved and washed from restaurant pick up) so they can try the products first. I’ve also gotten into oil painting, and plan to give some of my best work to my close family members. Time is certainly more valuable than money, and I hope you can share the beloved resource of your time with your loved ones this year with some of these healthy, sustainable DIY gifts!

Happy Holidays!

Becca Kawaoka


Simple, Cheap, Useful DIY Projects (In 30 Minutes or Less)

Winter is coming, and with COVID-19 restrictions on travel and entertainment what better time than now to get craftier? The projects listed below are all sustainable, meaning they’re helping the environment by:

  • Reduce plastic use, and your carbon footprint.
  • Re-using items commonly thrown out (like glass jars and milk containers)
  • Many ingredients call for ingredients that may be made of recycled materials. The ingredients listed also make several future batches, thus reducing consumption.
  • Healthier products: no added sulfites, preservatives or chemicals!
  • You may save money! We’ve put almost twice as much into savings per month than we did prior to Covid due to sustainable living habits and minimal travel.

            Below you will find some of my newfound favorite DIY crafts that you can get done in under 30-60 minutes. I’ve noted the ingredients needed for each item so you can find something you have on hand. If you see something you’d like to make, order the items ahead of time for pick up or on Amazon so you may make them on your next day off.

  • Oat Milk (oats, dates, water)

Place 1 cup of oats in a blender with 4 cups of water and 1 date, pit removed. Blend on high for 30 seconds. Wet a cheesecloth, thin towel, or old t shirt, squeeze the excess liquid out, and place over a large bowl. Strain liquid into jar through shirt. Gather the edges of the towel and squeeze remaining liquid through into the bowl. You may leave it overnight to strain as well. Transfer to a large Ball jar or repurposed container. Refrigerate and use within 5 days. Shake well before enjoying. Makes great oatmeal, delicious over cereal, in smoothies, and even in coffee.

*Almond milk variation: Soak 1 cup almonds in 1-2 cups water overnight. Drain and blend with 4 cups water and 1 pitted date for 1-2 minutes. Strain in towel and store up to 5 days in refrigerator.

  • Conditioner (shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, aloe vera juice, essential oil, optional beeswax)

Bring 1-2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan to make a double boiler. Place ¼ cup shea butter, 3 T. coconut oil, 1 T. avocado oil and optional 1 T. beeswax (I’ve made it with and without beeswax. Beeswax will help it harden slightly) in a small saucepan and place over the medium saucepan of boiling water. Stir until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 T. aloe vera juice and 7-10 drops of essential oil. (rosemary is recommended for hair) Pour into a wide, shallow Ball jar (or repurposed jar of appropriate size) and let cool for an hour (it will solidify slightly depending on your house temp) Use 1-2 teaspoons (this is stuff is powerfully conditioning) by massage into roots of hair after shampooing. Leave in for 5-10 minutes and then rinse thoroughly for soft, shiny, healthy hair.

  • Lotion (shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, essential oil)

Bring 1-2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan to make a double boiler. Place ¼ cup shea butter, 1/4 T. coconut oil, and 2 T beeswax in a small saucepan and place over the medium saucepan of boiling water. Stir until melted. Whisk in essential oil and pour into a wide, shallow Ball jar (or repurposed jar of appropriate size) to harden. Use a small amount of lotion to moisturize. *This recipe can be made without beeswax.

  Pictured with Beeswax Candle (easy to make together) *Moisturizer: my version of lotion w/o beeswax

  • Beeswax Candles (beeswax, coconut oil, wicks, optional essential oil)

Bring 1-2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan to make a double boiler. Place 1 cup beeswax and 1 cup of coconut in a small saucepan and place over the medium saucepan of boiling water. Stir until melted. Whisk in essential oil if desired. Pour into a medium sized glass jar with a 6” wick placed in the middle. It may move around a little while you pour it, but you can recenter it once you’ve poured the liquid in as it begins to harden.

  • Air Freshener (fresh herbs, a lemon, vanilla, water)

In a small saucepan, bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil. Slice your lemon and place in water along with a sprig of rosemary. Simmer until you can fragrantly smell the rosemary. Pour into a wide, shallow jar or repurposed jar of appropriate size. Stir in a teaspoon or so of vanilla.

                                                           

  • Decorative Cement Hands (quick mixing cement, water, latex gloves)

Place 2 gloves over a large disposable cup. Then, pour about 3 cups of quick mixing cement ($15 at Lowes) into an old, disposal mixing bowl. Add water slowly until the mixture resembles thick, smooth pudding. Pour into gloves and tie off the ends near the wrist of the glove. Arrange both gloves in a large bowl and weigh the palms down with a small dish filled with weights (like some rocks). Allow to harden 1 hour, then carefully remove the weighted dish and peel the gloves off the cement. Be careful, the fingers break easily! Sand any rough edges. These are fun to spray paint or use as a succulent planter. Let set for 24 hours before using.

  • Container Garden (used milk container, soil, seeds)

Rinse your container thoroughly. If using an almond milk container, cut the nutrition facts side of the carton out. If using a plastic milk jug, cut the handle (top) portion out. Keep the pour spout intact. Make sure the lid is on tight, or secure with duct tup. Fill with soil and plant seeds based on planting instructions. Water enough to keep soil dry but be cautious not to overwater container gardens. Place in an area that receives good amounts of sun, or under an LED grow light.

