Are you hoping to make less waste this Halloween?  I’ve got some easy zero waste Halloween ideas that you AND your kids can get behind.  Read on to learn about:

Our 2019 zero waste Halloween ideas

 

Halloween again already??  I’m not complaining – it’s actually one of my favorite holidays.  And although it’ll look different this year cuz of COVID, we’re still aiming for a zero waste Halloween.  Last year we made even more strides towards a zero waste Halloween, so I thought I’d share our low waste Halloween ideas with you.  

 

For last year’s Halloween, we were inspired by Amanda at mamaeatsplants.com.  She described their zero waste Halloween in 2018 and I knew that was what we would aim for in 2019.  

 

How we had a zero waste Halloween in 2019

Zero waste Halloween
our zero waste Halloween

Here’s what we did.  Each year, the kids get a UNICEF box from school to collect spare change and bills that get donated to UNICEF – trick or treat for UNICEF, it’s called.  In the past, my partner and I have done our best to fill the little cardboard box with coins & bills. 

We didn’t want our kids asking strangers for candy AND money on Halloween. It felt like asking for too much.  So we figured we’d do the UNICEF part at home and let the kids do the candy part on the streets.  

 

But this year, we got behind trick or treat for UNICEF, instead of trick or treat for candy.  And one of the friends who came along collected spare change for a couple of other non-profits that support immigrant children at the border.  How cool is that?? 

 

Let me explain how we got the kids into these zero waste Halloween ideas. 

 

  • First, I told the kids what Amanda and her family did – trick or treat for UNICEF, followed by a homemade dessert party at their home.  Isn’t that a great idea? Says mom.  

 

  • Second, I proposed that if the kids decided to trick or treat for UNICEF instead of for candy, we’d have a literal BUFFET of homemade vegan desserts to come home to and pig out on.  And plenty of leftovers to carry us through the next few days, fully sugar-fueled.

 

  • Third, I proposed that the kids could each pick TWO desserts that they wanted to have on Halloween, and that I’d make them (within reason, of course, and with help from the kids if they were inclined).   Basically, we were aiming for a dessert BONANZA.  

 

  • Fourth, I reminded the kids that the fun of Halloween is not about the candy.  It’s about the planning, the costumes, the friends, the walking around, the excitement of it all.  The energy on the sidewalks from throngs of kids and parents walking in the streets, having a good time.  Such a fun night.

    Halloween costumes
    My kiddos in their DIY costumes (Wednesday Adams & Evie from the Descendants)

 

  • Fifth, I reached out to another family who cares about low waste living to see if they would be interested in joining us and being a part of trick or treat for UNICEF with a dessert buffet to follow.  They were in!

 

After going through all this, my girls had no qualms about giving up the candy in exchange for a dessert party with their buddies.  

 

The kids each picked desserts (rice pudding, cupcakes, chocolate peanut butter bars, and cookies). 

vegan cupcakes
Did you know you can whip coconut cream to make a delicious, vegan whipped cream??

I started with a shopping list the weekend before to make sure I had all the ingredients on hand, in a low waste form (planning ahead for groceries always works better than last-minute shopping and not finding what you need in bulk).  And then I started baking some of the goodies a couple of days in advance.  That way I wouldn’t spend all of Halloween baking (I’ve got other work to do too!).

 

On Halloween, our friends came over and we had a healthy dinner of vegan pesto pasta and a green salad – yum! – before we started on our walk.  Kids also got a little dessert before we hit the road. 

 

I was a little worried about how people would feel about donating cash on Halloween for UNICEF.  Surprisingly, no one blinked an eye or had any problems with the request!  Full success.  I forget the exact amount we raised but I think it was close to $100.  Go kids, go!  

 

After getting worn out walking around, we came back home and ate desserts.  Also, instead of counting candy, the kids had a great time adding up their UNICEF donations.  

 

Everyone was happy and full of sugar.  No complaints at all.

 

This felt like a more zero waste Halloween than the previous year.  You can read about our first zero waste Halloween ideas here.  This year we didn’t actually take home candy and then give it away – we avoided that trash altogether.

 

If you’re hoping to have a low waste Halloween this year or next year or whenever the world goes back to semi-normal again, here are my key tips for a low waste Halloween 

 

Tips for a low waste Halloween.

  1. Talk way in advance with your kids about your ideas
  2. Talk about the charity you’d like to trick-or-treat for, or ask your kids if they have any ideas.  UNICEF provides cute boxes but you could make your own!
  3. Make awesome desserts.  My favorite cookbooks for vegan desserts include Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World.  I also love NoraCooks.com for amazing vegan recipes.
  4. Find another family who is on board with your idea.  Are some of your kids’ friends into zero waste living?  Or some of your friends?  It’s more fun with a group!
  5. Remind your kids that the night is fun because of the dressing up & hanging with friends & and (post-COVID) having a good time in the neighborhood.  Not because of the candy!

