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April Luebbert writes the Trash Free Living external link blog. Her family began trying to go trash free in 2011.

Q: What inspired you to strive to become waste-free?

A: I saw a news clip about a family in California whose home is “zero waste.” The mother runs a blog called Zero Waste Home external link , and after reading that and talking to a few local people who are into waste reduction, it seemed like something I could do that would actually have a noticeable and positive impact on our environment.

Q: Was it easy to incorporate these tactics during the holidays?

A: Not at first. I would say the most difficult part is getting out of the mindset that you have to have all of these decorations and things for it to be a "real" Christmas, Halloween, or Thanksgiving. And it has sometimes been hard for my family to understand or go along with. So there are battles that you choose not to fight so that there is still harmony in the home.

Q: What are some examples of waste-free or low-waste gifts you’ve given?

A: Mostly I give handmade items (baked, or knitted, or soaps) to friends and family. Since I have started doing this, my family has even gotten into it a little bit. The homemade gifts I have received from them are wonderful.  Actually this year our family has chosen not to do gifts, even our extended family. We are going to try to focus on spending time together. But examples of gifts I have made include:

  • Candle teacup. This is one of my favorites. I just melt down the leftovers of other candles, get a wick, and pour the wax into the teacup while holding the wick up. Then, I glue the teacup down to the saucer, and it is pretty cool.
  • Sugar scrubs. My favorite is the coconut sugar scrub. Just take some coconut oil (not melted, just below 75 degrees) throw that into a bowl with some sugar (big chunky kind is best, but regular sugar works too) and mix with a fork. There are other versions where you can put in some essential oils like almond, peppermint, or something else.
  • A knitted, stretchy market bag for people to take to the farmer's market.
  • Homemade laundry detergent in a canning jar.
  • A digital copy of my favorite recipes that the person has requested.
  • Since I am an amateur photographer, I take pictures of families as a gift.

As far as store-bought gifts, going to the store Lush for ladies who love soaps and lotions has been great because most of the things in there have no packaging! Bath bombs, bars of shampoo and bars of lotion are all great, and the company is very eco-friendly as far as I can tell.

Q: How do you wrap gifts?

A: I have a huge pile of old gift bags from gifts that were given to us, and I reuse those, or I wrap things in brown paper bags and decorate them with crayons with the kids. I really like the brown paper bag look with some twine, because it looks so classic and timeless. Plus it is compostable!

Q: Any other tips?

A: Thrift stores and Craigslist! If you don't need something anymore and cannot repurpose it, take it to the thrift store or throw up an ad on Craigslist that says it is free and at the end of your driveway. You would be surprised how quickly it gets hauled away. And same goes if you need something. For instance, if I don't have enough candle wax for my teacup candles, I just head on down to the thrift store or ask friends if they have any. Also, there are some great websites that help people, who are trying to go waste-free, to connect and help each other. It only works well if you have some sort of community support.

(Interview has been condensed and edited.)

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King County Solid Waste Division mission: Waste Prevention, Resource Recovery, Waste Disposal