“We can’t just consume our way to a more sustainable world.” 

– Jennifer Nini

Most of these products are easy and somewhat cheap to buy. You might think why wouldn’t I just buy an eco-friendly brand? The answer is because its still creating waste. Instead, why don’t we go one step further and invest in the sustainable ingredients to create the product ourselves? Plus, it’s exciting to gain confidence in your abilities when making these things, and far better for our bodies. No preservatives, added sulfites or chemicals, organic. Have fun and let me know how it goes!

Cheers,

Becca Kawaoka  


Simple Ways to Be More Sustainable

Like all of you, my life changed dramatically when COVID-19 hit. I was forced home, my job as a trainer at a fitness resort near Seattle in jeopardy, and all the triathlon races I was training for postponed indefinitely. It would have been easy to let the circumstances bring me down, but I wasn’t ready to give up hope on growth for 2020. I threw myself into revising our lifestyle to be eco-friendlier.

In years past, I had the “if it’s not happening to me, it doesn’t affect me, I don’t really care” mentality. I also used the excuse that I was so busy with work and training that I didn’t have time to deep dive my life and turn it all around. When I was forced to adapt my work life, a positive result was the opportunity to become more sustainable. I can’t wait to share how this has changed me as a person, and how you can implement small rituals to help save our Earth.

Commuting 60-80 miles a day in a Jeep certainly contributed to pollution. Now, I drive one time a week, 10 miles at most, sometimes less! While it’s not possible for everyone to work remote, there are other ways you can be more efficient AND save money as a result. Carpooling is one option or joining the #GoByBike movement started by one of our favorite cycling companies, Trek! Trek makes a cool E-Bike for commuting, as well as several bike options for people who want to be healthier and exercise their way to work or the store. Check it out here!

Perhaps the easiest way for you to have an immediate impact on both the environment and your budget is to do a quick peek around your kitchen and bathroom. Where do you consume a lot of plastic or waste? Is there a way for you to either make it yourself or purchase an eco-friendlier version? For example, I noticed the main source of waste was food packaging, plastic shampoo, soap, and conditioner bottles, air freshener or cleaning bottles, face scrubs/masks, detergents, and lotion bottles. I took a few weekends to try my hand making most of our bathroom and kitchen needs things myself. Yes, it took time. Yes, I messed up a few times. Yes, I kept going and now regularly make all of our bathroom needs from scratch. You may want to try it once for fun- perhaps it will stick like it did for me and perhaps it’s not for you! Below I’ve listed my homemade items I’ve found easy to make myself weekly or monthly,  along with eco-friendly links to products you may consider buying instead to help reduce your waste.

DIY Kitchen:  DIY Bathroom:  DIY Laundry Room/Other:  
Oat MilkBread Pickled seasonal bulk vegetables Mayonnaise Cleaning solutionAir freshenerSoap Shampoo barsConditionerFacial scrubsLotionDetergent Candles Décor  

Eco Friendly Resources:

**If all of this still seems like too much, start by simply using sponges instead of paper towels, reusable plastic bags instead of Ziplocs or single use baggies, reuse your coffee cups from coffee shops, bring refillable water bottles to use instead of buying single use plastic bottles, and avoid buying disposable cutlery, plates, and cups.

I’ve also enjoyed starting indoor and outdoor gardens! I grew up on a farm with a massive garden, and after spending a few years in the Arizona desert I realized how much joy thriving green plants bring me! I’ve started a container garden consisting of herbs, tomatoes, berries, and spinach partially from seed and partially from propagating plants from my existing outdoor garden. My hope is that I can use as much produce as possible from my own plants, so I don’t have to waste packaging material or even fuel to get to the store. I want to be the source as much as possible to save money and reduce my carbon footprint. I enjoy reusing milk containers and bottles to plant new life that will later provide for our meals. Whenever possible, I try to shop at our local farmers market, Carpinito Bros. They offer reduced priced bulk vegetables and fruits, which are great for canning, making sauces, pickles, and juices!

I urge you to locate a farmer’s market near you! Additionally, we use a weekly service that picks up compost (leftover food scraps and yard debris), garbage, and recycling. I wish all states and cities offered this! If you don’t have these resources, look online for a local recycling center to drop off plastics, cardboard, paper, and aluminum recyclables.  If you don’t have a compost option with garbage pick-up, great news: You can start composting TODAY! Start by dumping all food scraps and biodegradable waste into a lined container (I use a large upcycled plant container lined with a re-usable food bag. From there, you may choose to start a compost pile, dump into an area in your garden if you have one, or simply begin a large, open-style compost bin outdoors. Be careful of local animals, as composting is a bit like a buffet for them, and reference different ways to start composting here.

In short, I’ve become a more resilient, self-sufficient, confident individual by taking care of my environment, saving money, and becoming the source of my foods and hygiene products. I enjoy crafting in ways that have a positive impact on Earth, and feel accomplished every time I make bread, soap, jam or repurpose a plastic bottle. I hope you can find a few small ways to make a change, too! Please reach out if you would like to try some of these ideas but are a little intimidated or overwhelmed at how to go about it. I’ve tried all sorts of short cuts, and even some long cuts because I don’t have everything some recipes call for, so holler if I can help you get in touch with your hippie side!

Remember: There is no Planet B.

Cheers,

Becca K