 

BTW, this year we’ll do something different to accommodate COVID.  We might go on a treasure hunt with hidden bulk candy in the neighborhood!  Or we might just go to a few select homes of people we know and trick-or-treat for UNICEF or homemade goodies at their door instead.

 

That’s what we did last year!  Do you have any other thoughts on a low waste Halloween?  I’d love to hear so leave me a comment below!

 

xo,

Liz at No Trace

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Tour of the No Trace Studio!

 

It’s like open studios – online!

 

This year I was finally ready to participate in Santa Cruz’s annual open studios event.  I was looking forward to propping open my workspace doors for each day’s visitors. I was ready to tidy up my space and set out cold beers & bubbly waters, popcorn and cookies.  I was looking forward to having my inventory neatly arranged for shoppers to browse and shop.  And then COVID-19 cancelled EVERYTHING.

 

So instead of seeing you in person and sharing a real life moment with you, I decided to give you a virtual tour of my new workspace!  So grab yourself a beer or wine or bubbly water, make yourself a snack, and welcome to my studio tour!  

 

 

I’m sooo excited and grateful to have this space.  Since the start of No Trace in 2017, I’ve worked out of my home.  I would take over the kitchen to make wax wraps.  And take over the living room to package large orders.  And take over the master bedroom everyday for everything else.  

 

At first it was manageable to work out of shared space with my family.  But as I got more and more orders, my home started to feel crowded.  My bedroom was cluttered.  I was falling asleep each night surrounded by my machines and my in-process orders and my fabric and EVERYTHING.  I felt a little like a hoarder in my own bedroom.  It was time to move out.  And then COVID hit and everyone was home all day, everyday and moving out got more complicated and even more essential.  

image of original sewing studio
The original No Trace headquarters. AKA my bedroom.

But it finally happened just last month.  Now No Trace is in a separate workspace and it feels amazing to have a little elbow room.  It’s not in a perfect or final state, but it is 10,000% better than being in the house.   So following along for a sewing studio tour & a peek at my wax wrap-making station!

The sewing studio tour

In my new studio, I have areas for storage and for completing different tasks.  One of my FAVORITE parts of my new space is how easy it is to get my fabric off the shelf.  I used to have the fabric on a shelf on the wall above my large cutting table/work table in my bedroom.  So I’d have to bend and reach hard to grab a bolt.  Putting them back was a pain too.  Now I’ve got super direct access to my bolts on two large shelves right at arms height.  I got these shelves off craigslist years ago for our garage and just repainted them to spruce them up a little. The shelves also hold fabric scraps and my inventory.

photo of a shelf with fabric
One of two shelves that hold just about everything.
photo of shelf holding fabric
The second shelf loaded with fabric, inventory, scraps, and more.

 

Moving on…Lots of my tasks start right at my cutting table.  I work with full bolts and rolls of fabric (15 yards per bolt and 75 yards per roll) so I need a large enough space to unroll my fabric and make cuts.  Our old dining table works great.  I also have a cute little ironing board that allows me to iron my pieces and even get into tight nooks and crannies.  I think it’s called a chest & sleeve ironing board and I found it online at Amazon.  I tried to get it from a non-Amazon seller, but they had a 2 month wait.

 

photo of cutting table and ironing board
My old dining room table, repurposed for cutting & ironing & sewing.

After being cut, my pieces are made by either sewing or waxing them.  Let’s start with the sewing station first.  I have two machines that I use regularly, with some back-up machines in storage.  The one with the 4 large rolls of thread is my serger.  I use it for making my napkins, snack & sandwich bags, and for finishing the seams on some of my bags.  It’s a super affordable little model – bottom of the line, really – and it’s worked great – sewing up thousands of pieces over the last 3 years.  I’m including an affiliate link way at the bottom of this page to purchase this – if you need a serger and like the sound of this one, I’ll get a small commission if you buy it.  

 

photo of serger sewing machine made by Brother
This little machine has served me well over the last few years.

 

Next to the serger is my regular sewing machine.  It’s a pretty solid machine with a lot of bells and whistles.  I love simple, old fashioned machines too.  But when I’m fulfilling lots of orders, these bells and whistles shave seconds off each piece.  Like a knee bar – this lets me lift the presser foot with my knee so I can turn my piece without having to take my hands away from the piece.  Very handy.  And an automatic cutting button – saves the time of pulling a piece off and cutting the threads by hand with the thread cutter.   Also super handy.

 

Another thing I love about this machine is the speed control.  This lets me slow the machine way down to turtle speed for tricky pieces with tight spots.  It’s also awesome for teaching my kids (and other kids) how to sew at a slow pace.  I LOVE that.  And it has lots of stitch options and specialty presser feet.  I don’t use much of that but occasionally I’ll sew clothes for myself and it’s super handy to have those different stitch options.  I’m including an affiliate link at the bottom of this post just in case you want one.

 

photo of Juki brand sewing machine
My Juki has lots of bells & whistles and I use them!

Next to my machines is my pegboard for tools and small pattern pieces.  This lets me keep my table space open for cutting and sewing and takes up minimal space.  I got the idea from withwendy.com who does great DIY sewing tutorial videos.  And I found this pegboard in the trash!  I spruced it up years ago and gave it to my partner to hang his bike tools on it in the garage.  But he never used it. So I reclaimed it, painted it, and started using it a couple years ago for my sewing tools.  It’s really convenient.

 

photo of pegboard with sewing tools
Found this pegboard in the trash! Cleaned up & repainted, it works great for my sewing tools.

 

Wax-wrap making station

Now on to my AWESOME waxing station.  I can’t tell you how stoked I am to have a special place just to make wax wraps.  It is a GAME CHANGER for me.  It saves me so much time.  I used to have to scrub down the kitchen counters and stovetop and oven and then kick everyone out of the kitchen when I need to make wraps.  Now, all I have to do is turn on my gadgets and start.  So much faster and easier.  This ginormous thing is a commercial grade electric stove top by Yescom.  It plugs into a regular wall socket but pulls a lot of juice.  Everything else needs to be turned off when this thing turns on, like the hot plate right next to it and my iron.  I use an electric hot plate to melt my wax blends.  Once it’s melted, I turn the hot plate off and turn the Yescom on.  The great thing about the Yescom is that I only turn it on for 5-10 minutes at a time.  It keeps the heat for at least 30 minutes before I need to turn it on again.  And I only turn it to its lowest temperature (about 120F) to make my wax wraps.  I used to use the oven and a series of large baking sheets – pulling them in and out every few minutes.  This is much easier and no more bending over again and again.  Plus it felt like I was wearing out the hinges on my oven door.  

photo of Yescom commercial electric griddle
This electric griddle works great for making wax wraps. It only needs to be on for a few minutes at a time and stays hot for a while.

After coating each wrap with the wax blend, I hang it on a few strings that I set up across the shelves.  I have the strings tied onto S-hooks so I can easily take them on and off when making wraps.

photo of beeswax wraps drying on the line
Wax wraps on the line brighten up the studio.

My space for packaging orders 

The next workstation is my packaging area.  This is where I package orders for shipping and local delivery to stores.  I’ve got my packaging supplies in a little rolling cart and my shipping supplies in another little rolling cart.  This stuff used to be crammed around my bedroom in boxes under the work table and my bed.  As you can imagine, this is much more convenient than climbing under my table every time I need to ship an order.

photo of work table and rolling carts
I built this table! It serves lots of functions, including packaging orders.

I also work on my laptop at this table, like right now while I type up this post.  And I take photos of my products on this table.  This used to be the only work table in my bedroom (other than my sewing desk) but it’s still working hard in here on lots of different tasks.  Oh, and I made this table!  It’s made from a piece of plywood by Columbia Forest Products that free of formaldehyde.  I order some table legs online and attached them with screws after glueing reinforcing squares at each corner.  So at the end of its life, this table doesn’t have to go to the landfill. I can repurpose the plywood and legs.  I think the plywood is even compostable based on the soy-based glue but I’m not totally sure about that.  

 

So there you have it – a virtual open studio for you.  Of course, I didn’t lay all my inventory out for you but you can shop for that virtually at NoTraceShop.com/products anytime you like.  Do you have a workspace at home?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

 

P.s. – I do hope to see you in person in the studio eventually!  As soon as that’s possible I’ll be shouting it from all the online places.

Learn how to fix a beeswax wrap – it’s easier than you think!

 

Is your beeswax wrap not working anymore?  Did it get left in the sun?  Or washed in hot water?  Or scrubbed a little too vigorously?  Or is it just getting really old? Or did you make one but it didn’t turn out great?

 

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to fix a beeswax wrap that’s gotten damaged or worn out.

There are 2 key ways to fix a beeswax wrap:

 

  1. Carefully warm it and smooth it any problems.

OR

  1. Apply more wax blend and warm it and smooth out any problems

 

I’ll walk you through the steps for both of these.  

 

If your wrap got a little damaged, you might just need to warm it and smooth it out again.  This is a little easier than applying more wax blend.

 

If your wrap got really damaged OR is worn out (over time, with use and washings, it’s normal for your wax wrap to get worn out), you’ll want to apply more wax blend and warm it and smooth it out.  

 

Wax wrap that needs to be rewaxed
As wax wraps get used, they may lose their stickiness and have areas that need to be rewaxed

 

Let’s go through the steps for fixing a wrap with just a little damage.  You can fix it using two methods – the iron method or the oven method.  

 

If you use the iron method to fix a beeswax wrap, here’s what you’ll need:

  • An iron
  • Parchment paper (you can find a compostable version by Reynolds Kitchen at Target and other stores).
  • Somewhere to hang your wrap to dry

 

If you use the oven method to fix your beeswax wrap, here’s what you’ll need

  • your oven
  • a baking sheet 
  • parchment paper if you’d like to protect your baking sheet.  
  • somewhere to hang your wrap

 

Let me walk you through the iron method:

  1. Place your wax wrap between two pieces of parchment paper.  The parchment paper protects your ironing surface & your iron from the wax.
  2. Iron across the parchment paper to smooth out the wax blend.
  3. Peel the paper away from the wrap
  4. Hang the wrap to dry for a couple of minutes.
Use a string or clip your wax wrap to a handle

Here’s a troubleshooting tip for you:  if you find that the wax wrap starts to stick to the parchment paper and doesn’t peel away easily, try ironing just smaller sections at a time and peeling away those small sections, letting them cool, and then ironing a different section of the wrap.  As the wraps cool, they’ll start to stick to the surface they’re touching, so it’s important to peel them away quickly and hang them to dry.

 

If you’d rather use the oven method, here’s how (this personally is my preferred way).

 

  1. Turn your oven on very low – 200F or lower.
  2. Place the wax wrap on a baking sheet.  You’ll want to cover the baking sheet with parchment paper to protect it from the wax unless the baking sheet will be used for making lots of wax wraps.
  3. Put the baking sheet into the oven for a few minutes (up to 5 minutes MAX).
  4. Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and quickly pull the wax wrap up off of the baking sheet.
  5. Hang the wrap to dry for a few minutes.

 

The reheating process, either by iron or oven, should help repair damage to the wrap by redistributing the wax blend.

 

If your wrap needs more luvin’ than that to get back to working, here’s what you’ll need:

  • More beeswax blend (either buy a bar or make your own blend of beeswax, pine gum rosin, and coconut/jojoba oil).

 

Plus:

  • a shredded that you don’t mind getting waxy.

OR

  • a small pot & clean paint brush that you don’t mind getting waxy.

 

The gist of the process is that you’re going to put more wax blend onto your wrap, warm the wrap, check your results and smooth the blend around, warm it again, and hang it to dry.  You can repeat the process of adding more wax blend, warming the wrap, smoothing the blend if needed, and warming it again, until you get the wrap where you want it to be. 

 

Here’s more specifics:

 

Using a shredder, get the blend spread evenly across your wrap and especially on any worn out spots.  Then apply heat to your wrap with either the iron method or oven method.  Check that the blend has melted all across the wrap.  Once you get it evenly spread, you can hang your wrap to dry.

 

Using the other approach with a small pot and a brush, melt your blend on a VERY LOW temperature just until it’s melted.  Then turn off the heat.  Keep a close eye on it so that it doesn’t overheat and start to smoke.  Wax is flammable!  

Dip the tips of a clean paintbrush into the blend and “paint” the blend across your wrap. 

Dip just the tips of your brush into your blend
Dip just the tips of your brush into your blend
Painting the wax wrap with beeswax blend
Paint the blend onto your wax wrap

The was will start to cool as you apply it – that’s okay!  Once you get a decent amount spread around, you can warm the wrap with either the iron method or the oven method.  Let it warm for a little.  Check the results to see if you used enough blend and if it’s spread around evenly.  If so, you can hang your wrap to dry! 

 

That’s all there is too it!  It’s really easy to fix your beeswax wraps.  It just takes a little time and patience.

 

If you want to learn how to make your own wax wraps from start to finish, head over to NoTraceShop.com/courses to sign up for my online DIY beeswax wrap workshop – you can take it from the comfort of your home at any time!

 

Have you tried fixing wax wraps?  I’d love to hear about it!  Leave a comment below!

 

Thanks for reading!

-Liz @ No Trace